Category Archives: Insider stuff

Beta Channel Insiders Get Windows 11 Offer

On July 22, I noted that my Insider Preview test machine hadn’t yet received a Windows 11 upgrade offer. This, despite assertions that such an offer was “coming soon” raised my curiosity, if not my ire. “Where’s mine?” I asked in the covering tweet for that story. Turns out it was where everybody else’s was, too: nowhere (not here yet). But yesterday, July 29, MS opened the Windows 11 floodgates to the Beta Channel. Thus, like many others, I witnessed and participated as Beta Channel Insiders get Windows 11 offer.

If you check the lead graphic for this story above, you’ll see the Beta Channel status window at right. It appears alongside Winver.exe output left, that shows this PC running Windows 11.

When Beta Channel Insiders Get Windows 11 Offer, What Next?

Just for grins, I timed the download and install processes for the new OS. I’m guessing server demand was high, because both took some time to complete. Download took 14:42, and Install took another 28 minutes and a bit more. Normally, OS download occurs in 5 minutes or less. Of course, the installation time is all on the local PC, so the servers have nothing to do with that.

Reliability Monitor also shows 3 “Stopped working” errors just after installation completed, while post-install updates and clean-up were underway. These included:

  • FwdUpdateCmd: a Lenovo System Update Plug-in, which probably hasn’t been updated and/or vetted for Windows 11 yet.
  • UsoClient: shows a BEX64 error, which usually indicates some kind of issue with Outlook. Interesting, because I don’t have MS Office installed on that PC. Might be related to the built-in Office trial.
  • Audio device graph isolation (audiodg.exe) shows an APPCRASH error, with CX64APO.dll as the faulting module. I recognize this as related to the Conexant audio driver present on the X380 Yoga. This is probably a driver hiccup incident to installation. From what I can see in Driver Store Explorer (RAPR.exe), all the current drivers are now stable and correct.

As I’ve been doing with Windows 11 on Dev Channel PCs, I’ll continue to explore, play and learn. I remain favorably impressed with this new OS, and look forward to learning and doing more with it in the weeks and months ahead. And yes, I’m glad to finally have another upgrade show up through “official channels.”

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21H2 Preview Experiences After Two Weeks

I’ve got one lone test machine running the “other path” for older Windows hardware — namely the 21H2 Feature Update released on 7/16/2021. Here, I recite my 21H2 Preview Experiences after two weeks. While I’ve not encountered any show-stoppers, the Reliability Monitor report that appears above says it all. As is not untypical for new release forks, this one’s got some minor gotchas.

Summarizing 21H2 Preview Experiences After Two Weeks

I’ll start with a list of all errors reported in the foregoing Reliability Monitor screencap.

Date Source Summary
16-Jul Windows Hardware error
17-Jul Windows Update Medic Service Stopped working
Search application Stopped working and was closed
Search application Stopped working
18-Jul Windows Desktop Gadgets Stopped working
21-Jul PWA Identity Proxy Host Stopped responding and was closed
Windows Desktop Gadgets Stopped working

Upon examination, the error sources mostly originate from Windows itself. Only Windows Desktop Gadgets (which occurs twice) is a third-party app. The rest of the stuff is OS components, hardware, or built-in Windows apps.

IMHO, this kind of behavior is typical for a new release fork. It indicates a shakeout from current preview status on the way to something more stable. It’s only July and the release probably won’t happen until October, so there’s still plenty of time to get things right. If what I’m seeing right now is any indication, what needs fixing is mostly minor stuff.

I would say this augurs well for those who plan to upgrade to 21H2 on production PCs. If your PCs won’t meet Windows 11 upgrade requirements, they should be able to run Windows 10 until EOL in October 2025 without too much fuss or bother. Good stuff!

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Vexing Windows 11 Antimalware Platform Update Issues

Right now, I have two PC dedicated to Windows 11 testing and learning. Just recently, I discovered some vexing Windows 11 Antimalware platform update issues. The short version is: one of my PCs is up-to-date. It’s no longer subject to Automatic Sample Submission reset to off following each restart. Alas, the other remains stubbornly stuck on an earlier Antimalware platform release. None of the update options available work, so I can’t get no relief. Let me explain…

Fighting Vexing Windows 11 Antimalware Platform Update Issues

First, let me be clear. This is a known and documented Windows 11 issue. It’s been around since the initial release hit. Indeed, a fix exists: when the Antimalware Platform version gets to 4.18.2107.4 or higher, the problem disappears. For the record that problem is depicted in this story’s lead-in graphic. After every reboot, the Automatic Sample Submission feature for virus uploads in Defender is turned off. The feature is easy to turn back on, until the next reboot. OCD OS maintainer that I am, the workaround isn’t enough for me. I want it fixed, for good, now.

Here’s the vexing part. WU hasn’t yet deigned to update the antimalware engine behind the scenes. Ditto for the Protection updates option in Windows Security. There’s a registry hack documented on a related ElevenForum thread. There’s even a manual Defender update download that’s supposed to take the Antimalware engine release to 1.2.2107.02. It comes in a file named defender-update-kit-x64.zip. Alas, inspection of said update file shows the Antimalware engine to be 4.18.2015.5. It’s too old to fix the issue, in other words. Thus, no relief just yet, shy of a permanent registry hack.

The Perils of Perfectionism

Yes, I could hack the registry to turn this off. But I’d have to unhack it again when the fix finally shows up on the X380 Yoga that’s affected. I’m going to have to wait for WU to get around to providing me the latest antimalware engine on its own, or find a newer manual update. Alas, that’s the way things go sometimes, here in Windows-World. Oddly, I find myself hoping for a new Windows 11 build, in hopes the latest antimalware engine will be part of its contents. Stay tuned: I’ll let you know how all this shakes out.

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Beta Channel Update Has Uncertain Timing

I always have troubles with patience. That goes double when I know a PC will run Windows 11, but hasn’t gotten the upgrade offer just yet. I’m talking about my second Lenovo ThinkPad X380 Yoga unit. It had been on the Release Preview Channel. But two days ago, I bumped it up to the Beta Channel in hopes of getting the Windows 11 upgrade. Because this Beta Channel update has uncertain timing, I’m not sure when this PC will get the offer. Here’s the irony: I have a second, nearly identical X380 unit (they differ only in the SSD installed) that’s been running Windows 11 since Day 1 on the Dev Channel.

Does Trickle-out Mean Beta Channel Update Has Uncertain Timing?

As you can see in this story’s lead graphic, Beta Channel PCs should be getting “these Windows 11 builds…” So far, this particular X380 Yoga is hanging back on Windows 10, Build 19043.1149. I’m eager to get the machine onto the new OS, but I want to see how long this is going to take to happen.

My track record on such things is far from stellar. I’ve forcibly upgraded many machines to new Windows 10 versions when upgrade offers were slow to appear. That raises the question: Can I wait long enough for WU to do its thing? Or will I succumb to the fatal allure of instant upgrade and do it manually?

I do want to understand how things will work in the Beta Channel. But I’m having trouble waiting on the system to catch up with me. Let me try another reboot and see if that will help … goes off to make that happen … Nothing doing.

Stay tuned. I’ll be back (soon, I hope) to tell you that WU has come through, or to confess that my patience wore out and I used an ISO to perform an in-place upgrade to Windows 11. One way or the other, I’ll get there, I promise!

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Confusing Windows 11 Scissors and Trashcan

Sometimes, I have to laugh at myself. Yesterday, in cleaning out my Downloads folder on a Windows 11 test PC, I noticed that clicking the Scissors icon didn’t delete selected files. Duh! That’s the job of the Trashcan icon, as I figured out a little later using mouseover tactics. By confusing Windows 11 scissors and trashcan icons, I showed myself that minor mistakes can stymie routine file handling tasks. Sigh.

If Confusing Windows 11 Scissors and Trashcan, What Next?

Before I figured out my category/identification error, I found another quick workaround to delete files. By clicking “More options” at the bottom of the first right-click menu, another more familiar menu appears. It’s more or less the Windows 10 menu transplanted into Windows 11, like so:

Confusing Windows 11 Scissors and Trashcan.more-options

A second menu has the familiar text entry to make my choice more obvious: Delete appears three up from the bottom.
[Click image for full-sized view.]

As is nearly always the case in Windows (including 11), there’s more than one way to get things done. When one fails (or operator error leads to unwanted outcomes), another way can lead to success. My next step would be to turn to the command line, had this alternate path not led to the desired results. It’s always good to keep working at things until they get solved. That goes double when my silly mixup led to an initial lack of success.

As I learn new UIs and tools, this kind of thing happens from time to time. Call them Windows follies or funnies if you like. For me, it’s just another day, and another lesson learned, here in Windows-World!

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WhyNotWin11 Offers PC Health Check Alternative

Some Windows users are purists by deliberate choice. Given the option of a Microsoft and a third-party too, they’ll take the MS route every time. I am no such purist. I appreciate good tools, whether from Microsoft or another (reputable) source. Thus, I’d like to observe that the GitHub project WhyNotWin11 offers PC Health Check Alternative. Indeed MS has temporarily taken down its tool. PC Health Check is available only from 3rd-party sources, such as TechSpot right now. Thus, WhyNotWin11 has the current advantage.

Why Say WhyNot11 Offers PC Health Check Alternative?

Though PC Health Check has been out of circulation for a week or so, WhyNot11 got its most recent update on July 3. Visit its Latest Release page for a download (version number 2.3.0.5 as I write this). You can also update the previous version 2.3.03 by downloading the latest SupportedProcessorsIntel.txt file and copying it over the previous version in the %Appdata%\Local\WhyNotWin11 folder.

Note: on my PC, that’s
C:\Users\\AppData\Local\WhyNotWin11\SupportedProcessorsIntel.txt.

WhyNotWin11 Is More Informative, Too

This story’s lead-in graphic shows the information that the third-party tool displays about target PCs. It provides a complete overview of which requirements are met (green), which aren’t listed as compatible (amber), and which are missing or disabled (red). This is more helpful than the output from PC Health Check. See it output below:

PC Health Check only briefly explains part of what’s at issue, and tersely at that.

While the message above does explain the “the processor isn’t supported,” it also fails to note the absence (as I know it to be on this PC) of a Trusted Platform Module (2.0 or any other version). WhyNotWin11 notifies users about both conditions directly and obviously.

IMO, easy access and operation, and more information about the target PC all make WhyNotWin11 a superior choice over PC Health Check. At least, for the purpose of finding out why a machine will (or won’t) upgrade to Windows 11. PC Health Check does offer other capabilities that users may find helpful, including (questionable) info about backup and synchronization, Windows Update checks, storage capacity consumption and startup time. I’m not arguing against use of the tool, when it returns to circulation. I’m merely suggesting that for the purpose of evaluating PCs for Windows 11 upgrades, WhyNotWin11 does a better job at that specific task.

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Windows 11 Store Updates via Library

One minor befuddlement about the newly-refreshed update to the Microsoft Store has puzzled me. Since updating to Windows 11, and obtaining the latest Store version, I haven’t been able to find its Update mechanism. This morning, on a whim, I opened the Library left-column menu item. Voila! Now I know one obtains Windows 11 Store updates via Library buttons. You can see the previously-elusive “Get updates” button at the upper left of the lead-in graphic for this very story.

Push the Button, and Windows 11 Store Updates via Library

And indeed, pressing the “Get updates” button from the Library controls behaves pretty much the same way as in Windows 10. The button goes dim, the busy circle icon circulates for a while, and if any updates are pending a list appears and begins to take care of itself.

I wish I could show you a picture of that update process. But only one of my test machines needed an update. It was for the commercial version of Lenovo Vantage (the ThinkPad update utility). Thing is, it flew by so quickly I didn’t have time to grab a screencap. That said, it does show up in Reliability Monitor as an Informational event. So here’s a screencap that shows it installed at 9:02 AM on July 3.

Windows 11 Store Updates via Library.update-relimon

There it is: Non-highlighted (second) item with LenovoSettings in the name string.
[Click image for full-sized view.]

As the old saying goes, I KNEW it had to be in there somewhere. A little poking around and I did eventually find it. My only question now is why did Microsoft decide to call this the “Library?” My guess: because it points to the repository of apps on the host PC where the Microsoft Store is currently running. The Help button is surprisingly mum on Store UI details and related info, so I guess I did what we’re all supposed to do. I figured it out for myself. Maybe you’ll find it helpful, too…

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What Color Is Your Windows 11 BSOD?

I’m seeing numerous reports in the news that in Windows 11, a stop error produces a screen with a black background. You can provoke such an error, often known as a BSOD (Blue Screen of Death, irrespective of color) on Windows 11 quite easily. Simply open Task Manager, go to details. right-click on svchost.exe and select “End process tree.” This will immediately crash your PC, and show you the stop code for CRITICAL_PROCESS_DIED. When I do that on both of my Windows 11 test machines, I get a GSOD (Green Screen of Death) that’s identically colored to the lead-in graphic for this story. What color is your Windows 11 BSOD?

Why ask: What color is your Windows 11 BSOD?

Over the years, I’ve seen them in various shades of blue and green. I’ve never seen a black one. I still can’t see one now. Thus, I’m guessing that the background color for a BSOD/stop error probably depends on some background or appearance setting in the OS. Otherwise, the claims I’m reading online that the background is black would also show up on my test machines.

Here’s a sampling of such stories:
Tom’s Hardware: Windows 11’s Blue Screen of Death Could Be Turning Black
BBC: Microsoft’s Windows 11 blue screen of death to become black
WinAero: Windows 11: Blue Screen of Death is now Black Screen of Death

In fact, this assertion is showing up in dozens of news stories. Thus, I find it both interesting and vexing that when I tried to confirm this for myself, both of my test machines came up with a green background instead.

One Case Does Not Make a Transformation

I think what may be happening is that some people will indeed see black as the BSOD background. Some will see green (including me). I’m curious to know if other colors will present. it’s most interesting that such changes can lead to pronouncements that somehow remind me of a certain Rolling Stones song…

And that’s the way things go here in Windows-World. Often it’s something odd and hard to explain, if not mysterious, like this one!

Update Added July 3: It’s a Possibility, Not a Fact

Now I get it! It’s a claim that originates from Tom Warren at The Verge, who writes

“The software giant started testing its new design changes in a Windows 11 preview earlier this week, but the Black Screen of Death isn’t fully enabled yet. The Verge understands Microsoft will be switching to a Black Screen of Death for Windows 11, matching the new black logon and shutdown screens.”

I guess that means I have to keep crashing my Windows 11 test machines after each upcoming new Build, to see what color the BSOD takes on. Eventually, if Mr. Warren is correct, that background will go “back in black” to call an 80s anthem to attention. Stay tuned!

 

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Windows 11 Device Driver Handling

Now that I’m getting past my first look, I’m starting to dig into the new OS. Right now, I’m thinking about device drivers. So far, Windows 11 device driver handling has been painless and on point.  I have noticed a few items of interest, though, about which I’ll report here. First, though, I’ll take a detour to introduce and explain my investigation tool.

GitHub Project DriverStore Explorer

Aka RAPR.exe, DriverStore Explorer is free software from developer lostindark. It’s made available via GitHub. I’ve been using it for a decade or longer, and it does a great job of showing drivers in the Windows DriverStore and zooming in on duplicates and outdated elements therein. I’ve now run the tool against both of my Windows 11 test machines (X380 Yoga and X12 Detachable Tablet). In so doing, some interesting patterns have emerged.

Windows 11 Device Driver Handling Seen via RAPR

As I look over the in-store drivers via RAPR on Windows 11, one thing jumps out immediately. As shown in the lead-in graphic for this story, there are 5 duplicated of the same Bluetooth driver therein. They share a common filename — ibtusb.inf — plus common dates and driver versions — 22.50.0.4 and 4/19/2021, respectively. These appeared only after installing Windows 11, so I’m not speculating too wildly when I assert that something during the OS install process installed a bunch of duplicates.

Fortunately, the RAPR functions “Select Old Driver(s)” and “Delete Driver(s)” clean these duplicates out without problems. As you can see in the following “after” image, there are now only two entries left under the Bluetooth heading. Before, there were 10.

Now only two entries under Bluetooth versus 10 beforehand.
[Click image for full-sized view.]

In fact, the only duplicates/old drivers still handing around after cleanup are extensions for the Intel Iris Xe graphics (iigd_ext.inf). This kind of behavior is typical when a driver remains active during update. That’s why RAPR provides a Force Deletion checkbox (and why a follow-up reboot helps). Indeed the X12 graphics went wonky after forcibly removing the graphics drivers in use. A reboot set things right and now it is using the latest version, just as it should be.

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Windows 11 First Looks

Mid-afternoon yesterday, I caught the word that Windows 11 was out via Insider Preview Dev Channel. Right now, I’ve got two test PCs upgraded to the new OS. #1 is a Lenovo X380 Yoga; #2 is a Lenovo X12. Both machines meet all hardware requirements and gave me my Windows 11 first looks. I must say, unequivocally, so far I really, really like what I see — and feel.

The Two Target PCs, in More Detail

PC number 1 is a 2018 vintage Lenovo ThinkPad X380. It’s got an 8th generation i7-8650U CPU, 16 GB of soldered DDR4 2400 MHz RAM, a Toshiba 1TB PCIe x3 NVMeSSD, Intel AC-8625 Wi-Fi, and a reasonably  capable 1920×1080 touchscreen, with fingerprint reader (no Hello-capable camera). I purchased this unit as a third-party refurb in late 2018 for around US$1200 (including all taxes and fees).

PC number 2 is a brand-new (2021) Lenovo ThinkPad X12 Detachable. It’s got an 11th Generation i7-1180G7 CPU, 16 GB of soldered DDR4 LPDDR4X 4267 MHz RAM, a Western Digital 1TB PCIe x4 NVMe SSD, an Intel AX201 Wi-Fi6 adapter, and a decent 1920×1280 touchscreen, with fingerprint reader and Hello IR camera. This is unit is on extended loan from Lenovo, to give me a chance to fly it using Windows 11 for some time.

Both machines worked quite well with Windows 10, where the X380 has been a Dev Channel Insider Preview test unit since day 1. Until yesterday, the X12 had been running production Windows 10. Both machines upgraded to Windows 11 with no difficulty. Each one took less than half an hour to make its way through that process.

What Do My Windows 11 First Looks Tell Me?

OK, it’s hard to get one’s head around a brand-new OS after a few hours in the saddle. That said, I’ve been messing around with Windows since the early 1990s, so I’ve got a good sense of how things should (or used to) work on these PCs. Here’s a list of adjectives I’d use to describe my experiences so far:

  • speedy: the OS feels perceptibly faster than Windows 10. Menus pop up more quickly, programs launch faster, and so forth. Even the venerable Disk Cleanup utility got through its post-upgrade scan and report noticeably faster than Windows 10. Windows.old cleanout seems about the same, however.
  • fluid: the transitions and animations are faster and more fluid than in Windows 10. Overall look and feel is much more consistent, though some hold-out from the old days still persist (e.g. Programs and Features in Control Panel).
  • familiar: though things have changed, and a few minor navigation details along with them, the OS still feels familiar enough that I’m not getting lost easily or often. I remember the sense of utter dislocation that Windows 8 brought to my desktop. Windows 11 does not have this problem.
  • snazzed-up UI: the round corners, fluid icons, taskbar, notifications and even widgets (successor to “News and Interests”) all harmonize better in look and feel. I do like the direction that Windows 11 is taking the UI, and have enjoyed fooling around so far.

Differences, Errors, Issues and MIAs

I’m sure my list will grow as I spend more time behind the wheel driving Windows 11 around. Here’s what I’ve noticed and seen so far, in no particular order:

    • The Advanced Startup option is MIA in Windows 11 Recovery.
    • An older version of CPU-Z threw a driver error (image below). Upgrading to the current version (1.96) does away with this problem.
      Windows 11 First Looks.cpuzdriver

This error message pops up on my Windows 11 desktop. The CPU-Z driver has issues for version 143.

    • I had to figure out that the right-click options for cut, copy, rename and delete now appear as icons at the bottom of the pop-up menu. Minor confusion, easily overcome.
    • Known issues include: taskbar does not appear across multiple monitors, preview window may show incomplete view, settings may fail to launch on a device with multiple accounts, Start menu text entry issues may present (WinKey+R is advised as a workaround), and more. See “Known Issues with Build 22000.51” in the Windows 11 Announcement blog post for more deets and particulars.

Overall, though, I’m impressed, pleased, and intensely motivated to keep exploring. Definitely worth checking out on a test machine or a throwaway VM. Cheers!

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