Category Archives: Updates

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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Tom Petty Got Windows Wait Right

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.

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Upcoming PowerShell Updates Arrive via WU

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.

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Forcibly Upgrading 20H2 PCs Many Ways

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!

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21H1 Upgrade Offer Frequency Is Increasing

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!

 

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Goodbye Lenovo X220 Tablet PC

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.”

If other updates are involved, I try WUMT. It often succeeds when WU hangs during either download or install phases. Sometimes, I have to reset the entire update environment using Shawn Brink’s Reset_Reregister_Windows_Update_Components.bat file. It’s nearly infallible.

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.

 

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