Category Archives: Windows 10

Switch Replacement Fixes Network Woes

A few months ago, I found a failing NIC that knocked the network down. Before that, one of my ISP-provided boundary devices started failing. Yesterday, I lost the Ethernet side of my network. That is, the Wi-Fi from the boundary device kept working while the rest of the network crashed. Fortunately, I had a pretty good idea that my primary GbE switch might need replacement and had already ordered one through Dell in July. Even more fortunately, a quick switch replacement fixes network woes, and brings Ethernet back to life.

Literal Switch Replacement Fixes Network Woes

The funny thing is, I’ve been using the same switch in my office since we moved into this house in April 2006. And when I went to re-order, the same switch remains available at a knock-out price of US$40. It’s the venerable Netgear GS-108 unmanaged 8-port GbE switch and it works like a charm. I guess 15-plus years of uninterrupted, heavy-duty service ain’t bad. In fact, I’ve used all 8 ports all the time and that device is as close to a network backbone as the 12-15 devices around our house can access.

The blurb on the NetGear site reads “Set it and forget it, energy-efficient switches are built like tanks and last for decades.” In fact, I can’t remember when I bought the original. I know it must’ve been some time around 1998, when I moved into my previous house. Thus, I’d have to agree with that seeming hyperbole.

Dead-Simple Replacement

I unplugged power jack from the old switch. Then I removed all 8 of the RJ-45 cables plugged into its face (see lead-in graphic). I unpacked the new device, plugged in its power supply, and plugged in the RJ-45 cables. The power light came up, after which the activity LEDs started blinking. Problem solved.

There’s another GS-108 of about the same vintage upstairs under my wife’s desk, where it serves to distribute Ethernet to that floor of the house. I have another replacement in my spares closet, ready to take over for the old one should it fail, too.

How I Knew It Was the Switch, Stupid!

When the Ethernet side of things goes down, it has to be a device that makes the side work. That means it could have been a switch, of which I have 4 on my network. One is in the recently-replaced router/wi-fi/switch device from Spectrum, replaced in June. Another is in my Asus AX6000 wi-fi/switch/router: it’s Wi-Fi was still working so I guessed that meant the switch portion was still working, too. Thus, it was likely one of the two GS-108s. Logic dictated the heavily-used one in my office would be the one to fail first. This time, logic prevailed — or so it seemed.

i’m just glad I had a spare on hand. I’m even gladder that the switch  swap was as simple and painless as I hoped it would be. Sometimes, here in Windows-World one does catch a break. With plenty of real work to do yesterday, I was appropriately grateful.

Or Maybe Not, But Real Cause Emerges Quickly

About two hours after I posted this, my problems returned in full force. That left only one other possible cause: some element in the Ethernet network had to be failing intermittently. I had two prime candidates:

  1. My 8-year-old Surface Pro 3 dock, whose GbE port has been flaky in the past. That wasn’t it.
  2. The cable from my switch to the filing cabinet by the window in my office goes under my desk, where I can’t help but kick that cable occasionally. Apparently, I’ve kicked it often enough to introduce an intermittent short. Now that it’s removed from the network all is once again good.

I guess I can keep my ancient GS-108 Switch around as a spare, because it obviously was NOT the cause. And that’s how it goes when troubleshooting intermittent Ethernet gotchas. Live and learn!

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21H1 Build 19044.1237 Represents Upcoming Release

The last cumulative update for the Release Preview Channel hit Insiders on September 14. In fact, looks like MS put a ribbon around this upcoming 21H2 release. According to deskmodder.de, KB5005565 is as close to final as a preview release can get. Thus, 21H1 Build 19044.1237 represents upcoming release on the Windows 10 track.

Who says: 21H1 Build 19044.1237 Represents Upcoming Release?

Deskmodder. de is an unusually well-informed and highly reliable German website that’s got a great track record for predicting releases. In English, his story headline translates as “Windows 10 21H2: ‘Final’ version will be 19044.1237” (link is to German original). My only dedicated Windows 10 test machine right now is a 2014 vintage Surface Pro 3 (4th gen Intel CPU, 8 GB RAM, 256 GB SSD). It’s the source for the lead-in graphic for this story.

I’m actually thinking about keeping my old 2016-vintage i7-6700K desktop up and running for Windows 10, too. I’ve decided to build my new production desktop in a retired PC’s Antec 900 case. It remains a quiet, capable and useful enclosure, especially as I’ve added a Thunderbolt/USB-C/USB-A 3.1 Gen 2 5.25″ drive bay to that unit. That gives me more and better high-speed ports than the 2010 vintage case itself provides.

Keeping On With Windows 10

Until now, my Windows release tracking strategy has been: follow the latest, abandon the rest. But this time the controversy over hardware requirements tells me a substantial segment of the user population will stay with Windows 10 until the bitter end in October 2025. Thus, it behooves me to keep up with Windows 10 releases and issues on the trailing edge. And of course, I’ll be upgrading the bulk of my fleet (9 PCs: 3 laptops and 6 desktops) to Windows 11.

The deskmodder article airs the speculation that 21H2 may be the last “real upgrade” to the Windows 10 development fork. I’m not sure I agree with that, especially given the similarity between the Win10 and Win11 code bases, and my gut feel for the size of the user base that will stick with the older OS. I’m pretty sure MS will back-port important stuff especially if the sizable and potent base of business users does not jump early and often onto Windows 11.

As I think back on business migration patterns to new Windows OSes, it seems  that 2 years after initial release is when those users really start gearing up. Given that 2025 is still 4 years away, I think Windows 10 will remain dominant in business until 2023. Unless MS comes out with “killer features” that businesses can’t live without beforehand, that’s the way they’ve always done it. So far, I don’t see any compelling reasons why Windows 11 uptake should be any different.

As usual, only time will tell. For the next two years at least, Windows 10 and Windows 11 will very much be parallel efforts, IMHO at least.

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Chrome Software Reporter Tool Monopolizes CPU

After upgrading my Lenovo X12 Hybrid Tablet to Windows 11 Build 22454 , I noticed CPU usage stayed elevated. For a long time, in fact: at least 5 minutes or longer. Checking Task Manager the culprit was obvious. Item software_reporter_tool.exe consumed half or more of available CPU cycles. Upon further investigation, I learned two things. (1) plenty of other people have experienced this. (2) it’s a part of Chrome’s Cleanup toolkit, designed to remove software that could cause potential issues with Chrome. Having just rebooted, Chrome wasn’t even running. But that apparently didn’t stop its background tasks from executing. And that, dear readers, is how I learned that sometimes the Chrome Software Reporter tool monopolizes CPU on Windows PCs.

Do This When Chrome Software Reporter Tool Monopolizes CPU

I found an article from Martin Brinkmann at Ghacks.net about this phenomenon dated January 2018. It provides a battery of potential fixes. These include a variety of blocking techniques based on file permissions, and Chrome policies (via registry hack). I actually found a 2020 Codersera article that offered a more direct approach.

It’s the one I implemented, and it’s working well so far:
1. Open Chrome controls (vertical ellipsis symbol at upper left of browser window).
2. Click “Settings” resulting pop-up menu
3. Click down-arrow next to “Advanced” near bottom of that window.
4. Scroll down to “System” section and turn off item that reads “Continue running background apps when Google Chrome is closed” (move slider to left).

That should do it. At least, it seems to have worked for me: I haven’t seen any recurrences since I made this configuration change.

When Odd Processes Stand Out, Research Helps

This technique is a familiar one to those keep an eye on Windows performance. It’s often a good way to start digging into slowdowns like the one I ran into last week. I generally try to rely on well-known and -respected resources when it comes to fixes (if not the maker or vendor’s own tech support info). But usually, when there’s a will to fix such things, a way to fix them can be found.

If worst comes to worst (and I have a recent backup) I might even right-click the offending process and select “End process tree” to see what happens. Please note: don’t do this with Windows OS components, or you’re likely to experience a BSOD. ‘Nuff said.

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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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Out-of-spec PCs Lose Windows 11 Eligibility

We knew it was coming, but not when it would come. Just today (September 1) out-of-spec PCs participating in the Dev or Beta Insider Preview channels found out. They’re seeing a “Sayonara” message in Windows Update, Windows Insider Program settings pages. The lead-in graphic above shows what that says, as out-of-spec PCs lose Windows 11 eligibility.

Why Do Out-of-spec PCs Lose Windows 11 Eligibility?

It’s a matter of MS policy, based on a desire to boost security for users of the new OS . It also means MS can count on more advanced graphics functionality, 64-bit operation, and other odds and ends designed to improve the overall user experience.

In a recent Tweet, Paul Thurrott summed this up humorously as “Thanks for Testing Windows 11, Now Leave…” Senior Program Manager of the Windows Insider Team at MS Brandon LeBlanc responded with “We communicated this would be the case back via this blog post on June 24th…” (Note: I’ve provided links to both tweets and that blog post so readers can see for themselves what’s at issue.)

I Hate to Say It, But “I told you so!”

Just the other day I raised the question of why somebody would want to push their luck on an out-of-spec PC when updates could go bye-bye at any time. I have refused to play that game wishing to avoid the uncertainties involved. Now those crows have come home to roost. Good thing I’m still planning to refresh the hardware on my production PC before October 5 to make it fully compliant, eh?

Sure, it’s fun to try to run a new OS on old hardware. At TenForums, for example, the Let’s run Win10 on really really old hardware thread currently runs to 93 pages, with a total of 928 posted items therein. People obviously enjoy this kind of challenge. But MS is forcibly asserting that those who want to mine this vein will have to do so without support from the company, including access to Windows Update. I predict this is going to get a lot more interesting in the months ahead, as creative people purposely beat their heads against a wall somewhere “because it feels so good when they stop!”

And indeed, that’s life for a certain obsessed element of the population here in Windows World. Why else would one find ongoing stories about running Windows 10 (and even 11) on now-ancient Windows Phones (e.g. this Lumia 950 XL item at The Verge)? Good for them, but this is not my thing, not by a long shot!

Note Added September 2

Windows Insider Program Manager Brandon LeBlanc has clarified that out-of-spec PC will receive CUs until October 5, but no further upgrades to new Windows 11 versions. On and after that date, out-of-spec PCs running Windows 11 will be asked to downgrade to the Windows 10 Insider Preview Release Preview channel via a clean install of the appropriate OS image.

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Windows 11 Release Commences October 5

It’s not often I’ll just lift a headline from the Windows Blogs as my lead graphic. But today is a notable and valid exception. You can read Microsoft’s own words on this for yourself: Windows 11 available on October 5. The biggest take-aways from this promise are pretty interesting. But when Windows 11 release commences October 5, I suspect we’ll be learning more about what all this really means.

Windows 11 Release Commences October 5 via Trickle-Out

As with other Windows feature upgrades in recent memory (back to 1909 and perhaps earlier), WU will offer the upgrade to the safest machines first. Over time, it will expand the scope of its offer. But that offer will NOT include machines that don’t meet Windows 11 system requirements. In fact, here’s what WU tells me on my Insider Preview Surface Pro 3 under the Windows Insider Program heading:

Windows 11 Release Commences October 5.SP3-WU

With its 4th-generation Intel CPU, the Surface Pro 3 does not meet Windows 11 CPU requirements.

WU Should Provide Upgrade Status Info to All

By the time October 5 rolls around — usually called the GA date (for General Availability) — some broader Cumulative Update (CU) will add compatibility checks to all older and still supported Windows releases. These will inform users about their PC’s eligibility for a Windows 11 upgrade. I imagine the language will be same as in the 21H2 Insider Preview screencap shown above.

I guess it’s nice to know that GA is coming soon. As I write this post, it’s exactly 32 days in the offing. I need to accelerate my production desktop refresh plans. I imagine I’ll order those parts today. Just another glorious day, here in Windows-World!

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HDD Still Claims Price-Performance 2.5″ Crown

For laptops and portable applications, 2.5″ drives still rule. Once upon a time, hard disk drives (HDDs) owned this space, both in terms of capacity and price performance. But with a 2.5″ 8TB Samsung QVO drive readily available on Newegg for US$700, HDDs no longer own the capacity crown for this space. But 8TB for $700 translates into US$87.50 per TB. The same outlet offers the 5 TB 2.5″ Seagate Barracuda for US$147.59, or US$29.52 per TB. That’s nearly 3 times lower on a per-TB cost basis (2.96 to be more precise). And that’s why HDD still claims price-performance 2.5″ crown.

How HDD Still Claims Price-Performance 2.5″ Crown

Why do mechanical hard drives still deliver better price-performance than SSDs? Because of the costs of materials and manufacturing. HDD manufacture is a mature industry and does not depend on riding the curve for IC mask sizes, scaling and so forth. SDDs on the other hand are made of chips, and that’s a challenging technology wave to ride, and a very competitive marketplace in which to compete right now. Chip shortages may not last forever, but they affect all chip-dependent industries right now, including SSDs.

That said, the form factor on the Seagate 5TB drive is outside the envelope for use inside many laptops (its 15mm height makes it “too fat” to fit; ditto for most external USB-A or USB-C drive enclosures). I’ve owned a couple of these drives and they make excellent backup and external storage devices for the half-dozen-plus laptops I keep around. A 2TB Samsung QVO goes for US$170, and is only 7mm tall (as are all capacities in this line). Thus “laptop suitability” also goes to the more expensive SSD drives.

The Tide Is Turning Toward SSDs

As far as laptops and tablets go, I don’t see much future for HDDs any more. At best, they will make useful portable or compact external storage units for mobile use. Inside the laptop itself, though — except for so-called “portable workstations” — there’s little room for drives that can’t max out capacity in the 7mm 2.5″ form factor. I guess one can hope for a next-gen technology breakthrough in platter density that will let HDDs catch back up with flash RAM chips. But I’m not holding my breath waiting for that, either. IMO the future — even for storage — is entirely solid state, not mechanical.

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GPU Buying Circus Resumes Briefly

Those who need to know were probably already paying attention. Those who don’t, however, may find this story to be an odd mix of bemusement and horror. Around midnight last night, would-be GPU owners looking for reasonable prices started lining up at Best Buy outlets around the USA. At 7:30 this morning, the company started handing out tickets to the first 100-200 people in line. What were these people lining up for? The latest installment, as the GPU buying circus resumes briefly — long enough for the company to sell through its allotment of 17,000 30xx GPUs. Models include 3070, 3080 and even a few of the seldom-seen 3090s.

Why and How the GPU Buying Circus Resumes Briefly

Every now and then Nvidia teams up with Best Buy to release a fixed lot of graphics cards for sale to the public. These may be purchased at the maker’s MSRP. Otherwise, GPUs available for purchase through typical outlets — Newegg, Amazon, CDW and so forth — routinely sell for 2 or more times those prices. On eBay, the multipliers get even larger.

Why is this happening? There’s still a shortage of GPUs on the marketplace even though China has basically shut down its mostly coal-powered coin-mining operations. Those operations have moved elsewhere — some even to the USA — and are still buying huge numbers of GPUs. By holding these sales at Best Buy from time to time, Nvidia is helping a small percentage of gamers and PC enthusiasts buy equipment that’s otherwise too pricey to contemplate.

Why Am I Telling You This?

I’ve written recently about upgrading one of my desktops to a Ryzen 5800X CPU on an Asrock B550 Extreme4 motherboard, with 64 GB RAM, a fast NVMe SSD, and so forth. What’s missing from this configuration is the GeForce 3070 or 3070 Ti that would typically be part of such a refresh. I’ve got a second machine I’ll be rebuilding in similar fashion before the end of September.

Right now, I’m running older Nvidia GeForce 1070 Ti models on both of those PCs. (FWIW, these sell for US$800 on Newegg right now; I paid about US$400 for them 5-6 years ago.) I had briefly considered leaving the house at 4 AM this morning to line up for a shot at a card at my local Best Buy. But then I realized that if I’m not willing to wait 6 hours in line for Aaron Franklin’s world-class BBQ here in Austin, I’m not willing to do likewise for a GPU, either. It’ll just have to wait. Prices should come down sometime in the next 6-12 months. Or, I’ll wait for a windfall of some kind, hold my nose, and pay US$1,400 for a GPU that should cost US$600. Two of them, in fact. Sigh, and sigh again.

Note: Here’s a shout-out to Tom’s Hardware (for whom I write regularly about Windows OS topics) whose story clued me into this circus: Best Buy Restocks 17,000 Nvidia RTX 30 Series GPUs Tomorrow, August 26. It’s what prompted me to write this story.

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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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New BIOS Defaults Target Windows 11

In the process of bringing up a B550 motherboard with AMD Ryzen 5800X CPU, I found myself wondering about Windows 11 hardware requirements. Specifically about Secure Boot and TPM 2.0 support, both mandatory to meet those requirements. Looks like Asrock, and probably other mobo makers, are thinking along those lines, too. On August 6, that company released version 2.10, in which that new BIOS defaults target Windows 11. The lead-in graphic specifically states “Enable AMD CPU fTPM in BIOS default.”

Things Get Easier When New BIOS Defaults Target Windows 11

Before flashing the mobo to the new BIOS I’d started messing with the firmware TPM (fTPM) settings therein. Amusingly, to flash the BIOS one must first disable fTPM settings. More comforting, the post-update version enables fTPM by default and no longer requires such contortions for subsequent re-flash operations.

I just learned some new and interesting factoids about the Ryzen 5800X CPU — namely:

  • The part has a TDP of 105W, well within my new build’s power budget of 750W.
  • The part runs a Vermeer core at 3.8 GHz with 4MB of cache.
  • Memory speeds of up to 3200 MBps DDR4 are supported. I purchased 2667 to save a little on cost.

When to Take the Upgrade Plunge

The current build is running Windows 10 21H1 Build 19043.1165. I plan to keep it at the current Windows 10 production build level until MS formally releases Windows 11 upgrades via WU. If this PC doesn’t get an offer by the time an official ISO appears, I’ll download same and forcibly upgrade that PC through an in-place upgrade. I paid good money to make the machine ready for Windows 11. Thus, I want to take it to Windows 11 as soon as a production version is available.

Next, I’ll be planning my own production desktop upgrade. Before bringing the 5800X/B550 build up, I’d been thinking about taking the other desktop down the Intel upgrade path. But now, seeing how fast and fluidly this system runs, I’m increasingly inclined to do the same thing again inside my bigger Rosewill Blackhawk case. I still have a month or so in which to make my buy. Count on me to keep you posted in the interim. Cheers!

New BIOS Defaults Target Windows 11.WnyNot11

Output from the WhyNotWin11 program after flashing the BIOS shows the system 100% ready for Windows 11.
[Click image for full-sized view.]

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