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.

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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Windows 11 22509 Gets New Start Control

I read about this the other day, but couldn’t find my way to it. Now, thanks to Taras Buria at WinAero, I can see (and say) what’s up. Initially, I’d misread descriptions. Based on too, too much prior experience I assumed this was a gradual feature rollout, and my PC hadn’t made the cut. Wrong! Windows 11 22509 gets new Start control across the board — easily accessed, in fact.

Windows 11 22509 Gets New Start Control: How-To

Click Start → Settings → Personalization → Start and it shows up on top of the page, under the Layout heading. Just like in the lead-in graphic for this story. Here’s what the radio buttons mean:

  • More pins: provides more slots in which to pin apps on the Start menu.
  • Default: provides a mix of recently-accessed files, plus recommendations from the OS.
  • More recommendations: allocates more slots for Windows-supplied items in the Start menu.

Recommendations have apparently not proved very popular with Windows users. The WinAero story put the change in these terms: “To show that Microsoft listens to users’ feedback, Windows developers introduced a new option that allows you to show more icons on the Start menu in Windows 11.”

Start Menu Remains a Hot-Button Topic

Certainly, it’s nice to see MS providing some added Start menu options. This Windows cockpit remains a source of passionate opinions and reactions. I’m just glad that 7 years of Windows 10 use has equipped me to deal with the Windows 11 Start menu without feeling forced to use a third-party tool like whatever Classic Shell is called nowadays, or something else like Start11.

In general, providing more and better Start menu customization seems like a good direction for MS to take. Here’s hoping this first bit of tweak support directly from the OS is neither an anomaly nor the last of its kind to show up for a while. Fingers crossed!

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Ventoy 1.0.62 Gets Plug-in Manager

I’ve been a huge fan of the Ventoy bootable image tool for several years now. The developers have recently released a new 1.0.62 version at GitHub. It includes a GUI plugin configurator that immediately explained to me why I have issues with my current version on some of my laptops. The partition style on the ventoy drive is MBR and some of my newer laptops are GPT/UEFI only. Thus, when Ventoy 1.0.62 gets plug-in manager, I get ready information to helpful details right away. Cool!

If you’re not already familiar with Ventoy, it includes two partitions on USB attached storage media. The bulk of the device is exFAT formatted, and provides storage for ISO, WIM, VHDX, and other mountable cabinet or image formats. The VTOYEFI partition (32 MB FAT) has just enough smarts to get the PC running, mount an image, and then pass boot control over to that image. The result is a way to store all of your Windows (and other OS) images in one place, along withe repair tools, and boot into them as and when you need to.

If Ventoy 1.0.62 Gets Plug-in Manager, Then What?

Why, download and install if you’re not already using the tool. Or download and update if you already are. The Plugson GUI manager is a major step forward in functionality, visibility and insight, and improved control over the program. I’m not sure I understand all the wrinkles just yet. Thus, I plan on writing about it again after some more time spend fooling round … err … experimenting with its features and functions.

The more I look at plugson the more things I find to like about it. This program has evolved considerably over the three years or so it’s been available. And it just keeps improving and extending what it can do. Good stuff, and a great tool for Windows admins and enthusiasts.

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Laughing Off Black Friday Deals

Yes, I could have waited, as it turns out. I bought an AMD Ryzen 7 5800X from Amazon in September. I paid around US$394. Today, Black Friday prices are out and it’s on sole for US$341. Difference: US$53. All in all I could’ve saved around US$200 on my whole basket of parts. Not bad for a $1,200 buy. But laughing off Black Friday deals is part of making a buy decision. That said, there are some pretty good deals happening right now. If you  are in the market for PCs or parts, it’s the best time of the year to buy.

Spending Earlier Means Laughing Off Black Friday Deals Now

But it also means I should look around and see what kinds of deals I can find right now. I’ve been lusting for a Caldigit Element Thunderbolt 4 hub (4x Thunderbolt 4/4x USB 3.2 Gen 2, 60W charging). But as you might expect with leading/bleeding edge technology items, it’s still at its MSRP of US$250.

OTOH, SSDs and HDDs are indeed showing up at bargain prices. Thus, for example I see a Hynix 1 TB NVMe for US$130 and a Seagate 5TB 2.5″ HDD for US$124 (5400 RPM). IGN.com has a nifty story on Black Friday Deals that’s worth a look. You can expect other websites to offer Black Friday rundowns through the weekend. If you’re in the market — or just thinking about some tech buys — you won’t be sorry if you take some time to look around and see what kinds of deals you can find. Shop till you drop, dear Readers — this the season!

Note Added Nov 29 (Cyber Monday)

No deals on the Caldigit Element hub today, either. But I still might go ahead and spring for one. I’ve got three laptops with Thunderbolt 4 ports that I can’t yet fully exercise until I get some compatible peripherals. A perfect excuse for paying list price, yes?

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Bringing Offline Printers Back Online

Something odd is still fiddling with my local switch domain. Fortunately, it only affects my office here at Chez Tittel. The usual symptom is that my LAN-attached Samsung ML-2850 shows up in Devices and Printers. But it is grayed out and shows status as offline (see lead-in graphic, middle right and bottom). When that happens bringing offline printers back online requires a specific drill.

How-to: Bringing Offline Printers Back Online

I use Nir Sofer’s great little NetBScanner tool to confirm or establish the IPv4 address the Samsung uses. (Lately, it uses192.168.1.133.) I right-click the offline printer (labeled Samsung ML-2850 in the lead-in graphic). Then I select “Remove device” from the resulting pop-up menu. After that, I must confirm that removal by responding “Yes” to a prompt window that reads “Are you sure you want to remove this device.” Done!

Next, what has been removed gets reinstated. This means clicking “Add a printer” from the top-line menu, then clicking “The printer that I want isn’t listed” when the automated search fails to find the Samsung ML-2850. Next, I click the radio button next to “Add a printer using a TCP/IP address or hostname.” Then I double-check NetBScanner to confirm that the ML-2850’s IP address remains unchanged (aha! It’s moved to …134, so that’s what I enter).

I leave the default “use currently installed driver” option selected and click “Next” again. Then I shorten the printer name  to SamML-2850. Because the printer is network-attached, there’s no need to share it (this is required only for USB or other purely device-specific printer connections).

And when I print a test page, Presto! The printer is once again back online. Good stuff!

Bringing Offline Printers Back Online.restored

After removing and re-installing (after double-checking IP address) the Samsung networked printer is back online. Goody!
[Click image for full-sized view]

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Dell Display Manager Pops Outta Nowhere

OK, then. Yesterday, I fired up a local account on my production PC while investigating the new Firefox Store app’s behavior. When I did so, that account asked me if I wanted to install Dell Display Manager. That explains this story’s title: Dell Display Manager pops outta nowhere. I’d never heard of it before, nor seen it mentioned in other Dell apps. (For example, Dell Update Control or Dell Support Assistant, both familiar because the Dell Optiplex 7080 Micro that’s a family daily driver PC at our house.)

Good News When Dell Display Manager Pops Outta Nowhere

“OK,” I said to myself, “let’s give this a shot.” That turned out to be a good move. It’s kind of a pain to use the monitor’s own built-in control buttons to manage brightness, contrast, color profiles and so forth. The Dell Display Manager (which I’ll call DDM going forward) does all this on the Windows desktop. Much, much easier and more user-friendly.

My only question is: Why hadn’t I heard of this tool sooner? As a regular at TenForums and ElevenForum, people talk about monitors a lot. And some of those folks are also MVP-equivalent on the Dell forums as well. Yet I managed to remain not-so-blissfully unaware of the tool until now. And to think I’ve been buying Dell monitors since the mid-to-late 1990s!

If You’ve Got Dell Monitors, Use DDM

The home page for the utility includes  a download link for the tool. It’s entitled “What is Dell Display Manager?” and provides a useful and informative overview of its capabilities. As the page says, the tool is for standalone monitors only and “is not applicable to laptops.” Indeed, they have different display management tools. But since we currently have 4 Dell monitors here at Chez Tittel, this ends up being a useful and valuable item for my admin’s toolbox. If you’ve got Dell monitors, but didn’t already know about (or use) DDM, do yourself a favor and grab a copy today. You won’t be disappointed. Good stuff!

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Windows Wallpapers Live Elsewhere

Here’s something I didn’t know, that you may not have known, either. Wallpaper images for both Windows 10 and 11 live in a separate folder hierarchy under C:\Windows\Web. That hierarchy appears as the lead-in graphic for this story. The parent folder spec is C:\Windows\Web. In Windows 11 each of the four subsidiary folder contains 2 or more images, all suitable for wallpaper use. When I say Windows wallpapers live elsewhere, I mean they live in their own private directory, as indicated.

If Windows Wallpapers Live Elsewhere, Visit Them

I spelunked around the four-folder hierarchy and found 37 images therein. Many of them are based on those twisting laminar surfaces that have come to stand for Windows 11. I copied all of them into a single directory so I could find them all in one place. The next screencap shows a listing of those images by filename. You’ll probably want to set a similar view to Extra Large or Large icons, so you can identify them by visual content (I did it this way for compactness).

WWindows Wallpapers Live Elsewhere.details

What to do With Windows Wallpapers

Overall, they’re an astonishing collection of images and graphics. Microsoft operates an image service named Spotlight, that curates over 4,000 high-quality professional images of nature, cities, objects, and more. All of these work well for desktop backgrounds and lockscreen images. I have an older app from Timo Partl (no longer in the Store, alas) that does a great job of visiting the Spotlight connection and downloading anything I don’t already have locally to a target directory. For those of you who, like me, like lots of variety in your lockscreens and backgrounds, this provides a trove of beautiful eye-candy of amazing variety and great quality.

I’m adding these wallpapers to that collection. I assume that means they’ll show up occasionally, as the forces of random selection dictate. Check out the 11 wallpapers and feel free view them as and when you like. Cheers!

Note Added Nov 4

I got a great tip from my fellow WIMVPs about this–namely Shawn Keene. He observes that if you open the Run box (WinKey+R) and type “web” into the box, then hit OK, it will open a fresh instance of File Explorer to that directory. Very handy!

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Kill These Windows 11 tw*.tmp Folders

Here’s an interesting bit of news. After seeing reports about folders that end with a .tmp extension (!) in Windows 11, i found some on every machine I checked running that OS. These folders are invariably empty, and may be safely deleted. When I say: Kill these Windows 11 tw*.tmp folders, you shouldn’t suffer any adverse effects if you take that advice.

See a representative list in the lead-in graphic for this story. The folder spec is clearly spelled out therein. For the record, it is:

C:\Windows\System32\config\systemprofile\AppData\Local

Why Kill These Windows 11 tw*.tmp Folders?

Because they’re empty. Because you don’t need them. And because they can swamp the other, valid data in that folder. I read reports of “hundreds” to “tens of thousands” of such empty folders at WinAero and Ghacks.net. The largest number I found on any of my Windows 11 PC  was 94. Ironically, it was the one running Build 22000.258, a recent production 21H2 version. My other Beta and Dev Channel PCs had between 40 and 50 such folders in the same directory, by way of comparison.

After cleanup, here’s  what’s left in that folder on my i7-8850H X1 Extreme laptop:

Kill These Windows 11 tw*.tmp Folders.post-cleanup

Not much left after cleanup: 5 folders and a lone .tmp file
[Click image for full-sized view.]

Over at Ghacks, Martin Brinkmann correctly observes as follows. “Empty folders don’t take up much disk space and they don’t interfere with the operation of the system.” It’s not mandatory to clean them out yourself. But OCD inclined Windows users (like me) will nevertheless delight in doing so!

Note: According to Brinkmann’s in-story reference to Woody Leonhard (AskWoody) this issue appears in 2019 versions of Windows 10, through current versions, too. And right now, I count a whopping 1,115 of them on my production desktop as I send them to the Recycle Bin. Woo hoo!

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