Category Archives: Recent Activity

Power Options VM Surprise

It’s been a painful last few days here in Windows World. I’ve been working on a loaner, locked-down machine in connection with a code analysis project. Because that code is protected and valuable intellectual property (IP), I’m able to access its GitHub repository only through a VM running on a hardened and isolated system. Essentially, I have to access the VM through a browser tab set up inside a VPN-accessible secure store. It hasn’t been going too well, either: each time I tried to use the VM and left the machine alone for a while, it would drop its connection. And then, to make things worse, I couldn’t get back in without asking an IT admin to reset the server side of the remote access environment. That’s where  an unwanted and unexepected Power Options VM surprise came into play.

What Is a Power Options VM Surprise?

If you look at the lead-in graphic, you’ll see that one change I make on my Windows PCs post-upgrade or install is to change the sleep interval to “Never.” The default is 30 minutes. Accessing the VM used a commercial VPN into a host server. Then, a remote access client (first RDP, then VNC) connected to the VM itself. For a long time, the firm’s IT guy kept fiddling with RDP settings and such. Eventually he switched to VNC for remote access, thinking it might be an RDP protocol issue at work (or not).

But the disconnect issues kept popping up, where the VM connection would drop when the machine was idle for 30 minutes or more. This finally caused him to investigate the Power Options, where it was immediately obvious the default “sleep after 30 minutes” was the culprit. Resetting the value to my usual preference — that is “Never” — has since fixed things, hopefully for good.

Troubleshooting 101: Don’t Overlook the Obvious

As an outsider with only a regular user account, it wasn’t up to me to mess with default settings on the locked-down machine furnished to me for this project. Ditto for default settings for the VM I was accessing to get into the target code base. But gosh: I have to believe we were looking for complex solutions to a seemingly complex problem. Instead, we should have been looking for simple solutions for a straightforward default settings check.

The moral of this story is not lost on me. I hope it will likewise inspire you to make a checklist when working with VMs, and to put “check default settings” (especially in Power Options) right near the head of that list. Sleep may “knit up the raveled sleeve of care,” as the Immortal Bard put it. But sleep causes all kinds of interesting problems for Windows PC — and now I know, for Windows VMs, too. Funny thing, I’ve learned to make this tweak because I use RDP extensively here at Chez Tittel to get from my production desktop to the 10-plus other PCs usually running around here. I shoulda known…


Build 19041/2/3.1023 Brings News & Interests Mainstream

Normally, many people steer clear of late-in-the month Windows update offerings. That goes double for KB5003214, which is a non-security CU (cumulative update) Preview update. Please let me suggest a reason to over-ride such natural and eminently sensible hesitation. This update brings the News & Interests taskbar/notification area mainstream into current Windows 10 versions 2004, 20H2 and 21H1.

This morning, after installing KB5003214 on my production PC, I had the pleasure of seeing the News & Interests “bug” show up at the right-hand side of the taskbar, like this:

Build 19041/2/3.1023 Brings News & Interests Mainstream.bug

It may not look like much, but you can expand it by clicking, and it’s been a long time coming.

If Build 19041/2/3.1023 Brings News & Interests Mainstream, Install It!

Personally, I’d  been on the B side of Microsoft’s protracted A/B testing for this feature on Dev Channel and other Insider Preview builds. Thus, I couldn’t wait to see it go mainstream. It’s popping up on production desktops at Chez Tittel right now like mushrooms after the rain. (FWIW, we’ve had plenty of rain around here lately, too!)

If you look to the bottom of this screencap from the KB5003214 release notes header, check the first highlight. It proclaims “News and interests on the taskbar is now available to anyone who installs this update!” Need I say more? Surely, that’s worth jump-starting normal practices and installing a preview CU to see.

Build 19041/2/3.1023 Brings News & Interests Mainstream.proclamation

Jump to the bottom for the News and Interests proclamation.

You tell me: is this a compelling reason to jump the gun, or not? I can only say I found it compelling. You’ll have to decide for yourself whether or not you want to download and install KB5003214, or wait for next month’s Patch Tuesday CU and get it then instead.



Blinking Monitor Gets Easy Fix

When it comes to Windows, it’s always something. When I logged in this morning, it was my number two (right-hand) monitor, blinking on and off at about 3 second intervals. From long experience, I know the most likely cause for such misbehavior is the graphics driver. Thus, I immediately fire up the GeForce Experience app, see a new driver is available, download and install same. And that, dear Readers, is how my blinking monitor gets easy fix. If only all of my problems were so easily solved!

Driver Update Means Blinking Monitor
Gets Easy Fix

Graphics drivers are notoriously finicky beasts. They can cause all kinds of interesting problems, especially when new drivers cause hijinks on older graphics cards (or circuitry). My production desktop incorporates a GeForce GTX 1070, which is now about 5 years old. Because of the scarcity of newer generation (2xxx and 3xxx) GPUs right now — coin miners are snatching them up in droves — this model is still in extremely wide use. Hence, I’m inclined to trust new drivers. That’s because Nvidia would aggravate a sizable population if they let a substandard GTX 1070 driver out the door.

Luckily for me, my inclinations proved justified. After installing v466.47,  I see no further blinking from the right-hand monitor (#2 in the lead-in graphic). It’s nice when the most obvious fix turns out to be the only one that’s required. Again, I know from experience that troubleshooting issues further would get more interesting and probably end up costing money.

My next move would have been to swap the DisplayPort cables that tie monitors 1 and 2 to the GeForce card. If the blinking had switched positions, that would indicate a cable replacement. If not, card troubleshooting would begin in earnest. And with GPUs so expensive and hard to find right now, that could have been a real problem.

Sometimes, here in Windows-World, you get away with an occasionally easy fix for your problems. Today, I’m celebrating my simple and painless escape!


Macrium Reflect 8 Drops Commercial-only Versions

As I was perusing my usual Windows 10 news sources yesterday, I noticed that version 8 of the excellent Macrium Reflect backup tool made its debut. My excitement deflated quickly, as I figured out that Macrium Reflect 8 drops commercial-only versions.

Fortunately, I have a 4-license package of Macrium Reflect Home. This I upgraded to version 8 for a “mere” US$75.72 (US$69 plus tax). This got me to v8 on those PCs that run a commercial version. That means my production desktop, my road/travelling PC, and my wife’s and son’s PCs. But what about Macrium 8 Free?

Macrium Reflect 8 Drops Commercial-only Versions.later

This terse statement about MR V8 Free popped up on TenForums yesterday (Thanks, Kari!).

Macrium Reflect 8 Drops Commercial-only Versions: Free Comes Later

A mainstay in the Windows 10 toolbox is the no-cost version of Macrium Reflect (MR). Known as Reflect Free it offers about 85% of the functionality of the commercial version. I’ve used it for 6-plus years on my test PCs and have yet to find a situation the free version couldn’t handle, backup and restore wise. I bought a 4-license pack to do my bit to support a company whose products I like and endorse.

Word on the street is that the v8 Free version is coming, but won’t be out until the end of the summer (see preceding graphic). That item was dated May 20. Doing that calendar math puts the date on or around August 18. For the time being, users have no choice but to wait for the v8 version of Macrium Reflect Free to makes its appearance.

What’s New in Reflect Home v8?

The software’s maker — Paramount Software UK Ltd — has helpfully put together such a list in handy graphic form. I copy it here verbatim from their “Reflect 8” web page:

Macrium Reflect 8 Drops Commercial-only Versions.what's-new

Some of these features won’t be included in the Free version when it appears, but many/most of them will.
[Click image for full-sized view.]

Of these features, intra daily backups (repeated, frequent copies of specific data files) are quite interesting plus well-informed and -intentioned. I need to spend some time with the new version to really understand what it can do. Alas, that must wait for the press of paying work to abate a bit (I’m kinda busy these days, which has its good and bad points).


NirSoft Adds Winning ManageWirelessNetworks Tool

Anybody who’s been reading my stuff for a while knows I like the work of Israeli developer Nir Sofer. His company, NirSoft adds winning ManageWirelessNetworks tool to its lineup.  If you take a look at the lead-in graphic above, you can see some of my traveling history enshrined in the profile names in the left-hand column. There, you’ll see names for hotels, law firms, and more amidst that list.

If NirSoft Adds Winning ManageWirelessNetworks Tool, Use It!

Many — nay, most — of the names in that list I will never need or use again.  If you choose “Run as Administrator…” when you launch this tool, you can select obsolete or unneeded profiles in the UI. (Ctrl-click works to select multiple individual items; Shift-click works for ranges.) If you then click the red X in the icon bar above, they’ll all be deleted.

Here’s what my current list of active, valid Profile Names looks like after pruning, in fact:

NirSoft Adds Winning ManageWirelessNetworks Tool.cleaned

After clean-up, the item count in the list drops from 26 to 6. Easily done, too!

Sure, you can remove stale entries for Wi-Fi networks at the command line. I wrote a post about this for the TechTarget incarnation of this blog back in 2017 “Clean Up Old Wireless Profiles in Windows 10.” But the NirSoft tool beats that method cold: it’s visual, lets you handle all stale entries in one go, and works like a champ. I’d long wondered why the NirSoft collection didn’t have such a tool already. Well now it does: and I’m glad!

As the old advertisement said: “Try it, you’ll like it!” I did, and I do. You can do likewise.


Is Forcing Win10 Upgrades Good?

After my amazing experience in forcibly upgrading the Lenovo X12 hybrid tablet yesterday I’m pondering upgrade strategies. Indeed, 2004 and 20H2 Windows 10 PCs are in line for the 21H1 upgrade. But Microsoft’s criteria for offering that upgrade — and thus also, its timing — are unclear. Hence my question: “Is forcing Win10 upgrades good?” As is the case with most good questions, the answer starts with a predictable phrase: “That depends…”

Answering “Is Forcing Win10 Upgrades Good?”

I got to 21H1 on the X12 by downloading a self-installing upgrade file (.MSU) from a link at Here’s what that info looks like on that page (links are not live, and you’ll soon understand why):

Is Forcing Win10 Upgrades Good? Catalog Links

These catalog downloads no longer show up when you search the catalog, but they’re still live.
[Click image for full-sized view.]

Those links do work (I’ve checked) and they come from, which is indeed the Update Catalog’s home. But a search on KB5000736 comes up dry. So MS is not offering this enablement package directly from the catalog anymore. That does suggest that the answer to this article’s main question is “If it works, then it’s good; if not, then it’s not.”

Expect the Best, But Prepare for the Worst

Because MS isn’t providing the enablement package directly as a catalog download, that means MS wants you to wait for Windows Update to make the offer. If you choose (as I did) to skip the wait and grab the enablement package from an alternate source (ditto), you should follow the sub-title’s advice. That is, I’d recommend making an image backup before applying the MSU file. Then, if the upgrade fails, you can boot to repair/recovery media and replace the current, suspect image with a current, known good working replacement.

The ISO files for 21H1 are also available. The great appeal of the enablement package is that it’s blazing fast. If you do the ISO route, you’ll run setup.exe from its root folder and it will be a typical upgrade. The experience takes at least 15 minutes to complete, and leaves the Windows.old folder hierarchy around so you can roll back to 20H2 or 2004 as you might like. In that way, it may be “safer” than forcing the enablement package onto a PC. That’s because recovery from failure will be automatic, and you can even elect to roll back up to 10 days afterward if you decide you don’t like where 21H2 takes your PC.

Same Question, Different Answer

Another way to ponder the question “Is Forcing Win10 Upgrades Good?” is to try it, and see what happens. If it works, then yes. If it doesn’t, not only is the answer no, but your subsequent experience will depend on whether or not your pre-planning includes a recovery path. If it doesn’t the answer is “No, and it’s a PITA;” if it does, the answer is “No, but it didn’t take too long or hurt too much.”

And that, dear readers, is the way things sometimes go here in Windows World. it also explains why I still haven’t forced the enablement package onto my production PC just yet. I’m still thinking…


Stunning ThinkPad X12 21H1 Upgrade

OK, then. I’ve got an eval unit of the sturdy, stellar little Lenovo X12 hybrid tablet PC here in the office. I just had a simply stunning ThinkPad X12 21H1 upgrade experience. I swear to tell the whole truth and nothing but. I copied the self-installing upgrade (.MSU) file over from my production PC, and the whole thing ran to completion in under a minute. Maybe under 40 seconds. It was FAST!

Wow! Truly Stunning ThinkPad X12 21H1 Upgrade

Given that this PC is probably less than two months old, I’d wondered why MS hadn’t offered the 21H1 enablement package automatically. So I decided to push my luck, and use the self-installing upgrade file on that machine instead.

That file comes burdened with this incredibly long name:


A real mouthful, eh? But after right-clicking the name, and selecting Open from the resulting pop-up menu, the results proceeded to astonish and delight. It took less than 10 seconds to install, got to the reboot less than 10 seconds after that, and took less than 20 seconds to get to the desktop once the boot sequence got underway.

I’ve never seen anything like it before. Sure, enablement packages are meant to short-circuit the upgrade process, and speed it through to completion. But gosh, this is ridiculous! I’m pretty sure the whole thing took less than a minute, and perhaps under 40 seconds to complete and let me run the winver command that produced the lead-in graphic for this story. So far, this eclipses any enablement package I’ve ever installed by at least a binary (if not decimal) order of magnitude.

I’ve been dealing with enablement packages for Windows 10 since the 1909 version came out in September, 2019. I’ve never seen anything like this before. Frankly, given that WU didn’t offer the enablement package to the X12 on its own, I was more than a little apprehensive about the resulting outcome. I shouldn’t have worried: it’s amazing!


21H1 ISO Files Are Download-ready

Holy moly! MS is really on the ball this time. I just started updating a select few of my 20H2 PCs to 21H1 through the enablement package yesterday. Today, 21H1 ISO files are download-ready. I used the Media Creation Tool (MCT) to grab a copy, straight from the Download Windows 10 page. You can see the resulting final screen from MCT as this story’s lead-in graphic.

Because 21H1 ISO Files Are Download-ready, You Can Grab One

There’s another story on this same topic at Windows Latest that explains how to reset the user agent in Chrome to do a direct download. It will come from the Microsoft Software Download facility (same thing that and use for their far-ranging download tools). As for me, MCT is easy and straightforward enough to use that I just jumped on it instead.

Here are some timings from my personal experience, using my nominal GbE Internet connection from Spectrum at Chez Tittel (all times are approximate, not stopwatch level):

Download time: 2:00
Verify download: 0:20
Create ISO media: 1:15

Thus, the whole thing took under 4:00 to complete. The file itself is 4.24 GB in size. It mounts in File Explorer with a volume name of ESD-ISO. And sure enough, the Sources directory includes an install.esd file not install.wim. Here’s what DISM tells me about that file, by way of inspection. (Note: Windows 10 Home usually shows up as Index 1 in most multi-part image files. This is NOT a surprise.)

21H1 ISO Files Are Download-ready.dism

Note the version shows up as 19041.928.
[Click image for full-sized view.]

Just for the record, here’s what I found in that image file for other indexes until they stopped working:
2: Windows 10 Home N
3: Windows 10 Home Single Language
4: Windows 10 Education
5: Windows 10 Education N
6: Windows 10 Pro
7: Windows 10 Pro N
A value of 8 returned an error message, so I assume that means that 1-7 are the only legal indices. An interesting collection, to be sure! Check it out for yourself, if you need a 21H1 ISO from this list. As you can tell from the destination directory, I’ll be copying it onto my Ventoy drive sooner, rather than later. Cheers!


21H1 Enablement Package Trickleout Begins

OK then. For a minute or three, I thought that MS had let go of the 21H1 enablement package without any of my machines being eligible. Surprisingly the brand-new ThinkPad X12 (11th generation i7) convertible tablet isn’t getting the offer. Nor is my 7th generation (SkyLake) i7 desktop. But the X1 Extreme (8th generation Coffee Lake CPU) did get the offer, as the 21H1 enablement package trickleout begins. See the “optional update” offer from WU in this story’s lead-in graphic above.

As 21H1 Enablement Package Trickleout Begins, Then What?

All you can do is try on your production (2004 or 20H2) Windows 10 PCs to see if WU will offer up the update. As usual, MS isn’t terribly explicit about the criteria it uses to decide if the offer will go to a specific PC or otherwise. I haven’t tried the 10th generation Dell 7080 Optiplex yet, but it seems a likely candidate.

OTOH, if you don’t want to wait for MS to extend the offer, uber-Windows guru Shawn Brink includes download links for self-installing Microsoft Update Catalog files in his TenForums post on KB500736. I’ve already downloaded it on my production PC and will install that later this evening or first thing tomorrow.

The X1 Extreme Experience

Download took about 20 seconds. Install sat at 0% for over a minute, then jumped immediately to “Restart now” (total elapsed time, about 1:20). Weird.

It took another 2:20 before the restart display shifted to “Getting Windows ready.” Then it took another 20 seconds to get to the first reboot. Another 30 seconds to get to “Getting Windows ready,” part 2 and another 15 seconds to the desktop. This sucker is fast!

And it’s now upgraded. Here’s the Winver.exe output after the desktop came up:

Done! I’ll start working my way around the other 5 eligible machines over the next day or two. This first go-round was a stunner.


Notepad Makes Microsoft Store Debut

Here’s an interesting item. The venerable Notepad plain text editor has moved out of the basic install image for Windows. In fact, Notepad makes Microsoft Store debut as an app, from whence it can be updated easily and more frequently. The lead-in graphic shows the Store entry for Notepad (left) and its About window (right).

The full text description for Notepad in Store reads:

Notepad has been the fast and simple text editor on Windows for over 30 years, and now it’s available in the Microsoft Store! View, edit and search through plain text documents and source code files instantly.

If Notepad Makes Microsoft Store Debut, Then What?

The requirements section in the app says users must be running Windows version 19541.0 or higher. Current versions of 20H2 or Release Preview/Beta Channel run Builds 19042 and 19043, respectively, so they don’t qualify. But Dev Channel certainly does: that’s where I generated the foregoing screenshots.

19541 emerged on January 20, 2020 (nearly 16 months ago). I don’t remember seeing Notepad in the Store earlier, or hearing about its distribution through that app channel. In fact, I learned about it in a Windows Latest story dated May 16, 2021. That makes me wonder if the Store-based version has been on internal beta until 21382.1 hit last Friday — a typical MS release practice — and is just now making its way into Insider Preview Dev Channel releases. Such would be my guess.

Looking through update history in the Store, I don’t see any updates to Notepad in there just yet. That said, the “All Owned” apps list in the Store itself says that Notepad was last modified on 4/3/2021, which puts it into Build 21343 at the time (Flight Hub). Indeed, that could mean it made its way to the store on or before April 3. Because I didn’t notice and can’t find earlier reports about Notepad in the Store, I just can’t say for sure.

And boy, isn’t that just the way things go sometimes, here in Windows-World? Whenever it showed up in the Store, it’s good news for those who use Notepad and want quick access to new features, fixes and so forth.