Category Archives: WED Blog

Defender Threat-Flags MTPW

MTPW is the intialism for MiniTool Partition Wizard, a long-time mainstay in my stable of free and capable Windows tools. I’m not sure exactly why MS/Defender decided it’s a “potentially unwanted app.” That said you can see the message from Microsoft Defender Beta as the lead-in graphic, which also labels it as a threat, albeit an abandoned one. To repeat: I don’t know why Defender threat-flags MTPW download, but there it most assuredly is.

Digging into Defender Threat-Flags MTPW

Turns out that pw12-free.exe is an old, outdated name for MiniTool Partition Wizard (note the 2020 date, if you’re not convinced). The current version is named pw-free-online.exe. It throws no Defender Beta alerts, nor does VirusTotal find it at all objectionable. I guess that makes this one of those WTF moments that Windows can occasionally throw this way.

Given a security alert, I’d much rather have it turn out to be a false positive as is apparently the case here. Indeed, Everything can’t even find a copy of the offending file on my test PC (a 2018-vintage Lenovo Yoga 380X). Another bullet dodged, apparently, or less-than-vicious threat averted. I can’t make up my mind: you decide.

The Good Thing About False Positives…

Is, of course, that you can cheerfully ignore them. Indeed, because the offending file can’t even be found, it’s no longer a concern — if ever it was one. I checked the current download (pw-free-online.exe) just to make doubly-darned sure. But there’s no threat there that I can see. Good enough for me!

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Teams Classic Lingers On

OK, we’re up to version 1.7.00.15969 for Teams Classic now. Amidst a whopping 8 (!) updates that showed up for my production PC this morning, I couldn’t help but notice two versions of teams. If you look at the lead-in graphic, it provides clear evidence that Teams Classic lingers on … and on … and on. Sigh.

Teams Classic Lingers On.2nd teams item

As WinGet starts updating the second Teams item is clearly labeled “Classic.” [Click image for full-size view.]

Why Is It That Teams Classic Lingers On?

The end of support for Teams Classic has been pushed out at least once that I know of. It now stands at July 1, 2024, according to the MS Learn article “End of availability for classic Teams client.” As far as I can tell the side-by-side appearance of Teams (New) and Teams (Classic) is only an issue on Windows 10, not Windows 11. Too bad that’s still where most of the users are, eh?

To answer the preceding question/heading, “I’m not sure.” The afore-linked MS Learn item still says “Microsoft [will be] attempting to uninstall the class Teams client 14 days after the installation of new Teams.” Gosh, I’ve tried to force this three or four times now in the past 14 weeks or so, and it has never stayed off my system for more than a week afterward. And that includes manual uninstalls using  WinGet to target Teams Classic directly, to wit:

WinGet uninstall Microsoft.Teams.classic
Someday, perhaps soon (early next month?) it may disappear for good. Can’t wait to see what happens next!

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Comparing USB4 40 vs 20 Gbps

My rationale for keeping the terrific Lenovo Yoga Pro 9i for a couple of extra weeks comes from a recently acquired Maiwo 40 Gbps USB4 NVMe enclosure. Handily, the 9i has two USB-C ports side-by-side. One is rated 40 Gbps, the other 20 Gbps. The lead-in graphic has me comparing USB4 40 vs 20 Gbps via CrystalDiskMark. As you can see, the port speed makes a difference, especially for large block transfers (upper half of each chart).

Comparing USB4 40 vs 20 Gbps: What’s the Diff?

As you can see in the lead-in graphic, the 40Gbps port is faster than its 20Gbps counterpart in 3 out of 4 rows in CrystalDiskMark. It’s double or better for the top 2 rows which involve large (1MB) block transfers. It’s also faster on random writes of 4K blocks, and slightly slower in random reads of such blocks.

Copilot explains these differences as follows (and I am convinced it’s correct because of fundamental principles involved):

  • Large reads and writes benefit more from the higher speed . . . because they involve continuous data transfer.
  • Smaller reads and writes may not fully utilize the increased speed, resulting in smaller differences.

Indeed it makes sense to me that the 4K transfers (which means such reads involve 8 512-byte sectors per read or write) would be less sensitive to bandwidth than 1 MB transfers (2,048 512-byte sectors per read or write, as in 211 transfers overall for each such operation). There’s a lot more time for the speed difference to manifest for those larger transfers. The smaller ones are so fast, the channel speed differences don’t matter much (or at all).

Comparing Backup Times

But CrystalDiskMark is a synthetic benchmark, so it’s not entirely clear how accurately it reflects speeds when performing various operations. For me, the ultimate test of an external USB storage device is how fast it can complete an image backup of the PC’s boot/system drive. Indeed backup and restore top my list of “things to use external USB storage for.” So let’s compare those numbers, shall we?

Because my fave backup tool — namely, Macrium Reflect — is no longer free, I installed and used EaseUS ToDo Backup Free instead. I ran two complete backups with the same drive, same cable: one thru the 40Gbps port, the other thru the 20 Gbps port. File Explorer reports the size of the C: partition at 73GB; other partitions on that drive weigh in at over 1GB total (interestingly, EaseUS reports backup size at 119.5GB). I used 120GB as my backup size in the following table.  I also checked Settings | Bluetooth & devices | USB | USB4 hubs and devices to confirm that the first timing used the 40Gbps and the second the 20Gbps USB-C ports.

Port    Total Time    GB/min
40Gbps  03:22 (202)   35.64
20Gbps  05:11 (311)   23.15

As you might expect the difference is not linear. The 40Gbps backup averages about 35% faster, not 100% as a purely linear ratio would dictate. Even so, this saves 109 seconds (01:49) on backup time. As the backups get bigger, the gap widens. Very interesting!

More for Less

Right now a 40Gbps NVMe enclosure (with cooling fan) costs  (US$70) about fifty bucks LESS than what I paid for a 20Gbps device two years ago (sans fan). Thus, I’d say the difference was definitely worth it.

If you’re buying new, there’s no reason to consider an older 20Gbps device. The real question for those with PCs or laptops 2 years old or older is: does this speed difference justify buying a newer computer? Only you can decide for yourself. For me, it’s pretty compelling . . . but for now, I’m using a loaner unit from Lenovo to measure this capability. I haven’t shelled out to buy a brand-new machine with my own cash recently, either. But I’m thinking about it, hard.

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EFI Boot Logo Follies

It’s been an interesting last couple of days. I really like the boot logo from the Lenovo Yoga Pro 9i. It’s popped up often as I’ve been reviewing it since the end of April. But I’ll be darned if I can find or  extract that file from the UEFI image. Along the way, I’ve indulged in all kinds of fascinating, down-the-rabbit-hole EFI boot logo follies.

You can see some evidence of this in the high-relectivity photo from my iPhone. It shows me shooting the logo from the Yoga’s initial boot screen. It’s been a gas. But so far I’ve been unable to grab the  bitmaps that animate this logo during the boot process.

Where My EFI Boot Logo Follies Have Led…

I started down this trail by using MiniTool Partition Wizard to examine the contents of the EFI partition on the Yoga. Alas, nowhere did I find a neat, discrete bitmap (or set of bitmaps, as the runtime animation strongly suggest must be buried in there somewhere).

Next I tried my luck with the HackBGRT, specifically designed to use the MS Paint app to drop another bitmap into UEFI to take over for the existing one. Despite my hopes it would let me see (and grab, even) what was already in there, no such luck.

My search for copies of this file online have gone unsatisfied. I’ve dropped a request to the reviews coordinator at Lenovo, but have gotten no response. I’m going to ping one of their SMEs and see if they can talk to the UEFI builders and help me out.

All I Got Was a Lousy T-shirt … err iPhone Grab

Amusingly enough, the iPhone snapshot I took of the logo shows me taking that picture. Ordinarily, I wouldn’t reproduce such an amateur, ghastly image here in the blog. But it captures perfectly the “chase-my-tail” exercise I’ve been going through trying to lay hands on the original Yoga Pro 9i boot logo. It’s right there. I can see it every time I boot. But that’s as close as I can get right now…

Simon Allison Comes Through!

When I checked into LInkedIn this morning, the former Windows Insider MVP named above posted a link to the graphic. Now you can grab it, too. Here’s what it looks like (and THANKS, Simon):

This doesn’t show the animation (you’d need the full set of images for that). But hey: there ’tis as a profound demonstration that we’re all better together than separately.

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USB4 Means Yoga Pro 9 Stays On

I have to apologize to the review team at Lenovo. I’d told them I’d be sending back their splendid Yoga Pro 9(i) last Friday. Then I got an assignment from AskWoody to write about external, USB-attached NVMe (and other SSD) storage devices. So of course I had to a buy a current-gen 40 Gbps USB4 drive enclosure. Also, its inbuilt USB4 means Yoga Pro 9 stays on here at Chez Tittel while testing is underway. Sorry, Jeff and Amanda: I need to keep this beast a bit longer…

Why USB4 Means Yoga Pro 9 Stays On

Short answer: it’s my only PC/laptop with USB4 capability. And I want to research and write about same. And on the Yoga Pro 9i the first thing I observe is that while it has two USB-C ports, only one of them supports 40 Gbps throughput (the other is USB-C 3.2 and tops out at half that). This makes a big difference in read/write speeds. Ditto for cables: for best results you need a cable marked 40 Gbps or Thunderbolt 4, too. The device info for the MAIWO 40Gbps enclosure shows what needs to appear for fastest I/O:

USB4 Means Yoga Pro 9 Stays On.Settings-USBdevinfo

The salient info is at the bottom: 40Gbps. It also detects a Gen3 NVMe SSD.

Over the next 10 days or so, I’ll be comparing enclosures, drives, and cables with related measurements. This should be interesting. But for now, let me observe that I paid US$70 for a 40Gbps NVMe enclosure yesterday. When I bought the previous generation (20Gbps) enclosures, the cheapest ones cost US$120 or thereabouts. It’s good that the technology is getting both faster and cheaper. I’m very interested to see how quickly Macrium Reflect can back up the Yoga Pro 9i with a fast SSD and this fast enclosure. Should be fun!

Top of the Heap? You tell me…

FWIW, Cale Hunt over at WindowsCentral just anointed the Lenovo Yoga 9i as the #1 best laptop for 2024. I’ve found it to be pretty stellar in my 5 weeks working with it so far. It’s been great at handling complex programs, lots of VMs, and both compute- and graphics-intensive workloads. Too bad it came out before Copilot + PC requirements were known. It’s close, but not quite at that level. Sigh.

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WinGet Source Hiccup Self-Repair

I saw a new WinGet error message yesterday. In attempting a “blanket update” PowerShell showed a “Failed when opening source(s)…” error instead (see intro graphic above). That same error also suggested its own fix via WinGet source reset. I didn’t read carefully enough to see that the –force option was also required. But my next upgrade attempt succeeded anyway. There was apparently a WinGet Source hiccup self-repair at work. What happened?

OK, Why Did WinGet Source Hiccup Self-Repair?

I can only speculate that there was a transient communications glitch between my test PC and the URLs associated with the Microsoft Store and WinGet itself. To me, this dual drop most likely indicates an interruption of service at the ISP level. Both domains have vastly different IP addresses so it’s unlikely to have been something at their end. Hence my best guess that something affected the lookups from my end through my ISP,  Spectrum.com.

It’s amusing that I discovered this hiccup simply by entering another command (albeit an incorrect one). Upon re-entering the original blanket update:

winget upgrade –all — include-unknown

Everything went through as expected on the second try. Through well-cultivated habits, in fact, my first impulse with Windows when things don’t work as expected is simply to try again and see what happens. In this fragile world of ours (including Windows-World) what doesn’t work at first often succeeds on a subsequent attempt.

Had it turned out otherwise, I’d be showing a different screencap, and telling a different story. This time, second try was the charm!

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USB4 Gets MS Fixer

Just over a year ago (May 24, 2023) MS added support for USB4 to Windows 11. Curiously enough, multiple MS sources — such as MS Learn, for example — attribute this introduction to KB5026446. A quick check shows no mention of USB4 in that announcement. Be that as it may, MS has released a Support article entitled Fix USB-C problems in Windows. It explains how to troubleshoot the now-common “USB4 functionality may be limited” error message. Of course, you’d need a suitably-equipped PC to see that. This drives my title: USB4 gets MS fixer.

What USB Gets MS Fixer Actually Says…

I’ve been working with USB4 directly since Panasonic sent me a Toughbook just before Christmas in 2023. (See my January 3 2024 post HWiNFO Bestows USB4 Insight for my first hands-on peek.) Thus, what I see in the Fixer item linked earlier is mostly a distillation of common sense gotchas that meeting USB4 link-up requirements imposes:

  1. Gotta have the device (can’t get USB4 from something USB3 or older)
  2. Gotta have the right cable (can’t move at USB4 speeds over older cables: they must be rated TB3 or higher, USB4 or higher)
  3. Gotta have a USB4/TB4 port (strictly speaking, USB4 is a subset of TB4 so either will do — but nothing older handles USB4 devices at native speeds and capabilities)
  4. Gotta have the right drivers (while I’ve never seen a working USB4 port come up with the wrong ones, this is a given to make sure the device chain from port through cable to device will work).

What’s interesting about the MS Learn item is that it mentions a whole slew of error messages that you might see when trying to use a USB4 device — 11 in all, in fact. Worth reading the piece over if only to see how many of them you might have encountered before. FWIW, my personal count is 5 at this point.

The High Cost of USB4 Entry

When I started mucking about with USB4 last fall, I bought a couple of USB4/TB4 NVMe enclosures. These were limited to 20 Gbps aggregrate throughput, but still cost  from ~US$120 to $150  or so. Now, you can buy 40 Gbps USB4 enclosures for ~US$70 to $120. The surrounding specs and verbiage claims real-world throughputs from 25000 to 3000 Mbps. I’ll have to check that for myself, but I have seen speeds in that range in CrystalDiskMark for my 20 Gbps Acasis and Konyead units on some laptops (e.g. Lenovo ThinkPad P16 Mobile Workstation and Yoga P9i models).

It’s still pretty darned expensive to take advantage of USB4 for external storage access. But it’s pretty darned fast, and keeps getting faster. I’m hoping to write a more in-depth examination for AskWoody in the near future. Stay tuned!

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Stellar OST Tool Worth Grabbing

 

Microsoft Outlook, in both its local and cloud forms, is an interesting beast. For those with Microsoft 365 or similar subscriptions, that goes double. For such instances, Outlook uses OST (Online Storage Table) files, which maintain fluid, shared snapshots of Outlook “stuff” (e.g. messages, events, contacts, and so forth). Such files live mostly in the cloud on an Exchange server. Outlook also uses Personal Storage Tables (stored in PST files locally on a PC) as well. But while Outlook allows users to export and import from other files,  OST files won’t support this activity: PST is your best bet.

Here’s what STELLAR OST CONVERTER looks like, once you complete the initial conversion step.

Why Is Stellar OST Tool Worth Grabbing?

Simply put: the STELLAR CONVERTER FOR OST provides a quick and easy way to convert OST to PST files (local to the PC) with just a few mouse clicks. Indeed it can even recover “orphaned” OST files — those no longer readily available inside Outlook itself — by scanning folders where OST items live. It then happily converts everything it finds to PST.

Stellar OST Tool Worth Grabbing.outlook-import-export

Outlook’s export/import capabilities embrace PST files, but NOT OST files.

As the preceding graphic shows, Outlook exports its contents to PST. A similar dialog for import shows those same options. OST, I’ll observe, is conspicuously absent. Thus, this tool provides a great way to create backup PST collections to match Outlook accounts and related file holdings. These can get quite large: mine is currently around 3GB in size (I’ve seen them as big as 14GB). Conversion takes awhile: about 15 minutes in all (7.5 to scan and enumerate, 7.5 to save) . That said, PST files are browsable repositories, and can restore entire Outlook data collections if necessary.

Exploring This Stellar Tool…

In graphic captioned “initial conversion step” above, you see the STELLAR CONVERTER FOR OST, showing the contents of the Consulting/AskWoody folder. As you can see, it captures all of my recent message traffic, and can show individual message contents in the reading pane at far right. The left-hand pane shows the folder hierarchy; the center pane shows message info. Note: deleted messages appear in red in their parent folders (as well as in Trash).

In fact, the STELLAR CONVERTER FOR OST offers several noteworthy additional capabilities:

  • Handles large OST files: It took about 15 minutes, but STELLAR CONVERTER FOR OST handled my huge collection of Outlook data. That included messages, contacts and calendar data . The time to scan is roughly equal to the time to save what’s been scanned.

By some quirk of fate, the subject of the current message pops up as STELLAR CONVERTER FOR OST save handles Outlook message store.

Once saved, the converted PST file weighs in at just under 3.0 GB (3,072MB).

  • Handles encrypted OST files: STELLAR CONVERTER FOR OST can read and decrypt encrypted OST files, and save them in PST format. When mailbox or server synchronization issues impede server-based decryption, STELLAR CONVERTER FOR OST delivers them in readable PST form.
  • Global purview for Outlook data files: STELLAR CONVERTER FOR OST finds and lists all OST files. That includes those from IMAP plus Exchange or Microsoft 365 message profiles. Users can easily select and scan OST files to extract specific items. STELLAR CONVERTER FOR OST also offers a powerful “Find” (search) function. It even shows orphaned messages in a Lost & Found folder, like this:

The Lost&Found folder in STELLAR CONVERTER FOR OST contains orphaned Outlook items — mostly Calendar stuff.

  • Complete OST coverage: SSTELLAR CONVERTER FOR OST extracts everything from OST files. Beyond email messages, it handles attachments, contacts, calendars, tasks, notes, journals, and more. It even handles OST to PST conversion with no need for Exchange profiles.

But Wait: Still More Recovery…

Beyond these specifics, STELLAR CONVERTER FOR OST is useful for recovering from OST synchronization failures. These can occur when

  • the client view of what’s current and correct diverges from the server’s view
  • when mailbox issues (loss, damage, corruption) present themselves
  • clients wish to recover deleted items no longer present in the Trash folder. You can see such deleted items in red in the preceding screencap (assume they’re more useful than canceled appointments, please).

OST conversion provides a PST upon which to base a new, shared view of Outlook contents and to re-establish proper agreement.

Vitally, STELLAR CONVERTER FOR OST offers recovery should the server behind Hosted Microsoft Exchange service be damaged or hacked. That is, this program can provide PST files from which to rebuild and restore mailbox data to Office 365 or Microsoft 365 servers. This same capability also enables quick migration from Hosted Exchange to O365 or M365 with minimal effort, and no risk of data loss. Good stuff!

STELLAR CONVERTER FOR OST Costs & Cons

STELLAR CONVERTER FOR OST comes in 3 versions: Corporate, Technician and Tookit, with respective licensing fees of US$79, US$149 and US$199. See their “Buy Now” page for a complete comparative features matrix. The TLDR version is that higher-priced versions offer more and better repairs: Technician adds batch file conversion, more advanced PST handling, exports to live Exchange and O365, plus Contacts in CSV format to the mix; Toolkit does all that, plus corrupt PST repairs, total mailbox restores, more format options, PST merge, password recovery, and a whole lot more. Of course, you’d expect to spend more for higher-end program versions, but they do come at higher costs.

For years, I’ve relied on Outlook to maintain a journal of all the emails I send and receive. It’s an astonishingly detailed and accurate record of my professional and financial life. STELLAR CONVERTER FOR OST provides me with the confidence that I can access and rely on my “email trail” to document and manage a busy working schedule, an upcoming calendar, and a sizable list of professional colleagues and contacts.

The more you rely on email to help run, document and prove up your activities, assignments responsibilities, and professional network, the more you need STELLAR CONVERTER FOR OST. It’s definitely worth having, if only as a way to insure yourself against loss of or damage to vital working assets.

[Note: I produced this item after Stellar contacted me to ask me to write and post the piece. I am invoicing them for a modest fee as well. That said, the opinions herein are my own, and I stand by my recommendation of this product.]

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Forced Win10VM Upgrade Gets Stuck

This is pretty strange. I checked in on one of my Windows 10 VMs this morning, and found WU stuck part-way through a Windows 11 upgrade. This popped up, courtesy of toggling the familiar “Get the latest updates…” option in Settings > Windows Update. Alas, this forced Win10VM upgrade gets stuck. I’m trying some things to undo that state. Bear with me, as I report on what things I try…

Before I start introducing repair maneuvers and upgrade counters, let me explain I’m running this VM deliberately to check and test Windows 10 stuff.  Thus, I have ZERO desire to upgrade it to Windows 11, even though I know full well that I could if I wanted to.

Fixing Forced Win10VM Upgrade Gets Stuck

The excellent and usually reliable batch file from TenForums.com “Reset_Reregister_Windows_Update_Components….bat” returned WU in the VM to a normal appearance. Then I ran “Check for updates…” While watching the sliding balls, I wondered if I’d find this VM in the same situation as before. Not yet: it offered a routine Defender update, plus KB5037849. I let things roll.

Interesting results ensued. Defender download threw a 0x80070643 error.  A quick jump into Windows Security > Virus & threat protection > Check for updates showed that everything was already up-to-date. Subsequent “Retry” attempt dropped the same error anyway. Odd…

Back in WU, KB5037849 went through download and install. Eventually it got to the “Restart now” button, which I pressed. I’m pretty sure the Security Update error was bogus because of internal status in Windows Security, so off it went…

Beta Channel Sign-Up Effected!

When I got back into Windows Update, I found a successful transition to the CU, but an error report on the Security Update, to wit:

But because another visit to Windows Security showed the same update was still current, I’m seeing this as a Windows Update problem, not as an issue with security updates on this VM. So I jumped over to Windows Insider Program and signed up for the newly re-opened Beta Channel for Windows 10. Indeed, that was the whole reason I started down this rockier-than-expected road.

Then I restarted again, to see what would happen on the next go-round. WU came back clean, and I’m opted into the Beta Channel. Success, but without some oddities along the way. Another magic day in Windows-World…

 

 

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WordPress Link Access API Hack

Whoa! I just got messages from a colleague on LinkedIn, and have confirmed for both that social media platform and Facebook, that something wicked this way comes. That is, it seems there’s a WordPress link access API hack that enables malicious redirection whenever a link compaction program calls my site for link info. You can see what this looks like in the lead-in graphic. To mangle Talking Heads my reaction is “That’s not my beautiful site! Those aren’t my URLs.” Ai-yi-yi!

Fixing WordPress Link Access API Hack

Scan, remove bad references. remove any suspect WordPress elements. Put a security scan service in place to prevent recurrences. That’s what my Web guy is working on right now. For whatever odd and obviously invalid reason, I thought my WP service already covered all these bases. Now that I know that’s untrue, it will get fixed as soon as that work gets done.

Wow! What an astonishing PITA for something so modest and focused. It seems that several configuration files got modified through a vulnerable plug-in and included references to malicious URLs as of 5/21. We’re changing all the passwords, fixing what’s wrong, and cleaning up the mess. I’m hopeful things will be back to normal by tomorrow.

Going forward, we’ve added explicit ongoing security scans, and regular reviews of software selections, patch levels, and protective software to the mix. Hopefully, this won’t happen again. But if you see something odd any time you access one of my posts or Web pages, do like MS MVP Simon Allison did, and let me know right away that something seems funny or broken. Every little bit of insight and info helps!

Note Added 6/5 2:40 PM

The URL/API portion of the site has been replaced, and no more malicious or suspect URLs get generated. The issue is apparently fixed, but we’re still scanning all files in the entire site to make sure no other unwanted content/malicious payloads are lurking anywhere. All’s well that ends well, but the road goes on forever and the party never ends…

 

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