Here’s an interesting issue — and another reason why I’m abandoning Norton security after I get my new PC built. I just tried to update CrystalDiskInfo and I couldn’t make it work. Norton data protection prevented the installer from — of all things — deleting old .bmp files for icons and graphics, to replace them with new ones. Even after I turned everything in Norton off for which it provides controls, the &*%$$ program still got in the way. Then it occurred to me: when security stymies update remove and reinstall still works. So that’s what I did, and that’s how I got it to work. Sheesh!
When Security Stymies Update Remove and Reinstall for New Version
Because update operations wouldn’t proceed even after disabling the auto-protect, firewall, and AV functions (see lead-in graphic), I was faced with two alternatives. First, I could completely uninstall Norton and then update. Or second, I could uninstall the old CrystalDiskInfo version, and then cleanly install the new one. Because it was so much less time and labor intensive to undertake the latter, that’s what I did.
But man! I *HATE* it when security software gets in the way of authorized, valid update behavior and I can’t make it stop. By itself, that’s enough to have pushed me to get rid of Norton. But I’d already planned to do that anyway. I still use the password manager (which is a pretty good one), but I have no use any longer for the rest of the suite.
It just goes to show you: when it comes to maintaining Windows PCs, there’s always something lurking in the background ready to strike. This time, I got stung just a little. But sometimes, workarounds are less obvious, or less easy to find and apply. This time, I got lucky…
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?
OK, then: it’s finally making its way into the general Windows user population. I’m a zealous advocate of Paramount Software UK Ltd’s excellent Macrium Reflect Free backup/restore tool. Over the past 10 days or so, the company has now up-versioned that Free version from 7 to 8. This week, Macrium 8 Free makes normal upgrade appearance, via the tool’s built-in update facility. In fact, the lead-in graphic for this story shows a Notification that an 8-version update is available.
Good News for 7 Users: Macrium 8 Free Makes Normal Upgrade Appearance
A Macrium Reflect 8 Free download has been available for some time now through Softonic. It also showed up on the Macrium site a couple of weeks ago. But this development is nicer, because it means Reflect 7 users get an upgrade to Version 8 without requiring them to find, download and install the new version manually. Now, it’s simply part of the program’s own routine upgrade behavior.
For most users, the Free version is all they’ll ever need for home or small office use. Note: the commercial Free license limits the number of instances to 10 per location. Version 8 builds native Windows 11 rescue media, even though Win10 equivalents still work. I particularly like the program’s boot repair facility, its VSS repair and recovery, and its ability to boot backups as Hyper-V VMs.
Why Buy Reflect 8 Workstation?
Personally, when something as good and reliable as Macrium Reflect comes along, I believe in supporting its maker with an outright purchase. I have a 4-pack Reflect 8 Workstation license, and I run Reflect Free on the other 7 machines currently resident here at Chez Tittel. All are test/experimental machines I use for research and writing about Windows stuff.
I strongly recommend Macrium Reflect, in either free for for-a-fee versions. It’s the only backup tool I’ve ever used — and I’ve used many of them over the years — that’s never failed to restore and repair my Windows PC when they encounter difficulties. I blush to confess that many of those issues are self-inflicted, but this tool gives me the courage to try crazy stuff with Windows, knowing that I can fix it if it breaks on me.
Organizations and users pondering Windows 11 adoption just got another reason. In a November 16 story, Windows maven Paul Thurrot reports an interesting development. He quotes a spokesperson: “Microsoft wants to share an update that x64 emulation for Windows is only generally available in Windows 11. For those interested in experiencing x64 emulation, a PC running Windows 11 on ARM is required.” That means: x64 ARM emulation only for Windows 11, not Windows 10.
Why Does x64 ARM Emulation Only for Windows 11 Matter?
x64 emulation supports modern applications/apps, of which many aren’t available in 32-bit form. According to at least one source, “x64 apps brought not only improved compatibility but significant performance uplifts as well” (WinAero). Even though Windows 10 Insider Previews announced x64 emulation in December, 2020, things have changed. MS amended that post to include this notice:
Updated 11/16/2021: x64 emulation for Windows is now generally available in Windows 11. For those interested in experiencing this, a PC running Windows 11 on Arm is required.
It’s not just for Insiders anymore. But it is just for those running Windows 11.
That said, BusinessWire reported last month (October 13) about ARM PC sales. Together, Qualcomm and MediaTek account for just over 20% of that market. Revenues are forecast at $949M for 2021. Thus, native Windows devices account for at most $190M of that total. Figuring a ballpark price of $2K per unit, that’s around 95K units. Compare that with the 300M or so units that firms like Statista show for the last four quarters (Q4’20 thru Q3’21). From that viewpoint, ARM PCs represent well under 1% marketshare.
Is This Big News, Then?
It is, and it isn’t. ARM PCs don’t represent a big chunk of the PC market right now. It is significant that MS delivers advanced features only in its current OS. IMO, the ARM portion of the PC market has noplace to go but up. Consider also that such processors totally rule smartphones, with annual unit volumes over 1B.
I think it’s significant MS decided to forgo x64 emulation on ARM in Windows 10. I think they’re betting on the impetus to “buy new” (and get the latest OS) for those considering future ARM PC purchases. Whether or not this accelerates the usual 18-24 month lag between a new Windows version and noticeable business OS migration efforts is anybody’s guess. Methinks it won’t make much, if any, difference.
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!
After removing and re-installing (after double-checking IP address) the Samsung networked printer is back online. Goody!
[Click image for full-sized view]
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!
In visiting the GeForce application to check for Nvidia drivers yesterday, I noticed a new pop-up in the options menu for driver selection. It appears in the lead-in graphic for this story. At present, it distinguishes between Nvidia Game Ready vs Studio drivers. “Hmmm,” I wondered, “what’s up with that?” I soon found out. Here’s the scoop.
Who Cares About Nvidia Game Ready vs Studio Drivers?
I’m glad you asked! For sure, all the important details are included in the NVIDIA Studio FAQs. And indeed, they’re worth reading end-to-end for those with NVIDIA graphics cards and concerns about which way to go. The simple dichotomy is: if you are mostly a gamer and want to keep up with new game releases, use the Game Ready drivers. If you are mostly a creative professional who wants to run graphics apps, use the Studio drivers. However, if you want to go both ways, you can. But that requires uninstalling one and installing the other to make that switch. Bit of a pain, actually.
To be more specific, here’s how the FAQs document ‘splains things:
- If you are a gamer who prioritizes day of launch support for the latest games, patches, and DLCs, choose Game Ready Drivers.
- If you are a content creator who prioritizes stability and quality for creative workflows including video editing, animation, photography, graphic design, and live-streaming, choose Studio Drivers.
GeForce Experience Lets You Pick
By default most people use the Game Ready Drivers (NVIDIA abbreviates them GRD). But if you click the vertical ellipsis to the right of Check For Updates (see lead-in graphic) the radio buttons that let you choose between GRD and SD (Studio Driver) popup. Voila! This is where you decide which fork in the driver path you’ll take.
Make the selection that works best for you, and take that fork. Just for the record, the SD version is best understood as follows. Basically, it’s a slightly back-rev, more fully tested, and more stable GPU driver that emphasizes reliability and functionality over speed and support for newly introduced gaming-specific features.
I’m switching my production desktop to the SD fork. My son, who’s a gamer of sorts, is sticking with the GRD fork. If any interesting distinctions between these two paths emerge, I’ll let you know. Stay tuned!
Yes, I know. There have been alternate downloads (e.g. Softonic) for Macrium Reflect 8 Free available for 30 days and longer. This week, however, Paramount Software UK — the maker of Macrium Reflect — is offering an “official” free download of the well-known and respected backup/recovery toolset. Hence my title, which proclaims Macrium Reflect 8 Free version now available. Good stuff
With Macrium Reflect 8 Free Version Now Available, Grab One!
I’ll confess cheerfully and unreservedly, I was converted to MR through my association with TenForums. I’ve been using MR about as long as I’ve been a member there. And indeed, I concur with prevailing opinions there (and at its sister site ElevenForum.com) that MR Free is sufficient to meet the backup needs of most ordinary users.
Because I believe in supporting makers who do good work, I own a 4-pack license for the commercial version of MR8 released earlier this year. But now, I can — and will — upgrade all of my other test and experiment machines to the free version directly from the source.
Macrium 8 Has Windows 11 Covered
The program has been reworked and revamped, especially in light of Windows 11. It supports use of WinPE 11 rescue media, and works well with the new OS. It supports removable media imaging and cloning, and uses VSS to support imaging of running Windows 10 and 11 instances. It’s got great backup exploration tools, and can mount its backups as VMs via Hyper-V.
In all seven years I’ve been using MR, it’s never failed me when it comes to restoring a backup or repairing damaged Windows boot facilities. MR7 was a great tool. MR8 is even better. If you’re not already using it, grab a copy of MR8 today. If you’re using MR7, it’s time to upgrate to MR8 (even on Windows 10 PCs). Cheers.
Recently, Microsoft Store has installed a new app on all of the Windows 11 machines I’ve checked. It’s named the Windows Web Experience Pack. It only has the name in the Description field, is categorized under “Utilties & tools,” and the support and website URLs on its store page link to Microsoft.com. So when, I say I’ve encountered some Windows Web Experience pack mysteries, I’m not kidding. In fact, it’s definitely more mysterious than not.
A List of Windows Web Experience Pack Mysteries
1. You can’t find this utility with a search. I tried.
2. Check out the whole Store page. There’s a Windows 10 logo in the Screenshots pane. System Requirements, however, specifically state “Window 11 version 22000.20 or higher.” WTF?
3. No description or working links for documentation. A search at docs.microsoft.com turns up zilch, as well.
4. When you click on the “Open” link on the Store page, nothing happens. Nothing shows on the Processes or Details tabs in Task Manager either (at least, not as far as I can tell).
5. WinAero puts things best when it stays “Because there is no official word from Microsoft on what WWEP does, we can only speculate that this component is responsible for updating core web components in the OS used by Store apps.”
We know it’s something aimed at all Web browsers, because otherwise it would be Edge-focused and -specific. But beyond that we don’t much about it all. It’s a “mystery pack” much like the Recent Windows Feature Experience Pack and the Online Service Experience Pack introduced earlier this year.
One Mystery Resolved
Turns out you can also find the Web Experience Pack in Windows 10. Here’s a link to that Store page. Its system requirements are 2004/19041.0 or higher. Thus, it obviously originated with Windows 10. I think that explains the logo at the top of the Windows 11 version’s Store page. Somebody copied it over from the Windows 10 version and changed nothing except for the system requirements. Even the reviews for both versions include all the same stuff.
What About the Others?
Good question! I’ve got my curiosity up now, so I’ll keep digging around. But these “packs” seem extraordinarily opaque to those outside the inner circle of Windows architects and developers. This is definitely another case of “wait and see how it all turns out.” Stay tuned: I’ll keep you posted.
Note Added November 4
One of my WIMVP buddies — Shawn Keene — informed me that you can simply type “web” into the Run box (WinKey+R) and it will open File Explorer to that folder automagically. I tried it. Sure enough: it works. Use this as your shortcut for exploring. Thanks, Shawn.
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).
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!