Occasionally, Windows Update will flake out on test or end-user machines that grab updates online. Typical symptoms include error codes like those documented in the KB938205 article “Windows Update error code list,” where WU reports errors or shows itself unable to download updates, rather than doing its customary job. When this happens and one or more retries fail, it’s time to undertake repairs, and Sergey Tkachenko does a great job of stepping through the usual best practices in this area in his recent WinAero blog post entitled “Fix Windows Update issues in Windows 10 by resetting its options and files,” dated October 2, 2015.
Yes, Windows 10 has a troubleshooter for that!.
His post outlines two methods for dealing with Windows Update woes. The first might be best summarized as “Use the Troubleshooter,” while the second (“Manual reset”) involves an elaborate sequence that entails stopping a set of WU related services, (re-)registering important DLLs with the Registry, resetting the network configuration, clearing the Update cache, and finally, restarting the services that were stopped at the outset of this sequence (please see the WinAero blog post for all the necessary details). Launching the Troubleshooter is easy: simply type “trouble” into the search box, select the “Troubleshooting” entry from Control Panel from the resulting menu, then select the item labeled “Fix problems with Windows Update” that appears under the System and Security heading.
In most cases, the Troubleshooter will take care of the underlying issues. But when it doesn’t you’ll need to step through Tkachenko’s well-documented reset sequence. It looks a bit more daunting than it turns out to be, especially if you take a couple of minutes to cut’n’paste his properly-formatted command-line instructions so you can run them as batch files.
Either way, this information will help power users and admins deal with routine Windows Update difficulties. Alas, if the manual reset fails to restore WU to normal operation, a reset/refresh (or clean re-install) may be the only way to put the affected PC(s) back to rights. Sigh.
In getting a Windows 10 environment to work properly, one soon discovers that reloading printer drivers on some desktops proves necessary. Recently, I’ve found this to be mandated for the networked printers in my “IP neighborhood,” which uses the first of the Class C private address ranges (192.168.0.xxx). Seeking the IP address of my Samsung ML-2850 printer, I found myself turning to another handy element in Nir Sofer’s excellent NirSoft Utility toolbox — namely, a program called FastResolver. Simply put, it marches through an IP address range and displays host names, along with IP and MAC addresses for all the devices it finds active on a network. Here’s what its output looks like:
FastResolver quickly lists all active IP addresses with associated host names.
Why did I need this information? Because network-attached printers on Windows networks are often best accessed using their IP addresses, so I needed to find the address for my Samsung printer tout de suite. FastResolver obliged accordingly, though I did have to recognize the corresponding Host Name (it’s the one that starts with SEC001…, at 192.168.0.11). It was easy to identify by process of elimination, since all the active Windows hosts show readable host names, and the RT-AC68U is the WAP in my office that provides high-bandwidth wireless network access to the laptops, tablets, and mobile devices I use there so regularly.
I confirmed my supposition by using the .11 address successfully to connect to the printer, and immediately added FastResolver to my list of NirSoft favorites. Perhaps you might consider doing likewise?
Much of the buzz around Windows 10 has been about how it atones for the sins of Windows 8. Experts say that the new operating system is more similar to Windows 7, while still including some of the updates that came in Windows 8 — the ones users didn’t completely hate.
Users will have the final say on how much better 10 is than 8. But until the jury delivers its verdict, there are a lot of Windows 10 features and benefits IT managers and administrators can look at to determine if an OS upgrade or hardware refresh is the right move for their shops.
In Windows 10, the Start menu is back, the Action Center makes it easier for admins and users to keep track of OS notifications, startup and shutdown times are faster, authentication is tighter, and the Command Prompt has been improved.
But no matter how many cool, interesting or useful new features are packed into Windows 10, migrating to the new OS or refreshing PCs has to make good business sense for companies to get on board. Shops that just got off Windows XP or recently upgraded hardware might not be in a position to make the leap. Migrations can be costly and take a lot of IT’s time and energy. So before getting wrapped up in all the newness of Windows 10, it’s a good idea to check out what features benefit admins and users, then ask some important questions to figure out if an upgrade is the right move. Start with our new handbook, a guide to Windows 10.
Reading one of Sergey Tkachenko’s recent Winaero blogs yesterday, I learned that Windows 10 will compress the OS files on a system/boot drive. See his “Reduce the size of your Windows 10 installation using compact.exe” for all the details.
With proper grooming, the on-disk footprint for Windows 10 can be pretty slim indeed, as this properties info from my Vell VP11Pro tablet shows.
What makes this article really valuable, though, is his compendium of what he called “other optimizations to reduce the total amount of disk space take by Windows 10″ (most of these also work for Windows 7, 8, and 8.1 as well, BTW; links in the following bulleted list all point to other blogs from Tkachenko that further elaborate on the topics mentioned; comments in italic are my comments or additions to that list):
- Make sure your C:\Windows\SoftwareDistribution\Download\ folder is empty. [Note: this is where Windows Update stashes downloads, and if you empty it out, you can’t uninstall the affected updates, and you won’t seem them listed in Update History anymore.]
- Run Disk Cleanup with administrator privileges regularly as we showed you earlier to clean up previous Windows installations including Insider Preview files if you are part of the program, Windows Update cleanup, error dumps and logs, System Restore data.
- Make sure your browser caches are empty and your %tmp% directory is clean. [Note: CCleaner will happily empty all browser caches as part of its usual clean-up routine.]
- Compress your hibernation file.
- Turn off hibernation entirely if you have an SSD and use Sleep instead.
- Run DISM with the /resetbase option.
- Uninstall built-in Universal apps that you don’t need.
- Uninstall any languages that you don’t need.
These are all great tips for compacting Windows’ overall on-disk footprint, and especially worthwhile on low-end tablets and devices with limited storage capacity (which I define as 64 GB or less). Here are some additional tips for further reducing your Windows 10 on-disk footprint:
- Move paging file to another partition or storage device (if available; how-to).
- Disable system restore or move restore images to another partition. (In System applet in Control Panel, click System Protection tab, then manage Protection Settings or Configure restore settings as you wish.)
- Use DriverStore Explorer to delete obsolete or unused device drivers (see “Check Out DriverStore Explorer” or “The Importance of DriverStore Clean-up” for more info on this great tool).
Properly groomed, a Windows 10 installation can be pretty svelte: even with all my go-to applications installed including MS-Office 2013 my Surface Pro 3 has an on-disk footprint of only 27 GB; my Dell Venue Pro 11 7139 has 20.1 GB (but no MS-Office). These techniques really work!
After months of wondering and speculation on this subject, Microsoft has finally published a web page entitled “Activation in Windows 10.” It explains how activation works, and is particularly informative on the subject of what it calls “Digital Entitlement” — a term used to describe the situations where upgrading or reinstalling Windows 10 on an eligible or already upgraded PC does NOT require users to enter a product key.
As has been speculated for some time now, successful activation of an upgrade to Win10 is what makes a subsequent clean install both possible and legal.
Digital entitlement applies in the following circumstances, according to the afore-cited web page:
- Free upgrade from an eligible device running a genuine copy of Windows 7 or Windows 8.1
- Online purchase of Windows 10 from the Windows Store successfully activated
- Online purchase of a Windows 10 upgrade from the Windows Store successfully activated
- Windows Insider upgraded to latest Windows 10 Insider Preview build on an eligible device running an activated previous version of Windows and Windows 10 preview
On the other hand, a product key is required in the following situations:
- Purchase a physical copy of Windows 10 from some authorized retailer (key is furnished on a label in the physical packaging)
- Purchase a digital copy of Windows 10 from some authorized retailer (key is furnished in post-purchase confirmation e-mail)
- Volume licensing agreement or MSDN subscription (keys come from program-related Web portal)
- Purchase a new device running Windows 10 (OS comes pre-installed on device, and key is provided in device packaging of included on a separate card or on a Certified of Authenticity label attached to the device)
Those with digital entitlements can skip key entry during subsequent upgrade or clean installations because that information will be provided when the device synchs up with Microsoft after the install is complete. Now, at long last, we finally *know* what is going on with Windows 10 keys. Hooray!
It looks like the documentary engines at TechNet are finally winding up to full speed where Windows 10 is concerned. Thanks to this recent article at the SuperSite for Windows this morning, I can share a whole treasure trove of technical materials online with my readers, including coverage of general Windows 10 topics, new features and functions in the latest MS desktop OS, beaucoups FAQs, upgrade and deployment converage (including the recently revamped Microsoft Deployment Toolkit aka MDT), System Center Configuration Manager scenarios, device management and security issue coverage, plus pointers into the Microsoft Windows 10 IT Professional forums online. Here’s a screencap that puts the hundreds of pages of available information into perspective from the Windows 10 TechNet home page:
Most of the early side of the lifecycle is already documented for Win10, with lots more on the way soon.
[Click image for full-size view]
Most of the radio buttons under the orange lifecycle timeline lead to loads of content elsewhere in TechNet. New features covered include Device Guard (a way to lock down OS installs by protecting them inside a Hyper-V “envelope”, and limiting the ability to install or run unauthorized executables), mobile device management (MDM) info, Enterprise data protection capabilities coming for Windows 10 Enterprise, enhanced MS Passport capabilities, advanced provisioning techniques for virtual and physical desktops running Windows 10, and a whole lot more.
For those IT pros interested in Windows 10, this is a nicely curated and organized collection of TechNet info. For those who are planning pilot projects or tasked with digging into the latest MS desktop OS, however, this stuff is pure gold. Check it out!
In working with the latest Win10 Insider Preview, I’ve been forcibly struck by how clean and compact it is. Whereas earlier Windows 10 installations (that is, C:\Windows and its many constituents) have averaged around 17-18 GB in size, this latest build weighs in at only 13.6 GB or thereabouts according to WinDirStat. I also see no excess drivers on either of my test machines, either: the Dell Venue Pro 11 shows only 17 drivers in DriverStore Explorer, with 32 on the i7 desktop. This shows some evidence of hard work on Microsoft’s part to pare down the OS essentials to the barest possible minimum. I think that means when Threshold 2 appears in November, as is rumored to be the case, we will finally see something like a more typical Windows commercial release being made available to users.
The latest build of Windows 10 has the smallest disk footprint yet, and shows evidence of being pared to the bone.
Now that I’ve been working with this build for almost a week, it’s starting to feel a bit more familiar. And while I don’t see that much evidence of UI changes and/or new functionality, I have had some issues with 8GadgetPack, if most obviously on the Dell Venue 11 Pro. There, the program Sidebar.exe program consumes 75-90 percent of CPU and basically renders the machine unusable. On the more powerful i7 desktop, the same program consumes a steady 25% of CPU, which doesn’t impose an obvious drag on the machine, but which doesn’t please me nevertheless (on Build 10240, for example, the program works fine and steadily shows up as 0 or 1% in Task Manager). Looks like the only possible reaction here has to be “Another one bites the dust!” I’ve gone ahead and uninstalled this old favorite from my test machines, but hope that its developer Helmut Buhler, to whom I’ve written about this problem, can figure out a way to make it feasible to resuscitate this valuable utility (I use mine primarily for access to Network Meter and CPU Usage, two incredibly informative real-time monitors for CPU usage and network activity, both useful indicators of system health and activity).
But since MS deprecated Gadgets back in the late Windows 7/early Windows 8 days (over 3 years ago), I can’t be too surprised that whatever scaffolding made the sidebar keep going has been compromised or denigrated. That doesn’t mean I’m not disappointed, though…
I’ve been working with Windows 10 releases since last Fall (about a year now) and have probably installed more than a dozen different preview releases during that interval. Nearly all of them have gone flawlessly, and in particular their handling of device drivers at nearly 100% accuracy and completeness has taken a real start turn along that path. That’s why I was both surprised and taken aback over the weekend, as I’ve had to work through multiple attempts to get the latest Fast Ring build (10547) up and running on my two test machines (a Dell Venue Pro 11 7130 tablet, and a home-built desktop PC with an MSI Z87-G45 mobo, i7 4770K CPU, and so forth).
Here’s what the OS ID info looks like after the new build is up and running.
Each of my installs failed in different ways. The desktop install ran all the way to completion but immediately afterward, I was unable to run Windows Update and equally unable to restore it to proper operation, so I had no recourse but to roll back to the prior build (10532) to keep the machine running and up-to-date. On my second try at the installation on the desktop, everything turned out OK and the machine appears to be running normally.
Alas, however, the VP11 tablet consistently fails at 32% through the “Upgrading Windows process,” at 5% into “Installing features and drivers.” This occurs at a point I’ve seen before that appears to be associated with the driver for the Synaptics touchpad built into the VP11 keyboard dock, where the process hung at exactly the same point. Looks like I’m going to have to grab the ISO for this build and try a clean install instead. (Sergey Tkachenko has posted a set of clean, malware free files on WinAero.com, and the Window 10 Forums include a nice tutorial on how to built your own ISOs from the .ESD files you can download direct from MS.) I’ll follow up with more information after I do the clean install thing later today.
[NOTE added 9/21/15 ~2PM Central, -06:00 UCT:
As I suspected, using Tkachenko’s already-prepared ISO for Build 10547 and the Rufus media builder tool to perform a clean install of the latest Insider Preview version worked like a charm. Alas, however, I had to alter the disk layout to get it to work inside the Win10 installer (the OS partition and the following partitions had to be removed before it would allow me to install). I’m not sure what the fallout will be for the factory pre-installed diagnostics and utilities on the VP11’s SSD, but I’ll be finding out. First, though, I have to reinstall all of my applications and utilities — a task that I expect will take me most of the evening after dinner. If I hit any further snags, I’ll follow up after that process is complete. I also have some driver issues to resolve, including:
1. The built-in Dell/Atheros 802.11 wireless network adapter is MIA
2. I have two entries in “Other devices” in Device Manager: one for Generic SDIO device, another for the SM Bus Controller. This latter item relates to the Synaptics touchpad, and the former relates to the SD card controller, as I know from prior experience with other Win10 versions.
DriverAgent and/or DriverUpdate has usually been able to address my driver issues, so I’ll tackle those next. More to follow, as and when it might be needed.
Over the past 10 days, I’ve been chasing down a strange problem with one of my network printers: the excellent Dell 2155cn has been a real workhorse for me for the past three years remained visible after my Win10 upgrade frenzy in late August, it actually disappeared entirely from the network. This morning, chasing down the latest drivers via the 2155 cn’s service tag ID, I finally figured out why: the old Windows 7-era 2155cn drivers are not offered for Windows 10 (though they worked fine in Windows 8 and 8.1), and it’s now necessary to switch to Dell’s Open Print driver (OPD) and management (OPM) software instead.
Dell has switched from device specific drivers to a general, open print driver architecture.
My only real clue to breaking through this problem came from Printers and Devices, where the old 2155cn device was still showing and still interacted with the printer when I used a USB connection to that device. But when I looked at the status line for the 2155cn it read “Device driver not available,” which told me everything I needed to know about why none of my networked PCs could find that printer any more. And presto! as soon as I installed the new Open Print Driver from Dell, the device reappeared on the network and became accessible. What had fooled me into a false sense of security was the continued residence of a (non-working) device in Printers and Devices which lulled me into thinking all was working OK. As the old saying goes: “Appearances can be deceiving.” For despite the appearance of that device therein in its familiar (and formerly working) guise, there was no working driver there anymore to actually DO something.
Windows in general, and Windows 10 in particular, continues to be an ongoing, educational, and sometimes vexing experience. Stay thirsty, my friends!
OK, I’ll admit it: I don’t know if Windows Update, DriverUpdate, DriverAgent, or something else is involved, but I’m seeing the number of outdated and/or unneeded (duplicated) drivers mount up in my various Windows 10 installations. I just cleaned up half-a-dozen of my machines using the excellent Windows DriverStore Explorer, aka RAPR.exe, and found no machine with less than 7 unneeded or extraneous drivers. My Surface Pro 3, for some unfathomable reason, picked up more than 100 bogus drivers (nearly all of them from Intel for things like system devices, IDE ATA/ATAPI controllers, USB controllers, and so forth: I started out with over 90 Intel drivers in the store, and wound up with a total of 7 after clean-up).
That tells me it’s time for network/system admins to check client systems to see what kind of driver detritus they may have picked up, and perhaps to schedule some pruning or clean-up in the near term.
Before cleanup: 141 drivers; After cleanup: 37 drivers! (Surface Pro 3)
I’ve also been reading stories about Windows 10 stability issues in the past day or two (one about “Windows 10 glitches…” from James Kendrick, and another on “…Instability” from Mary Jo Foley, both of ZDNet). This is both amusing and vexing, in that as of last Friday’s (9/12) cumulative update, I’ve actually experienced a significant uptick in system stability (Reliability Monitor had been reporting anywhere from 1-3 application crash events daily per machine prior to this update, and lately, I’m down to less than 1 such mishap per machine for the entire 4 days that have now elapsed since the update was released). I can’t tell if that means I’m ahead of the curve, or playing in a different ballpark!
All in all, though, I’ve been able to function just fine using Windows 10 for both production and test machines without difficulty or major causes for concern. My wife and son have also made the switch to Windows 10 without voicing any (or many) issues or complaints — though the Edge browser definitely took the Boss by surprise, and was quickly replaced with IE on her rig. I guess it all depends on where the users are coming from, and the quality of tech support available to them! 😉