Category Archives: Windows 11

Self-inducing Windows 10 keyboard output delays

Recently, while troubleshooting an issue on Windows 10 where Zoom kept crashing unexepectedly, I observed something even more vexing. The cure for that specific issue is to turn Video Conference Mute off in PowerToys (on by default). But as soon as one does that, keyboard input slows to a crawl. Indeed, when self-inducing Windows 10 keyboard output delays that way, it can take seconds for a keystroke to appear on-screen. If you type even modestly fast (like me) that means you can finish a whole sentence before output shows up on screen. When you make occasional typos — as I sometimes do (1 in this sentence so far) — that’s immensely frustrating.

When Self-inducing Windows 10 Keyboard Output Delays, Easy Fix

At first, I tried restarting the Explorer task in Task Manager. That sometimes helps when such symptoms appear. Not this time. The next standard fix is a system restart. And indeed, that did the trick for me.

I know that PowerToys ties into Windows at a pretty deep level. I’m guessing that turning default settings off in the program may change low-level system behaviors. Apparently, the Video Conference Mute change is discombobulating enough to change the delay involved in keyboard echo (the time it takes for a keypress value to show up on screen).

Another “Interesting” Issue Caught and Killed

This happens only on Windows 10, though. I tried the same changes on Windows 11, and it didn’t affect keyboard output at all. On Windows 10, I first noticed it in the WordPress editor. But then, it showed up in Outlook and Word — and even, Notepad — so I assumed it was an across-the-board thing.

Thus, I’m glad that an old standby in whacking Windows weirdnesses — namely, a restart — fixed the issue on my production PC. I use that machine all day long, every day, and mostly enter text on a keyboard for a living. Thus, fixing anything that slows down text entry is of major importance — to me, at least.

Stay tuned. As things are always interesting with Windows in some odd way or another, this is a thread I’ll have no trouble adding to in my daily writing. As Roseanne Roseannadanna often said on SNL: “It’s always something!” Too true…


Dev Channel Build 22538 Gets Interesting

The old Chinese curse goes “May you live in interesting times.” Sounds innocuous, until you understand that what a reader of history might find interesting after the fact, someone who lived through such experiences might find disturbing or harrowing. In that sense then, I proclaim that Dev Channel Build 22538 gets interesting. Exactly what does this mean?

When Dev Channel Build 22538 Gets Interesting, Look Out!

I downloaded and installed this latest Build on my two test PCs yesterday, and finished up this morning. Everything went well, and finished in a reasonable amount of time. (That means under 30 min for both the X12 Hybrid [11th gen Intel i5/16GB RAM/512GB SSD)]and the X380 Yoga [8th gen Intel i7/16 GB RAM/1TB SSD].)

Things only got interesting when I started running the new OS version. If you shift the Start menu left (Start → Personalization → Taskbar → Taskbar behaviors → Taskbar alignment: Left), the Widget icon turns into a weather icon instead. Some users report getting a “weather bug” and temperature value. Others — including me — get only the weather bug. See the lead-in graphic for an illustration, as central Texas faces possible “wintry mix” today.

I was also in for a surprise the first time I remoted into the X12, using Remote Desktop Connection (.exe) . The Taskbar included only two icons. When I tried to run Task Manager to restart Explorer.exe (which usually fixes such behaviors) nothing was accessible. So I ended the remote session, logged into the X12 locally, and then tried again. Everything worked on a second attempt, thank goodness. Indeed, that was interesting!

Curiosity Prompts X380 Yoga Check

Curiosity led me to do likewise on the X380 Yoga. But it showed no such anomalies. Instead a flag from Windows Security informed me that memory integrity checks (Core isolation) were turned off. I had to restart to set things right, but that seemed to work OK, too. The flag was absent after the restart, and Windows Security offered a clean bill of health.

All I can say about the 22538 Build and Dev Channel builds for Windows 11 in general, is that they work surprisingly well. They’re supposed to have rough edges and not-fully-fleshed-out features and functions. I seldom find interesting things to report when I install and run them. It’s fun when things get interesting — at least, on test PCs where I don’t have to rely on them to get my job done.

Stay tuned: I’ll continue to report items of interest as I encounter them.


Zoom Resume Ruminations

Last week, I reported that disabling the Video Conference Mute feature in PowerToys fixed constant Zoom crashes. This morning, I participated in a successful Zoom conference on the fixed PC. This has me thinking… Thus, I’ll share Zoom resume ruminations to celebrate a return to more or less normal operations. (Note: the lead-in graphic shows PowerToys Video Conference Mute “Off”.)

Where Do Zoom Resume Ruminations Lead?

Having expunged multiple Windows issues in the past week, I’m pondering best Windows troubleshooting practices. First and foremost, I’m reminded that when actual Windows errors present, the best way to find solutions or workarounds is to start from  error messages or codes that appear on-screen.

Thus, searching on “Zoom quit unexpectedly” and “Windows 10” is what ultimately led me to the PowerToys fix. Ditto, when I found a sizable string (7 in all) of repeated COM Surrogate “stopped working” critical events in Reliability Monitor. That, too, led me to a set of possible causes and related fixes.

Troubleshooting Requires Proper Context

If anything I learned while studying anthropology still works for me as a tech person, it’s the importance of putting things into context to really understand them. Troubleshooting research definitely requires taking error messages and including enough context to filter out irrelevancies and focus in on useful insights.

As I look back on my problem-solving efforts of late, I observe  certain “context data items”  make useful adjuncts to error messages and codes. These include:

  • OS version or application name
  • Build number (where applicable)
  • Filenames that appear in error details
  • Complete error code strings (e.g. 0XC0000005 instead of C05)

When I’m looking for present-day errors, I sometimes find it helpful to restrict the time scope for searches to the “Past week” or “Past month” setting in Google. That focuses on current events, as ’twere, and makes results more likely to apply to whatever issues I’m chasing right now.

Works for me, anyway. Hopefully, that means such techniques might also work for you, too!

Notes Added 1 Hour Later

Two things:

1. I just updated PowerToys on the Production PC to version 0.53.3. I’m pleased to report it preserved my “Off” setting for Video Conference Mute. If I turn it back on, the crashes resume (works fine when set to “Off,” though).

2. I learned yesterday that the WindowsInsider Team renewed my Windows Insider MVP (WIMVP) Award for 2022. I’m pleased and humbled to remain a member of that active and vibrant community.


Chronic COM Surrogate Windows 10 Failures

OK, then. I was poking around on my Windows 10 production desktop yesterday. Inside Reliability Monitor, I counted up 7 of 10 recent Application Failures from a single cause. It’s shown in the error detail window that serves as the lead-in graphic for this story. All 7 are more or less the same, where I see chronic COM Surrogate Windows 10 failures at work.

With Chronic COM Surrogate Windows 10 Failures, What to Do?

Look it up on the Internet, of course. Using “COM Surrogate stopped working dllhost.exe” as my search string, I found plenty of data to read and digest. As it turns out, this is a pretty common gotcha.

The COM Surrogate is a host process executable named dllhost.exe (as the error info also indicates). It runs as Explorer or other filesystem-related code works it way through file and folder navigation. The process also handles thumbnails (and viewing same) in Explorer and other similar interfaces.

Most of the renditions I perused, pointed to 4 potential causes:

1. a GPU driver problem
2. interference from Data Execution Prevention (DEP) causing a crash
3. munged DLL file connection (e.g. dllhost.exe)
4. corrupt DLL file

Fixes Follow Causes, Right?

Fixes relate directly to causes. For the first cause, replacing the graphics driver with a known good working version is the trick. This may mean rolling back, to reverse a recent problematic upgrade. Or, it might mean rolling forward, if a new version is available (especially one that mentions fixing thumbnail access issues).

For the second cause, creating an exception for dhllhost.exe in the DEP pane in System Properties, Performance options does the trick. Here’s a partial snapshot of what’s involved (for 32-bit Windows 10, navigate to System32; for 64-bit, navigate to SysWOW64 instead):

Chronic COM Surrogate Windows 10 Failures.DEP-exception

This basically instructs DEP to ignore access to dllhost.exe

For the third cause, re-registering the DLL should ensure that dllhost.exe is properly plumbed into the Windows Registry (for more info, please see this MS Support page). This requires entering a pair of commands in an administrative Command Prompt or PowerShell session:

regsvr32 vbscript.dll
regsvr32 jscript.dll

This should handle anything related to DLL registration.

For the fourth cause, MS recommends first running

dism /online /cleanup-image /restorehealth

Follow that up with sfc /scannow until it comes back with “Windows Resource Protection did not find any integrity violations.”

My Chosen Fix: DEP Exception

Because thumbnails are working OK on my system, I decided that causes 1, 3 and 4 were unlikely. So I implemented a DEP exception, as shown in the preceding screencap. So far, it’s working: no COM surrogate errors since that change. I’ll keep an eye on it, and amend this story if that changes. Stay tuned!

Note: this same approach also works on Windows 11, should the COM surrogate cause problems a PC running that OS instead. Cheers!


Escaping Excess Windows Audio Reverb

My first job out of college was in an archival sound studio at the Library of Congress. Believe it or not, they even send me to a summer audio engineering program.  (The Eastman School of Music, Summer, 1974.) In the nearly 4 years I worked there, I’d like to think I learned a little something about quality sound delivery. That’s why I’ve been chafing during recent attempts at escaping excess Windows Audio reverb. This morning, I finally fixed my problem on my production desktop.

Hows and Whys of Escaping Excess Windows Audio Reverb

First: a problem description. Any kind of music playback on my external speakers has sounded weird lately.  (When I play sounds in “the open air,” I use a set of Axiom Audio components. These inlude: L, R, and subwoofer speakers with external amplifier.)  Here’s my best problem description. On playback, music sounded like it was in a concrete stairwell or in a big tiled bathroom. From my years in the studio and subsequent experience, I knew it was a reverb problem.

First, I went poking around in the Realtek Audio Console app. It’s shown as the background for this story’s lead-in graphic. But none of the changes I made in the equalizer, or among its various settings options (Rock is show in the afore-mentioned screencap), made any difference.

Thus, I realized it had to be something in the old Control Panel Sound widget. It was. At one point or another I must have checked the box shown in the screencap foreground red-arrowed “Enable audio enhancements.” As soon as I unchecked that item, my excess reverb disappeared. Everything returned to normal and my various music sources sounded as much like their original recordings as my semi-pro sound chain (external amp and speakers) could deliver.

When in Doubt, Experiment…

I don’t think I would’ve been able to solve the issue if I hadn’t fooled around with the EQ presets in the Realtek Audio Console. As soon as it was obvious that this element in the audio software chain wasn’t responsible (I was sure I’d picked the “Club” or “Party” presets, both of which seem to boost reverb noticeably), I knew it had to be the Sound widget. And sure enough, whatever audio enhancement had kicked in when I checked that box made a BIG difference.

Fortunately, it was easily fixed and my tunes are now back to normal. Now the question becomes: what do I want to listen to today? As I finish out this post, I’m enjoying the alt-pop sounds of 90s British group “The SUNDAYS.” Good stuff (and it sounds like it oughter…).



No 22533 Dev Channel Flyouts Here … Unless You Push the Right Physical Button

The latest Dev Channel version of Windows 11 showed up on my test PCs yesterday. That means I was slow on the uptake: its announcement blog is dated January 12 (Tuesday). Be that as it may, that blog post claims that “new flyouts [for volume, brightness, and more] will appear when you press the volume or brightness keys on your laptop.” Alas, I see no 22533 Dev Channel flyouts here on either of my test machines. Instead, I see only the same old “flyout panel at right” shown below. The “new look” appears as the lead-in graphic for this story, courtesy of the afore-linked 22533 announcement.

No 22533 Dev Channel Flyouts Here.old-flyout

Alas, I’m still stuck on the old response to clicking the volume icon in taskbar.

If No 22533 Dev Channel Flyouts Here, Then What?

Wait and hope for this to show up on my machines, I guess. MS doesn’t specifically SAY this is a gradual rollout. But the absence of this feature on both PCs certainly suggests that’s the case. I have to laugh: once again I’m on the slow end of the rollout as a nifty new feature shows up. I guess I should be grateful MS shared an image of what I would be able to see, were I lucky enough to have this capability on my own test PCs. All and I can say is, sigh, and sigh again.

That’s the way things go sometimes, here in Windows-World. This is neither the first time I’ve been left out of a gradual rollout — if indeed that’s what it is. And I’m pretty sure it won’t be the last time, either. I’m curious to see what kind of response my experience will engender when I post this info to the WIMVP Teams channel. Maybe I’m doing something wrong, and there’ll be an easy fix. If so, count on me to report back. In the meantime, stay tuned!

The Fix Is In: Push the Physical Button, Doofus!

I heard back pretty much immediately from Brandon LeBlanc on the Insider Team. Seems this flyout REQUIRES a physical corresponding button (volume, brightness, etc) on the PC in use. And presto (pun intended), as soon as I did that, it worked. So much for my “hurt feelings” at not being included. I just had to push the right button and it worked right away. Go figure — and while you’re doing that, indulge in a chuckle at my expense. It was all there in black and white: I just misunderstood.


Version 1.1 Brings Start11 Way Up

When Windows 8 arrived in 2012 — a decade ago, now — I was nonplussed and flabbergasted. The new menus completely threw me for a loop. I had trouble finding my own desktop and its assets. Then I discovered Stardock’s Start8, which let me use everything I knew about Windows 7 to interact with Windows 8. It was a lifesaver. By the time Windows 10 came along, I naturally gravitated to Start10 out of habit, if for no other reason. With Windows 11, early versions of — you guessed it — Start11 had me wondering why I bothered with the program. Even for a mere US$5 ($4 to upgrade) it didn’t seem to add much to the native experience. But version 1.1 brings Start11 way up in terms of functionality, and provides one-click access to otherwise more complex native operations. Let me explain…

If Version 1.1 Brings Start11 Way Up, What Do You Get?

Take a look at the lead-in screencap. IT shows the right-click taskbar pop-up (lower right) along with the Start11 settings pane that makes it happen. The key item is “Replace taskbar right click menu with Windows 10 style one.” That change confers the following options:

  • Configure Start11…: provides instant access to the Start11 app (previous versions needed a launch from the Start menu)
  • Cascade windows/Show windows stacked/Show windows side by side: manage on-desk arrangement of open Windows
  • Show the desktop: hide all open Windows
  • Task Manager: one-click access to the Task Manager
  • Taskbar settings: one-click access to Taskbar settings

For me the biggies are easier access to Start11 controls and familiar access to Task Manager. Does this mean I’m turning into a hide-bound dinosaur, set in my ways? Probably. I had been using CTRL-ALT-ESC to fire off Taskbar before and this is less work.

Other taskbar tweaks are nice, too. They include changing its size and position (but top or bottom alignment only, no right or left side).

Worth the Price of Admission?

Sure, Start11 is cheap. But I’ve learned a lot since Windows 8 hit the streets a decade ago and more. I’m not uncomfortable in the native Windows 10 Start menu , and ditto for Windows 11. I’ve got several test machines running 11 with no “menu support” of any kind and am just as productive there as on an assisted alternative desktop.

I’ll probably buy a license for Start11 when I upgrade my wife’s 11th-gen Dell Micro 7080 later this year. She will be able to keep working as she always has, with little difference between how her system now works on Windows 10 and how it will work post-upgrade. But outside those who resist, or don’t like, change, I don’t see Start11 as a must-have piece of software any longer.

Does that mean Microsoft has gotten better at building base level OS navigation? Or does it mean that I’ve simply absorbed the start menu ethos within Windows 10 and 11? A little of both, I suspect.

Bottom line: If you’re already using Start 11, the 1.1 upgrade really makes the program shine (and more usable and capable). If that means you, grab the upgrade today!



2022 Gets First Windows 10 WUCU Woohoo

I can’t help it. I have to have fun with my headlines occasionally. In this case, WUCU refers to a Cumulative Update (CU) delivered via Windows Update (WU). Hence my proclamation, as 2022 gets first Windows 10 WUCU. The woohoo part is just for grins. I was busy enough with writing and phone calls yesterday that I didn’t notice the download and install part. But when I logged in this morning, I saw a notification that led me to the “Restart required” message in WU. It’s present on all the “regular PCs” in my fleet (those not running an Insider Preview).

When 2022 Gets First Windows 10 WUCU, Then What?

Why, restart all those machines, of course. I just checked the Windows 11 PCs, and they don’t seem to be queued up for Patch Tuesday action. I wonder if this is just a one-off, or if the update cadence for the newest desktop OS might be changing. I guess I’ll have to keep an eye on things, to see what happens.

Closer investigation shows that KB 5009566 hit Windows 11 machines yesterday (January 11) as well. It’s labeled as a Quality Update in Update History, not a CU. So it looks like the cadence continues as always, but that the labels attached to the Patch Tuesday update can be either QU or CU depending on their contents and recent prior preview update activity. Good to know!

Here’s what that looks like on my production-level Lenovo X1 Extreme (8th-gen Intel CPU, vintage 2018).

The update for Windows 11 also arrived on January 11, but it’s a QU not a CU. Go figure!

It seems that Windows 11 is finally starting to diverge from Windows 10. I think we may see some exciting new developments and capabilities in the run-up to this fall’s upcoming equivalent to a feature update. Should be interesting. Stay tuned: I’ll keep you posted.


Zoom Mystery Gets Interesting Resolution

For the past month or so, I’ve been unable to run Zoom on my primary desktop PC. That’s actually OK, because it doesn’t have a video camera, so it’s been no major gotcha to switch over to the laptop I keep at the left-hand side of my desk. There, a camera is built-in and it works fine with my Jabra 75 USB plug-in headset. Today, determined to find a solution, I stumbled across a revelation in the Zoom Community forums. There, my Zoom mystery gets interesting resolution: because the PowerToys “Video Conference Mute” is enabled by default, it crashes Zoom. Turn that feature off. Presto! No more crashing.

Flailing About Leads to Zoom Mystery Gets Interesting Resolution

At the same time, I’ve also had to switch from my Jabra 75 headset to the older Logitech H750e headset on the production PC. Though the sound widget in Control Panel shows sound input/output, it’s not audible on the headset itself. That’s working properly now, too.

If it hadn’t been for some inspired Google search, I’d never have found this by myself. Turns out it’s a “known thing” in GitHub (where PowerToys development is run). There a bug report about this there. It’s entitled “Zoom continuously crashes with Video Conference Mute enabled.”

I’m very glad this finally popped up on my radar. I’m even gladder there’s an easy fix. Shoot! I’m just glad to see the Zoom dashboard popping up and working on my production desktop PC. This fix was a long time coming, but I’m glad to see it finally in place. Sigh.



Substantial First 2022 Dev Channel Build 22526

I’d hoped that the initial Dev Channel build for Windows 11 would show up this week. I’m glad it  did, but it’s something of a doozy. When I say it’s a substantial first 2022 Dev Channel Build 22526 I means it’s big, and it takes a while to download and install. Let me explain…

What Substantial First 2022 Dev Channel Build 22526 Means

First off, I noticed that it took longer than usual to download and install 22526. That means around 15 minutes to download, and another half an hour to install. By contrast, the preceding 22523 Build downloaded in 5 minutes or less, and took about 15 minutes to install. I had the same experience on both test machines, and also had to wait through another 2 minutes or so for OOB experience during the first boot into the OS.

Running WizTree on my two Dev Channel PCs (a Lenovo X12 Hybrid, and aThinkpad X380 Yoga) I see that the size of the Windows folder is 3.2 GB larger for 22526 than Windows.old for 22523. This, too, is kind of unusual. Normally, size doesn’t vary more than 200 MB one way or the other between adjacent versions.

What’s New in 22526?

According to yesterday’s Windows Insider blog post “Announcing Windows 11 Insider Preview Build 22526,” quite a bit is new. The dev team is “experimenting with showing ALT + TAB as windowed instead of full screen for some Insiders.” And whoop! I see that on the X12. Here’s what that looks like, courtesy of SnagIt 2022:

Instead of filling the whole display, ALT+TAB shows up in windowed mode as shown on PCs lucky enough to get this update in 22526.

This is the first time in my personal experience to get selected for a new feature when a limited rollout or A/B test is announced. I’m jazzed.

Other new items in 22526 include:

  • Support for wideband speed using Apple AirPods to improve voice call quality
  • Credential Guard now enabled by default on Domain-joined Windows 11 Enterprise (E3 and E5) licensed PCs
  • File Explorer will index more file locations to make native file search faster and more efficient

Don’t know where the size bump comes into play among all this stuff, but it’s definitely noticeable.

2022 Insider Previews Off to Interesting Start

I’m tickled to see new stuff showing up so soon. I’m even more tickled to be included in the select few who get to see new features under test. It should be interesting to see how things develop, as we work our way deeper into the New Year. Stay tuned: I’ll keep you posted.