Category Archives: Windows 11

New GSOD Implicates Intel Firmware

Here’s something nobody wants to see on a Windows PC. The lead-in graphic shows a Windows crash screen. Because this one is green, it’s sometimes called a GSOD (“Green Screen of Death”). The error message it carries is one I’ve not seen before — namely: secure_pci_config_space_access_violation. A bit of online research, and some inspection of reliability monitor’s copious error output tells me this new GSOD implicates Intel firmware.

Why Say: New GSOD Implicates Intel Firmware?

It’s not like I didn’t have plenty of potential issues from which to choose. Relimon pointed to Windows stop errors, improper shutdowns, unexepected shutdowns, and hardware errors. Indeed the actual BlueScreen error that provoked the GSOD refers to (and depicts) a CPU-Z .sys file. So again: why point at Intel firmware?

Online research (Reddit, Lenovo forums, and more) all report this very same error code after Intel firmware updates. And indeed WU itself delivered a — you guessed it — Intel Firmware update just before I upgraded to the most recent version of the DevChannel Insider Preview on this test PC.

One More Thing:

After I removed the program that caused the GSOD: Piriform Speccy, the problems have completely ceased and desisted. I imagine this program attempted to check the firmware during its scans, and that’s what threw the error. I’m guessing that a fix will come along in a future update. As long as my system stays stable otherwise, I’ll leave it alone and hope it does the same for me.

Stay tuned: I’ll keep you posted…


Working Reclaimable Packages Mystery

For months now, one of my test PCs has claimed something remarkable. It’s a Lenovo ThinkPad X380 Yoga (8th-gen i7, 16 GB RAM, 1 TB NVMe SSD). It’s a working reclaimable packages mystery, as you can see in the lead-in graphic. Note please: it shows 13 (!) reclaimable packages in the component store. But they never go away…

Why Is There a Working Reclaimable Packages Mystery?

Gosh, I wish I knew. But it’s got me learning more about DISM and the Windows Component Store (WinSxS) than I’ve known before. In particular, I’ve been digging into DISM’s /Get-Packages capability, to look into the contents of WinSxS to see what is — and apparently isn’t — going on in there.

Reading about the output of the /format:table directive, I see that the state column can produce a range of values. These include the following, as mined from Learn.Microsoft.Com by Copilot (quoted verbatim):

  • NotPresent: The package is not present in the image. It has not been installed or added to the image.

  • UninstallPending: The package has been marked for uninstallation, but the process is not complete. There are some additional steps that need to be performed before the package is fully removed from the image.

  • Staged: The package has been added to the image, but it is not active. It can be activated by using the /Enable-Feature option.

  • Removed: The package has been removed from the image, but some metadata about it remains. This allows the package to be reinstalled if needed.

  • Installed: The package is installed and active in the image. It can be deactivated by using the /Disable-Feature option.

  • InstallPending: The package has been marked for installation, but the process is not complete. There are some additional steps that need to be performed before the package is fully installed and activated in the image.

  • Superseded: The package has been replaced by a newer version of the same package or a different package that provides the same functionality. The superseded package is still present in the image, but it is not active.

  • PartiallyInstalled: The package has been partially installed in the image, but some components or files are missing or corrupted. This may cause errors or malfunctions in the package or its dependencies.

Digging Deeper Into the Mystery…

As I understand it, the dism /online /cleanup-image /startcomponentcleanup command will remove at least some of the packages in the “Superseded” state from the WinSxS. So I fired up the following command to look into the component store on another test machine. It reports 4 reclaimable packages via DISM, and inspection of the /format:tables output from that PC via Notepad++ reports 106 instances of the term “Superseded” in that text file.

Next, I run the afore-cited “cleanup” command. This takes a few minutes to complete. When I run /analyzecomponentstore again, the number of reclaimable packages is zero (0). So I generate new /format:table output, and open it in Notepad++ again. This time, a search on “Superseded” produces 0 hits. My theory is that the cleanup flushes these items out of the WinSxS, and this data seems to confirm that.

And Now, Back to the X380 Yoga

Here’s where things get interesting. Even though /analyzecomponentstore is reporting 13 reclaimable packages, the /format:table output from that PC includes no instances of “Superseded” in its contents. Somehow, DISM is seeing something that I can’t see via this lens into the WinSxS contents. Therein lies the mystery.

I’ll keep digging and see what else I can learn. Stay tuned! This could get interesting — at least if you, like me, find this kind of thing engaging.


October 2023 Windows 11 Monthly Active Users

Here’s an interesting item, for a variety of reasons. Yesterday, Zac Bowden at Windows Central reported that “Windows 11 is now in use on over 400 million monthly active devices” (emphasis his). In typical headline fashion the title of the story inflates it to “almost half a billion devices.” I have to laugh about that, but the number of October 2023 Windows 11 monthly active users is no joke. Even if those numbers come from, as Zac puts it, “…my sources who are familiar with the matter…” Right!

What October 2023 Windows 11 Monthly Active Users Means

Mr. B observes that this uptake comes at half the rate for Windows 10, but without the upgrade pressure that Windows 7’s retirement put on those numbers. Ditto for the notion, widely held at the time, that the free upgrade would only last for a year or two. In light of those factors, he also reports that these numbers beat internal MS expectations.

IMHO, business users don’t really care that much about the Windows running on their desktops or devices. Business will migrate when it’s good and ready, which means the clock really hasn’t started ticking too loudly just yet (Windows 10 EOL date is 10/14/2025). In fact, it’s just barely audible right now… That will change next year.

So Good, So Far

In my own experience, I ‘ve found Windows 11 to be a workable, reliable and attractive desktop OS. I’m almost completely migrated myself, with only 1 physical PC still running the older version, along with a handful of strategically placed VMs. I have at least 9 physical PCs running Windows 11 here at Chez Tittel, and another 2 off at college with my number-one son.

But what about those numbers? Given that many (if not most) businesses have yet to move from 10 to 11, I think they’re pretty high. In other words, I’m pleasantly surprised as MS apparently is also. My gut feel is those numbers will swell by as much as 200-300M next year, and more the year after that.

Meanwhile, somewhere between 1.2 (IDC) and 1.4 (Statista) BILLION smartphones sold in 2022. That’s a whole different ballgame. Increasingly it’s the game that matters most. So let’s keep this all in perspective, shall we? That said, Windows-World remains my home!


X12 Upgrade Quit Halfway

Yesterday morning, I tried to remote into my Lenovo ThinkPad X12 Hybrid tablet. No go. I got the familiar error “Remote Desktop can’t find the computer…” Interestingly, when I went to restart that PC, nothing happened. Eventually I had to disconnect all cables, then hold the power button down for a full 60 seconds to force it to reboot. Then I remembered: I hadn’t touched the machine since the 25967 upgrade hit on Tuesday. That means the X12 Upgrade quit halfway through the process and didn’t come back up after the reboot.

If the X12 Upgrade Quit Halfway, Then What?

Poking around on the Lenovo website, I found an evocative forum post. It was entitled “Laptop suddenly shuts down, won’t turn on.” It confirmed something odd was up, and prevented the PC from restarting. And indeed, my approach (disconnecting all cables, holding down the power button for 60 seconds) is just what the forum rep recommended to the poster, too.

When all else fails, this is one way to get a Lenovo PC to restart normally. And sure enough, once the PC did get far enough along to tell me what it was doing, it showed the spinning circle and progress that goes along with finishing up an upgrade or update install.

Just for grins, I opened up Reliability Monitor on the X12. I found a shutdown error staring me in the face. The detail reads: “The previous system shutdown at 5:55:00 PM on 10/10/2023 was unexpected.” Last Tuesday, at the end of the working day, just when I wouldn’t notice that the X12 failed to come back from the pending reboot during the update process. Go figure!

There’s proof that the PC shutdown when it shouldn’t have.

Speculating on Causes…

This device is attached to a CalDigit TS4 hub for power, GbE, video and storage. I’m wondering if something about that kind of complex USB-C/Thunderbolt 4 connection might not complicate boot-up. OTOH, I’ve upgraded plenty of times before on the same overall rig without difficulty. That’s what keeps things interesting, here in Windows-World.


New Windows 11 Settings Home

With the latest Canary build (Windows 11 23H2 25967.1000) we see a new Home pane for the Settings app. This new Windows 11 Setting home is hugely different from Windows 10 (see below). But those keeping up with ongoing updates to production 11 won’t see much difference.

New Windows 11 Settings Home.win10home

Windows 10 Settings home is a simple icon table.

What About New Windows 11 Settings Home?

Compared to older production versions, there’s a little more graphics pop (certainly, it’s a lot more visually appealing than Windows 10, to be sure). But MS has been backing these changes into current 22H2 versions as they introduce them in Insider Previews labeled 23H2 as well. That makes it a little harder to tell exactly what’s what.

So I’ll turn to the Canary Channel 25967 release announcement for clarification. Here’s what it says:

We created interactive cards that represent various device and account related settings, grouped by commonly accessed functions. Each card is optimized to offer the most relevant information and controls at your fingertips. In this release, you’ll see up to seven cards, with more coming soon.

Here’s an overview of each card:

  1. Recommended settings: This card adapts to your specific usage patterns, providing timely and relevant settings options. It’s designed to streamline your settings management and save you time.
  2. Cloud storage: Gives you an overview of your cloud storage use and lets you know when you’re nearing capacity.
  3. Account recovery: Helps keep your Microsoft account more secure by helping you add additional recovery info so you never get locked out of your account, even if you forget your password.
  4. Personalization: Brings customization to the forefront by offering one-click access to update your background theme or change your color mode.
  5. Microsoft 365: Provides a quick glimpse of your subscription status and benefits, along with the ability to take some key actions right in Settings instead of going to the web.
  6. Xbox: Similar to the Microsoft 365 card, you’ll be able to view your subscription status and manage the subscription from the Settings app.
  7. Bluetooth Devices: To simplify your Bluetooth device management experience, we’ve brought this to the forefront so you can quickly access and connect to your favorite Bluetooth-enabled devices.

You can take swift actions directly from this page with just a click, making device and account management seamless and efficient. What sets the homepage apart even further is that it’s more than just a landing page—it evolves and learns with you.

Overall, I like the design and layout. It certainly shows and does more than the “icon directory” model for Windows 10. But with other Windows 11 versions either already in synch or catching up soon, it’s not as much of a surprise as I was expecting.

Who knows? Maybe that’s a good thing… I’ll be watching to see how Windows 11 learns from my behavior and usage to make changes. There may very well be some surprises — hopefully, good ones — in that mix. Stay tuned!


Upgrades Are Over, Activation Still Works

I read yesterday at that MS was no longer supporting free upgrades from Windows 7 or 8.1 to Windows 10 or 11. “Holy smokes,” I thought to myself, “That’s been a long time coming.” That offer supposedly expired in 2016 but had been working until recently. My next question was: “Does that mean you can’t activate a new Windows 11 install with a Windows 7 key any more?” Based on a hurry-up experiment I just finished, I’m bemused to report that if upgrades are over, activation still works. I’ll explain…

Though Windows 7 and 8.1 Upgrades Are Over, Activation Still Works

Here’s what I did. I downloaded a Windows 11 Pro ISO, I fired up Hyper-V Manager, and I created a new VM using that ISO. When the time came to provide a license key, I plugged in an entry from the list of Windows 7 Ultimate license keys I keep around for testing purposes. Guess what happened?

It worked! In fact, the screencap at the head of this blog post shows the newly stood-up VM with an Activation state of “Active” from that very Windows 7 Ultimate key (anybody else remember that edition?). Thus, though it may no longer be possible to upgrade from running Windows 7 or 8.1 instances, it seems like their keys will still suffice to crate a valid, activated instance of Windows 11 from scratch. Good to know!

Straight from the Source: MS

Mr. Thurrott cites a Microsoft Device Partner Center communication as the source of this information. That item is entitled Windows Ends Installation Path for Free Windows 7/8 Upgrade. It bears a publication date of September 20, 2023. For the moment, though the upgrade path may be closed, it looks like the keys still work for activation. I wonder if this loophole will remain open, or close sometime as well. Stay tuned: we’ll see!

Clarification Added September 30

Thanks to a more recent story from Sergey Tkachenko at WinAero, I now have a better idea of what’s going on. The 7/8 keys still work for versions of Windows 10 and 11 through 22H2. You can’t, however, use those keys to activate a new install of 23H2.  I tried only Windows 11 22H2, not a preview of 23H2 (AFAIK, it’s not out yet in any other form). NOW I get it…


Avoiding Windows Self-Update Traps

Think about it. When a program needs an update, sometimes what’s doing the update and what’s getting the update may be related. This gets interesting. Windows itself is a pretty good example. This explains why reboots are required to install  an OS, and often when updating same. Simply put, the pieces being working on cannot also do the work on themselves in many cases. Applications, apps, and so forth can also fall prey to the same things (think about installing an installer). Thus, avoiding Windows self-update traps is something of a balancing act.

Example: Avoiding Windows Self-Update Traps

I saw a great example of an artful dodge around this problem yesterday, as I was using Winget to update Windows Terminal (WT). Take a look at the lead-in graphic. It shows the WT update progress. Note that the last instruction at the end of that process reads:

Restart the application to complete the upgrade.

That’s exactly the kind of maneuver that’s necessary. It allows the currently running code for a program (or OS) stop running. Then, the newly-updated or installed code for the same program (or OS) can take over and start doing its thing.

Counter-Example: PowerShell

Back in June, I wrote a blog post here entitled WinGet Upgrade PowerShell Shows Cancelled. It shows what can — and sometimes still does — happen when the tail end of the installation process fails to complete and exit cleanly. I know the PS team is working on this, but this shows that self-updates do pose occasionally tricky problems.

I’m glad to see the WT take the high road and suspend the final steps of install or upgrade until it’s safe to do so. I’ll be gladder still when the PS team eventually follows suit (as I’m sure they will). In the meantime, I did find a workaround: if you open a Command Prompt session and run the winget PS upgrade there, no “cancelled” (or other error messages) result. Good enough for me, for now!


22H2 Moment4 Brings Back ReFS

For a long time, Windows desktop access to the Resilient File System (aka ReFS) was limited and iffy. Introduced in Windows Server 2012, facilities to create ReFS volumes were dropped from Windows 10 1709. (Exceptions: Enterprise and Pro for Workstation editions). In Windows 11, AFAICT, it’s been a thing only in Enterprise Insider Preview builds — until now. With this week’s Update Preview, 22H2 Moment4 brings back ReFS. The lead-in screencap comes from one of my Windows 11 Pro test PCs, in fact. Check it out!

How 22H2 Moment4 Brings Back ReFS

It does so in the context of the Dev Home utility in Windows 11. This app provides scaffolding to support a range of developer functions in the OS. These include widgets, access to GitHub projects, and — you guessed it — the ability to create a “Dev Drive” which can be formatted using ReFS. That’s what you see in the lead-in screencap.

One of the major options in Dev Home lets users create this so-called Dev Drive. It looks like this:

When you click the button, it puts you in into Settings → System → Storage → Disks & volumes. If you click Create Dev Drive again there, you’ll find various options. You can create a new VHD, resize an existing volume (to reclaim space for a new one) or possibly allocate unused disk space (only if available). In my testing, I elected to resize my existing volume boot/system volume.

MS Claims a Speed Advantage…

In its description of dev drives, MS claims to “improve performance for key developer workloads” (see this blog post for a chart of comparisons with NTFS). In my own experience, it was pretty remarkable. It took less than 2 seconds to copy a Windows 11 ISO (~4GB in size) from an external TB4 NVMe SSD to the new ReFS volume. Mighty quick!

I’m going to have to play around with this to really understand how it works and peforms, but so far it’s an interesting toy. And it’s also nice to see ReFS make a comeback into the broader reaches of Windows 11. Try it out for yourself!


DevHome Update Hiccup Deciphered

On those test PCs where I’ve got Microsoft DevHome installed, i noticed an update issue last week. The lead-in graphic shows a failure when a dependency install for WindowsAppRuntime bombs out. So when I saw this MSPowerUser story about a new version, I found my DevHome update hiccup deciphered at last.

Getting to: DevHome Update Hiccup Deciphered

In light of a new version with different capabilities, my workaround for this problem also makes perfect sense. I tried uninstalling DevHome using winget. However, a leftover remained in “Installed Apps” — where, curiously enough, the uninstall button is greyed-out and inaccessible. Indeed, neither the Repair nor Reset buttons changed things at all. Interesting.

DevHome Update Hiccup Deciphered.notrepair

The button I want (uninstall) is inaccessible. Sigh.

A Curious Fix Emerges

I went ahead and restarted the affected test PC (one of my 2018 vintage Lenovo ThinkPad X380 Yogas). After restarting, it updated the Windows Store apps — of which Dev Home is one. It shows up as the most recently updated item (“Modified minutes ago”) under the Library tab.

And guess what? Running winget upgrade again, post-reboot, shows nothing in need of update. This tells me that when winget finds Store apps in need of updates that it can’t handle itself, running updates through the Store can fix what ails them. I’m not sure the reboot was necessary. But gosh: it sure looks like the “Get updates” function in Store did the trick. Extremely good to know!


P1 Gen 6 Post-Sleep RDP Fail Fixed

I’m still breaking in the Lenovo P1 Gen 6 Mobile Workstation here at Chez Tittel. It’s pretty much where I want it right now. Indeed, its 13th-gen Intel i7-13800H 20-core CPU is nothing less than awe-inspiring. This week I had enough spare bandwidth to notice that while I could easily remote into the unit right after a reboot, it became unavailable to RDP after falling asleep. As soon as I disabled sleep while plugged into A/C power, I found this P1 Gen6 post-sleep RDP fail fixed. The corresponding Power & Battery Setting shows in the lead-in graphic above.

Getting to P1 Gen 6 Post-Sleep RDP Fail Fixed

Fixing things was the easy part. Figuring out what was wrong took a while. I was able to ping the unit’s LAN address, but Remote Desktop Connection (and the Remote Desktop app) stubbornly refused to let me access the PC.

Having been down this road before with other PCs, I soon realized that:
(a) RDP connections worked right after any reboot
(b) those same connections quit working after waking from sleep
I don’t know what it is about PC sleep behaviors but they can sometimes be mysterious and opaque. I’m just glad the simple, obvious solution — disabling sleep on A/C power — does the trick.

What About PowerToys Awake?

This situation actually reminded me that I hadn’t yet installed PowerToys on the P1 Gen6 laptop. Having now done so, I have to believe my access issues are over with Awake enabled and on the job. Just to be doubly darn sure I set it to “Keep awake indefinitely.” Now when I try to RDP into this laptop, it should be ready, willing and able to accept that connection. Let’s see!

P1 Gen 6 Post-Sleep RDP Fail Fixed.powertoys-awake
Note added 2 Days Later: I’ve been running the P1 Gen 6 for a couple of days now without further remote access issues. Looks like the fix really is in. Good!