As it turns out, I should’ve read the Microsoft announcement more carefully. The Windows Insider blog post that announced a new Experience Pack warned me that things would be different for Beta Channel and Release Preview PCs. It said: “For Windows Insiders in the Release Preview Channel, this will be an optional update for you.” I just didn’t pay sufficient attention. And that, dear readers, led me to some unnecessary but still effective Experience Pack 120.2212.3920.0 follies yesterday.
What Kind of Experience Pack 120.2212.3920.0 Follies?
The kind where I decided that because WU didn’t offer my Release Preview PC an obvious and immediate download, I would get it by other means. So, I turned to TenForums.com, where sure enough. I found a thread with a link to a reliable online source. Because this was a .CAB file, I then ran DISM /add-package … to get it installed. It worked!
Then I found out that the Release Preview mechanism differed from the Beta Channel one. Beta Channel (Surface Pro 3) got a direct offer from WU. Release Preview had a new item show up as an “Optional Update” — just as the afore-linked blog post said.
Sigh. One of these days, I’ll slow down and pay more attention. I swear. As Jerry Pournelle used to say in his Byte column from Chaos Manor “Real soon now.” Fortunately, there’s usually more than one path between Points A and B here in Windows-World. Yesterday, mine took me off the beaten track, and had me do manually what WU would have done for me automatically. Sigh again.
I did get here eventually, but not via the most direct route.
One More Thing…
I used DISM to install the KB5004393 update on the Release Preview PC (Lenovo ThinkPad X380). Thus it doesn’t show up in WU Update History (unlike the screencap at the head of this story, which came from the Surface Pro 3). Indeed, I had to go into Programs and Features and use “View installed updates” to find it instead. When you do things manually, reporting changes, too. A word of warning, by way of factual observation.
This morning, I checked Windows Update on the 2019 vintage X390 Yoga (i7 Kaby Lake 8th Gen) as is my daily practice. Lo and Behold! There it *finally* was: WU extends X390 21H1 offer. I immediately downloaded and installed that update. What you see for this story’s lead-in graphic is the “Restart required” status that popped up less than 2 minutes later.
When WU Extends X390 21H1 Offer, I Take It!
After clicking said button, it took another 30 seconds or so to get to the actual restart. After reboot, it took less than 20 seconds to get to the start screen. I was able to RDP into the X390 with no delays to produce a 21H1 Winver screen (clipped to cut off email address).
No sooner is the offer extended, than it’s taken up. I’ve been waiting for this, in fact…
What I didn’t see after this update was additional updates to bring the 21H1 image up-to-date. That tells me WU is still keeping 2004-20H2-21H1 in pretty tight synchronization. In other words, I didn’t need specifically targeted 21H1 updates, because the necessary bits were already present. They’d been applied to 20H2 and stayed in effect across the image transition into 21H1. Good stuff!
Just for grins, I ran DISM … /startcomponentcleanup on the 21H1 image. It took a while to get anywhere, and left two persistent, supposedly reclaimable packages behind. I’ve seen this before, and expected a re-run to leave them untouched. It did, and quickly, too.
Another One Bites the Dust
At this point I’ve only got one more machine that hasn’t been offered the 21H1 update yet. Should be interesting to see how much longer that takes. Stay tuned: I’ll let you know when that happens.
The world is expecting information about a new major Windows release on June 24. I’ve been watching the byplay and discussion of what could be new, and what might be next. For me, one question is paramount. Will the next upgrade be free? Or, will users have to pay for that privilege? That’s what has me pondering free Windows upgrades, as the Microsoft event comes in a just a few more days.
History Guides Me, In Pondering Free Windows Upgrades
Let me think back on my own personal Windows history. I remember most early upgrades to Windows were neither free (because they came on “official media”) nor terribly expensive (because MS wanted users to stay current). If I remember correctly, upgrades cost US$50 to $99 for Windows 3.0 and 3.1. Windows 95 upgrades listed for US$109.95, but deals were sometimes available. Ditto for Windows 98, which also offered a pre-order price of $94.99 for upgrades to those willing to spend less sooner and get the media later. Windows Vista is the last version that I remember Microsoft charging a fee to upgrade and it cost more: US$120 (Home), US$200 (Business) and US$220 (Ultimate).
Since then, upgrades to 7, 8, 8.1 and 10 have pretty much all been free to those with legit, valid Windows licenses for previous (and sometimes older) versions. To my way of thinking, this says that recent history argues that a “next upgrade” should be free for Windows 10 licensees. OTOH, there’s plenty of older history that argues directly to the contrary.
Time Will Tell … and Soon, I Hope!
With a major announcement coming up on Thursday, June 24, we may soon be finding out what any upgrade deal will be for Windows 10 licensees. Because I have 10 PCs here at Chez Tittel, I’m more than a little interested in (and apprehensive) about the upcoming upgrade policy. In the meantime, I’ve got my fingers crossed that recent history trumps ancient history now that physical media are seldom needed, and OS downloads represent the most common and widely used distribution channel for Windows install files.
As the community of Windows Insiders, journalists, watchers and hangers-on collectively holds its breath for June 24, I’m thinking about an old Tom Petty song. The name of the song, of course, is the 1981 classic “The Waiting.” The lyric runs “The waiting is the hardest part.” And wow, how true is that as time marches toward Microsoft’s next generation Windows event on June 24. For me — and I imagine, many others — Tom Petty got Windows wait right.
Because Tom Petty Got Windows Wait Right, Hang In There!
Earlier this week, a leaked version of what purports to be the next Windows release appeared online. Since then, all the usual Windows news outlets are abuzz. These include WinAero, Windows Latest, Windows Central, OnMSFT, Thurrott, and countless others. All are awash in exposition and analysis of “what’s in there.”
Visit one or more of the widely read third-party Windows sites to see what I mean. On every one, stories about the leaked version dominate their home pages. Here’s a quick “count analysis” of what I see. In fact, most of them have devoted over half their line items to this topic. Some go as high as 90 percent.
When the Hardest Part Is Over, Then What?
I’m crossing my fingers that MS will indeed release an official next-gen version during or after the June 24 event. Because I’m an Insider MVP I’m not allowed to write about details regarding leaks and unofficial releases, hacks and other similar stuff. That probably explains why I’m a little frustrated that there’s so much activity already underway that I can’t dive into just yet.
In the meantime, I’ll keep humming Mr. Petty’s tune and watching the clock. There’s really not much else I can do right now — except, of course, to keep plugging away at all the real work I actually get paid for. Do stay tuned: as soon as I can, I’ll start covering this next big Windows thing, whatever it turns out to be.
Here’s an interesting tidbit. Starting with Preview edition 7.2 preview 5 or newer, Windows Update will take over responsibility for updating PowerShell as new versions emerge. Used to be it would notify users an update was available, but they would have to visit GitHub to grab the .msi, or use a package manager to install the new version. But now, certain upcoming PowerShell updates arrive via WU.
It’s not clear when this will click in for production versions, but the shift is already underway for preview versions. If you download and install PowerShell 7.2 preview 5 or 6, you’ll be queued up for this grand experiment. (Visit the Releases GitHub page to find them.)
Rolling Out Upcoming PowerShell Updates Arrive via WU
As is typical when introducing new features and capabilities. MS will start this process with Preview editions of PowerShell. You can read more about the rollout plan in the June 16 PowerShell blog “Preview udpating PowerShell 7.2 with Microsoft Update.” Some registry tweaking is required, but the blog post provides all necessary commands in scripts designed for easy cut’n’paste use.
This is a nice step forward for Windows-heads who, like me, are regular and interested PowerShell users. It’s one step closer to real OS integration now. The post doesn’t say when this treatment will include PS production versions, but I’m hoping it will be soon. Perhaps it will come along for the ride into “next generation” Windows 10? Stay tuned, and I’ll tell you when that news hits.
OK, I’ll admit it. I got tired of waiting. This weekend, I forcibly upgraded my 20H2 production desktop to 21H1. As it happens, when forcibly upgrading 20H2 PCs many ways to the new version are open. I took one of the easiest: installing the enablement package. Links for x32, x64 and ARM64 versions are available at TenForums, via KB5000736 self-installing update files.
Forcibly Upgrading 20H2 PCs Many Ways Requires Follow-up
Of course, it’s been a while since KB5000736 first appeared on May 18. After I got through that install — which took under 2 minutes on my SkyLake i7-6700 PC — I had additional updates to install:
KB4023057: Update for Windows 10 Update Service Components
KB5004476 Out-of-band MS Store fix for Xbox Game Pass games
These took MUCH longer to download and install than the enablement package for 21H1, much to my surprise. Not all updates, apparently, can happen as quickly or easily as its minimalist changes (which mostly involve flipping switches for stuff already in the 20H2 OS).
Other Ways to Forcibly Upgrade from 20H2 to 21H1
Though it may be the fastest way to get from 20H2 to 21H1, other methods are also available. The Microsoft Update Assistant and an in-place upgrade install from mounted 21H1 ISO (both available on the Download Windows 10 page) will do the trick as well. But not only do these methods take longer, they also leave Windows.old and related cruft behind. That’s why I use the enablement package whenever possible. If you run out of patience like I did, I suggest you take the same route to get to 21H1 yourself. Enjoy!
OK, then. This story’s lead-in graphic is showing up on more and more of my production-level Windows 10 PCs. That is, within Windows Update the 21H1 upgrade offer frequency is increasing. My measurements are more subjective than empirical, but it seems like the pace of the trickle-out is a little faster than the transition from 2004 to 20H2.
And given that it’s an enablement package upgrade, the offer is worth waiting on. Before I exercised the offer on my Lenovo X390 Yoga, I worked through the following updates:
All told, that took about 3 minutes to complete. That said, running the MSRT (Malicious Software Removal Tool) always takes a while because it has many checks to perform. In stark contrast, the whole 21H1 process took well under two minutes (about 93 seconds) from start to finish.
If 21H1 Upgrade Offer Frequency Is Increasing, Then What?
That’s up to you, dear reader. For IT pros keeping an eye on new Windows 10 releases for eventual deployment, this one’s worth grabbing and putting through its paces. For home and home office users tracking the current Windows 10 version, ditto. Otherwise, most business users seem content to trail one or two upgrades behind the leading edge. That means they’re thinking about upgrading from 2004 to 20H2, with 21H1 still some ways down the road.
Nevertheless, I’m pleased to see Microsoft picking up the pace on its upgrade offers to 21H1. The last time around, it wasn’t until 90 or 120 days that a more general distribution of the upgrade started happening. I recall reading about “full availability” for 20H2 only last month (May 2021, 5 months after initial general release). This time around it seems that the transition may be quicker and more vigorous.
So far, I still have two machines with the offer yet pending. We’ll see when MS gets around to making those offers. Stay tuned!
I’ve just learned something potentially useful. As a Windows PC ages, it tends to lose vendor support somewhere along the way. And with that comes missing or incompatible drivers and firmware updates. I’ve hit that point now with my Lenovo X220 Tablet, which was built and purchased in 2012. It was my first-ever touchscreen PC bought to learn touch interaction in Windows 8. But because of increasing decrepitude, I must now say goodbye Lenovo X220 Tablet PC.
Why Say Goodbye Lenovo X220 Tablet PC?
Why? Because it takes longer for me to get the device update ready than it does to apply pending updates. As it’s been a Dev Channel test machine, that’s a lotta updates. Because this phenom includes Defender updates, it’s become a daily thing. Sigh.
I’ve developed a “workaround ritual” to keep the machine updated. First, I try WU by itself. Sometimes, it works. When only Defender updates fail, I next go to the updates button in Windows Security/Virus & Threat protection. If that doesn’t work, I manually download the latest update file and install it “by hand.”
Another problem that’s cropped up is the outright failure of the Intel Management Engine on that PC. I’m not especially worried about that, per se, but this does mean that I must remember to manually strike a key each time the system reboots (and it does so 3 or more times each time any upgrade is installed, which happens weekly on a Dev Channel test machine). Otherwise the system just waits for input before it can proceed further.
When It’s Time, It’s Time…
Long story short, it’s become too time-consuming to work around the X220 Tablet’s limitations and gotchas. I still love this machine, but as a freelancer I always have to keep one eye on the clock and manage my time carefully. This laptop is now more trouble than it’s worth, so I’ll be passing it onto the folks at ReGlue for a wipe and a LInux install. Some schoolkid will still get good use out of its 4-core/8 thread i7 2640M CPU, dual (small) SSDs, and 16 GB RAM.
In the past week, there’s been a flurry of rumors around Windows. Indeed, Microsoft will announce a “what’s next” for Windows at an upcoming live-stream event scheduled for June 24. The lead-in graphic for this story comes from the illustration just below the invitation text. That text reads (in part) “Join us to see what’s next for Windows … 06.24.21 at 11 a.m. Eastern Time” Notice the light passing through the window (below) is missing the crossbar above. This simple discrepancy has swept the Internet, as Windows 11 rumors swirl bemusingly.
What Makes Windows 11 Rumors Swirl Bemusingly?
The two bars of light beneath the Window could represent the number 11, to those inclined to find signifance therein. Leaks reproduced in sites like WinAero.com cite references from usually well-informed sources to confirm the 11 numbering (or nomenclature).
Am I onboard for such speculation? Maybe I’ve been following Windows for too long now. I just can’t get too excited about the idea of an “increment by 1” operation on the current Windows major version number. Given that the same breathless sources positing such an increment is inevitable also say “Windows 11 uses the same code base as Windows 10,” it doesn’t seem like a seismic shift of any sort to me.
We Still Don’t Know Enough …
Sure, Satya Nadella said at Build 2021 that “one of the most significant updates to Windows of the past decade” was in the offing. He also referred to it (as has Panos Panay, the guy now in charge of Windows development as MS) as “the next generation of Windows.” But what does it really mean when Nadella goes on to say:
We will create more opportunity for every Windows developer today and welcome every creator who is looking for the most innovative, new, open platform to build and distribute and monetize applications.
Answer: we’ll find out more on June 24 when the livestream event goes down. In meantime ask yourself how much difference a different version number will make? Frankly, I’m more interesting in learning whether or not moving from old to new versions will be free (as it was from 7 to 8 to 8.1 to 10) or require purchasing a new license? Hopefully, we’ll find out. Stay tuned!
I’m still running my 2012 vintage Lenovo X220 Tablet. It’s so old, it’s got an Ivy Bridge CPU (i7-2640M). I’ve been getting signs for the past year or so that this PC is nearing obsolescence. For one thing, the Intel Management Engine always comes up in a “recovery state” which I’ve learned means the related firmware is no longer working. In the past month or so, this old PC shows interesting update behaviors. That means it often hangs during update downloads at 0% complete, especially for Windows Defender Security Intelligence updates. Take a look at the lead-in graphic to see what I mean (reproduced below so you can click on it to see all the details).
Click on image for full-sized view.
What Old PC Shows Interesting Update Behaviors Truly Means
Simply put, Windows Update isn’t working reliably on this PC any more. This has persisted across the last half-dozen or so Dev Channel upgrades. The only way to break the logjam seems to be to bring an old tool into the mix — namely, the Windows Update Management Tool (aka WUMT).
If you look at the lines from that application dated June 2 in the lead-in graphic, you’ll get an idea of what’s going on. Notice, the third line from the top shows Defender update failed from MoUpdateOrchestrator. That’s the native service inside WU that coordinates automatic updates. Next, WUMT itself fails (because I actually launched it AFTER firing off a manual update scan in Windows Security’s Virus & Threat protection). That shows up as Windows Defender under “Applications ID” in the top item, and is the one that succeeded.
What Makes This Update Behavior Interesting?
As you can see in the update history, none of the update agents (apps) always succeeds. Sometimes, MoUpdateOrchestrator (WU itself) works. Ditto for Windows Defender and WUMT. I keep using WUMT, though, because it seems to break the 0% download logjam pretty reliably (even if it doesn’t always end doing the download itself, as the lead-in graphic shows).
I am getting a strong sense that the X220 Tablet is nearing the end of its useful life. That’s because I’m deliberately using it to push the envelope to see how well aging hardware copes with Dev Channel Insider Preview builds. When it becomes more work to troubleshoot and get upgraded, I’ll give this machine to my friends at ReGlue and promote one of my two 2018 vintage Lenovo X380 Yoga PCs into that role. If the X220 Tablet is any indication, they should be good for at least another 6 years or so!