Category Archives: Insider stuff

News & Interests Gets General Dev Channel Release

Just over a week ago, I wrote a post here bemoaning my Dev Channel test PCs’ lack of the News & Interests notification bar feature. It has been in A/B test mode — that is, available to some but not all Dev Channel PCs — for months. It’s a gamble of sorts whether one gets such features or not, and explains that post’s title: Losing Win10 A/B Testing Wagers. But with the release of Build 21359, News & Interests gets general Dev Channel release. My two Lenovo ThinkPad test machines — the X380 Yoga and the X220 Tablet — now sport this new feature, fully-realized.

When News & Interests Gets General Dev Channel Release, Contortions Follow

The first I noticed after rebooting into 21359 was that N&I (my shorthand for News & Interests) was still MIA. A quick check on the Windows Insider MVP Yammer community told me two things:

  1. I was not alone in this experience
  2. Another reboot would put N&I in its rightful place

This worked perfectly on my X220 Tablet where I’d left hidden feature tweaking alone. My X380 was another story…

ViVeTool Rears Its Vexing Head

I’m not the world’s most patient guy. When I learn about A/B feature testing in Windows 10 and I’m not on the receiving side, I’ve been known to turn to hacking tools to turn them on anyway. One such item, named ViVeTool, comes from developer Albacore aka thebookisclosed whose work I’ve been following for years. Here’s how he describes this offering “ViVeTool is … a straightforward tool for power users which want to use the new APIs instantly … to interact with Windows 10’s A/B feature mechanism.” In other words, it lets you turn on what might be turned off in your image, or vice-versa.

I’d done that on the X380 Yoga some while back. But this tweaked N&I did not work properly on that machine. “Hmmm” I wondered “could ViveTool be responsible?” It seems to have been. Once I enabled, then disabled the ViveTool settings for N&I, then rebooted again, it worked perfectly on the X380 Yoga, too.

Tweaking Requires Self-Cleanup

I’ve learned a lesson from this. From now on, if I want to mess with the base test image for Windows 10 that MS gives me, I’m doing it in a VM. I can use snapshotting mechanisms to roll back tweaks quickly and easily. I feel lucky that do/redo with ViveTool in 21359 set things back to rights so that N&I could work as designed. Otherwise, I’d have been forced to clean install that build to heal my own self-inflicted wounds.

If you want to play or tweak, I recommend you do so in a safe and pseudo-sandboxed way. That’s my approach from now on. It comes with the ability to fool around as one likes, without having to live permanently with the results afterward. Please learn from my mis-steps and do likewise!

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New 21359 Power Option Restarts Apps

Just yesterday, a new Dev Channel Build arrived for Insiders. Among the many items mentioned in the 21359 announcement comes an interesting new Restart item in Start → Power. Shown boxed in red in the lead-in graphic here, it reads “Restart apps after signing in.” This new 21359 Power option restarts apps after it restarts the OS, to put things back as they were.

Why New 21359 Power Option Restarts Apps?

This has sometimes happened in earlier Insider Previews, but not at the user’s behest. One can one suppose that enough users provided feedback that this feature might be nice. But it’s definitely something that users will want to choose (or not) as circumstances dictate.

Thus, for example, when I’m troubleshooting or getting ready to install new hardware or a new app, I’d much prefer to restart without all the “stuff” currently occupying my desktop. OTOH, if I’m restarting after an update or to incorporate a new driver, I’d just as soon go back to whatever I was doing beforehand.

This new option lets users pick a restart scenario. The old, plain Restart brings no apps back. The new “Restart apps after signing in” restores current desktop state. Both have their uses, so I must approve and endorse this change.

NOTE: New Setting Is a Toggle

One more thing: this new item is actually a toggle. If you choose it and use it, the checkbox remains on. Thus, if you don’t want to use it the next time you restart, you must uncheck the item to go back to the prior status quo. Don’t forget! Especially if you don’t want this setting to become your default Restart behavior.

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20H2 Builds Bring Windows Tools Folder

Fascinating. Thanks to a recent item from Sergey Tkachenko at WinAero.com, I’ve just learned that 20H2 builds bring Windows Tools folder into the Windows 10 mix. It’s depicted in the lead-in graphic for this story. Not coincidentally, it also happens to show a pretty stunning assemblage of modern, fluent icons, too.

If 20H2 Builds Bring Windows Tools Folder, What Goes Missing?

In this case, however, when Microsoft giveth, it also taketh away. Users who go looking for a number of long-standing, familiar folders in 20H2 will find them MIA. The Windows Tools Folder has supplanted all of them. Here’s a list of those gone but not forgotten folders (in bold text), with their subsidiary contents:

Windows Accessories
  Character Map
  Internet Explorer
  Math Input Panel
  Notepad
  Paint
  Print 3D
  Quick Assist
  Remote Desktop Connection
  Snipping Tool
  Steps Recorder
  Windows Fax and Scan
  WordPad
Windows System
  Command Prompt
  Control Panel
  File Explorer
  Run
  Task Manager
  This PC
  Windows Administrative Tools
Windows Administrative Tools
  Component Services
  Computer Management
  Defragment and Optimize Drives
  Disk Cleanup
  Event Viewer
  iSCSI Initiator
  Local Security Policy
  ODBC Data Sources (32-bit)
  ODBC Data Sources (64-bit)
  Performance Monitor
  Print Management
  Recovery Drive
  Registry Editor
  Resource Monitor
  Services
  System Configuration
  System Information
  Task Scheduler
  Windows Defender Firewall ...
  Windows Memory Diagnostic
Windows PowerShell
  Windows PowerShell
  Windows PowerShell (x86)
  Windows PowerShell ISE
  Windows PowerShell ISE (x86)

Wow! That’s a LOT of stuff. And for a long time, some Windows users have depended on these folder names to navigate to specific content items they cover. No longer! Starting with 20H2, it’s out with those older folders and in with Windows Tools. WinAero also offers a story on how to navigate to these nearly-departed folders if you’d like a quick refresher: How to Find the Windows Accessories folder.

Getting to Windows Tools in 20H2

As is so often the case in Windows, there are many ways to get to a named item through the menus. You can simply type “Windows Tools” into the Start Menu Search box. Or you can find “Windows Tools” in Control Panel. Once accessed in Explorer, it’s also readily found in Recent Files under the Quick Access item.

It’s the wave of the future. If you’ve got access to a Dev Channel (20H2) build, it’s probably worth exploring. And indeed, I like the way it brings all those things together inside a single folder. Good stuff!

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Store Gets Snipping Tools With Build 21354

Here’s an interesting tidbit to ponder. The Insider Dev Channel 21354 announcement included the information shown in this story’s lead-in graphic. To recap: it says that Snipping Tool and Snip & Sketch have been packaged together. Going forward, they will now get updates through the MS Store. Hence my title: Store Gets Snipping Tools with Build 31354.

Sure enough: I visited the Store on one of my Dev Channel test PCs after the upgrade. As you can see in the preceding image, Snip & Sketch now appears there. (If you check update history in the Store, you’ll see it’s getting updates via the Store now, too.)

If Store Gets Snipping Tools with Build 21354, Where’s the Other One?

There’s a teeny-tiny little gotcha in this change worth noting.  It appears in italics in the snippet from the 21354 Announcement up above. Because it’s partially obscured, I repeat that text here:

Insiders who previously did not have Snip & Sketch installed will see Snipping Tool removed after updating to this build and will have to  go and install Snip & Sketch from the Store to get it back.

Because the two tools are now conjoined and Snipping Tool is not listed independently, you MUST grab and install Snip & Sketch to continue using either or both of them. This applies universally, but only affects users who hadn’t already installed Snip & Sketch.

As a determined and far-ranging Insider I installed Snip & Sketch as soon as it was made public in October 2018. Thus, a word of warning. Those who reach for Snipping Tool out of habit and haven’t yet installed Snip & Sketch must now do so, to keep Snipping Tool available. Of course, this applies to Dev Channel builds only.

I’d long thought MS would simply retire Snipping Tool and forcibly move users to Snip & Sketch. Looks like they’ve decided to keep them both alive, but to maintain them through Snip & Sketch in the Windows Store. That’s what makes this interesting and intriguing. Check it out!

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Losing Win10 A/B Testing Wagers

I don’t know why this keeps happening to me. But it seems like whenever I learn that MS is A/B testing a new feature or function in an Insider Preview build, my test machines miss out. I don’t know how MS selects who gets and who misses such options, but I do hate losing Win10 A/B testing wagers. Case in point: the recent News & Interests notification area item.

What Is A/B Testing Anyway?

A/B testing started as a way to check web page designs. In that world, half of visitors see one version of a page, and half see the other. The developers analyze how the versions do, and pick the one that does the best.

In general, A/B testing means that half of a population get to see and interact with a feature, while the other half do not. That said, workarounds may be possible. Thus, for example, WinAero provided enable/disable batch files to turn the feature on and off in Builds 21286 (Dev Channel) early in January.

I just noticed that after the latest upgrade to build 21354, News & Interests no longer appears in my notification area. Indeed, the WinAero method still works to turn it off or on, but my plaint is that I keep coming up on the “have-not” side of such A/B tests, be that either A or B.

What Losing Win10 A/B Testing Wagers Means

To me, not getting to see or interact with an A/B feature means missing out on something new and potentially interesting or valuable. In the case of News & Interests, it means a minor inconvenience to be sure. Even so, I’d prefer to have the opportunity to interact with and provide feedback on new features to better do my job as a Windows Insider.

If I could ask the Insider Team for a favor, I’d ask them to build an “opt-in” apparatus when A/B features come out. Rather that purely random selection of who gets and who misses the A/B feature, it would be nice to have some way to request a download or a pre-update opt-in.

Why do I ask for this? Because invariably all of my test machines and VMs are denied A/B features when I come up a loser. I would like to test everything I can, especially new features, if not on all machines, then at least some of them. Is that too much to ask?

[Note on lead-in graphic for this story: I cheerfully confess I grabbed and cropped a screencap from Thurrott.com about this feature from a January 6 story. I can’t make a working copy of this details pane on my blocked-out test machines. Thanks, Paul!]

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When WU Repairs Fail Try UUPDump

I’ve got two test machines on the Beta Channel release right now. The older of the pair — a 2014 vintage Surface Pro 3 — is stuck on KB5000842 and keeps throwing install errors. Others reporting into the TenForums thread on this update have had success using the terrific UUPdump tool to build a customized image to install 19043.906. So that’s what I’m trying, too. In general, my strategy is “When WU repairs fail try UUPDump” next anyway. Glad to see others use that strategy, too.

When WU Repairs Fail Try UUPDump.WUerror

A couple of failures, including a complete WU reset, means it’s time to change update strategies.
[Click image for full-sized view.]

Why Say: When WU Repairs Fail Try UUPDump?

The update installs fail each time with an error code of 0x800F081F. This is interesting, and a bit strange, because the error is often associated with the Windows Update Assistant nowhere present in this situation. It can also pop up when items are missing from the download packages that WU delivers to the desktop.

That latter reason explains why a switchover to UUPDump makes sense. It grabs the ISO-based image for the base OS version from MS servers  (19043 aka 21H1 in this case). Then, it uses DISM to apply all newer updates packages up to and including the problematic KB5000842 item that’s throwing the error here. It’s perfectly safe because it uses only Microsoft Servers as the source for its OS and update files.

Building the 19043.906 ISO File

Running UUPDump to build an ISO for a patched OS takes some time because of the many and various steps involved. For the SP3 PC, it took over an hour before it got stuck mounting the image for Build 19041.1. That’s when I realized it makes sense to run UUPdump batch files on the fastest PC around.

Thus, I ran the same job on my Lenovo X1 Extreme, with its 6-core i7-8850H CPU. Given more threads and a faster CPU and much faster Samsung OEM PCIe x3 SSDs, it ran noticeably faster, though the KB5000842 cab file update still took 5 minutes to complete (click “view image” inside the lead-in graphic for this story). The whole thing still took 35 minutes from start to finish.

And it went that fast only because we have fast (nominal GbE, actual 900 Mbps or so) Internet service here at Chez Tittel. What takes the real time, however, is bringing the windows image (.wim) file up from base level Build 19043.844 to the current/highest level Build 19043.906. This takes several steps, each one involving mounting the image, adding packages, the dismounting the image, and continuing forward. There’s some mucking around with a WinRE.wim file along the way, too.

Performing the In-Place Repair Install

This is the easy part: mount the image, run setup.exe and let the installer do its thing. This takes a while, too — considerably longer than applying the update would (checking the PC, agreeing to the EULA, checking for updates,  and so forth; then finally into OS installation). This entire process took another hour or so to complete. But here’s the end result, straight from winver.exe:

When WU Repairs Fail Try UUPDump.final

All’s well that ends well: here’s Build info from the upgraded SP3, right where I want it to be

More About UUPDump

I’ve written about UUPDump for numerous other sites, including TechTarget and Win10.Guru, both for my Windows Enterprise Desktop blog. Here are some links, if you’d like to learn more:

  1. UUPDump Invaluable Resource (TechTarget)
  2. A Peek Inside UUPDump (Win10.Guru) includes a brief interview with its developer who goes by the handle “Whatever”
  3. UUPDump Outdoes Windows Update (Win10.Guru)

Cheers!

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Build 21343 File Explorer Makeover

On March 24, MS released Build 21343 to Dev Channel Insiders. I immediately heard and saw that File Explorer shows a new look, with modern iconography and a clean, spare layout. But I really didn’t appreciate how attractive things were until I produced the screencap for the lead-in graphic.  While there’s no disputing Build 21343 File Explorer Makeover sounds nice, it’s amazing to experience first hand.

Indeed, Build 21343 File Explorer Makeover Is Real

The top-line toolbar gets a new set of icons that include new UI elements seen elsewhere. For example, the Settings icon at middle top is spiffed up. It now matches the one used in the Start Menu and elsewhere in Dev Channel and other Windows 10 versions. The default folders (formerly known as Libraries) get compelling new icons. Compare them to the folder icons from Build 19042.868 on my production PC. Note that the seldom-used 3D Objects folder — I’ve never used it once myself — also disappears from view.

Build 21343 File Explorer Makeover.oldfoldericons

The old Folder icons (shown preceding) seem flat, monochromatic, and boring compared to the new ones up top.
[Click item for full-sized view.]

Bigger, Bolder Icons Offer More Visual Impact

Even the Network view in File Explorer gets a more interesting and appealing look and feel, as the next screenshot shows quite nicely. Up until now I’d been inclined to take breathless hype surrounding the upcoming “Sun Valley” Windows 10 redesign with a grain or two of salt. Now, seeing the way that File Explorer pops with just a bit of that fairy dust applied, I’m rethinking my enthusiasm.

There may indeed be something interesting and — as Panos Panay put it for upcoming Windows 10 changes at the recent Ignite conference — “exciting” going on here. We still have no choice but to wait and see how future Dev Channel releases play this out. But I am now inclined to be more curious and to look forward more positively for what may be coming next. We’ll see!

Build 21343 File Explorer Makeover.networkicons

The New Network icons also offer more pop and pizazz.
[Click item for full-sized view.]

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21H1 Attains Commercial Pre-Release Validation

A recent Windows IT Pro Blog post title reads “Windows 10, version 21H1 for commercial pre-release validation.” That means that users can update selected PCs to 21H1 using the enablement package to see what it’s like. The post raises interesting questions. “Do you want to see how quickly devices update from version 2004 or 20H2 to 21H1, and how little downtime is involved? Now you can!” And that dear readers is what 21H1 attains commercial pre-release validation means. Simply put: Check it out!

What If 21H1 Attains Commercial Pre-Release Validation?

The fine print reveals it’s still necessary that “select PCs” enroll in the Insider Preview program to partake of 21H1. Indeed, MS announced on February 17 the enablement package would go to Beta Channel Insiders. I’ve been running it on my Surface Pro 3 since then, to very good effect. The whole thing took under 5 minutes on that 2014-vintage PC (i7-4650U CPU, 8 GB RAM, Samsung 256 GB OEM mSATA SSD) from initial download, through installation, and back to the desktop. It ought to go faster on newer, more capable hardware.

Another Harbinger of GA

Of course, GA stands for “General Availability.” That’s when MS starts public release of a new Windows 10 version through official channels. If “commercial pre-release” is happening now, GA won’t be too far behind. This hasn’t always been part of the MS release sequence, but it is a definite signal that 21H1 is coming soon. In fact, I think it’s bound to appear within the next 30 days. I’m guessing Patch Tuesday, April 13 or somewhere thereabouts, is quite likely.

Typically, business users tend to follow one or two versions behind the leading edge. So perhaps this is really a signal they should be planning upgrades to 2004 (on the trailing edge) or 20H2 (on the leading one)? As with so much else on the Internet, things vary wildly from one organization to the next. I still keep seeing the screens at my optometrist’s office, with the Windows 7 lock screen on cheerful display…

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Interesting Partial 21H1 Component Store Cleanup

I’m running the Beta Channel Insider Preview on my Surface Pro 3. I just bumped it to Build 19043.899 thanks to KB5000842. Out of curiosity, I then ran the DISM commands to analyze and clean up the component store as shown in the lead-in graphic for this story. A final analyze shows interesting partial 21H1 component store cleanup occurred. Let me explain…

What Does Interesting Partial 21H1 Component Store Cleanup Mean?

If you take a look at some detail from the lead-in graphic then check the screencap below, you’ll see they show 7 reclaimable packages before clean-up. After cleanup, 2 reclaimable packages still remain behind.

Notice that 2 reclaimable packages persist, event after running the cleanup option.

Reclaimable packages persist after dism cleanup for one of two reasons AFAIK:
1. At some point, the user ran the /resetbase parameter in an earlier dism cleanup.
2. Something odd or interesting is going on in the component store, and dism can’t clean up one or more packages (in this case, two).

I don’t use /resetbase on test machines as a matter of principle. So something interesting and odd is going on here.

Another Try Produces No Change

Having seen this before on other Insider Previews (and production Windows 10 versions), I had an inkling of what would happen. I repeated the cleanup and got the same results: 2 reclaimable packages still show. In my experience, this means they’re “stuck” in the component store. What I don’t know is if taking the image offline and trying again would make any difference. What I do know is that this won’t change until Microsoft finalizes the 21H1 release for general availability (or issues a specifically targeted fix).

Trading on my connections with the Insider Team at MS, I’ll be letting them know about this curious phenomenon. We’ll see if anything changes as a result. My best guess is that this gets a cleanup as part of the final release work sometime in the next 2-3 weeks. That said, only time will tell. Stay tuned!

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Insider Preview 19043 ISO Download Available

IMO, it’s always a good idea to have ISO files for Window 10 images available. That’s why I jumped on a chance to download the ISO file for Build 19043 from the Windows Insider Preview Downloads page. The 64-bit version of the file is 5,330,642 KB in size. On my GbE (nominal: actual around 940 Mbps) Internet link, it took about 5 minutes to download. Given Insider Preview 19043 ISO download available, you might want to grab one, too.

When Insider Preview 19043 ISO Download Available, Get one!

To access this page — and get the download — you must provide a valid Windows Insider MS account. Use it to login to the page. Once validated, navigate to the “Select Edition” heading, then choose the version of 19043 you wish to download. For the vast majority of readers, that will be the 64-bit edition.

In fact, according to PassMark Software’s latest (March 11) OS Marketshare survey, 0.45% of users run Windows 10 32-bit and 96.34% of users run 64-bit. That means 45 users in 10,000 run 32-bit whereas 9,634 of the rest run 64-bit. That is a vast majority, indeed!

More About the 19043 ISO

Interestingly, the 19043 ISO is 5,330, 642 KB (5.083 GB) in size. That means it’s too big to reside in a single FAT32 file (max size: 4 GB). To my mind, that makes for another good argument to use Ventoy (which puts ISOs into an NFTS volume) instead of having to split a too-big ISO into multiple parts to store on a bootable FAT32 partition.

I just checked, and a new Ventoy release appeared on March 6. Thus, I took the opportunity to upgrade my 256 GB Ventoy drive. I just copied this new ISO to it, too. It’s now sharing that space with 27 other Windows 10 (and other) ISO files. Good stuff!

Here’s a shout-out to Sergey Tkachenko at WinAero.com, who brought the ISO’s availability and location to my attention.

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