Category Archives: Windows OS Musings

CloudPC Inching Toward Completion

The unstoppable and always well-informed MJF (Mary Jo Foley) has struck gold once again. In an April 20 ZDNet story (on whose lede my own title plays) she provides a much-appreciated CloudPC update. Indeed it seems that with CloudPC inching toward completion, even I can get a rejection attempting to login to the service (code-named Deschutes). Said rejection appears as the lead-in graphic for this story.

With CloudPC Inching Toward Completion, What’s Next?

MJF’s speculation that CloudPC is already in test seems proven by my failed attempt to login to (shown above). She makes a pretty good case that MS will open those floodgates this summer (June or July). I concur with her idea that MS would want subscriptions ready for sale in time for its July Inspire partner conference.

Otherwise, the elements of Cloud PC have stayed in line with earlier information:

  • It’s an Azure powered service through which users can access a remote Windows desktop to run Office and more, using their own devices as thin clients
  • Cloud PC works as a “managed Office 365 experience at a flat per-user price” (it’s a fee-based subscription service, rather than a pay-as-you-go Azure consumption thing)
  • MSPowerUser reports it will come in three flavors (Lite, Standard, and Advanced, each with specific RAM, virtual CPU and SSD storage endowments)
  • MSPowerUser also reports that any Cloud PC, once configured, will also be accessible using the Remote Desktop app (UWP version; support ID bfaed054-6efa-4b63-8f9a-5b80f868631a) on Windows 10, macOS, iOS and Android device

Only Time Will Tell…

If the foregoing rumors, timeframes and speculations bear any relationship to reality. MS still isn’t saying much directly, as is typical for as-yet-unreleased products. But with June/July now only 6-10 weeks away, we’ll know soon enough if any of these notions are valid. Stay tuned: as always, I’ll keep you posted.

Fascinating stuff, though: can’t wait to try it out. I hope subscriptions are available in small numbers at a not-too-big cost. If so, I’ll be singing up, just to learn and experiment.


News & Information Insider Follies Continue

OK, then. It was supposed to be easy. For both Beta Channnel (Build 19043.962) and Release Preview (19042.962) recent CUs are supposed to include News & Interests, too. (See the lead-in graphic for the release announcement blog post.) As I reported here last Friday, all Dev Channel Insiders who installed Build 21359 were finally on equal footing for this nifty notification bar widget. But alas, it seems that News & Information Insider follies continue. In other words, I updated to these latest versions but see no sign of N&I on either Taskbar. Sigh.

To What End Do News & Information Insider Follies Continue?

No good end, I suppose. But it’s not like I haven’t seen this before. And it’s not just me, either: I see other Insiders reporting similar experiences in the WIMVP  Yammer forums and on Feedback Hub. Obviously, there’s something interesting going on here. I’m not sure if it’s pervasive or spotty, but at least it’s widespread enough that others have noticed the same thing I did.

Gosh, though: I’m a little disappointed. I’d been getting ready to start messing with the manage interests controls in Edge. The My Interests page, Discover Interests settings govern what shows up in the supporting News & Interests detail. I’d hoped to do some tweaking on my Beta Channel and Release Preview test machines.

Hoping for Response or Help Soon!

Given that the Insider Team is already aware of this issue, I’m guessing it will be addressed soon. Whether it’s in a forthcoming CU or quality update sometime remains TBD.

All I can say at this point is that N&I has proved a great deal more interesting to install and use than I’d expected it to be. I’m wondering if its Edge tie-in isn’t somehow connected to its MIA status. When I saw I needed to update Edge to Version 90.0.818.42 this morning, I was half-way convinced this would make N&I visible. But alas, the pessimistic half of that sentiment proved true.

Stay tuned! I’ll update this post when a fix, or some other official response, appears. And today, that’s how things go in Windows World.

Note Added April 21 (1 Day After Original Post)

In response to my inquiry to the Insider Team, I got a tweet back that reads “It’s slowly rolling out for those builds. Appreciate your patience. :)” Now we know that it should show up on all 19042 and 19043 (Release Preview and Beta Channel builds, respectively) sometime soon, but not just yet. Better to know, than to wonder fruitlessly!

My Insider contact clarified further that “rolling out” means a gradual, incremental release, not an all-at-once available-to-everybody release. Helps to understand the terminology, right? Now I know, and hopefully you do too (if you didn’t know already).


News & Interests Gets General Dev Channel Release

Just over a week ago, I wrote a post here bemoaning my Dev Channel test PCs’ lack of the News & Interests notification bar feature. It has been in A/B test mode — that is, available to some but not all Dev Channel PCs — for months. It’s a gamble of sorts whether one gets such features or not, and explains that post’s title: Losing Win10 A/B Testing Wagers. But with the release of Build 21359, News & Interests gets general Dev Channel release. My two Lenovo ThinkPad test machines — the X380 Yoga and the X220 Tablet — now sport this new feature, fully-realized.

When News & Interests Gets General Dev Channel Release, Contortions Follow

The first I noticed after rebooting into 21359 was that N&I (my shorthand for News & Interests) was still MIA. A quick check on the Windows Insider MVP Yammer community told me two things:

  1. I was not alone in this experience
  2. Another reboot would put N&I in its rightful place

This worked perfectly on my X220 Tablet where I’d left hidden feature tweaking alone. My X380 was another story…

ViVeTool Rears Its Vexing Head

I’m not the world’s most patient guy. When I learn about A/B feature testing in Windows 10 and I’m not on the receiving side, I’ve been known to turn to hacking tools to turn them on anyway. One such item, named ViVeTool, comes from developer Albacore aka thebookisclosed whose work I’ve been following for years. Here’s how he describes this offering “ViVeTool is … a straightforward tool for power users which want to use the new APIs instantly … to interact with Windows 10’s A/B feature mechanism.” In other words, it lets you turn on what might be turned off in your image, or vice-versa.

I’d done that on the X380 Yoga some while back. But this tweaked N&I did not work properly on that machine. “Hmmm” I wondered “could ViveTool be responsible?” It seems to have been. Once I enabled, then disabled the ViveTool settings for N&I, then rebooted again, it worked perfectly on the X380 Yoga, too.

Tweaking Requires Self-Cleanup

I’ve learned a lesson from this. From now on, if I want to mess with the base test image for Windows 10 that MS gives me, I’m doing it in a VM. I can use snapshotting mechanisms to roll back tweaks quickly and easily. I feel lucky that do/redo with ViveTool in 21359 set things back to rights so that N&I could work as designed. Otherwise, I’d have been forced to clean install that build to heal my own self-inflicted wounds.

If you want to play or tweak, I recommend you do so in a safe and pseudo-sandboxed way. That’s my approach from now on. It comes with the ability to fool around as one likes, without having to live permanently with the results afterward. Please learn from my mis-steps and do likewise!


20H2 Builds Bring Windows Tools Folder

Fascinating. Thanks to a recent item from Sergey Tkachenko at, I’ve just learned that 20H2 builds bring Windows Tools folder into the Windows 10 mix. It’s depicted in the lead-in graphic for this story. Not coincidentally, it also happens to show a pretty stunning assemblage of modern, fluent icons, too.

If 20H2 Builds Bring Windows Tools Folder, What Goes Missing?

In this case, however, when Microsoft giveth, it also taketh away. Users who go looking for a number of long-standing, familiar folders in 20H2 will find them MIA. The Windows Tools Folder has supplanted all of them. Here’s a list of those gone but not forgotten folders (in bold text), with their subsidiary contents:

Windows Accessories
  Character Map
  Internet Explorer
  Math Input Panel
  Print 3D
  Quick Assist
  Remote Desktop Connection
  Snipping Tool
  Steps Recorder
  Windows Fax and Scan
Windows System
  Command Prompt
  Control Panel
  File Explorer
  Task Manager
  This PC
  Windows Administrative Tools
Windows Administrative Tools
  Component Services
  Computer Management
  Defragment and Optimize Drives
  Disk Cleanup
  Event Viewer
  iSCSI Initiator
  Local Security Policy
  ODBC Data Sources (32-bit)
  ODBC Data Sources (64-bit)
  Performance Monitor
  Print Management
  Recovery Drive
  Registry Editor
  Resource Monitor
  System Configuration
  System Information
  Task Scheduler
  Windows Defender Firewall ...
  Windows Memory Diagnostic
Windows PowerShell
  Windows PowerShell
  Windows PowerShell (x86)
  Windows PowerShell ISE
  Windows PowerShell ISE (x86)

Wow! That’s a LOT of stuff. And for a long time, some Windows users have depended on these folder names to navigate to specific content items they cover. No longer! Starting with 20H2, it’s out with those older folders and in with Windows Tools. WinAero also offers a story on how to navigate to these nearly-departed folders if you’d like a quick refresher: How to Find the Windows Accessories folder.

Getting to Windows Tools in 20H2

As is so often the case in Windows, there are many ways to get to a named item through the menus. You can simply type “Windows Tools” into the Start Menu Search box. Or you can find “Windows Tools” in Control Panel. Once accessed in Explorer, it’s also readily found in Recent Files under the Quick Access item.

It’s the wave of the future. If you’ve got access to a Dev Channel (20H2) build, it’s probably worth exploring. And indeed, I like the way it brings all those things together inside a single folder. Good stuff!


Losing Win10 A/B Testing Wagers

I don’t know why this keeps happening to me. But it seems like whenever I learn that MS is A/B testing a new feature or function in an Insider Preview build, my test machines miss out. I don’t know how MS selects who gets and who misses such options, but I do hate losing Win10 A/B testing wagers. Case in point: the recent News & Interests notification area item.

What Is A/B Testing Anyway?

A/B testing started as a way to check web page designs. In that world, half of visitors see one version of a page, and half see the other. The developers analyze how the versions do, and pick the one that does the best.

In general, A/B testing means that half of a population get to see and interact with a feature, while the other half do not. That said, workarounds may be possible. Thus, for example, WinAero provided enable/disable batch files to turn the feature on and off in Builds 21286 (Dev Channel) early in January.

I just noticed that after the latest upgrade to build 21354, News & Interests no longer appears in my notification area. Indeed, the WinAero method still works to turn it off or on, but my plaint is that I keep coming up on the “have-not” side of such A/B tests, be that either A or B.

What Losing Win10 A/B Testing Wagers Means

To me, not getting to see or interact with an A/B feature means missing out on something new and potentially interesting or valuable. In the case of News & Interests, it means a minor inconvenience to be sure. Even so, I’d prefer to have the opportunity to interact with and provide feedback on new features to better do my job as a Windows Insider.

If I could ask the Insider Team for a favor, I’d ask them to build an “opt-in” apparatus when A/B features come out. Rather that purely random selection of who gets and who misses the A/B feature, it would be nice to have some way to request a download or a pre-update opt-in.

Why do I ask for this? Because invariably all of my test machines and VMs are denied A/B features when I come up a loser. I would like to test everything I can, especially new features, if not on all machines, then at least some of them. Is that too much to ask?

[Note on lead-in graphic for this story: I cheerfully confess I grabbed and cropped a screencap from about this feature from a January 6 story. I can’t make a working copy of this details pane on my blocked-out test machines. Thanks, Paul!]


SSD-Z Is Interesting But Incomplete

I’ve been mucking around with SSDs quite a bit lately. Yesterday, that had me rooting around for a utility I could use to tell me more about all of my many SSDs. When I found a utility named SSD-Z (think of Frank Delattre’s outstanding CPU-Z) I was sure I had struck gold. Alas, it’s not quite at the same level as Delattre’s tool, even though it is pretty interesting.

SSD-Z Is Interesting But Incomplete.vertex4Why Say: SSD-Z Is Interesting But Incomplete?

The tool did a great job of telling me more about my older SSDs, If you look at the preceding screenshot, it’s pretty effusive and complete about my nominal 250 GB OCZ-Vertex4 SSD. But if you look at the next screenshot, it’s mostly mum about my no-longer-new-but-still-capable Samsung 950. This runs on my daily driver and is now 6 years old, and still gets the job done.

SSD-Z Is Interesting But Incomplete.sam950

Not much detail here.

What’s remarkable is how little information appears. There’s no data about flash technology, cells, controller, NAND or speed info. TRIM is supported, despite a counter-protestation. Sigh. I’m disappointed.

Upon further investigation, I see the developer hasn’t updated the tool since 2016 (not too much later than I bought the Samsung 950). I guess this is a tougher problem than one might think, at first. I’m sorry to say that SSD-Z doesn’t pass muster, though it does provide a good model of what might be possible, given enough SSD data from the community.

Vendor Tools Might Be More Informative

In looking at an Enterprise Storage Forum story from 2019, I see that vendor tools are most likely to provide details about controller, flash technologies, and so forth.  Samsung, Intel, OCZ, Crucial, and Kingston come in for specific mention. And indeed, Samsung Magician tells me more about all of my Samsung SSDs — even OEM models — than does SSD-Z. The same is true for other vendor-specific tools, when one has drives from those vendors to check into.

Gosh! I’d love to see SSD-Z deliver on its implicit promises. We could all use a utility like that, right? The TechPowerUp contributor behind this tantalizing item, Aezay, has not posted there since 2018. If he’s out there and paying attention, I’d be happy to co-drive a crowdfunding effort to do this tool right, and help the whole community. This leads me to echo the excellent Pink Floyd lyric: “Is there anybody out there?” And that’s the way things go sometimes, here in Windows-World.

Stay tuned: if anything interesting turns up, I’ll report back. Yowza!


MediaCreationTool.bat Gets 21H1 Update

There’s an interesting spin on Microsoft’s Media Creation Tool available on GitHub. It’s known as MediaCreationTool.bat, and basically it allows users to build an ISO (or a bootable USB device) for any version of Windows 10 from 1507 all the way up to 21H1. By saying “MediaCreationTool.bat Gets 21H1 Update” I’m informing readers an updated version now includes 19043 Builds (21H1).

If MediaCreationTool.bat Gets 21H1 Update, Then What?

I wrote about this tool last year for Win10.Guru where you’ll find background and info about the developer. This GitHub project throws up a menu (see center of Command Prompt window above) that lets users pick the version of Windows 10 for which they want to grab an image. As MCT has always done, it lets them apply an update to the current PC. More commonly, it also lets them create an ISO or build bootable USB media with the chosen image aboard.

A couple of steps are needed to make the batch file usable, however. First, it won’t run unless it gets a .bat extension. You can right-click the GitHub page, select “Save-as” and then make sure to pick “All files” from the File type option. Otherwise, it saves with a .txt extension which must be removed through a file rename operation. Either way, you’ll want to open the properties for this file in Explorer, then click the Unblock button to make sure the OS doesn’t prevent its execution.

Using the Batch File Is a Snap

Then, open an Administrator: Command Prompt window, navigate to the directory where the batch file resides, and run it. I right-click the file name in explorer and grab the name from the Properties window. Then I can simply paste the string into Command Prompt to avoid re-typing. It’s what produced the lead-in graphic for this story.

Because the batch file changes each time a new Windows version comes out, you should get in the habit of visiting the developer’s home page for the script to grab the latest version. From there, click the “Raw” button to open a Web page with the latest version inside.

MediaCreationTool.bat Gets 21H1 Update.homepage

Click the Raw button at upper right and web page with the script text inside will open. Then you can follow the preceding “Save” instructions for your very own copy.
[Click image for full-sized view.]

I’ve gotten in the habit of naming the file to include the version number for the most current one it supports. Thus, I named the most recent such file MediaCreationTool21H1.bat. Hope that makes sense. Enjoy! Good stuff.


When WU Repairs Fail Try UUPDump

I’ve got two test machines on the Beta Channel release right now. The older of the pair — a 2014 vintage Surface Pro 3 — is stuck on KB5000842 and keeps throwing install errors. Others reporting into the TenForums thread on this update have had success using the terrific UUPdump tool to build a customized image to install 19043.906. So that’s what I’m trying, too. In general, my strategy is “When WU repairs fail try UUPDump” next anyway. Glad to see others use that strategy, too.

When WU Repairs Fail Try UUPDump.WUerror

A couple of failures, including a complete WU reset, means it’s time to change update strategies.
[Click image for full-sized view.]

Why Say: When WU Repairs Fail Try UUPDump?

The update installs fail each time with an error code of 0x800F081F. This is interesting, and a bit strange, because the error is often associated with the Windows Update Assistant nowhere present in this situation. It can also pop up when items are missing from the download packages that WU delivers to the desktop.

That latter reason explains why a switchover to UUPDump makes sense. It grabs the ISO-based image for the base OS version from MS servers  (19043 aka 21H1 in this case). Then, it uses DISM to apply all newer updates packages up to and including the problematic KB5000842 item that’s throwing the error here. It’s perfectly safe because it uses only Microsoft Servers as the source for its OS and update files.

Building the 19043.906 ISO File

Running UUPDump to build an ISO for a patched OS takes some time because of the many and various steps involved. For the SP3 PC, it took over an hour before it got stuck mounting the image for Build 19041.1. That’s when I realized it makes sense to run UUPdump batch files on the fastest PC around.

Thus, I ran the same job on my Lenovo X1 Extreme, with its 6-core i7-8850H CPU. Given more threads and a faster CPU and much faster Samsung OEM PCIe x3 SSDs, it ran noticeably faster, though the KB5000842 cab file update still took 5 minutes to complete (click “view image” inside the lead-in graphic for this story). The whole thing still took 35 minutes from start to finish.

And it went that fast only because we have fast (nominal GbE, actual 900 Mbps or so) Internet service here at Chez Tittel. What takes the real time, however, is bringing the windows image (.wim) file up from base level Build 19043.844 to the current/highest level Build 19043.906. This takes several steps, each one involving mounting the image, adding packages, the dismounting the image, and continuing forward. There’s some mucking around with a WinRE.wim file along the way, too.

Performing the In-Place Repair Install

This is the easy part: mount the image, run setup.exe and let the installer do its thing. This takes a while, too — considerably longer than applying the update would (checking the PC, agreeing to the EULA, checking for updates,  and so forth; then finally into OS installation). This entire process took another hour or so to complete. But here’s the end result, straight from winver.exe:

When WU Repairs Fail Try

All’s well that ends well: here’s Build info from the upgraded SP3, right where I want it to be

More About UUPDump

I’ve written about UUPDump for numerous other sites, including TechTarget and Win10.Guru, both for my Windows Enterprise Desktop blog. Here are some links, if you’d like to learn more:

  1. UUPDump Invaluable Resource (TechTarget)
  2. A Peek Inside UUPDump (Win10.Guru) includes a brief interview with its developer who goes by the handle “Whatever”
  3. UUPDump Outdoes Windows Update (Win10.Guru)



Build 21343 File Explorer Makeover

On March 24, MS released Build 21343 to Dev Channel Insiders. I immediately heard and saw that File Explorer shows a new look, with modern iconography and a clean, spare layout. But I really didn’t appreciate how attractive things were until I produced the screencap for the lead-in graphic.  While there’s no disputing Build 21343 File Explorer Makeover sounds nice, it’s amazing to experience first hand.

Indeed, Build 21343 File Explorer Makeover Is Real

The top-line toolbar gets a new set of icons that include new UI elements seen elsewhere. For example, the Settings icon at middle top is spiffed up. It now matches the one used in the Start Menu and elsewhere in Dev Channel and other Windows 10 versions. The default folders (formerly known as Libraries) get compelling new icons. Compare them to the folder icons from Build 19042.868 on my production PC. Note that the seldom-used 3D Objects folder — I’ve never used it once myself — also disappears from view.

Build 21343 File Explorer Makeover.oldfoldericons

The old Folder icons (shown preceding) seem flat, monochromatic, and boring compared to the new ones up top.
[Click item for full-sized view.]

Bigger, Bolder Icons Offer More Visual Impact

Even the Network view in File Explorer gets a more interesting and appealing look and feel, as the next screenshot shows quite nicely. Up until now I’d been inclined to take breathless hype surrounding the upcoming “Sun Valley” Windows 10 redesign with a grain or two of salt. Now, seeing the way that File Explorer pops with just a bit of that fairy dust applied, I’m rethinking my enthusiasm.

There may indeed be something interesting and — as Panos Panay put it for upcoming Windows 10 changes at the recent Ignite conference — “exciting” going on here. We still have no choice but to wait and see how future Dev Channel releases play this out. But I am now inclined to be more curious and to look forward more positively for what may be coming next. We’ll see!

Build 21343 File Explorer Makeover.networkicons

The New Network icons also offer more pop and pizazz.
[Click item for full-sized view.]


Lenovo Vantage Updates Take Patience

Here’s a sticky situation I’ve found myself in more than once. I’m reasonably fond of the Lenovo Vantage update tool, which handles BIOS, firmware, driver and ancillary software updates pretty well. Occasionally, two or more updates requiring a reboot appear together therein. That’s what happened today, as an Intel Manage-ment Engine (IME) firmware update and a BIOS update appeared in tandem. It’s also what reminded me that Lenovo Vantage updates take patience.

Why Say: Lenovo Vantage Updates Take Patience?

This doesn’t happen with Windows Update, but when you’re applying low-level updates to a system, items that require a reboot must be applied one at a time. I’ve learned this working with Vantage over the past few years. If a firmware update and a BIOS update show up on the same day, it’s best to download and install one by itself. Then, repeat for the second item.

What happens if you try to do more than one? When you attempt to install the second item with a reboot pending, installation fails because it is smart enough to recognize that two separate and distinct reboots are needed.

I don’t always remember this, so I got bitten today when Vantage finished the pre-reboot phase of the BIOS update and transitioned into the IME update. As soon as the IME update got going, it stopped itself and reported an error. Part of the text read “An installation failed to complete properly. Please reboot and try again.”

The Reboot’s the Thing

Of course, as soon as the reboot got through shutdown and into restart, the BIOS update ran to completion and the system rebooted again. After that reboot, I returned to Vantage to generate the lead-in graphic for this story that shows the IME firmware update still pending. As soon as I clicked install, I got an explicit reboot warning, to wit:

If I’d run the sequence IME first, BIOS second, I’d have seen this warning right away, and not been caught in an error. Sigh.

In general, it’s a good idea to make firmware and BIOS changes piecemeal anyway. You don’t want more than one thing at a time to blow up. That could complicate troubleshooting beyond belief. That’s NOT what anyone wants when making deep-level system changes.

Live and learn — or in my case, keep living and get an occasional reminder. Cheers!