Here’s an interesting tidbit of information, courtesy of Forbes magazine. That story references a December 10 Windows Insider Program blog post. It’s from Michael Fortin, MS CVP for Windows, entitled “Windows monthly security and quality updates overview.” In that memo, Fortin identifies update release labels: B, C, and D. The B release comes in the second week of the month: it’s the usual Patch Tuesday stuff. Likewise, C and D releases to WU come in weeks 3 and 4, respectively. Thankfully, Fortin describes C and D releases clearly. “These are preview releases, primarily for commercial customers and advanced users ‘seeking’ updates.” Thus, my post title that late-month WU items equal update previews. Like I said: interesting, eh?
Knowing recent Patch Tuesday dates are 11/13 and 12/11, it’s easy to tell that several updates shown here may qualify as “previews.” One 12/6 item even says “Preview.”
[Click image for full-sized view.]
What Late-Month WU Items Equal Update Previews Really Means
In addition, the afore-cited blog post explains further about C and D releases:
These updates have only non-security fixes. The intent of these releases is to provide visibility into, and enable testing of, the non-security fixes that will be included in the next Update Tuesday release. Advanced users can access the “C” and “D” releases by navigating to Settings > Update & Security > Windows Update and clicking the “Check for updates” box. The “D” release has proven popular for those “seeking” to validate the non-security content of the next “B” release.
OK, then. What does this really mean for run-of-the-mill users? Admins working on test/staging PCs? For one, ordinary users should “wait for WU updates.” Jumping early means installing preview level update code. For others — namely, admins, power users, and insiders — this is stuff for which advanced access is helpful. In fact, this goes double if you’re trying to create canonical images for your next upcoming, scheduled in-house update cycle.
If you want to play the WU game well, it helps to know the rules. Though they come as a bit of a surprise, I’m still grateful to Mr. Fortin and MS for clarifying things somewhat.
Last week, I blogged about Intel Windows 10 Modern Drivers. As it turns out, there was more going on with that than I recognized. In addition to a new set of drivers, Intel also offers a new set of UWP software as well. By grabbing the latest version of the Intel Ethernet Adapter Complete Driver Pack, downloaders will get a copy of a UWP-based PROSet tool. Because it’s named the Intel ProSet Adapter Configuration Utility, this blog post is entitled Intel Win10 UWP configuration utility. Here’s what it looks like:
This handy utility runs from the Start menu, and provides all kinds of useful information about and control over Intel Ethernet adapters
[Click image for full-sized view.]
What’s in the Intel Win10 UWP Configuration Utility?
If you inspect the preceding screenshot, you’ll see four panes of information inside its window. The left-hand pane lists all Intel Ethernet adapters present on the host PC. There are two panes in the center. Up top, you’ll find adapter info, including bus type, driver name, media type, and so forth. Down below, you’ll find buttons for cable, connection and hardware tests. There’s a display area at the very bottom of the pane for test result display. At right, users can access and update each network interface’s adapter settings. Previously available only in Device Manager’s Advanced Connection properties window, this interface is less cramped and more friendly.
I did encounter a couple of gotchas when using the tool, though. After running either the Cable or Connection tests, the network interface would drop off the network. This proved easy to fix, however. A restart does the trick. So does jumping into Device Manager, after which you’ll disable then re-enable the affected network interface. Either maneuver restores the network to normal, proper operation. Hopefully, some alert Intel networking developer will read this blog post, and take corrective action for an upcoming tool update.
Nevertheless, this tool is worth downloading, installing and using, IMO. If you try it yourself, I hope you’ll agree.
[Note added after initial publication] The runtime for this software also includes some interesting PowerShell stuff. Read this support note “Intel PROSet for Windows PowerShell Software” and you’ll be able to try this stuff out for yourself. Works like a champ!
Checking over my production PC this weekend, I noticed a half-dozen folders at the root of my system drive (C:). By definition such files are system related and ordinarily hidden from view. Looking them over, I quickly realized I neither wanted or needed most of them. Hence my exhortation: Out darned Win10 dollar files (with apologies to the Immortal Bard). Here’s what I saw at the head of the C: drive’s folder list (the initial $ takes them to the head of the collating sequence):
Note the list of items here, each starting with the dollar-sign ($) character.
[Click image for full-sized view.]
Tossing Out Darned Win10 Dollar Files
Let’s tackle each item in the foregoing list of hidden system files as they appear from the top down. I’ll dig a bit into each one, and explain why I decided to get rid of 5 of those 6 entries. Sometimes that means I don’t need the contents any more, sometimes it’s an empty directory somehow left behind by Disk Clean up or Settings → Storage → Free Up Space now. Actually, only the Recycle Bin is a must-keep item (it supports the familiar desktop trashcan).
This hidden folder is created on Windows 10 machines during the upgrade process. It contains log files about a specific upgrade, in fact. The files in this folder are dated April 30, 2018, which means they’re tied to the 1803 upgrade. I’m running 1809 on this PC, so I absolutely don’t need this folder any more. Out it goes.
There’s little or no information about the $Hyper-V.tmp folder available anywhere, either from Microsoft or third parties. Its extension — .tmp — usually indicates temporary files which means it’s not necessary to keep them around. Closer inspection of the folder shows it to be empty. I’m not running Hyper-V on this PC anyway. Out it goes, too.
This one’s legit and must be kept around to keep the Windows 10 Recycle Bin working as intended. I’m leaving one alone, and you probably should, too.
According to a variety of sources, the $SysReset folder is created only when a Reset or Refresh operation fails on a PC. Since I regularly mess around with system functions on this PC for research and learning purposes, I probably triggered it unintentionally at one time or another. It includes log files intended to help troubleshooting reset and refresh issues. I have none that I know of, so this one goes, too.
$Windows.~BT and $Windows.~WS
These folders are created during the upgrade process to support rollback if needed. I use image backups to roll back when necessary, so I don’t need these folders. I’m not sure why Disk Cleanup and/or Settings → Storage → Free Up Space hasn’t already removed them, but I have no qualms about doing this manually myself. I don’t need these folders, nor their contents. Besides, 1809 backup happened for me on October 5 at Build 17763.1, and no longer matches the official ISO build source 17763.134. I don’t even want this stuff. Out it goes!
Say Bye to those Dollar Files
In an administrative Command Prompt session within PowerShell, I’ll use the rd (remove directory) command with /s (recurse directories) and /q (quiet, ignore error messages) to tackle these items. Here goes:
As I entered these commands inside the PowerShell/Cmd window, I watched the corresponding folders disappear in Explorer. Cool!
All taken care of. If it worked for me, it will also work for you. Say G’bye now!
In this case, CU means cumulative update for Windows 10. Servicing stack updates, also known as SSUs, pave the way for successful CU installs. As the MS Servicing stack updates web page explains, these updates “provide fixes to the servicing stack, the component that installs Windows updates.” In essence, that means SSU updates make sure that any potential gotchas that might prevent the CU from installing correctly are addressed before the gotchas can bite. This quote explains what’s up. “If you don’t install the latest servicing stack update, there’s a risk that your device can’t be updated with the latest Microsoft security fixes.” Hence also the title: Win10 Servicing Stack updates support CUs. Got that?
How Is It That Win10 Servicing Stack Updates Support CUs?
SSUs are supposed to be released at the same time that monthly quality updates and CUs are released. Sometimes, an SSU may go out on its own to address issues that affect systems installing a monthly update of some kind. Starting November 2018, new SSUs are classifed as Security updates with a “Criticial” severity rating. You can look at SSUs as a kind of just-in-time update that prepares systems to accept and work with other updates. It’s all good, right?
There’s just one little gotcha when it comes to SSUs. They don’t appear in the Windows 10 Update History. For the record, the most recent SSU (dated 12/4/2018) is KB4470788. Note this snippet from my Lenovo T520 laptop, onto which I installed the latest updates yesterday.
Note the absence of an SSU entry in the preceding list. Nothing is numbered 4470788. What’s up with that?
[Click image for full-sized view.]
If There’s No SSU Visible, Is It Really There?
Oh, it’s there all right. MS chooses not to show it in its Update History list for some odd reason or another. If you use the DISM /Online /Get-Packages command, it shows up near the end of that listing, like this:
The red arrow flags the KB4470788 entry, and shows it appears as a Security Update as claimed earlier. Perforce it’s installed before the CU (RollupFix item at end of list).
[Click image for full-sized-view.]
I learned by trial and error on Wednesday/Thursday that sometimes the SSU may NOT precede a CU. If that should happen, this may manifest in WU failing to offer the CU. I noticed that four of the five machines I have running 17763.167 got the offer, but the fifth did not. On a whim, I downloaded and installed the SSU from the Microsoft Update Catalog. Immediately thereafter, WU offered the missing CU (KB4469342). I’m not sure why this happened, but I was glad to find a way to address the situation. Should you ever find yourself in the same boat, this technique might also work for you. Find the Servicing Satck Update KB article numbers in Microsoft Security Advisory ADV990001 Latest Servicing Stack Updates. Then you can use that info to grab what you need from the Update Catalog.
What can one say about a Windows 10 Cumulative Update that goes through four iterations? Quite a lot, as it turns out. In fact, KB4469342 has led to three or more point release values for Build 17763. A quick Google Search on KB4469342 at Microsoft.com produces info for .165, .167 and .168 point releases in the Insider Preview Release Preview program. Woody Leonhard vents some interesting spleen on this CU at ComputerWorld “Win10 Version 1809 gets another jolt, fourth KB 4469342 now runs build 17763.18.” There’s been a lot of recent action on this front, which is why I assert that Cumulative Update KB4469342 weaves tortuous Win10 track.
One Tale On How Cumulative Update KB4469342 Weaves Tortuous Win10 Track
Take my Surface Pro 3 as an example. I’ve been tracking the Release Preview stuff on that PC since the .165 version of KB4469342 appeared on November 16. I’ve read about various graphics driver and other issues for this update in its various forms. I didn’t get bitten until the .168 release appeared December 3.
When I checked WU no new KB4469342 update appeared. It wasn’t until yesterday that I decided to visit the Microsoft Catalog and grab the update for manual installation. But I couldn’t find it until some kind soul named Dave44 offered download links to the x64 and x86 .cab files at TenForums. I had checked various UUP-based download sites. Alas I couldn’t grab those files, despite numerous other reports of success from posters to the afore-linked thread.
The Tortured Track Continues
Once I used DISM to add this package to my online Win10 image things got interesting. After the package was integrated, DISM asked to reboot my PC. Prior to reboot, I saw the spinning balls and the typical “Processing updates” verbiage that counted through to completion. Following the reboot, the OS hung. It presented me with a set of “Choose your default keyboard” selections. When I did, the machine would restart and eventually return to the same screen. This is a so-called “Windows 10 boot loop.” After exhausting recovery options to the resident recovery partition without success, I booted to a Macrium Rescue Media UFD, and performed boot repairs. After the next reboot, Windows 10 went through its OS rollback (“reverting to previous OS version”) maneuvers and I was back running the .167 point release.
Light at the End of the Tunnel?
This morning, WU finally offered me KB4469342 directly for the first time. After a quick image backup and crossing my fingers, I fired it off. To my surprise and delight, it completed successfully all the way through. But when I ran DISM /cleanup-image /startcomponentcleanup on the .168 image it failed partway through. The error message read: “The operation cannot be performed because another transaction is depending on the fact that this property will not change.”
That’s a new one on me, so I looked it up in Microsoft Docs. It occurs when two transactions compete for the same resource, so neither can grab it and complete. I’ve noticed that sometimes running startcomponentcleanup causes two progress bars to appear, one that stops short of 100% and a new one that kicks off and usually runs to completion. Could it be that a second process gets spawned when the first one hangs and that this time they conflicted with one another? Hard to think of another more likely cause here. Very interesting.
Notice the two lines reported for progress. My best guess is that each represents a separate process. Each apparently requests a resource that the other needs to cause the error.
[Click image for full-sized view.]
I’m wondering now if this version of KB4469342 is the one that will go official next week on Patch Tuesday (December 11). There’s still time for another version to make its way into the Release Preview channel before then, though. Can’t ever remember seeing the same KB go through four iterations before. Anybody going for five?
Starting in November, 2018, Intel began supplying Modern Windows Drivers for its products. You can read about this switchover on the Intel site. Find the Support post entitled “Introduction of Modern Windows Drivers for Intel Products.” If you download a new version of the Intel Driver & Support Assistant (IDSA), it will grab those drivers for you should they be available. The latest version runs as a web-based app, and does a pretty good job. But the change comes with a caveat, where Intel Windows 10 modern drivers are concerned. It’s only available for newer Intel graphics chipsets, including Skylake, Apollo Lake, Coffee Lake, Gemini Lake and Kaby Lake (510 or higher and 605 or higher, by chipset model number).
Interesting implications emerge from a new Windows driver architecture, Windows Modern Drivers(MWD).
The Read More link in the graphic is the Intro article linked in the preceding paragraph.
Switching to Intel Windows 10 Modern Drivers
The switchover is easy, if your hardware is new enough to support the new driver family. If so, you’ll also want to visit the Windows Store. Search for and install the Intel Graphics Control Panel, for an interactive set of driver controls tightly integrated into Windows 10. For myself though, all of the PCs I own run Intel graphics chipsets of Haswell or Ivy Bridge vintage. That means neither the new drivers nor the Store app work for me. In fact, although I can download and install that Store app, I get an error message when I try to launch it:
Alas, without a MWD driver, the Store app won’t run.
Implications of Switching to Intel Windows Modern Drivers
So far, reaction to the drivers has been mostly positive, if somewhat mixed. The only way to load these drivers is to run an .exe file. Attempts to extract typical driver file components (.inf files, .dlls, and so forth) apparently don’t produce anything usable. Why is this a potential concern? Because such individual files are REQUIRED by DISM to integrate drivers into offline image files. This is explained in the MS Docs article “Add or Remove Drivers to an offline Windows Image.” So far, nobody’s figured out how to do this using MWD drivers in general, and Intel graphics drivers in particular. This could be a gotcha for some admins who maintain Windows image libraries for deployment. Hopefully, some kind of resolution will soon be forthcoming.
OK, then. Another interesting tidbit about recent Windows 10 woes for the 1809 release has emerged. As ZDNet reports, Apple has fixed a compatibility problem with iCloud. iCloud is Apple’s cloud-based storage solution. It lets iDevice and iCloud users on PCs access, exchange and synchronize files. That story is entitled “Microsoft lifts Windows 10 1809 block after Apple fixes iCloud for Windows.” It explains that iCloud for Windows version 7.7.027 “caused problems syncing Share Albums after users updated to Windows 10 1809.” That’s why Microsoft blocked the 1809 update offer for Windows users running iCloud until the fix came in. They also prevented 1809 users from installing iCloud likewise. That’s why I say that an iCloud issue hampers 1809 user proffer (in such cases, at least).
Overcoming iCloud Issue Hampers 1809 User Proffer
Yesterday, Apple released iCloud for Windows 7.8.1. It addresses the 1809 compatibility issue. To take advantage of its capabilities, MS and Apple recommend that users first update iCloud. Only then should they upgrade their PCs to 1809. Here are the details on the recommended approach. They come from the November 27 entry on Microsoft’s Windows 10 update history page.
This is the info about iCloud that appeared on 11/17. This page is a handy source of useful info about release status and issues. Bookmark it!
Other Interesting 1809 Issues
While you’re visiting that update history page, it’s informative to check out other recent entries, too. The block dated 11/21/18 describes an Intel display driver issue. It attributes potential problems when “Intel inadvertently released versions of its display driver (versions 18.104.22.16844, 22.214.171.12445) to OEMs that accidentally turned on unsupported features in Windows.” Ouch! The upshot could affect audio playback through a monitor or TV connected using HDMI, DisplayPort, or USB-C. A workaround is also documented.
Older items include F5 VPN client issues, drive mappings that fail to reconnect, Trend Micro OfficeScan and Worry-Free Business software, older AMD GPUs, and more. Definitely worth reading over, especially for those facing any or all of such issues.
Thanks to MSPowerUser.com I stumbled upon a very interesting UK survey this morning. Its title tells much of the story: “Survey finds Laptops, Tablets steady while Desktop PC ownership plunges.” There’s an even better picture of what’s reported. I reproduce it from page 6 of the stunning interactive report around which the story is based. Basically it shows that in the period from 2008 to 2018, tablets and laptops increasingly represent the computing platform of choice for end-users. As the same time use of (desktop) PCs for computing has declined by more than half. If I read the chart correctly, only 30% of users now turn to PCs for computing. But just over 60% use laptops for that purpose, and just under 60% of users turn to tablets likewise. That’s why I say Tablets and Laptops Supplant Desktop PCs.
Note that tablets and laptops are up, while desktops are down, reflecting a sea change in computing device use patterns and preferences.
Tablets and Laptops Supplant Desktop PCs for Good Reasons
Ofcom is the UK government’s regulatory agency for communications services, including broadband, home and mobile phone services, TV and radio, postal services, and even wireless devices such as walkie talkies, wireless auto keyfobs and even wireless doorbells (often, with surveillance cameras embedded). As far as I can tell, it serves the same role in the UK that the FCC does in the USA, plus a lot more. The organization’s role includes an educational mandate for users, and to handle and respond to customer complaints. Thus, their report is very much media and communications focused, it doesn’t really delve much into computing practices and behaviors, except to observe and quantify Internet and smart phone use. That said, I think I understand what’s driving a long-term shift from desktop PCs to tablet and laptop alternatives:
- Price: laptops and tablets are often cheaper, sometimes much cheaper, than desktop PCs. With many families desiring device-per-member usage this makes more sense for many of them.
- Mobility: For most desktop PCs, the user has to go to the machine and work in front of it. More mobile devices go to (or with) their users and fit better into typical multi-device modern media consumption habits. (My 14-year-old son, for example, seldom watches TV without also interacting with his iPhone.)
- Apps not Applications: Most users want the same capability on their computing devices that they get from their smartphones. Mobile computing devices do a better job of supporting that kind of experience. Although its popular, fewer users want Office on their smartphone than want their iPhone or Android apps on their computers.
The whole Ofcom report is well worth reading. Besides the amazing interactive charts they’ve put together, the narrative that accompanies the charts is also worth reading (PDF format). Be sure to check it out!
I am NOT a Dinosaur!
I have a cheerful confession to share. Indeed, the foregoing survey shows clearly declining use of desktops. We own 5 laptops (2 of which are hybrid tablets), 2 full-time tablets (both iPads), 4 smartphones, and 3 desktops here at Chez Tittel. When I have work to do, though, I will always turn to my production PC by choice. That’s because it has two good (and big) monitors. Let me explain.
A lot of what I do requires reading and checking stuff in one or more “input windows” while writing something related in at least one “output window.” That’s still not something I can do well on the road on a laptop just yet (though it’s fun to try). My needs are pretty special, though, and I do consider myself primarily a writer/researcher. Thus my desktop PC is my primary work instrument. When I’m working that’s what I use. As I think of how my family uses PCs, and how I use them when I’m not working, I’m inclined to agree wholesale with the findings of the Ofcom survey myself. I just wanted to observe that special circumstances, like mine, explain why the usage rate is still at 30% for 2018, and likely to stay that way for some time to come.
I found a fascinating explanation for the withdrawal and re-release of Windows 10 1809 today at Windows Central. It’s entitled “How a major bug in the Windows 10 October 2018 Update slipped past Microsoft.” Essentially, it explains that MS was well-acquainted with a bug that caused apparent (but not real) data loss after an OS upgrade. This occurs when Windows 10 creates a temporary account into which users boot up when the upgrade completes. Of course, they can’t access their Documents, Downloads, and more. That’s because the (temporary) account has its own and different library folders. Unfortunately, users reported the 1809 bug the same way. But this time it involved genuine, sometimes traumatic data loss. According to WinCentral, it took MS some time to understand this. Only then did they withdraw the October 2 build. That’s why I aver a false bug ID causes 1809 re-release.
The original Winver information for the first, much-maligned and occasionally buggy 1809 release from October 2. Luckily, none of my 4 PCs running this version fell prey to that bug.
Correcting False Bug ID Causes 1809 Re-Release
Here’s how WinCentral explains Microsoft’s initial take on the bug:
. . . Microsoft at some point added a popup in the temporary account that explains to the user that they have been booted into a different profile and provides support for how to get out of that state. This is why Microsoft seemingly dismissed the reports from Insiders that actually had their files deleted after installing the October Update. Engineers assumed those reports were related to the temporary account issue, which had already been addressed.
A long time ago, I took my first management job (1984, if you must know). Early on, my manager wrote this on his whiteboard: ASSUME = ASS+U+ME. His voice-over stated “When you assume things, you make an ass out of you and me.” Indeed, this homily remains as true now as it was back then, and seems to have bitten Microsoft soundly on the hindquarters this time around. MS is, however, trying to learn from this mistake, as you can see in the many mea culpas implicit in this recent Windows Insider Program blog post from Corporate VP Michael Fortin: “Windows 10 Quality approach for a complex ecosystem.”
All I can wonder is: “Can MS put itself back into good repute with Windows users?” Still way too early to tell. Saying the right things is easy. Doing them can be a completely different story. We’ll see, I guess!
Yesterday, while poking around on my Lenovo T520 I found something unexpected. A Windows.old folder was still hanging around. This, despite having upgraded more than 10 days ago to 1809, and also having cleaned up the previous OS install manually. “Hmmm,” I thought to myself, “wonder what it is this time?” When my usual techniques for stomping out persistent Windows.old failed, I turned to Google. I quickly learned that a specific command-line sequence kills resistant Windows.old files and folders.
This laconic answer to the lengthy MS.answers post fixed my problem, too.
I translated the network path shown into a purely local path so I could run the command right on the affected PC itself.
Which Command-line Sequence Kills Resistant Windows.old Files and Folders?
That command is:
rd /s /q %systemdrive%\Windows.old
Here rd stands for remove directory (also known as the rmdir command). /s stands for recurse, which instructs it to remove all dependent folders. /q stands for quiet, which means it ignores any error or other messages that Windows hands out during the deletion process. This turns out to be the key to extirpating the resistant folder structure.
When you run this command on your target PC, you will have to use the drive letter for its affected system drive. This may or may not be the usual C:. That’s because when you boot to an alternate OS image, drive assignments don’t often remain the same. I used Kyhi’s excellent Windows 10 Recovery Tools — Bootable Rescue Disk, which does preserve existing drive mappings. But if you use the built-in Windows Recovery environment, your old C: drive could show up as something else. Use diskpart to check, please!
Why This Folder Hierarchy Resists Deletion
The affected folder hierarchy explains why this item resists deletion. It looks like the following string, laid out in descending fashion. (It is, of course, all on one line in Windows. But I can’t reproduce that within a WordPress web page without unpredictable line breaks. Thus, I break it across 4 lines here.)
Users\<account-name>\AppData Local\Packages\ Cortana_cw5n1h2txyewy\ Localstate..
Note the two periods at the end of the final folder in the sequence. Note also that when I tried to examine this folder, Windows reports that the file can’t be found or doesn’t exist. Thus, what we’re dealing with here is a damaged file and folder structure. There’s actually no file at the bottom of this folder list — or at least, no file that I can see using File Explorer or normal command line inspection techniques. That also explains why my usual deletion methods don’t work. The preceding command sequence zaps whatever it finds, recursively (/s) and without stopping for error messages (/q) along the way. That does the trick!
[Note: I found this command string thanks to a post at Answers.Microsoft.com, which led me to this solution after my usual clean-up techniques failed. They work fine on intact file/folder structures, but this command is necessary to kill damaged or incomplete ones.]