Category Archives: Windows 11

Further Windows 11 Notification Wrinkles

This morning, when I jumped over to my X380 Yoga Dev Channel test PC, I noticed that notification/calendar access was once again MIA. Hmmm. I thought I’d fixed that when I updated Start 11 yesterday. Apparently, if the PC sleeps or hibernates, the MIA comes back as the machine wakes up. To me, this introduces further Windows 111 notification wrinkles.

Fixing Further Windows 11 Notification Wrinkles

The File Explorer process handles the taskbar and related “Windows dressing” elements. Thus, I wondered if a forcible restart to the Explorer process might not set things back to rights. Indeed it did! I thought MS was severing the link between File Explorer and the taskbar stuff in Windows 11. I seem to recall reading that somewhere. But if that’s in their plans, those plans have not yet been enacted. This usual fix for taskbar misbehavior  — that is, restarting explorer through Task Manager as shown in the lead-in graphic — still works to restore expected/desirable behavior.

What About News and Interests, Then?

What shows up in recent Windows 10 releases in the taskbar as “News and Interests” no longer pops up in Windows 11. Instead users must turn to Microsoft Start (MicrosoftStart.com, which morphs into www.msn.com/en-us/feed when loaded) to see the same information. I kind of miss the weather bug at the far right of the taskbar with its easy pop-up access.

But that’s not how things work in Windows 11 any more. It seems like only a few months ago that MS introduced this capability in Windows 10 (according to MakeUseOf.com, it was introduced to Insiders in early 2021, and went GA in May). I don’t really understand why this goes away in Windows 11, but it is what it is.

For the time being, at least, I still know how to tackle unresponsive taskbar elements. Let’s hope the File Explorer restart trick keeps working…

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Build 22463 Blocks Notification/Calendar Access

Last Thursday, I installed the latest Dev Channel build for Windows 11 on two test machines. Interestingly, I couldn’t access Notifications and the Calendar on one of them, while it worked perfectly on the other. Thinking about what’s different between those two, one has Start11 installed, the other does not. And indeed, Build 22463 blocks notification/calendar access only on the Start11-equipped PC. Could this be the problem? Probably, but let’s investigate…

If Build 22463 Blocks Notification/Calendar Access, Then What?

My first step was to check the Stardock website. Sure enough a new beta version (0.55) of Start11 is out, dated (gasp!) August 31. It hasn’t reached “quasi-production” status yet, but I figured it was worth a try. I downloaded and installed this version on the problem PC and sure enough: it fixed the issue.

Immediately after rebooting the test machine, I clicked on the far-right calendar icon in the taskbar. And immediately after that, what you see in the following screencap appeared on screen:

Build 22463 Blocks Notification/Calendar Access.notcal-backSometimes, the obvious cause of trouble turns out to be its actual cause as well. Luckily, this was not only easy to diagnose, it was also easy to fix — thanks to an update about which I had been unaware.

Take a Troubleshooting Lesson from My Experience

It’s incredibly benefiicial to have a base for comparison when troubleshooting often complex software interactions on Windows PCs. That’s why I made sure one of my Windows 11 test configurations runs plain-vanilla all the way: no menu changes, no appearance tweaks, no registry hacks, and so forth. And because that PC worked just fine with build 22463, it let me zero in quickly on what was different (and ultimately, involved) in this taskbar/menuing issue.

If you’re going to work on Insider Previews, it’s a good idea to take a similar approach. Always leave one test PC as plain vanilla as possible, to help eliminate MS as the cause of UI and app/application misbehavior. If that plain-vanilla machine does not have issues, whatever’s different on other machines is most likely at fault. That’s how it often works in general. And that’s how it worked this time in particular. It’s nice when things are clear cut and easily diagnosed, here in Windows-World. I only wish things worked out so quickly and easily in most such cases (in my experience, only about half do. Those that persist beyond the obvious can be devilish indeed).

 

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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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What Is Windows 11 Update Entitlement?

Things are getting interesting for those who want to install Windows 11 on out-of-spec PCs. By “out-of-spec” I mean  devices that don’t meet Microsoft’s Windows 11 hardware requirements. Check the warning that Microsoft insists that users accept before allowing installation to proceed. It appears in the lead-in graphic for this story. I’ve boxed the key sentence in red therein. It reads: “If you proceed with installing Windows 11, your PC will no longer be supported and won’t be entitled to receive updates.” This raises the question in the title —  “What is Windows 11 update entitlement?”

Answering: What Is Windows 11 Update Entitlement?

The upshot of this warning has three consequences. First, it means MS won’t block users from installing Windows 11 on out-of-spec PCs. Two, it means MS could withhold updates from those PCs at any time.  At least, that’s how I read the phrase “won’t be entitled to receive updates.” Third, out-of-spec PCs running Windows 11 won’t be eligible for MS support  should problems present.

This information (and the screencap that leads off this story) comes from The Verge. It is entitled “Windows 11 won’t stop older PCs, but it might make you sign this waiver.” Its subtitle reads “Microsoft reserves the right to deny updates.” The staff obviously concludes that a lack of update entitlement equates to a “right to deny updates.” I concur with this logic.

Right Now, Everything’s OK

The Verge story cites further to a “perfectly good 7th-gen Core i7 desktop gaming PC.” On it, the author has “already installed Windows 11 and [is] running it with no major issues.” This strikes a potent nerve with me. Why? Because I’m typing this story on my production PC. It includes an i7-6700, an Asrock Extreme7+ mobo, 32 GB RAM, and Samsung 1TB 950 NVMe SSD. This machine is also quite able to run Windows 11. That said, it fails requirements checks because of CPU, TPM and Secure Boot support.

Lots of people and businesses have older PCs able to run Windows 11.  Some believe they’re being unfairly prevented from upgrading. And again, that’s true right now. But I believe MS has plans for Windows 11 not yet disclosed. As those plans unfold, new OS features and capabilities could call on PC hardware in ways the current version does not. I must guess that such calls would force MS to deny related updates on out-of-spec PCs. If such updates demand certain capabilities, and some PCs lack them, that makes sense. Only time will tell. We’ll just have to wait and see what happens.

One thing’s for sure. Speaking purely for myself, I have zero inclination to push my luck on this front. That’s why the parts for my desktop hardware refresh to meet Windows 11 requirements are sitting in my office right now. I just need to make time to make that refresh happen. Sigh.

 

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Windows 11 PC Health Check Publicly Available

OK, then: three weeks after a relaunch only to Insider Preview program members, Windows 11 PC Health Check publicly available to all. You can grab it from the Windows 11 home page (scroll to the bottom: it’s a long drive). Or, you can access the download directly from Akamai.

The Version of Windows 11 PC Health Check Publicly Available Is New

I checked, and while the new version info appears in the lead-in graphic for this story, the Insider Preview version is older. It’s numbered 2.8.210826001-s2. As you can see above, today’s version is numbered 3.0210914001-s2. Thus, even Insiders might want to grab and go with the newest (and presumably greatest) PC Health Check

Here’s what the tool says about my Lenovo ThinkPad X380 Yoga, by way of example of a (barely) Windows 11 capable PC:

Windows 11 PC Health Check Publicly Available.x380

Note the green checkmark, and supporting details about Secure Boot, TPM 2.0, CPU, RAM and so forth. Good stuff!

The initial version caused enough issues that MS withdrew it soon after it first appeared. Three weeks ago, MS unleashed an improved version on Windows Insiders only. Today’s version is new, and available to anyone who wants to try it out. That’s what sometimes constitutes progress here in Windows-World. I’m glad MS took its time to get it right this time, and hopeful that this tool will serve all users well. Let’s see how it all shakes out, shall we? Cheers!

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Nvidia’s Microsoft Windows 11 Game Ready Driver

OK, then. As October 5 gets ever closer, more of the pieces start falling into place. This morning (September 20), Nvidia released GeForce Driver Version 472.12. As you can see in the lead-in graphic for this story, the GeForce download page bills this new offering as a Microsoft Windows 11 Game Ready Driver.

Obtaining the Microsoft Windows 11 Game Ready Driver

The driver weighs in at nearly 723MB (they keep getting bigger, don’t they). You can grab a copy using GeForce Experience or directly from its download page. With two Nvidia-equipped PCs here at Chez Tittel, I was able to confirm that it downloads and installs just fine on both Windows 10 and 11 rigs. I can also say it goes much faster on an 8-core 2021 CPU than a 2014 4-core model.

What Can Go Wrong, Didn’t — This Time

I’ve seen previous GeForce drivers from Nvidia cause occasional Windows problems. These have varied from effects as trivial as momentary screen blinking or blanking to out-and-out BSODs. So far, thank goodness, the 472.12 version seems entirely stable and well-behaved.

That’s good: the last thing users want to face when tackling a new OS is driver problems to make things more interesting. After the official upgrade to Windows 11 comes and goes early next month (October 5), we’ll have a better idea of where production issues may manifest. In the meantime, I’m enjoying the recent trickle of updates from the likes of Intel, AMD, and now Nvidia, as they get ready for an influx of Windows 11 updates. Indeed, I’m sure many are hoping for a flood of Windows-11 ready (and installed) PCs to hit stores and users’ hot little hands this holiday season, too.

 

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Windows 11 Store Now Offers PowerToys

Until Windows 11 Build 22454 came along, the only way to get PowerToys was to download or update it from GitHub. But, as shown in the lead-in graphic for this story, the Windows 11 Store now offers PowerToys for download. Windows 10 users, however, will need to stick with GitHub going forward — at least for the time being. That’s what I gleaned from the WinAero story on this fork in the PowerToys development path.

Visual Proof: Windows 11 Store Now Offers PowerToys

Because it’s available in the Store right now only to Windows 11 Build 22454 and higher, that restricts such access to Dev Channel Insiders. With the Beta Channel at Build 22000 at the moment, it could be some time before this pathway opens up to a broader segment of the Windows 11 population.

Being a “let’s try it and see what happens kind of guy” I checked the Store in the Beta version and searched on “PowerToys.” To my surprise, it came up there unhindered. It was absent, however, on Windows 10 when I tried the Store with the same search on my production PC (running Build 19043.1237).

I clicked the “Install” button on the Beta channel PC (a Lenovo X380 Yoga Thinkpad model), and it reported a successful install. That said, I already had PowerToys installed on that machine, and it still comes up in the Start menu as PowerToys (Preview).

Windows 11 Store Now Offers PowerToys.Start-entry

The (Preview) qualifier still shows up, which makes me wonder if anything really got installed.

So I uninstalled it, and then tried the Store-based install again. This time, it showed a download and I got a prompt asking if the installer could make changes to my device. The Installing progress circle continued until it said installed. And guess what: it still reads “PowerToys (Preview)” in its start menu listing. It did ask me to restart the tool as administrator, which tells me it is a new version (because I’d already made that change in its previous incarnation). I guess that means that PowerToys is getting ready for prime time, but has not yet reached production-ready status. That’s consistent with its 0.45.0 version number (a leading zero usually indicates something still in testing rather than production status).

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Windows 11 22458 Enforces TPM Support

On September 15, MS released the new Insider Preview Build 22458 into the Dev Channel. Widespread reporting indicates that the build won’t install on target PCs that don’t meet Windows 11’s TPM requirement. Thus, it’s fair to say that Windows 11 22458 enforces TPM support. In other words, that build won’t install on older PCs unless the user resorts to one of the well-known workarounds documented to bypass this limitation.

Indeed, for PCs already in the Insider Program, a visit to Start → Settings → Update & Security → Windows Insider Program will recommend against making such an attempt. This warning appears as the lead-in graphic for this story. It comes from my Surface Pro 3, whose 2013-vintage 4th generation CPU and lack of TPM 2.0 support put it outside the scope of Windows 11 requirements.

Were I to try it on that machine anyway, I would get an error message and my attempt to install 22458 would fail. Here’s a snip from WinAero.com that shows what this would look like:

Windows 11 22458 Enforces TPM Support.no-tpm

Without TPM 2.0 support, the latest Windows 11 Build 22458 won’t install. Workarounds remain possible, however.

If Windows 11 22458 Enforces TPM Support, Then What?

I’m playing things straight. The PCs I can’t upgrade to meet Windows 11 requirements will stay on Windows 10. The Surface Pro 3 is a great example. Most of my fleet already meets those standards. I’ve got one more PC — my production desktop — to upgrade to match those requirements. I’m going to try to get it done this weekend.

But for those who don’t mind — or outright enjoy — flouting MS requirements, there are workarounds based on ISO installs and registry hacks that bypass the TPM and other hardware checks. MS recommends against such tomfoolery and warns those who indulge that future security updates may not be provided for out-of-spec machines. That isn’t stopping a lot of folks, as the “Let’s run Windows 11 on … incompatible hardware” thread at Elevenforum.com clearly indicates. To these brave stalwarts I say “Have fun, but keep a backup handy, and be ready to roll back to Windows 10 when and if that’s needed.”

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Dual NVMe Enclosure Supports RAID

Whoever built this product clearly saw me coming. After upgrading both of my older desktops, I find myself looking for ways to use their now-idled NVMe drives. One is a Samsung OEM 512GB NVMe from the 2014 vintage PC, and the other is a Samsung 950 EVO 1TB NVMe from the 2016 model. As it happens, Sabrent has an offering for just that. In fact, its dual NVMe enclosure supports RAID, too.

What Dual NVMe Enclosure Supports RAID Means

Thanks to built-in RAID support,  this enclosure offers faster throughput than a single-drive configuration. It even handles Thunderbolt, so I can use it in my newer docks and on my newer laptops and desktops. At a list price of US$249 my initial though was: “Ummm. No!” But after I visited the Amazon page and saw it was marked down to US$149 (about double the price of two phantom-powered Sabrent Thunderbolt 3 NVMe enclosures) that response changed to “Ummm. Yes…”

The specs claim speeds up to 1,500 MB for single drives, but up to 2,500 MB for drives in RAID configurations (I’m guessing that means striped or mirrored, rather than JBOD). Watching some of the videos that Sabrent provides on how to set things up, my guess is confirmed.

Should I Take the Plunge?

Now, I have to decide if I want to further raid the exchequer to cover an additional US$149 outlay, on top of the ~US$1,300 I’ve already spend to get my production desktop hardware refresh funded. I’ll have to chew on this for a little while, and perhaps ask “the Boss” for permission. Should I indeed buy into this device, I’ll review it in a future blog post.

In the meantime, I must consider how deeply I feel like digging into available funds right now. That’s a perennial problem for hardware junkies like myself, and one I’ve wrested with before. Stay tuned: I’ll keep you posted.

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