Category Archives: Updates

Beta Channel Insiders Get Windows 11 Offer

On July 22, I noted that my Insider Preview test machine hadn’t yet received a Windows 11 upgrade offer. This, despite assertions that such an offer was “coming soon” raised my curiosity, if not my ire. “Where’s mine?” I asked in the covering tweet for that story. Turns out it was where everybody else’s was, too: nowhere (not here yet). But yesterday, July 29, MS opened the Windows 11 floodgates to the Beta Channel. Thus, like many others, I witnessed and participated as Beta Channel Insiders get Windows 11 offer.

If you check the lead graphic for this story above, you’ll see the Beta Channel status window at right. It appears alongside Winver.exe output left, that shows this PC running Windows 11.

When Beta Channel Insiders Get Windows 11 Offer, What Next?

Just for grins, I timed the download and install processes for the new OS. I’m guessing server demand was high, because both took some time to complete. Download took 14:42, and Install took another 28 minutes and a bit more. Normally, OS download occurs in 5 minutes or less. Of course, the installation time is all on the local PC, so the servers have nothing to do with that.

Reliability Monitor also shows 3 “Stopped working” errors just after installation completed, while post-install updates and clean-up were underway. These included:

  • FwdUpdateCmd: a Lenovo System Update Plug-in, which probably hasn’t been updated and/or vetted for Windows 11 yet.
  • UsoClient: shows a BEX64 error, which usually indicates some kind of issue with Outlook. Interesting, because I don’t have MS Office installed on that PC. Might be related to the built-in Office trial.
  • Audio device graph isolation (audiodg.exe) shows an APPCRASH error, with CX64APO.dll as the faulting module. I recognize this as related to the Conexant audio driver present on the X380 Yoga. This is probably a driver hiccup incident to installation. From what I can see in Driver Store Explorer (RAPR.exe), all the current drivers are now stable and correct.

As I’ve been doing with Windows 11 on Dev Channel PCs, I’ll continue to explore, play and learn. I remain favorably impressed with this new OS, and look forward to learning and doing more with it in the weeks and months ahead. And yes, I’m glad to finally have another upgrade show up through “official channels.”

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Vexing Windows 11 Antimalware Platform Update Issues

Right now, I have two PC dedicated to Windows 11 testing and learning. Just recently, I discovered some vexing Windows 11 Antimalware platform update issues. The short version is: one of my PCs is up-to-date. It’s no longer subject to Automatic Sample Submission reset to off following each restart. Alas, the other remains stubbornly stuck on an earlier Antimalware platform release. None of the update options available work, so I can’t get no relief. Let me explain…

Fighting Vexing Windows 11 Antimalware Platform Update Issues

First, let me be clear. This is a known and documented Windows 11 issue. It’s been around since the initial release hit. Indeed, a fix exists: when the Antimalware Platform version gets to 4.18.2107.4 or higher, the problem disappears. For the record that problem is depicted in this story’s lead-in graphic. After every reboot, the Automatic Sample Submission feature for virus uploads in Defender is turned off. The feature is easy to turn back on, until the next reboot. OCD OS maintainer that I am, the workaround isn’t enough for me. I want it fixed, for good, now.

Here’s the vexing part. WU hasn’t yet deigned to update the antimalware engine behind the scenes. Ditto for the Protection updates option in Windows Security. There’s a registry hack documented on a related ElevenForum thread. There’s even a manual Defender update download that’s supposed to take the Antimalware engine release to 1.2.2107.02. It comes in a file named defender-update-kit-x64.zip. Alas, inspection of said update file shows the Antimalware engine to be 4.18.2015.5. It’s too old to fix the issue, in other words. Thus, no relief just yet, shy of a permanent registry hack.

The Perils of Perfectionism

Yes, I could hack the registry to turn this off. But I’d have to unhack it again when the fix finally shows up on the X380 Yoga that’s affected. I’m going to have to wait for WU to get around to providing me the latest antimalware engine on its own, or find a newer manual update. Alas, that’s the way things go sometimes, here in Windows-World. Oddly, I find myself hoping for a new Windows 11 build, in hopes the latest antimalware engine will be part of its contents. Stay tuned: I’ll let you know how all this shakes out.

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Beta Channel Update Has Uncertain Timing

I always have troubles with patience. That goes double when I know a PC will run Windows 11, but hasn’t gotten the upgrade offer just yet. I’m talking about my second Lenovo ThinkPad X380 Yoga unit. It had been on the Release Preview Channel. But two days ago, I bumped it up to the Beta Channel in hopes of getting the Windows 11 upgrade. Because this Beta Channel update has uncertain timing, I’m not sure when this PC will get the offer. Here’s the irony: I have a second, nearly identical X380 unit (they differ only in the SSD installed) that’s been running Windows 11 since Day 1 on the Dev Channel.

Does Trickle-out Mean Beta Channel Update Has Uncertain Timing?

As you can see in this story’s lead graphic, Beta Channel PCs should be getting “these Windows 11 builds…” So far, this particular X380 Yoga is hanging back on Windows 10, Build 19043.1149. I’m eager to get the machine onto the new OS, but I want to see how long this is going to take to happen.

My track record on such things is far from stellar. I’ve forcibly upgraded many machines to new Windows 10 versions when upgrade offers were slow to appear. That raises the question: Can I wait long enough for WU to do its thing? Or will I succumb to the fatal allure of instant upgrade and do it manually?

I do want to understand how things will work in the Beta Channel. But I’m having trouble waiting on the system to catch up with me. Let me try another reboot and see if that will help … goes off to make that happen … Nothing doing.

Stay tuned. I’ll be back (soon, I hope) to tell you that WU has come through, or to confess that my patience wore out and I used an ISO to perform an in-place upgrade to Windows 11. One way or the other, I’ll get there, I promise!

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Windows 11 Adopts Annual Upgrade Cadence

Interesting news from the latest version of MIcrosoft’s Windows Lifecycle FAQ (updated July 24, 2021). It says upgrade frequency will change with Windows 11. No more semi-annual “feature updates” that characterized Windows 10 (e.g 20H1, 20H2, 21H1 and 21H2). Instead,  one such update/upgrade happens each year. Most likely, it will hit in October. That’s why I say that Windows 11 adopts annual upgrade cadence in this post’s title.

When Windows 11 Adopts Annual Upgrade Cadence, What Else?

In the FAQ, we also get information about the servicing timeline for Windows 11 versions. Here’s a snapshot of the table clipped straight from the FAQ. It answers this question: “What is the servicing timeline for a version (feature update) of Windows 11?”

Windows 11 Adopts Annual Upgrade Cadence.servicing

Business, education and IoT versions have a 3 year timeline; other versions get two years.
[Click image for full-sized view.]

What is a servicing timeline anyway?

As I understand it, this is the length of time that Microsoft will provide updates and enhancements for a particular Windows version or release. When that interval expires, PCs must update to a more current — and still-supported — version. Business, education and I0T versions benefit from a longer timeline. Consumer, end-user and SMB focused versions (Windows 11 Pro, Pro Education, Pro for Workstations, and Home) get a shorter timeline with more frequent upgrades expected.

As the footnote says, Windows 10 Home “does not support … deferral of feature updates.” Thus, it will usually not hang around long enough to get forcibly  updated when an older version hits its planned obsolescence date.

Very Interesting! This should make things easier for everybody, especially for IT departments in larger organizations. They most adopt an “every other year” upgrade cadence anyway…

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Are Over Half-a-Billion Windows 7 PCs Still In Use?

The old saying goes: “The numbers don’t lie.” Alas, I’ve been messing with numbers long enough to know that they don’t always capture the whole truth, either. Please indulge me for a moment, while I make a case for the size of the Windows 7 PC population. Warning! That case leads to the question that headlines this item: Are over half-a-billion Windows 7 PCs still in use? Sounds a bit high, as numbers go, so I’ll lay my reasoning out.

Why Ask: Are Over Half-a-Billion Windows 7 PCs Still in Use?

According to NetMarketShare.com, the platform version numbers for Windows 10 stand at 57.85% of desktops, versus 24.79% for Windows 7. MS has recently asserted that 1.3B active monthly users run Windows 10. Using that as a baseline, I calculate that if this number is accurate, there must be just over 557M Windows 7 PCs in use by proportion. How many of these are VMs, and how many are physical PCs is anybody’s guess.

Let’s say that 2 of 3 Windows 7 instances run on physical PCs just for grins. That would mean 557M Windows 7 OS instances translate into around 371 million devices running this now-obsolete OS. Recall that EOL for Windows 7 hit on January 14, 2020, 10.25 years after it debuted on October 22, 2009. These machines will be prime candidates for Windows 10 upgrades, because in all likelihood most of them will be unable to meet Windows 11 hardware requirements.

Another Question Comes to Mind…

As I tweeted last Friday, this raises another question. That question is: Will Windows 11 hardware requirements spur an uptick in Windows 10 installs, as older Windows 7 PCs get a “last and final” upgrade? Personally, I’m inclined to believe the answer is “Yes.”

Here are my reasons for so believing:
1. Because Windows 10 EOL is October 14, 2025, that buys time for home and business (mostly small business) users to save up for a hardware refresh to make themselves Windows 11-ready.
2. It reflects common practice in upgrading, where many users — again, especially those in  SMBS — deliberately trail the leading edge of Windows releases in the name of improved stability, reliability and understanding.
3. It’s always easier and cheaper (at least, in terms of current cash flow) to defer upgrades and hardware purchases until later, rather than to act sooner. That said, it gives more time for planning, lets others do the hard work of pioneering, and offers greater comfort in making changes at a time of the buyer’s choosing.

How all this actually plays out remains to be seen. If my numbers have any bearing on what’s out there in the real world, things could get interesting. I have to believe the big OEMs — Lenovo, Dell, HP, and other players (Acer, Asus, LG, and so forth) — are pondering this closely and carefully. I’m betting that PC sales will remain strong until 2026 and beyond, though probably not at pandemic levels, as the workplace returns to more customary modes of operation. Stay tuned: I’ll keep you posted.

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Windows App Update Blues

OK, then. I just got back from a nearly two-week hiatus (see yesterday’s blog post for a trip report). For the past day and a bit more, I’ve been catching up my 10 PCs. In part, that means updating the apps on those machines. Indeed, this experience has me singing the “Windows App Update Blues.” They’re nicely illustrated in the lead-in graphic for this story, which shows two apps on my primary production PC that lack built-in update facilities despite widespread proliferation and use (Kindle) and a pricey paid-for license (Nitro Pro).

Why Sing Those Low-Down Windows App Update Blues?

It’s nearly inconceivable that Amazon, that paragon of modern software efficiency and might, doesn’t include an updater for the Kindle reader. Ditto for Nitro Pro, which makes me shell out over US$100 for updates to this powerful and otherwise handy PDF tool on a more-or-less yearly basis.

Updates are not that simple on either side. For Kindle on PC, I have to visit the “free Kindle app” page at Amazon. Because I stay logged into the site, clicking “Download for PC & Mac” brings a file named KindleForPC-installer-1.32.61109.exe to my PC. Then, I have to run the installer, and it gets updated. Thankfully, this does not require me to remove the older version manually by way of post-install cleanup. Question: why can’t I get an update through the usual Help → About sequence typical for most Windows apps?

Nitro Pro has a “Visit our website” link on its Help → About pane. I guess that’s intended to streamline the manual update process. But each time I have to upgrade, I have to remember to visit the Downloads page via the website’s page footers, and manually download the latest version. While Amazon is at least kind enough to rename its updates so you can tell them apart, all four versions of Nitro pro 13 share the same filename: nitro_pro13.exe so only file creation dates distinguish them from one another. Then, something called “Nitro Pro SysTray” blocks installation until I instruct the installer to shut it down manually. After that, things work their way to proper completion. It, too, cleans up older versions (thank goodness).

But the Question Lingers: Why Manual?

I’m still not happy that I have to run this stuff down on my own and run updates manually. I hope somebody at Amazon and Nitro notices this item, and takes appropriate action. Given that most programs do this automatically, why can’t their apps do the same?

 

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Windows 11 First Looks

Mid-afternoon yesterday, I caught the word that Windows 11 was out via Insider Preview Dev Channel. Right now, I’ve got two test PCs upgraded to the new OS. #1 is a Lenovo X380 Yoga; #2 is a Lenovo X12. Both machines meet all hardware requirements and gave me my Windows 11 first looks. I must say, unequivocally, so far I really, really like what I see — and feel.

The Two Target PCs, in More Detail

PC number 1 is a 2018 vintage Lenovo ThinkPad X380. It’s got an 8th generation i7-8650U CPU, 16 GB of soldered DDR4 2400 MHz RAM, a Toshiba 1TB PCIe x3 NVMeSSD, Intel AC-8625 Wi-Fi, and a reasonably  capable 1920×1080 touchscreen, with fingerprint reader (no Hello-capable camera). I purchased this unit as a third-party refurb in late 2018 for around US$1200 (including all taxes and fees).

PC number 2 is a brand-new (2021) Lenovo ThinkPad X12 Detachable. It’s got an 11th Generation i7-1180G7 CPU, 16 GB of soldered DDR4 LPDDR4X 4267 MHz RAM, a Western Digital 1TB PCIe x4 NVMe SSD, an Intel AX201 Wi-Fi6 adapter, and a decent 1920×1280 touchscreen, with fingerprint reader and Hello IR camera. This is unit is on extended loan from Lenovo, to give me a chance to fly it using Windows 11 for some time.

Both machines worked quite well with Windows 10, where the X380 has been a Dev Channel Insider Preview test unit since day 1. Until yesterday, the X12 had been running production Windows 10. Both machines upgraded to Windows 11 with no difficulty. Each one took less than half an hour to make its way through that process.

What Do My Windows 11 First Looks Tell Me?

OK, it’s hard to get one’s head around a brand-new OS after a few hours in the saddle. That said, I’ve been messing around with Windows since the early 1990s, so I’ve got a good sense of how things should (or used to) work on these PCs. Here’s a list of adjectives I’d use to describe my experiences so far:

  • speedy: the OS feels perceptibly faster than Windows 10. Menus pop up more quickly, programs launch faster, and so forth. Even the venerable Disk Cleanup utility got through its post-upgrade scan and report noticeably faster than Windows 10. Windows.old cleanout seems about the same, however.
  • fluid: the transitions and animations are faster and more fluid than in Windows 10. Overall look and feel is much more consistent, though some hold-out from the old days still persist (e.g. Programs and Features in Control Panel).
  • familiar: though things have changed, and a few minor navigation details along with them, the OS still feels familiar enough that I’m not getting lost easily or often. I remember the sense of utter dislocation that Windows 8 brought to my desktop. Windows 11 does not have this problem.
  • snazzed-up UI: the round corners, fluid icons, taskbar, notifications and even widgets (successor to “News and Interests”) all harmonize better in look and feel. I do like the direction that Windows 11 is taking the UI, and have enjoyed fooling around so far.

Differences, Errors, Issues and MIAs

I’m sure my list will grow as I spend more time behind the wheel driving Windows 11 around. Here’s what I’ve noticed and seen so far, in no particular order:

    • The Advanced Startup option is MIA in Windows 11 Recovery.
    • An older version of CPU-Z threw a driver error (image below). Upgrading to the current version (1.96) does away with this problem.
      Windows 11 First Looks.cpuzdriver

This error message pops up on my Windows 11 desktop. The CPU-Z driver has issues for version 143.

    • I had to figure out that the right-click options for cut, copy, rename and delete now appear as icons at the bottom of the pop-up menu. Minor confusion, easily overcome.
    • Known issues include: taskbar does not appear across multiple monitors, preview window may show incomplete view, settings may fail to launch on a device with multiple accounts, Start menu text entry issues may present (WinKey+R is advised as a workaround), and more. See “Known Issues with Build 22000.51” in the Windows 11 Announcement blog post for more deets and particulars.

Overall, though, I’m impressed, pleased, and intensely motivated to keep exploring. Definitely worth checking out on a test machine or a throwaway VM. Cheers!

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Experience Pack 120.2212.3920.0 Follies

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.

Experience Pack 120.2212.3920.0 Follies.info

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.

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WU Extends X390 21H1 Offer

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.

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Pondering Free Windows Upgrades

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.

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