Windows Enterprise Desktop


February 1, 2019  4:36 PM

MS Store Offers Windows File Manager

Ed Tittel Ed Tittel Profile: Ed Tittel
File management, Windows 10, Windows tools

Hey! Time for a blast from the past. If you, like me, remember the days of Windows 3.1 and Windows For Workgroups, get this. The old File Manager has reappeared. That’s right, the MS Store offers Windows File Manager for (free) download. It even uses the old, familiar file cabinet icon. Here’s what the application looks like running on my production PC:

MS Store Offers Windows File Manager.homepage

An old, familiar and now quaint-looking precedessor to File Explorer is back.
[Click image to see full-size view.]

While MS Store Offers Windows File Manager, Grab It!

It’s a little bit clunky (for example, the left hand pane’s scroll bar doesn’t work — you have to scroll right to scroll both panes) and a little bit funky, but it mostly works. I will cheerfully confess that, as a long-time Windows user with codgerly tendencies, this appeals to me as much for nostalgia as functionality. Some of you younger whippersnappers will probably take a lot (or not), and say “Not for me.” I don’t blame you, but for me it certainly brings back lots of memories. Why, I can remember when being able to squeeze as many TSRs into the upper memory area (above 640K and below 1024K in RAM) was the sign of a “real geek.”

Even some of the menu entries take me back. Under Window, for instance, you see options like “Cascade,” “Tile Horizontally,” and “Tile Vertically.” Who even THINKS that way anymore. Microsoft still holds the copyright, but WinFile.exe, as its known now, is a Github open source project. Because it’s kind of nice blast from the past, you might want to check it out.

MS Store Offers Windows File Manager.about

Thanks to writer WalkingCat over at MSPowerUser.com who brought this find to my attention. You might also want to check out his story, entitled “Windows File Manager (WinFile) Now Available from Microsoft Store.” Good stuff, including more details on changes and enhancement now present in this little program that were different or absent in the original version.

January 29, 2019  4:00 PM

Prioritize Win10 NICs Using PowerShell

Ed Tittel Ed Tittel Profile: Ed Tittel
NIC, Windows 10

In most cases, Windows prioritizes wired Internet connections over wireless ones. This makes sense for all kinds of reasons. Wired connections are less susceptible to interference, and are often faster than wireless ones. Nevertheless, you can easily prioritize Win10 NICs using PowerShell. To view your current priority settings, first run the Get-NetIPInterface cmdlet. Here’s what that output looks like on my production PC, after I plug in a USB TrendNET 802.11ac device to complement its built-in Intel I211 GbE NIC.

Prioritize Win10 NICs.show

In this output, my wired connection named Ethernet (ifIndex=25). Wireless is named Wi-Fi2 (ifIndex=38).
[Click image to see full-sized view.]

How to Prioritize Win10 NICs Using PowerShell

In the PowerShell world, where there’s a Get cmdlet, there’s usually a complementary Set cmdlet as well. Thus, we’ll use the Set-NetIPInterface to reset priorities here. In this case, I’ll favor wired Ethernet over wireless. To that end, I’ll set the InterfaceMetric to 50 for wired, and 25 for wireless. Here’s how:Prioritize Win10 NICs Using PowerShell.set

Using the interface index value, I set Ethernet to 50 and Wi-Fi 2 to 25.
[Click image to see full-sized view.]

Note: The OS actually calculates NIC priority using the sum of the routing metric plus the value of the interface metric. But because routing metrics for local wired and wireless NICs in the same PC are usually close, if not identical, I won’t go further into those details here. By varying the interface metric more or less, you can adjust those priorities to your liking.

I find this capability quite helpful on laptops I use at home. When I want to upgrade the OS, or download something big, I’ll plug in a USB GbE dongle. With wired distinctly favored over wireless, I can do this on the fly, and expect the download to switch over to the faster wired link pretty quickly. Good stuff!


January 27, 2019  12:13 PM

Retiring Older PC Upon Long Service

Ed Tittel Ed Tittel Profile: Ed Tittel

If you’ve been reading this blog recently, you’ve followed my recent misadventures with my old but trusty Dell Venue Pro 11. It’s a model 7130, with an low-voltage i5 (Haswell) 4210Y CPU, 8 GB RAM, and a 256 GB Lite-on M.2 SATA SSD. Until pretty recently it’s been a great Insider Preview test machine for Windows 10, too. But since the release of Build 18305 (4 releases back) I’ve been facing the same problem. I can perform a clean install of new Insider versions. But an upgrade install fails every time at about 86% into the Post-GUI install (“Working on updates …”). And with the same error code, too — namely WDF_VIOLATION. WDF stands for Windows Driver Foundation. Thus, I’m convinced there’s an incompatibility between the upgrade process and one or more drivers in that PC. And indeed, that’s why I’m considering retiring old PC upon long service.

Retiring Older PC Upon Long Service.sideview

The little screen desk is actually a standalone tablet, but plugs into a clamshell keyboard that makes a decent traveling laptop.

Pros and Cons of Retiring Older PC Upon Long Service

I confess. I’ve got a thing for capable tablet PCs. I even owned a Fujitsu Q704 tablet for a year or so, before its outrageous price ($3K+) and flaky behavior induced me to sell it on, and buy this Venue Pro model in 2014 instead. I also own a Surface Pro 3 (i7 4650U, 8 GB RAM, 256 GB Samsung M.2 SSD). All of these tablets have their little quicks, especially on the hardware side. Keeping up with drivers and firmware has been interesting on all of the them.

On the plus side, I like their compactness. For reading in bed, nothing beats a tablet (though I like Kindle on the iPad as much, if not more, than Kindle for Windows). For quick and dirty access to Internet stuff and info, as when playing Scrabble or looking up ingredients/recipes in the kitchen, a tablet is a great go-to tool. Thus, ease of access and use are other pluses for me.

But the minuses are also many. Limited ports unless docked; limited resources in general. Usually somewhat underpowered and thus sometimes slow. Limited screen real estate. Yes, I understand these are all natural consequences of the form factor and inherent to the engineering tradeoffs involved in putting all the important pieces and parts into a thin, flat deck. It is what it is.

What about the Venue Pro 11?

Alas, my time to fiddle with test machines is limited right now. I’m drowning in paying work, so that means my playtime for mucking about with problem PCs is slim to non-existent. That’s why I’m planning to install a production version of Windows 10 Pro on that PC, and take it out of testing. It’s quite stable and capable at running the base OS. There’s just something new and different in the Upgrade install (anybody else notice the UUP-CT2 moniker appended after recent upgrade install notifications in Windows Update) that doesn’t like this machine. So reluctantly, I’m going to swap it out of its current role. For grins, I’m going to try using my even older Lenovo X220 Tablet (which has been extraordinarily stable and capable since I bought it in 2012, originally to run Windows 8, though it came with 7 installed).

Let’s see what happens next. And when I’m in funds I’ll be looking for a good new Windows 10 touch screen PC to use as a test machine. Right now the Dell Latitude 7390 appeals. Anybody have other recommendations? If so, please share!

Note added 1/30/2019

Kari, my partner at Win10.Guru, convinced me to try taking the install file offline and using DISM to inject the drivers from 18317 to support a clean install to 18323. Took some time and effort, but indeed it worked. And, upon running that new install for a while I got the WDF_VIOLATION GSOD when awaking from sleep. To me, this proves that the Intel Management Engine driver is indeed involved in my difficulties. And it seems that injecting those drivers does indeed do the trick to keep the Venue Pro 11 moving forward on Insider Preview updates.

Now the real question becomes: do I want to make this a routine part of my Insider Preview upgrade drill? With practice, I don’t think it will take too much longer than an ordinary upgrade. And FWIW, Kari’s been recommending this approach: using DISM to inject drivers into install.wim for the clean install media, then using DISM to apply the upgrade. Looks like I’m getting on that particular bus now. He’s written an article about this process for Win10.Guru as I write this note (Project “Dell Venue — The Second Coming”). Please check it out for the clever workaround it uses to bypass the driver checking that causes both upgrade and clean installs to fail on that PC. Good stuff!


January 25, 2019  1:33 PM

Win10 Safemode Trap Defeated

Ed Tittel Ed Tittel Profile: Ed Tittel
command prompt, Safe Mode, Troubleshooting, Windows 10

Here’s an interesting potential trap. You can instruct Windows 10 to boot into safe mode through various methods. But if you can’t log into any account on that PC (or don’t have a login password), you won’t be able to log in to that PC. Bare, minimal safe mode includes no networking. As long as you can login to the PC using some credentials, you can recover. I explain how to regain access to such a PC, and render the Win10 Safemode trap defeated.

Win10 Safemode Trap Defeated.nosafeboot

All’s well if there’s no safeboot entry in the Windows Boot Loader section.

Seeing the Win10 Safemode Trap Defeated

Once you get to the login prompt after rebooting into safe mode, you’ll see a normal login screen. Type the password for an MS account into the password entry to complete the login process (or, use a local account if you can). Click the Power Button/Restart option at the lower right of the display. Next, click the Shift key and Restart together, and you’ll see a set of boot choices that include Continue, Use a device, Troubleshoot, and Turn off your PC (and possibly others).

Click Troubleshoot, Advanced Options, and Command Prompt, then click the mouse or press Enter. Now, you’re ready to tackle things head-on. The PC will reboot into a Command Prompt interface. You can see the situation you’re in by typing bcdedit /enum at the command line. If you check the Windows Boot Loader section, you’ll see an entry labeled safeboot that is set to Minimal. The following command will set you straight:

bcdedit /deletevalue {current} safeboot

You can check to see if the change applied correctly by running bcdedit /enum again. If things worked as they should have, you will no longer see an entry labeled safeboot. And, your next reboot should go as it normally would.


January 24, 2019  12:22 PM

Win10 1809 Update Unknown Device Works

Ed Tittel Ed Tittel Profile: Ed Tittel
Device drivers, Troubleshooting, Windows 10

Given the flak that Win10 1809 is catching lately, I wanted to share some good news in the wake of a recent clean install. Normally, when Device Manager (DevMgr) includes the Other Devices category, one or more Unknown device entries follow. This means that Windows has enumerated devices and found one or more items it doesn’t recognize. If it doesn’t recognize them, it can’t find drivers for them either. But I learned yesterday, to my great and pleasant surprise, there is some potential for relief. That’s why I say Win10 1809 update Unknown device works — at least, sometimes.

Win10 1809 Update Unknown Device Works.unkdev

Other devices is the DevMgr category under which problem or unrecognized devices often appear. Here’s a slew of them.

Why Say: Win10 1809 Update Unknown Device Works

For any device entry in DevMgr, right-clicking produces a pop-up menu. The first option in that menu list reads “Update driver.” Here’s a screencap:

Win10 1809 Update Unknown Device Works.popup

I’ve done this countless times in older Windows versions (8.1 and earlier) and in older Win10 iterations (1803 and back). I don’t remember Windows *ever* being able to update a driver that showed up under the “Other devices” heading with an “Unknown device” label. Yesterday I encountered two such entries on a test machine. Thus, imagine my surprise and delight when right-clicking, selecting Update driver, and getting the first driver properly installed (and moved into System devices). The second one worked two, because both were related: Intel(R) Serial IO UART Host Controller – 9C63 and – 9C64.

Apparently MS has added some logic in the update driver mechanisms to check the Hardware ID values. Thus, it could use that data to identify and find the necessary drivers even when initial device enumeration fails for whatever reason. This probably won’t work for ALL unknown Win10 devices. But I find myself eagerly awaiting my next such discovery to see if updating an Unknown device works as nicely next time around. Here’s hoping!


January 23, 2019  11:03 AM

Driver Setting Explains Venue Pro Restart Fail

Ed Tittel Ed Tittel Profile: Ed Tittel
Device drivers, Troubleshooting, Windows 10

Over the past 2-3 years, I’ve experienced an intermittent and vexing issue with one of my Insider Pro test machines. It’s a Dell Venue Pro 11, model 7130 (i5-4210Y CPU, 8 GB RAM, 256 GB Lite-On M.2 SATA SSD). At certain points in time, this PC has repeated suffered from Restart issues. Let me explain: if I choose Restart from the power menu, or the command line, the machine shuts down. But it stays shut down. And I have to disconnect the battery and/or AC so a cold boot occurs, before the PC will start up after pressing the Power button. At long last, I’ve determined that a driver setting explains Venue Pro restart fail. The culprit, it turns out, is an Intel Management Engine (IME) setting. . .

Driver Setting Explains Venue Pro Restart Fail.ime-power

On all PCs, this setting is checked by default. But on some laptops, including this one, it causes sleep, restart, and hibernation issues.

When Driver Setting Explains Venue Pro Restart Fail, the Fix is Simple

All that’s needed to address this problem is to uncheck the setting. Sure, the device may consume more power. But on those laptops (or hybrid tablets in this case) that experience restart and other problems related to sleep and hibernation, it seems to fix what ails them. It sure worked on this PC.

I didn’t really get to the bottom of this until I recently clean-installed Insider Preview build 18317 on the Venue Pro 11. Magically, the restart problem disappeared. The cause didn’t come clear until the problem returned after I visited the Dell Drivers & Support webpage and updated the drivers that the Windows Installer used with the latest and greatest from that source. Presto! My Restart failure re-appeared. One of those drivers had to be at fault, so I started removing them one at a time. In retrospect,¬† I now understand that each time a new IME driver got installed, the default was reset and my problems resumed. Thus, I’ve got a new item for that machine’s post-IME-update checklist! Funny how some things that seem really complex turn out to be fairly simple when better understood.

When I removed the IME driver, Restart resumed working. Thanks to some  insightful input from my Win10.Guru partner, Kari Finn, the solution was then clear. In a TenForums.com thread about earlier Insider Preview releases, he gets right to the heart of this matter. Indeed, after re-installing the IME driver, and making this setting change, Restart kept working properly. Problem solved!

His illustration of the fix is quite instructive, so I’ll end my post with a copy of it here:

Driver Setting Explains Venue Pro Restart Fail.kari-imefix


January 22, 2019  12:25 PM

Kari Script Builds Win10 Bootable Install UFD

Ed Tittel Ed Tittel Profile: Ed Tittel
Clean install, Windows 10, Windows Upgrades

UFD is, of course, a USB Flash Drive, preferred media for Windows OSes nowadays given their size and frequency of change. Alas, I’ve been struggling with recent Insider Preview releases on a test machine lately. It’s my Dell Venue Pro 11 7130. Build 18305 is as far as it will go. In fact, upgrades failed on 18309, 18312 and 18317. None of the usual techniques get me past a WDF_VIOLATION GSOD error. That occurs predictably, about 86% into the post-GUI install. That’s the phase with the spinning balls and the “Working on updates” status message. When something like this happens, the upgrade of last resort is a fresh, clean Win10 install. And that’s where Kari’s script that builds a Win10 bootable install UFD comes in supremely handy.

Win10 Bootable Install UFD.script

At its conclusion, the script shows info for the newly-created, bootable Win10 UFD. Works like a champ, too!
[Click image for full-sized view.]

What About the Script That Builds Win10 Bootable Install UFD?

Everything you need to know is covered in Part 1 of Kari’s excellent tutorial at TenForums.com. It’s entitled “PowerShell Scripting: Create USB Install Media for Windows 10.” It completely automates the process that builds Win10 bootable install UFD. You must supply a USB flash drive to receive the boot/install files, and mount an ISO image from which those files come. The script does everything else for you automatically. I just used it, and it does the job nicely.

A clean install of Insider Preview on the Dell Venue Pro 11 succeeded. Of course, that means I now get the exquisite torture of rebuilding a Win10 system from scratch. If experience is any guide, that’s half a day’s work or more. Given my schedule this week, that’ll happen as a background task over several days. But at least, I’m again current with the Insider Preview release level. Nice, too, that when the “repair of last resort” is used, it still works like it oughter. That’s a big relief!


January 18, 2019  4:41 PM

Windows 10 1809 versus 1901

Ed Tittel Ed Tittel Profile: Ed Tittel
Windows 10, Windows Upgrades

Man, I have to chuckle. Just a little. Seems that MS has finally, finally let go of the latest Windows 10 upgrade through “normal channels.” That release, of course, is named 1809. As I understand it, this decodes to September (the ninth month of) 2018. Look at what’s on the MS Windows 10 Update History page, as of 1/16/2019. That’s why I titled this post: Windows 10 1809 versus 1901.

Windows 10 1809 versus 1901.info

Notice that only on 1/16/2019 did 1809 become generally available. You can ask for it (manual download). Or, you can wait for MS to decide you qualify for “the best update experience.”

Why Say Windows 10 1809 versus 1901, Anyway?

Poor Microsoft. They’ve really been through it with the two semi-annual 2018 upgrades. 1803 had file loss potential and other issues. 1809 has been beset with one gotcha after another. It’s been 108 days since the end of September, which means it’s really been 106 days since MS made its first, quickly withdrawn 1809 release on October 2. By my calculator, an average month has 30.4 days (365/12), so that means it’s been almost three-and-a-half months from the initial botched release to real GA status. (GA means “general availability” and it’s an older MS buzzword to denote when an OS is ready for general consumption.)

Note further, that MS is still restricting access to this latest 1809 version based on telemetry info. That means it’s gently steering those away who might otherwise get it through Windows Update until they’re a bit more sure that the upgrade will complete successfully. Why, oh why, one wonders did this attitude not prevail from the get-go?


January 16, 2019  6:31 PM

Windows 7 Inside Last Extended Support Year

Ed Tittel Ed Tittel Profile: Ed Tittel
windows 10 upgrade, Windows 7

Monday was the 14th of January. When the next year comes and goes, that’s the end for Windows 7. That puts Windows 7 inside last extended support year, as this snippet from the Windows lifecycle fact sheet shows. Of course, if history is any guide, a certain cadre of desperate organizations will decide to pay MS for ongoing support thereafter. That’s what happened when Windows XP finally hit the same expiration date. And who was among the biggest buyers of said support? Uncle Sam, that’s who (especially for some military systems).

Windows 7 Inside Last Extended Support Year.factsheet

Not bad for an OS that made its debut on 2/22/2011. Nevertheless, the end (of extended support) draws near!
[Click image to see full-sized view.]

Put Windows 7 Inside Last Extended Support Year, Then What?

Good question. This certainly puts the heat on efforts to migrate from Windows 7. But I find myself wondering how seriously some businesses take this deadline. I’ve visited certain small retail outlets, medical businesses, even some shipping and freight companies, and more, in the past quarter. All are still running Windows 7. When I ask them if they plan to upgrade soon, answers vary from “IT’s working on it” to “Who knows?” This could be a serious business opportunity for IT shops with outside sales staff who can wander around town. When they find a shop running Windows 7, they can show them the lifecycle fact sheet. Or this blog post. Hopefully, it might spur some action.

MS provides custom support beyond the extended support date only under contract, customer by customer. If memory serves, such contracts are neither cheap nor terribly easy to set up or administer. Though the Feds and the military can think about such things, it’s outside the budget and grasp for most smaller organizations. Some of those small business owners might be interested in hearing about that, too. Time’s a wastin’!

 


January 15, 2019  10:46 AM

CU KB4480116 Hiccup Offers Easy Fix

Ed Tittel Ed Tittel Profile: Ed Tittel

Those of you who follow my blog regularly will note that I posted zilch last week. That’s because I was busy, busy, busy with a legal report turned in on Friday, 1/11. That doesn’t mean zilch happened with Windows 10 last week, though. It just means I was too busy to report it. In fact, I got (briefly) stung by a minor gotcha from the Patch Tuesday update that emerged on Tuesday, January 8. After rebooting from the cumulative update it included, I found my production PC unable to access the Start Menu or any UWP apps. I could click icons or see menu items via Search, but nothing would run. A quick check with SFC and DISM /Scanhealth turned up no system pathology. So I simply rebooted one more time and Presto! those problems vanished. And that, dear readers, is why I say that CU KB4480116 hiccup offers easy fix.

CU KB4480116 Hiccup Offers Easy Fix.history

Here’s what WU left on my 1809 machines last Tuesday. Pretty sure the base CU is what caused the hiccup.

Performing CU KB4480116 Hiccup Offers Easy Fix

In a way, this situation reminds me of one of the foundations of Windows troubleshooting. We used to do that by running the so-called “three fingered salute” (CTRL-ALT-DEL) in the Windows 3.x days. “If all else fails,” ran an old saying in those days, “reboot Windows!” It worked sometimes, even often back then. It worked this time, too. So if you find yourself troubleshooting mysterious, post update issues with more modern Windows versions, remember that some of the old, tried and true fixes still work today, too — at least sometimes!

 


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