Windows Enterprise Desktop


October 27, 2017  4:20 PM

Fixing Win10 Volsnap.sys Issues

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

For Build 17017 of the Insider Preview at least, and possibly for other recent Win10 builds or releases, a runtime error involving volsnap.sys may appear. These days, such errors are called “GSODs” because the screen that reports the problem is green. But I see reports of similar issues all the way back to Windows 7 days (when the error was called a BSOD, for “Blue Screen of Death”). Thanks to some nice detective work from Scot Hanselman, though, I knew just what to do when my Dell Venue Pro 11 hybrid PC fell prey to this problem. And as it turns out, Fixing Win10 Volsnap.sys issues is pretty simple, as long as you’ve got the right ingredients.

Fixing Win10 Volsnap.sys Issues

On the GSOD, an unhappy face emoticon sez the OS knows something ain’t right…

Ingredients for Fixing Win10 Volsnap.sys Issues

You need two things to address this problem. First, you need a known good working copy of volsnap.sys. I grabbed mine from one of my production PCs running the latest 1709 release. For the record, it lives in the %windir%\System32\Drivers folder. Second, you need a bootable Windows 10 installation or repair disk. I used the 1709 Windows 10 installer I built last week with the Microsoft Media Creation Tool (click “Download tool now” on the Download Windows 10 page).

Fixing Win10 Volsnap.sys Issues at the Command Line

The problem with replacing OS runtime files is that the OS that’s running, for all kinds of good reasons, won’t let you replace them while it’s running. You must instead boot to the install or repair media and make the replacement at the command line prompt therein. Because I used an MCT-based UFD, I booted to that drive, let the auto-start feature fire up the installer, then elected to repair an existing installation on the second screen in the sequence. From there, I took the Troubleshoot option, then opened the command prompt where I was quickly able to make the switch. To make my job as easy as possible (and following Scott’s suggestion from the afore-cited blog) I had already copied the known good working volsnap.sys to the root of the UFD from whence I’d just booted.

Here’s the sequence of commands I used to get myself going:

  1. diskpart
    rem this opens the disk partition utility so you can identify installed disks
  2. list volumes
    rem shows you the letters associated with disks on your PC
    rem for this example C: is my OS disk, E: is the UFD I need to copy from
  3. cd <s>:\Windows\System32\Drivers
    rem navigate to the proper directory for file replacement
    rem <s> is the drive letter for your actual OS drive
  4. ren volsnap.sys volsnap.bak
    rem keeps the old, broken version around under a different name
  5. copy e:\volsnap.sys volsnap.sys
    rem copies the known good working copy into the proper directory

After you copy the good copy into the right directory, you can exit Command Prompt and restart your PC. When it resumes operations, any problems resulting from the damaged or buggy copy of volsnap.sys should be fixed. In my case, I immediately upgraded to Build 17025 on the affected PC. So far, no similar reports of volsnap.sys issues are reported for this more recent OS version.

October 25, 2017  5:51 PM

Win10 ISO Mount Trick

Ed Tittel Ed Tittel Profile: Ed Tittel
virtualised system, Windows 10

It’s been 5 years now that Windows has included built-in support for mounting ISO files within the OS itself. Imagine my suprise, then, when I double-clicked on a Windows 10 ISO file and wound up inside 7-zip instead this morning. It seems that other programs can override default behavior, and take over the double-click role. That left me scratching my head, trying to remember how to mount an ISO using Windows Explorer. As with many such things, I found a Win10 ISO mount trick that works nicely. But first, I had to fumble through some trial-and-error to get it figured out.

On the vast majority of Windows 10 PCs, one need only right-click on an ISO file to provoke this pop-up menu:

Win10 ISO mount trick

On most Windows PCs, right click an ISO file, and the top entry says Mount, as shown here. Not on *this* PC, though. Sigh.

Playing the Win10 ISO Mount Trick

Here’s what I observed this morning on my problem PC. First, when I double-clicked the ISO file entry in Explorer, it opened in 7-Zip instead. Then, when I right-clicked the filename, the resulting pop-up menu did not feature Mount anywhere in its list of options. What to do?

It turns out that the answer is dead simple but a little counter-intuitive. If one selects the “Open with…” option (it appears in the foregoing list just below the first horizontal rule), a different menu opens. On the affected PC, that menu included 2 options: 7-Zip (first) and Windows Explorer (second). As it turns out, as soon as one selects Windows Explorer in that menu, the ISO is mounted as a virtual DVD drive. Admittedly, it’s not much of a trick, but it produces the sought-for result. To dismount the ISO, no such contortions are needed. The right-click “Eject” option works on all the various Win10 PCs I tried it on for testing purposes.


October 23, 2017  4:02 PM

Rolling Build 1709 Out

Ed Tittel Ed Tittel Profile: Ed Tittel
Windows 10

As with previous Windows Upgrades, the Fall Creators Update aka Build 1709, is coming in what Microsoft calls a “phased rollout approach.” In simple terms, this means if you leave the update to Microsoft, you’ll get it when they think it’s mature enough to install on your PC successfully. Of course, you can still force the update onto a PC at your discretion, through the “Download Windows 10” page. Thus, when it comes to rolling build 1709 out, there is no shortage of options.

Rolling Build 1709 Out

This is what you’ll see on Win10 PCs after the upgrade completes successfully.

Have It Your Way When Rolling Build 1709 Out

Checking over the PCs here, I have 4 at my disposal eligible for the 1709 build. I normally have at least 6 such machines, but one got off track and has been running the Insider Preview version for a while. The other is my son’s Dell XPS 2720 All-in-One which is being retired, thanks to a recent spate of moderately costly component failures. (After replacing the screen and the power supply earlier, I decided not to keep fixing when the power switch quit working last month.) Three of those four machines have already been offered the update automatically:

  • a 2012 vintage Lenovo T520 laptop (mobile dual core i7-2640M CPU, 16 GB RAM, 250GB Samsung mSATA SSD)
  • a 2012 vintage mini-ITX PC (mobile quad core i7-3630QM CPU, 16 GB RAM, 250GB Samsung EVO840 SSD)
  • the Surface Pro 3 (i7-4650T dual core, 8 GB RAM, 250 GB Samsung OEM mSATA SSD)

The only one that didn’t get the offer immediately from WU was my Lenovo X220 Tablet PC (same specs as the T520 in a smaller package, but no Quadro graphics). I find that curious because all of the hardware components that count are identical to those in the T520, though it has a touch screen and the T520 does not. That said, MS is clearly rolling out the upgrade faster this time than they did for 1703, for which the aforementioned mini-ITX PC didn’t get upgraded through WU as late as the end of August 2017 (it released in April).

Rolling Build 1709 Out Produces Acceptable Results

So far, all of those upgrades have eventually worked. I had to retry the Windows Upgrade Assistant on the X220 Tablet twice before it worked, proving that once again third time really is the charm. All the others got their updates from WU directly and experienced no obvious problems. I’m still in the post-upgrade cleanup process but so far everything seems pretty positive. I’ll keep reporting when and as things change.


October 17, 2017  3:12 PM

Win10 Build 1709 Unleashed

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

If Microsoft’s usual release behavior holds true, Windows 10 Build 1709 appeared on Windows Update at 09:00AM PDT  today. I just accessed WU from one of my f Current Branch PCs, and it came up immediately through Settings. Now that Win10 Build 1709 unleashed is on, what should businesses and the IT professionals who support them do? Good question!

Win10 Build 1709 Unleashed

For Fall Creators Update the download was available to nearly every PC I manage without delay.

Win10 Build 1709 Unleashed: Now What?

As mentioned in a previous post “Fall Creators Update Gets Simultaneous ADK,” the Windows Assessment and Deployment Kit for 1709 is also out today. IT pros can start kicking the tires on the new release right away. That’s smart, even if they don’t plan any production deployments for some time yet. I’d suggest visting one of the usual download sources and grabbing a copy. You could install (or upgrade) a test machine before the week is out. Then, you could dig into potential hardware and software compatibility issues (using the assessment tools from the ADK if you like). That’s when you’ll get a sense of how much work is likely to be involved in moving up to this latest version.

Those usual download sources include:

If my experience is any guide, it takes about an hour to work through an upgrade installation on a machine with 60-odd third-party/follow-on applications installed. YMMV, depending of course on your Internet link speed and the capabilities of the PC onto which the upgrade gets installed. For myself, I’ve been through countless Insider Preview installs of the same (or a very similar) OS over the past three weeks. That’s how I can also observe that for most users this process will complete with no undue muss or fuss. Enjoy!


October 16, 2017  2:42 PM

Fall Creators Update Gets Simultaneous ADK

Ed Tittel Ed Tittel Profile: Ed Tittel
Deployment, Windows 10

OK, everybody knows that the Fall Creators Update for Windows 10, aka Build 1709, goes live on 10/17. But on Friday, October 13, MS posted info about what else is available that day. This comes from the TechNet Windows for IT Pros blog, in a post entitled “Windows 10, version 1709 coming soon.” Key points for businesses and organizations mention availability via numerous online venues. These include the Volume Licensing Service Center, Windows Update for Business, Windows Server Update Services, and Visual Studio Subscriptions. Also, the Fall Creators Update gets simultaneous ADK (Windows Assessment and Deployment Kit) access. To the best of my knowledge that’s the first time MS has made the ADK available in tandem with a new OS release.

Fall Creators Update Gets Simultaneous ADK

The 1709 ISO file to be released at the VSLC and through Visual Studio Subscriptions will include all major commercial Win10 versions. Enterprise and Education versions will be available sepearately.

When Fall Creators Update Gets Simultaneous ADK, What Does That Mean?

Windows 10 has been on a rapid update cadence since it made its debut in July 2015. It has delivered at least two major upgrades yearly since then. The life of a Windows 10 release is usually around 18 months. Indeed, the original build (1507) no longer gets updates as of November, 2017. That means organizations should access the ADK sooner rather than later, given a short life for any specific Windows 10 build. Even for companies on Current Branch for Business, pilot and testing efforts on Current Branch (1709 after October 17) must move quickly. That’s what makes this quiet announcement important for Microsoft. It’s also a form of “fair notice” to business and organizations to upgrade more quickly. Rather than the 2-3 year time lag typical for previous business migrations, they should track the 6-month gap between CBB and CB versions.

This represents a faster cadence for business adoption activities. Because these encompass pilot testing, software and hardware compatibility checks, deployment planning and staging, lots of work is involved. Hopefully, access to automated assessments for hardware and software compatibility will help. Ditto for automated deployment tools and capabilities. The ADK represents substantial time- and labor-savings for companies that dig in and put its tools to work. Presumably, faster access helps businesses squeeze a long-term process into a shorter overall timeframe. We’ll see…


October 13, 2017  2:33 PM

Build 1709 Gains Easier Update Log Access

Ed Tittel Ed Tittel Profile: Ed Tittel
Symbol, Windows 10

A nice but subtle improvement will appear in the Fall Creators Update for Windows 10. Otherwise known as Build 1709, this release makes Windows Update log files more readable. Using the Get-WindowsUpdateLog PowerShell cmdlet, admins and power users can translate event trace log (ETL) files into human-readable form quickly and easily. Because Build 1709 gains easier update log access, IT pros can parse and troubleshoot update issues with greater dispatch. I uncovered this enhancement at Redmond Magazine, in a 10/10/17 article entitled “Microsoft Improving Windows 10 Log File Access with Fall Creators Update.”

Explaining How Build 1709 Gains Easier Update Log Access

The MS Support article “How to read Windows Update logs in Windows 10 Version 1607” explains things nicely. Windows 10 stores update logs in a compact binary form using Event Tracing for Windows (ETW). While this generates logs faster and reduces disk space consumption, those logs are not “readable as written.” In fact, the PowerShell Get-WindowsUpdateLog cmdlet translates the ETL logs from binary into human readable form. The following snippet from Notepad shows what the output from the cmdlet looks like:

This snippet shows output from the Download Manager, reporting that it finds no expired update files to expunge, and 14 unexpired updates still in effect.

However, for it to work in Windows 10 versions through 1703, the cmdlet must access the Microsoft Internet Symbol Store. This lets it associate module and service names with binary handles in the Update logs. The newest version no longer requires that users link to the symbol store in advance, nor that the cmdlet commence operations by reading fresh symbols.

The MS Internet symbol store resides at URL  https://msdl.microsoft.com/download/symbols. One can use the .symfix command on systems with relatively speedy Internet links. Otherwise, MS recommends users install symbol files locally as described in Installing Windows Symbol Files. The syntax for the .symfix command is:

.symfix+ DownstreamStore

But with the Fall Creators Update such contortions will no longer be required. Instead Get-WindowsUpdateLog will handle such things automatically by itself. Perhaps a small step in the direction of usability, but a welcome one nonetheless! This already works like a champ in the Insider Preview, as I confirmed for myself this morning. That’s how I grabbed the preceding text snippet.


October 13, 2017  10:01 AM

Will IT ever untie from legacy systems?

Alyssa Provazza Alyssa Provazza Profile: Alyssa Provazza
Cloud Computing, IT leadership, IT projects, Machine learning, Software

As organizations trumpet their digital transformation strategies, they talk of unifying workspaces, moving to the cloud and simplifying app delivery and management. It’s all very forward thinking.

But at the end of the day, many still rely on legacy hardware, software and processes. As the buzz of conference season wound down, I began to wonder: Will that ever change?

Legacy applications, such as customer relationship management and enterprise resource planning software, persist in IT because they are so critical to the way a business functions. These systems process and store data related to finances, operations, human resources, client transactions and much more. But they weren’t built with virtualization, cloud computing, mobility and machine learning in mind. They were barely built to handle the speed and frameworks of today’s internet.

The problem is, it’s expensive and time-consuming to update or replace legacy systems. Software vendors themselves have only just begun reworking their platforms to meet the demands of digital transformation; some have released tools, for instance, to help companies make their legacy data accessible from mobile applications. And that old mantra of “if it ain’t broke, don’t fix it” continues to sing out among many IT professionals who just don’t want to face complex migration projects.

This month’s cover story explores some of the tools that can help organizations build micro apps, which consolidate common employee workflows and connect to back-end systems. This technology, known as rapid mobile app development, is just one of many in the end-user computing market that touts integration with legacy systems. But is that just a bandage on the problem? Organizations that adopt these types of tools must still run and maintain those old platforms; users simply connect to them differently.

The onus to move beyond legacy is on both sides. Software providers must more rapidly provide IT with mobile-friendly versions of their applications, or at least the right tools to migrate to mobile. And IT departments and businesses themselves must get out of their comfort zones, invest in cloud services and focus on user experience.

If organizations do that, they’ll be better able to deliver the right data to the right users in the long term. Digital transformation shouldn’t just mean loosening ties with old systems. It should mean cutting them altogether.

This post originally appeared in the October 2017 issue of Access Magazine.


October 11, 2017  4:17 PM

Dropped Drive Drops Access

Ed Tittel Ed Tittel Profile: Ed Tittel
Windows 10

I’ve got a handful of mSATA SSDs sitting around my office. So, rather than barter them off, I’ve been finding ways to put them to work. In April, I purchased a couple of Sabrent USB 3.0 mSATA enclosures from Newegg for about $16 a pop. Until recently, they’ve proved a sweet way to add some speedy, capacious storage to laptops and tablets. But, in prepping for Spiceworld in Austin this week, I learned that a dropped drive drops access, too. Let me explain…

Dropped Drive Drops Access

The issue arises from the clip-on holder that secures the mSATA device inside the enclosure.

How the Dropped Drive Drops Access, Too

I had plugged the unit into one of the front-panel USB3 Connectors on my production PC. Then, I loaded it up with PST files so I could synch Outlook on my Lenovo T520 laptop. The USB cable that’s included with the unit is long enough (30″) for the drive to hang down to the floor atop my PC case. And because I accidentally knocked the unit off my PC, causing it to hit the chair mat under my desk with some force, I suddenly found the drive MIA.

It took me a while to figure out what was going on. It seems that the clamp that Sabrent includes on the circuit board that holds the mSATA device inside the enclosure isn’t lock tight. When the unit hit the floor, it did so with enough force that the mSATA SSD  slid out of its mini-PCIe slot just a little. It was out far enough to render the drive unreadable, but not far enough to keep it from showing up as an empty drive (0 bytes capacity) in Windows File Explorer.

An Easy Fix for Dropped Drive Drops Access

Only by using my other identical enclosure and  another mSATA SSD was I able to confirm this by experimentation. I determined that a drop would indeed cause the device to work its way loose from the connector. I also observed that the drop  could also make the device unreadable. Once diagnosed the problem was trivial to fix, but it wasn’t immediately obvious when the gotcha first came into play. I’m now securing my mSATA devices inside these enclosures using a small piece of paper, folded, between the wire catch and the top of the device’s circuit board. It makes for a tight enough fit to keep the SSD card from moving around. Thus it also prevents it from slipping loose if and when I should drop it again.


October 9, 2017  11:26 AM

New Reflect Needs New Rescue Media

Ed Tittel Ed Tittel Profile: Ed Tittel
Recovery, Windows 10

Recently, Macrium issued a new version of its excellent (and free) Reflect backup and restore utility. The major version number has now incremented from 6 to 7. As I write this blog post, in fact, the most current complete version number is  7.1.2619. In skimming over the TenForums posts this morning, member fdegrove (thanks, Frank! see #917) reminded me that when major versions change for the program, that a new Reflect needs new Rescue Media, too.

Here’s Why New Reflect Needs New Rescue Media

Reflect’s Rescue Media is built upon the Windows Preinstallation Environment, aka WinPE. When the Reflect program goes through a major upgrade, Macrium also recasts the WinPE environment inside which it loads its customized bootable repair tools and utilities. Sure, an older set of Rescue Media will still work, but it won’t be able to take advantage of new capabilities and Windows image updates that have been added since then. And with the addition of a new version, there will always be changes that you’ll want to make sure are available during repair and recovery processes.

Fortunately, the fix is easy. Insert the old rescue media (in my case a USB flash drive) into your PC, and run the Rescue Media Wizard (click Other Tasks, then click Create Rescue Media). When that tool fires up it tells you that an update is available for your WinPE files. Click through the Wizard, target the old rescue media, and it’ll build you a new set on the same device.

New Reflect Needs New Rescue Media

A new backup utility version needs new rescue/recovery media to match!

It would be a shame to update one’s Reflect installations without also building new Rescue Media. Don’t forget! I nearly did, but am now rescued from possible blow-back from that oversight, thanks to careful forum access. Please follow suit so that doesn’t happen to you, if you’re among the legions of Macrium Reflect users…


October 6, 2017  11:11 AM

Win10 Usage Approaches Win7 Levels

Ed Tittel Ed Tittel Profile: Ed Tittel
Windows 10

OK, the balance of Windows usage is shifting away from Windows 7 toward Windows 10. A WindowsReport story appeared this morning to that effect. From staff writer George Finley, it’s entitled “Windows 10 could overtake Windows 7 by the end of 2017.” But it cites NetMarketShare,  a site whose accuracy has been questioned by Windows pundits. (See Ed Bott’s discussion in this Jan 2017 story at ZDnet for details). That’s why I decided to see if that ratio held at Analytics.usa.gov. This site reports stats for visitors to all US government websites. And indeed, it too shows that Win10 usage approaches Win7 levels.

Why Say That Win10 Usage Approaches Win7 Levels?

One current bar chart from the site says it all, especially when leavened with a little quick math:

These numbers represent visits over the past 90 days, as of 10/6/17.
[Source: Analytics.USA.gov for “All Participating Websites”]

If you calculate the ratio between the “Windows 7” and “Windows 10” entries, it works out to 0.8333. Mathematically, that equals the fraction 5/6. Thus, I feel reasonably confident that there are 5 Windows 10 users for every 6 Windows 7 users who access US government websites. And indeed, that’s a big change in momentum. Also, it lends credibility to the idea that the balance is shifting substantially. I’d say it is possible, or perhaps likely, that more PCs will be running Windows 10 than Windows 7 (at least, among Internet users) by year’s end. It’s actually more convincing than the NetMarketShare numbers, which show a ratio of more like 6 Win10 users for every 10 Win7 users.

For what it’s worth, StatCounter’s Windows Version share numbers also tell a similar story. As of September 30, Win10 gets a 39.3% share, while Win7 shows 43.99%. That’s a ratio of roughly 89.4%, which translates more or less into a ratio of 7 Windows 10 for every 8 Windows 7 users over the sites they monitor. Combined with the US Government ratio already reported, this supports the notion that these population sizes are converging. It also lends credibility to the observation that Win10 usage approaches Win7 levels, and that the balance may shift sometime soon.


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