Confounding all expectations, MS followed up the wham, bam sequence of two Windows 10 builds on June 30 (10158) and July 1 (10159) with a third build yesterday (July 2: Build 10162). I’m hopeful this will be all for a while because it’s been time consuming and a bit frustrating to grind through the process so many times and so quickly of late. I always follow a new build with driver updates, which have fortunately been mostly nugatory with this last three builds on both of my test machines, and with image backups for each system which take an average of half-an-hour to complete on each of those systems.
Here we go again: I get mixed results from the install of Build 10162 on my test PCs.
As always, my i7-4770K desktop has been quietly stellar in absorbing the upgrades. I had no trouble with Builds 10158 and 10159 on the Dell Venue 11 Pro, but hit a snag yesterday on 10162. It hung on the download from Windows Update twice, at which point I gave up trying for the day, resolved to try again this morning first thing. I’m not sure if my patience was rewarded, or if the cold start I forced upon the machine did the trick, but the third try may turn out to be the charm for that machine, which is currently 28% through the “Upgrading Windows” process as I’m writing this paragraph, and just successfully rebooted for the second time while working through installation.
So far, I can’t really tell much difference between the three builds. MS claims that each one fixes issues (hundreds of them for each new iteration. Here’s what Gabe Aul of MS has to say about this hurry-up sequence in the latest Blogging Windows post, aptly entitled “Welcome to the faster fast ring!“:
We just released Build 10159 with our new wallpaper and logon UI on Tuesday, but this is a holiday weekend in the US and we thought that some of you might want to get an even fresher build on your PCs to play with over the long weekend. Build 10162 is another great one. In fact, our testing and internal telemetry metrics show it has better reliability, performance, battery life, and compatibility than any Windows 10 Insider Preview build so far.
And now, I have experienced a driver failure on the Dell PC at about 50% complete during installation, so it looks like the Windows Update version of 10162 is not going to work out on this machine. I also lost my touchpad at that point in the process, and had to install an external mouse (a Logitech 325 with external Unifying receiver, which worked immediately, thank goodness) so I’m guessing it’s the driver at fault here. My next move is to download the ISO files for 10162(which MS has already released even though 10162 has yet to hit the slow ring) and see if those don’t do the trick for me on this machine. I don’t relish rebuilding my usual image after a clean install, but that’s the way the Windows mop flops from time to time. Sigh.
No sooner did I get Build 10158 installed than did Windows Update inform me that a new fast ring build (10159) was available. That’s the smallest build ID increment I’ve seen so far, and the shortest interval between fast ring builds, too. I’m in the process of installing it right now — and hopeful that my Dell Venue 11 Pro will jump straight from 10130 where I left it before heading out on vacation, to 10159 directly, instead of forcing me to grind through both upgrades in sequence. So, I’m firing off both machines to see what happens…
According to WinBeta.org, Gabe Aul of MS tweeted yesterday that “there’s some kind of surprise in this build” so I’m going to see if I can find out what that might be once I get the darn thing installed. Here’s a snippet of that post from Gabe, courtesy of Windows TenForums, that whets my appetite even more:
One day between releases; one surprise, coming up!
Further courtesy of the extensive back chatter on the Windows 10 Forum entry for Build 10159, I learned that lots of users experienced hangs when trying to download and/or install the latest build. So far, no such problems on my machines. I also learned there are now images on the Win10 sign-in screen (even as I’m still waiting for the upgrade to finish installing), which you can see on page 6 of the aforelinked forum post, if you like. And indeed the splash screen graphic has changed, and the sign-in screen features a pretty snazzy “light streaming in from a four-pane window” motif like that shown in the “page 6” link above. Total process took less than half an hour for the i7 4770K desktop, the Dell did skip 10158 and is currently downloading 10159, but it just finished the preceding regular updates, so it’ll be a while before I can say anything about that particular upgrade experience.
RDP login obligingly let me capture the new sign-in screen, for your perusal.
I guess that means Build 10158 is toast, and “Vive le Build 10159!” I’ll keep reporting on other new stuff as I find it. What a ride, eh? All I can say so far, is that the Enterprise version of 10159 activated itself automatically without me having to find and provide a key manually. So far, so good!
Upon my return to the office after a week off this morning, I discovered the latest (and probably last) build before the upcoming 7/29 RTM for Windows 10 was available. The first install went pretty smoothly, with only a couple of minor glitches to clean up after the fact. Overall, things are looking pretty good, and I’ve now installed Windows 10 often enough to feel entirely comfortable with that process.
Build 10158 appears stable and functional.
I found the Build 10158 Enterprise activation key on Windows 10 Forums, along with keys for all the other versions currently available from that build — namely Home and Pro. This info has taken some digging to unearth on earlier releases, so I was pleased to find it from a “usually reliable source” both quickly and easily.
The Windows.old installation on my desktop test machine weighed in at 19.2 GB, so I was quick to remove it once I was comfortable working with the newest Win10 build. I use CCleaner (slim version) for that cleanup job, or you can also use the built-in Disk Cleaner, but you must instruct it to clean up system files and rescan the boot/system drive to fire off that task. CCleaner is my preference because it’s so much faster than Disk Cleaner (under a minute versus several minutes makes this no contest in my book).
In attempting to update the RealTek Audio drivers on that system to the latest version, the installer hung after the first reboot (following the uninstall of the old drivers, before the installation of the new ones). I had to unpack the installer file into a folder, then use the Update Driver facility in Device Manager to get this new driver installed and running on my Windows 10 test machine. In troubleshooting this issue, I rebooted about three more times than I wanted to, but once I determined that the installer was hung, it was easy to address.
My take on Build 10158 is best summed up as “So far, so good.” I’ll be spending as much time as I can with it over the next few days, and will report other findings as they make themselves known.
As a full-time writer and researcher, I am forever compiling materials that need to be combed for nuggets of information. Sometimes, particularly in connection with my occasional work as an expert witness, this means LOTS of text and/or source code to search for specific strings — gigabytes of material, on some recent cases. Finding the proverbial needle in the haystack takes time and good tools to accomplish. Caught in a hurry-up pinch recently, I found myself buying and using a tool called Text Finding Professional (V2.1.0, $40 retail download).
Point TFP at a directory tree, let it index the material therein, and it’ll find stuff fast, fast, fast.
As you can see from the foregoing screenshot, the tool will index and search just about any kind of file that contains text (it can handle ASCII, UTF, and other formats with equal aplomb) and show you the names of the files in which hits occur in the results pane at the center. For any given file selected in that pane, it will also show where those hits occur on a line-by-line basis. At $40 for a single-PC license the price is right, too. I had no trouble pointing it at networked or shared drives, though I did have to map them to local drive letters, so it isn’t strictly limited to indexing or reporting on files on a single machine, though that may be thanks to Windows flexible Multiple UNC Provider (MUP) file access abilities.
If you have occasional or regular needs to search files on your PC, especially large collections of textual data, I recommend this tool highly.
Over the years, I’ve always struggled with some Windows drivers that prove more tricky or difficult to install than others. This goes double for those devices whose vendors provide installable executables to handle driver and environment updates, such as Nvidia, Intel, RealTek, Atheros, and others. I don’t blame them for taking this approach because it shields most users from the complexities of updating drivers manually (Device Manager, select device, right-click, Update Driver software, and so forth). But sometimes, the automated tools omit to install some drivers either by accident, oversight, or for more mysterious reasons. That’s when my bag of tricks gets hauled out and brought into play.
1. I use 7zip more or less exclusively as my decompression and unpacking tool. It just so happens to be great at unpacking files inside most executables (like the aforementioned “installable executables”) and letting me inspect their contents. Often, I can find the .cat, .inf, and other driver files in some nicely named directory (e.g. x64Drivers) and use them to attempt a manual driver update. Surprisingly, this works about half the time. The other half requires further fooling around, especially for those executables that don’t unpack into usable files (like the latest Intel chipset drivers, for example).
2. When the unpack and manual update technique fails, it’s time to get more creative. I’ll often turn next to the fantastic and incredibly well-stocked French driver site Station-Drivers (where do they find that stuff? I wonder…) For all the major device makers — Intel, RealTek, most laptop and desktop OEMs, all the networking players, USB, and oodles more) — this site usually has the latest and greatest drivers including stuff that may not ever be officially released or that won’t go public for months and months. Often, a driver found here will bring my devices more up-to-date.
If some of the rumors I hear are true the vendors whose drivers appear here would also like to know where they come from and how they get here!
3. Sometimes, I have to digging inside the driver itself to figure out what it is and starting chasing down related software. Inside the Device Manager, click a Device’s Properties, then the Details tab, then copy the Hardware IDs field(s). These are typically strings that look like this:
Jump onto your favorite search engine, and enter these strings accurately, and you’ll find info and drivers to match quite readily.
You can then look these strings up in your favorite search engine, and sift carefully through whatever pops up in response. This technique is particularly helpful when Windows itself can’t find a driver for some device and it shows up in the Unknown Device category in Device Manager. It can also be helpful when you can’t find a driver using either of the two preceding approaches I’ve described here.
With a little persistence, a certain amount of doggedness, you can use these tricks to solve most driver problems. They’ve served me well in the past decade and more as I’ve worked to keep up with the never-ending parade of new devices and drivers to go with them, and new versions of Windows to help uncover their deficiencies (or outright absence).
Over the weekend, I saw an interesting news item on the Windows 10 Forums. Entitled “Ask Toolbar gets the banhammer on Windows,” it observes that “the Ask Toolbar is a bad thing that nobody wants on their PC.” Having been faced with extirpating this toolbar more times than I would like to recall, and having now trained myself to always refuse its “install by default” behavior when updating Oracle Java, I have to agree with the prevailing consensus that whether or not the Ask Toolbar qualifies as malware, it is indisputably unwanted software for most ordinary mortals. It also includes certain built-in persistence features that make its removal more challenging than most people would like.
For the past 5 or 6 months, Microsoft has agreed with this assessment, primarily because prior versions of the Ask Toolbar caused a pop-up window to appear recommending against resetting the default search provider to some engine other than ask.com. The posting from the Win10 Forums folks starts from the presumption that Microsoft now agrees with other assessments of Ask as “unwanted software.” But when I went to visit the Ask listing at the Microsoft Malware Center this morning, here’s what I found there:
No sooner found than changed: recent updates to the Ask toolbar cause MS to reclassify the Ask toolbar.
I’m not sure that the current and revised MS assessment is warranted — I concur with the ongoing prevailing consensus that the Ask Toolbar remains at least a major PITA, if not something worse than that — but MS has its rules, and it apparently applies them equally to all contenders. Now that Ask has changed its behaviors to no longer “restrict or limit your control over your search provider” and no longer “prevent[s] you from disabling or modifying your search provider,” MS no longer needs to classify it as unwanted software. But at least from February 12 through June 13 of this year, that’s exactly what they called it, and older versions do still retain that classification. Go figure!
What with running two Win10 test machines — a desktop and tablet/convertible — I’ve been banging up against the limits of this new software from time to time, and have had to refurbish some troubleshooting skills. This was called to mind yesterday by two very nice bits of information I came across, each of which related to at least one of those gotchas that helped me formulated to the title for today’s blog post.
When it comes to shooting trouble nothing beats good technique, except perhaps good automated tools.
Those two items are:
1. Sergey Tkachenko runs a small but potent Website called WinAero.com where he comments on Windows stuff, and publishes a wide variety of useful little Windows utilities and tools. Several of them, such as the Winaero WEI (Windows Experience Index, which brings the quick-n-dirty performance ranking back to Win 8 and 10 versions), have showed up in my own postings to this very blog. This particular item popped up a couple of days ago and is entitled “Change network location type (Public or Private) in Windows 10.” Apparently Sergey and I have often experienced the same problem, which is that after updates, between reboots, or upon waking from sleep Win10 often resets the network type from “Private” to “Public.” As he notes in this June 11 post, there actually is a way to get to this setting from the Network and Sharing Center. But it does require a reboot. I’ve found what I think is a simpler, if less direct method: I simply open Homegroup, which tells me that the network is the wrong type to participate. Click Fix and it resets the network type to Private, after which I can again use RDP to remote into my test machines.
2. I subscribe to the great and informative Windows Secrets Newsletter for the princely sum of $15 a year. I like it so much, in fact, that I have it set up to bill my credit card annually for ongoing coverage. Longtime Windows maven Fred Langa has a piece in this week’s offering, also posted 6/11, entitled Free first aid for a wide range of Windows ills, wherein he reminded me of the many windows FixIt tools available and taught me about Microsoft’s Support Diagnostics Program (SDP) and the Microsoft Automated Troubleshooting Server (MATS), two programs about which I’d heard bits and pieces but had never bothered to dig into more deeply than hearsay would allow. What I discovered was a treasure trove of tools for detecting Windows ills, often with fixes to match, that address all kinds of problems from the merely persnickety to the downright catastrophic. Just for grins, I ran MATS on my production PC, and it seemed to chunk through its lengthy laundry list of checks without difficulty.
Always nice to find techniques for troubleshooting, but even better to gain access to good automated tools for that purpose. Thanks, guys!
When the Win10 flag showed up on my Windows 8.1 machines, perforce I signed up for the upgrade, knowing that I must track the latest and greatest of Windows OSes no matter what. I’ve read various opinions on Microsoft’s early upgrade offer that vary all the from clever marketing ploy to a trick from the infernal master and found myself somewhere in the middle of that spectrum. But when a congratulatory e-mail showed up in my inbox yesterday, I found myself leaning more in the former direction (clever marketing) rather than the latter (devilish trick):
If you hand over an email address when you register for the upgrade, you’ll get this e-mail, too.
Having now had a bit more time to think about what’s going on here, I’m still inclined to think of it as a clever marketing ploy and not the Devil’s handiwork. Here’s why: MS is getting an early gauge of interest in Windows 10, and grabbing an early opportunity to reduce its support burden by lowering the number of users of older products and concentrating them (or trying to, anyway) on their latest and greatest desktop offering. At the same time, MS can reduce the first- and early-days load on the Akamai servers that usually provide the downloads (and this one is bound to be 2-3 GB in size) by trickling out those big files starting days before July 29 when the real onslaught begins.
Upon further reflection I do have to say it appears to be a very clever marketing and business ploy because it helps get the word out, keeps the new release in the public’s eye (or on their notification bar, at least), and helps the company make best use of bandwidth and server resources. Very interesting, and quite possibly also, a nice piece of work.
Every now and then I like to drop into NetMarketShare.com and see what’s up on the Internet with desktop operating systems. Even as they grow increasingly passe and irrelevant, I’m still fascinated to watch those dynamics unfold. However antediluvian this makes me, I’m not ashamed that I still spend my working days staring at a big screen with big PC iron behind it. Forgive me if that’s not where you live, and I hope you’ll indulge this modest preoccupation nonetheless.
Add up Win8 and Win8.1 counts and you get 16.45% which tops XP’s 14.6% share.
[Source:NetMarketShare.com Desktop OS Marketshare by version 6/9/2015]
I guess I missed the cutover date, because the last time I checked the situation was in late April. But now, at least, the end-of-life OS that lasted so very long and ruled so very many desktops has fallen behind the current valid incarnations of Windows. I’m not sure this is cause for celebration anywhere except Redmond. However, it is an important sign that despite the occasional case of “you’ll pry my XP out of my cold, dead hands,” common sense regarding the security and stability of no-longer-supported OSes is beginning to register around the world.
With the official release of Windows 10 due at the end of next month (July 29) it will be even more interesting to see how soon Windows 10 registers on this particular radar (it’s apparently still behind Linux at 1.57%, languishing somewhere in the “Other” category). After it starts to show on the radar, I’m even more curious to learn if Win10 will surpass Win8 before Win7 shuffles off the map. Got that?
Two days ago a strange little Windows flag icon appeared in the notification bar on my Windows 8.1 PCs. A quick mouse-over on the icon produced the text “Get Windows 10.” An equally quick click produced a Window offering early access to the upcoming and already promised free upgrade to the new OS when it becomes available on July 29, as shown here:
You can reserve a copy of Windows 10, which means it will trickle onto your PC before July 29, and become installable that very day.
A fair amount of system spelunking was required to determine that update KB3035583, which appears in my Update History files on or around May 15, is responsible for the appearance of the icon, which remains lodged in your notification bar once it pops up (unless you uninstall that selfsame update, then hide it so it won’t appear again unless you decide to re-enable it later). Among the various articles I found that helped me get this all figured out, Ed Bott’s ZDNet story “Get Windows 10: Microsoft’s biggest software upgrade in history begins today” (posted 6/1/2015) was the most helpful, so I’ll give it a nod and a shout-out here.
Something I haven’t seen mentioned in other coverage is what happens to Windows Update once you do reserve an upgrade. The usual display on the home screen is replaced by a confirmation of your reservation that looks like this:
The confirmation is a novelty at first, but you must now click the “Show all…” link to see if you have any current updates pending .
As far as I can tell, the real upshot of accepting the free upgrade offer is that until it takes effect you must click the “Show all available updates” link to check for pending updates, instead of clicking a link that says “Check for updates.” Don’t ask me why, but I find this mildly irritating. Others are somewhat more galled, with Windows maven Paul Thurrott probably the most outspoken in his reaction. I got a chuckle or two from the story that voices his pique on this subject entitled “Ask Paul: Why Do You Need to Reserve the Windows 10 Upgrade?;” if you read it, perhaps you will, too!
At any rate, this is something that those Windows 7, 8, and 8.1 users who do elect to reserve their upgrade will have to get used to seeing for the next 8 weeks, as the clock ticks its way down to July 29, and users will have the opportunity to make it go away. That upgrade will be around 3GB in size, according to various sources (including the afore-cited articles) so you’ll want to make sure the target drive for your “Downloads” folder/library has sufficient free space to accommodate this item as it trickles its way onto your soon-to-be upgraded PC(s).