Category Archives: Troubleshooting

Dev Channel Build 22538 Gets Interesting

The old Chinese curse goes “May you live in interesting times.” Sounds innocuous, until you understand that what a reader of history might find interesting after the fact, someone who lived through such experiences might find disturbing or harrowing. In that sense then, I proclaim that Dev Channel Build 22538 gets interesting. Exactly what does this mean?

When Dev Channel Build 22538 Gets Interesting, Look Out!

I downloaded and installed this latest Build on my two test PCs yesterday, and finished up this morning. Everything went well, and finished in a reasonable amount of time. (That means under 30 min for both the X12 Hybrid [11th gen Intel i5/16GB RAM/512GB SSD)]and the X380 Yoga [8th gen Intel i7/16 GB RAM/1TB SSD].)

Things only got interesting when I started running the new OS version. If you shift the Start menu left (Start → Personalization → Taskbar → Taskbar behaviors → Taskbar alignment: Left), the Widget icon turns into a weather icon instead. Some users report getting a “weather bug” and temperature value. Others — including me — get only the weather bug. See the lead-in graphic for an illustration, as central Texas faces possible “wintry mix” today.

I was also in for a surprise the first time I remoted into the X12, using Remote Desktop Connection (.exe) . The Taskbar included only two icons. When I tried to run Task Manager to restart Explorer.exe (which usually fixes such behaviors) nothing was accessible. So I ended the remote session, logged into the X12 locally, and then tried again. Everything worked on a second attempt, thank goodness. Indeed, that was interesting!

Curiosity Prompts X380 Yoga Check

Curiosity led me to do likewise on the X380 Yoga. But it showed no such anomalies. Instead a flag from Windows Security informed me that memory integrity checks (Core isolation) were turned off. I had to restart to set things right, but that seemed to work OK, too. The flag was absent after the restart, and Windows Security offered a clean bill of health.

All I can say about the 22538 Build and Dev Channel builds for Windows 11 in general, is that they work surprisingly well. They’re supposed to have rough edges and not-fully-fleshed-out features and functions. I seldom find interesting things to report when I install and run them. It’s fun when things get interesting — at least, on test PCs where I don’t have to rely on them to get my job done.

Stay tuned: I’ll continue to report items of interest as I encounter them.

Facebooklinkedin
Facebooklinkedin

Zoom Resume Ruminations

Last week, I reported that disabling the Video Conference Mute feature in PowerToys fixed constant Zoom crashes. This morning, I participated in a successful Zoom conference on the fixed PC. This has me thinking… Thus, I’ll share Zoom resume ruminations to celebrate a return to more or less normal operations. (Note: the lead-in graphic shows PowerToys Video Conference Mute “Off”.)

Where Do Zoom Resume Ruminations Lead?

Having expunged multiple Windows issues in the past week, I’m pondering best Windows troubleshooting practices. First and foremost, I’m reminded that when actual Windows errors present, the best way to find solutions or workarounds is to start from  error messages or codes that appear on-screen.

Thus, searching on “Zoom quit unexpectedly” and “Windows 10” is what ultimately led me to the PowerToys fix. Ditto, when I found a sizable string (7 in all) of repeated COM Surrogate “stopped working” critical events in Reliability Monitor. That, too, led me to a set of possible causes and related fixes.

Troubleshooting Requires Proper Context

If anything I learned while studying anthropology still works for me as a tech person, it’s the importance of putting things into context to really understand them. Troubleshooting research definitely requires taking error messages and including enough context to filter out irrelevancies and focus in on useful insights.

As I look back on my problem-solving efforts of late, I observe  certain “context data items”  make useful adjuncts to error messages and codes. These include:

  • OS version or application name
  • Build number (where applicable)
  • Filenames that appear in error details
  • Complete error code strings (e.g. 0XC0000005 instead of C05)

When I’m looking for present-day errors, I sometimes find it helpful to restrict the time scope for searches to the “Past week” or “Past month” setting in Google. That focuses on current events, as ’twere, and makes results more likely to apply to whatever issues I’m chasing right now.

Works for me, anyway. Hopefully, that means such techniques might also work for you, too!

Notes Added 1 Hour Later

Two things:

1. I just updated PowerToys on the Production PC to version 0.53.3. I’m pleased to report it preserved my “Off” setting for Video Conference Mute. If I turn it back on, the crashes resume (works fine when set to “Off,” though).

2. I learned yesterday that the WindowsInsider Team renewed my Windows Insider MVP (WIMVP) Award for 2022. I’m pleased and humbled to remain a member of that active and vibrant community.

Facebooklinkedin
Facebooklinkedin

Chronic COM Surrogate Windows 10 Failures

OK, then. I was poking around on my Windows 10 production desktop yesterday. Inside Reliability Monitor, I counted up 7 of 10 recent Application Failures from a single cause. It’s shown in the error detail window that serves as the lead-in graphic for this story. All 7 are more or less the same, where I see chronic COM Surrogate Windows 10 failures at work.

With Chronic COM Surrogate Windows 10 Failures, What to Do?

Look it up on the Internet, of course. Using “COM Surrogate stopped working dllhost.exe” as my search string, I found plenty of data to read and digest. As it turns out, this is a pretty common gotcha.

The COM Surrogate is a host process executable named dllhost.exe (as the error info also indicates). It runs as Explorer or other filesystem-related code works it way through file and folder navigation. The process also handles thumbnails (and viewing same) in Explorer and other similar interfaces.

Most of the renditions I perused, pointed to 4 potential causes:

1. a GPU driver problem
2. interference from Data Execution Prevention (DEP) causing a crash
3. munged DLL file connection (e.g. dllhost.exe)
4. corrupt DLL file

Fixes Follow Causes, Right?

Fixes relate directly to causes. For the first cause, replacing the graphics driver with a known good working version is the trick. This may mean rolling back, to reverse a recent problematic upgrade. Or, it might mean rolling forward, if a new version is available (especially one that mentions fixing thumbnail access issues).

For the second cause, creating an exception for dhllhost.exe in the DEP pane in System Properties, Performance options does the trick. Here’s a partial snapshot of what’s involved (for 32-bit Windows 10, navigate to System32; for 64-bit, navigate to SysWOW64 instead):

Chronic COM Surrogate Windows 10 Failures.DEP-exception

This basically instructs DEP to ignore access to dllhost.exe

For the third cause, re-registering the DLL should ensure that dllhost.exe is properly plumbed into the Windows Registry (for more info, please see this MS Support page). This requires entering a pair of commands in an administrative Command Prompt or PowerShell session:

regsvr32 vbscript.dll
regsvr32 jscript.dll

This should handle anything related to DLL registration.

For the fourth cause, MS recommends first running

dism /online /cleanup-image /restorehealth

Follow that up with sfc /scannow until it comes back with “Windows Resource Protection did not find any integrity violations.”

My Chosen Fix: DEP Exception

Because thumbnails are working OK on my system, I decided that causes 1, 3 and 4 were unlikely. So I implemented a DEP exception, as shown in the preceding screencap. So far, it’s working: no COM surrogate errors since that change. I’ll keep an eye on it, and amend this story if that changes. Stay tuned!

Note: this same approach also works on Windows 11, should the COM surrogate cause problems a PC running that OS instead. Cheers!

Facebooklinkedin
Facebooklinkedin

Escaping Excess Windows Audio Reverb

My first job out of college was in an archival sound studio at the Library of Congress. Believe it or not, they even send me to a summer audio engineering program.  (The Eastman School of Music, Summer, 1974.) In the nearly 4 years I worked there, I’d like to think I learned a little something about quality sound delivery. That’s why I’ve been chafing during recent attempts at escaping excess Windows Audio reverb. This morning, I finally fixed my problem on my production desktop.

Hows and Whys of Escaping Excess Windows Audio Reverb

First: a problem description. Any kind of music playback on my external speakers has sounded weird lately.  (When I play sounds in “the open air,” I use a set of Axiom Audio components. These inlude: L, R, and subwoofer speakers with external amplifier.)  Here’s my best problem description. On playback, music sounded like it was in a concrete stairwell or in a big tiled bathroom. From my years in the studio and subsequent experience, I knew it was a reverb problem.

First, I went poking around in the Realtek Audio Console app. It’s shown as the background for this story’s lead-in graphic. But none of the changes I made in the equalizer, or among its various settings options (Rock is show in the afore-mentioned screencap), made any difference.

Thus, I realized it had to be something in the old Control Panel Sound widget. It was. At one point or another I must have checked the box shown in the screencap foreground red-arrowed “Enable audio enhancements.” As soon as I unchecked that item, my excess reverb disappeared. Everything returned to normal and my various music sources sounded as much like their original recordings as my semi-pro sound chain (external amp and speakers) could deliver.

When in Doubt, Experiment…

I don’t think I would’ve been able to solve the issue if I hadn’t fooled around with the EQ presets in the Realtek Audio Console. As soon as it was obvious that this element in the audio software chain wasn’t responsible (I was sure I’d picked the “Club” or “Party” presets, both of which seem to boost reverb noticeably), I knew it had to be the Sound widget. And sure enough, whatever audio enhancement had kicked in when I checked that box made a BIG difference.

Fortunately, it was easily fixed and my tunes are now back to normal. Now the question becomes: what do I want to listen to today? As I finish out this post, I’m enjoying the alt-pop sounds of 90s British group “The SUNDAYS.” Good stuff (and it sounds like it oughter…).

 

Facebooklinkedin
Facebooklinkedin

Zoom Mystery Gets Interesting Resolution

For the past month or so, I’ve been unable to run Zoom on my primary desktop PC. That’s actually OK, because it doesn’t have a video camera, so it’s been no major gotcha to switch over to the laptop I keep at the left-hand side of my desk. There, a camera is built-in and it works fine with my Jabra 75 USB plug-in headset. Today, determined to find a solution, I stumbled across a revelation in the Zoom Community forums. There, my Zoom mystery gets interesting resolution: because the PowerToys “Video Conference Mute” is enabled by default, it crashes Zoom. Turn that feature off. Presto! No more crashing.

Flailing About Leads to Zoom Mystery Gets Interesting Resolution

At the same time, I’ve also had to switch from my Jabra 75 headset to the older Logitech H750e headset on the production PC. Though the sound widget in Control Panel shows sound input/output, it’s not audible on the headset itself. That’s working properly now, too.

If it hadn’t been for some inspired Google search, I’d never have found this by myself. Turns out it’s a “known thing” in GitHub (where PowerToys development is run). There a bug report about this there. It’s entitled “Zoom continuously crashes with Video Conference Mute enabled.”

I’m very glad this finally popped up on my radar. I’m even gladder there’s an easy fix. Shoot! I’m just glad to see the Zoom dashboard popping up and working on my production desktop PC. This fix was a long time coming, but I’m glad to see it finally in place. Sigh.

 

Facebooklinkedin
Facebooklinkedin

MS Assistant Whacks Word Weirdnesses

These days, I make a sizable chunk of my living using Microsoft Word on huge documents with complex stylesheets. As anybody who does this kind of thing regularly knows, Word can get wonky. That is especially true when large drafts with “Track Changes” turned on must pass among multiple parties. That’s why I’m happy to report that one particular MS Assistant whacks Word weirdnesses. I’m talking about the Microsoft Support and Recovery Assistant (SaRA) shown in the lead-in graphic here (About, Download).

Because MS Assistant Whacks Word Weirdnesses, Use It!

In this latest case in point, I’d cut out a mid-sized section of a large (~200 pg) Word document to work on independently. But when I tried to interact with that document fragment, I started seeing a spray of different errors:

  • Document is too large to save; remove some text or graphics
  • Disk is full; save document to a different drive
  • Permissions error; unable to save document

Normally, when there’s something wrong with the document itself, the errors will remain the same. Also, Word itself is pretty good at repairing corrupted or damaged documents. Thus, this ever-changing panoply of errors got me thinking: “Hmmm. Looks like Word is going wonky.”

Enumerating Office Repairs

I remembered a story I wrote for ComputerWorld last August (4 Steps to Repair Microsoft Office). One of them involved the SaRA. Naturally, I ran the tool (thankfully, it always updates itself first if the version being run is not the most current one available). I had it perform its  Office repairs, then tried the previously problematic file fragment I’d been fighting with. Problem solved!

As mechanics sometimes say: “Get the right tool for the job.” In this case, I was glad that SaRA turned out to be that very tool. I was even gladder to get back to work on writing, and exit Word troubleshooting mode. Sigh.

 

Facebooklinkedin
Facebooklinkedin

Update Fixes Nitro Pro OCR Issue

The old saying goes “If it ain’t broke, don’t fix it.” I was reminded yesterday that the converse is also sometimes true. I’d been struggling with an OCR issue in Nitro Pro v13. Each time I ran the process on a particular patent PDF (downloaded from the USPTO), the program would crash. Then I remembered that SUMo (Software Update Monitor) had reported a new NP13 update was available on my latest scan. “Hmmm,” I thought to myself, “maybe an update will help…” You could say I clutched at the hope that the update fixes Nitro Pro OCR issue. “Here goes nothing…,” i continued, as I started looking for the latest version download.

Indeed, Update Fixes Nitro Pro OCR Issue

I had to go and download a new version of the Nitro Pro exe. That version number was 13.50.4.1013. Because NP13 lacks a built-in update facility, one must download the exe and manually install it to perform an upgrade. I usually avoid that except in cases of difficulty. But this time, it did the trick. After the update, my next OCR attempt succeeded, as shown in the lead-in graphic.

There’s a “trick” to grabbing Nitro Pro updates. I’ll share it because it will help me remember what I  need to do for my next upgrade, too. You must scroll to the footer (bottom) of the gonitro.com web page, and access the “Downloads” link under the “Support” heading. Here’s what that looks like right now:

Update Fixes Nitro Pro OCR Issue.dl-page

The latest version always shows up at the top of the downloads page.

A link to the latest version always shows up on that page, but is nearly impossible to find otherwise.  I can’t  understand why it doesn’t come up first in a Google search for “Download Nitro Pro.”
It does not: Go figure!

 

Facebooklinkedin
Facebooklinkedin

Bringing Offline Printers Back Online

Something odd is still fiddling with my local switch domain. Fortunately, it only affects my office here at Chez Tittel. The usual symptom is that my LAN-attached Samsung ML-2850 shows up in Devices and Printers. But it is grayed out and shows status as offline (see lead-in graphic, middle right and bottom). When that happens bringing offline printers back online requires a specific drill.

How-to: Bringing Offline Printers Back Online

I use Nir Sofer’s great little NetBScanner tool to confirm or establish the IPv4 address the Samsung uses. (Lately, it uses192.168.1.133.) I right-click the offline printer (labeled Samsung ML-2850 in the lead-in graphic). Then I select “Remove device” from the resulting pop-up menu. After that, I must confirm that removal by responding “Yes” to a prompt window that reads “Are you sure you want to remove this device.” Done!

Next, what has been removed gets reinstated. This means clicking “Add a printer” from the top-line menu, then clicking “The printer that I want isn’t listed” when the automated search fails to find the Samsung ML-2850. Next, I click the radio button next to “Add a printer using a TCP/IP address or hostname.” Then I double-check NetBScanner to confirm that the ML-2850’s IP address remains unchanged (aha! It’s moved to …134, so that’s what I enter).

I leave the default “use currently installed driver” option selected and click “Next” again. Then I shorten the printer name  to SamML-2850. Because the printer is network-attached, there’s no need to share it (this is required only for USB or other purely device-specific printer connections).

And when I print a test page, Presto! The printer is once again back online. Good stuff!

Bringing Offline Printers Back Online.restored

After removing and re-installing (after double-checking IP address) the Samsung networked printer is back online. Goody!
[Click image for full-sized view]

Facebooklinkedin
Facebooklinkedin

WU Reset Tool Works on Windows 11

I’ve been a member over at TenForums for almost 7 years now. In fact, I joined up on November 14, 2014 shortly after the first Technical Preview emerged. This weekend, I was relieved to discover that the batch file Shawn Brink created as a WU reset tool works on Windows 11, too. (The preceding link goes to a tutorial that provides a download and explains how to use it to reset Windows Update, or WU).

It’s a Relief that WU Reset Tool Works on Windows 11

My Lenovo ThinkPad X380 Yoga test machine would start downloading updates from WU just fine. But part-way through the download process, progress would stop. Eventually, I would get an “Update failed…” error message, with a Retry button. After several tries, each with its own similar failure, I knew sterner measure were needed.

I actually keep the batch file from the afore-linked tutorial on my shared desktop in OneDrive. It’s called

Reset_Reregister_Windows_Update_Components.bat

and it does a thorough reset of the Windows Update environment. It begins by halting all update-related services, then it empties all folders where recently-downloaded update files reside, checks (and if necessary resets) various WU-related registry settings, then restarts those same services. A reboot follows next, after which one can try one’s luck with WU again.

So I ran the batch file in an administrative cmd prompt on the affected machine, let it do its thing, then restarted that PC. Presto! After restarting, my next update attempt succeeded. I wasn’t 100% sure it would work on Windows 11 because the tool was built for Windows 10. But to my great delight and relief, it set the Windows Update environment back to working order. And thus, I was able to catch that machine up with the current state of the Dev Channel.

Should you ever find yourself in a similar situation, I recommend the tool and its accompanying tutorial highly. Find it at TenForums as Reset Windows Update in Windows 10. Hopefully, Mr. Brink will soon do a run-through to create a Windows 11 specific version. Should that occur, I will add a link to that version here as well.

Facebooklinkedin
Facebooklinkedin

Win10 Rollback Works But Thunderbolt Issues Continue

Big Sigh. I’ve been trying to get the Thunderbolt 4 firmware updated on the snazzy new Lenovo ThinkPad X1 Carbon Gen 9 they sent me, but to no avail. Today, I observed that Win10 rollback works but Thunderbolt issues continue. Something gets weird when the PC reboots to do the firmware install. I see a short (and tiny) error message long enough to know it’s there, but definitely not long enough to read it, or interpret its significance.

When Win10 Rollback Works But Thunderbolt Issues Continue, Then What?

First, the good news. I elected to roll back my Windows 11 update on this machine and it not only went well, it finished in under 3 minutes. That’s amazing! It also confirmed that the Windows.old snapshot is of whatever vintage and state the OS was at the time of upgrade. All my account stuff remained clear and workable, thank goodness.

Now, the bad news. I remain unable to complete the firmware update successfully. That means Thunderbolt sees no devices on either of the PC’s two USB-C/Thunderbolt 4 ports. Bummer! It also means I’m sending this fish back to the pond (Lenovo, that is) with a request to return it when THEY can fix this driver issue. For me, Thunderbolt 4 is a big deal. I don’t think I can review this system without a working and capable Thunderbolt 4 connection for me to test performance, throughput, and so forth.

That said, the USB-3 Type A port is remarkably fast. I get better performance out of my old, tired mSATA drives on this machine (Samsung EVO SSDs in Sabrent mSATA enclosures) than I’ve ever seen before.

Do All Things Come to He Who Waits?

I guess I’ll be finding out. Tomorrow, I’ll fire off an email to the reviews coordinator, explain my situation, and let them know I’m sending the laptop back. It will be absolutely fascinating to see how they respond. I’m hopeful I’ll get a fixed (or replacement) laptop soon. If and when I do, I’ll start posting madly about what I see and learn. Right now, I just can’t go forward with a major subsystem on the fritz. Hope that makes sense…

Facebooklinkedin
Facebooklinkedin