Windows Enterprise Desktop

February 17, 2019  1:54 PM

Another Free Win7 Life Extension

Ed Tittel Ed Tittel Profile: Ed Tittel
Desktop virtualization, Microsoft Windows 7

By now, everybody knows that Windows 7 End of Life (EOL) comes January 14, 2020. Afterward, organizations and companies need extended security updates to keep the old OS alive. Until now, that’s been an expensive proposition. But in the past few days, Microsoft has let slip information about a possible alternative. It’s called Windows Virtual Desktop, and it’s delivered via Azure. It extends a range of interesting possibilities to customers for Microsoft 365 E3, E5, or F1 or Windows E3 or E5. Those licensees can use existing licenses and systems for virtualization. Hidden amidst those capabilities is a free, if virtual, Win7 life extension.Another Free Win7 Life Extension.win7info

I’ve taken visual license from the MS original, but there’s no doubt that this Win7 life extension will be perceived as a money-saver by many.
[Click image for full-sized view.]

Why Grant Another Free Win7 Life Extension

MS knows that there are still too many Win7 licenses in commercial use for all to migrate before 1/15/2020. The Windows Virtual Desktop gives organizations another, more affordable option as compared to outright purchase of extended support. It’s also a great opportunity for the company to switch licensees over to the aforementioned list of Microsoft 365 and Windows licensing options.

For organizations agonizing over this impending added cost burden, this could be a life-saver. It’s a pretty darned inspired move, in fact. And it helps make sense of why the OS group is now an arm of the Azure division. Looks like virtualization really  does rule the MS world. And now, it looks like that org structure is ready to bear interesting and valuable fruit.

Don’t get too excited just yet, though. The recent MS announcement says a preview is coming, but isn’t ready right now. You can fill out a request form to be notified when the Microsoft Virtual Desktop preview becomes publicly available. I’m expecting a huge response. I bet Microsoft is, too.

February 12, 2019  3:25 PM

Win10 Alternate Update History Sources

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

Because yesterday was “Patch Tuesday” I went to check Update history that morning. After clicking Start → Settings → Update & Security → Windows Update → View update history, I got nothing. Zip, zilch, nada, in other words. Some quick online research showed me that this happens sometimes with 1809. And that’s what set me haring off after Win10 alternate update history sources. Luckily, I found two pretty good ones without too much effort: one through the command line, another in Control Panel. But first, here’s what I saw (or rather, didn’t see) in Settings, etc.:

Win10 Alternate Update History Sources.noinfo

I had to draw a border around the image so you could see “a whole lotta nothin’!”

Two Good Win10 Alternate Update History Sources, Revealed

Source one comes from the command line, and works with equal facility in PowerShell or cmd.exe. Simply type the string wmic qfe list and you’ll see a list of all updates applied on the host PC. For the incurably curious, wmic is the Windows Management Instrumentation Class, and qfe provides the data related to quickfix engineering. Here’s what that looks like in PowerShell:

Win10 Alternate Update History Sources.wmic

This command string shows you all currently installed updates including an info URL, host PC name, description, KB number, install date, and more. Helpful, but cryptic.
[Click image for full-sized view.]

Control Panel, Programs & Features is another place to find this kind of info. In that window click the item that reads “View installed updates” at the upper left, and you’ll see a windows that shows all currently installed updates on the target PC. Here’s what that looks like:

Win10 Alternate Update History Sources.inst-upd

This widget shows you more than WMIC, because it includes security updates (Adobe Player), Silverlight stuff, Visual C++ redistributables, and even Office updates (if you’ve installed Office standalone, this PC has a 365 E3 subscription).

The moral of the story is that if Windows 10 won’t tell you something one way, there’s almost always another way to get the information you want or need. All you have to do is figure out how to get it. Fortunately, that turned out to be pretty darn easy … this time.

February 11, 2019  1:40 PM

Meet PowerShell Core 6.0

Ed Tittel Ed Tittel Profile: Ed Tittel

On January, 10, 2018, MS augmented the PowerShell capabilities built into Windows 10 and Windows Server 2016 with an external version. Called PowerShell Core 6.0, it’s cross-platform version of PowerShell that works on Windows, macOS, and Linux. It’s also open source, built for multi-OS environments and the cloud. You can meet PowerShell Core 6.0 through posts on the PowerShell Team Blog, or grab Windows and/or Linux/macOS versions for download.

Meet PowerShell Core 6.0, Contrast with Built-in PowerShell

The built-in version is the same one that’s been around for the past decase or so. It depends on the .NET framework, which is why it only works on Windows. Released version numbers for PowerShell include 1.0, 2.0, 3.0, 4.0, 5.0 and 5.1 (the most current version in the latest Win10 is 5.1.17763.134). This version launches as powershell. exe, and uses the .NET Framework runtime to support C# cmdlets, invocation of station .NET methods, and so forth. It is still supported via bug fixes in newest releases of Win10 and Windows Server.

PowerShell Core is a different animal. It runs on top of the inherently cross-platform code base called .NET core. It launches as pwsh.exe in Windows and as pwsh on Linux and macOS. PowerShell Core is limited to functionality in .NET Core and .NET Standard. PowerShell Core works on Windows desktop versions 7, 8.1, and 10, Server versions 2008 R2, 2012 R2, and 20016, Ubuntu 14.04, 16.04, and 17.04, Debian 8.7+ and 9, CentOS 7, RHEL 7, OpenSuse 42.2, Fedora 25 and 26, and macOS 10.12 and higher-numbered versions. Other unofficial packages support various other Linux distributions (Arch, Kali and AppImage) and Windows on ARM32/ARM64 or Raspbian (Stretch). The best way to dig into what’s new, cool and interesting in PowerShell Core 6.0 is to read What’s New In PowerShell Core 6.0 (or 6.1).

On Windows 5.1 and 6.1 run happily side-by-side

This screen capture shows 5.1 and 6.2 preview running happily in separate windows on my 1809 production PC.Meet PowerShell Core 6.0

The color scheme for Core PowerShell is different from that for .NET/built-in PowerShell and makes them easy to distinguish.
[Click image for full-sized view.]

If you work in multi-OS computing environments, chances are pretty high that at least some of those other OSes are a Linux variant and/or macOS. Across many important such options, plus Windows, PowerShell Core has you covered. You owe yourself to check this out!

February 4, 2019  10:51 AM

So Long Venue Pro 11

Ed Tittel Ed Tittel Profile: Ed Tittel
Beta Testing, Test systems, Windows 10

Over the weekend, all attempts to upgrade the Dell Venue Pro 11 7130 to Windows 10 Insider Pro failed. Even Kari Finn’s clever trick of deploying an image with drivers pre-injected during a clean install (see this January 30 Win10.Guru blog post for details) didn’t stand the test of repeated use. The machine kept crashing with a WDF_VIOLATION green screen. We knew some Intel driver had to be at fault, but couldn’t find a fix or workaround. Then things got more interesting: even a clean install of the latest 1809 ISO failed, with the same error. That’s when I knew it was time to say, so long Venue Pro 11.

Why Say So Long Venue Pro 11

For me, problem-solving and troubleshooting eventually come down to a matter of time. When the time to address issues exceeds the value of services provided, it’s time to throw in the towel. Bullheadedness and curiosity kept Kari and I beavering away at this failing PC longer than common sense dictated. But now I have to say “enough is enough” and move on. I’ll be contacting my good buddy Ken Starks at Reglue, and asking him over to pick up the machine. His organization repurposes older PCs. It installs Linux, and gives them to under-served and -privileged school kids in the Austin area. Over the years, I’ve given him at least half a dozen laptops and a similar number of desktops. Also, lots of spare parts and a bit of cash here and there. I know it all goes to a good cause.

So Long Venue Pro 11.x220T

Shoot! I’ve got plenty of older laptops laying around, so I tapped my Lenovo X220 Tablet, purchased in October, 2011.
If you could read the Winver output on-screen, it says Build 18329.1.

After the Venue Pro, Then What?

I’ve been running Windows 10 on my two 2011 vintage ThinkPad laptops since the OS went public in August 2015. I don’t take the smaller screen X220 Tablet on the road much any more. Thus, I figured it would make a good Insider Preview machine. It’s got a Sandy Bridge i7-2640M CPU, 16 GB RAM, an older Plextor 256 GB SSD, and a second SATA 120 GB SSD as its data drive. My son won’t use it because he’s says it’s “too slow, and the screen is too small.” But I still find it capable and usable, and I like its touch screen, too.

After the recent experiences with the Venue Pro 11 I was concerned a machine that was 2-3 years older might also suffer driver or compatibility issues. I had absolutely no problem upgrading to the latest Insider Preview (18329.1) and the machine runs as well and capably as ever. I am expecting to acquire a couple of new laptops later this year. At that point I may revisit these venerable ThinkPads (my son wants us to buy “The Beast” version of the X1 Extreme for around $3150). Mr. Stark may be making another house call this summer!

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 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

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 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

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