Windows Enterprise Desktop


September 28, 2016  11:10 AM

Win10 Hits 400M Users as Adoptions Slow

Ed Tittel Ed Tittel Profile: Ed Tittel

On Monday, September 26, during the first day of its Ignite conference, Microsoft officials disclosed that Windows 10 now runs on 400 million active devices. Thanks to Mary Jo Foley sharing this news, I can speculate on the current run rate versus the historical average. Here goes: 300 million adoptions on May 5 gives a 100 million increase over 20 weeks. That’s an increase of 5 million per week. Doesn’t sound half-bad, eh? But when Win10 hits 400M users how does that indicate a slackening adoption pace?

What Win10 Hits 400M Users Really Means

If we look at the run rate up through July 29, the official release date for the Anniversary Update, we get an interim number of 350 million active devices at that time. That means that the period from May 5 through July 29, and the period from July 30 through September 26 each saw approximately 50M Windows 10 adoptions. That’s 12 weeks for the first period and roughly 9 for the second period. This indicates recent history has improved somewhat, in fact. It’s a 33% improvement because of the shorter time period for the second 50 million increment.

But the slowdown effect becomes clearly visible if we stretch our time horizon back to July 29, 2015, which adds 52 weeks to the overall time window. Adding the 9 weeks from July 29, 2016 to September 26, 2016, that puts the whole span up to 61 weeks. Divide 400 million by 61 and you get 6.55 million per week. Recent adoptions reckon at 4.16 million for May 5 through July 29, and 5.55 million for July 30 through September 26. That’s an average of 5 million for that entire period. Thus, it’s readily apparent that the trend is downward, though not at a horrific pace.

What does a 5M monthly run rate mean for Microsoft’s 1B active users objective? Starting from October it means 10 more years (120 months) before that milestone is reached. That’s 2026! Methinks MS will have to find ways to speed things up a bit. As long as it doesn’t involve another nefarious push like their “Get Windows 10 ” (GWX) initiative, I wish them luck.

September 26, 2016  6:30 PM

MS Upgrade Analytics for Win10

Ed Tittel Ed Tittel Profile: Ed Tittel
Predictive Analytics, Windows 10

Today at its Ignite Conference, MS issued a flurry of announcements and info. Less than a month after the release of Windows 10 Anniversary Update, it’s no surprise that Windows 10 items dominated. In fact, I’ve just finished listening to several sessions online (available on the conference home page). IMO, the richest vein came in Rob Lefferts’ talk entitled “Windows 10 — The time is now.” Lefferts introduced a raft of topics I’ll be mining for a while, starting with MS Upgrade Analytics for Win10.

Upgrade Analytics for Win10

This is the top-level dashboard for MS Upgrade Analytics.
[Click image to view full-size]

What Is Upgrade Analytics for Win10?

Upgrade Analytics seeks to help organizations gather data to evaluate their application and driver situation. Typically, IT pros validate business-critical applications before upgrading PCs that run them, to make sure deployment won’t downgrade productivity. Most organizations use hundreds to thousands of applications, which makes testing all of them in advance costly and time-consuming. Upgrade analytics helps IT admins speed Win10 upgrades with reports on:

  • Current application and driver inventory, with usage data
  • Information about known driver and application issues, with mitigation advice (where available)
  • Tracking which drivers and applications are ready for Windows 10
  • Per-computer readiness assessments to target PCs for Windows 10 deployment

An Upgrade Analytics public preview is already available. It requires an Microsoft Operations Management Suite (OMS) workspace. But Upgrade Analytics incurs no extra charges for those using a Standard or Premium tier workspace. The 7/22/2016 announcement blog post includes all the details. At today’s Ignite, Microsoft added support for Site Discovery and Ready for Windows data to Upgrade Analytics. The former provides an inventory of web sites that Windows 7 and 8.1 devices visit, while the Ready for Windows website lists software applications broadly adopted on Windows 10. Upgrade Analytics helps IT pros identify potential risks involved in Windows 10 deployment, and provides advice on how to bypass potential problems. This one should be fun to try out, and play with.

Here’s a list of additional resources and reading material on Upgrade Analytics:


September 23, 2016  11:57 AM

BSOD — Insider Preview to the Rescue!

Ed Tittel Ed Tittel Profile: Ed Tittel
Beta Testing, Troubleshooting, Windows 10

It’s one thing to read about Windows 10 problems. It’s another thing entirely to live them through oneself. I follow the action at TenForums.com closely because it’s a timely and reliable source for Windows insight and intelligence. That’s why I knew what I was seeing after installing the latest Enterprise Insider Preview (Build 14393) on my test desktop PC. It was the dreaded “Black screen of death:” a black screen with a mouse cursor. The cursor moves, but the OS is otherwise unresponsive. A catastrophic graphics driver fail that somehow occurs after initial OS installation appears responsible. In solving this particular BSOD — Insider Preview pages at the MS website were a life-saver.

Fixing the BSOD — Insider Preview Had the ISOs

I tried fixing the installation using the usual methods. I had already killed Windows.old and other traces of the previous installation, so a rollback was ruled out. I also tried an image backup, and that didn’t work either. That meant a clean install of the new OS, which in turn meant I needed an ISO file. Upon searching the ‘net, the only source I found was a Russian website (WZOR, a terrific source of Windows rumors and leaks).  But it would take 50 minutes for an ESD download. Then, I’d have to convert that ESD into an ISO, and build a bootable installer UFD. Too much time and work!

Then it hit me: why not check the Insider Preview site? This is an unimpeachable “official” source, and offers fast downloads. And in fact, the Download Windows 10 Insider Preview ISO — Advanced Options page had the goods. Here’s a screen cap:

BSOD -- Insider Preview

ISOs for the latest (and next-latest) Insider Preview builds available here, in many flavors.

Sometimes, the obvious source is also the best source. Thank goodness Microsoft consistently makes current Insider ISOs available on its Insider website. It restored my test PC! Others in the same boat will find this download link useful as well. If you run Insider Previews, add this to your favorites. It may come in handy someday. Sooner or later, reported bugs may stop at your door, too!


September 21, 2016  10:13 AM

Windows Update Troubleshooter (Win10)

Ed Tittel Ed Tittel Profile: Ed Tittel
Troubleshooting, Windows 10, Windows Update Management

In the wake of recent Windows updates, lots of users have reported issues with Windows Update. This reminded me that there’s a built-in troubleshooter in Windows 10. Other recent versions of Windows — 7, 8, and 8.1, that is — required a Fix-It download from Microsoft instead. By contrast, Windows 10 users and admins have it easier: they need only type “trouble” into Cortana, then select the “Troubleshooting” Control Panel widget. From there, they can select “Fix problems with Windows Update” under the System and Security setting. This launches the Windows Update Troubleshooter.

Windows Update Troubleshooter

The Windows Update (WU) troubleshooter tackles most common update issues automatically.

What Does the Windows Update Troubleshooter Do?

As it runs, the Windows Update Troubleshooter performs three sets of actions:
1. It shuts down Windows Update Services and the associated Background Intelligent Transfer Services (BITS)
2. It renames the download target folder for updates from %windir%\SoftwareDistribution to …\SoftwareDistribution.old, and creates a new, empty \SoftwareDistribution folder. This clears the download cache to let WU start over afresh. This also means you’ll lose your current Update History, too. The troubleshooter also checks and, if necessary, repairs or instantiates (missing) registry keys for Windows Update.
3. It turns WU and BITS services back on.

Note also the “Advanced” button in the preceding screenshot. It’s important to click it, so you can run the troubleshooter with elevated privileges. That is, you must click the “Run as administrator” link, after checking the box next to “Apply repairs automatically.”

Windows Update Troubleshooter

After clicking “Advanced,” click “Try troubleshooting as administrator” to safely mess with system files.

What if the Windows Update Troubleshooter Doesn’t fix WU?

If you run the troubleshooter, and WU still isn’t working, you can perform the same steps the troubleshooter automates from a Safe Boot into Windows. This is admirably described in an article at HowToGeek.com in step-by-step fashion, so I won’t repeat that information. Find it at “How to Fix Windows Update When It Gets Stuck,” in the final section entitled “Fix Windows Update by Deleting Its Cache Manually.” The story is dated 3/28/16, but still applies to the latest Windows 10 versions (the Anniversary Update, Build 1607, as I write this post).


September 19, 2016  10:06 AM

Toggle Remote Connections Restores RDP

Ed Tittel Ed Tittel Profile: Ed Tittel

I found myself embroiled in a discussion on TenForums.com recently, wherein I dug into 802.11n sufficiently to confirm my recollection that newer implementations are dual band. That is, they can communicate wirelessly at either 2.4 or 5 GHz, depending on configuration. After this discussion, I checked my Lenovo X220 Tablet, which sits next to my desk. It was running on the 2.4 GHz band, so I switched it over to 5 GHz instead. Promptly thereafter, I also couldn’t reconnect using the Remote Desktop Protocol (RDP). The Incoming Connections troubleshooter on the laptop failed, too, so I found myself puzzling over a solution. Then, I remembered that toggle remote connections restores RDP access at least some of the time. I tried it, and it worked!

Toggle Remote Connections Restores RDP

To toggle you must turn off remote access, then turn it back on again.

I’ve encountered this situation working with Remote Desktop before. It happens when switching from one wireless network to another (as I experienced this morning). It doesn’t happen when switching from wireless to wired, or back again (as I just confirmed on my test PC). It appears to stem from connection settings inside the RDP configuration, which can maintain only one wireless connection to a PC at a time. For some reason, changing wireless networks kills the connection. It gets reset when you turn remote connections off (don’t allow) then turn them back on again (allow). Apparently, this rebuilds connection settings for the current wireless network.

Benefits of Toggle Remote Connections Restores RDP Access

I could easily switch from 2.4 to 5 GHz because my laptops are in the same office as my WAP. Thus, I don’t ordinarily have to worry about distance affecting bandwidth between them. For me, the benefit of the switch shows clearly in this screen cap from the Time Warner speed test:

Toggle Remote Connections Restores RDP

For a wireless connection, this is a pretty snappy download speed (upload is throttled to a putative 20 Mbps).

It’s not as fast as a wired connection. That tops out at 350-ish Mbps on my LAN, on Time Warner’s 300up/20down plan. But it ain’t bad, either. I’m glad I made the switch, and remembered how to restore RDP to working order, too!


September 16, 2016  3:43 PM

If WU Fails Try Update Catalog Download

Ed Tittel Ed Tittel Profile: Ed Tittel
Windows 10, Windows Update Management, Windows Updates

WU is, of course, short for Windows Update. I was reminded recently that when the Windows Update service fails to update a PC, there is another way to grab and install the necessary files. It’s called the Microsoft Update Catalog, and you can almost always find what you need there. Case in point: the most recent Cumulative Update KB3189866 installed on nearly all of my PCs recently. But I ran into a problem with one of them. My son’s Dell AIO 2780 would get part-way through the download then fail and hang WU completely. After three tries with the same results, I realized it was time to try a manual download and install instead. That is, if WU fails try update catalog download instead. Here’s what I go when I searched the catalog using the KB article number from that problem item:

Try Update Catalog Download

Three different versions of KB3189866 available for download.
[Click on image to see full-size version.]

How-to: Try Update Catalog Download

To use this method, visit the Microsoft Update Catalog page, and enter the Knowledge Base article ID for the problem update. In case, I searched on “KB3189866” as shown in the preceding screen cap. Next, I grabbed the first of the three items showing, because all my Windows 10 installs are 64-bit. You’d need the middle one for a Windows Server 2016 install, and the bottom one for a 32-bit Windows 10 install.

The download process couldn’t be simpler. First, click the “Add” button to the right of your chosen item. Second, click “view basket” at the upper right of the window. This produces an “Updates in your basket” window that includes a “Download” button. Click that button, then designate a delivery folder, and the download process proceeds.

Try Update Catalog Download

The download button fires off file transfer to your PC.

The download page helpfully shows a progress bar while the download is underway, and reports “Done” when it’s finished. Once the download is complete, you’ll close the catalog page. Next, navigate to the target directory you’ve chosen. For this item, you’ll find a folder named:

Cumulative Update for Windows 10 Version 1607 for x64-based Systems (KB3189866)

It contains a single file named:

AMD64-all-windows10.0-kb3189866-x64_2c3e91a8162269579c8bf26a502c620d41efef0d.msu

Double-click the file, and an update installer fires off to complete the update process on your behalf. Done!


September 14, 2016  10:47 AM

Anniversary Update on 3 Month Schedule

Ed Tittel Ed Tittel Profile: Ed Tittel
Windows 10, Windows Update Management

An interesting item popped up from Mary Jo Foley at ZDNet yesterday. Basically, it reveals that the Windows 10 Anniversary Update rollout will keep trickling out until early November. That’s right: Anniversary Update on 3 month schedule stretches the delivery of Version 1607 until 1611. Here’s the footnote, which MJF kindly pasted into her article.

Anniversary Update on 3 month Schedule

Now THAT’s what I call “extended release!

How to Skip Anniversary Update on 3 Month Schedule Slowing Your Access

Of course, you don’t have to wait until MS decides to deliver the Anniversary Update automatically. Other options let you install it on your schedule. But before you jump on them, consider that MS is holding back on some machines for what it deems good reasons. The company is using telemetry readings to stagger the update to give them time to address potential compatibility issues. Goodness knows, plenty have already been reported for the AU already.

What if you’re bound and determined to get the upgrade on one or more of your PCs? Then, you have several options for manual upgrade:

Use the Windows 10 Update Assistant

Use the Media Creation Tool and elect the “Upgrade this PC now” option

Grab the Windows 10 ISOs for whichever version you wish to upgrade. Use a tool like Rufus to build a bootable USB drive (or simply right-click the ISO file, mount it on your system, and click  “setup.exe”)

Thus, there’s no shortage of choices (and associated methods) to update sooner, rather than later. Those prepared to troubleshoot compatibility issues that result should feel free to exercise them. Those who’d rather avoid such travail might best wait for MS to offer the update through the Windows Update service.


September 12, 2016  1:15 PM

TaskSchedulerView IDs Cmd.exe Popups

Ed Tittel Ed Tittel Profile: Ed Tittel
Batch files, task scheduler, Windows 10

For the past few months, I’ve been bedeviled with a strange phenomenon. Every now and then, several times a day, a command line window (cmd.exe) pops up on my desktop, runs a batch file, then disappears. The whole thing usually takes less than a second to complete, so I’ve only been able to catch the file in action once. Now that I know that TaskSchedulerView IDs cmd.exe popups, this is what that windows looks like:

fubsend

The one time I caught this window, I didn’t copy nor read carefully enough to determine the source.

It’s been driving me nuts, because I wasn’t sure how to identify the batch file that had to be responsible. Then, this weekend, in helping out users at TenForums.com, I got lucky. I learned that Nir Sofer’s TaskSchedulerView utility allows its users to search the strings used to define actions in scheduled tasks. Actions like running programs (the source of the original user’s problems) or batch files (like the popups on my PC). In fact, there’s a Find command built into the tool. It searches the text data it compiles from all of your scheduled tasks. (Note: these can number anywhere from hundreds to thousands on any Windows PC.) As it turns out, that’s exactly how TaskSchedulerView IDs cmd.exe popups.

tsv-find3

The detail info for the ACC task identified the culprit: FUB_send.bat!

Using Find So That TaskSchedulerView IDs Cmd.exe Popups

Once I realized a batch file must be responsible for the popups, I used the tool to search for *.bat. The only item it found in my entire library of scheduled tasks was named FUB_Send.bat. As soon as I edited that file to keep it from closing upon completion, I ran it. I recognized it immediately as the elusive popup I’d been chasing. Upon reading its output and realizing it wasn’t working, I simply renamed the file with a .tab (bat is short for batch, so I turned it backwards). If I ever need it, I can rename the file easily and restore it to working order in a jiffy. But right now it can’t run, so it won’t be popping up any more.

Turns out it’s a part of the self-updating capability of my current device driver update program, SlimWare Utilities’ DriverUpdate. I confirmed my diagnosis when a search of their user forums turned up a handful of other posters with the same symptoms. The title of the thread was the clincher “Strange command prompt box opens.” Because I’m perfectly capable of running my own updates, I had no problem killing this problem by rendering the batch file invalid.


September 7, 2016  10:43 AM

Boot Win10 From USB Media

Ed Tittel Ed Tittel Profile: Ed Tittel
Windows 10, Windows Boot Disk

With UEFI replacing BIOS on most modern PCs, and SSDs for boot drives, many rigs use fast boot settings to launch into action as quickly as possible. Some machines boot fast enough to make detecting and responding to Function key input problematic. Microsoft recognizes this, and has added new capabilities to Windows 10 to instruct the PC to use an alternate boot source as part of system restart. It’s not without some “interesting wrinkles” however. I discovered some of them in learning how to boot Win10 from USB media on my various tablets, notebooks, and desktop PCs recently.

Advanced Startup Lets You Boot Win10 From USB Media

There’s a new Advanced Startup directive that appears in the Windows 10 Recovery menu. You can access this option in at least two ways:

  • Click Settings, Update & Security, Recovery, then click “Restart Now”  under Advanced Startup
  • Type “Advanced Startup” into Cortana (search box), click Change Advanced Startup options, then click “Restart Now”

If you can get to your UEFI/BIOS during bootup easily, you can also use an alternate boot selection outside the OS to target an alternate boot source, including bootable USB media. My ThinkPad laptops make this easy using the blue “ThinkVantage” button. On fast boot desktops, this is usually not an option unless one disables fast boot beforehand. But this technique works on all of my Windows 10 PCs across a wide variety of machine types: all-in-ones, mini-itx PCs, convention desktops, laptops/notebooks, and hybrid devices (a Surface Pro 3 and a Dell Venue Pro 11 7139).

adv-start

Restart now means what it says, so be sure to save all work before clicking the button!

Potential Gotcha 1 When You Boot Win10 From USB Media

I did run into a couple of gotchas when using this facility on my various PCs. When you click the “Restart now” button, it performs an immediate reboot. After bootup, it produces a “Choose an option” screen that includes “Use a device” among its selections. That’s the one you want to pick. So far, so good…

chopt

Next up, comes a list of devices from which you can choose. This is where things get interesting, because device names aren’t always crystal clear. On my desktop PC, the device name obligingly reports the make and model of my USB Flash drive. That makes it easy to select as my boot source, as shown (Mushkin).

usbopt1

But on my Lenovo X220 Tablet, my options include only a bunch of generic names such as USB CD, USB FDD, ATAPI CDO, and ATA HDD1, among others. I used the ThinkVantage key to invoke F12 boot selections to see how my boot UFD appeared there to learn that I wanted the one labeled USB CD (go figure). That was my first gotcha. It may require rebooting once to see what the default options, then again with the UFD plugged in to see what’s new in the mix. Ultimately, that’s what I did on the X220T to use the Windows Advanced Startup Options facility.

Potential Gotcha 2

Another gotcha also manifested when I first started using this tool. As is my typical practice, I remoted from my production desktop to a test machine to get to work. But when I did, no Advanced Startup Options appeared on the Settings/Update&Security/Recovery page. Turns out it’s not accessible via RDP. Don’t bother trying…

Gotchas aside, the facility is a good one. It’s worth using when you need an alternate boot source for a PC for troubleshooting, repair or installation. Add this one to your bag of admin tricks, please!


September 6, 2016  11:58 AM

Discovering WMIC (WMI command-line)

Ed Tittel Ed Tittel Profile: Ed Tittel

Rooting around for a good way to view current drive letter associations at the command line this weekend, I stumbled across command line access to the Windows Management Interface, aka WMI. Known as WMIC (the WMI command-line utility) it delivers access to and control over all kinds of Windows settings and information. Right now I’m still just discovering WMIC , and learning about what it can do and how to use it. Even so, I already know it’s well worth digging into. That goes double for those who write command-line or PowerShell scripts, or Windows OS utility programs.

discovering wmic via diskinfo

Here’s a nice example that shows drive letters and their associated volume names at the command line.

Discovering WMIC via Drive Info at the Command Line

Working on test machines this weekend, I found myself facing another round of post Win10 install cleanups with holdouts in Windows.old. Having already blogged about this and knowing the drill, I booted into a Windows 10 UFD to root them out. That was when I found myself jumping to Google to refresh my memory on viewing current drive associations. In turn, this led me to WMIC through a Windows Club story entitled “List Drives Using Command Prompt & PowerShell in Windows 10.”

I like my example better than theirs because it shows volume name as well as drive letter. Together, that data lets me identify exactly which drive is which on my systems. This information didn’t come as easily as I might have wished, however. Even though there’s a ton of WMIC documentation available, there’s very little overview or “best use” discussion of this awesome utility. The best of what is around comes from Microsoft, as you might expect. I’ll recommend the “WMI Command Line Tools” section of the WMI Reference as a good place to start. The “Useful WMIC Queries” post to the Ask the Performance Team blog (2/17/2012) is also pretty helpful.

As for myself, I’m going to keep digging in and learning for some time yet. Count on further WMIC blog posts from me as I figure things out. Stay tuned: good stuff ahead!


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