Category Archives: Windows OS Musings

Buying Windows 11 Direct Online

OK, then: it’s finally happened. MS now makes downloadable Windows 11 available through its online store. The lead-in graphic pertains to Windows 11 Home, but there’s another, similar page for Windows 11 Pro. Prices are US$139 and US$199 respectively, which makes buying Windows 11 direct online an interesting proposition.

Why Is Buying Windows 11 Direct Online “Interesting?”

The prices for Home (US$139) and Pro (US$199) very much represent MSRP numbers. That is: they set the upper bound on what you must pay to acquire a legit Windows 11 license of either type. A quick search on “Windows 11 pro key purchase” or “Windows 11 home key purchase” shows plenty of etailers offering substantial discounts on those numbers. Some of them are so cheap, in fact, that I have trouble contemplating them as absolutely legit.

Even big etailers such as Newegg, Best Buy, CDW and so forth, offer discounted versions of these OSes. Admittedly some of those are for OEM use. Those are supposedly good only for a one-PC install on a machine for resale to a third party, but I’m not aware of MS enforcing that restriction on users purchasing such a license for appropriate use on any PC they own.

Why Buy From MS, Then?

Convenience, guaranteed legitimacy, and automatic licensing are probably the main reasons why some buyers will turn to MS for these license/download combinations. Those who know how to shop around can do better, to be sure. But those factors can be compelling for those leery of stepping afoul of scams and disallowed uses of seemingly legit license keys.

I’m more than just a little curious to see what kind of buying volumes emerge from this MS offer. Likewise, I’m hopeful MS may actually tell us something about ensuing activity. They don’t always share such data, though. Even official Windows user numbers come only sparsely — the last such “report” covered Windows 10 By The Numbers. It dates back before the pandemic.

 

 

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22621 Takes RTM Role

OK, then: I was pretty much on the money yesterday when I speculated about Windows 11 22H2. A May 24 Windows Hardware Compatibility blog post — shown as the lead-in graphic above — totally confirms this. Indeed, Build 22621 takes RTM role for OEMs in the run-up to its release later this year.

If 22621 Takes RTM Role, Then What?

Here’s a quote from my May 24 piece Windows 11 21H2 Hits Broad Deployment:

As I’ve already reported on May 16, Beta Channel Build 22621 is very likely to RTM as 22H2 in a short while. That makes 22H2 GA likely in September or October.

The lead-in graphic (see red boxed text) confirms that Build 22621 is the “Windows 11, version 22H2 certfication build.” That makes it the starting point for the images that OEMs will build to load onto machines sold after the 22H2 GA date whenever that might be.

And, as for that date, later on in the afore-cited Windows HCL blog post it says:

Partners looking to achieve compatibility for systems shipping with Windows 11, version 22H2 Release may use drivers for components that achieved compatibility with Windows 11, Version 21H2 until Sept 5th, 2021

To me that puts GA date sometime after September 5, and seems to confirm my speculation that this would occur in September or October of this year. Unless something unforeseen occurs — and it could — September 6 is suddenly looking possible. Stay tuned, though: as usual, I’ll keep tracking this and let you know what I learn.

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Could Build 22621 Be RTM Version?

With some consistency and frequency, most of my go-to Windows news sources report the same thing. That is: the latest Beta Channel Build 2221, is likely to go out to OEMs as the “Release to Manufacturing” (RTM) version for Windows 11. This raises the question “Could Build 22621 be RTM version?” I’m inclined to believe it might be, so please let me explain why. . .

Repeat: Could Build 22621 Be RTM Version?

Here are my reasons for believing that indeed, 22621 could be an RTM candidate if not THE RTM candidate for Windows 11:

Timing: MS has promised a 22H2 Windows 11 release, which means sometime between July 1 and December 31, 2022. Given that the usual delay from RTM to public release varies from as little as 12 to as long as 20 weeks over the life of Windows 10, a similar range seems likely for 11 as well. Given 22621 came out on May 11, that would put general availability between July 27 and September 21. This makes good sense to me. OEMs need time to get their collective acts together, and to get ready to deploy new images for the next feature update on their (mostly) consumer grade equipment.

Insider Channel Divergence: As I reported here on May 12, 22621 represents the divergence of Beta and Dev Channel Insider versions. MS forked the Insider channels so it could concentrate on the next Feature update in the Beta Channel, while working on future features for a presumptive 23H2 release in the Dev Channel. Stands to reason they’d have forked when they were getting close enough to recognize a possible RTM in the Beta Channel.

22621 Announcement blog post: Combine the opening statement of “small set of fixes” with “preview experiences that are closer to what we will ship to our general customers” and you get something pretty much like a “closing in on RTM” impression from this post.

Winver Label: look it says right in the lead-in graphic “Version 22H2.” What more do you want by way of (potential) proof?

It’s Not a Sure Thing, But…

Indeed, MS will make changes to 22621 as and when user telemetry indicates a need for same. That goes double if bug reports start proliferating. But, absent such spurs to additional action and related changes, 22621 seems pretty close to what is probably already going into OEM intake processes. Stay tuned: I’ll keep you posted as things develop from here!

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Windows 11 Dev Beta Channels Diverge

OK, what had been joined is now put asunder. Yesterday, Windows 11 Dev Channel went to Build 25115, and Beta Channel to Build 22621. This means that the two Insider Previews are now different. In fact, when Windows 11 Dev Beta channels diverge, it means they have different goals. According to WindowsLatest, 22621 represents a big push toward the first feature update for Windows 11. OTOH, 25115 shows that MS is still pushing forward into future releases looking into 2023 and the “next” feature update upcoming.

When Windows 11 Dev Beta Channels Diverge, Then What?

Among other things, this explains why MS broadcast an email warning to Dev Channel Insiders last week that “unstable and buggy preview builds will soon begin rolling out in the Dev Channel” (source: WindowsLatest,  May 8). In other words, the Dev Channel is returning to its primary role as a “first exposure” to new features, functions, and whatnot making its way into limited circulation for testing and feedback. Frankly, I’m looking forward to this.

As for the Beta Channel, it’s gearing up for progressively more locked down snapshots of what will become the 22H2 release for Windows 11. Thus, it should become an increasingly accurate rendition of the next production Windows 11 release. Again: I look forward to this, too.

You can see the Winver output from these two different versions in the lead-in graphic for this story. The Dev Channel release (Build 25115.1000) is to the left.The Beta Channel release (Build 22621.1) is to the right.

Fun and Foibles A’Comin…

With a more freehwheeling and experimental take on Windows 11 coming to the Dev Channel, life is about to get more interesting. Who knows? There may be bugs or hiccups to detect and report, and trouble to shoot. That’s why I signed up for the Insider program, and why I’m looking forward to more new stuff ahead. Sure, there may be instability and bugs. But that’s a good thing in the interests of getting things out there, and then getting them right. Cheers!

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Windows 11 OS Purchase Follies

OK, then: MS is making Windows 11 available for purchase in the form of boxed USB flash drives for both Pro and Home versions. Take a look at this Amazon Search and you’ll find prices all over the place. This could easily lead to Windows 11 OS purchase follies for those willing to shop around . . . and around . . . and around. The lead-in graphic shows one instance for US$149 for Windows 11 Pro, despite MSRPs of US$199 for that same version, and US$139 for Home.

What Makes Windows 11 OS Purchase Follies Likely?

A quick look at the search results show that prices range from a low of US$112 or so to a high of US$199 for Pro, and US$99 to a high of US$139 for Home. Given that it’s new to the market, I’d expect the range to widen and the number of options to skyrocket.This could make shopping overly interesting, if you ask me.

On the other hand, VG Soft is currently offering Windows 10 Pro in boxed, USB form for a mere US$85 on Amazon. The tag line on the product listing itself says: “free upgrade to Windows 11.” Why on earth pay more for native Windows 11 (either flavor) when you can get Pro for US$27-115 less?

I can’t think of a single good reason, either. As long as Windows 10 is cheaper than 11, and the free upgrade offer stands, this is surely the best way to go. That is, unless you have unused, valid Windows 7 or 8 keys around: those you can still upgrade to 11 as well, entirely for free.

Cheers!

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Possible A/B Icon Test in Dev Build 22598

OK then, I’ve got different behaviors in the clean install version of Build 22598 (one PC) and upgraded versions (two PCs). The lead graphic shows my post at ElevenForum about this phenomenon, and includes the different icon styles I’m seeing. One version, I’ve learned is called “combined icons” (I refer to them as “expanded” in my post) and the other “uncombined icons” (ditto for “compact”). The guru consensus at ElevenForum is that there’s a possible A/B icon test in Dev Build 22598. Makes sense to me!

What Possible A/B Icon Test in Dev Build 22598 Means

Simply put, it would mean that some machines would manifest “combined icons” while others would show “uncombined icons.” That is what appears to be up. But the announcement post, and its subsequent revisions for .100 and .200 CUs make no mention of such. I’m puzzled.

What is clear, however,  is that I can’t find any Taskbar personalization control that lets me turn this feature off (or on). So I’m hoping I’ll find a registry hack to let me take control. We’ll see.

The Mystery Continues . . .

If you take a look at the ElevenForum post on this topic, you’ll see nobody in the community knows what’s up for sure. The A/B test scenario, however likely, is sheer speculation. That said, I have no better explanation.

Stay tuned. I’m casting my inquiries broader afield. If I learn something worth adding, it’ll show up here. If not, we can all keep wondering what’s up. It’s good exercise!

[Added Late Afternoon April 19]

Turns out it was Start11 working behind the scenes that caused this issue. I also had the combined terminology completely backwards: combined means no accompanying text, never combined means always accompanying text. Here’s the setting I changed in Start11 to fix my issue:

Once I selected “Always” for combined, I got the streamlined compact icons I was looking for. My profound thanks to Shawn Keene, fellow WIMVP, who pointed me in exactly the right direction. Fixed!

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Windows 11 Clean Install Overlooks Certain Drivers

OK, then: here’s a “new-ish” behavior in Windows 11 that I don’t love. Once upon a time, you could use the update function in Device Manager to search the Internet for device drivers. No longer: if a driver is absent, the “Update driver” function can’t find anything to use. That explains why Windows 11 clean install overlooks certain drivers. If they’re not in the driver store built into the ISO image, they’re simply unavailable.

If Windows 11 Clean Install Overlooks Certain Drivers, Then What?

Take my recently clean installed Lenovo ThinkPad X380 Yoga. I happened to notice a half-dozen items under “Other Devices” in Device Manager yesterday. “Hmmm” I thought to myself. “Looks like the installer didn’t find some drivers while bringing the machine up.” Too true, as it turns out!

Fortunately, none of what was missing was essential to the laptop’s operation. Thus, that meant identifying the missing drivers, then finding and installing them. At first look, I saw 7 such devices. A quick hop to the Lenovo Vantage app (the company’s maintenance-update platform, which generally works OK or better) took care of three of them.

On a whim, I looked up LifeWire‘s story on the best free driver updaters (Tim Fisher updated it on April 4, 2022). It gives Driver Booster 9 Free the best rating (but the free version only updates 15 drivers, then requires users to pay ~US$23 to get a paid-up, for-a-fee version). It found 24 (!) drivers in need of update, so I concentrated on updating those that showed up with a “Driver Missing” label in that program’s output. Once identified, I knew I could handle the others on my own.

Back in  the High Life Again . . .

Indeed, the free version of the program did the trick for me. You can see in the lead-in graphic from Driver Store Explorer (aka RAPR.exe) that I was able to update 7 drivers (they show outdated versions). Add in another 7 new drivers added to go from “missing” to “found” and my system is now fully up-to-date, with no remaining “Other” device entries. No Device Manager items with the yellow exclamation point, either.

The gurus at TenForums and ElevenForum generally recommend against driver scan/update tools. I generally concur. But this was a big enough kerfluffle that I was grateful for some automated search-and-update help.

I guess that means I’m willing to make an exception when the “don’t check the Internet for available drives” behavior in Windows 11 prevents the installer from providing a full slate of items. I understand why MS did this (to prevent driver changes from adversely affecting naive users). But as I said in my lead ‘graph: I’m not in love with this design decision and its impact on clean install completeness.

That’s life, here in Windows-World. I can live with it, and fix it myself, when I must. So that’s what I did. And now the clean install machine is nearly production-ready. Just a few more apps and applications to go!

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.NET 3.5 Falls Outside Pending EoS

Last Friday, I posted about impending End of Service (EoS) dates for some particular .NET releases. As shown in the lead-in graphic, .NET Framework version 4.6.1, 4.6 and 4.5.2 are all slated to go EoS on April 26 (13 days in the offing, as I write this item). That said, .NET 3.5 falls outside pending EoS (the SP1 version, anyway) as shown in red in that same graphic.

What .NET 3.5 Falls Outside Pending EoS Really Means

It turns out there’s a LOT of software that still leans heavily on .NET version 3.5 SP1. Because older software — some dating back to Vista and Windows 7 eras — requires this .NET version to run, MS packaged this particular .NET version as a standalone product with its own release and support schedule. Again, a look at the lead-in graphic shows that version 3.5 SP1 doesn’t hit EoS until January 9, 2029, nearly 7 years later than any other known EoS dates.

From older versions of Visual Studio, to a wide range of older, but still-used applications, .NET 3.5 is apparently far from moribund. To me, the VS connection is particularly telling, because it speaks to custom apps — many built in-house at companies and organizations to meet specific or proprietary needs — that benefit from an extended lease on life.

Where’s Your Favorite .NET Version in This Mix?

If you look at the Microsoft Docs Lifecycle page for the Microsoft .NET Framework, you’ll find the source for the graphic at the head of this story. MS updates this info from time to time, adding new versions and obsoleting older ones. I’m a little bemused to see that my Update History makes reference to a “2022-04 .NET 6.0.4 Update for x64 Client” (KB5013437). Though I can find an MS Catalog entry for this update and a set of .NET Release Notes that mention versions 6 and 7, only this document provides EoS dates for 7 (November 2023) and 6 (November 2024). Makes me wonder why all this info isn’t also consolidated on the Lifecycle page. Go figure!

Bottom line: I was wrong in my Friday posting in presuming version 3.5 SP1 was also slated for EoS along with the other 4.x versions named above. As you can plainly see in the graphic, 3.5 is around for some while yet. Live and learn!

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Various .NET Versions Facing EoS Soon

On April 4, an End of Support notice surfaced in  the MIcrosoft Message Center. Its initial text appears in the lead-in graphic for this story above. A quick summary of its contents is that various .NET versions facing EoS soon. The version numbers involved are 4.5.2, 4.6 and 4.6.1 runtime. MS recommends that affected PCs update to .NET Framework 4.6.2 before April 26, 2022. No updates or security patches will be issued for those versions after that date.

If Various .NET Versions Facing EoS Soon, Then What?

This is an issue only if certain applications still in use employ those older .NET versions, and they themselves haven’t yet been upgraded to use a newer one. As I look at the relevant folder in my production  Windows 10 desktop — namely:

C:\Windows\Microsoft.NET\Framework

these are the folders that I see

If I understand how this works correctly, all versions lower than 4.0 reflect older .NET versions currently installed on this PC. Thus by reading the version numbers for those folders you can see that 5 such versions are installed, from v1.0.3705 through v3.5.

On the other hand, if you display properties for any .dll file in the V4.0.30319 folder, you’ll see what version of .NET is currently present, to wit:The Product Version line reads 4.8.4084.0, and tells me that I’ve got the latest and greatest .NET version installed here, as well as the earlier versions already mentioned.

What To Do About Impending Retirements?

If you’re using no software that depends on earlier .NET versions, you need do nothing. OTOH, if some of your software does depend on them you must decide if you’ll keep using it and risk possible security exposure, or find an alternative that isn’t subject to such risk. For my part, I recommend the latter approach, unless there’s no other choice. And in that case, the safest thing to do would be to run such software in the MIcrosoft Sandbox as a matter of prudent security policy. ‘Nuff said!

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Windows Ads Go Another Round?

On March 15, The Verge published a story that raised a familiar Windows spectre.Responding to a tweet from fellow WIMVP Florian Beaubois (it serves as the preceding lead-in graphic), MS spokesperson Brandon LeBlanc is quoted as saying “This was an experimental banner that was not intended to be published externally and was turned off.” Indeed, it could be used in File Explorer to advertise the Microsoft Editor in future releases of Windows 11. If one ad is possible, others could easily follow. Is this cause for concern, or even ire? Whatever the case, it’s possible Windows ads go another round in upcoming versions.

If Windows Ads Go Another Round, So What?

There are several, hopefully worthwhile observations I can offer on the topic of Windows ads. Here they are:

  1. As the previously cited Verge story states, MS tried out ads in a 2017 File Explorer version. They were relatively easy to disable, and didn’t last very long.
  2. MS already uses ads on the Windows 10 lock screen, its Start menu, and in the taskbar. Once again, they can be disabled for those willing to search out related fixes.
  3. Other OS vendors — the Verge mentions Apple and Google specifically — also include ads on various products (e.g. iPhone, Apple TV and YouTube) that they bring to market.

Monetization Is Hard to Resist

What’s driving this phenomenon comes straight from what might be called “the capitalist imperative.” That is, seek out and exploit any and all opportunities to generate revenue. It’s what created Google, and what drives their biggest revenue streams. It’s what funds their search engine, and most other search engines besides.

I take comfort from knowing that there will be ways to turn off ads should they appear. If outright switches to disable them aren’t readily available, third parties will provide ad-blocker software to turn them off. I already use (and happily pay a voluntary “donationware” sum) for the “free” AdBlock Plus program to block web ads.

If I must, I’ll do likewise for Windows. I certainly hope it doesn’t come to that. But where there’s a will, there’s almost always a way to exert it as desired. Time will tell what happens with the ad capability recently shown to be possible in Windows 11. In the meantime, I’ll continue to enjoy that OS in its present (mostly) ad-free state.

Note [Added 1/2 Day Later]

Kudos to Sergey Tkachenko who published a story at WinAero this afternoon entitled How to Disable Ads in Windows 11. it provides a nice overview of all of the settings changes and registry tweaks needed to put them out of sight (and hopefully, out of mind) — if you’re so inclined. ‘Nuff said…

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