R.I.P. Cortana

Well that was quick!  A mere four to five years after introduction, Microsoft has banished its digital assistant Cortana to its “dustbin” of history.  I don’t know about you but I never took much of a liking to its capabilities (very linited IMO) within Windows 10.

According to Gizmodo.com, it appears that Microsoft will most defer to Amazon’s Alexa when it comes to providing smart assistant capabilities.

Check out their article here as well as ones from TheVerge.com here and WindowsCentral.com here.

A day in the life of a Windows 10 user looking to upgrade…

I can truly appreciate the time and effort it took for this user to describe in detail her Windows 10 version upgrade experience…

Courtesy of AskWoody.com:

Last weekend, I decided to bite the bullet and update a Win10-1803 Pro machine to Win10-1809, using Windows Update. I’d taken a system image backup, and as it wasn’t my production machine, I wasn’t too worried.

This machine is under a year old, a purchase necessary when a hardware failure put paid to my trusty Win7 Pro laptop. It allows me to work more than I can manage at my desktop, and does most of the hard yards online, especially here.

Windows Update installed 1809 x64 2019-10B – this was before Woody changed MS-Defcon from 4 to 2. It took 20 minutes to Prepare to Install, and nearly 2 hours to download, and several hours to install.

Needless to say, it didn’t go to plan… The first indication of a problem was after several hours of installing, when a blue screen appeared bearing the words “Stopcode” and “Bad Pool Header”. It restarted, still on 1803, pending install. It continued installing. Eventually it restarted, and I was able to see KB 4521862 and KB 4519338 had installed – along with a bunch of drivers being updated, when the Pro settings were not to download drivers from Windows. I also noticed I hadn’t had to reset the Metered Connection settings to allow the update to download!

After it finished its update, it wasn’t working properly. It looked fairly normal, but restarting started problems – none of the visible desktop items actually worked – not the Start button, any of the TaskBar icons, or anything other than the Ctrl>Alt>Del routine.

I tried Sign Out. It took ages. It caused a loop of: Hi; We’re getting everything ready for you; This might take several minutes – don’t turn off your PC (that part remained until it got to Hi again); Leave everything to us; Windows stays up to date to help protect you in an online world; Making sure your apps are good to go; It’s taking a bit longer than expected, but we’ll get there as fast as we can. This loop took 5 minutes to restart, again, and again, and again.

It had been over 12 hours since the process started at this point. As I had to do my day job, I just left it chugging away in the background while I got on with earning an income. Over 5 hours later, it finally came up for air – a desktop, but still not functioning.

Along the way, I saw various errors:
Error 0x80072EE7
The gpsvc service failed the sign-in – access is denied
windows\system32\config\systemprofile\desktop is unavailable

To add to my woes, it wanted to restart itself again, where it re-entered the 5+ hour loop. I still had work to get done, so I just let it be. No stopcodes this time, but still it didn’t work.

I couldn’t access safe mode, even with Recovery Tool USB access. Start Up Repair “couldn’t fix [the] PC”. Using the Recovery Tool, I was able to access the Command Prompt, where SFC /SCANNOW reported “Not enough memory resources are available to process this command” the first time, and then, after it went through 100%, “Windows Resource Protection could not perform the requested operation”. Attempting to use Restore Points was another failure – they were listed, but “unavailable”.

At this time, I decided it was time to try to restore the system image. Again, the gpsvc error. Apparently there had been some issue prior to the update attempt? I had to put it aside for a few days, until I got time to address it properly. By this stage, I was heading for an ISO file on a USB stick. This laptop now needs to be reset from the ground up, going back over all the metered connection, deferred updates, Customer Experience, Start Menu apps settings etc. etc. etc. – and I’m sure there’ll be something important I forget!

Having got the ISO installed, I was able to run SFC / SCANNOW and DISM /Online /Cleanup-Image /RestoreHealth. All 100% clear, thank goodness.

There are only 5-6 programs to reinstall. If this had been a production machine, I’d have dozens of programs to have to reinstall. It’s still going to take another day or two until I get it back to normal, as I have other things I need to prioritize. If I’m a bit cranky this weekend, you now know why!

I’m really lucky I have a wealth of knowledge, support and expertise here at my disposal. A normal home user would have ended up paying for professional technical support, and if it had been my production machine, would have resulted in a loss of chargeable hours. I’m counting my blessings!

 

Windows 10 “End of Life” revamp

So I saw a tweet from the great Prajwal Desai asking the question as to why Windows 10 version 1903 will reach “end of life” status before version 1809…

 

The answer?  Apparently Microsoft decided that all Windows 10 feature upgrades released in the spring will have a shelf life of 18 months regardless of what edition is installed compared to a 30 month shelf life for Windows 10 upgrades released in the fall.

I must admit: my initial reaction to this news was WTF?!?!  The response from Microsoft is that in keeping in line with their “___as a service” strategy, “spring” upgrades are now to be looked at as the version that introduces more and newer features while the “fall” upgrades will now serve more as a refinement of the previous version.

Who knows if this is going to be a winner in Microsoft’s eyes but to me it seems that the only thing that has been consistent about the servicing of Windows 10 is the consistency!

 

 

Big update release out of nowhere

So AskWoody.com is reporting that Microsoft has released over 50 security updates out of the blue aimed that fixing the numerous issues stemming from the previous update cycles.  Needless to say that the last couple of months has been disastrous from a patching perspective.

Check out the details here and let us know what you have been experiencing in the environments you’re managing.

Managing Windows 10 Updates Revised

Over the past couple of years, Ed Bott of ZDNet.com has done an awesome job of breaking down how Windows 10 gets updates which is all a part of Microsoft’s new updating philosophy.  To his credit, he has not hesitated when he feels that past practice has changed to the point that the masses should be notified in “layman’s terms” and not “Microsoft speak”.

This has led to all new recommendations on how to approach the installation of optional updates in Windows 10 resulting from the latest version 1903 release.

Even though I may have posted his original piece in a previous post, check out the most updated one here for the full scoop on what’s recommended from here on out.  That is until Microsoft decides to change things yet again!

Speed up Windows 10

So I had a friend of mine ask earlier this week what could be done to maintain a high level of performance or speed up Windows 10 on his office PCs and rattled off numerous suggestions that could help the cause (i.e. keep installed programs to a minimum, have a good amount of available HDD/SSD space, keeping it free of infections, etc.)

It just so happens that as I’m browsing one of my favorite tech news sites, I come across an article detailing the ways that can help a Windows 10 user speed up their PC.

Check it out here and let me know if you see a difference in performance on your PCs!

Time Machine Backups for Windows OSs

While doing some casual browsing about all things tech, I came across a post discussing a software package that can pretty much be looked at as “System Restore” on steroids.  Enter RollBack Rx…it has also been dubbed as the Time Machine Backup-like solution for Windows.

Check out the details here and I’ll be sure to test out the software for myself!

“Once a year” Windows 10 feature updates

So it seems that Microsoft has finally gotten the message that it is too burdensome to expect users (especially business ones) to install these large feature updates!

Without taking into account what will happen with “19H2”, it can be expected that Microsoft will release Windows 10 feature updates every Spring and will do away with the fall update.

 

Patching change for Windows 10 version 1903

For the past few years as an SCCM admin, I have become accustomed to Microsoft’s semi-annual release of the latest version of Windows 10 and patching it is usually seamless and does not require making any changes to WSUS / SCCM.

However, it seems that Microsoft has made a significant change starting with version 1903 and beyond, system administrators of WSUS / SCCM must select “Windows 10, version 1903 or later” in order for those systems running it to be updated.  See Microsoft’s announcement here.

Special shout out to Bryan Dam (damgoodadmin.com) and Mary Jo Foley (ZDNet.com) for bringing this to the attention of the masses.  Saves me a support call to Microsoft that’s for sure!

Windows 10 version 1903 is here!

Fresh off the press from Microsoft’s Joe Lurie announcing on the TechCommunity website that the latest version of Windows 10 is here!

I’m happy to announce that Windows 10, version 1903 is now available through Windows Server Update Services (WSUS) and Windows Update for Business, and will be able to be downloaded today from Visual Studio Subscriptions, the Software Download Center (via Update Assistant or the Media Creation Tool), and the Volume Licensing Service Center[i]. Today marks the start of the servicing timeline for this Semi-Annual Channel release, and we recommend that you begin rolling out Windows 10, version 1903 in phases across your organization—validating that your apps, devices, and infrastructure work well with this new release before broad deployment.

Click here to view the full post for more details!