Category Archives: Tips, Tricks and Tweaks

Want to know how to make the most out of your Windows 7 system?
Here we share the things we have learned for what to do (and what not to do) to make Windows 7 perform at its best.

Windows 11 ADK Is Now Available

If you know where to look, the Windows Assessment and Deployment Kit (ADK) is now out for Windows 11. Indeed, you can find it in MS Docs at Download and install the Windows ADK. That’s why I assert that the Windows 11 ADK is now available in this item’s title. What does this buy you and your organization? I’ll explain…

If Windows 11 ADK Is Now Available, Then What?

The ADK includes collection of potentially useful and valuable tools designed for at-scale Windows deployments. These include access to:

  • WinPE, the Windows Preinstallation Environment that provides runtime support before an OS has loaded. It’s used to support Windows installation and also provides the foundation for WinRE (Windows Recovery Environment). Basically, it’s a stripped-down and self-supporting portable version of Windows (11 in this case). Note: WinPE is a separate add-on to download and install after installing the ADK.
  • Volume Activation Management Tool (VAMT): works with Windows Office and other Microsoft products for volume and retail activation using Multiple Activation Keys (MAKs) or the Windows Key Management Service (KMS). Works as an MMC snap-in with the Microsoft Management Console (MMC).
  • User State Migration Tool (USMT) delivers a customizable user-profile migration capability that can capture user settings for Microsoft office versions 2003, 2007, 2010, and 2013 (separate tool for 2016 also available). The tool covers a broad range of migration scenarios (described here).
  • App-V (Application Virtualization) is still supported, but MS calls out EOL for April 2026, and now recommends using Azure Virtual Desktop with MSIX app attach instead.

From a different perspective, the ADK includes support to assess, plan for and execute large-scale Windows deployments. Assessment comes from the Windows Assessment and Windows Performance toolkits. Deployment tools include WinPE, Sysprep, and other items that can customize and distribute Windows images.

It’s Early in the Lifecycle…

Organizations are mostly still considering Windows 11 deployments, though some pilots are underway. Grab yourself a copy of the new ADK and you can get to know it, as your organization starts pondering and investigating its Windows 11 options and timetables. Cheers!

 

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Clean Install Still Cuts Gordian Knot

The old, old story of the Gordian knot traces back over 2 millennia. It’s meant to illustrate that difficult problems may be overcome by a variety of means. Usually, as with the original story itself, some of them are drastic. When unable to untie the knot, Alexander the Great drew his sword and cut it through instead. He lost the rope, but solved the problem. And so it is with some Windows problems, where a clean install still cuts gordian knot issues that other repairs cannot address.

If Clean Install Still Cuts Gordian Knot, What Made it Necessary This Time?

I’ve been helping a friend over the past two weekends try to solve an iCloud to Outlook synchronization problem. To his credit, he put in two lengthy calls with MS Support, and performed an in-place upgrade repair install. His primary symptoms were:

1. Unable to download iCloud from the MS Store
2. If installed manually, unable to get iCloud and Outlook to synchronize. Interesting but weird error messages about “no default Outlook profile” suggested possible fixes, but none of those worked.

After attempting numerous manual repairs and tricks last weekend without success, I showed up this weekend planning to perform a clean install on his wife’s laptop, a Dell Latitude 7155 (i5, 4th gen Intel CPU). It took me somewhat longer to get the disk cleaned up and a pristine image laid down on her NVMe SSD than I had thought it would.

But once a clean Windows 10 image was installed and updates applied, I was able to download iCloud from the Store. Next, I revisited office.microsoft.com and re-installed Office 365. The acid test followed immediately thereafter: I attempted to synch with iCloud for messages, contacts, and other Outlook items.

To nobody’s particular surprise, it worked. But gosh, it sure took a while to get everything ready (Macrium Reflect came in hand indeed). And it took longer to install and update the OS image than I was expecting. But in the end, the outcome was as desired. So far, we’ve put about 7 hours into this repair effort. Alas, it’s still not quite done just yet.

One More Thing…

I mounted the Macrium backup to make it available for copying older files to the rebuilt desktop. But because of permissions problems I wasn’t able to access some key stuff. So, I’m going back in one more time to fix those and grab the additional stuff my friend needs. Hopefully, that will be as routine as I anticipate. In the meantime, I’m boning up on the ICACLS command so I can reset permissions wholesale, and make everything one might need from the backup available in one go.

At the end of the day, it’s nice to know the tried-and-true methods work like they’re supposed to. I can only guess that some vital plumbing between the Outlook and iCloud APIs got munged in the old runtime environment. By creating a new, pristine one, we have apparently fixed what was broken. Old school still rules. Good-oh!

 

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Start11 Gets v0.9 Update

Some running Windows 11 who might want an alternative to the native Start Menu. For those folks, Stardock’s latest Start11 release offers a nice option. Please understand this is NOT free software. Those upgrading a Start10 license must pay US$4 for the bits; first-time buyers must pony up US$5. Either way, it’s a pretty good deal IMO. As a long-time user, when Start 11 gets v0.9 update, I pay attention. Others may not be so inclined.

When  Start 11 gets v0.9 update, What Do You Get?

Start11 gives users a pretty broad range of functions for a small price. It allows them to make the Start Menu look like the ones from Windows 7, 8 or 10 (and of course, 11 as well). Here’s the UI “pick a version/layout” control:

Start11 Gets v0.9 Update.sm-style

You can pick from Windows 7, 8 (Modern style), 10, and 11 styles for the Start Menu layout, look, and feel.

You can pick an icon for the start button, and position the start button at left or center in the taskbar (or even up top). As for the taskbar itself, Start 11 offers a number of controls, including blur, transparency and color; the ability to apply a custom texture; right-click menu controls (which bring back the old Windows 10 style right-click pop up), and a bunch of tweaks for taskbar size and position, plus separate positioning controls for primary and secondary monitors. I like it, myself.

Search can be tweaked in a variety of ways, including disabling built-in search. Search result filtering can use icons, search can peruse file contents and well as names, and more.

Alternate Menus Appeal to Some

I know plenty of purists who want to use only native. built-in Windows controls and utilities. I am not such a person. If you are, Start11 will have no appeal to you. But if you’ve got users who want to be productive right away and already know their way around an earlier Windows version, Start11 can be a real blessing.

Right now, I’m running one machine with native facilities only, another with Start10 on Windows 11 (it works), and this one with Start11 set to run in modern layout mode. I’m watching for issues and gotchas, and will keep readers posted. I’m glad I feel comfortable getting around Windows11 using a variety of menuing tools and techniques. I remember being baffled, bothered and bewildered when Windows 8 first came out. Thank goodness, that’s no longer an issue.

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Trick Restores Missing Chrome Scrollbar

OK, then. Here’s an oddity for my fellow Tenforums users (and possibly other heavy Chrome users). In navigating the forums there daily, I jump from forum to forum in order of appearance. Within each forum I read over new threads, as well as old threads with new content. Sometimes when I use the “Previous Thread” link at the bottom of each page to get to the next oldest item, that page comes up without a vertical scrollbar at the right-hand edge. Recently, I discovered that a certain trick restores missing Chrome scrollbar. Let me explain…

What Trick Restores Missing Chrome Scrollbar?

For a long while when the scrollbar disappeared I would switch between normal window and maximized window using the control at its upper right corner. When the normal window appeared, it would always have a scrollbar. And when I reverted to the maximized (full-screen) version, it would get its scrollbar back. This was a viable workaround, but a little too distracting to please me.

The trick I discovered last week is to use the down arrow to move the cursor deeper (downward) into the open web page. After the screen has to refresh to accommodate more new content at the bottom, the scrollbar also reappears. This takes little time, and is nowhere near as distracting as the two mouseclicks needed to revert to normal page size, then go back to full-screen mode. If you ever find yourself in this situation, try this approach. As it now works for me, it may do likewise for you.

What’s Causing This Bizarre Behavior?

I’m working on a dual-monitor rig. I run Chrome in the left-hand window with desktop extended across both monitors. My best guess is that sometimes, when I transition from one page to the next, the maximized view somehow “eats” the vertical scrollbar at the far right of the screen. Here’s what my layout looks like in Settings → System → Display.

Trick Restores Missing Chrome Scrollbar.display

With a Chrome windows on display 1 maximized, its right edge might sometimes impinge on display 2 territory.

Such is my theory, anyway. That said, I’m glad to have found a quick and easy workaround that keeps me chugging along without interrupting my concentration or workflow. These are the kinds of adjustments and adaptivity one must practice to do one’s job, and get things done, here in Windows-World.

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Managing Windows 11 Defaults Gets Tricky

Oho! I just learned something interesting from Martin Brinkmann over at Ghacks.Net. It seems that in Windows 11, MS has re-jiggered the way default application selection works. In Windows 10 one could grab an application and associate it with all typical file or link types in one go. Alas, managing Windows 11 defaults gets tricky, because you must now choose them one at a time.

MS also supplies various defaults by default so to speak, which explains why Microsoft Edge shows up so persistently when opening web-related file types. Thus, for example, I count 22 such entries in Settings → Apps → Default apps → (Browser name here). I chose Google Chrome as my example in the lead-in graphic above. If you really want to make Chrome the overall default, you must jump into each of the 22 associated file or link types and pick Chrome from the pick list for each one.

Why Say: Managing Windows 11 Defaults Gets Tricky?

Maybe I should have said “labor intensive” instead. But “tricky” makes for a more compelling headline, so I’ll admit to taking just a wee bit of artistic license here. Truth is, as long as you know that this is how Windows 11 works, it’s the kind of thing you need to do once for those applications you want to make default when Microsoft supplies something different. This takes time and a little effort, but it’s not the end of the world as we know it by a long shot.

I’m hoping Nir Sofer reads this blog post, though, and whips out a Windows11Default tool to help automate this task. Seems like it should be fairly straightforward for someone with the right understanding of Windows internals to make this happen. I see a fascinating thread on this topic in the Spiceworld Forums that explains that GPOs and an XML file can do the trick. I’ll be noodling around with this for a while and see if I can figure something further out. Hopefully, Windows 11 and 10 work the same way in this regard. Stay tuned, and I’ll find out…

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Check Windows TPM Status 2 Ways

What with Windows 11 looming ever closer on the horizon, more Windows 10 users will want to check TPM status on their PC. TPM is, of course, the Trusted Platform Module that provides hardware-level credential caching and encryption to protect systems from snooping and takeover. Today, I’ll show you how to check Windows TPM status 2 ways. One way uses a PowerShell cmdlet, the other way runs a Microsoft Management Console snap-in (an .msc file).

How to Check Windows TPM Status 2 Ways

Naturally, both methods require admin privileges. That is, you must run the cmdlet in an Administrative PowerShell session. Alternatively, you must be logged into an administrative-level account to access the proper MMC snap-in.

Way 1: PowerShell

Prosaically enough, the necessary cmdlet is named get-tpm. As its name portends, it provides detailed information about the presence and state of TPM on the target system upon which it is run. Go ahead, take a look:

Check Windows TPM Status 2 Ways.get-tpm

Note all the details about TPM presence and status. Source: my i7-6700 PC, which has no TPM.

Way 2: Run TPM.MSC (MMC Snap-in)

To take this path, simply type tpm.msc into the run command box or the Windows search box. It does not provide as much detail as the PowerShell cmdlet, but it is a little faster and easier to run. That said, here’s what its output looks like:

Check Windows TPM Status 2 Ways.tpm.msc

The TPM plug-in for the MMC just provides basic presence/absence information, though more data appears when a TPM is present (see next screencap below)
[Click image for full-sized view.]

TPM Info from Win11-Ready System

For comparison purposes here’s a side-by-side rendition of the PowerShell cmdlet (left) and MMC snap-in (right) from my 11th generation Lenovo X12 Hybrid Tablet PC. It meets the Windows 11 hardware requirements and tells its story about the TPM capabilities present on that machine. Note: 11th generation Intel CPUs provide TPM 2.0 emulation in firmware, rather than in a separate TPM chip.

Click image for full-sized view.

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WinKey+P Powers Display Projection

Sometimes, it isn’t until things go terribly wrong that one appreciates the power of simple syntax. Check out this TenForums post, which explores the impact of the WinKey+P gone wrong: Win p key  pressed. Because WinKey+P powers display projection, a user’s nephew’s wrong menu choice made him think he’d lost access to 2 of his 3 displays in a multi-monitor configuration. Not so!

WinKey+P Powers Display Projection — Usually Into a Menu

Normally, when you strike Winkey+P on a Windows 10 or 11 PC, you’ll get a pop-up menu like the one shown in the lead-in graphic. It highlights the current setting — Extend in my case, because I have my desktop extended over a pair of Dell 2717 monitors. Overall, it offers these four settings:

  • PC Screen only: (tantamount to striking WinKey+P once)
  • Duplicate: copies primary monitor to all other monitors (select by striking WinKey+P twice)
  • Extend: extend the desktop across all available monitors (select by pressing WinKey+P three times)
  • Second screen only: use only Display #2 for graphical output (select by pressing WinKey+P four times)

Our hapless user’s nephew struck WinKey+P once, which apparently forced his PC into “PC Screen only” mode. On my PC, however, I got the menu shown above, and was easily able to move among the selections using my mouse.

When Key Combos Go Wrong, Try More!

Interestingly, advice on TenForums about what to do in this situation is spot on. It reads “Did you try pressing ‘WinKey+P’ again? Sometimes a key acts like an ‘on off’ switch.” In this case, our user wanted to press WinKey+P 3 times to get to the extend option through the keyboard. There’s no discussion of using the menu instead, which I find infinitely preferable.

For some odd reason I’m reminded of one of William Blake’s epigrams from his Proverbs of Heaven and Hell:

The fool who persists in his folly soon becomes wise.

This turns out to be good, if oblique, advice when dealing with unwanted WinKey key combinations. As for myself: I’d have looked it up online, and found all the insight I ever could have wanted, and more.

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Downgrading Dev Channel Is Now Sometimes Possible

Here’s an interesting tidbit from the July 29 version of Microsoft Docs “Deeper look at flighting.” And of course, as the lead sentence reads “Flighting is the process of running Windows Insider Preview Builds on your device.” In an amendment to prior policy, downgrading Dev Channel is now sometimes possible for test PCs or VMs. Let me explain…

What Downgrading Dev Channel Is Now Sometimes Possible Means

The key to switching without requiring a clean re-install (the prior policy in all cases) is that the Dev Channel must have the same or lower Build number than the target channel. That means switching from Dev Channel to another channel requires users “to find your current build number and compare it to the current build number in the channel you wish to switch to.” Build numbers appear in the output from winver.exe, and in Start → Settings → System → About.

I quote the step-by-step process verbatim from the previously linked flighting document:

  1. Open Settings > Windows Update > Windows Insider Program.
  2. Select Choose your Insider settings.
  3. Select the desired channel, either Beta Channel (Recommended), or Release Preview Channel.
  4. The next time you receive an update, it will be for your new channel.

This will make the process of downgrading channels simpler. It also provides an “exit strategy” for Dev Channel PCs. Prior policy insisted that the only escape from Dev Channel could be a clean re-install of some other Windows version. The other channels have always offered the option to drop back to production/RTM versions when they become available. This extends that out to Dev Channel, but requires two steps to get there: first drop back to Beta or Insider Preview, then drop back to production/RTM. Good stuff!

Why Am I Telling You This … Now?

As you look at the WinVer output from Dev Channel (left) and Beta Channel (right) in the lead graphic, right now the Build numbers are the same. That means that you can downgrade Dev Channel PCs as I write this story. Given that MS hasn’t released a Dev Channel build in a while this can’t last forever. If you want to try it out, act fast — or wait for the next synch-up. Your call…

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Confusing Windows 11 Scissors and Trashcan

Sometimes, I have to laugh at myself. Yesterday, in cleaning out my Downloads folder on a Windows 11 test PC, I noticed that clicking the Scissors icon didn’t delete selected files. Duh! That’s the job of the Trashcan icon, as I figured out a little later using mouseover tactics. By confusing Windows 11 scissors and trashcan icons, I showed myself that minor mistakes can stymie routine file handling tasks. Sigh.

If Confusing Windows 11 Scissors and Trashcan, What Next?

Before I figured out my category/identification error, I found another quick workaround to delete files. By clicking “More options” at the bottom of the first right-click menu, another more familiar menu appears. It’s more or less the Windows 10 menu transplanted into Windows 11, like so:

Confusing Windows 11 Scissors and Trashcan.more-options

A second menu has the familiar text entry to make my choice more obvious: Delete appears three up from the bottom.
[Click image for full-sized view.]

As is nearly always the case in Windows (including 11), there’s more than one way to get things done. When one fails (or operator error leads to unwanted outcomes), another way can lead to success. My next step would be to turn to the command line, had this alternate path not led to the desired results. It’s always good to keep working at things until they get solved. That goes double when my silly mixup led to an initial lack of success.

As I learn new UIs and tools, this kind of thing happens from time to time. Call them Windows follies or funnies if you like. For me, it’s just another day, and another lesson learned, here in Windows-World!

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WhyNotWin11 Offers PC Health Check Alternative

Some Windows users are purists by deliberate choice. Given the option of a Microsoft and a third-party too, they’ll take the MS route every time. I am no such purist. I appreciate good tools, whether from Microsoft or another (reputable) source. Thus, I’d like to observe that the GitHub project WhyNotWin11 offers PC Health Check Alternative. Indeed MS has temporarily taken down its tool. PC Health Check is available only from 3rd-party sources, such as TechSpot right now. Thus, WhyNotWin11 has the current advantage.

Why Say WhyNot11 Offers PC Health Check Alternative?

Though PC Health Check has been out of circulation for a week or so, WhyNot11 got its most recent update on July 3. Visit its Latest Release page for a download (version number 2.3.0.5 as I write this). You can also update the previous version 2.3.03 by downloading the latest SupportedProcessorsIntel.txt file and copying it over the previous version in the %Appdata%\Local\WhyNotWin11 folder.

Note: on my PC, that’s
C:\Users\\AppData\Local\WhyNotWin11\SupportedProcessorsIntel.txt.

WhyNotWin11 Is More Informative, Too

This story’s lead-in graphic shows the information that the third-party tool displays about target PCs. It provides a complete overview of which requirements are met (green), which aren’t listed as compatible (amber), and which are missing or disabled (red). This is more helpful than the output from PC Health Check. See it output below:

PC Health Check only briefly explains part of what’s at issue, and tersely at that.

While the message above does explain the “the processor isn’t supported,” it also fails to note the absence (as I know it to be on this PC) of a Trusted Platform Module (2.0 or any other version). WhyNotWin11 notifies users about both conditions directly and obviously.

IMO, easy access and operation, and more information about the target PC all make WhyNotWin11 a superior choice over PC Health Check. At least, for the purpose of finding out why a machine will (or won’t) upgrade to Windows 11. PC Health Check does offer other capabilities that users may find helpful, including (questionable) info about backup and synchronization, Windows Update checks, storage capacity consumption and startup time. I’m not arguing against use of the tool, when it returns to circulation. I’m merely suggesting that for the purpose of evaluating PCs for Windows 11 upgrades, WhyNotWin11 does a better job at that specific task.

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