Category Archives: Recent Activity

Practice Shows Little Speed Difference USB 3.0 versus USB-C

Just for grins, I conducted an experiment on one of my Lenovo X380 Yoga laptops. I hooked up two identical Seagate ST2000LM003 2TB HDDs drives. One is in an Intatek FE2004C USB-C drive enclosure; the other in a StarTech 52510BPU33 USB-3 drive enclosure. Using the two drives, and comparing them in CrystalDiskMark, practice shows little speed difference USB 3.0 versus USB-C. That’s the point of the following graphic in this story, fact.

Practice Shows Little Speed Difference USB 3.0 versus USB-C.3top-Cbottom

USB 3 on top; USB-C on the bottom. Big block transfers favor C, but random access favors 3. It’s a toss-up!

If Practice Shows Little Speed Difference USB 3.0 versus USB-C, Then What?

This makes me feel OK about hanging onto my older USB 3 drive enclosures because there’s only a small performance difference between them. It’s not like the results make me want to surplus all of my old USB 3 enclosures and replace them with their USB-C counterparts. This is good for the general exchequer, if for no other reason.

Check Out Uwe Sieber’s USBTreeView

As it happens, it’s not as easy as I thought it would be to determine what kind of USB interface a specific drive enclosure is using. Nir Sofer’s otherwise excellent USB Device Viewer (USBdeview.exe) didn’t clue me in. I turned to Uwe Sieber’s USB Device Tree Viewer (USBTreeView.exe) instead.

In the summary section, the device information in that utility distinguishes which USB version is in use for a targeted device. It alone was able to tell me that my D: drive (the USB 3 attached device) was running USB Version 3.0.  It also informed me that my E: drive (the USB-C attached device) was running USB 3.1 Gen ? You see the latter info from Sieber’s utility as the lead-in graphic for this story.

That latter designation is less informative than it could be, but I know my X380 only supports Gen 1 anyway. Thus, that particular the mystery is not too shrouded in obfuscation to penetrate.

When Do New-Tech Enclosures Make Sense?

I could see upgrading from USB 3 or 3.1 to Thunderbolt for SSD enclosures, particularly those for NVMe devices. I’m not sure even m.2 SSDs are enough to justify the extra outlay. But hey: that sounds like a great reason to order one or two such items and try it out to see what happens. Stay tuned!


Windows 10 Backup Strategies

When it comes to backing up my Windows 10 systems, I’m a belt and suspenders kind of guy. For my production desktop, that means a daily image backup to Macrium Reflect. It also means 12-hour copies of my selected folders from my user account through File History. I’ve savagely pruned what File History copies by default, because my daily image backups catch a lot of that stuff once a day, which is often enough for me. My Windows backup strategies are designed to limit data loss to a 12-hour period, and to get me back to work quickly if I ever need to restore an image. I keep my Macrium Rescue Media updated and ready to go, so I can even do a bare-metal restore should my current OS get hosed.

Deciding on Windows 10 Backup Strategies

Daily image backups catch everything on my C: drive (including the User folders in which I’m active). So I use File History sparingly (I’m already catching a total snapshot once a day). I’ve trimmed the default allocation to eliminate music files. (I have over 4 GB indexed through “My Music” across 2 other drives on my system.) Ditto for Downloads (currently 6.7 GB in size).

If you going to use File History be sure to look over the Folders it covers carefully. You can click on any one of them to see a “Remove” button to get rid of it. I made extensive use of that capability in pruning my File History capture description. You can see my most important File History folders in the lead-in graphic for this story (click here for full-sized view).

Practice Makes Perfect for Backup/Restore

To make sure your backups are working properly, you should make a backup (or use File History) to restore some files. Consider it both a test to make doubly darn sure backup is working and practice for when you need to restore something for real. Practice prepares you for disaster so you can concentrate on doing what’s important rather than trying to remember how to do it.

I recommend a practice run at least once every three months. I don’t usually have to schedule this myself, because I’m always tinkering with my systems. That means that I’m sometimes repairing the unwanted results of a tinker gone bad by — you guessed it! — restoring a backup.


KB4586853 Fixes Thunderbolt NVMe SSD Stop Error

A couple of months back, Windows 10 starting crashing when I would plug a USB-C NVMe device into one of my Belkin Thunderbolt docks. I soon learned this was a known gotcha, and simply switched to plugging the device into my USB-C/Thunderbolt port instead (which kept working). As per the Windows 10 20H2 Known and Resolved Issues page, KB4586853 fixes Thunderbolt NVMe SSD stop error.

Checking KB4586853 Fixes Thunderbolt NVMe SSD Stop Error

As an eternal skeptic, I tried my Sabrent-enclosed Samsung 760 NVMe drive through the Thunderbolt dock on the Lenovo X380 Yoga, the X1 Extreme, and the X390 Yoga laptops I have at my disposal. It worked fine on all of them. I haven’t tried it on the Dell Optiplex 7080 Micro (it’s upstairs) yet, but I expect it will be fine as well. Makes one wonder what started this off in the first place.

The Conexant Audio Driver Issue

As you can see in the lead-in graphic, the long-standing error with Conexant audio drivers remains unresolved. I guess I should be glad that it doesn’t affect my newer Lenovo laptops. As you can see from the following Device Manager screen cap, all of them list a Conexant SmartAudio HD device as the first entry under Sound, video and game controllers. Given the gotchas out there, I’m happy when they don’t bite me!

KB4586853 Fixes Thunderbolt NVMe SSD Stop Error.conexant

Although my newer (2018 and later) Lenovo laptops all include Conexant audio chips, none seems affected by the unresolved issue for such devices. Dodged a bullet?

In general when things get weird with devices or their drivers on Windows 10, I usually check the issues list before I go into heavy-duty troubleshooting mode. As with the Thunderbolt NVMe device issue just resolved, such issues do bite some of my PCs some of the time. Thus, this saves me from trying to solve problems that other, better-equipped engineering teams are already working on. Now, if I could just learn to be patient while those fixes are in progress…


Unresponsive Start Menu Gets Easy Fix

First, an admission: I’m a long time user of Stardock Software’s Start10 program. In fact, when I first started using this tool, it was called Start8, in keeping with the version of Windows then in vogue. I think my problem may be related to an unwanted interaction between Start10 and the default Windows 10 Start Menu. Nevertheless, I’m happy to report that an unresponsive Start Menu gets easy fix. Let me elaborate…

Unresponsive Start Menu Gets Easy Fix Explained

I don’t have this problem on unaltered Windows 10 installations where Start10 is absent. That’s what make me think it results from some kind of unwanted or unplanned interaction. I’ve checked the Start10 forums and can’t find any other reports of the same kind, but that’s neither here nor there.

On machines running Start10, when this happens I simply launch Task Manager. Then I right click the Windows Explorer entry beneath the Processes tab. When the resulting pop-up menu appears, one of its options reads “Restart.” When selected, this restarts the primary Explorer process. Among other things, it handles the task bar and the default Start Menu.

Following that restart operation, my access to the default Start Menu is restored. If I’m using Start10, why do I still need the default start menu? Simple: there are some programs and searches (such as using the string “reli” to launch the Reliability Monitor) that work in the default Start Menu but not in Start 10. Thus, I do have the occasional reason to dive into that default instead of sticking solely to Start10’s capabilities.

My old friend and former partner at Win10.Guru, Kari the Finn always said “If there’s a built-in tool or utility in the OS, there’s no reason to use a third-party tool.” Let’s just say that I’ve recently been reminded that he had good reasons to make that assertion. Even so, I remain a fan of third-party tools in general, and a fan of Start10 in particular. I’ve just had to learn to work around this particular issue. Cheers!


Implicit Perils When Multiple Accounts Get Interlinked

I went through an interesting adventure this weekend. I found myself trying but unable to reset the password for my Apple ID account — or so I thought, anyway. It wasn’t until I spent a couple of hours trying to fix things on my own that I gave up and turned to Apple Support instead. To my relief, the support rep recognized my problem more or less instantly. He showed me that I had logged into different accounts for iCloud and the Apple Store. Then he explained there are implicit perils when multiple accounts get interlinked in that way.

What Are the Implicit Perils When Multiple Accounts Get Interlinked?

Long, long story short when I was trying to change my password for one account I ended up changing it for another. The iCloud account took precedence over the Apple ID account for whatever reason. I didn’t see any visual cues to tell me that’s what I was doing. Thus, it took a call to tech support to clear up my misunderstanding.

Now, though, things have been set straight. I’ve got known usable passwords for both Apple accounts and have disentangled use of the two IDs on my iPhone which caused that immensely frustrating and bizarre set of symptoms and circumstances.

One More Thing, Though…

Right now, I can use my credentials on Firefox to access But those same credentials don’t work on Chrome. I’m mystified and mortified, but I have no earthly idea why this is happening. Aha! Internet research tells me it’s likely a cookies or history issue (apparently old cached credentials trump newly entered ones at the keyboard). Just another wonderful aspect of living large as a digital person, I guess.

I swear! Sometimes I spend more time digging through login and credentialing issues to access accounts than I actually spend using those accounts directly. Sigh.


Hard Disks Remain Useful PC Storage Devices

Hmmm. I just read a disturbing story over at Gizmodo. Something of a rant from Sam Rutherford, it explains “Why I’m Finally Getting Rid of All My HDDs Forever.” I’ve been following his work for some time, and he usually has intelligent and useful things to say. This time, though, I’m opposed to his position. In fact, I still firmly believe that hard disks remain useful PC storage devices. Quick count: I have at least 10 of them here in my office, at capacities ranging from 1 TB to 8 TB.

Why Say: Hard Disks Remain Useful PC Storage Devices?

If I understand his complaint, Mr. Rutherford is giving up on HDDs (Hard Disk Drives) because several of them gave up on him recently. One failure cost him 2 TB of data, some of it precious. I say: Boo hoo!

The lead-in graphic for this story comes from my production PC running a freeware program named CrystalDiskInfo. (Note: grab the Standard Edition: the others have ads and bundleware). Notice the top of that display lists Windows drives C:, J:, K:, G:, D:, I:, F:, and H:. In fact, all of them show blue dots and the word “Good” as well. These elements provide rude measures of disk health for both HDDs and SSDs. Of the 8 drives shown, 3 are SSDs, 4 are HDDs, and 1 is a so-called hybrid HDD; all are healthy.

Mr. Rutherford could have used this tool. Or used others like it, of which there are many (see these Carl Chao and WindowsReport survey pieces, for example). Then, he would have known his problem HDDs were headed for trouble before they failed. Plus, he himself admits he erred in not backing up the drive whose failure caused data loss. I check all my drives monthly (both SSDs and HDDs) looking for signs of impending trouble, as part of routine maintenance.

Backup, Backup and More Backup

SSDs are not mechanical devices, so they don’t suffer mechanical failures. Over the 10 years or so I’ve owned SSDs (perhaps a couple of dozen by now) not one has ever failed on me. Over the 36 years I’ve owned HDDs, I’ve had half-a-dozen fail out of the hundreds I’ve used. But it’s inevitable that I will suffer an SSD failure sometime, even though I’ve yet to experience one personally. Why? Because all devices fail, given enough time and use.

Personally, I think HDDs still have a place in my storage hierarchy. I just bought 2 8 TB drives earlier this year, for about $165 each. That’s way cheaper storage than even the cheapest of SSDs on today’s market, and much more capacity in a single device than I’d want to purchase in solid state form. (Note: a 7.68 TB Samsung 870 QVO SSD costs $750 at Newegg right now. Thus it aims at those with more money than sense, or those with cash-generating workflows that can actually cover such costs.)

The real secret to protecting data is multiple backups. I bought those 8 TB drives to back up all my other drives, so they’re my second local line of defense. I also pay for 5 TB of online storage at OneDrive and DropBox and have two extra copies of production OSes, key files and archives in the cloud as well. I backup my production PCs daily, my test PCs weekly, and key bits and pieces to the cloud weekly as well). Basta!


Interesting Single-Builder SSD Benefits

Just read an absolutely fascinating story at Tom’s Hardware by Sean Webster. Entitled Not-So-Solid State: SSD Makers Swap Parts Without Telling Us, it’s worth a read. The main point it makes is that many builders of SSDs — most notably Adata and its XPG brand — build SSDs using parts from multiple makers. Their products do change over time because of availability of component parts such as controllers and flash memory chips. In the case the story lays out, a highly recommended drive suffered performance losses owing to replacement of better faster parts with newer slower ones. This leads me to understand there can be interesting single-builder SSD benefits .

Where Interesting Single-Builder SSD Benefits Come From

Samsung, chief among SSD makers, builds all of the parts that go onto its SSDs. Thus, it controls the mix of elements on those devices completely. When constituent parts change, the company always changes its model numbers so that buyers know there’s “something different” on board. Tom’s points to practices from WD, Kingston, Crucial and other makers to indicate that the majority do indeed change model numbers as constituent parts change, too. Thus, the most interesting single-builder SSD benefits clearly come from end-to-end supply chain control. Third-party builders don’t have that luxury, because they buy parts from multiple suppliers.

Where does all this leave me? In fact, I bought an Adata/XPG SSD for my Ventoy “Big Drive.” It’s a 256 GB SX8200 Pro model, the very item that Tom’s Hardware finds fault with in the afore-linked story. Good thing I only use this device for storing and occasionally loading Windows ISOs. It’s new enough that I’m sure it’s subject to the flaws that Tom’s uncovered. If I were using it as a boot or internal SSD I’d be irate. As it is, running it over USB 3.1 means I’d never come close to the theoretical maximum read/write rates anyway.

The Moral of the Story

Ironically, this XPG device is one of two non-Samsung NVMe devices I currently own. The other such device is a Toshiba that came pre-installed in a cheap-o purchase of a year-old Lenovo X380 Yoga laptop. I wasn’t expecting top-of-the-line components because I paid under 50% of the unit’s original MSRP. But from now on, I’m sticking with Samsung NVMe drives, so I can avoid performance dings from covert or undisclosed parts changes in the SSDs I buy and use.

Who knew this kind of thing might happen? I certainly didn’t and I’m grateful to Tom’s for calling it to the world’s attention. It will certainly guide my future NVMe SSD buying habits…



Beta Channel Gets New Feature Experience Pack 120.2212.1070.0

All righty then. MS is changing up the way it introduces new OS features without an out-and-out feature upgrade. At least, that’s how I interpret Bradon LeBlanc’s November 30 post to Windows Insider. Fortunately, Mary Jo Foley at ZDnet provides additional illumination, too. Her same-day story explains “the Feature Experience Pack is a collection of features that can be updated independently of the Windows 10 operating system.” Insiders running Build 19042.662 are eligible. Alas, not all PCs will be offered the relevant KB4578968 update. Even though Beta Channel gets new Feature Experience Pack 120.2212.1070.0, not everybody will see it.

Solution for Beta Channel Gets New Feature Experience Pack 120.2212.1070.0

I firmly believing that where there’s a will, there’s a way. In fact, I found a link to a CAB file to apply KB4578969. It shows up as Post#15 in a TenForums thread entitled KB4592784 Windows Feature Experience Pack 120.2212.1070.0 (20H2). I got the offer on my Surface Pro 3 Beta Channel/Release Preview Channel PC, but not on my Lenovo X380 Yoga. But by downloading the afore-linked CAB file and using DISM (details follow), I did get it installed on the latter PC.

That command is:

DISM /online /add-package /packagepath:<CABpath>

It worked on my X380 Yoga. Thus, it should also work on your qualifying test PCs. Just be sure to shift right click on the CAB file, and use the “Copy as Path” option from the resulting pop-up menu. Then, you too can paste it into a PowerShell or Command Prompt windows (admin level, of course).


Russinovich Showcases Monster Azure VMs

Trolling through Twitter yesterday I found a tweet from Azure CTO Mark Russinovich. I’ll quote the text verbatim “Like I mentioned, Notepad really screams on the Azure 24TB Mega Godzilla Beast VM.” Ultimately this thread leads to an Ignite presentation from October, 2020. Therein, Russinovich showcases monster Azure VMs.

When Russinovich Showcases Monster Azure VMs, What’s the Point?

From left (older) to right (newer), the lead-in graphic shows a historical retrospective what’s been “monster” for memory optimized servers over time. Itty-bitty boxes at far left started out with Intel and AMD Gen7 versions, with 512 GB and 768 GB of RAM respectively. Along came Godzilla after that, with 768 GB or RAM and more cores. Next came the Beast, with 4 TB RAM and 64 cores. After that: Beast V2 with 224 Cores and 12TB RAM. The current king of Azure monsters is  Mega-Godzilla-Beast. It has a whopping 448 cores and 24TB RAM. No wonder Notepad really screams. So does everything else, including huge in-memory SAP HANA workloads for which this VM is intended.

I took Russinovich’s “really screams” Notepad remark as tongue-in-cheek when I saw it. Viewing his Ignite video proves that point in spades. What’s fascinating, though, is that some of the highest-end Azure users are already pushing Microsoft for an even bigger monster. They’re ready to tackle even bigger and more demanding workloads than Mega-Godzilla-Beast can handle.

Who Needs Mega-Monster VMs?

This rampant upscaling of resources is no mere idle fancy. Indeed, there are large companies and organizations that need huge aggregations of compute, memory, storage and networking to handle certain specialized workloads.

This also gives me an insight into the ongoing and increasing allure of the cloud. Most datacenters simply couldn’t put the technologies together to create such mega-monster VMs for themselves. The only way place to find them is in the cloud. Further, the only way to afford them is to use them when you need them, and turn them off right way when the workload is done.



Busy Times for Windows 10 But…

Attentive readers will notice I haven’t posted much this week. This is deliberate. I’m taking most of the week off from blogging here at Consider this post fair warning: these are busy times for Windows 10 but yours truly is pausing for a few days to recharge his batteries and spend some time with the family.

Busy Times for Windows 10 But I’m Taking a Short Break

Over the past few weeks, I’ve worked extra hours more than normal. The Wiley Dummies custom publications group and ActualTech Media’s content machine have thrown a bunch of hurry-up projects my way. Frankly, I’ve been struggling to keep up with paying gigs. Not a bad problem to have in this time of pandemic and pandemonium. I guess I should be grateful! Good thing our US Thanksgiving holiday tomorrow will give me just the opportunity I need to voice my appreciation to our hunkered-down family crew here at Chez Tittel!

That’s not to say there hasn’t been plenty going on with Windows 10. Just this morning, I’ve seen juicy rumors about upcoming 10X features — including something fascinating called “Cloud PC” — at WinAero and WindowsLatest. We’ve also seen new releases into the Dev Channel (20262.1010, mostly just a servicing item) and Beta/Insider Preview Channels (19042.662, with oodles and scads of fixes and tweaks). Of any of the sites I follow WindowsLatest seems to be the most on top of bugs and gotchas in 20H2, and has been reporting them in some volume lately.

As for me, I’ll be back on the beat on Friday, November 27. Lord knows, I plan to have a surfeit of calories to work off from epic consumption of turkey, all the trimmings, and pumpkin pie. In the meantime for those readers who will also be on holiday tomorrow, I hope you enjoy yours as much as I plan to enjoy mine. For the rest of you working schmoes, I hope you’ll take pleasure as and when it comes your way. Best wishes to one and all, regardless.