Windows Enterprise Desktop


October 5, 2018  10:36 AM

Check Those Win10 Installer UFDs

Ed Tittel Ed Tittel Profile: Ed Tittel
Windows 10, windows installer

Earlier this week, MS released the 1809 October 2018 version of Windows 10. This happened on Tuesday, October 2, in a somewhat less orchestrated fashion than for previous such releases. I blushingly confess I got caught in a snafu. Because the Download Windows 10 page said “Windows 10 October 2018 Update now available,” I assumed the Media Creation Tool (MCT) had likewise been updated as well. Wrong! That’s why it’s essential to check those Win10 Installer UFDs for version info before using them. In my case, that meant I did an in-place repair upgrade on one of my PCs from 1803 back to 1803. No harm done, however, and quickly replaced with 1809 when I realized my mistake. Sigh.

Check Those Win10 Installer UFDs.DLWin10

I didn’t realize that this message didn’t necessarily mean the MCT had also been updated. For a short while, in fact, that was a very bad assumption.

How to Check Those Win10 Installer UFDs

It couldn’t be simpler to check the Windows version for any Win10 installer. All you need to do is look at the details tab for the setup.exe file.

Check Those Win10 Installer UFDs.props

The details tab in setup.exe properties shows Product Version info. That’s the tell-tale!

To discriminate 1803 from 1809, you need to know that 1803 corresponds to version 10.0.17134.1, while 1809’s version is 10.0.17763.1. This is shown in the two side-by-side Properties windows above for each version’s setup.exe file.

If I’d only thought to check I could’ve avoided my mistake. By the time you read this, it won’t be possible to “accidentally” download the 1803 installer using MCT any more. But if you’re like me, you have numerous Windows 10 installer UFDs at your disposal. Now you know how to check what you’ve got for version numbers. Then you can use Microsoft’s Windows 10 release information page to map those numbers to the corresponding four-digit version IDs (1809, 1803, and so forth). Enjoy!

October 3, 2018  12:43 PM

Interesting 1809 Disk Layout Changes

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

Yesterday, MS released Windows 10 1809. It took them a while to get the release pushed out through all channels. I was able to get to it first through the Media Creation Tool on the Download Windows 10 page. But within an hour, the Update Assistant and Windows Update also proved viable as upgrade sources. After all the dust settled on this latest release, I noticed some Interesting 1809 disk layout changes for the OS boot/system disk. Here is a before and after shot (from 2 different PCs):
Interesting 1809 Disk Layout Changes.b4
Interesting 1809 Disk Layout Changes.after

Disk layout before upgrade above, after below. Note the new, 498 MB OEM partition that appears at right.
[Click either image for full-sized view.]

About Those Interesting 1809 Disk Layout Changes

Looks like the minimum or allowable size of the WinRE partition has gone up again, with the 1809 release. Both before and after shots feature a 450 MB OEM partition at the head of the disk. However, use of the reagenct /info command on before and after machines shows different WinRE locations. On the before PC, the partition is number 1 (first place from top figure above): a 450 MB NTFS partition. On the after PC, the partition is number 5 (immediately following the OS partition): a 498 MB NTFS partition.

Message traffic on TenForums also tells me that users who upgraded with WinRE partitions of 498 MB or larger  in size found their disk layouts unaltered. That tells me the existing WinRE partition was preserved and its contents replaced during the upgrade process. Those PCs, like mine, who had the “old standard” 450 MB WinRE partition will find a new and bigger (498 MB) WinRE partition in their disk layouts as well. Most likely, it will be positioned immediately following the OS partition (from which the installer steals the space necessary to accommodate the 498 MB disk extent).

Why Use Two Different Tools to Show Disk Layouts?

I used the MiniTool Partition Wizard (MTPW) to show the disk layout on an already-upgraded machine. I did that to confirm that the reagentc /info output was correct. It read:

\\?\GLOBALROOT\device\harddisk7\partition5\Recovery\WindowsRE

Because diskmgmt.msc does not show the 16MB Microsoft Reserved (MSR) partition, but MTPW does, you can count from left to right yourself, and confirm that the new 498 MB NTFS WinRE partition does indeed occur in position 5 on that drive. That’s why I highlighted (bolded) “partition5” in the preceding output string.


October 1, 2018  11:47 AM

Marginal Power Mars Win10 USB Flash Drive Access

Ed Tittel Ed Tittel Profile: Ed Tittel
SSD, USB Flash drives, USB ports, Windows 10

I’ve been struggling with an interesting problem lately. And by interesting I mean maddening, vexing and occasionally baffling. Let me explain. I have a number of mSATA SSDs at my disposal. Right now, I house them in Sabrent USB 3.0 drive enclosures (about US$18 at Newegg). I’ve been using them for years without issue, mostly with 250 GB Samsung EVO 840 units. Recently, I acquired 500 GB and 1 TB units, and things started going sideways a bit. And that’s how I learned marginal power mars Win10 USB flash drive access. The bigger-capacity drives would drop out from time to time, or they wouldn’t show in Explorer or Disk Management when plugged into a PC.

Normally these enclosures are dead simple to use: plug in the SSD, screw the holder into its cover, plug it in and off you go. But sometimes . . .

Why I Say That Marginal Power Mars Win10 USB Flash Drive Access

Only gradually did it dawn on me that my issues had to be power related. The bigger drives require more power because they have more circuitry to match greater capacity. While the small capacity units work without a hitch, the bigger ones sometimes don’t work on some of my PCs. This applies even for some powered USB 3 hubs. This came as something of a surprise to me, too. I figured a powered USB hub would be able to deliver maximum safe power to all of the devices it could accommodate. Not so, apparently.

Ultimately, I figured out what was going on. That happened when I switched from a direct USB 3 connection on a desktop to a PCIe Express plug-in card on an older Lenovo laptop. The desktop connection used an Asmedia 2115 USB 3 controller from the Asrock Extreme7+ motherboard. The laptop, an older Startech PCIe ExpressCard with an Asmedia 1153E USB 3 controller. Where the on-board AS2115 was iffy, the older AS1153E was rock-solid. It worked every time, with mSATA drives of 250 GB, 500 GB and even 1 TB. The newer AS2115 did not.

When in Doubt, Change the Hardware Configuration

A little online sleuthing showed me I was not alone in my issues with the AS2115. So I bought a Sabrent HB-UMP3: a 4-port, externally powered USB 3 hub, with individual power switches for each outgoing port. Using it also clued me in firmly and finally to power problems with the bigger mSATA drives. Even when using this device, I couldn’t hook up a second drive (or Ethernet adapter) to the hub when using a 500 GB or 1 TB SSD. Apparently, those suckers draw too much power to allow even an external, self-powered hub to service additional USB 3 devices when they’re plugged in.

Of course, what happened when I tried using more than one device through the hub told the story. The SSD dropped out as soon I plugged in another device. The moral of this tale, apparently, is that high-capacity USB 3 SSDs require an entire USB 3 controller channel to themselves, with all its power. My recent experience teaches me that trying to gang up USB 3 devices when one of them is an SSD of 500GB or more is not always workable. Go figure!

[Note Added 10/20/2018]: I am now able to confirm my hypothesis about insufficient power using Uwe Sieber’s excellent USB Device Tree Viewer tool. When I plug a second USB device into a single USB controller with the tool open, I can see that device mount for a second (almost literally). Then, the device that draws the most power — usually, a 500 MB mSATA SSD device, or better — “falls off” the USB bus. This repeats until I unplug one of the two devices attached to that controller (or hub, as the case may be).


September 28, 2018  12:15 PM

Win10 WSUS Gets Smaller Downloads

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

In a recent (9/27) post to the Windows IT Pro Blog, MS reports it will start releasing smaller update packages. This applies to “commercial customers using Windows Server Update Services (WSUS) or connected to System Center Configuration Manager.” Windows 10 versions affected include 1703, 1709 and 1803. How, exactly, is that Win10 WSUS get smaller downloads after all? By unbundling components and letting downloaders decide what they want or need.

Win10 WSUS Gets Smaller Downloads.bundled-pkg

Note this bundle mixes business and consumer editions, each in x86 (32-bit) and x64 (64-bit) forms.

User Selection Means Win10 WSUS Gets Smaller Downloads

The preceding graphic shows what goes into what commercial customers downloaded from MS through WSUS or via SCCM. MS states further that “x64 and x86 files were bundled together as a single download … approximately 4.8 GB in size.” The new regime lets downloaded choose to download the x64 file as a separate package. Given the extreme scarcity of x86 systems in commercial use nowadays, the reduced 2.6 GB package size for x64 only translates into an immediate reduction of 2.2 GB as compared to the old regime.

Note: feature updates represent the original RTM version of the OS. They don’t include cumulative updates, Features on Demand (FODs), nor language packs. Thus, admins must apply the latest cumulative quality update to bring systems fully up-to-date. The x64 files map to language versions available when RTM was released: e.g. en-US for English-United States. When 1809 is released, an x64-only feature update will be made available.

What Does This Change Mean to You?

If you’re a commercial Windows 10 organization and use WSUS or SCCM to deploy updates, this will save time and network bandwidth when downloading images from Microsoft to start the deployment process. But as the afore-cited MS blog post states “this change will not save bandwidth between the Configuration Manager and the client (PC) device” (that’s because only targeted, applicable downloads go from one to the other, as always). Also, organizations that DO need x86 feature updates will have to continue to use the old bundled packages. For them, nothing changes.


September 26, 2018  7:16 PM

Hard Disk Warning Prompts Win10 Tool Search

Ed Tittel Ed Tittel Profile: Ed Tittel
hard disk management, Hard drive failure, Troubleshooting, Windows 10

A few days ago, I was fooling around with a disk tool that Asrock offers motherboard owners. That Diskhealth utility provides basic information about storage devices. As I flipped through the list of drives on my production PC, I saw an amber “Caution” flag for my H: drive. Next thing, my disk hard warning prompts Win10 tool search to help me figure out what’s up. Here’s what the H: info looks like:

Hard Disk Warning Prompts Win10 Tool Search.driveH

Investigating errors in amber shows me this drive may have serious problems!

Why a Hard Disk Warning Prompts Win10 Tool Search

I saw the amber flags on two specific SMART values for the drive. In fact, those numbers matched for two items. First was Current Pending Sector Count and and second, Uncorrectable Sector Count (both at 200). But what does this mean? I turned to the SMART page at Wikipedia to learn the following (all text copied verbatim):

Current Pending Sector Count: Count of “unstable” sectors (waiting to be remapped, because of unrecoverable read errors). If an unstable sector is subsequently read successfully, the sector is remapped and this value is decreased. Read errors on a sector will not remap the sector immediately (since the correct value cannot be read and so the value to remap is not known, and also it might become readable later); instead, the drive firmware remembers that the sector needs to be remapped, and will remap it the next time it’s written.

However, some drives will not immediately remap such sectors when written; instead the drive will first attempt to write to the problem sector and if the write operation is successful then the sector will be marked good (in this case, the “Reallocation Event Count” (0xC4) will not be increased). This is a serious shortcoming, for if such a drive contains marginal sectors that consistently fail only after some time has passed following a successful write operation, then the drive will never remap these problem sectors.

Uncorrectable Sector Count: The total count of uncorrectable errors when reading/writing a sector. A rise in the value of this attribute indicates defects of the disk surface and/or problems in the mechanical subsystem.

What to Do about This?

As such things go, these errors are serious enough to indicate possible or even pending drive failure. So I ordered a new drive from Newegg to replace the current 750GB WD Blue drive that’s affected. It’s an older drive (27906 power on hours translates into almost 1163 days, or 3.18 years). If memory serves, I bought this back in 2012 or 2013. It’s also 5,400 RPM, so I’m replacing it with a 2 TB, 7,200 RPM drive with 64 GB of on-board cache.

What about those tools?

I went looking around for SMART monitoring and reporting tools. The freebie from Asrock wasn’t too bad. I quickly figured out that I wanted something that didn’t have to be installed. That means it should run as a so-called “portable” app. In other words, download an .exe file, launch it and it tells you the story you seek. For my purposes this meant that the .ZIP file version of CrystalDiskInfo also did the trick nicely. The (free) HDDScan utility also did a nice job. Actually, it also told me I had a number of UltraDMA CRC errors equal to the other two counts (which Wikipedia explains as “count of errors in data transfer via the interface cable as determined by interface CRC”).

There are plenty more such tools, but few of them run as portable apps. Because a disk monitoring/health assessment tool is something I’d rather run from an admin USB flash drive than install on each machine,

that’s just my preference. Hopefully, you too can find something in here you’ll like. If not, check one or both of these articles:

  1. Gizmo’s Freeware: Best Free Hard Drive Health Monitoring and Diagnostic Programs (May 2016)
  2. Lifewire: 14 Free Hard Drive Testing Programs (Updated September 2018)


September 24, 2018  3:08 PM

Logoff Disconnected Win10 Users Via Command Line

Ed Tittel Ed Tittel Profile: Ed Tittel
Command line, Windows 10

Saw an interesting question raised on TenForums.com this morning. The thread was entitled “Log off all but current user.” On a PC where multiple users share the same machine, but don’t always log out, the poster sought a way to log off all but the currently active user. Turns out the command line – which means either cmd.exe/Command Prompt or PowerShell – supports this ability. The key is to run either with administrative permissions. Then it’s simple to logoff disconnected Win10 users via command line instructions. Here’s how:

Logoff Disconnected Win10 Users Via Command Line.ps

A simple series of commands logs off all disconnected accounts.

Instructions to Logoff Disconnected Win10 Users Via Command Line

The preceding example shows PowerShell, but the same commands work at the Command Prompt (cmd.exe) equally well. Here’s a breakdown:

quser: Queries for users currently logged in. The State of the current login is “Active” and the state for all other logins is “Disc” (for Disconnected). Note also the ID column, which provides a single-digit shorthand for each associated account. (It’s much faster to type “3” than “administrator”!) The final quser command in the preceding window shows that only the active “etitt” account remains logged in.

logoff <ID>: logs the user account associate with the ID from the PC. We can string multiple such commands together using the pipe (vertical bar “|”) character on a single command line. Thus logoff 3 | logoff 4 | logoff 5 is the same as logging off administrator, localonly and xtraadmin accounts.

More Automation, Please!

A single, more eloquent PowerShell command will read the state for each user who’s logged in and log off any whose state equals “Disc” (for disconnected). It’s a beaut (please enter on a single command line; WordPress makes me break it into multiple lines for readability):

quser | Select-String "Disc" |
ForEach
{logoff ($_.tostring() -split ' +')[2]}

This command can be understood in terms of the following pseudo-code:

  1. Check all logged in users
  2. For each logged in user
  3. Log off user whose state = “Disc”

Pretty neat, especially for lab, library, kiosk, or other systems where one may routinely find numerous disconnected logins hanging ‘round. Good stuff!


September 21, 2018  1:02 PM

Getting KB4458469 Installed When Windows Update Offer Absent

Ed Tittel Ed Tittel Profile: Ed Tittel

Yesterday, September 20, MS issued yet another Cumulative Update for Windows 10. Why do I call it that, listed only as “Update” in Update History? The Win10 Build number changes from 17134.286 to 17135.319 post-install. By definition, any update that ups the Build designation counts as a cumulative update. And in fact, if you check its Release Notes you’ll see it fixes a boatload of gotchas, minor and major, in the current-for-not-too-much longer version of Windows 10. But although my systems already had the Servicing Stack update (KB4456655) installed – a necessary pre-req for KB4458469 – WU didn’t offer it to any of the four PCs I have currently running 17134.286. That’s why I dug into the topic of getting KB4458469 installed when Windows Update offer absent this morning.

Getting KB4458469 Installed When Windows Update Offer Absent.history

Although I had the servicing stack update installed, WU didn’t offer KB4458469 automatically.

Getting KB4458469 Installed When Windows Update Offer Absent Requires Manual Update

When WU doesn’t offer updates automatically, there’s always the Microsoft Update Catalog. As you can see (visiting the preceding link), it offers various versions of KB458469 for download. I grabbed x64 version for my systems, then ran the self-installing update file (.msu) to add it to my runtime image. Given the number of fixes it provides, this took a while to complete, as I’d more or less expected it to.

When DISM analyzed the component store afterward, it found a whopping six (6!) reclaimable packages in need of clean-up. That took a while, too. But it dropped the size of the component store from 8.10GB reported/7.64GB on-disk size to 6.90GB reported/6.74GB on disk. This makes post-install clean-up a bit more urgent than usual, IMO. For detailed instructions on component store cleanup, check this TenForums tutorial: Clean Up Component Store (WinSxS folder) in Windows 10.

Another Take on Post-KB4458469 Cleanup

The preceding numbers are from my Lenovo T520 laptop. On my i7-6700 Asrock Extreme7+ mobo production PC, they were a bit more dramatic. After installing the update manually there, things read: 9.26 GB reported/8.75GB on disk before DISM cleanup. Afterward, they dropped to 6.66GB reported/6.50GB on disk. That’s a pretty substantial space drop (2.6GB reported, 2.25GB on disk)! But I left the /startcomponentcleanup command running for over an hour before I got tired of waiting for it to complete. So I struck the Ctrl-C sequence to end the processing. Instead: the command line reported 100%, and then I ran /analyzecomponentstore again to get the “after” numbers. Weird!

 


September 20, 2018  6:02 PM

Preserving Cleanmgr.exe for Future Use

Ed Tittel Ed Tittel Profile: Ed Tittel

Last week, I posted news about the pending deprecation of Disk Cleanup, aka cleanmgr.exe. I’m still not sure that the program is really going to vanish from Windows 10. But if it does, I’ve learned what’s involved in preserving cleanmgr.exe for future use. Because Disk Cleanup is a pretty simple utility it doesn’t include much scaffolding or underlying supporting software elements. Take a look at what a search for cleanmgr.* produces in its home directory of C:\Windows\System32:

Preserving Cleanmgr.exe for Future Use.search

Only two files must be saved to rescue Disk Cleanup from oblivion!

Preserving Cleanmgr.exe for Future Use Is Easy!

Built-in Windows apps, like Disk Cleanup, need a language support file in addition to the .exe file that does the real work. The language support file ends in .MUI, which stands for Multilingual User Interface. Thus, the subdirectory in which the MUI lives takes the language code for the installed language in which it should display its contents. I run United States English as my primary (and only) language, so the corresponding language code is en-US. Notice that the MUI file for cleanmgr.exe lives in C:\Windows\System32\en-US.

To boost the odds that you can run Disk Cleanup in a future Windows (10) version, you need to save both the cleanmgr.exe and the cleanmgr.exe.mui files. When you put them somewhere to run them (it doesn’t have to be in the …\System32 folder), you must put the .exe file in a parent folder (let’s say: C:\Cleanmgr for example). Then, the .mui file must go into C:\Cleanmgr\en-US.

Just for grins I did that work on my trusty old Lenovo T520 laptop. When I created that folder and file structure on an external USB drive, then double clicked cleanmgr.exe, it fired off like a champ. When I remembered to right-click and use the “Run as administrator” option, it even offered to clean up otherwise inaccessible system files. In short, this relocated Disk Cleanup continues to work, just like the real thing . . . because it is!

[Note] Thanks to TenForums user Bree who casually mentioned this in passing in a recent thread, and led me to investigate and put the pieces together for this blog post.


September 17, 2018  11:51 AM

8GadgetPack Remains Viable and Valuable

Ed Tittel Ed Tittel Profile: Ed Tittel
gadgets, Monitoring, Network monitoring, Windows 10, Windows monitoring

Those who’ve been using Windows for a while probably remember that Desktop Gadgets came and went during the Windows Vista and 7 era. A desktop gadget is a handy little applet of sorts that remains constantly visible in a fenced-off area on the desktop called “the sidebar.” MS did away with them officially on July 10, 2012 when a security advisory warning against remote code execution was issued. Though the security warning still stands, I’ve yet to find a credible report of any exploits against desktop gadgets. Thanks to Helmut Buhler’s work to forward port these applets, 8GadgetPack remains viable and valuable to this day. Here’s what my sidebar looks like this morning:

Why 8GadgetPack Remains Viable and Valuable

Looking at these gadgets, I hope you can understand why I find them so useful. They permit me to easily view things I always want to know. That is, CPU Meter (bottom item) constantly shows system, performance, and resource consumption info. Also Network Meter (top item) does likewise for network connectivity, upload/download speeds, and addressing. I also like the middle item – named “Control System.”  That’s because it provides easy, push-button access to shut down, restart, logout and other OS controls. I use RDP often. Sometimes, I want to restart the remote PC I’m accessing. Thus, easy one-click access to such functions is a real Godsend.

The program’s developer (Helmut Buhler) also offers a large collection of gadgets. That’s good: they’re no longer directly available from Microsoft, as they closed the Gadget Gallery down in 2016. You can still find 49 different gadgets through the program’s built-in “Add Gadgets” function. I don’t mess around with this much any more. I’ve found what I like and I’m sticking to it. But there are plenty of options for others to investigate, if they’re so inclined.

I find these three gadgets sufficient for my needs. They’re incredibly helpful when I’m working with Windows programs, updates, or repair or clean-up activities. In fact, they provide insight when something makes the OS slow, balky, or unresponsive. The two “Meter” gadgets can usually tell me enough about what’s going on that I can quickly and easily decide if I need to terminate active jobs or start troubleshooting activities, as is occasionally the case.

Is 8GadgetPack Right for You?

My friend and business partner in Win10.Guru, Kari Finn thinks I’m crazy to use these old-fangled gadgets. But I find them suitable for keeping track of my PC’s health and well-being, in much the same way that I use the instrument panels in my cars. If you share this inclination, you may want to try 8GadgetPack out for yourself, too. Besides the various items that I myself use, you may find other things that also meet your needs for constant, always-visible information on your own Windows PC(s).


September 14, 2018  10:54 AM

Bye-Bye Disk Cleanup?

Ed Tittel Ed Tittel Profile: Ed Tittel
Disk cleanup, Storage resource management, Windows 10

A small remark at the end of the Storage at Microsoft blog published on August 30, 2018 got past me. After explaining a raft of new features in Storage Sense – the Settings-based storage management toolset in Windows 10 – it concludes with a brief statement that cleanmgr.exe, aka Disk Cleanup “is being deprecated.” Though it reads further “We’re retaining the Disk Cleanup tool for compatibility reasons,” it may be just a matter of time before that tool disappears. Thus, it could be time to say bye-bye Disk Cleanup. Read all the details at “What’s new in Storage Sense?

bye-bye disk cleanup.settings

Get to know the tool on the left, and be ready to bid adieu to the one on the right.
[Click image for full-sized view.]

After Bye-Bye Disk Cleanup, Then What?

Newer versions of Storage Sense add some significant new features to the mix for cleanup activities, and help to explain why the immanent demise of Disk Cleanup need not spell doom and gloom. Take a look at the detail pane that appears in Build 17758.1 when you click “Change how we free up space…” in the preceding left-hand screencap:

bye-bye disk cleanup.freeup

Notice new options for locally available cloud content and OneDrive. These will help users minimize unwanted, obsolete or excess cloud-based holdings. Note also that Storage Settings notices when Windows.old is present from a recent upgrade and also offers to “Delete previous versions of Windows.”

What’s Missing from Storage Settings?

I still don’t see explicit settings in Storage Sense for certain things that appear when Disk Cleanup is opened with administrative privileges (or system cleanup is selected). I’ll be curious to see if Storage Sense cleans them up anyway when 1809 is released. These include the following:

• Windows Update Cleanup
• Language Resource Files
• DirectX Shader Cache
• Delivery Optimization Files
• Device driver packages

I guess it’s too early to tell if MS will expose APIs or commands for use in PowerShell to take over for “the ultimate cleanup” command sequence, too:

cmd.exe /c Cleanmgr /sageset:65535 & Cleanmgr /sagerun:65535

This has proven to be an essential activity when trying to recover from some Windows Update based upgrades or updates gone wrong. I don’t see anything in Storage Settings that offers the same capability. Maybe this is what MS meant by “retaining the Disk Cleanup tool for compatibility reasons?” We’ll probably find out, if and when the tool retires (or not).

[NOTE] Thanks to Sergey Tkachenko, whose blog post “Microsoft is Ditching Classic Disk Cleanup in Windows 10” brought the utility’s immanent deprecation to my attention.


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