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.

P16 Posts Mysterious Memory Training Message

OK: here’s a new one on me. This weekend, I updated the UEFI on the Lenovo P16 Mobile Workstation. Along that update path, the P16 posts mysterious memory training message. Something along the lines of “the screen will go dark for 2 minutes while the system performs memory training.” I’d not enountered this terminology before so I was taken aback. Turns out it’s a well-known thing, tho…

Learning Ensues When P16 Posts Mysterious Memory Training Message

Apparently memory training — or as Lenovo calls it in the P16 Maintenance manual: “memory retraining” — can happen after hardware changes or following UEFI updates. Online research eventually led me to a document that explained what’s going on. It’s called DDR4 SRAM: Initialization, Training and Calibration, and it’s darned informative. In fact, it’s worth a read-through for those interested in going beyond the basics I’ll present here.

For my purposes, it was enough to know the following:

1. Device or firmware changes can affect memory timing and performance
2. Training uses an iterative approach to altering timing values
3. It converges on settings that provide a workable trade-off between speed (faster performance) and stability (fault-free memory access)
4. If your motherboard uses JEDEC timings, training/retraining is not usually required (or performed)

In fact, it’s a lot like what I used to read at Tom’s Hardware about over-clocking PC memory back in the late 1990s. Start from a safe setting, increment and try. If it works, increment again. Repeat until a failure occurs. Back off to the preceding increment. Done!

Changes Sometime Cause (Re)Training

The bottom line is that what I was entirely normal. I’d either never seen or never noticed such warnings before, but they’re typical following hardware (usually RAM module swap-outs) or firmware (including UEFI) changes. Now I know. And it gave me a good excuse to download and read around the maintenance manual for the P16. That’s always fun, too.

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DISM Component Store Cleanup

This morning, I recalled the value of occasional “check-and-clean” operations on the Windows Component Store (aka WinSxS). Check the “Before and After” screencap at the top of this story. It shows that applying updates can leave old components behind. Checking the component store tells you what’s up. Performing a DISM component store cleanup recovers wasted space. To wit: 1.72 GB in reported size, and 1.47 GB in actual size.

How to run DISM Component Store Cleanup

What you see in the before (left) and after (right) image is syntax to check the Windows Component Store. Run it in an admin cmd or PowerShell session, like so:

DISM /online /cleanup-image /analyzecomponentstore

Two notes. One, the output from the before (left) tells you how many reclaimable packages are found (2, in this instance). Two, it tells you whether or not component store cleanup is recommended (yes, this time around). Running the check and report syntax shown above takes 1-2 minutes on most Windows 10 and 11 PCs.

Performing the Actual Cleanup

As with the check and report DISM command, the cleanup command must also run in an administrative cmd or PowerShell session. That syntax is slightly different:
DISM /online /cleanup-image /startcomponentcleanup
Depending on how many reclaimable packages are found, and how big they are, cleanup can take upwards of 5 minutes on most Windows 10 or 11 PCs. That wait goes up, as the number (and total) size of packages increases. Be patient! I’ve only had this fail a handful of times over the years I’ve been using this tool (and many of those failures were self-inflicted because of prior use of /resetbase, which locks existing packages into place in the Component Store).

Nevertheless, this is an excellent and recommended Windows cleanup technique, which I try to run after each month’s Cumulative Update (CU) is installed. The check and report command doesn’t always find something to cleanup, but when it does, I follow up with the /startcomponentcleanup to trim down the Component Store footprint. It’s a great technique for regular Windows image management, in fact.

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Resuscitated Windows Welcomes Require Notification Reset

OK, then. I did some “weekend admin” work around the house yesterday. That included installing recent CUs on a couple of holdout Windows 10 PCs. Soon thereafter, I found myself facing the “Let’s finish up…” item shown in the lead-in graphic above. “Hmmm” I found myself thinking. “I vaguely recall there’s an easy way to turn this off.” And indeed, some CUs means that these resuscitated Windows welcomes require Notification reset. Let me explain…

Why Do Resuscitated Windows Welcomes Require Notification Reset?

Apparently, when certain CUs (or an upgrade) gets installed, it resets related notifications in Start → Settings → System → Notifications & actions: see checkboxes under notifications in the following screencap.

Resuscitated Windows Welcomes Require Notification Reset.settings.system

By default all boxes are checked; I routinely uncheck the lower three as shown here.

How Often Does This Happen?

It can happen after some Cumulative Updates. You won’t know until it pops up (literally). It DOES happen after every upgrade, though you’ll see a different screen instead. This one is labeled “Welcome to Windows” as shown next.

This item is turned off when the first of the three unchecked boxes above is unchecked. It’s another one of those things that repeat experience with Windows teaches. But in my case, it happens infrequently enough that I have to refresh my memory with an online search about half the time when it shows up. Sigh.

What About Windows 11?

As far as I can tell, Windows 11 appears exempt from both kinds of “nag screen” — as certain, disgruntled Windows 10 users sometimes label these displays. I guess that’s a good thing, eh?

[Note: thanks to Mayank Pamar at WindowsLatest. His April 25 story Windows 10’s full screen setup nag returns – here’s how to disable it showed up this morning, just after I’d looked this info up yesterday. He’d obviously run into the same thing I did. That’s how things go sometimes, here in Windows-World. Thanks!]

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Modern Winver Updates Its Namesake

The old saying goes: “If it ain’t broke don’t fix it.” True that. And likewise true that Winver.exe still does what it always has. But there’s an enhanced version of this program now available from the Microsoft Store. That app, Modern Winver updates its namesake in numerous cool and interesting ways. The lead-in graphic shows the two programs side by side (classic left, modern right). But it only hints at all the things that the modern version does that its classic counterpart cannot.

What Is Modern Winver? Who’s Behind It?

Modern Winver is third-party software.  It comes from a GitHub project run by one torch (aka torchgm). It describes itself as a “modern and more functional replacement for the About Windows screen, providing details on Windows and your PC.”

Actually, I think the description is off a little, and the name of the program is actually more informative. As the lead-in graphic shows, it looks and acts like Winver, but provides more information than the classic version of the  program. Specifics follow under the next head.

How Modern Winver Updates Its Namesake

I’ll organize its difference by the four tabs shown just beneath the OS heading in the right-hand pane above — namely, About, System, Theme and Links:

1. About: Shows Windows edition (Home, Pro, etc.) as well as OS version, install date/time and build number. Shows machine name as well as logged-in account name.

2. System: Shows CPU name and type, base CPU speed, device architecture (x86, X64, ARM), plus levels and usage for CPU, primary storage and RAM.

3. Theme: Provides access desktop theme, wallpaper and lockscreen. Enables inclusion of About info on wallpaper and lock screen, if desired.

4. Links: Provides acess to Settings, System Properties, Tips and MS Support, plus links to the underlying Discord and GitHub scaffolding for this program’s development

Bottom Line: Classic Winver Plus

The simplest explanation of the difference is that Modern Winver does everything its namesake does, and a fair amount more. IMO, it looks better and is more fun to use. If you’re of the “like to play with new software and toys” persuasion, you’ll probably like it. If you’re of the “if Windows does it already, why do I need a third-party equivalent?” school, don’t bother. As for me, I’m having fun playing with and learning more about this new toy. Cheers!

Shout-out Added ½ Day Later

Thanks to the members at ElevenForum.com, who alerted me to Modern Winver, particularly @Graulges and @Berton. Thanks, people! I like to give credit where it’s due.

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Quick Win11 Reghack Shows Removables Recycle Bin

Here’s an interesting item that shows off a difference between Windows 10 and 11. Adding a specific Registry key and value to Windows 11 lets it show the recycle bin (and contents) in File Explorer on removable drives.  Normally (and on Windows 10) it doesn’t appear. A quick Win11 Reghack shows removables recycle bin.

That said, the same hack produces no visible sign of the Recycle Bin in Windows 10 File Explorer. Here’s what one of my 8 GB USB 3 removables looks like therein:

Quick Win11 Reghack Shows Removables Recycle Bin .win10

Notice there’s no entry shown named “Recycle Bin.” But as the lead-in graphic shows, it’s defined, even if it’s not visible.

When Quick Win11 Reghack Shows Removables Recycle Bin, Here’s What’s Shown

After adding a registry key named Explorer to

HKEY_CURRENT_USER\SOFTWARE\Microsoft\Windows\CurrentVersion\Policies\

One must create a DWORD therein named

RecycleBinDrives

Then that DWORD must be assigned the hexadecimal value “ffffffff” (all 1s for all 8 possible hexadecimal digits). Next comes a quick restart to make sure the setting “takes” in the Registry.

Presto! Recycle Bin Appears

As shown in the next screencap (from my X1 Extreme “road laptop”), you can now see the Recycle Bin (and System Volume Information) in the items listed in Explorer. (Note: for these items to appear, File Explorer Options/View must check “Show hidden files…” amidst its settings. As you can see, I also like to uncheck “Hide extensions…”)

Now you can see Recyle Bin and System Volume Info on the USB drive. Good-oh!

Why is access to Recycle Bin a good thing? Because it provides a ready means to recover deleted files from a USB drive directly, if one so desires. I agree with Sergey Tkachenko at WinAero.com (the source for this story and its info, though I had to create the Explorer key from scratch on my test PC) that easy recovery of deleted files can sometimes be a lifesaver!

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New Ventoy 1.0.66 Version Available

Thanks to Martin Brinkmann at Ghacks.net, I just learned there’s a new Ventoy 1.0.66 version available. Among other cool features, it now supports an “experimental” (beta) feature to boot most supported image formats from a local disk. Check out the GitHub page and its  documentation page at Ventoy.net for a complete recitation.

With New Ventoy 1.0.66 Version Available, Grab One!

I’ve been writing about Ventoy since April 2020, when I first learned about this outstanding tool. Here’s my first-ever Ventoy item: Bootable USB Tool Ventoy (Win10.Guru). The Ventoy,net site has long since overcome its initial underprovisioning issues. Indeed, the tool is now available through both GitHub and SourceForge as well. It’s also added lots of bells and whistles along the way.

If you don’t already know and use this tool, you owe it to yourself to check it out. Be sure to check out the many content items on the Ventoy Document page for news, how-tos, explainers, and information about the tool’s growing collection of interesting plug-ins.

Make Ventoy Your Go-To Install/Repair Tool

Right now, I’m still using a 256GB SSD in a Sabrent NVMe drive caddy (USB 3.2 Gen 2) for my collection of tools and images. I have 29 images on the drive, which include many versions of Windows 10 and 11, plus the Microsoft Diagnostics and Recovery Toolset (DaRT), the MacriumRescue ISO, BOOTPE.iso, various memtest utilities, and more.  I’ve still got 94 GB of disk space free on the drive and will no doubt keep adding to it over time.

It’s a great tool: worth downloading, using, and updating as needed. Cheers!

 

 

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Time.is Offers Fast Accurate Friendly Time

OK, as I was trolling ElevenForum.com last week, I noticed a reference to the Icelandic domain-based site, Time.is. You can see its home page as the lead-in graphic for this blog post. In fact, Time.is offers fast accurate friendly time on the web. It has a for-a-fee iPad app, and is working on equivalents for Android, iOS, Windows and Firefox OS. I find it strangely addicting, personally…

Because Time.is Offers Fast Accurate Friendly Time: Use It!

In checking out the site, WhoIs reports its domain name has a 2009 creation date. Despite an Icelandic suffix (.is), it’s registered from Norway. DNS operator CloudFlare provides speedy access and name resolution. Obviously, Time.is has been around a while.

But, because I just discovered it recently, I’m sharing that info with my readers. I’m hoping it generates more of a “Gee, interesting!” reaction, rather than “Ho hum.” That said, here’s some data from the Time.is About page:

  • Time.Is offers “the most accurate, the most reliable, and the most user-friendly source of time and time-related information on the web.”
  • Local Time appears for your current or chosen location, without accessing the device clock
  • Device clock drift comes from an atomic clock that Time.is operates
  • Reported time is updated precisely at the beginning of each second. This prevents 1- or 2-second jumps when synch drifts far enough to need adjustment.
  • Time formats are designed to be mobile device friendly
  • Lots of other time info is available including a calendar, sunrise/sunset times, time zone info, lat/long info, and more

If you’re not already using Time.is it’s worth a visit. If you’re a time junkie like yours truly, you’ll need no further convincing to keep coming back. Enjoy!

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MS Assistant Whacks Word Weirdnesses

These days, I make a sizable chunk of my living using Microsoft Word on huge documents with complex stylesheets. As anybody who does this kind of thing regularly knows, Word can get wonky. That is especially true when large drafts with “Track Changes” turned on must pass among multiple parties. That’s why I’m happy to report that one particular MS Assistant whacks Word weirdnesses. I’m talking about the Microsoft Support and Recovery Assistant (SaRA) shown in the lead-in graphic here (About, Download).

Because MS Assistant Whacks Word Weirdnesses, Use It!

In this latest case in point, I’d cut out a mid-sized section of a large (~200 pg) Word document to work on independently. But when I tried to interact with that document fragment, I started seeing a spray of different errors:

  • Document is too large to save; remove some text or graphics
  • Disk is full; save document to a different drive
  • Permissions error; unable to save document

Normally, when there’s something wrong with the document itself, the errors will remain the same. Also, Word itself is pretty good at repairing corrupted or damaged documents. Thus, this ever-changing panoply of errors got me thinking: “Hmmm. Looks like Word is going wonky.”

Enumerating Office Repairs

I remembered a story I wrote for ComputerWorld last August (4 Steps to Repair Microsoft Office). One of them involved the SaRA. Naturally, I ran the tool (thankfully, it always updates itself first if the version being run is not the most current one available). I had it perform its  Office repairs, then tried the previously problematic file fragment I’d been fighting with. Problem solved!

As mechanics sometimes say: “Get the right tool for the job.” In this case, I was glad that SaRA turned out to be that very tool. I was even gladder to get back to work on writing, and exit Word troubleshooting mode. Sigh.

 

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Windows 11 Hints Third-Party Widgets

I confess: I’ve been a fan of Windows gadgets ever since they were introduced in Windows Vista 15 or so years ago (January 30, 2007). I still use them today in Windows 10 and 11, thanks to Helmut Buhler’s excellent 8GadgetPack. Recently, I read intimations that MS would open its Windows 11 Widgets to third parties. I was both intrigued and a little apprehensive to learn that Windows 11 hints third-party widgets. A portion of my Widgets from the Dev Channel build (22523.1000) serves as the lead-in graphic above.

How Windows 11 Hints Third-Party Widgets

As explained in this WindowsLatest story dated January 3, widgets are a little less all-encompassing than gadgets. As Mayank Parmar avers “Windows 11 [widgets] cannot be pinned to the desktop and they appear within the widgets board only.” That said, the same source reports they’ve “seen…documents” that indicate “third-party widgets will be included in Windows 11 version 22H2.”

Because I still use gadgets daily, this information is interesting. Given the right third-party support, it could even be exciting. As you can see to the left, I use gadgets for various purposes, even on Windows 11. For one, they help me keep an eye on system and network activities. For another, they provide an alternative way to shutdown, restart, and so on. And finally, the analog clock on my desktop is easier for me to see and read than the default numeric clock in the taskbar.

If I could get the same functionality from widgets, that would be good. But I also hope MS will provide ways to lock certain widgets on constant display, too. To me, the real benefit of gadgets is that, once parked, they remain visible all the time. For monitoring, time, and system controls this is essential. Note also: the “Control System” gadget (2nd from top) even works in RDP sessions, which normally don’t let you restart or shut down a remotely-connected PC or VM. Very helpful!

I believe opening widgets to third parties in Windows 11 could spur all kinds of interesting functionality and capability. I like the idea of getting such things from the store. But I also hope MS will support locking select widgets on permanent view. Otherwise, I’ll keep using gadgets, too.

We’ll know more as MS releases information to developers to open up widgets to third parties. In the meantime, I’ve got my fingers crossed that somebody will read — and heed — my plea for locked or permanent widgets. Stay tuned: I’ll keep you posted as this situation unfolds.

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2021 Road Trip Technology Bag Contents

As I reported in my previous post, our family took a Texas-to-Florida road trip from December 18 through 30. It occurs to me readers might be interested in what came along for that ride, technology-wise. Thus, I’ll inventory our 2021 road trip technology bag contents, to show what the Tittel family used to stay in touch while traveling. I’ll also explain — briefly — how we used all that stuff.

Enumerating Road Trip Technology Bag Contents

To begin, I’ll simply list what we carried with us on the road by category and kind:

1. Laptops (2): Lenovo X1 Extreme (8th Gen i7, 32 GB RAM, 1.5 TB NVMe SSDs: 1 + 0.5 TB); Lenovo Yoga 7 14ITL5 (11th Gen i5, 16 GB RAM. 0.5 TB SSD), each with its own power brick and power cord.

2. iPad Air 2: 128GB storage, Wi-Fi + LTE

3. External battery packs: an older freebie (WIMVP 2018) 4,000 mAh, plus a newer RAVPower 26,800 mAh

4. Cable bag with 2xUSB/LIghtning cables for iDevices, 2xUSB A/USB-C cables, 2xUSB A/mini-USB cables for battery chargers, 2x iClever USB-A chargers with dual 2.4A charging ports

The cable bag was a convenience, a $17 ProCase Travel Gadget Organizer bag I purchased in 2020, and it appears as the lead-in graphic for this story. In fact, it proved its worth every day on the road. This organizer made it easy to store (and find) chargers and cables when and as they were needed in the 6 hotels we patronized on our trip.

Typical In-Hotel Usage Scenarios

The iClever chargers were vital for keeping our smartphones and iPad charged. We used them every day, without fail, along with the appropriate cables. The battery packs came in handiest on the long driving days (2 each way) to and from Florida. That’s because time in the car routinely outlasted battery life on at least 3 of those 4 days.

In the hotel room, I used the iPad for recreational reading and map checking. We also used the two laptops, both of which run the production version of Windows 11 (Build 22000.376). My wife and I shared the X1 Extreme. Indeed, I actually had to do about 6-7 hours of legal work on the trip as various questions and document drafts required my input.

My son took over the Yoga 7 as his exclusive PC, and reported that it met his needs for streaming video, email, light gaming, and managing his social contacts quite nicely. He also used it to work on a short 2-minute film he’s planning to shoot this weekend as part of his college application process (he wants to major in film).

Stowing the Gear

All of this stuff fit well into a standard “schoolbook” back pack we keep around for travel. Its large internal pouch easily accommo-dated both laptops inside a padded  sub-area with Velcro closure. The iPad, cable bag and battery packs went into the forward section of that same internal pouch. And finally, both laptop bricks lived in a half-height zippered pouch at the very front of the backpack.

We maintained this organization for the whole trip because it made unpacking and packing easy. Ditto for ensuring that everything was present and loaded during pre-departure checks.

The Bottom Line

As I look over my Amazon Order history, I see we spent under US$300 for the bag and its contents, not including laptops and iPad. All together, cables accounted for under $50, the chargers for about the same amount, and the bags the same again. The RAVPower charger was the big-ticket item, at about US$120. But it can recharge all three of our smartphones and the iPad, or extend battery life for either laptop by 2-4 hours. Well worth the cost, methinks. All this gear helped us stay informed and in touch — and organized — on the road. Good stuff!

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