I’m in a long-running debate about Windows 10 reliability and stability right now. That’s why I’ve been using Reliability Monitor almost daily. This debate runs in a variety of threads at TenForums.com. Often, I’ll answer questions about the new Feature Upgrade (aka 1903). Here are two typical items. 1. “Should I upgrade to the Windows 10 May 2019 Update?” 2. “Is 1903 stable enough for everyday use?” Long story short, this explains why I find system errors these days soon after they appear. In so doing, I found a great example of how Reliability Monitor error info propels fixes for such problems when they occur. Here’s a screencap of what I saw yesterday:
The drop in the stability index on 6/20 (far right) points at a critical error with “Defaults.” Hmmm. Never seen this one before!
[Click image for full-sized view.]
Before Reliability Monitor Error Info Propels Fixes, More Info Needed
Naturally I had to click “View technical details” to get more info about what was going on with those defaults, whatever they might be. This proved a great deal more helpful. Turns out the event was an APPCRASH. The offending executable identifies as CyberPower’s PowerPanel Personal app. It manages the USB connection between my PC and my CyberPower 1500AVR uninterruptible power supply (UPS).
My first reactions were “I haven’t updated the software and its drivers since I bought the new unit in late 2017. Wonder if something newer is available?” I checked the website, and sure enough there was. The local Version reads 2.1.2 but the current website version is 2.1.7. So naturally, I downloaded and installed the new one. I haven’t seen any issues since then. I’m hopeful the problem is resolved.
This Is What Reliability Monitor Is SUPPOSED to Do
Reliability Monitor is a great place to go looking for clues when systems misbehave. It’s good at finding hardware or communication issues. It’s great at flagging APPCRASH events, too — like my UPS boondoggle. You probably don’t need to look at it every day. But depending on your OCD level, once a week to once a month sounds about right. And of course, when problems do manifest on a Windows 10 PC, it should be one of the first places you check (along with Event Viewer) for evidence at the scene of the crime, as it were. It won’t always tell you what you need to know right away like it did for me this time. But it should at least let you know where errors are coming from, so you can start thinking about fixes, mitigations, or replacements.
In its Release Note for KB4503288 for Windows 10 1803, MS presents a clear warning. Those who get updates from the Windows Update service should expect a forced upgrade to 1903 starting next week. Aka the “Windows 10 May 2019 Update,” this is the latest and greatest feature upgrade for that OS. Here’s how that warning appears in the afore-linked release notes:
Microsoft’s motivation in moving the installed base to 1903 is clear at the end of the preceding text snippet. It reads “. . . to help ensure that we keep these devices in a serviced, secure state.” Simply put, MS doesn’t want the installed base to fall too far behind the current branch. This reduces versions of Windows for them to support. It also present fewer disparate attack surfaces for them to monitor, manage, and patch. If it makes you feel any better, it’s a kind of enlightened self-interest. MS has decided. It’s dragging the retail users (of which about half is running 1803 or an older version) into the present day. Some kicking and screaming is inevitable. In fact, it will be fascinating to see how this unfolds, and what kinds of “war stories” emerge from the trenches as 1903 rolls out to a pretty sizable population.
What If You Don’t Want to Uprade Just Yet?
MS itself says this is a phased process that will last from June until November (at least 4 months). Thus, you can (and perhaps should) opt to get the upgrade later rather than sooner. To do that, download and install David Thanatos’ excellent Windows Update Manager (WuMgr.exe). With this tool in place on a Win10 machine, you can set its “Auto Update” to “Block Access to WU Servers” or “Disable Automatic Updates” to avoid the upgrade until you’re ready to put it work on your PC. Prudent or wary admins who get updates from WU will find this level of control pretty much absolute and unshakeable. If getting ready for the 1903/Windows 10 May 2019 Update means putting it off for a while (short or long), this will let you do just that. Enjoy!
Windows Update Manager is a great tool, worth exploring and using.
[Click image for full-sized view.]
Reading over traffic at TenForums, I came across a topic that pops up regularly. In Windows 10, the term “sleep” covers a number of states during which a PC reduces activity. In fact, according to the Windows Docs on System Power States, 7 such states are recognized. There are 6 ACPI power states and a “mechanical off” state (caused when a shutdown operation also turns off the PC’s power supply). “Why is sleep a regular TenForums topic?” you ask. “Good question!” Proper sleep on a Windows PC requires the right settings and drivers, one or both of which often get bollixed. And that, dear readers, is why Win10 Sleep issues make Sleepstudy worthwhile.
When it comes to most things sleep-related in Win10, the Powercfg command is a great source of information. This text block comes from the head of its Sleepstudy report.
Why Do Win10 Sleep Issues Make Sleepstudy Worthwhile?
It turns out that in Windows 10, sleep issues are best researched from the command line, using the powercfg (power configuration) command. It works with equal facility in an administrative command prompt or PowerShell session. This command covers a lot of capabilities and possibilities that I won’t get into here. Instead, I’ll recommend that those interested in learning more about this powerful and useful command (outside of sleep stuff) consult the Microsoft Docs page entitled “Powercfg command-line options.” It’s my go-to reference, too, so it comes highly recommended.
In reading over a recent tale of Win10 sleep woe, the original poster (OP) at TenForums indicated he’d tried two variants on powercfg that ended up not telling him much (or anything useful) about recent sleep activity. Those commands were
The /requests option simply enumerates application and driver Power Requests, usually to initiate or interrupt one or more of the Windows sleep states. The /lastwake option reports on what service of type of wake request caused the system to most recently wake up from a sleep state. The OP’s basic complaint was that neither of these commands was telling him anything useful. Nothing loath to try it myself, I ran those commands and saw nothing terribly useful from them either, to wit:
Upon running the cited commands, they didn’t tell me much of anything, either.
In my case, I knew /lastwake wouldn’t tell me much because I’d installed a new Start10 version earlier this morning. It requires a reboot to finish up its update process, so that meant there was no last wake-up to report. As far as the /requests option goes, I didn’t know what to expect, never having used it before. Good thing I had no expectations, because it enumerated “None” for all the various wake/sleep requests it tracks.
Where Does Sleepstudy Come Into Play?
But there’s more to Powercfg than just a bunch of individual query options. In fact, the Sleepstudy option generates an entire HTML-formatted report on system power state transitions, which include sleep, hybrid sleep, hibernation, and shutdowns. By default the report is named sleepstudy-report.html and it resides in the %windir%\System32 folder (on my — and most — Win10 PCs, that means it lives in C:\Windows\System32). You can double-click this file to open it in your default browser. All screen caps I show from this recently-produced file come from Edge.
Power State Transitions and Durations
Right away, I noticed a very useful table near the head of the Sleep Study file. Here’s what it looks like from my production PC:
Notice the various states shown of which “Standby (Hybrid)” represents a sleep state on my PC.
[Notes: I truncated the table to omit empty fields; Click image for full-sized view.]
The table is pretty easy to read. It shows start times (far left) and duration (left 2nd) for each state documented. The rhythm on my system is pretty simple and consists mostly of transitions from active [in use/awake] to standby (hybrid) [asleep], with a single reboot this morning after I’d installed the aforementioned Start10 update. Easy-peasey, right? That’s what the OP from the TF post could (and probably should) have used to get more info on recent sleep activity on his PC, too.
If you read down further into the file, you’ll see a set of “Analysis Results” for each state transition documented in the preceding table. This, too, provides useful information about what happened to get a PC into (and out of) some specific power state mentioned in the table. Overall, this is good and helpful information, well worth consulting when researching a PC’s power state transitions. Please think of it the next time you’re curious (or troubleshooting) Windows 10 sleep issues. Great stuff!
As a dedicated Windows Insider (MVP) I run various Windows 10 Previews on 5 test PCs in my office. Of course, OS previews can (and sometimes do) fail or encounter install hiccups. That means I’m also dedicated to backing those systems up. I tend to take a snapshot after each feature upgrade, and at least once a week using scheduled Macrium Reflect backups. After installing Build 18917 on Wednesday (June 12) I made two moves. First, I cleaned up Windows.old and other remnants of the previous install using a new fave tool mdiskclean.exe. Second, I launched Macrium Reflect to make a post-upgrade OS image for the new install. This ended abruptly in failure when the target drive reported in as MIA. As it turns out, this led directly to my discovery that stuck rocker switch means new drive dock. Let me explain . . .
When a pair of external SATA drives go missing, troubleshooting leads me to replace a failing drive dock.
[Click image for full-size view. Image source: Newegg]
Why a Stuck Rocker Switch Means New Drive Dock
When Reflect reported that my customary backup target drive (G:, a Hitachi 4GB HGST HSN 724040ALE640 SATA 3 hard disk) was missing, I started troubleshooting. Immediately, I discovered two things. First, power to the drive dock was off. Second, I attempted to cycle power on the drive dock. That’s when I discovered that the power switch — a rocker switch, in fact — wouldn’t cycle into the “off” position. Also, jiggling the switch cycles power on and off rapidly and unpredictably. For me, a stuck rocker switch means new drive dock because I can’t take the chance that future backups might fail along with the stuck switch.
Ultimately, I was able to jiggle the switch just right to get the power to stay on. It has continued to work properly since, and I’ve got a current backup image for the system now. But I’ve also ordered a replacement dual dock from Amazon, which should show up in the next few days. I can’t abide the idea of relying on questionable hardware for backups (it defeats their purpose). So I’m replacing the current dual drive dock with a different model. Let’s compare prices for what I’m replacing (about $50 when I bought it from Newegg) with what I just ordered ($39 from Amazon because Newegg’s price for the same unit was over $100!).
I’m tempted to kick myself for not checking reviews when I made the original purchase. When I did so this morning, I observed that the Inatek FD2002 model that gets high marks and editor recommendations is the same dual dock I’ve got hooked up to my primary production PC already. I don’t see anything wrong with repeating a purchase that has worked well for me so far, especially when it’s $11 cheaper than the unit it’s replacing. And so it goes, here in WindowsWorld . . .
There’s been a quiet revolution affecting Windows Update in Windows 10 lately. MS is trying to create what they call “a better Windows 10 Update experience.” In the past month, the current Windows 10 version (May 2019 Update aka 1903) has witnessed some interesting changes. Likewise, the same capability has been rolled backward into versions 1803 and 1809 as well. This makes understanding Win10 WU Download and install now option important for Windows 10 users and admins alike. Here’s a telling screencap that shows this new facility at work:
Notice that 1903 (version shown) presents a “Download” button. Users must press it to initiate download and install of pending Windows updates. These files appeared on Patch Tuesday for June 2019 (June 11).
Why Understanding Win10 WU Download and install now Option Is Key
The idea is to restore user control over update downloads and installation, and restarts sometimes required in their wake. Most notably, controls apply to Cumulative Updates (CUs), which often require reboots once installed. Here’s how this new regime works:
- Separate control for feature updates. If a feature update (version upgrade) for Windows 10 is available, WU presents a special control.
Users get explicit notification that a new feature update (version upgrade) is available.
Usually, a pending Feature Update (version upgrade) isn’t installed until the user clicks “Download and install now.” There is one exception. For Windows 10 versions approaching end-of-life, WU forces an upgrade. For most cases this means no more surprise upgrades, and the chaos that can sometimes follow.
- Extended ability to pause updates. This applies to feature and monthly updates. It also works for all versions of Windows 10 (Home, Pro, Enterprise, Education, and so forth). Pauses occur in periods of up to 7 days. They may repeat up to 5 times, for a maximum of 35 days of pause. Once the 35-day period ends, users must update before they can pause again.
- Intelligent active hours: Windows 10 adjusts active hours to avoid forcing reboots during periods when installing updates and reboots would normally be OK. If the machine is busy when such activities could occur per schedule, WU waits until the machine goes idle before commencing updates and reboots.
- Improved update orchestration: Windows updates and Microsoft Store updates occur in tandem, and won’t run when Windows PCs are in active use.
This goes a long way to addressing users’ and admins’ concerns and frustrations with Windows Update. Personally, I’m tickled that I can once again control update behavior on Win10 PCs without using specialized tools like the Windows Update Manager (WuMgr.exe).
Another Look for Pending Updates in WU
So far, discussion of update controls has focused mostly on feature updates (version upgrades) for Windows 10. But the same kinds of controls also apply to monthly updates as well. Thus, for example, here’s what the initial WU UI looks like when users visit Settings → Update & Security → Windows Update. Thus, users and admins gain the same controls over recurring updates that they get for feature updates. Good stuff!
When other updates (not feature upgrades) are available, “Download and install” lets users decide when to do those things.
Again, nothing happens update-wise until users or admins click on the “Download and install” button in the UI. That’s probably what gave this new facility its name, dontcha think?
Here’s an interesting new feature in the current Win10 version. MS calls it recommended troubleshooting. It lets the OS automate various levels of troubleshooting. Recommended troubleshooting shows up, first and foremost, as a literal heading under Settings → Privacy → Diagnostics & feedback. That’s why I entitled this post Win10 May 2019 Update Features Recommended Troubleshooting, as this screenshot explains further:
Set up this new feature under the Privacy heading in Settings, but use it under Update & Security.
Pre-requisite for Win10 May 2019 Update Features Recommended Troubleshooting
There is one pre-requisite to use this new capability in Windows 10. Recommended troubleshooting depends on Windows telemetry. In fact, MS calls telemetry “Diagnostic data.” It is mentioned as such at the outset of the Diagnostics & Feedback category. Choose a radio buttons — either Basic or Full — so Recommended Troubleshooting can do its thing. Windows 10 chooses Full by default. Also, only when a third-party tool like O&O Shutup10 is installed will telemetry turn off completely. MS doesn’t recommend this, and neither do I. Tinfoil hat conspiracy theories about MS spying notwithstanding, I think Windows 10 users everywhere benefit from OS telemetry (which MS credibly claims to anonymize before analyzing or sharing anyway).
Using Win10 May 2019 Update Features Recommended Troubleshooting
If you check out the options under this heading in Diagnostics & Feeback, you’ll see it offers four choices, as shown here:
I’ve chosen the option named “Ask me before fixing problems” so I’ll know when Recommended Troubleshooting swings into action.
Those four options are (from top to bottom):
1. Fix problems for me without asking. When Win10 determines troubleshooting is needed, it uses troubleshooters silently in the background.
2. Tell me when problems get fixed. Same as the preceding item, except Win10 informs users when a troubleshooter finds and fixes a problem.
3. Ask me before fixing problems. Will notify the user that a troubleshooter could help fix a problem, but Win10 won’t make that attempt unless the user grants permission.
4. Only fix critical problems for me. Various Win10 troubleshooters are automatically invoked (silently) but only when problems rated “critical” occur. [Note: this is the default option.]
I’ve chosen option 3 because I want to get some experience watching this tool do its thing. The default is option 4, but users who wish to tweak this setting can do so as they see fit.
Checking in on Troubleshooting Recommendations
Once you’ve set all this stuff up, you can visit the Win10 Troubleshooting facility available through Settings → Update & Security → Troubleshoot. There, you’ll find a new heading entitled Recommended troubleshooting. In most cases, visitors will see text below the initial intro beneath that heading that reads “We don’t have any recommendations right now.” But if the OS does have recommendations, this is where they’ll show up. Enjoy!
Yesterday, June 6, Microsoft updated its “Known Issues” document for Windows 10 and Windows Server 1903. But despite its assertion (shown below) of “general availability,” an experiment contradicted that assertion. I found this confirmed in other press coverage, too. And that’s why I say that despite Microsoft’s claims, assertions of May 2019 Update general availability still leaves PCs out. Here’s the new blurb from the head of that web page:
To me the words “any user” turn out to be inaccurate. MS is still blocking certain PCs from the upgrade, language notwithstanding.
[Source: 1903 Issues Page]
Why Say May 2019 Update General Availability Still Leaves PCs Out?
This is your classic “disproof by counterexample.” My wife’s PC runs on an ancient Jetway miniITX motherboard with an i7-3630QM CPU (formerly Ivy Bridge). I followed the instructions in the revised Known Issues document — I chose the Semi-Annual Channel, not the default Semi-Annual Channel (Targeted) — the upgrade didn’t still show up in WU on this PC. In a story entitled Windows 10 May 2019 Update Now Available to All Seekers MSPowerUser.com confirms this observation. It says “This does not mean every PC checking will get the update. If there are known blockers Microsoft will still decline pushing the update to your PC.”
I’m unaware of any such blockers on that Ivy Bridge machine. That said, it’s entirely possible that MS knows of things for that platform about which I’m in the dark. I’m willing to give this machine some while yet before force-upgrading to the May 2019 Update. Its primary user doesn’t do much with that machine, except surf the web, watch occasional videos and read e-mail. Should be interesting to see just how long it will take for this relative antique to get the nod from WU, and be offered the upgrade automatically. We’ll see!
Once I saw the error message “Stopped Working” from IAStorDataMgrSvc.exe in Performance Monitor, I went searching for a fix. Turns out this module is part of the Intel Rapid Storage Technology environment (aka Intel RST). “Hmmm,” thought I to myself, “It’s been a while since I’ve updated any Intel storage drivers. Could that be worth looking into?” I did, and it was. I visited the Intel Driver & Support Assistant web page. The first thing it had me do was to update itself. Then I scanned my system for Intel drivers, and it recommended an update to Intel RST. Because this matched up with what I’d already wondered about, I happily complied. The program downloaded and installed the necessary drivers (and removed an outdated version). That’s what leads me to assert that Intel Driver Support Assistant proves helpful. Here’s what the aftermath looked like in Perfmon:
Careful examination of the sequence of events shows the update to the Driver & Support Assistant starts things in motion.
Why Intel Driver Support Assistant Proves Helpful
In fact, the sequence of events shown in the screen capture runs from 4:40 – 4:42 PM on 6/5. It runs like this:
1. A new Intel Driver & Support Assistant gets installed
2. Intel installs a telemetry/reporting widget called the Intel Computing Improvement Program
3. The two periods (“..”) indicates removal of an application — in this case, the earlier version of the Intel RST code.
4. Intel installs a Intel 100 Series/C230 chipset family SATA AHCI controller for one set of bus links.
5. Intel installs a Standard SATA AHCI Controller for the non-Intel storage controller on my Asrock 7+ Extreme motherboard.
6. Intel installs another Intel 100 Series/C230 chipset family SATA AHCI controller for a second set of bus links (my system has a LOT of SATA ports: 8 from Intel, 3 or 4 more from 3rd parties).
7. Finally, Intel installs a new/current version of the Intel RST application.
BTW, Reliability Monitor is a great way to learn what updates and changes get made to a system when updates are applied, drivers added or updated, and so forth. This little snippet of information provides a pretty darn good demonstration of what the tool can tell you about your system. I was tickled to see the level of detail provides an enduring record of what the Intel installer shows only in transitory form. Keep this in mind as you ponder — or make — updates to your Windows 10 systems.
OK, I admit it. I got tired of waiting for Microsoft to offer my production PC the May 2019 Update (aka 1903 upgrade). Last Friday, I broke down and used the Update Assistant instead. Despite my original plan to wait for WU to make an offer, I caved. Here’s a brief chronology of events leading up to production PC gets 1903 upgrade:
5/21: MS publishes “How to get the Windows 10 May 2019 Update”
5/21 (and later): MS begins offering May 2019 Update to a limited set of PC through WU
5/22 & 23: I successfully use the Update Assistant to update 4 other PCs to the May 2019 Update
5/22 (thru May 31): I check WU daily to see if my production PC
5/31: I lose patience, and run the Update Assistant on the production PC, too
If you, like me, get tired of waiting for MS to clear one or more PCs for the May 2019 Update through WU, use the Update Assistant instead.
[Click image for full-sized view.]
OK: Product PC Gets 1903 Upgrade. Then what?
I confess: The history of upgrade offers for 1809 is what spooked me. Even with the May 2019 Update trickling out to certain PCs, some PCs are still running 1803. That’s because WU has yet to offer them the 1809 upgrade. And in fact — as I explain in a Win10.Guru story I wrote last week — for many such PCs MS Plans to Skip Over 1809 to May 2019 Update. The 1803 to 1809 transition demonstrated that an upgrade offer through WU could be months away. With my patience exhausted, I used the Update Assistant. Instead of waiting longer, I clicked the “Update now” button shown above. This let me upgrade on my schedule, having decided I was ready.
All this said, my upgrade experience with the half-dozen machines I’ve upgraded has been uniformly positive. I did encounter a couple of hiccups on two such installations — namely on my Lenovo T520 and X1 Extreme laptops. But ultimately, the install on both machines proceeded to a successful completion without anything more than a retry on the T520.
That’s because the Windows 10 installer incorporates some visible new enhancements and error-handling capabilities, as I reported in another Win10.Guru piece: May 2019 Update Shows Improved Installer. After the T520 fell prey to the well-known install failure that sometimes happens on PCs with SD cards or external USB drives attached, it asked me if wanted to pick up where I left off after I removed the offending device. Even more amazing, the X1 Extreme experienced a BSOD during Post-GUI installation, but automatically recovered itself afterward and the install proceeded to a successful outcome without any action from me.
As far as I’m concerned, unless MS specifically warns users of certain hardware or applications away from an immediately upgrade to the May 2019 update, it’s OK to take the plunge right now. All of my experiences have been good. Hopefully yours will be the same. If you’re in any doubt, check the Microsoft Known Issues List for Windows 10 May 2019 Update version 1903.
I’ve got a somewhat temperamental driver for my otherwise excellent Samsung ML-2850 network printer. Every now and then, the driver goes sideways for no obvious reasons. When that happens, I simply use Devices & Printers to remove the device, and then use its TCP/IP address to reinstall it. This works just fine, but it tends to leave various stale printer objects around. So now, I’ve learned that PowerShell clears stale printer objects away. This lets me spruce things up after I go through the “remove printer — reinstall printer” dance with relative ease. Here’s what things looked like in PowerShell this morning, when I used the Get-Printer cmdlet (in table format) to see what was what:
Notice that table rows 3-5 are all for the same printer: a Samsung ML-2850 device.
[Click image for full-sized view.]
How PowerShell Clears Stale Printer Objects
As a somewhat mangled PowerShell version of the old saw goes: “There’s a cmdlet for that!” The name of that cmdlet is Remove-Printer, and it’s part of the family of PowerShell cmdlets known as PrintManagement. I will observe that the whole family is worth getting to know for general printer and related port, job, and driver handling, even though I’ll focus here on Remove-Printer and Get-Printer exclusively.
The simple syntax for using Remove-Printer is to use its -name parameter. Because I’ve decided to remove all of my Samsung printers and create a new entry, the removal is dead simple. (I’ll use Add a Printer in Devices & Printers to add a new entry after removing the ones shown above. I’ll name it “SamsNWP2850” to put maker, type [NetWorked Printer, or NWP], and model number in that name.])
Here’s the syntax:
Remove-Printer -name "Samsung*"
That’s it. Pretty simple and straightforward, eh?
After a New Device Is Incarnated
Remember, I named that reincarnated Samsung ML-2850 printer as “SamsNWP2850.” By no coincidence whatsoever, it shows up at the first entry in the table format output from Get-Printer:
Now that the duplicates are gone, you can easily see the entire list of current printer definitions. Most of them I never use (Snagit, OneNote, Nitro PDF, XPS doc writer and fax).
[Click image for full-sized view.]
This kind of clean-up is worth conducting any time printer definitions get updated or replaced. OTOH, you could make it a semi-annual or yearly checkbox item, and perform clean-ups only when needed.