Category Archives: Cool Tools

EFI Boot Logo Follies

It’s been an interesting last couple of days. I really like the boot logo from the Lenovo Yoga Pro 9i. It’s popped up often as I’ve been reviewing it since the end of April. But I’ll be darned if I can find or  extract that file from the UEFI image. Along the way, I’ve indulged in all kinds of fascinating, down-the-rabbit-hole EFI boot logo follies.

You can see some evidence of this in the high-relectivity photo from my iPhone. It shows me shooting the logo from the Yoga’s initial boot screen. It’s been a gas. But so far I’ve been unable to grab the  bitmaps that animate this logo during the boot process.

Where My EFI Boot Logo Follies Have Led…

I started down this trail by using MiniTool Partition Wizard to examine the contents of the EFI partition on the Yoga. Alas, nowhere did I find a neat, discrete bitmap (or set of bitmaps, as the runtime animation strongly suggest must be buried in there somewhere).

Next I tried my luck with the HackBGRT, specifically designed to use the MS Paint app to drop another bitmap into UEFI to take over for the existing one. Despite my hopes it would let me see (and grab, even) what was already in there, no such luck.

My search for copies of this file online have gone unsatisfied. I’ve dropped a request to the reviews coordinator at Lenovo, but have gotten no response. I’m going to ping one of their SMEs and see if they can talk to the UEFI builders and help me out.

All I Got Was a Lousy T-shirt … err iPhone Grab

Amusingly enough, the iPhone snapshot I took of the logo shows me taking that picture. Ordinarily, I wouldn’t reproduce such an amateur, ghastly image here in the blog. But it captures perfectly the “chase-my-tail” exercise I’ve been going through trying to lay hands on the original Yoga Pro 9i boot logo. It’s right there. I can see it every time I boot. But that’s as close as I can get right now…

Simon Allison Comes Through!

When I checked into LInkedIn this morning, the former Windows Insider MVP named above posted a link to the graphic. Now you can grab it, too. Here’s what it looks like (and THANKS, Simon):

This doesn’t show the animation (you’d need the full set of images for that). But hey: there ’tis as a profound demonstration that we’re all better together than separately.

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USB4 Means Yoga Pro 9 Stays On

I have to apologize to the review team at Lenovo. I’d told them I’d be sending back their splendid Yoga Pro 9(i) last Friday. Then I got an assignment from AskWoody to write about external, USB-attached NVMe (and other SSD) storage devices. So of course I had to a buy a current-gen 40 Gbps USB4 drive enclosure. Also, its inbuilt USB4 means Yoga Pro 9 stays on here at Chez Tittel while testing is underway. Sorry, Jeff and Amanda: I need to keep this beast a bit longer…

Why USB4 Means Yoga Pro 9 Stays On

Short answer: it’s my only PC/laptop with USB4 capability. And I want to research and write about same. And on the Yoga Pro 9i the first thing I observe is that while it has two USB-C ports, only one of them supports 40 Gbps throughput (the other is USB-C 3.2 and tops out at half that). This makes a big difference in read/write speeds. Ditto for cables: for best results you need a cable marked 40 Gbps or Thunderbolt 4, too. The device info for the MAIWO 40Gbps enclosure shows what needs to appear for fastest I/O:

USB4 Means Yoga Pro 9 Stays On.Settings-USBdevinfo

The salient info is at the bottom: 40Gbps. It also detects a Gen3 NVMe SSD.

Over the next 10 days or so, I’ll be comparing enclosures, drives, and cables with related measurements. This should be interesting. But for now, let me observe that I paid US$70 for a 40Gbps NVMe enclosure yesterday. When I bought the previous generation (20Gbps) enclosures, the cheapest ones cost US$120 or thereabouts. It’s good that the technology is getting both faster and cheaper. I’m very interested to see how quickly Macrium Reflect can back up the Yoga Pro 9i with a fast SSD and this fast enclosure. Should be fun!

Top of the Heap? You tell me…

FWIW, Cale Hunt over at WindowsCentral just anointed the Lenovo Yoga 9i as the #1 best laptop for 2024. I’ve found it to be pretty stellar in my 5 weeks working with it so far. It’s been great at handling complex programs, lots of VMs, and both compute- and graphics-intensive workloads. Too bad it came out before Copilot + PC requirements were known. It’s close, but not quite at that level. Sigh.

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Stellar OST Tool Worth Grabbing

 

Microsoft Outlook, in both its local and cloud forms, is an interesting beast. For those with Microsoft 365 or similar subscriptions, that goes double. For such instances, Outlook uses OST (Online Storage Table) files, which maintain fluid, shared snapshots of Outlook “stuff” (e.g. messages, events, contacts, and so forth). Such files live mostly in the cloud on an Exchange server. Outlook also uses Personal Storage Tables (stored in PST files locally on a PC) as well. But while Outlook allows users to export and import from other files,  OST files won’t support this activity: PST is your best bet.

Here’s what STELLAR OST CONVERTER looks like, once you complete the initial conversion step.

Why Is Stellar OST Tool Worth Grabbing?

Simply put: the STELLAR CONVERTER FOR OST provides a quick and easy way to convert OST to PST files (local to the PC) with just a few mouse clicks. Indeed it can even recover “orphaned” OST files — those no longer readily available inside Outlook itself — by scanning folders where OST items live. It then happily converts everything it finds to PST.

Stellar OST Tool Worth Grabbing.outlook-import-export

Outlook’s export/import capabilities embrace PST files, but NOT OST files.

As the preceding graphic shows, Outlook exports its contents to PST. A similar dialog for import shows those same options. OST, I’ll observe, is conspicuously absent. Thus, this tool provides a great way to create backup PST collections to match Outlook accounts and related file holdings. These can get quite large: mine is currently around 3GB in size (I’ve seen them as big as 14GB). Conversion takes awhile: about 15 minutes in all (7.5 to scan and enumerate, 7.5 to save) . That said, PST files are browsable repositories, and can restore entire Outlook data collections if necessary.

Exploring This Stellar Tool…

In graphic captioned “initial conversion step” above, you see the STELLAR CONVERTER FOR OST, showing the contents of the Consulting/AskWoody folder. As you can see, it captures all of my recent message traffic, and can show individual message contents in the reading pane at far right. The left-hand pane shows the folder hierarchy; the center pane shows message info. Note: deleted messages appear in red in their parent folders (as well as in Trash).

In fact, the STELLAR CONVERTER FOR OST offers several noteworthy additional capabilities:

  • Handles large OST files: It took about 15 minutes, but STELLAR CONVERTER FOR OST handled my huge collection of Outlook data. That included messages, contacts and calendar data . The time to scan is roughly equal to the time to save what’s been scanned.

By some quirk of fate, the subject of the current message pops up as STELLAR CONVERTER FOR OST save handles Outlook message store.

Once saved, the converted PST file weighs in at just under 3.0 GB (3,072MB).

  • Handles encrypted OST files: STELLAR CONVERTER FOR OST can read and decrypt encrypted OST files, and save them in PST format. When mailbox or server synchronization issues impede server-based decryption, STELLAR CONVERTER FOR OST delivers them in readable PST form.
  • Global purview for Outlook data files: STELLAR CONVERTER FOR OST finds and lists all OST files. That includes those from IMAP plus Exchange or Microsoft 365 message profiles. Users can easily select and scan OST files to extract specific items. STELLAR CONVERTER FOR OST also offers a powerful “Find” (search) function. It even shows orphaned messages in a Lost & Found folder, like this:

The Lost&Found folder in STELLAR CONVERTER FOR OST contains orphaned Outlook items — mostly Calendar stuff.

  • Complete OST coverage: SSTELLAR CONVERTER FOR OST extracts everything from OST files. Beyond email messages, it handles attachments, contacts, calendars, tasks, notes, journals, and more. It even handles OST to PST conversion with no need for Exchange profiles.

But Wait: Still More Recovery…

Beyond these specifics, STELLAR CONVERTER FOR OST is useful for recovering from OST synchronization failures. These can occur when

  • the client view of what’s current and correct diverges from the server’s view
  • when mailbox issues (loss, damage, corruption) present themselves
  • clients wish to recover deleted items no longer present in the Trash folder. You can see such deleted items in red in the preceding screencap (assume they’re more useful than canceled appointments, please).

OST conversion provides a PST upon which to base a new, shared view of Outlook contents and to re-establish proper agreement.

Vitally, STELLAR CONVERTER FOR OST offers recovery should the server behind Hosted Microsoft Exchange service be damaged or hacked. That is, this program can provide PST files from which to rebuild and restore mailbox data to Office 365 or Microsoft 365 servers. This same capability also enables quick migration from Hosted Exchange to O365 or M365 with minimal effort, and no risk of data loss. Good stuff!

STELLAR CONVERTER FOR OST Costs & Cons

STELLAR CONVERTER FOR OST comes in 3 versions: Corporate, Technician and Tookit, with respective licensing fees of US$79, US$149 and US$199. See their “Buy Now” page for a complete comparative features matrix. The TLDR version is that higher-priced versions offer more and better repairs: Technician adds batch file conversion, more advanced PST handling, exports to live Exchange and O365, plus Contacts in CSV format to the mix; Toolkit does all that, plus corrupt PST repairs, total mailbox restores, more format options, PST merge, password recovery, and a whole lot more. Of course, you’d expect to spend more for higher-end program versions, but they do come at higher costs.

For years, I’ve relied on Outlook to maintain a journal of all the emails I send and receive. It’s an astonishingly detailed and accurate record of my professional and financial life. STELLAR CONVERTER FOR OST provides me with the confidence that I can access and rely on my “email trail” to document and manage a busy working schedule, an upcoming calendar, and a sizable list of professional colleagues and contacts.

The more you rely on email to help run, document and prove up your activities, assignments responsibilities, and professional network, the more you need STELLAR CONVERTER FOR OST. It’s definitely worth having, if only as a way to insure yourself against loss of or damage to vital working assets.

[Note: I produced this item after Stellar contacted me to ask me to write and post the piece. I am invoicing them for a modest fee as well. That said, the opinions herein are my own, and I stand by my recommendation of this product.]

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Classic Teams Continues Despite Phase-out Promises

Gosh. I just noticed upon attempting a Teams login this morning, that Classic Teams (aka Teams (Classic)) is still alive and well. Look at the prompt in the lead-in screencap, which asks “Did you mean to open the new Teams?” I’ve read repeated MS claims that once new is installed, Classic should auto-delete in 15 days. But so far that promise remains unfulfilled (see my April 25 blog post for deets). Indeed, Classic Teams continues despite phase-out promises at regular intervals. Sigh.

Classic Teams Continues Despite Phase-out Promises, Interminably

I noticed this because of an entry named Microsoft.Teams.Free that showed up in a WinGet update recently (version 24124.2402.2858.5617). Looks like I may have missed an important toggle in the Classic Teams interface: in the upper left corner of the UI, it reads “Try the new Teams.” Upon toggling same, you’ll see this pop-up window:

Classic Teams Continues Despite Phase-out Promises.toggle

Perhaps toggling will help resolve the upgrade/replacement issue?

After trying that maneuver, I closed Teams. Then I went into Task Manager, details pane, and closed all open Teams processes. This time, when I entered Teams in the Start menu search box, the new Teams iconage came up right away. No request to switch. No question about which version I wanted. No confusion. Even so, Teams classic still shows up in the Start menu. Maybe it will FINALLY vanish when the next 15-day interval expires? Could I have been missing a simple, obvious option all along? Of course I could: this is Windows-World, after all!

One possible moral for this story: Watch those titlebar toggles. They might just make a difference. Sigh again.

 

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Snappy Misses Realtek UAD Drivers

My attitude toward Windows Update driver tools has changed a lot over the years. I’ve tried a lot of them. Indeed Tim Fisher’s “Best free” Lifewire guide mentions no fewer than 8 (May, 2024).  I’ve come to rely on an Open Source tool named Snappy Driver Installer Origin for driver checks and updates. But this morning, I noticed that Snappy misses Realtek UAD drivers — its “Universal Audio Driver” versions that work with newer devices– and wants to use HDA (High Definition Audio) drivers instead.

If Snappy Misses Realtek UAD Drivers, Then What?

I’ve long turned to the French website Station Drivers as my “driver source of last resort” when other sources come up dry. I don’t know where or how these guys get their downloads, but they usually have the very latest (and always virus-free) versions of device drivers available. Thus, for example, my updated UAD driver was version 9464.1 dated May 6, 2024.

As you can see in the lead-in screencap, Snappy correctly identifies that my aging SkyLake i7 Asrock Z170 Extreme4+ mobo has a Realtek audio device that needs a driver updates. But it insists that such a driver be the High Definition Audio (HDA) variety. That actually works, but not with the Realtek Audio Console (which pairs with UAD drivers by design).

So what I do when I see Snappy recommend a driver I don’t want is simple. I elect not to install it. Instead, I use it as a warning to update the UAD driver, then head on over to Station Drivers to see if what they’ve got for download is newer than what I’ve got installed. In this case, it turned out to be version 9464.1 (available) vs. 9618.1 (installed). Fixed that in a hurry, I did!

Supplement Tools with Experience

This is a general approach that works well with Windows maintenance of all kinds. Once you learn the foibles and limitation of your chosen tools, you can also learn when and how to over-rule them. That’s what I did with the Realtek UAD drivers this morning. As these opportunities present, I urge you to follow suit, because that sometimes the way things go here in Windows-World.

 

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PatchMyPC Still Rocks

In scrolling through X/Twitter this morning, I saw that fellow MVP Rudy Ooms (@Mister_MDM) has gone to work for PatchMyPC. It had been a while since I updated and used that tool, so I went and grabbed a current download from their Home Updater page. I’m pleased to report that PatchMyPC still rocks Windows updates: it found a whopping 9 items that needed a lift, even through I run WinGet pretty much daily on most of my PCs and VMs. You can see the tail end of that update cycle in the lead-in screencap.

More Reasons Why PatchMyPC Still Rocks

After searching for a successor to the now defunct SUMo (Software Update Monitor) after it went EOL last year, I’ve yet to find any other option that comes close to doing what PatchMyPC does. It’s silent (doesn’t require ongoing user interaction). The Free version is fully functional. It’s frequently updated. It’s pretty fast, too.

My only beef with PatchMyPC is that its scope is somewhat limited. WinGet covers more than 6K Windows packages of all kinds including Windows OS tools and utilities from Microsoft and third parties, apps and applications, SDKs and Runtimes, and more.  For a complete list run winget search “” > allpkgs.txt at the Command Prompt, then inspect the resulting text file. OTOH, PatchyMyPC tracks 224 items as “Main Software” and 35 items as “Portable Software.” I wish it covered more! It’s such a joy to use…

Nevertheless, PatchMyPC is well worth a try. For all the items it does cover it offers the best update experience around. Check it out!

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Digging Into Massive DISM Delay

If I needed proof that “no good deed goes unpunished,” I got that yesterday. I was revising a story for Tom’s Hardware about fixing an IRQL BSOD. By way of example I ran a pair of DISM commands and the system file checker (shown at the end of this post). The second DISM command took a LONG time to complete and hung up at 62.3% complete. Then, when I jumped to another PC it did the same thing again. That’s why I’m digging into massive DISM delay this morning.

What Digging Into Massive DISM Delay Tells Me

A quick online search tells me I’m not alone. Indeed, there’s a Reddit thread entitled “DISM Restore health stuck on 62.3%.” It  confirms what I’d observed on my own PC — namely, that the delay is NOT a hang, and the command will complete . . . eventually.

Next, I ran down the logs that get written when DISM /RestoreHealth is underway. First, I found a 10-minute gap between one timestamp and the next in the dism.log file. Then I used the same timestamp when that delay hit to look at CBS.log. Sure enough, the repair was mapping Windows Enterprise to the Professional Edition. This was followed by at least 3,371 files opened and examined (some lines open 1, others 2).

Based on a screen’s worth of entries summed and averaged it comes out to 3371 * 1.42 =  ~4829 files in all. Obviously, that can take some time. The end of this activity explains what’s going on: “Repr: CBS Store Check completes.” Then a bunch of missing manifests or catalogs come in, with a large number of update downloads after that. Poof! 10 minutes is gone.

When DISM Gets Going, It’s Busy, Busy, Busy

So even though DISM /CheckHealth found nothing amiss, DISM /Restorehealth found itself with a lot of work to do. And that’s where the “missing 10 minutes” went. Seemed like forever, but it’s apparently a well-worn routine — if the Reddit post is any indication.

And boy howdy, isn’t that exactly how things sometimes go here in Windows-World? And I suppose I should be glad that all the current public Windows 11 release PCs experience the same thing. At least, it’s consistent . . .

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X Now Marks the Twitter Spot!

It’s been more than two years since Elon Musk acquired Twitter on April 14, 2022. But only now — as you can see in the lead-in graphic — has Twitter.com started redirecting users to X.com instead. I’ve been logging in via Twitter since I first joined up over a decade ago. But starting today, May 17, X now marks the Twitter spot on the web. The default question shown in the lead-in graphic adds an ironic twist to the whole affair, IMO. I have to chuckle…

If X Now Marks the Twitter Spot, Does It Matter?

I guess this redirect should last some while, so I probably won’t have to train my fingers to type x.com instead of twitter.com right away. But it’s not inconceivable that the switch should encourage people to shift away from the old domain name to the new one, either.

Out of curiosity I checked the market value of Twitter . . . err X, rather . . . this morning. According to Companies Market Cap, it’s worth $41.09B right now. Elon paid $44B for the company, and valued it at $19B on October 30, 2023. Obviously, it’s recovered quite a bit since then. It may not turn out to be the total disaster many feared after all. Time will tell, right?

X Still Stands. But In the Second Rank

According to Statista, X ranks 15th among all social media platforms worldwide. Its user base is far behind the top 5 (Facebook: 3B+, YouTube: 2B+, Instagram: 1B+, WhatsApp: 1B+, and TikTok: 1B+). But somehow, X keeps going and keeps working. I still find it a valuable source of Windows news and info. Indeed it works better for me than any of the preceding top 5 for my particular interests. Obviously, these interests are more specialized than the teeming billions covered en masse in those services!

Here’s a shout-out to Laurent Giret at Thurrott.com, whose X item there this morning alerted me this changeover. Thanks!

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WinGet Updates Quiescent Browsers Best

Here’s one to ponder. Just this morning, in going through a gaggle of WinGet updates, I noticed something interesting. WinGet will happily install browser updates on Windows PCs, whether or not the target browser is running. But if that target is not running, it will invariably succeed and leave the program ready to run it’s newest, best self the next time it’s called. When run against running browsers, though, WinGet will often be unable to finish the job completely, despite reporting installation success. Hence, this epigram: WinGet Updates Quiescent Browsers Best.

What WinGet Updates Quiescent Browsers Best Means

Over the past 3 years or so, I’ve gotten pretty darn familiar with WinGet, Windows’ built-in package manager. It’s bundled into Windows 11 and easily available through GitHub (microsoft/winget-cli). I use this tool pretty much every day to check for updates on my fleet of 10-12 Windows PCs here at Chez Tittel. And as I use it, I get the chance to observe and report all kinds of issues and oddities, both large and small.

This is a pretty small one, as it turn out, but worth noting even so. What happens if you don’t exit a browser before using WinGet to upgrade same? It varies. Chrome will sometimes stick stubbornly to its pre-upgrade state, and require an in-app update to catch up. Firefox may require you to “Relaunch” the browser to finish things up completely. Edge does a good job of self-updating but also works well with WinGet (as you’d expect, as they’re both MS software).

Is This Just “Same-old, Same-old”?

Yesterday, I wrote a post entitled When WinGet Balks, Try In-App Updates. In a small way, this post is a further musing on some of the same themes. But because I leave browsers open on the desktop all the time — as do many other users — this one is a more focused and directed play on the same general topic.

And isn’t that just the way things sometimes (or even often) go, here in Windows-World? At least for me, anyway…

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When WinGet Balks, Try In-App Updates

OK then, I’m still working my way back into the groove after 8 days of vakay. Yesterday, I started running WinGet upgrade … on the whole fleet, to get things caught back up. I quickly noticed that WinGet wanted to update a slew of stuff, including MS Teams and MS PC Manager. But on at least a couple of test PCs, WinGet wasn’t up to those tasks. I quickly remembered that when WinGet balks, try in-app updates often works. And indeed, it did the trick for both those items.

Remember: When WinGet Balks Try In-App Updates

Most often when I see a WinGet upgrade fail to update an app, it’s because the app is running and something inside its runtime environment won’t let go of some resource necessary to bring the update to a successful finish. Apparently, that was the case for both Teams and PC Manager yesterday, where I could see a valid version mismatch between what was running and what WinGet wanted to install.

You can see what I wound up with in the lead-in graphic after I ran the in-app update function for both programs. They show the “latest and greatest” versions for Teams (left) and Microsoft PC Manager (right) up and running. It took me a minute to recollect the right approach, but it was dead easy to implement once those neurons had fired.

If this technique works for me, it can work for you, too. Enjoy!

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