Category Archives: Windows 10

Store Gets Snipping Tools With Build 21354

Here’s an interesting tidbit to ponder. The Insider Dev Channel 21354 announcement included the information shown in this story’s lead-in graphic. To recap: it says that Snipping Tool and Snip & Sketch have been packaged together. Going forward, they will now get updates through the MS Store. Hence my title: Store Gets Snipping Tools with Build 31354.

Sure enough: I visited the Store on one of my Dev Channel test PCs after the upgrade. As you can see in the preceding image, Snip & Sketch now appears there. (If you check update history in the Store, you’ll see it’s getting updates via the Store now, too.)

If Store Gets Snipping Tools with Build 21354, Where’s the Other One?

There’s a teeny-tiny little gotcha in this change worth noting.  It appears in italics in the snippet from the 21354 Announcement up above. Because it’s partially obscured, I repeat that text here:

Insiders who previously did not have Snip & Sketch installed will see Snipping Tool removed after updating to this build and will have to  go and install Snip & Sketch from the Store to get it back.

Because the two tools are now conjoined and Snipping Tool is not listed independently, you MUST grab and install Snip & Sketch to continue using either or both of them. This applies universally, but only affects users who hadn’t already installed Snip & Sketch.

As a determined and far-ranging Insider I installed Snip & Sketch as soon as it was made public in October 2018. Thus, a word of warning. Those who reach for Snipping Tool out of habit and haven’t yet installed Snip & Sketch must now do so, to keep Snipping Tool available. Of course, this applies to Dev Channel builds only.

I’d long thought MS would simply retire Snipping Tool and forcibly move users to Snip & Sketch. Looks like they’ve decided to keep them both alive, but to maintain them through Snip & Sketch in the Windows Store. That’s what makes this interesting and intriguing. Check it out!


Dell BIOS Update Covers Many Sins

I’ve got a pretty new Dell OptiPlex 7080 Micro SFF PC here at the house. Today, I went through the first BIOS upgrade since I first obtained that machine. When I opine that a Dell BIOS update covers many sins, I mean there was a lot more going on and involved than I expected. The so-called BIOS update was, in fact, 5 updates rolled into one update package. I used the Dell Command | Update utility to handle this, and am climbing its learning curve as well.

How I Learned That Dell BIOS Update Covers Many Sins

At first, because the utility also found a couple of other items to update, I couldn’t get the Command | Update utility to work. Then it dawned on me: perhaps the BIOS update needs to be run by itself? Indeed, that proved to be the ticket to eventual success. It also showed me 5 separate items being updated as the so-called “BIOS Update” was applied:

  1. BIOS
  2. USB-C firmware
  3. Intel Management Engine (IME) firmware
  4. Primary BIOS EC (Embedded Controller) update
  5. Backup BIOS EC update

Thus, where I’d been thinking this was a straight-up, in-and-out BIOS update, it was actually a whole bunch of chained updates that included other device controllers, IME, and embedded controllers. Not having a lot of experience in dealing with such updates from Dell lately, this came as a surprise.

All’s Well That Ends That Way

But once I put my thinking cap on, it became obvious that BIOS updates — which invariably require a restart to be applied, and another to take effect — are best handled separately from other updates. That seems to reflect recent experience with Lenovo updates too, now that I think upon the subject.

In fact, I wrote about a similar situation on March 24 in a post entitled Lenovo Vantage Updates Take Patience. Maybe I should try that thinking cap more often: it seems to work reasonably well!



Losing Win10 A/B Testing Wagers

I don’t know why this keeps happening to me. But it seems like whenever I learn that MS is A/B testing a new feature or function in an Insider Preview build, my test machines miss out. I don’t know how MS selects who gets and who misses such options, but I do hate losing Win10 A/B testing wagers. Case in point: the recent News & Interests notification area item.

What Is A/B Testing Anyway?

A/B testing started as a way to check web page designs. In that world, half of visitors see one version of a page, and half see the other. The developers analyze how the versions do, and pick the one that does the best.

In general, A/B testing means that half of a population get to see and interact with a feature, while the other half do not. That said, workarounds may be possible. Thus, for example, WinAero provided enable/disable batch files to turn the feature on and off in Builds 21286 (Dev Channel) early in January.

I just noticed that after the latest upgrade to build 21354, News & Interests no longer appears in my notification area. Indeed, the WinAero method still works to turn it off or on, but my plaint is that I keep coming up on the “have-not” side of such A/B tests, be that either A or B.

What Losing Win10 A/B Testing Wagers Means

To me, not getting to see or interact with an A/B feature means missing out on something new and potentially interesting or valuable. In the case of News & Interests, it means a minor inconvenience to be sure. Even so, I’d prefer to have the opportunity to interact with and provide feedback on new features to better do my job as a Windows Insider.

If I could ask the Insider Team for a favor, I’d ask them to build an “opt-in” apparatus when A/B features come out. Rather that purely random selection of who gets and who misses the A/B feature, it would be nice to have some way to request a download or a pre-update opt-in.

Why do I ask for this? Because invariably all of my test machines and VMs are denied A/B features when I come up a loser. I would like to test everything I can, especially new features, if not on all machines, then at least some of them. Is that too much to ask?

[Note on lead-in graphic for this story: I cheerfully confess I grabbed and cropped a screencap from about this feature from a January 6 story. I can’t make a working copy of this details pane on my blocked-out test machines. Thanks, Paul!]


SSD-Z Is Interesting But Incomplete

I’ve been mucking around with SSDs quite a bit lately. Yesterday, that had me rooting around for a utility I could use to tell me more about all of my many SSDs. When I found a utility named SSD-Z (think of Frank Delattre’s outstanding CPU-Z) I was sure I had struck gold. Alas, it’s not quite at the same level as Delattre’s tool, even though it is pretty interesting.

SSD-Z Is Interesting But Incomplete.vertex4Why Say: SSD-Z Is Interesting But Incomplete?

The tool did a great job of telling me more about my older SSDs, If you look at the preceding screenshot, it’s pretty effusive and complete about my nominal 250 GB OCZ-Vertex4 SSD. But if you look at the next screenshot, it’s mostly mum about my no-longer-new-but-still-capable Samsung 950. This runs on my daily driver and is now 6 years old, and still gets the job done.

SSD-Z Is Interesting But Incomplete.sam950

Not much detail here.

What’s remarkable is how little information appears. There’s no data about flash technology, cells, controller, NAND or speed info. TRIM is supported, despite a counter-protestation. Sigh. I’m disappointed.

Upon further investigation, I see the developer hasn’t updated the tool since 2016 (not too much later than I bought the Samsung 950). I guess this is a tougher problem than one might think, at first. I’m sorry to say that SSD-Z doesn’t pass muster, though it does provide a good model of what might be possible, given enough SSD data from the community.

Vendor Tools Might Be More Informative

In looking at an Enterprise Storage Forum story from 2019, I see that vendor tools are most likely to provide details about controller, flash technologies, and so forth.  Samsung, Intel, OCZ, Crucial, and Kingston come in for specific mention. And indeed, Samsung Magician tells me more about all of my Samsung SSDs — even OEM models — than does SSD-Z. The same is true for other vendor-specific tools, when one has drives from those vendors to check into.

Gosh! I’d love to see SSD-Z deliver on its implicit promises. We could all use a utility like that, right? The TechPowerUp contributor behind this tantalizing item, Aezay, has not posted there since 2018. If he’s out there and paying attention, I’d be happy to co-drive a crowdfunding effort to do this tool right, and help the whole community. This leads me to echo the excellent Pink Floyd lyric: “Is there anybody out there?” And that’s the way things go sometimes, here in Windows-World.

Stay tuned: if anything interesting turns up, I’ll report back. Yowza!


New Device May Require Second Reboot

In installing the Kioxia (Toshiba) M.2 SSD late last week, I was reminded of something interesting. Hence this article title: new device may require second reboot. In my rush to set up and learn more about the drive, I was initially surprised to find it absent when I first ran Disk Management (diskmgmt.msc) to get that process going. Then it hit me: maybe it’s not showing up in UEFI.

But to access UEFI, another reboot was required. And by the time i did that, sure enough the device appeared in the list of drives present in the 7080. However, I had to reboot a second time to see the UEFi/BIOS settings and that produced the results I was after.

Why New Device May Require Second Reboot

Sure enough, when I rebooted a third time to get into Windows, the drive appeared in the Disk Management utility. I was able to choose GPT disk layout, and to format the drive as a single contiguous volume named Tosh1TB. It shows up as “Disk 1” in the lead-in graphic for this story, in fact.

What sometimes makes a second boot necessary is the way that UEFI/BIOS supports device enumeration. On many laptops, certain changes to the hardware — especially RAM changes — automatically trigger a trip into the BIOS interface upon the next reboot. This gives admins a chance to make and review config changes before booting back into the OS.

Adding the Kioxia (Toshiba) 1 TB SSD didn’t trigger the UEFI on its own. But when I rebooted and forced a trip into that environment, the Toshiba device (identified as such in BIOS, not as Kioxia) appeared along with the primary SSD. The second trip was enough to see the device recognized in BIOS/UEFI. In turn this made it accessible to Windows when I returned to that environment. That’s how I was able to choose GPT layout, format the drive, and give it the name that appears in the screenshot above. Case closed!

Don’t Panic: Boot Again

If you find yourself in similar straits sometime, try another reboot (or two, actually). That will probably get the device recognized and make it available to Windows. Only if this fails should further troubleshooting be needed.  In that case, I’d start looking into possible SATA lane conflicts next.


So Long Adobe Add-ons Shockwave & Air

At the end of last year, the Adobe Flash Player hit end of life (EOL). Yet today, when I ran the excellent free Patch My PC Updater on one of my test machines, I noted that Adobe Air was still present, plus Shockwave. too. My thought was; “Time to say so long Adobe add-ons Shockwave & Air!” Upon checking into both, my presumption proved valid. When I checked for Adobe elements on my 2012 Vintage X220 Tablet, I found serveral related elements, all of which I’m removing post-haste (see lead-in graphic).

Why say: “So long Adobe Add-ons Shockwave & Air?”

Both Shockwave and Air are at End-of-Life, at least as far as Adobe is concerned. HARMAN International has taken over Adobe Air support. But I hardly ever use this, so I’ve decided to uninstall on PCs where it’s still present. Not surprisingly it’s absent on all of my PCs acquired in 2018 or later, including 2xLenovo X1 Yoga 380, X1 Yoga 390, and X1 Extreme, among others. The free version of Revo Uninstaller is more than equal to this task. That’s why I used it to generate the lead-in screencap for this story, and to remove Air and Shockwave from machines where they’re still hanging ’round.

For the record, uninstalling Air left 2 registry keys and one value behind, as well as 3 files. Revo happily cleaned those up. Shockwave left 1 key with 13 values and no files behind, and took care of two entries (the one I selected, plus another) on its own.

More Info on Air & Shockwave

Read more about the future and status of these Adobe components online. Check out “The future of Adobe AIR” (5/30/2019) and “End of life/…Shockwave Player” (April 9, 2019). Going, going gone, and (hopefully) soon forgotten. Don’t need ’em or want ’em anymore. Sayonara!




Tiny 1TB SSD Toshiba Technology Triumph

Yeah, I know. They’re not called Toshiba anymore. it’s now Kioxia, but Toshiba’s the name on the stick-on label. It’s stuck on a teeny tiny 2230 M.2 SSD I just installed in my Dell Optiplex 7080 Micro SFF PC. And in this case 2230 means it’s a package that measures 22 mm wide and 30 mm tall. It’s not much bigger than an SD card. It’s also reasonably fast and amazingly compact. That’s why I call it a tiny 1TB SSD Toshiba technology triumph.

What Makes for a Tiny 1TB SSD Toshiba Technology Triumph?

It just blows my mind that one can buy a 1TB SSD that’s so darn small. It uses the PCIe Gen3 x4 NVMe 1.3b interface, so it also runs surprisingly fast. The specs page says it runs up to 2.3 GB/sec. I observed speeds of just over 2.0 GB/sec on CrystalDiskMark in the Dell 7080 Micro.

I confess I had to go to eBay to buy this device. In fact, they’re not currently for sale directly to end-users through conventional online outlets. That said, I paid under US$200 for the unit, which I consider an amazing deal given how much demand there is right now for such compact, capacious storage devices.

Seems Rock-Solid, But We’ll See

Having just received it in yesterday’s mail and installed it today, I can’t claim much experience with this unit just yet. Recalling issues with the Sabrent 2242 unit I tried out earlier, I’m reserving judgement. But I am stunned. It’s so small!

I’ve haven’t been this excited about miniaturization since I visited Madurodam in the Hague back in 1964 as a Boy Scout. There was a lot more to see there and then, but this little SSD definitely rocks the storage in today’s world. Stay tuned for more info, stats, and such as I get to know this little powerhouse better with time.

Interestingly, Dell doesn’t provide a hold-down screwport on the 7080 motherboard. I had to tape the drive down with some electrical tape to hold it in position. I have a nut I can superglue to the mobo at some future point instead. I’m still pondering that, as I get to know this device better. Stay tuned for more deets next week!


Using Microsoft Safety Scanner MSERT.exe

With each Patch Tuesday, MS releases a new version of the Malicious Software Removal Tool (MSRT). Just yesterday, I learned about a similar but different tool named Microsoft Safety Scanner (MSERT.exe). At first, I did a double-take to make sure it wasn’t a typo. It’s not, as the Safety Scanner Docs page attests. (Here are live links to the 32-bit and 64-bit downloads mentioned in the lead-in graphic.) Here, I’ll explore what’s involved in using Microsoft Safety Scanner, aka MSERT.exe.

Explanation Precedes Using Microsoft Safety Scanner

MS explains the tool thusly “a scan tool designed to find and remove malware from Windows computers.”  It goes on to says “Simply download it and run a scan to find malware and try to reverse changes made by identified threats.” Like the MSRT, the MS Safety Scanner gets updates and new signatures all the time, so MS recommends that you always download a fresh copy any time you’d like to use it. They also observe that it’s only worth using for 10 days, after which one MUST download a new version.

Here’s how MS describes the MSRT on its download page:

Windows Malicious Software Removal Tool (MSRT) helps keep Windows computers free from prevalent malware. MSRT finds and removes threats and reverses the changes made by these threats. MSRT is generally released monthly as part of Windows Update or as a standalone tool available here for download.

I’ll be darned if I can tell much difference between them. Nor do I see much distinction in third-party coverage. That said, Explorer sees big differences in size between the two, to wit:

Using Microsoft Safety Scanner.sizesNotice that MSERT.exe shows up as itself, while MSRT shows up as KB890830, version 5.87. Because MSRT is released monthly through WU, it apparently keeps the same KB number, but gets a new version number with each release. MSERT is not so readily obliging but does show that information on its Properties/Details page. That’s where I learned that MSERT stands for “Microsoft Support Emergency Response Tool.”

Using Microsoft Safety Scanner.details

Full name plus file version info readily available here.
[Click image for full-sized view.]

Let’s just say this is another tool from MS you can run at your own discretion to check a Windows PC for malware, and attempt cleanup. All this makes me curious to understand why we have access to not one, but two, such tools. Even the best of third-party explanations/explorations tend to be a bit shaky, like this Tom’s Hardware Forums item. Even my home forums community at TenForums is pretty much mum on differences, to my consternation and regret.

Using Microsoft Safety Scanner

The .exe file is portable and runs from anywhere (including the Downloads folder). The Docs don’t say one should run the program as administrator, but I did so anyway. It presents a EULA to which you must agree before it does its thing. Next you get a welcome/disclosure screen:

Click Next, and you get your choice of scan types (quick, full, or customized).

Then, it scans your “most likely compromised” files under quick scan.

On my production PC, the whole process took about 3:00 and produced the following results.

Nothing to see here folks, please move along. A clean bill of health, in other words.

Upon completion,  the log file (named msert.log) shows nothing informative about cleanup or actions taken (probably because it found nothing to clean up). Here’s a NotePad++ view of its contents (click to view full-sized, as it’s a little hard to read in native WordPress resolution):

I’m still not sure if you and I really need this tool or not, but it’s nice to know it’s available on demand should you wish to make a malware scan and clean-up pass over your Windows PC. The whole thing still has me wondering…



Further Windows Explorer Restart Follies

First: an admission. I occasionally have problems with losing access to the Start Menu, and getting Taskbar icons to respond to mouse clicks. I’m pretty sure my troubles are self-inflicted, and come from some interaction with Stardock Software’s Start10. I’ve used some variant of this software since Windows 8 Release Preview emerged in May 2012. Recently, I’ve experienced further Windows Explorer restart follies, as I’ve attempted repair and recovery. That said, the never-fail fix for these symptoms remains “restart Windows Explorer in Task Manager.” In attempting that fix recently, I came a across a new and amusing wrinkle this week. Let me explain…

What Do Further Windows Explorer Restart Follies Entail?

As I mentioned, the fix involves restarting Windows Explorer. When I went to attempt that fix earlier this week, Windows Explorer wasn’t showing under the Apps heading in Task Manager’s Processes view (see lead-in graphic for example). What to do?

You can’t right click something that’s absent to get to the Restart option in the menu shown above. So I did the obvious: I launched an instance of Explorer by clicking its folder icon in the Taskbar. This launched Explorer.exe, and caused the Windows Explorer item to appear where it was needed. Then, it was simple to right-click that entry, pick Restart and forcibly restart the explorer process.

Thankfully, as it always has before, this fixed whatever was wrong with my Taskbar icons and the built-in Start Menu. I’m not sure how long this has been going on. It’s been a while since I last had this problem. But my recollection is that because the Explorer process always runs in the background — it’s necessary to support the Start Menu, Taskbar, Notification Area and Action Center — it used to appear by default under Apps in Task Manager, too. Apparently, that’s no longer the case in 19042 and 19043 builds.

I proceeded from this principle: “If no Windows Explorer shows in Task Manager Apps, then put one there.” That makes it easy to restart. ‘Nuff said.


Three-Key Method Enables Instant Screen Snip

I collect and treasure cool keyboard shortcuts. I just learned a fantastic one, from long-time TenForums Guru @Berton. He rightfully describes himself as a “Win10 User/Fixer.” If you press these three keys together: WinKey+Shift+S you’ll launch the newfangled Snip&Sketch screen capture tool built into Windows 10, ready to capture whatever you like. I say this three-key method enables instant screen snip because there’s no need to launch the app to start the capture process in motion.

Which Three-Key Method Enables Instant Screen Snip?

I have to laugh at myself about picking up this tip from a third party. When you launch Snip & Sketch manually, the default screen that shows up is depicted in the lead-in graphic. There’s the tip, right there! (See above.)

You can launch Snip & Sketch in a variety of other ways, including:

  • from the Search box (typing “Snip &” usually suffices)
  • using the Screen Snip button in Action Center
  • entering explorer ms-screenclip: in the Search or Run boxes, or at any command line interface

What Makes the Three-Key Method Attractive/Useful?

It’s fast, easy, and happens immediately following key sequence entry. Because of my writing work, especiallly on Windows 10 topics, I’m capturing screens all the time. Anything that makes this faster and easier is a good thing for me. Others who labor in similar ways — tech writing or documentation, blogging, articles, and so forth — should find this equally useful.

I’m also giving myself the Homer Simpson “Doh!” award for not attending to the default app window’s poignant and informative message. It reads “Press Windows logo key + Shift + S to snip what’s on your screen without starting Snip & Sketch.” If only I’d thought about this (or tried it out sooner) I could’ve been doing this long ago.

That’s life for me these days in Windows World. I may not be first across the finish line, but I still (mostly) get to where I need to go. Tortoises rock!