Category Archives: Windows 11

Windows 11 Store Updates via Library

One minor befuddlement about the newly-refreshed update to the Microsoft Store has puzzled me. Since updating to Windows 11, and obtaining the latest Store version, I haven’t been able to find its Update mechanism. This morning, on a whim, I opened the Library left-column menu item. Voila! Now I know one obtains Windows 11 Store updates via Library buttons. You can see the previously-elusive “Get updates” button at the upper left of the lead-in graphic for this very story.

Push the Button, and Windows 11 Store Updates via Library

And indeed, pressing the “Get updates” button from the Library controls behaves pretty much the same way as in Windows 10. The button goes dim, the busy circle icon circulates for a while, and if any updates are pending a list appears and begins to take care of itself.

I wish I could show you a picture of that update process. But only one of my test machines needed an update. It was for the commercial version of Lenovo Vantage (the ThinkPad update utility). Thing is, it flew by so quickly I didn’t have time to grab a screencap. That said, it does show up in Reliability Monitor as an Informational event. So here’s a screencap that shows it installed at 9:02 AM on July 3.

Windows 11 Store Updates via Library.update-relimon

There it is: Non-highlighted (second) item with LenovoSettings in the name string.
[Click image for full-sized view.]

As the old saying goes, I KNEW it had to be in there somewhere. A little poking around and I did eventually find it. My only question now is why did Microsoft decide to call this the “Library?” My guess: because it points to the repository of apps on the host PC where the Microsoft Store is currently running. The Help button is surprisingly mum on Store UI details and related info, so I guess I did what we’re all supposed to do. I figured it out for myself. Maybe you’ll find it helpful, too…

Facebooklinkedin
Facebooklinkedin

What Color Is Your Windows 11 BSOD?

I’m seeing numerous reports in the news that in Windows 11, a stop error produces a screen with a black background. You can provoke such an error, often known as a BSOD (Blue Screen of Death, irrespective of color) on Windows 11 quite easily. Simply open Task Manager, go to details. right-click on svchost.exe and select “End process tree.” This will immediately crash your PC, and show you the stop code for CRITICAL_PROCESS_DIED. When I do that on both of my Windows 11 test machines, I get a GSOD (Green Screen of Death) that’s identically colored to the lead-in graphic for this story. What color is your Windows 11 BSOD?

Why ask: What color is your Windows 11 BSOD?

Over the years, I’ve seen them in various shades of blue and green. I’ve never seen a black one. I still can’t see one now. Thus, I’m guessing that the background color for a BSOD/stop error probably depends on some background or appearance setting in the OS. Otherwise, the claims I’m reading online that the background is black would also show up on my test machines.

Here’s a sampling of such stories:
Tom’s Hardware: Windows 11’s Blue Screen of Death Could Be Turning Black
BBC: Microsoft’s Windows 11 blue screen of death to become black
WinAero: Windows 11: Blue Screen of Death is now Black Screen of Death

In fact, this assertion is showing up in dozens of news stories. Thus, I find it both interesting and vexing that when I tried to confirm this for myself, both of my test machines came up with a green background instead.

One Case Does Not Make a Transformation

I think what may be happening is that some people will indeed see black as the BSOD background. Some will see green (including me). I’m curious to know if other colors will present. it’s most interesting that such changes can lead to pronouncements that somehow remind me of a certain Rolling Stones song…

And that’s the way things go here in Windows-World. Often it’s something odd and hard to explain, if not mysterious, like this one!

Update Added July 3: It’s a Possibility, Not a Fact

Now I get it! It’s a claim that originates from Tom Warren at The Verge, who writes

“The software giant started testing its new design changes in a Windows 11 preview earlier this week, but the Black Screen of Death isn’t fully enabled yet. The Verge understands Microsoft will be switching to a Black Screen of Death for Windows 11, matching the new black logon and shutdown screens.”

I guess that means I have to keep crashing my Windows 11 test machines after each upcoming new Build, to see what color the BSOD takes on. Eventually, if Mr. Warren is correct, that background will go “back in black” to call an 80s anthem to attention. Stay tuned!

 

Facebooklinkedin
Facebooklinkedin

X1 Yoga Gen6 First Look

OK, I admit it. I’ve been sitting on this machine for a couple of weeks, buried in a mountain of other work. Ordinarily, I write my first look piece a day or two after a review unit shows up. Thus, my X1 Yoga Gen6 first look really includes a second and third look as well. And I must say, Lenovo has succeeded in injecting new oomph and vitality into a series of PCs that I’ve owned from them as far back as 2012. To be more specific, I’m talking about the latest iteration in the series: the ThinkPad X1 Yoga Gen 6.

Taking the X1 Yoga Gen6 First Look

Once I’d finished reviewing the ThinkPad X12 detachable tablet, I contacted the reviews team at Lenovo to request a loaner of this splendid little laptop. What they sent in response far exceeded my expectations. Here’s what this “Storm Grey” brushed aluminum laptop includes:

  • CPU: 11th Generation i7-1185G7 (4 cores/8 threads) 3.0 GHz
  • RAM: 16 GB LPDDR4X 4266 MHz RAM (soldered)
  • Graphics: Intel Xe Graphics Rev2
  • Storage: Hynix PCIe x4 NVMe SSD 512GB
  • Monitor: 3840×2400 Flex View Display (touch-enabled)
  • Ports: 2xThunderbolt 4 USB-C, 2xUSB-A 3.2 Gen 1, HDMI 2.0, Garaged Pen/Stylus, Headphone/mic mini-RCA jack, Kensington lock slot
  • Dimensions (HxWxD): 14.9mm x 313mm x 223mm x / 0.59″ x 12.32″ x 8.77″
  • Weight: Starts at 1.35kg (3 lbs: mine weighs 3 lbs 2 oz/1415g)

To my amazement, the current price for this unit as configured is ~US$3,800 (in round numbers, not including applicable sales or VAT taxes). This is a beast of a laptop, with an equally monstrous price.

What US$4K Buys You: Quite a Lot, Actually

The brushed aluminum deck and exterior are much more fingerprint resistant than my older X380 and X390 models in their standard Lenovo matte black finish. The construction is rigid and strong, with no real flex in either the keyboard or monitor decks of this 2-in-1 device. I found it easy and fun to use as a tablet with keyboard deck folded back behind. I found the keyboard just as usable and capable as most other modern Lenovo keyboards. For somebody who types for a living, that means a lot.

The speed of the RAM and NVMe SSD are pretty great, and the top-of-the-line i7 mobile CPU (1186G7) is likewise both powerful and capable. Right now, in fact, this laptop is the fastest PC at Chez Tittel and its 3840×2400 UHD panel the highest resolution display as well. In fact, I was amazed that the default scaling factor was 300%. That’s a good thing because I can’t see the text when it’s scaled 1:1 (100%). Touch is responsive, and the colors are vibrant and intense (500 nits, 90% DCI P3 color gamut).

The Thunderbolt ports come in really handy. In fact, they’re among the few Thunderbolt 4 capable input ports here at Chez Tittel. I’ve got several Thunderbolt 3 docks, which which the PC works splendidly, but so far I haven’t been able to stress test the high end of Thunderbolt/USB-C capabilities.

X1 Yoga Gen6 First Look.ssd-speeds

USB-C to the left with a Samsung 960 NVMe; Internal PCIe x4 Hynix NVMe to the right.
[Click image for full-sized view.]

So far, the internal NVMe CrystalDiskMark results (right-hand side of preceding graphic) are among the fastest I’ve seen here at Chez Tittel. The external NVMe is a Samsung 960 1 TB unit in a Sabrent USB-C SSD enclosure. Those results are also quite good. In fact, Macrium Reflect accomplished a complete C: image backup from the internal to the external drive in 2:46 with observed data rates of 1.7 to 2.0 GBps. On-disk size of the Macrium Reflect Image file (.mrimg) for that task is 22,821 KB (22.28 GB). That’s fast!

I Can See This Laptop as a Daily Driver

The target audience for this PC is business users. And in fact, I can see this device as a “daily driver.” If connected to  one or two external monitors, keyboard and mouse, plus extra storage through a Thunderbolt dock, I could use it as my everyday computing platform myself. The beauty of this approach is that one’s primary desktop turns into a traveling machine simply by disconnecting from the dock and heading out the door. I’d probably take my 1 TB USB-C attached external drive along, too for backup and recovery stuff on the road.

If you’re in the market for a high-end do-it-all machine, the X1 Yoga could be what you need. If you’re willing to plunk down the nearly US$4K it costs it can do the job. Then, if you’re willing to spend another US$1,500-2,000 to outfit it with additional accoutrement for in-office use it can serve as a primary computing platform. I’m thinking 2 27″ monitors (Dell UltraSharp 27 4K), decent keyboard and mouse (I like Microsoft’s offerings), and 2x5TB or larger external HDs attached via USB-C or USB A 3.1 or 3.2 would do it. And of course, this recently built PC meets all Windows 11 hardware requirements, so upgrading should be a breeze.

Highly recommended, for those who can afford it. My 2019 vintage X390 delivers about 75% of the performance for less than 35% of the price, though…

Check Your Prices, Dude!

After feedback from Lenovo arrived to the effect that “list prices aren’t best prices” — a sentiment I wholeheartedly endorse — I did some shopping around online and found a Full HD version with touchscreen (all other components the same) for US$2409.07. The lower resolution screen also extends battery life, so may be a better choice anyway. In fact, Newegg has the same configuration for a mere US$1,689 (FHD touchscreen but all else the same). Perhaps my concerns for price are overstated? You bet! Should I have shopped around a bit before posting this story? Too right! Somewhat abashed, I strongly recommend the FHD version of this laptop as a “killer deal.” Sigh.

Facebooklinkedin
Facebooklinkedin

Windows 11 Device Driver Handling

Now that I’m getting past my first look, I’m starting to dig into the new OS. Right now, I’m thinking about device drivers. So far, Windows 11 device driver handling has been painless and on point.  I have noticed a few items of interest, though, about which I’ll report here. First, though, I’ll take a detour to introduce and explain my investigation tool.

GitHub Project DriverStore Explorer

Aka RAPR.exe, DriverStore Explorer is free software from developer lostindark. It’s made available via GitHub. I’ve been using it for a decade or longer, and it does a great job of showing drivers in the Windows DriverStore and zooming in on duplicates and outdated elements therein. I’ve now run the tool against both of my Windows 11 test machines (X380 Yoga and X12 Detachable Tablet). In so doing, some interesting patterns have emerged.

Windows 11 Device Driver Handling Seen via RAPR

As I look over the in-store drivers via RAPR on Windows 11, one thing jumps out immediately. As shown in the lead-in graphic for this story, there are 5 duplicated of the same Bluetooth driver therein. They share a common filename — ibtusb.inf — plus common dates and driver versions — 22.50.0.4 and 4/19/2021, respectively. These appeared only after installing Windows 11, so I’m not speculating too wildly when I assert that something during the OS install process installed a bunch of duplicates.

Fortunately, the RAPR functions “Select Old Driver(s)” and “Delete Driver(s)” clean these duplicates out without problems. As you can see in the following “after” image, there are now only two entries left under the Bluetooth heading. Before, there were 10.

Now only two entries under Bluetooth versus 10 beforehand.
[Click image for full-sized view.]

In fact, the only duplicates/old drivers still handing around after cleanup are extensions for the Intel Iris Xe graphics (iigd_ext.inf). This kind of behavior is typical when a driver remains active during update. That’s why RAPR provides a Force Deletion checkbox (and why a follow-up reboot helps). Indeed the X12 graphics went wonky after forcibly removing the graphics drivers in use. A reboot set things right and now it is using the latest version, just as it should be.

Facebooklinkedin
Facebooklinkedin

Windows 11 First Looks

Mid-afternoon yesterday, I caught the word that Windows 11 was out via Insider Preview Dev Channel. Right now, I’ve got two test PCs upgraded to the new OS. #1 is a Lenovo X380 Yoga; #2 is a Lenovo X12. Both machines meet all hardware requirements and gave me my Windows 11 first looks. I must say, unequivocally, so far I really, really like what I see — and feel.

The Two Target PCs, in More Detail

PC number 1 is a 2018 vintage Lenovo ThinkPad X380. It’s got an 8th generation i7-8650U CPU, 16 GB of soldered DDR4 2400 MHz RAM, a Toshiba 1TB PCIe x3 NVMeSSD, Intel AC-8625 Wi-Fi, and a reasonably  capable 1920×1080 touchscreen, with fingerprint reader (no Hello-capable camera). I purchased this unit as a third-party refurb in late 2018 for around US$1200 (including all taxes and fees).

PC number 2 is a brand-new (2021) Lenovo ThinkPad X12 Detachable. It’s got an 11th Generation i7-1180G7 CPU, 16 GB of soldered DDR4 LPDDR4X 4267 MHz RAM, a Western Digital 1TB PCIe x4 NVMe SSD, an Intel AX201 Wi-Fi6 adapter, and a decent 1920×1280 touchscreen, with fingerprint reader and Hello IR camera. This is unit is on extended loan from Lenovo, to give me a chance to fly it using Windows 11 for some time.

Both machines worked quite well with Windows 10, where the X380 has been a Dev Channel Insider Preview test unit since day 1. Until yesterday, the X12 had been running production Windows 10. Both machines upgraded to Windows 11 with no difficulty. Each one took less than half an hour to make its way through that process.

What Do My Windows 11 First Looks Tell Me?

OK, it’s hard to get one’s head around a brand-new OS after a few hours in the saddle. That said, I’ve been messing around with Windows since the early 1990s, so I’ve got a good sense of how things should (or used to) work on these PCs. Here’s a list of adjectives I’d use to describe my experiences so far:

  • speedy: the OS feels perceptibly faster than Windows 10. Menus pop up more quickly, programs launch faster, and so forth. Even the venerable Disk Cleanup utility got through its post-upgrade scan and report noticeably faster than Windows 10. Windows.old cleanout seems about the same, however.
  • fluid: the transitions and animations are faster and more fluid than in Windows 10. Overall look and feel is much more consistent, though some hold-out from the old days still persist (e.g. Programs and Features in Control Panel).
  • familiar: though things have changed, and a few minor navigation details along with them, the OS still feels familiar enough that I’m not getting lost easily or often. I remember the sense of utter dislocation that Windows 8 brought to my desktop. Windows 11 does not have this problem.
  • snazzed-up UI: the round corners, fluid icons, taskbar, notifications and even widgets (successor to “News and Interests”) all harmonize better in look and feel. I do like the direction that Windows 11 is taking the UI, and have enjoyed fooling around so far.

Differences, Errors, Issues and MIAs

I’m sure my list will grow as I spend more time behind the wheel driving Windows 11 around. Here’s what I’ve noticed and seen so far, in no particular order:

    • The Advanced Startup option is MIA in Windows 11 Recovery.
    • An older version of CPU-Z threw a driver error (image below). Upgrading to the current version (1.96) does away with this problem.
      Windows 11 First Looks.cpuzdriver

This error message pops up on my Windows 11 desktop. The CPU-Z driver has issues for version 143.

    • I had to figure out that the right-click options for cut, copy, rename and delete now appear as icons at the bottom of the pop-up menu. Minor confusion, easily overcome.
    • Known issues include: taskbar does not appear across multiple monitors, preview window may show incomplete view, settings may fail to launch on a device with multiple accounts, Start menu text entry issues may present (WinKey+R is advised as a workaround), and more. See “Known Issues with Build 22000.51” in the Windows 11 Announcement blog post for more deets and particulars.

Overall, though, I’m impressed, pleased, and intensely motivated to keep exploring. Definitely worth checking out on a test machine or a throwaway VM. Cheers!

Facebooklinkedin
Facebooklinkedin

Three-Quarters of PCs Sold Can’t Run Windows 11

Figure the number of PC sales based on Gartner’s Q1 projections against 2020, and total PC sales for 2021 could top 363 million. Take that into account along with data shown in the lead-graphic  from Statista. You’ll get an astonishing ratio: at least three-quarters of PCs sold can’t run Windows 11. To be absolutely clear, that means PCs sold between 2006 and 2021. Thus, I am assuming that PCs built in 2005 or earlier are unlikely to skew this estimate. And if they do, they will skew it away from Windows 11 anyway…

The breakdown is this: 3.62B billion PCs were sold between 2006 and 2017 (the last year CPUs too old to run Windows 11 were made). OTOH, 1.16B PCs were sold between 2018 through the end of 2021. To get that number, I’m generously allowing Gartner’s Q1’21 growth rate to persist all year. Do the resulting math, and just over 24 percent of PCs qualify for Windows 11, while nearly 76 percent of PCs don’t.

Hence: Three-Quarters of PCs Sold Can’t Run Windows 11

Microsoft currently claims 1.3 B active monthly users for Windows 10. I think that puts the size of the active global PC population lower than 4.8B units sold 2006-2021. I’m inclined to believe this means that the ratio could be more in Windows 11’s favor than my sales-based analysis indicates. Even so, it’s indisputable that three-quarters of PC’s sold since 2006 can’t run Windows 11. What’s in question is how many of the PCs sold from 2006 to 2014 or so remain in use.

I just gave my old Lenovo X220 Tablet (built in 2011 and purchased in 2012) away. That’s because it really didn’t run Windows 10 all that well any more (Insider Preview Dev Channel, that is). I cheerfully concede that for PCs in regular use, the ratio may be more like 50-50 when it comes to those that can, and can’t, run Windows 11. At my house, the actual ratio was 60-40 (can/can’t).

Still, that’s an evocative ratio. It indicates that many users must consider a hardware refresh plus an OS upgrade to get to Windows 11. I believe it applies across the board, too. And by that I mean among households and consumers, plus businesses and organizations at all scales.

This phenomenon should make watching PCs sales over the next year or two very interesting indeed. Microsoft will be watching, the OEMs will be watching, and I’ll be watching too. Stay tuned!

Facebooklinkedin
Facebooklinkedin

Windows 11 Health Check Details

Now that MS has done the big reveal, I can affirm the rumors — and the existence — of Windows 11. So without further ado, I downloaded the new PC Health Check tool (find a link in the final paragraph of this story). It comes in .MSI (Microsoft Installer) format and installs quickly and easily on most PCs. Digging into the Windows 11 Health Check details, though, I fell victim to at least two rude surprises. Maybe more: read my story, then you tell me…

First surprise: my 6-year-old production PC won’t run Windows 11.

Good/Bad News from Windows 11 Health Check Details

In his story about this tool, WinAero.com principal Sergey Tkachenko lists the Windows 11 hardware requirements as follows (quoted verbatim):

  • A 64-bit dual-core 1Ghz CPU or better.
  • 4GB of RAM or better.
  • 64GB of storage or better.
  • A 9-inch display with a minimum 1366×768 resolution.
  • A motherboard with UEFI, Secure Boot, and Trusted Platform Module 2.0.
  • A discrete or integrated GPU with DirectX 12 support and WWDM 2.X.

Actually there’s a bit more to it than that. Interested parties are advised to check these official MS items: Find Windows 11 specs, features and computer requirements and Windows Processor Requirements. They led me to some interesting but depressing realizations, including:

1. Windows 11 PCs must include TPM 2.0 support, along with UEFI and Secure Boot
2. Windows 11 PCs won’t run on 7th generation Intel processors or older: 8th generation is “as low as they go.” On the AMD side, processors number 29xx or higher are compatible with 11. I still have 4 systems with older CPUs here at Chez Tittel.

My production PC, which I’d been planning to refresh, is ineligible because it runs an i7-6700 CPU and has no TPM chip. My son’s desktop is in the exact same boat. Then there’s the Surface Pro 3, which runs a 4th Gen Intel CPU (i74650U). And of course, I’m waiting to give away the Ivy Bridge (2nd Gen Intel i7-2650M) to Reglue.org as soon as they can send somebody by to pick it up.

Change Is Coming, Sooner Not Later

Looks like I need to refresh two desktops before the holidays (when Window 11 is scheduled to go public). I’m guessing October, to give shoppers time to buy Windows 11 equipped PCs before Xmas. Looks like I will also give the Surface Pro 3 (with dock, alternate keyboard, and other accessories) to ReGlue, too.  Time to revisit my bill of materials for those builds, and get the orders flying! I’d hoped to wait until GPU prices came down, but will just re-use the GeForce 1070 Ti cards in those two desktops in the meantime.

Note added June 26 (1 day later)

In response to feedback from users that PC Health Check’s info was insufficiently detailed, the company has already released a new version. It’s much more informative. Thus for example, it now spells out what I had to visit several tables to figure out on my own — namely, that the 6th gen i7 in my production PC is not supported:

Windows 11 Health Check Details.cpu-reject

Now, the tool spells out specific causes for incompatibility.

Thus, interested readers should be sure to grab the latest version of the tool, available at https://aka.ms/GetPCHealthCheckApp. I’ve turned off the out-of-date link at the head of the story to help readers avoid confusion. Kudos to MS for responding to useful user input so quickly and effectively!

Facebooklinkedin
Facebooklinkedin