Category Archives: WED Blog

WU Delivers New PC Health Check Version

For Windows 10 and 11 users alike, those who try to run PC Health Check (PCHC) may experience an interesting initial impediment. Instead of running whatever version of the tool may already be installed, Windows will install the latest version. Numbered 3.1.210929003-s2, it shows up on all my updated Windows 10 and 11 PCs. Apparently, WU delivers new PC Health Check version as a routine part of the update process.

Why WU Delivers New PC Health Check Version, In Brief

My best guess is that MS wants to make SURE all Windows PCs have the latest version of PCHC at their disposal. WU itself offers to run the tool as part of its routine update checks now. As you can see in the lead in graphic (at bottom) this means the installer runs to remove the old version, then loads and configures the new one automatically. Only then, can you tell (at top) that the latest PCHC version is running.

It came as something of a surprise to me to invoke PCHC on my PCs, and get the installer first instead. Looks like this is one update that MS does not leave to user discretion. Here it comes, ready (and like it) or not!

PCHC Goes to All Players…

Even on my Surface Pro 3, which WU correctly labels as “unfit for 11” I still get an offer to get PC Health check as shown here:

WU Delivers New PC Health Check Version.no11

This 4th-gen Intel laptop with no TPM will never run Windows 11. Yet WU still hopefully proffers PCHC.
[Click image for full-sized view].

I’m bemused. There are no “things I can do in the PC Health Check app” that will ever bring Windows 11 to the old Surface Pro 3. Am I wrong to read the language shown above as extending some glimpse of hope that things might turn out otherwise? Nah. It’s just a teaser. Good thing I’m running this system to keep track of Windows 10 as it runs out its tether to the 2025 EOL on purpose, eh?

Note Added 00:30 Later…

Just saw a very nice story on this phenomenon from Liam Tung at ZDNet. It’s entitled Windows 10 users get PC Health Check app for diagnostics and troubleshooting. Worth a read it makes some interesting points, and provides a quick way to remove PCHC for those so inclined. That tip reads “Users can uninstall PC Health Check by going to Apps → Apps & Features → App list (Windows PC Health Check) → Uninstall. (I substituted the right arrow entity for Mr. Tung’s less-elegant > (right caret/greater than sign) in this rendition.)

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Windows 11 Upgrades Gain Momentum

This morning (October 26) Twitter is ablaze with reports of qualified PC getting the “Windows 11 offer” via WU. I just checked my eligible PCs still running Windows 10 (all both of them). The Intel i7 11th gen machine gets the offer; the AMD Ryzen 5800X does not. So, as Windows 11 upgrades gain momentum the coverage remains partial. I guess, it’s just a bigger piece of the overall pie.

Twitter Sez: Windows 11 Upgrades Gain Momentum

But gosh, I see dozens of posts on Twitter this morning from people with all kinds of PCs indicating they’ve accepted the offer. Most report a successful install. Some report hanging, of which most seem to involve the post-GUI install phase somewhere between 80 and 100% complete.

FWIW, such issues have been common with other new Windows versions. One could argue — and MS often does — that the whole point of the “gradual rollout” they now follow is to ensure the highest likelihood of success to those who get “the offer.”

What I Do if WU Upgrade Hangs

This hanging has happened to me often enough in my 7 years as an Insider that I’ve got a step-by-step approach to trying various fixes:

1. Power off and restart. Often, the install will pick where it left off and continue to completion.
2. If rollback happens after restart, I try using the setup.exe from an ISO equivalent to the current install version. That has worked for me in most (9 out of 10) cases.
3. If a standalone/local installer won’t cut it, that often indicates driver or hardware issues. I’ll often roll back and wait for the next upgrade or a new ISO to come along. For those who MUST get to Windows 11, the only thing left to try is a clean install from the same ISO as in Step 2. This works for 9 of the remaining 10 hard cases.

But as I’ve recently learned with the Lenovo X1 Carbon Gen 9 that has a Thunderbolt Firmware issue I can’t fix for love or money, even a clean install doesn’t ALWAYS work. That’s why I’m sending that one back to Lenovo with a “Thunderbolt doesn’t work” note in the box. Sometimes, the forces of darkness do prevail. I can only add that I *HATE* when that happens.

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Windows 11 Says Sayonara WMIC

Because it was announced in Windows 10 21H1, it was just a matter of time. The Windows Management Interface Command-Line utility, aka WMIC, is deprecated. No longer simply slated for oblivion, WMIC is missing from the Dev Channel version of Windows 11. The lead-in graphic shows what (doesn’t) come up in cmd.exe for Build 22483 and higher. Hence my title: Windows 11 says Sayonara WMIC. For the record, it’s still in production Windows 11 versions but reads “WMIC is deprecated.” in red.

Windows 11 Says Sayonara WMIC.Win11-prod

Notice the red text at top of help response. It’s MIA In Dev Channel versions now.[Click image for full-sized view.]

Though Windows 11 Says Sayonara WMIC, WMI Remains Around

Microsoft has good advice for would-be WMIC users. They should  use PowerShell replacement cmdlets instead. Turns out that the Windows Management Interface (WMI) remains alive and well. In a story about this change-over, WinAero.com suggests using a specific PowerShell command to learn more:

Get-Command -Noun WMI*

For the record, that string produces the following output that shows this is just the beginning of a sizable set of cmdlet documentation.Windows 11 Says Sayonara WMIC.ps-info

The 5 cmdlet WMI facilities: Get, Invoke, Register, Remove and Set.
[Click image for full-sized view.]

Each of these five facilities has its own muti-level help files. Looks like the switch-over is supported. That said, it requires climbing a new learning curve to bring users under the PowerShell umbrella.
Cheers!

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Heavy Update Traffic Complicates Fleet Management

Wow! It’s been quite a week here at Chez Tittel. It never fails but when I get busy with paying work, the frequency of and/or workload in handling Windows updates goes up, too. Including a loaner unit, I have 11 PCs to take care of right now. And this week has seen a Preview CU for production Windows 10, a release for 21H2 Windows 10, and various updates and upgrades for Windows 11 Insider Previews in all 3 channels (Release Preview, Beta and Dev). Hence my summary, that heavy update traffic complicates fleet management.

When Heavy Update Traffic Complicates Fleet Management, Get Busy!

As I check update history on my PCs, I see one or more items this week on all of them. Around here that’s about as busy as things can get. Fortunately, except for a firmware update issue on a loaner PC — which has nothing to do with MS updates AFAIK — it’s all been pretty routine and trouble-free. All it takes is paying attention and a little time.

I also use a couple of tools to keep up with applications and suchlike as well. PatchMyPC is a free updating tool that keeps up with most of my stuff. SUMo (Software Update Monitor) Lite is a free scanning tool that tells me what else I need to update (but leaves me on my own to get that done). I try to run these once a week, or as time permits. Lately, there hasn’t been much free time to spend on updates, but it’s getting done now, as I think of it.

The “Clean-as-you-Go” Principle

In keeping up with my PCs, I try to do a little bit every time I use them, so I don’t have to deep clean at longer intervals. A little bit of clean-up and update on an ongoing basis works better for me as a maintenance regime that periodic, scheduled (but longer) update/clean-up sessions.

Here in Windows-World, you can pick whichever regime makes most sense for you. I’ve got my routine and I’m sticking to it!

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Win10 Rollback Works But Thunderbolt Issues Continue

Big Sigh. I’ve been trying to get the Thunderbolt 4 firmware updated on the snazzy new Lenovo ThinkPad X1 Carbon Gen 9 they sent me, but to no avail. Today, I observed that Win10 rollback works but Thunderbolt issues continue. Something gets weird when the PC reboots to do the firmware install. I see a short (and tiny) error message long enough to know it’s there, but definitely not long enough to read it, or interpret its significance.

When Win10 Rollback Works But Thunderbolt Issues Continue, Then What?

First, the good news. I elected to roll back my Windows 11 update on this machine and it not only went well, it finished in under 3 minutes. That’s amazing! It also confirmed that the Windows.old snapshot is of whatever vintage and state the OS was at the time of upgrade. All my account stuff remained clear and workable, thank goodness.

Now, the bad news. I remain unable to complete the firmware update successfully. That means Thunderbolt sees no devices on either of the PC’s two USB-C/Thunderbolt 4 ports. Bummer! It also means I’m sending this fish back to the pond (Lenovo, that is) with a request to return it when THEY can fix this driver issue. For me, Thunderbolt 4 is a big deal. I don’t think I can review this system without a working and capable Thunderbolt 4 connection for me to test performance, throughput, and so forth.

That said, the USB-3 Type A port is remarkably fast. I get better performance out of my old, tired mSATA drives on this machine (Samsung EVO SSDs in Sabrent mSATA enclosures) than I’ve ever seen before.

Do All Things Come to He Who Waits?

I guess I’ll be finding out. Tomorrow, I’ll fire off an email to the reviews coordinator, explain my situation, and let them know I’m sending the laptop back. It will be absolutely fascinating to see how they respond. I’m hopeful I’ll get a fixed (or replacement) laptop soon. If and when I do, I’ll start posting madly about what I see and learn. Right now, I just can’t go forward with a major subsystem on the fritz. Hope that makes sense…

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UWP Came — Now It’s Going

For some odd reason, the old French saying “Le roi est mort, vive le roi!” comes to mind. Announced with great fanfare and stunning promises along with Windows 10 in 2015, the Universal Windows Platform (UWP) is now mostly history. The lead-in graphic shows that UWP was short on neither vision nor ambition (source: MS). But as dramatically as UWP came — now it’s going, as Microsoft recommends developers migrate their UWP code to the Windows App SDK.

First UWP Came — Now It’s Going. What Next?

From being the key to developing apps that could run on Windows Phone, desktop, or Xbox platforms  — and more (Surface Hub, HoloLens, IoT, etc.) — UWP is falling by the wayside. Long time development guru Rafael Rivera temporarily suspended his Twitter boycott to post about the afore-linked migration advice from MS.

His comment on where UWP is going could be summarized as nowhere, fast. This is what he said:

This signals what I already told you before: UWP will only get “bug, reliability, and security fixes”.

The Windows App SDK is the new king of the development hill. Vive le roi! The Docs item walks developers through the migration process in step-by-step fashion, following these headings:

  • Install the Windows App SDK VSIX (Visual Studio extension)
  • Create a new project
  • Migrate code with the least dependencies first
  • Copy files, or copy file contents?
  • Folder and file name differences (C++/WinRT)
  • If you change the name of your migrated project
  • Install the same NuGet packages that were installed in the source project

To further guide developers MS includes links to a PhotoLab case study and a Photo Editor case study. It also lists WinRT APIs no supported in desktop apps.

Out with the Old, In with the New

Curiously, MS doesn’t spend much text on explaining this change or touting the benefits of the new Windows App SDK. It simply makes  matter-of-fact assertion that “The Windows App SDK provides a broad set of Windows APIs — with implementations that are decoupled from the OS, and released to developers via NuGet packages.” Later on it says “With the Windows App SDK you can incorporate the latest runtime, language and platform features into your app.” And that’s about it.

It will be fascinating to observe uptake and reactions from the Windows developer community. Given that occasional API reworking have occurred before in this world, I’m curious to see how this goes over. Stay tuned, and I’ll revisit this as news and events decree.

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Loaner Laptop Poses Weird USB Situation

I took delivery of a nifty new laptop here at Chez Tittel late last week. Among the zillions of other things going on around here, I’ve been fooling with this machine since it arrived. This loaner laptop poses weird USB situation, though: I get faster throughput from its USB-A 3.2 Gen1 port than either of its USB4 Type-C/Thunderbolt 4 ports. Throughput is about 10X faster on the USB-A port than on USB-C. That’s not how it’s supposed to work. Go figure!

Driver Issues Explain How Loaner Laptop Poses Weird USB Situation

Once I realized what was going on. I jumped into Device Manager. Sure enough there’s an issue with the ThinkPad Thunderbolt Retimer Firmware. Whaddya bet this could impact USB-C/Thunderbolt 4 timing?

And then, things get more interesting. Lenovo Vantage thinks the firmware update is already installed. Device Manager shows “Firmware update was unsuccessful.” Attempts to uninstall/reinstall don’t work, and manual installation of the downloaded firmware package N32TT02W.exe from Lenovo Support don’t work either.

I need some firmware juju. So I’m contacting Lenovo Support to see what they can tell me. I’ll admit I got fooled when Vantage told me the update was installed (and didn’t check DevMgr until later). Now, it looks like I’ll have to roll the machine back to Windows 10 so I can make sure the update gets properly applied. And then, I’ll roll forward again to Windows 11. Just another day in the life, here in Windows-World!

Checking Updates, Post Install

It hasn’t eluded me that checking the firmware install before upgrading to 11 would have been a peachy idea. I’m not one to rush into such things normally. But I wanted to see how the new PC would work with the new OS. I guess I’m  starting to understand there’s at least one good reason why Lenovo didn’t send me the device with Windows 11 already installed.

As I look around the Lenovo site, I see they have Thunderbolt drivers for Windows 11 aplenty. It’s just that they don’t have one for my X1 Carbon Gen 9 laptop just yet. Live and learn, dear readers: that’s why I’m going to try to do.

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Bad Move: Opening MSA in Default Admin Account

I admit it. I screwed up, and then I paid the price. Yesterday I got a new review PC delivered. It came from Lenovo: a new X1 Carbon Gen 9 PC. That unit feature an i7 4core CPU, 16 GB RAM, and 512 GB NVMe SSD with Thunderbolt 4 support. Typical for review units, it opens into a local admin account. Inside that account I made a bad move: opening MSA in default admin account. Alas, this caused all kinds of problems.  Let me explain… (I’ll add that MSA is a common acronym for “MS account” aka “Microsoft account.”)

What Happens After Bad Move: Opening MSA in Default Admin Account

My MSA picture got associated with the local account. That was my first cluethat something was off. On other loaner units, I’ve always been careful to set up a second account for my MSA. Then I give it admin privileges and work from there after that. This time, I logged into the Microsoft Store inside the local account. Big mistake.

As soon as I set up my MSA as a separate account, the Store quit working. The associated error code clearly explained it was an MSA login problem. Apparently, the MS Store decided that if it couldn’t distinguish a local account from an MSA, it wouldn’t open for either account on that machine. None of the usual repairs (uninstall/reinstall Store) did any good, either.

Cleaning Up the Mess

Forunately, I had to take a break to go see the “Friday Night Lights.” It was homecoming night at my son’s high school, and the Boss and I wanted to drink in the pageantry and celebration. While I was away from the munged review unit, I realized what I needed to do:

1. Set up another local account
2. Give that local account admin privileges
3. Delete the problem default account

This took a while to orchestrate and set up. I had to be reminded that the “Family account” sub-menus is where one sets up local accounts on Windows 10 and 11. After making sure my MSA and the other local account were properly privileged, I deleted the problem account. And immediately, the MS Store returned to working order. Self-inflicted wounds smart a little extra when one realizes who’s to blame for the hoopla.

Stay tuned: I’ll have a lot to say about this new loaner unit in an upcoming “First Looks” piece early next week. I’ll tease some planned topics to whet your interest, though:

1. Thunderbolt 4/USB-C proves surprisingly speedy
2. Interesting issues with Secure Boot and clean install attempts
3. Unit shows up with Windows 10 installed, not Windows 11
4. Timing and experience in upgrading to Windows 11
5. Interesting issues with Windows Hello

Be sure to check back in when that “First Looks” item appears. Cheers!

 

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Windows 11 Gets New Update Stack Package

Last June, MS announced the release of a Windows Feature Experience Pack (120.2212.3920.0) to Insiders in Beta and Release Preview Channels. In yesterday’s Dev Channel Preview Build 22478 release notes, they announced something called “Update Stack Packages.” Let’s call the former WFEPs and the latter USPs for brevity. USPs provide a “…new process for delivering new update improvements to our customers outside of major OS updates…” But if Windows 11 gets new Update Stack Package, what does that really mean?

Sussing Out Windows 11 Gets New Update Stack Package

The key to understanding comes from a sentence in the release notes discussion of USPs. It reads “The Update Stack Package will help ensure that your PC has the highest likelihood of successfully installing new updates with the best and least disruptive experience available.” Sounds like a mechanism to make sure the OS image is free of potential impediments to upcoming updates. Why does this remind me of “servicing stack updates?”

Overall, the discussion of USPs is much like that for WFEPs earlier this year. To wit:

1. USPs are currently limited to “a very small set of update-related system files … developed independently of the OS.” WFEPs have been small and limited since their June 2021 introduction. That said, they focus on “feature improvements to customers outside of major Windows 10 feature updates.”

2. USPs and WFEPs both come to Windows installations via WU.

3. Both seek to sanity-check and test their approach and capabilities with Insiders, but ultimately aim to “expand the scope and frequency of releases in the future” (quote from WFEP June announcement).

Looking for Enlightenment…

What’s really going on here? MS seems to be experimenting with different kinds of update mechanisms independent of “major OS updates.” Given that feature updates are dropping back to yearly frequency, this provides a way to introduce changes more often than that. I’m curious to see either (or both) of these mechanisms deliver something meaty. So far, they’ve been used only for tentative, small-scale updates and changes. I guess we’ll have to wait and see how they behave when they get a more serious workout.

Right now, for both USPs and WFEPs there’s far more fanfare than clarity or understanding. Hopefully time and experience will cure that imbalance and bring some useful demonstrations of what these things are for, and what they can do when exercised more heavily.

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MS Streamlines Windows 11 Update Handling

MS tracks and delivers changes (and reverse operations) to OS images using “forward and reverse differentials.” This started in Windows 10, Version 1809. Now, MS adds slick optimization that reduces repeat references to objects and instructions. Thus, MS streamlines Windows 11 update handling further. It’s all explained in an October 12 Microsoft Windows IT Pro blog post. That post is entitled “How Microsoft reduced Windows 11 update size by 40%.” It explains how MS further reduced update volume without boosting installation time.

How MS Streamlines Windows 11 Update Handling

In the afore-linked blog post, MS explains its objectives as “reducing the size of Windows 11 updates.” At the same time, the company sought to:

  • decrease size of network downloads for updates
  • keep install times unchanged (not slowed)
  • keep updates compatible with all distribution channels (e.g. WU, WSUS, SCCM, InTune/AutoPilot and so forth). Thus, IT pros need make no config changes.

According to the blog post, “since Windows 10, version 1809, …servicing has used paired forward and reverse differential compression.” What MS did, at a high level, with Windows 11 was to add a catalog to remap virtual addresses when function addresses or other relative references change. This replaces forward and reverse differentials for such addresses with (much shorter) lookup table references.

Such operations are easy to reverse, too. These might be required if an update fails prior to completion. This returns the OS image to a known, working stable state. OTOH, it might be required if the user decides to uninstall or roll back an update.

MS’s analyses show that this new approach provides a “40% reduction in update size.” This means not just smaller updates, but less overall consumption of network bandwidth to transport updates. For software with millions (Windows 11) to billions (Windows 10) of users, this is a big deal. No wonder MS is working to patent this technology…

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