Category Archives: Windows 11

Replacement P16 Goes Through Intake

OK, then: I started working on the replacement Lenovo ThinkPad P16 Gen1 Mobile Workstation. It showed up at the house on Friday afternoon. Because I was on deadline I didn’t get to begin until Saturday afternoon. I kicked things off upon return from our usual weekend food shopping trip.  As this replacement P16 goes through intake here at Chez Tittel, I’ve been keeping track of what (and how) I put it back to work. That started yesterday, for an upcoming AskWoody story about USB3/4 interfaces. Buckle up: there’s a lot to cover…

Following Along as Replacement
P16 Goes Through Intake

The unit appears with a password-less login into a Lenovo account, to make it easy for reviewers to get in and start working. I always add an admin account tied to one of my Microsoft logins and switch over to that going forward. Then I logged into my office WAP for a Wi-Fi connection, and made sure everything was up-to-date. The very next item was a Macrium Reflect install (commercial license) so I could capture a pristine backup to an external TB4 USB-C attached NVMe drive.

After the initial snapshot was saved, I added a bunch of applications using the PatchMyPC Home Updater. It’s as good at new installs as it is at updating the applications it knows how to handle. Here’s the list of what I used it to install:

7-Zip                 CrystalDiskMark        IrfanView
8GadgetPack           VoidTools Everything   SUMo
Advanced IP Scanner   FileZilla              Revo Uninstaller
CPUID CPU-Z           Google Chrome          Speccy
CrystalDiskInfo       GPU-Z                  WinAero Tweaker

There were a few other odds-n-ends I had to grab to customize Windows Terminal to my usual set-up. This meant using Install-program to install Winfetch, downloading and installing nerd fonts, then going through the OhMyPosh set-up drill to customize my Windows Terminal prompt. I also checked device drivers (and updated the BIOS [UEFI] to version 1.21, using Lenovo Commercial Vantage). A quick download and check of the Intel DSA updated my Arc graphics, Wi-Fi and Bluetooth drivers and supporting software, too. Total time invested: somewhere between 7 and 8 hours over 2 days.

All’s Well … and Working Well, Too!

Yesterday I started working on my AskWoody story and learned a few things I didn’t know about the already familiar P16 ThinkPad. This unit has 64GB RAM (rather than the 128GB as in its predecessor).  USB-A Port 5 (see tech specs) is supposedly USB 3.2 but behaved like USB 2 when I ran CrystalDiskMark on an mSATA device. It jumped to more normal non-UASP SSD speeds when I used a USB-AtoC converter and plugged it into Port 10.2 which is listed as a pair of TB4/USB4 USB-C ports on the rear edge of the laptop. Much better!

So now, I’m back at work and making headway using the replacement P16. Once again, my thanks to the Lenovo Reviews team for their prompt and friendly turnaround on restoring my ability to work (and test) unfettered on this beast of a laptop. Go team!


Some Deletions Are Easier Than Others

Whoa Nelly! I just came off a Windows filesystem adventure. Apparently, the 2TB 2.5″ HDD used for peripheral storage on the Boss’s Dell SFF D7080 PC once served somebody as a system disk. That’s the only way I can explain how two System-owned folders named ProgramData (hidden, too) and Users popped up thereupon. Making them go away led to this post’s title — namely, some deletions are easier than others. Let me explain…

Why Some Deletions Are Easier Than Others

Part of the difficulty stems from Dell, and part from Windows. On the D7080 to get into WinRE from bootable media, you must first disable Secure Boot. This allowed me to boot from “Alternate Media” — in this case, the Macrium Reflect Rescue Media, from whence I ran its Command Prompt facility.

Part of the difficulty comes from Windows. It really, really wants to make it hard to delete System-owned folders like the ones on the Boss’s F: drive for very good reasons. Unwanted deletion could render programs (in the case of ProgramData) and perhaps even the OS (in the case of Users) unusable. Consequently, one must go to great lengths to remove such folders, even on disks no longer playing the system/boot role. Sigh.

Two Quick Secrets Solve the Command-Line Puzzle

To remove the two directories (and their plethora of sub-folders) I had to use this command syntax:

rmdir /s path-spec

where one spec was F:\ProgramData and the other F:\Users. To confirm the presence of the hidden F:\ProgramData; item, I first had to run this command, though:

dir /a:h

That shows items with a “hidden” attribute, along with those more easily viewed.

How I Got to the Finish Line

So first, I had to turn off Secure Boot. That required the following sequence of activities. I went into Start → Settings → Recovery; and clicked the “Restart now” button under the “Advanced Startup” heading. First reboot. From there I clicked Troubleshoot, then the UEFI Firmware Settings option. Second reboot, whereupon I went into the UEFI/BIOS and disabled “Secure Boot” under that self-same heading. Save the change, then third reboot.

Next, I plugged the Macrium Rescue Disk UFD into the D7080. I rebooted (4th time) into its embrace by starting once again with Start → Settings → Recovery; and clicked the “Restart now” button under the “Advanced Startup” heading. Inside the WinRE menu that serves as the lead-in graphic above, I picked “Use a device.” Next, I elected the Mushkin UFD in the alternate boot selections and booted into that environment (5th reboot). There, I ran the Command Prompt facility. Inside that facility I used the afore-described commands to find and delete the system-owned folders. Then I exited Command Prompt and the Macrium Rescue Disk environment. That led to the 6th reboot.

This took me back into Windows, where I used the System → Restore → etc. sequence again to get back into WinRE main menu. 7th reboot. To undo Secure boot, I had to once again pick UEFI Firmware Settings, then reboot again (8th), find the “Secure Boot” option and re-enable it. Save the settings, exit UEFI and reboot for the last time. NINE (9) reboots in all to delete a couple of folders. Sheesh!

But gosh, isn’t that just the way things sometimes go, here in Windows-World. Making the world safe for system-owned folders is hard work. So is making them disappear…


Send It Back: P16 Goes Home

I’ve been in a pickle since I returned from our family trip this weekend. My beloved and heavily-used Lenovo ThinkPad P16 Mobile Workstation got caught in a “doom loop.” When I asked the reviews team what to do about it, they asked for its return. When they said “Send it back,” P16 goes home to its maker. Now, let me explain what prompted this action.

Why Send It Back: P16 Goes Home

My “doom loop” was insidious because the machine wouldn’t restart. When I instructed it to do so through any and all means (see list), it would hang on the “spinning balls” labeled Restarting, and spin forever. Of course, that greatly limited my repair options, since I couldn’t get at repair stuff through the OS. Before I explain how I would’ve gotten over that hump, let me explain what I tried:

  1.  The Restart option via Start → Power button → Restart
  2. Various other equivalents via the command line (e.g. shutdown /r ...).
  3. Recovery capabilities via Start → Settings → System → Recovery → Advanced startup → “Restart now” button

I even made registry tweaks to turn off Fast Startup and performed an in-place upgrade repair install. None of this worked. I happened to mention this to a member of the reviews team who was working with another review unit I’d just returned to their North Carolina depot. He asked me to return the unit so they could understand what happened. So that’s what I did: I’m expecting a replacement to show up today.

What Would Have Been Next…

While the P16 wouldn’t restart, it would shut down. Thus, I would have shut down, then booted into the BIOS (strike the Enter key during the boot load phase and you still get into the UEFI/BIOS menus). Then, I would’ve attempted repairs from a repair disk of one kind or another (Macrium, Kyhi, DaRT, and more: I’ve got all of them accessible on my Ventoy USB-C NVMe enclosure). Failing repair, I’d have wiped the drive and done a clean reinstall of Windows 11. That pretty much always works.

Instead I’ll unpack a replacement unit later today and restore my most recent backup image from the old machine to the new. That should put me back where I was with minimal time and effort. Stay tuned: I’ll report back on those efforts next week.

Life is always interesting here in Windows-World. That goes double when you have a great group of people like the Lenovo reviews team backing you up!

Out with the Old, In with the New

The replacement unit showed up after lunch Friday (August 4). I didn’t get started on setup, app installs and customization until Saturday (August 5). I’ll be blogging about my adventures with the machine and its specs tomorrow (August 8) as a kind of auto-birthday present (my age will be a prime number greater than 67 and less than 73). TLDR version: great fun, lots of stuff to do, and some interesting nits to pick. However, the new unit restarts without any difficulties. Thanks again, Lenovo Reviews Team: you rock!!!


Copilot Goes General in Beta Build 22631.2129

It’s heeeeeere! With yesterday’s release, Copilot goes general in Beta Build 22631.2129. I wondered what the new left-hand icon on the notification bar was for. And indeed, it’s a reduced size version of the app icon that appears in the lead-in graphic above. That’s one mystery quickly resolved, at least. But there’s a lot to like about Copilot so buckle up!

If Copilot Goes General in Beta Build 22631.2129, Then?

The WinKey+C combination also calls up Copilot which looks (and acts) pretty much exactly the same as the Bing ChatGPT pane in MS Edge. Indeed, when I ask it how to clear my search history, it tells me to go to the Bin Search history page and clear my history. This works, but requires a page refresh to clear things up. Fascinating!

Copilot Goes General in Beta Build 22631.2129.example

Under the hood, Bing Chat and Copilot share the same search history. Clearing the former also clears the latter.

Ride that Hobby Horse!!!

This heading explains what I plan to keep doing extensively and heavily in the days and weeks ahead. I’ve been waiting for MS to turn the lens of AI onto the OS and apps for a long time now. So far, it’s been pretty darn helpful even as I’m figuring out how best to use it. I hope they’ll also make best practices, tips and recommendations available on that very topic. But I plan on giving it — and myself — a strenuous workout as I get to know this new and welcome addition to Windows 11. Stay tuned, and I’ll keep you posted.

Note Added ~4:30 PM Same Day

I wrote a reasonably technical article on SuperMicro GPU servers built around NVIDIA GPUs and supporting network technologies for Remote Direct Memory Access (RDMA) today. Copilot proved pretty darn helpful in running down some nit-pick details about speeds and feed for NVLink, InfiniBand, and high-speed Ethernet. Very, very interesting!


PowerToys Sources: WinGet & MSStore

I saw yesterday on Twitter (X?) that PowerToys version  v.0.72.0 dropped. So I started banging on WinGet to upgrade me. It’s been at least 20 hours since that announcement, but WinGet still has no manifest for the new version. Indeed, the lead-in graphic shows v.0.71.0 as current. But there are two PowerToys Sources: WinGet & MSStore. And sure enough, installing the Store version brought one of my Lenovo X380 ThinkPads up to the latest iteration. This features in the lead-in graphic as well. The second WinGet list PowerToys command shows the current version installed — with a WinGet source, no less — after I downloaded and installed the latest version from the MS Store. Go figure!

Why Two PowerToys Sources: WinGet & MSStore?

The answer to the preceding query depends on how organizations do updates internally. Those who let WU and the MS Store handle things should choose the Microsoft Store version of MS apps when they can. This will automatically handle things on its own. But those who control updates will find WinGet invaluable. It makes a great focus for automation via PowerShell scripts as and when their update windows open.

Does that mean one or the other source for updates is better? Not at all. But today, it looks like the updates through the MS Store track new releases faster than WinGet does — for PowerToys, at least. I’m also interested that even though my update comes from the store, it shows WinGet as its source. But as long as it’s updated quickly and correctly, that’s OK.


New Explorer Address Bar Is Too Spread Out

In working with the new-look File Explorer in the Beta Channel Insider Preview, I’ve come to a conclusion. It stands as the title for this blog post — namely, this: the new Explorer Address Bar is too spread out. IMO, anyway. Take a look at the lead-in graphic to see what I mean (new address bar top, old address bar bottom).

Why Say: New Explorer Address Bar Is Too Spread Out

The top of the image shows the address bar consuming about 3.8″ of the total 8.5″ display on-screen. By contrast, the bottom shows it consuming 3.125″. That’s a 21.6% bump in on screen size, most of which comes from wider spacing between path elements (and the > symbol that replaces the \ in a fully-formed directory path). Here are the paths for the two contrasting folders themselves:

new-style: C:\Utils\PowerPlans
old-style: F:\Nirlauncher\NirSoft\x64

This observed, the text displayed inside the address bar for File Explorer for each version is a little different, as you can confirm by inspection:

new-style: This PC > Local Disk (C:) > Utils > PowerPlans
old-style: This PC > OCZ3-120 (F:) > Nirlauncher > Nirsoft > x64

The upper display consumes more screen space than the lower even though it’s shorter (46 characters in the upper line; 53 on the lower, counting each space as a single character). Thus, it’s even more spread out than the visuals show by direct comparison. Because the upper string is 15% shorter, the expansion comes to roughly 40% (multiply 1.15  by 1.216).

Is Brevity the Soul of Wit?

Methinks that a more compact address bar makes it easier — and faster — to consume its contents. I’d urge MS to offer a compact version of the address bar as a tweak in future releases. If they don’t, somebody will probably do so in an add-on tool (e.g. WinAero Tweaker). I guess we’ll have to wait and see what happens, perhaps in the upcoming 23H2 version of Windows 11. To that end, I hope somebody at MS is listening…

Note Added August 3

One person who read this post suggested that this spacing is designed to make touch access to the address bar easier. I buy the notion that added spacing makes touch more effective. But I still think MS should add a “compact address bar” option to its File Explorer controls so that those not using touch can elect a more condensed presentation if they want it. ‘Nuff said…


After OOO Upgrade Whirl Resumes

OK, then. We rolled back into the garage a little after 5 PM last night. We spent 4 glorious days in an around Marfa, TX. It’s an odd but charming hipster haven in the Big Bend region. This morning, I’m surveying the state of my slightly reduced PC fleet after my absence. I’m down to 9 machines right now, having returned a couple of loaners to Lenovo in hopes of some new review units in return. After OOO upgrade whirl resumes with a vengeance as I catch up on what I missed while gone.

Reporting on: after OOO Upgrade Whirl Resumes

Across my various PCs, I saw some auto-activity in Update history while I was gone. But as I worked with my PCs, each of them needed somewhere between half-a-dozen and ten upgrades/updates to catch up to the leading edge. In general, WinGet accounted for one to three of those items, WU for about the same, and SUMo for the rest.

Interestingly, Strawberry Perl had failed to update in WinGet and inside WingetUI just before I left town. I’d resolved to fix that this morning, but it seems to have fixed itself. WinGet did the upgrade job on its own with nary a hiccup nor error message (see lead-in graphic).

Across the fleet, here are the apps and applications I needed to update upon my return to “active duty” (in alphabetical order): Firefox, Driver Booster, Intel ARC Control, OhMyPosh,  Strawberry Perl, and Zoom. Given how long I was OOO (out of the office) I’d expected more. But hey, if I can take a break from the grind, so can everybody else, Cheers: it was fun to be gone, but it’s good to be back!


Reboot Cures MIA USB-C Port

Sometimes, I just don’t get it when Windows gets weird. This time, it’s one of my two Lenovo ThinkPad X380 Yoga laptops (i7-8650U, 16 GB RAM, 1 TB NVMe SSD; vintage 2018). I noticed my USB-C attached NVMe enclosure was MIA, Plugging and unplugging did no good, either. The drive worked fine in another, newer laptop (Lenovo ThinkPad P16 Mobile Workstation: 11th gen i7, 128GB RAM, 2×1 TB NVMe SSD). I soon figured out that a reboot cures MIA USB-C port on the X380. Bizarre!

Hold on: A Reboot Cures MIA USB-C Port

Because the drive worked right away in the other laptop, I was pretty sure the issue was with the USB-C port, not the drive. And indeed, when I rebooted the X380 Yoga the USB-C-attached NVMe enclosure once again showed up and worked at expected speeds (it only ran about half that rate when plugged into a USB 3.2 Type A port via conversion cable).

What the hey? I’m speculating, but my best guess is that when the X380 goes to sleep it loses track of — and connection with — the USB-C port. Works fine now, though… The lead-in graphic shows this as the E: drive with a 1TB SSD ensconced therein.

When in Doubt … Reboot

It never fails to amaze and amuse me that the old “three-fingered salute” (anybody else still remember CTRL-ALT-DEL?) still fixes so many Windows weirdnesses. At least, it’s just something momentary. To no surprise, the search string “X380 Yoga USB-C port disappears after sleep” auto-completes when I start typing the word “disappears.” That tells me my experience is not unique: Google knows about it, too. Go figure!

And that’s the way things go here in Windows-World. Hopefully, I’ll remember what to do the next time this happens…

Added 2Hrs Later: Confirmed!

I let the X380 go to sleep and when I woke it back up, once again the USB-C NVMe drive disappeared. After another reboot, it’s baaaack! I’d have to say this confirms my sleep-based hypothesis. OK, then…




Introducing Microsoft PC Manager

Last Friday, I learned about a new Beta Windows utility from Microsoft called “PC Manager.” It’s available for download and use right now on both Windows 10 and 11. There’s just one problem: I couldn’t get it to install from the download for either OS. But since I’m introducing Microsoft PC Manager here and now, you know I’ve figured out a workaround. Yep: there’s a Winget package for this tool, and it installs through that approach just fine.

Still Introducing Microsoft PC Manager, Despite Installer Fail

If you run the download file named MSPCManagerSetup.exe it simply hangs, even when you agree to its terms and conditions. It just sits there, doing nothing, like so:

Introducing Microsoft PC Manager.install-hang

Even after agreeing to the terms, the installer presents no option to actually install the tool. Stuck!

I figured there might be a winget package manifest for this tool, seeing as how it’s a Microsoft thing. I was right. It took a bit of poking around, but I eventually hit paydirt on the string “PCManager.” Here’s a screencap with the right install syntax (and a successful installation).

Winget install Microsoft.PCManager does the trick!

Again: Introducing MS PC Manager

Here’s what the startup window from the application looks like. It provides information into PC health, storage, processes and startup apps, as well as cleanup and security stuff.

Introducing Microsoft PC Manager.program-running

OK then: here’s the home window for the Microsoft PC Manager (Beta) utility.

Health check takes a couple of minutes to run, and found excess files and baggage, as well as numerous startup items to cancel out. Storage Manger offers options for deep cleanup, large file management, app management and storage sense. Deep cleanup found and removed another 3.6 GB of “stuff” on my PC; large files created a single-pane display of all files over 100 MB on my system (you can set thresholds at 10, 50 and 100 MB, and 1 GB: pretty handy). Manage apps simply moves you to Settings → Apps → Apps & features, where you can review and manage what you’ve got. Storage Sense does likewise for Settings → System → Storage → Configure Storage Sense or run it now. All pretty handy, and worth fooling around with. Check it out!

In a future blog post, I’ll dig further into the Security button at the lower right. It has at least one interesting capability that I’ll also be writing about in an updated story for ComputerWorld soon (I hope).


Windows 11 Dev Channel Adventures Begin

OK, I admit it: in the wake of the recent uplift from Dev to Canary Channels for Windows 11, I didn’t dedicate another machine or VM to the former. But with all of the recent news about cool stuff showing up there, I’ve decided it’s time that my Windows 11 Dev Channel adventures begin … again! Right now, in fact, the Lenovo Yoga is working through the post-GUI install phase for Build 23506.

When Windows 11 Dev Channel Adventures Begin, Then What?

There will be lots of exciting new stuff to investigate and learn here, if what I’m reading online is correct. The 23506 announcement is, in fact, chock full of stuff, including:

  • Passwordless experience with Windows Hello for Business
  • Unsafe password copy and paste warnings
  • Local file sharing improvements
  • Outlook for Windows becomes an inbox app
  • New post-Out-of-box (OOBE) experience
  • Expanded auto color management (ACM) capabilities
  • GA for Windows Copilot preview (a big draw for me)
  • Updated backup preferences (really curious about this, too)

And there’s quite a bit more I’m skipping, so do read the announcement for more gory details. And while I’ve been writing this, the new Build has finished installing. You can see the winver output as the lead-in graphic above. I’m there, so now I need to so some exploring and experimenting. Stay tuned: I’ll follow up!

Note: Courtesy of Bing Chat, here’s more info about MOTW:

MOTW stands for “Mark of the Web”. It is a security feature that helps prevent web-based content from accessing resources on your computer and helps prevent malicious content from running on your computer. When you download a file from the internet, it may be marked with MOTW. This mark indicates that the file came from the internet and may be potentially harmful. When you try to run a file that has been marked with MOTW, Windows will display a warning message1.