Category Archives: WED Blog

Windows 8.1 EOL January 2023

Here it comes, I guess. MS is reminding Windows 8.1 users that its end-of-life (EOL) is imminent. With Windows 8.1 EOL January 2023 just around the corner, what else is MS saying? Find out in their Support article entitled “Windows 8.1 support will end on January 10, 2023.” Intentionally or not, it includes some amusing stuff. It also speaks to their philosophy and stance regarding Windows 11.

After Windows 8.1 EOL January 2023, Then What?

The afore-linked MS support article actually calls the transition that will occur on January 10, 2023 “end of support.” But because most readers know what EOL means I used it here. MS also recommends upgrading Windows 8.1 devices “to a more current, in-service, and supported Windows release.”

If Statcounter is correct, as of October 31, 2022, Windows 8.1 held a desktop market share of 2.45%. MS also puts the size of the combined Windows 10 and 11 device or OS instance population at 1.5B. That’s in keeping with Earthweb’s total count estimate from August 2022 of 1.6B. Statcounter grants Windows 10 and 11 combined 86.71% of the global desktop tally. By my reckoning, therefore, that puts the possible number of 8.1 devices at just over 42M.

Upgrade to Windows 11 on a New PC

MS also recommends for Windows 8.1 devices that don’t meet Windows 11 hardware requirements, that users “replace the device with one that supports Windows 11.” Indeed, it makes sense when refreshing PC hardware to go as modern and forward leaning as possible.

In fact, Windows 8.1 made its public debut (GA) on October 17, 2013. This date calculator tells me that was 9 years, 1 month, and 1 day ago as of today, November 18, 2022. That makes it almost inevitable that hardware purchased on or before the 2013 date doesn’t meet Windows 11 hardware requirements. The Gen8 “boundary date” actually falls in 2017-2018 time range.

What Happens to 8.1 After EOL (or EOS)?

MS won’t be offering an ESU (Extended Security Update) program for Windows 8.1. Thus it will no longer receive technical support, software updates, and security patches or fixes. According to WinAero, “Microsoft’s own products including Office 365 and the Store app will stop working.” That should be enough to convince most business users that it really is time to get off that bus.

For me, some of the humor in this otherwise doleful situation comes from Windows 8 and 8.1 general marketplace fate. It was never that popular to begin with, nor did it ever enjoy the kind of uptake in business that XP, 7 and Windows 10 achieved. To think that as many as 42M devices may be affected by this impending retirement is mostly a testament to how enormous the total Windows market really is. And to think it’s dwarfed by a factor of 3X or greater by smartphones is truly mind-boggling.

Even so, prodding a device population of 42 million onto Windows 11 and new PCs could be a boon to the sagging PC market. At a modest average price of $1K per unit (low for a business class PC nowadays, but higher for home/casual users) that’s a cool $42B in sales. It comes pretty close to “real money,” in my book.

Shout-Out to Sergey Tkachenko: the WinAero story cited in the concluding section of this story originally led me to the MS Support item that provides its focus and impetus. Thanks, Sergey!

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MS KIR Equals Known Issue Rollback

In reading about fallout from recent Windows 10 updates this morning, I learned something new. MS KIR equals Known Issue Rollback. It’s a group policy technique to reverse effects introduced by buggy updates. You can read about how to implement such policy in Microsoft Documentation.

This morning (November 17) news is out that some Windows 10 users may face a missing or non-responsive Taskbar — or even a black screen (depicted in the lead-in graphic). These come as “known issues” from recent updates. A responsive rollback is, in fact, already on its way to users.

Are GPOs Required for MS KIR Equals Known Issue Rollback?

That is an interesting question! Of course, GPOs only work in environments where centralized Group Policy management is in place, or where some means to deploy per-machine policies exists. So then: sometimes yes, sometimes no.

All this said, my source for this info (Neowin.net) makes some interesting observations about these potential Windows 10 gotchas:

Although the problem sounds scary, Microsoft has already implemented the necessary fixes and rolled back the troublemaking code to undo the damage. Affected devices should restore to normal operating mode within 24 hours. However, users can speed up the process by restarting their systems or applying a special Group Policy (only on enterprise-managed devices).

The bold emphasis in the preceding quote, of course, refers to a KIR GPO for those who wish to head trouble off pre-emptively and quickly. Those who don’t mind waiting should see the problem take care of itself within 24 hours of the offending update’s arrival. Sounds like a restart might also repair the issue, depending on timing.

According to that same Neowin story, MS has recently used KIR to fix problems related to Direct Access for remote network access without requiring a VPN connection. Seems like a handy technique for MS to correct its own missteps.

When KIR Could Help

The kind of undo capability inherent in KIR is likely to be most beneficial to small to mid-size operations. These may sometimes push Windows updates reasonably soon after they are released. Most larger organizations will batch updates for release during planned deployment windows (often, over holiday weekends). They tend to hold off on non-urgent updates and test them thoroughly before deploying anyway. Thus, they are less likely to need KIR than other, smaller and less sophisticated outfits.

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VM SSD Speed Falls Off

What did I expect, I wonder? I’ve been digging more deeply into VMs on the amazing Lenovo P16 Mobile Workstation. (It’s got an i9-12950HX, 2TB PCIe x4 SSD, 128GB RAM, Quadro RTX A5500, and Windows 11 22H2.) Most of the time, the VM runs almost indistinguishably from the physical OS. But various IO metrics tell a different story: most tellingly, VM SSD speed falls off measurably. That applies both to the Virtual C: drive inside the VM, and when accessing external USB4 storage devices from the VM.

How Much VM SSD Speed Falls Off

By most metrics, it’s 2X or more. To be more specific, CrystalDisk-Mark results for the C: drive are about half across the board versus the internal Kioxia SSD. For the all-important random read/write 4K single thread, it’s worse than that (2.5X to 3X). Worse still, large file copies to external USB drives fall off a cliff: typical rates of 250-280 MBps fall to 60-70 MBps. This is shown from File Explorer inside the VM in the lead-in graphic above. Here’s a comparison from the physical machine:

VM SSD Speed Falls Off.phys-copy

Notice: USB speed is at least 4X faster on a physical PC vs. a VM.

Let’s Get Physical…

This actually provides an interesting justification for running certain workloads on physical rather than virtual PCs — namely, that IO and completion times can be dramatically affected. But given the convenience, flexibility and open-ended nature of VMs, this is not likely to matter that much except for highly specialized workloads where time is worth more than money.

Fascinating stuff, though — and great fun to play with. Check out the Get a Windows 11 development environment page at MS.

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Windows 10 Phone Link Eliminated

Dang! After messing about with PowerShell unsuccessfully, I turned to long-time fave 3rd-party tool Revo Uninstaller Free. Seems that Windows 10 doesn’t allow the Phone Link app to be uninstalled anymore. Sadly, the Uninstall option is greyed out in Settings. Likewise, I couldn’t get PowerShell Get-AppxPackage | Remove-AppxPackage to work, either. But if you turn to Revo Uninstaller, it delivers the goods: Windows 10 Phone Link eliminated.

Why I Want Windows 10 Phone Link Eliminated

Two reasons:

1. Phone Link only works with Android phones and I have iOS. Don’t use it, ever.
2. Update failed, then app “stopped working, around recent Store revisions.

If I can’t use an app AND it causes errors, I don’t need it. Thus, I want it gone!

Look at the lead-in graphic. I’ve put a red box around the listing item for the Phone Link app on my Windows 10 production desktop. Right-click on that item, and the first menu option is “Uninstall.” Pick that. Revo asks you to confirm that choice, as follows:

Windows 10 Phone Link Eliminated.confirm

Alas, PS does NOT show the command details it uses to pull this off. Sigh.

Revo Unsintaller works some PowerShell magic around the following text I copied:

Deployment operation progress: Microsoft.YourPhone_1.22092.211.0_x64__8wekyb3d8bbwe

After removing the app, I used the Revo Uninstaller Scan functions to remove all leftovers from the Registry. It no longer shows up on my Windows 10 PCs — all both of them. I will be on the lookout for reappearances after CUs and feature upgrades, based on what I read online about how Phone Link keeps showing back up.

When it comes to “Windows pest removal” sometimes, repeated treatments may be required. LOL!

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Repair Upgrades PowerShell

Here’s something I didn’t know before. Or at least, I never tried it. Just recently (November 8) MS released a new 7.3.0 version of PowerShell to GitHub. I’ve been upgrading my various systems since, slowly but surely. This morning I learned that opting for Repair upgrades PowerShell. Let me show you what that means.

Showing How Repair Upgrades PowerShell

On some PCs, winget upgrade may not show the new PowerShell as an option. (I’ll use my Lenovo Yoga 7i as an illustration because it manifests such behavior.) You can see it’s running version 7.2.7 and that PowerShell does not show up in the output from winget upgrade below:


If that’s the case, here are the steps to using repair to upgrade PowerShell on such PCs:

1. CTRL-Click on the link that reads https://aka.ms/powershell. This opens the MS PowerShell Documentation page.
2. Click on the “Download PowerShell” button at the upper right. This takes you to the GitHub Latest release page for PowerShell (7.3.0, as I write this, but updated as new versions emerge). Then close all open PowerShell sessions.
3. Scroll down to assets and download the installer file for your PC (for most readers the 64-bit MSI is the right choice: PowerShell-7.3.0-win-x64.msi)
4. Run the microsoft self-installing (MSI) file to start PowerShell installation. Step through all the installer prompts. If the Repair option comes up, select it (shown in the lead-in graphic for this story). It will run and “fix” the current installation.

At the end of this process, you’ll have a working upgrade to version 7.3.0. Cheers!

What About Winget Upgrade Microsoft.Powershell?

Gosh! That works too but finishes strange. Let me show you, in the following screencap (click on image to view full-sized):

The output doesn’t actually confirm a successful install of PowerShell 3.7.0. It shows a progress bar, and a status of “Starting package install…” Then it transitions to a command prompt. In the background, the new version is installed and running. But because you’ve got a 7.2.7 window open, you don’t see the 7.3.0 label until you close the old window and open a new one.

It’s always something, right?

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Windows 11 Beta Channel Gets Improved Task Manager

Finally! I’ve been reading about — and seeing — cool changes to the Task Manager in Windows 11 for weeks and weeks. But only with Build 22623.891 for all of its users, Windows 11 Beta Channel gets improved Task Manager. What does this mean? Take a look at the lead-in screencap (and others below) and I’ll tell you more…

Woo-hoo! Windows 11 Beta Channel Gets Improved Task Manager

Let’s start with the lead-in graphic. Among the several improvements Task Manager now makes easily accessible in the 22623 fork of the Beta Channel, I can finally produce the Dark Theme. That’s what you see in that graphic, which makes for a more dramatic (but also visually sensible) set of CPU utilization graphs. Previously, this kind of thing was only accessible through ViveTool tweaks (which I avoid as a matter of practice).

What else is in there? You can search for processes by name in various Task manager panes (processes and details). The next screencap shows the results of a search for the ubiquitous svchost process in the Processes pane (notice it’s smart enough to map part of the .exe name to the related process names: cool!).

Windows 11 Beta Channel Gets Improved Task Manager.search

Notice that “Service Host” appears in nearly all of the elements shown as search results. Very helpful!

According to this story at WinAero from Sergey Tkakchenko, you can search on process name, ID or publisher with good results. That certainly worked for me.

One more thing: turning on “Efficiency mode” in Task Manager is now a right-click option from the Details pane. This lets users lower runtime priority to boost power efficiency, while upping stability risks. My example (e.g. the Chrome web browser) is an example of something you probably would NOT wish to run in this mode. For real.

Efficiency mode is easy to set, but should be approached with some caution.

I’m not sure I truly understand when or why to use Efficiency Mode (presumably on a tablet or laptop on battery power) but I’ll do some investigating and experimenting and see what’s up with that. Stay tuned! Should be fun…

In the meantime, I’m delighted to finally be able to see and exercise these Task Manager facilities for myself. If you have access to a Beta Channel Insider Preview, it’s worth updating to Build 22623.891 to see for yourself.

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Ready-to-Run Eval Windows 11 Development VMs

MS offers free downloads of ready-to-run Eval Windows 11 Development VMs (virtual machines). They incorporate a copy of Windows 11 Enterprise, Visual Studio 2022 edition, Windows Subsystem for Linux (WSL), and Windows Terminal. They’re ready to run in developer mode, right “out of the box” as ’twere.

MS makes them available, free, for the following hypervisors:

  • VMWare
  • Hyper-V
  • VirftualBox
  • Parallels

Just for grins I downloaded the Hyper-V incarnation, and spent an enjoyable hour getting it installed and running yesterday, along with some exploration and investigation. The lead-in graphic shows the head of the download page for all this stuff.

Grab Ready-to-Run Eval Windows 11 Development VMs

I was able to bring up the VM simply by opening it in Hyper-V and using the “default switch” for the networking option. It’s just that easy to get it up and going. No kidding. But…

As I explored the new runtime environment I did find some limitations. Turns out the default install in Hyper-V does not resolve TPM issues. There’s a whole raft of “Generation 2 VM Security Issues” about which I had been blissfully unaware.

I’m going to need to work through those issues so I can try again. Why? Because if I want to keep the VM around as more than a transitory eval, I have to be able to upgrade to 22H2 (the download is 22H1). And here’s what the Windows 11 Installation Assistant currently has to say about that:

Upon running the PC Health Check on that VM, I’m informed that no TPM is detected. No TPM, no upgrade. This can be fixed: I see numerous recipes to make that happen. I’ll try them soon.

More Fun Than…

In the meantime, I’m having a gas running VMs on the P16 Mobile Workstation (with 128GB RAM, a 24-core i9 12th Gen CPU, and so forth). Honestly and for the first time, ever, I can’t tell any diff between running a native OS and a VM. It’s awe-inspiring. I’ll keep digging in, and reporting more, but if you too wish to play, visit the download page. It’s a pure joy to mess around with!

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PowerToys File Locksmith Works Well

Starting with version v0.64.0, released on November 2, the PowerToys collection added File Locksmith to its mix.The tool’s own built-in description is sparse. It reads: File Locksmith is “…[a] Windows shell extension to find out which processes are using the selected files and directories.” Doesn’t sound like much but can be handy. Indeed, I learned that PowerToys File Locksmith works well this weekend. Let me explain…

Why Say: PowerToys File Locksmith Works Well?

As I tried to work through an update process for a desktop tool, I got an error message showing three instances of svchost.exe were impeding installation. Remember: File Locksmith is a “shell extension.” In this case, that means you can right click “stuck” files in File Explorer and then choose the “Who’s using this file?” menu option that appears.

This brings File Locksmith into the picture, wherefrom you can choose an “End Task” button for associated files that show up in the listing. Furthermore, you can see detail about each running process, so you can even match up process IDs inside Task Manager to make sure you “end task” only when and where you should, and leave other stuff alone.

PowerToys File Locksmith Works Well.fl-output

The offending items were various DLLs. They run within svchost processes so multiple programs can share access to them.
[Click image for full-sized view.]

This made my job pretty easy. All I had to do was end the offending tasks so the installation could complete. It did so pretty much immeditately after I told it to try again. And it ran to successful conclusion.

Warning: Because ending tasks for shared DLLS can leave certain important facilities inaccessible after such a move, I also restarted Windows after the update was done. You know: just to be on the safe side…

But gosh, File Locksmith made this sometimes vexing and onerous task easy and straightforward. I have to laugh about this too, though. Here’s why: earlier versions of PowerToys itself were prone to experiencing install delays owing to running items. These included dll host processes that required manual closing in Task Manager. Thus, it’s glaringly obvious how the developers figured out such a tool could be helpful — at least, IMHO.

But it’s here, it works, and has already proved useful in helping me update a utility included in my Startup items, and generally running in the Windows background. If it worked for me, it should do likewise for you. Enjoy!

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Samsung Printer Is Now HP

Boy! The interesting things one can learn when updating drivers are legion. Case in point: I learned I needed an update for the Samsung Easy Printer Manager program. Upon searching for same, I found myself directed to HP (!) Customer Support. Indeed, that’s where the latest version of said utility now resides. You can see a screencap of that download page at the head of this story. Looks like my Samsung printer is now HP,  in name and in fact.

If Samsung Printer Is Now HP Then What?

HP is the former division of Hewlett Packard that now sells PCs and printers, as well as peripherals. To give you an idea of how long this has been going on, this press release bears a November 1, 2017 date. Whoa: talk about missing that bus by a mile…

When HP closed the deal they did so for US$1.05B. They also acquired a portfolio of 6.5K patents, and “a workforce of nearly 1,300 researchers and engineers with expertise in laser technology, imaging electronics, and supplies and accessories.” I guess that means buying an official laser toner cartridge (I still have a spare in my utility closet) will cost even more than it did the last time I looked. I found the product page, but I can’t find a price (looks like I might have to set up an account). Amazon references an “HP Store” and offers same for US$76, so that’s not too pricey. OK then: it’s all good.

Plus çe Change…

That’s French for a saying that roughly translates: “The more things change, the more they stay the same.” The technology landscape is chock full or mergers, acquisitions, spin-offs and divestitures. I have to laugh about this one, because I’m definitely coming late to that particular party. But at least, I had no trouble finding an updated version of the software I needed. And it works, too!

And that’s the way things go, here in Windows-World, from time to time.

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Winerror versus Err: Enough, or Too Much?

Here’s an interesting dilemma. In the past, I’ve advocated use of the Windows Error Lookup Tool, currently Err_6.4.5.exe The other day, I had cause to rue my recommendation. I actually found a different, more focused tool named Winerror.exe. It’s part of the Windows Assessment and Deployment Kit, aka Windows ADK. But then, you might also need to grab the older Windows 10 version to get the tool I’m about to discuss. It seems to be missing in the Windows 11 version.

Winerror versus Err: Focused and General

You can see the issue in the lead-in graphic for this article. Notice that winerror provides two different expansions, one of which mentions normalization. Err_6.4.5, OTOH, provides 6. These come from a variety of error code source files: bugcodes.h, netmon.h, winerror.h, and ntstatus.h.

In simpler terms, winerror looks only at winerror.h; err… looks at a bunch of error code source files, including winerror.h. My point is that winerror may be worth consulting when you’re troubleshooting Windows 10 or 11. That goes double when the error reporting tool (err_6.4.5.exe) produces more output than you know how — or really want — to use.

Wm Blake Still Has a Point

The end half of the title for this story comes from William Blake’s Proverbs of Heaven and Hell. It makes the excellent point that you really don’t know you have enough until you have more than you need. That’s why I recommend using the older, but less general, Winerror.exe when you find that the latest error reporting tool (err_6.4.5.exe) has more to say than you really need to know.

‘Nuff said!

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