Category Archives: Windows 10

Flash Drive Goes Incredibly Slowly

Here’ s an interesting item. Last week, when trying to troubleshoot the graphics driver on the Lenovo P360 Ultra SFF PC, I ran into an interesting follow-on issue. I decided to copy the “old driver” file to a flash drive to take it upstairs where the unit lives (networking issues temporarily kept me from using RDP, as is my more typical practice). And gosh, I couldn’t help but notice my Mushkin Atom flash drive goes incredibly slowly when copying that 649K file.  The deets, courtesy of File Explorer, provide the lead-in graphic for this story.

If Flash Drive Goes Incredibly Slowly, Then What?

Just for grins, I plugged in an older USB3 mSATA device and copied the target file again. Despite its antique vintage (2014 or thereabouts) it beat the snot out of the flash drive. As you can see in the next screencap, it achieved a data rate of 236 MB/sec. That’s a whale of a lot faster than the paltry 12.5 MB/sec shown in the lead-in graphic.

Flash Drive Goes Incredibly Slowly.copy-speed

The SSD-based USB device is more than 18 times faster than the flash-based device. Wow!

What does this say? It says that older mSATA SSDs are worth keeping as a much speedier alternative to flash drives. Back when I bought the Sabrent enclosures in which my 3 mSATA drives are housed — I have one each 256, 512 and 1,024 MB devices — I paid US$60 or thereabouts to buy them. Now, you can pick them up at Amazon for US$14.

Flash Drive Goes Incredibly Slowly.msata-device

For US$14, you can move files around a whole lot faster!

To me, that’s money incredibly well spent, given the half-dozen or so mSATA drives I still have kicking around here. If you’ve got one or more sitting idle, this would be a smart buy for you, too.

Note Added 2 Hrs Later: Cheaper Than Flash!

You can buy a 256GB mSATA SSD for under US$30 right now. That makes the total price around US$45 for enclosure and drive. That’s about 3X what you’ll pay for a 128 GB flash drive, and less than some “faster” 256 GB flash drives cost. To me, this argues even more strongly that this is a good way to boost your USB storage arsenal without breaking the bank.

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Thunderbolt Software Upgrade Strategy

At first I thought “Catch-22.” Those using PCs old enough to run Intel’s Thunderbolt Software have reason to ponder Heller’s famous catch. An updated replacement — namely, Thunderbolt Control Center — is available from the Microsoft Store. But if you run Thunderbolt Software, it doesn’t show up there. Nor is there an easy upgrade path. That’s why, in fact, I had to come with a Thunderbolt Software upgrade strategy.

Finding a Thunderbolt Software Upgrade Strategy

All I can say is “I got lucky.” I chose as my search string to dig into this topic “Thunderbolt Software vs. Thunderbolt Control Center.” It immediately struck gold in a Forum post from Mac/PC oriented website egpu.io. There, those same terms appeared in inverted order.

There’s a trick involved in making this upgrade. It works as follows: if one downloads newer DCH drivers for the Thunderbolt device in DevMgr → System Devices, updating that driver causes Windows 11 (or 10, for that matter) to update the related software automatically. It’s actually pretty easy. I’m going to upgrade my remaining holdover system (one of my Lenovo X380 Yogas, acquired in late 2018) and take you through the steps involved.

NOTE:For a Thunderbolt device to show up in DevMgr, you may need to plug in an actual Thunderbolt or USB4 device. That’s what I had to do on each of my three 2018 vintage systems that needed this upgrade.

Making the Transition, Step-by-Step

Step 1: Visit this Intel Download page and download the ZIP file available there. Don’t be put off by the NUC notation: I’ve run in on a Yoga 380 and an X1 Extreme, and it worked on both systems. It seems to work on any Intel Thunderbolt controller.

Step 2: Unzip the file into a target directory. I named mine TBdev to make it easy to identify.

Thunderbolt Software Upgrade Strategy.unzipped

Contents of the ZIP file in the V:\TBdev folder. The INF folder is where the action will be.

Step 3: Open DevMgr, navigate to the Thunderbolt controller, right-click, and pick “Update driver.” In the resulting pop-up window, pick “Browse my computer for drivers “(lower item). Browse to your TBdev\INF folder, as shown here, then click “Next.”

Click “Next” and the driver should update itself from the various files in the INF folder.

If this process succeeds, you’ll see something like the following Window appear.

Guess what? If this worked, you’re finished. Windows will now visit the MS Store on its own and install the Thunderbolt Control Center app for you. Until you next reboot your PC, you’ll see both the old software and the new side-by-side if you type “Thu” into the Windows 11 (or 10) search box:

Old (Thunderbolt software) on the left, new (Thunderbolt Control Center) on the right. Only TCC will work, tho…

After the next reboot, Thunderbolt Software no longer appears. Case closed!

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Thinking About Windows 10/11 SSDs

I’m still busy benchmarking away on the two Thunderbolt4/USB4 PCs that Lenovo has recently sent my way. But as I’ve been doing so, I’ve been thinking about Windows 10/11 SSDs in general. On that path, I’ve realized certain principles that I’d like to share with you, dear readers.

I’m spurred in part to these statements from a sponsored (and pretty contrived) story from MSPowerUser entitled “Is NVMe a Good Choice for Gamers?” My instant response, without reading the story — which actually focuses on storage media beyond the boot/system drive — was “Yes, as much as you can afford.” Spoiler alert: that’s what the story says, too.

Where Thinking About Windows 10/11 SSDs Leads….

Here are some storage media principles that flow from making the most of a new PC investment.

  1. The more you spend on a PC, the more worthwhile it is to also spend more on NVMe storage.
  2. Right now, PCIe Gen4 drives run about 2X the speed of PCIe Gen3 drives. They don’t cost quite twice as much. Simple economics says: buy the fastest NVMe technology your PC will support.
  3. Buy as much NVMe storage as you can afford (or force yourself to spend). For pre-built PCs and laptops, you may want to buy NVMe on the aftermarket, rather than get the drives pre-installed. Markup on NVMe drives can be painful. Hint: I use Tom’s Hardware to keep up with price/performance info on NVMe SSDs and other PC components (it’s also the source for the lead-in graphic for this story, which still prominently displays the now-passe Intel Optane as an SSD option. Caveat emptor!).
  4. Corollary to the preceding point: fill every M.2 slot you can in your build. For both my recent Lenovo loaners — the P360 Ultra and the P16 Mobile Workstation — that means populating both slots with up to 4TB each. Right now, the Kingston KC3000 looks like a 4TB best buy of sorts.

Thinking Further (and Outside the Box)

More thoughts in this vein, with an eye toward external drives and multi-tiered storage (archives and extra backups):

  1. If you’re going to put an NVMe SSD in an external enclosure, you will be OK for the time being in a USB 3.2 rather than a USB 4 enclosure. Right now, the newer enclosures cost more than twice as much but don’t deliver anywhere near 2x the speed (except on synthetic benchmarks — I used C: imaging times as a more reliable indicator). Over time this will no doubt change, and I’ll keep an eye on that, too.
  2. I don’t consider spinners (conventional mechanical hard disk drives, or HDDs) any more, except for archival and inactive storage. If I need something for work or play, it goes on an SSD. If I might need something, someday (or to restore same) then it’s ok on an HDD.

I used to restrain spending on NVMe SSDs because of its high price differential. I’m now inclined to believe that restraint is a false economy and forces less productivity as a result. That’s why I’m rethinking my philosophy. I haven’t quite yet gotten to Les Blanc’s famous dictum (“Spend It All”) but I am coming around to “Spend As Much as You Can”…

Remember This Fundamental Assumption, Tho…

My reasoning aims at high-end PCs where users run data-, graphics-, and/or compute-intensive workloads. It does not apply, therefore, to home, hobbyist, and low-end office users. For them typical productivity apps  (e.g. MS Office or equivalent), email, web browsing and so forth predominate. They wouldn’t need, nor benefit much from, buying lots of fast NVMe storage. That said, a 1 TB fast-as-possible NVMe for the boot/system drive is the baseline. Other storage options will balance themselves against budget to dictate other choices and PC builds for such users.

In different terms, if you’re not maxing out your PC running data analytics, 3D models and other high-end graphics rendering, or AI or machine learning stuff, this advice is most likely overkill. Too, too costly. But for this user community, more spent on NVMe (and GPUs and memory as well) will repay itself with increased productivity. ‘Nuff said.

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Accidental Pause Kills In-Process Updates

I just learned something I didn’t really want to know. I “oopsed” my way into pausing updates on a Dev Channel test PC this morning. As I did so, the download for Build 25201 was underway, as was the install for KB5017257 (CU for .NET 3.5 and 4.8.1). Alas, this accidental pause kills in-process updates. Thus, I had to restart to apply all the other stuff that had finished, then un-pause updates. Next, I had to redownload Build 25201. Both installed correctly, and another reboot finished the job.

Living with Accidental Pause Kills In-Process Updates

Oh well. If that’s the worst thing that happens to me today, it will still be a good day. What I didn’t know was that in-process items would come to a screeching halt. That’s because I’d never accidentally clicked “Pause for 1 week” during the update process before. Sigh.

Hopefully, alert readers can profit from my mistake without having to learn the hard way for themselves. Tip: stay away from the “Pause…” button while updates are in process. That’s the best way I can think of to skip the whole learning experience entirely.

Compounding the Mistake…

Because I hadn’t yet applied last week’s Patch Tuesday updates to the affected machine, as well as pending Dev Channel build 25201, this was a pretty big update cycle for that machine. I count 1 driver update, 2 Definition updates, and 3 “Other” updates among that number, as well as the items already recited.

But alas, that’s the way things sometimes go in Windows World. Fumble fingers got me pretty good this time. Hopefully, we’ll all be exempt from this particular gotcha going forward. Sigh.

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Exploring TB4/USB4 Backup Speeds

OK, then. I’m starting to dig into the capabilities of my new loaner SFF Lenovo P360 Ultra PC. It’s a beast, especially for such a small package (3.4 x 8.7 x 7.9″, 87 x 223 x 202 mm, weight 4.4lb/2.0 kg). Right now I’m giving the front USB-C ports a workout, and exploring TB4/USB4 backup speeds. They’re amazing.

Exploring TB4/USB4 Backup Speeds.f&rview

About the preceding graphic. It shows a front and rear view of the P360 chassis. Here’s what those numbered items convey:

1. Power switch (on/off)
2. Audio/headphone jack
3. USB 3.1 Gen 2 Type A port
4. 2 x Thunderbolt4/USB 3.1 Gen 2 Type C ports
5. Wi-Fi antenna mount
6. 2.5 GbE wired network (RJ-45)
7. 1.0 GbE wired network (RJ-45)
8. 4 x miniDP GPU (connects to Nvidia GPU)
9.  Chassis latch release
10. 3 x full-size DP GPU (connects to on-chip Intel GPU)
11. 4 x USB 3.1 Gen 2 Type A ports
12.  Optional PCIe card slot/port
13. Power in from 300W power brick

What Exploring TB4/USB4 Backup Speeds Says

First things first: I ran comparatives using CrystalDiskMark on a set of different NVMe enclosures with their own drives, as follows:

Enclosure                NVMe SSD              Price (Date)
======================   ==================    ==============
Sabrent NVMe PCIe x1.3   ADATA XPG 256GB       US$ 60  (2019)
Puhui USB 3.1 USB-C      Samsung OEM 512GB     US$ 30  (2022)
Konyead M.2 TB4/USB4     Rocket 4 Plus 1TB     US$162  (2022)

I didn’t get a lot of useful data out of that comparison, though the numbers for all three devices increase their readings down the preceding list. The final item shows most readings between 2x and 3x those for the first item. However, I decided to compare backup results for all three setups, working through a brand-new Belkin Pro Thunderbolt 4 Dock.

The results turn out to be a bit of a good new/bad news scenario.  New TB4/USB4 NVMe enclosures are still punishingly expensive. Performance results from backup show them not yet worth the $132 differential vis-a-vis a cheap0 USB 3 3.1 Gen2 version. About the only thing they can do right now, as far as I can tell, is bring up the “USB 4.0 SSD” label in the Thunderbolt Control Center, as shown in the lead-in graphic.

Big Price Diffs Don’t Translate to Performance

Here’s a table of backup times from Macrium Reflect Free to the three drives, listed by Enclosure name (consult previous table for more info on innards):

Enclosure                Backup (times)
======================   ==============
Sabrent NVMe PCIe x1.3     162 (2:42)
Puhui USB 3.1 USB-C        131 (2:11)
Konyead M.2 TB4/USB4       132 (2:12)

While there’s a 31/32 second difference (about 20%) between the older Sabrent enclosure and the two newer ones, there’s so little difference (1 second) between the other two that I’m sure that falls in the margin of measurement error one would expect.

What’s interesting here is that these backup speeds — even on the slowest/oldest device — are about twice as fast as on my other, similarly loaded test machines (which top out at USB 3.1 Gen 2). That tells me for those who do a lot of backing up, video editing, or other data intensive stuff there’s some real benefit to be gained from investing in TB4/USB4 ports and devices.

Lessons Learned

What lessons do I draw from this experiment? Glad you asked! Here’s a list:

  • It’s definitely worth adding an interface to older desktops to support TB4/USB4 for the speed bump it provides.
  • This new technology provides a “speed reason” to consider buying in on a newer laptop or PC.
  • Newer, more expensive TB4/USB4 NVMe enclosures may not be worth the added cost as compared to USB 3.1 Gen 2/TB3 counterparts.
  • From what I’m reading, it’s a good idea to use as short a USB4/TB4 rated cable as possible.
  • It’s also best to hook the NVMe enclosure directly to the PC if you can (going through the dock reduced performance by about 5% overall)

A terrific experiment, and a  great learning lesson, too. Thanks to the nice folks at Belkin and Lenovo who made their gear available to me.

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RDP Mystery Finally Resolved

For years now, I’ve wondered why some of my RDP connections work only some of the time. Now I know why, and it’s provokes a Homer Simpson response “Doh!” Now that I’m done laughing at myself, let me explain how I got that RDP mystery finally resolved.

I was working with my various Thunderbolt docks this weekend, and I noticed that a previously not-working RDP connection started working again. Turns out that of necessity devices with both GbE and Wi-Fi adapters have separate and distinct IP addresses for each such adapter. Therein lies the key to the mystery, as shown in the lead-in graphic.

Explaining How RDP Mystery Finally Resolved Itself

This all started when I had to move my X12Hybrid dock upstairs. When I disconnected from the dock, and its GbE connection, the RDP connection defined for X12Hybrid (also the machine name used in RDP) resumed working. Then it hit me: because the GbE connection uses a different IP address from the Wi-Fi connection, my RDP definition works only when the IP address it knows about matches the address actually in use. Again: “Doh!”

You can see this clearly in the dual windows shown in the lead-in graphic. PowerShell is in top position, and shows that nslookup stores the IP address associated with the Wi-Fi interface (192.168.1.20). But when I plug the GbE interface in, it takes a different address instead. That private IP address ends with .39, as shown in the NetBScanner window at bottom of the same graphic.

How to Adapt to Changing Connections

The primary router on my local network is an Arris model: it comes from Spectrum as part of its Internet connection and services. I’ve not figured out how to forcibly reset its address tables for DNS lookups on Windows machine names. Instead, I use NirSoft NetBScanner when an RDP connection fails and enter the correct IP address instead of machine name in its “Computer” data field. This works every time.

By observation, it looks like this data updates every 24 hours or so. If I leave the RDP connection unchanged (no switch from Wi-Fi to GbE, or vice-versa) over that interval, nslookup eventually matches the current address. But at least I now know why this is happening, and why using the IP address for the NIC in use fixes the issue.

That’s the way things go here in Windows World, where I still manage to surprise myself by  relearning the obvious. Sigh.

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USB-C Port Choice Really Matters

Here’s an interesting discovery. Or maybe it should be called a “realization.” Yesterday, upon trying out my new Belkin and CalDigit Thunderbolt 4 docks, I learned that USB-C port choice really matters. In fact, my reported GbE issues with the Belkin Thunderbolt 3 port are probably related. Please: let me explain…

Why USB-C Port Choice Really Matters

Simply put, if you plug a dock into the upper USB-C port in the Lenovo X12 hybrid laptop it works as it should. Plug it into the lower USB-C port and the GbE connection disappears. Also, the device does not show up in the Thunderbolt Control Center app, either.

More details:

  • The Ethernet controller built into the CalDigit unit depicted in the lead in graphic is an Intel I225-LMvP. When the unit is plugged into the upper USB-C port it appears in Device Manager. If plugged into the lower USB-C port it does not.

  • When I plug the dock into the lower USB-C port, it vanishes from Thunderbolt Control Center, which then shows no attached devices. Interestingly, Windows still finds attached storage devices. But wired networking through the dock no longer works.

Extremely interesting!

What Does It All Mean, Mr. Wizard?

What it means is that on this Lenovo model, only one of its two USB-C ports also supports Thunderbolt (and it’s version 4, interestingly enough). Here’s my clue from the product family specifications page, which reads as follows under “Ports/Slots”:

    • USB 4 Type-C with Thunderbolt™ 4 (DisplayPort, Power Delivery and Data Transfer)
    • USB 3.2 Gen 2 Type-C

The reason why storage keeps working, but why networking and video — and presumably  other high-bandwidth connections — do not, is because Thunderbolt support is required for such things. If I’d still had a monitor attached to the X12 (I sent it off to school with my son) I might have figured this out faster. But now I know . . . and so do you! And it goes to show that sometimes, where you plug in really matters, even if the “gozintas” look the same.

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Inspecting Travel Cable Bag Contents

OK then, we’re sending my son off to college where he will have both a portable laptop (going with him) and a more powerful desktop (shipped in advance). Inspecting travel cable bag contents to take inventory, I find the following items:

  • 2 2.4 Amp iclever dual USB port wall chargers
  • 2 USB-A to lightning cables, 10 ft
  • 1 USB-A to lightning cable, 2 ft
  • 1 USB-A to USB-C cable, 2 ft
  • 1 USB-C to USB-C cable, 2ft (for next item)
  • Sabrent USB-C NVMe drive enclosure PCIe x.3
  • 1 RJ-45 Cat6e network cable, 6 ft

The whole thing weighs in at 795g (1 lb 12 oz). It fits nicely in the front pouch of my soft-sided Targus computer briefcase when we go on the road. I bought a duplicate for the boy to take with him to school.

After Inspecting Travel Cable Bag Contents…

We’re usually charging stuff — phones, mostly — until we go out the door, so the cable bag is one of the last items to go into my briefcase. Please note: the image serving as the lead-in graphic obviously belongs to an Apple-head. While we do all have iPhones (and thus, lightning cables) the rest of our stuff is Windows centric. So the picture doesn’t show the local story. I just grabbed it from Amazon for eye-candy.

This time out, the travel briefcase will start out with 3 laptops: my work unit, another for other family members, and the laptop for school use. Those items are, respectively:

  • A Lenovo X1 Extreme, i7 32 GB RAM, 1.5 TB across 2 SSDs
  • A Lenovo Yoga 7i 14″, 16 GB RAM, 1 TB SSD
  • A Lenovo X390 Yoga, 16 GB RAM, 1 TB SSD

It will probably make the TSA guys wonder why we need 3 laptops when we transit the x-ray machine tomorrow. It is what it is, and I’ll just have to tote the weight until we can do a little lightening when the boy heads off to his dorm on Sunday. Please: wish us all luck! Some of us may need it more than others, but you can never have too much…

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Realtek Audio Console Goes MIA

There are two flavors of Realtek Audio drivers for Windows 10 and 11. The most prevalent are the High Definition Audio (or HDA) drivers. The less prevalent but slightly more capable are the Universal Audio Drivers (UAD). Confusingly, these show up in Device Manager as Realtek(R) Audio. More properly that would be Realtek® Audio, but DevMgr apparently doesn’t do metacharacters like the registered trademark symbol (®). Whatever you call it, the Realtek Audio Console Goes MIA in the MS Store.

Knowing When Realtek Audio Console Goes MIA

One used to be able to access this app through the Microsoft Store. No longer. Confusingly, the app says Realtek Audio Console in its title bar, but the Store listed it as Realtek Audio Control. Thus, for example, if you visit it at MajorGeeks.com (a usually safe and reliable download source), its Microsoft Store download link is broken. Likewise, a direct search at the Store produces no results. Ditto for a search at the Realtek downloads page.

Thus it looks to me that it’s at least possible that Realtek is de-emphasizing the UAD side of its audio drivers. In the absence of statements of direction or intent, it’s only possible to speculate. But it looks to me like UAD drivers and the app console may be orphaned, and no longer supported.

A Driver Search May Tell…

In looking at UAD drivers for Realtek, I see only Nahimic variants for the last half-dozen versions at Station-Drivers.com. None of these work with the plain vanilla FF00 audio codecs on my now-aging Z170 Skylake motherboard. I do have a B500 AMD rig that supports this Nahimic stuff, though.  In a couple of weeks, I’ll probe this mystery further and see if the Audio Console is available (and working) for that set-up.

Right now, I have a working UAD set-up with drivers that are now about a year old (version 9215.1, dated 8/3/2021). I have been unable to find any newer variants that work. Ditto for a newer version of the Realtek Audio Console (or Control). Very interesting!

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Exploit Winget Include Unknown Syntax

For the past couple of years I’ve been learning — and using — the Microsoft package manager, Winget, It helps me keep my PC apps updated. Just recently, I’ve learned to exploit Winget include unknown syntax to broaden its coverage. Basically, this will “upgrade packages even if their current version cannot be determined.” That quote comes from the upgrade command section of the MS Winget documentation.

How to Exploit Winget Include Unknown Syntax

First, that syntax couldn’t be simpler: just add the string
--include-unknown
to the usual invocation for winget . For the record that’s
winget upgrade --all
. This tells the program to apply upgrades for all packages with known versions. You can see this at work in the lead-in graphic for this story, in fact. Chrome shows up when unknowns are included, but not otherwise. (Compare top and bottom sections, or view the image full sized by clicking the following thumbnail.)

Exploit Winget Include Unknown Syntax
Exploit Winget Include Unknown Syntax

The difference between the unadorned “all” version of Winget upgrade and the one with unknowns included applies in large part to applications like Kindle, Chrome, Firefox, and more, which apparently do not report their current version numbers either consistently or well to Winget during its initial survey phase.

This addition to the command finds those things and attempts to upgrade them. Certain apps — most notably Teams — will not work with this tool because of version mismatches (and the prudent decision not to overwrite versions outside the same version tree). But this does improve its overall coverage. That lowers the number of apps and applications I must update manually. To me — and to you, too, I bet — that’s a good thing!

Note: Winget works in PowerShell with equal facility for both Windows 10 and Windows 11. It’s become one of my go-to tools for keeping my small fleet of PCs (currently numbered 12, with 2 going off to college with my son soon) up to date.

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