Category Archives: Insider stuff

MS Ignite 2021 Sparks Changes Galore

There’s all kinds of incredible news and information flowing like a river from the ongoing Microsoft Ignite 2021 virtual conference. In fact, it’s underway right now. Even better,  online registration is free. Use the URL, where you can register or view a complete list of sessions. If you can’t attend real-time, many/most sessions will be recorded. Thus, you can  view them later on.  That said, registration is required to attend.

How Is It That MS Ignite 2021 Sparks Changes Galore?

A quick view of the Ignite Session catalog shows 384 sessions spread over its planned three-day schedule. To begin: today, March 2, is day 1. Next, tomorrow, March 3, and Thursday, March 4, are days 2 and 3.

As I write this, Satya Nadella and Alex Kipman are delivering the keynote. Also, today’s session topics include “the hybrid workplace,” in which WFH combines with access to cloud-based services and resources. Further on today’s docket: security, edge AI solutions, Azure-based enterprise solutions, and more.

For sure, those who who dig through the session catalog will find something for every interest. IMO, Ignite has spread its net widely this year. It should appeal to professionals of all kinds. Certainly, Ignite is well-known as a developer conference. But in 2021, Ignite appeals to IT across the board, including architects, operations types, and service and support pros. Shoot! Business stakeholders with interests in ROI technology boosts will also find plenty of interest here, too.

What’s at Ignite 2021 for YOU?

You can’t know until you take a look. That means opening up the session catalog, and browsing its contents. To spur your interest, here’s a peek at the top of page 2:

MS Ignite 2021 Sparks Changes Galore

A quick peek at Page 2 of the Session catalog shows sessions on Azure at work, developer innovation, speculations on mixed reality, and a wide-ranging Q&A with security experts.
[Click image for full-sized view.]

As the old saying about the lottery goes: “You can’t win if you don’t play.” For Ignite 2021, that means you can’t appreciate its wealth of offerings and learning opportunities unless you register, and dig in. Enjoy!



Post Dev Channel Upgrade Drill

As somebody who’s been in the Insider Program for Windows 10 since October, 2014, I’ve been through hundreds of Insider Preview installations and upgrades. That means I have a pretty well-defined drill through which I take my test PCs once an upgrade is in place. In today’s item, I’ll take you through my Post Dev Channel Upgrade drill as an illustration. That’s because I just finished upgrading to Build 21318.1000, released Friday February 19.

High-level View: Post Dev Channel Upgrade Drill

Viewed at a high level, those post Dev Channel upgrade steps might be described as follows:

    1. Check the environment, restore tweaks, make repairs
    2. Clean up post-upgrade leftovers, esp. Windows.old
    3. Perform other routine cleanups
    4. Check for and install software updates (non-Windows)
    5. Use Macrium Reflect to make a pristine image backup

In general, the idea is to make sure things are working, clean up anything left behind, catch apps and applications up with Windows, and make a snapshot to restore as this release baseline, if needed.

Step 1: Check & Restore or Repair Anything Out of Whack

YMMV tremendously during this activity. After many upgrades, I’ve jumped into File Explorer Options (Control Panel) to make file extensions visible again, show hidden files, and so forth. MS is doing a better job with this lately, and I don’t usually have to do this with Insider Preview upgrades (though it does still happen for standard feature upgrades).

For a long, long time I had to go into Advanced File Sharing to loosen “Guest or Public” and “All Network” network profiles on the Lenovo X220 Tablet to get RDP to work. Because I use RDP from my production desktop to access and work on my arsenal of test PCs, this is pretty important — to me, anyway. The last few Dev Channel releases have NOT had this problem, I’m happy to say.

I run Helmut Buhler’s excellent 8 Gadget Pack on my Windows 10 PCs. That’s because its CPU Usage and Network Meter gadgets provide helpful dashboards. The former is good for CPU and memory usage and system temps; the latter is great at showing network activity and base addressing info. Very handy. But each time an upgrade is installed, Windows 10 boots it off the desktop. Buhler has written a handy “Repair” utility that I run after each upgrade to put everything back the way it was.

Step 2: Clean up post-upgrade leftovers

You can use the built-in Disk Cleanup utility, run as admin, to take care of most of this. I personally prefer Albacore/TheBookIsClosed’s Managed Disk Cleanup (available free from GitHub). Why? Because he tweaked the UI so you can see all active controls in a single display window, and select all the stuff you want gone in a single pass. Here’s what that looks like to make it visually obvious why I prefer this tool:

Post Dev Channel Upgrade Drill.mdiskclean.exe

Notice you can see ALL options eligible for selective clean-up in a single display area in Managed Disk Cleanup. I like it!

Step 3: Perform other routine cleanups

I still use Josh Cell’s Uncleaner utility to clean up temp files and other leftovers after an upgrade. If I’m feeling ambitious I’ll run the DriverStore Explorer (RAPR.exe) to identify and remove duplicate device drivers, too. Once upon a time I would run Piriform’s CCleaner as well, but I’m less than happy with that software now that the maker has started including bundleware in the installer. I haven’t found another tool I like as much as the old version.

Step 4: Update Third-Party Software

You can use a tool like KC Softwares SuMO or Patch My PC Updater to suss out most of the items in need of update on Windows PCs. SuMO is a little better at its job but costs about US$35 for the PRO version (does automatic updates for most programs, but sometimes vexing to use). PMP Updater is free, fast, and entirely automatic but doesn’t update everything. Sigh. I use PMP Update on my test machines, and SuMO PRO on my production PC myself. I’m doing this on the theory that it’s best to have everything updated before making a pristine image backup, as I do in the next step.

Step 5: Make a Pristine Backup

With everything upgraded and updated, and all the dross cleaned up, it’s the perfect time to make a fresh image backup. I like Macrium Reflect, mostly because it’s faster and more reliable than the built-in Windows 7 Backup and Restore utility (which MS itself has recommended against since 2016). And indeed, it’s faster at backing up and restoring than most other utilities I’ve used, and also includes a bootable rescue flash drive utility you can use for bare metal and “dead boot/system” drive repair/restore scenarios.

Please note: Macrium Reflect is MUCH faster than using the rollback utility to return to a lower-level OS image from a higher-level one. That’s why I feel safe getting rid of the Windows.old folder as part of my cleanup efforts. I know I’m not going to use those files anyway…

OK then, that’s my drill. I’m sticking to it. Hopefully, you’ll find something in there to like for yourself. Cheers!


Windows 10 LTSC Lifetime Gets Halved

OK, then. It must be something in the air. I blogged here about the Long Term Servicing Channel (LTSC) version of Windows 10 about two weeks ago. And today, I just saw — courtesy of the always vigilant Mary Jo Foley (MJF) at ZDNet — that MS is cutting LTSC support life from 10 to 5 years. This starts with the next release as explained in a Windows IT Pro blog post. (See below for a key snippet.) Fore sure, the big takeway is that Windows 10 LTSC lifetime gets halved, as of 21H2.

Why Windows 10 LTSC Lifetime Gets Halved?

The best answers for inevitable follow-on questions appear in a quote from the aforementioned blog post. Here ’tis:

Today we are announcing that the next version of Windows 10 Enterprise LTSC and Windows 10 IoT Enterprise LTSC will be released in the second half (H2) of calendar year 2021. Windows 10 Client LTSC will change to a 5-year lifecycle, aligning with the changes to the next perpetual version of Office. This change addresses the needs of the same regulated and restricted scenarios and devices. Note that Windows 10 IoT Enterprise LTSC is maintaining the 10-year support lifecycle; this change is only being announced for Office LTSC and Windows 10 Enterprise LTSC. You can read more about the Windows 10 IoT Enterprise LTSC announcement on the Windows IoT blog.

Two important take-aways:

1. Happily, this change synchronizes Windows 10 Enterprise LTSC and Office LTSC release timing.

2. Even better, Windows 10 IoT Enterprise LTSC is NOT affected. It stays on a 10-year schedule.

Apparently MS understands full well that, once deployed, IoT devices are best left alone as long as possible. Happily, Windows 10 Enterprise LTSC and Office LTSC are synching up, because they’re likely used in tandem. Thus, both benefit from the same release cycle. In most cases, five years is in keeping with typical technology refresh cycles (which usually run 5-7 years).

Plus çe change…

The complete French aphorism translates “The more things change, the more they stay the same.” Indeed, it seems that MS isn’t afraid to tweak long-term servicing options, to better meet customer needs. My guess: making customers upgrade LTSC Office without upgrading the OS  simultaneously could be less than helpful. Therefore, it makes sense that MS would synch things up where the two are likely used together.

On another front, MJF and I both see a bit of ‘suasion possibly at work in this change. Here’s what she says on this in her story:

Microsoft execs have tried to dissuade customers from using LTSC versions of Windows 10 as a way to avoid regular feature updates. (More than a few customers do this.) They’ve emphasized that the intent of LTSC releases is to support mission-critical systems that can’t or shouldn’t get regular updates.

In today’s blog post, officials said they also found that many customers who installed LTSC versions for their information worker desktops “found that they do not require the full 10-year lifecycle.”

Given that the typical refresh cycle is less than 10 years, I’d have so say “No kidding!” to her final observation. I concur!


21H1 Hits Beta Preview Channel

The lead-in graphic for this story shows some big news. That is, the Feature update to Windows 10, Version 21H1 is now available. This applies to Windows Insiders in the Beta Insider Preview channel, I hasten to add. And indeed, the foregoing item showed up on my Beta Channel test machine this morning. Hence the proclamation that 21H1 hits Beta Preview channel.

When 21H1 Hits Beta Preview Channel, Then What?

There are two kinds of implications for this occurrence. One is technical, and the other is a matter of historical analysis and implication. On the technical front, this means that the upcoming 21H1 is more or less locked down. That is, what we see in this preview release is also pretty much everything we’ll see in any upcoming public release. On the historical front, public releases typically have followed previews somewhere from 4 to 6 weeks after the preview appears. That puts initial public release of 21H1 somewhere between March 18 and April 1, by my reckoning.

Upon reflection, I kind of like an April 1 date (April Fool’s Day).

The Beta Channel Upgrade Experience

The screencap you see at the head of this story is the one that appeared on my Beta Channel test PC. For up-to-date Beta Channel PCs, this update is undoubtedly an enablement package that simply turns on features already present in the Insider Preview OS.

Why say “enablement package?” I say that because it completed the pre-reboot portion of the install in under two minutes on a Surface Pro 3 (vintage 2014) machine. The “Working on Updates” portion was pretty speedy, too (less than a minute). And the post-reboot drill took about 30 seconds (just a hair slower than a normal rebooot, in other words).  You won’t have to spend much time twiddling your thumbs while waiting for this “feature upgrade” to install!

I’m jazzed to understand that 21H1 is in the offing, and should be making its way into public release somewhat sooner than I’d expected. My congrats and thanks to the #WindowsInsiders team in general. Take a read of Brandon Leblanc’s Announcement post for more Insider info.


SetupDiag.exe Unveils Upgrade Gotchas

If you read this blog, you already know I finally got my Lenovo X380 Yoga upgraded to 21313 earlier this week. I’d been fighting a bugcheck error for the two prior Dev Channel upgrades before that. Along the way, I found myself  looking for diagnositic info about the failed upgrade.  A Microsoft tool SetupDiag.exe unveils upgrade gotchas, so I started using it. With this post, I want to shed more light on this nice little tool, based on recent experience.

How SetupDiag.exe Unveils Upgrade Gotchas

The program is a log analysis tool that focuses on Windows Setup log files. As the MS Docs page for SetupDiag says:

It attempts to parse these log files to determine the root cause of a failure to update or upgrade the computer to Windows 10. SetupDiag can be run on the computer that failed to update, or you can export logs from the computer to another location and run SetupDiag in offline mode.

That latter offline capability is nice, because it means you can boot an otherwise unbootable machine using rescue media. Once booted, you can then suck the files you need from the problem PC and analyze them on a working machine instead.

Note 1: consider bookmarking the already-quoted MS Docs page. It includes an always-current download link to the latest SetupDiag.exe version. (V160 is current as of Feb 17, 2021 only.)

Note 2: SetupDiag.exe requires .NET Framework 4.6 (or newer). See this WindowsCentral story for multiple .NETversion check methods  in PowerShell (3) or Cmd.exe (1).

Working with SetupDiag.exe

Starting with Windows 10 2004, SetupDiag.exe is included with Windows Setup on Windows 10 ISOs and other install images. Paraphrasing the MS Docs item, it says:

During the upgrade process, Windows Setup extracts its sources files to a directory named %SystemDrive%$Windows.~bt\Sources . With Windows 10, version 2004 and later, setupdiag.exe is also installed to this directory. If there is an issue with the upgrade, SetupDiag will automatically run to determine the cause of the failure.

Thus, so long as you don’t clean up after an attempted upgrade, you’ll find SetupDiag.exe in the afore-cited directory. Grab a copy and put it somewhere else, if you’d like.

Simply search your PC for SetupDiag.exe. Once found, you can run the program from Explorer, in PowerShell, at the Command Prompt, or via the run command.

Reading the Results

SetupDiag.exe writes its results in a file named SetupDiagResults.log. By default, it appeared in my download folder
I found it easily, because I use Voidtools Everything to locate files on my behalf. It’s how I got the details on my bugcheck error code. It reads 0X0000000A therein, but may appear as 0XA in discussions online. When I got the GSOD the error identified itself in the report window as IRQ_NOT_LESS_OR_EQUAL…

The lead-in graphic for this story shows the log file. The area of interest starts mid-way down in a line that reads: “Found crash information in rollback log.” That’s where the bugcheck code appears. Also, “nt” appears as the responsible driver. This, alas, is a built-in OS driver. Mere users cannot uninstall or update it. (That’s a Microsoft internal thing dontcha know?) It’s what convinced me that waiting for an upgrade from MS was the ultimate (and only) fix avaialble.



Dev Channel Build 21313 Fixes Bugcheck Error

On February 2, I posted a tale of woe here. It explained that I wasn’t able to update my Lenovo X380 Yoga past 21296. Each attempt to upgrade to 21301 failed at around 50% complete after the first reboot. And although error messsages did vary once or twice most of the time it threw an IRQL_NOT_LESS_OR_EQUAL bugcheck error. None of my usual troubleshooting techniques afforded any relief, either. Then I got the word from a contact on the Insider Team: this was a known bug, and a fix should be coming “soon.” That’s why I’m pleased to report that Dev Channel Build 21313 fixes bugcheck error just described. It appears number one in the list of fixes shown in lead-in graphic, in fact.

Proof That Dev Channel Build 21313 Fixes Bugcheck Error

I tackled the upgrade on Friday afternoon, February 12. I could only hope for the best. But soon enough, my hopes were rewarded with a complete and successful installation. I always fret when I have to hang back from the leading edge of releases on any of my PCs. That’s because, as a Windows Insider, I take my commitment to keep up with new releases seriously. So again, I’m happy to be back in the high life again (with apologies to Stevie Winwood).

Proof Positive That Feedback Hub Is Working

When the Insider Team contacted me, they made it clear that (a) I was not alone in reporting this problem, and (b) that ongoing repair efforts were underway with a fix in their sights. My benefactor was very clear about asserting that a fix was coming, but might or might not make its way into the next Dev Channel update.

In fact, the Insider Team skipped its usual Wednesday Dev Channel flight on February 3. Then, it didn’t get a flight out last week until Friday, February 12. This is reportedly in the interests of quality and providing needed fixes. All I can say is that, as far as I’m concerned, those reports are on the money. They fixed what ailed my X380 and I’m glad to say “Thanks, Insider Team! Good work.”


19043 aka 20H1 Early Tryout How-to

Here’s an interesting experiment for those with a spare test machine handy.  Note that this machine must run Insider Preview Beta or Release Preview Channel Build 19042.782 with KB4598291 installed. I found a handy collection of DISM commands from poster “moinmoin” at If run in an administrative Command Prompt or PowerShell session, the PC will advance to 21H1, as shown in the lead-in graphic for this story. It serves, therefore, as a 19043 aka 20H1 early tryout how-to for adventurous insiders.

Working Through 19043 aka 20H1 Early Tryout How-to

Essentially, the following sequence of commands does piecemeal what a full-blown enablement package does behind the scenes. In fact, DISM runs a series of .mum files, which are XML files that provide instructions to the Windows Update Installer for performing specific updates. Honestly, I’m not sure how “moinmoin” figured this sequence out. I’m guesssing he worked from analysis of other, earlier enablement packages. But that sequence worked on my Lenovo X380 Yoga test machine, which had been running 19042.782 for a few days.

Please, look below for the sequence of commands. Warning: Those using German versions of Windows should get them from the original post. I’ll provide instructions on how to modify the command text for other languages afterward. It’s safe to assemble, then cut’n’paste these commands one at a time in PowerShell. That’s how I “upgraded” my Lenovo test PC, in fact.

Putting DISM Commands together

In fact, all these commands start with same master prefix string. Simply append the other sub-strings and fire them off at the command line to do your thing.

That master prefix string is:

Dism /Online /Add-package:C:\Windows\servicing\Packages\

The 8 suffix strings are (do not grab the numbers and the period that follows them — they’re to help you find stuff, not for command-line use):

Even for German (and other languages) the first command above stays the same. The German version of the second command above reads

Dism /Online /Add-package:C:\Windows\servicing\Packages\microsoft-windows-product-data-21h1-ekb-package~31bf3856ad364e35~amd64~de-DE~10.0.19041.782.mum

Note that the bolded language code for German German de-DE is embedded near the end of the string. To invoke the proper files for other languages substitute your language code where it appears. For example, a French speaker in France would use fr-FR, and a French speaker in Belgium fr-BE, and so forth. This applies to elements 2-8 for all languages, and is performed using string substitution on the German language version of the commands.

Necessary Precautions Beforehand

It’s probably wise to make a backup of your test PC’s OS image before you try this sequence of commands out. Also, make sure you have a working, bootable USB flash drive from which you can restore that backup. That way, should the worst happen, and your PC get bricked by the updates, you can boot to the UFD and restore the backup without too much muss, fuss, or lost time. Just because it worked on my Lenovo X380 Yoga doesn’t mean it will also work on your test PC. Better to have the backup and restore tools and not need them, than to not have them and suffer from their absence. Enjoy!