Microsoft Introduces Surface Book 2

If you thought Surface was just a passing fancy, think again…

Surface-Book-2-696x429

I’ve always been a HUGE fan of Microsoft Signature PC’s. They are, in my opinion, the best Windows experience that you can buy. They don’t have any extra crap on them that would take away from or distract you from your computing purpose. It’s one of the reasons why I really like Microsoft Surface PC’s as well.

Over the past five or so years, I’ve had an original Surface Pro, a Surface Pro 3 and a Surface Book. The combination of the devices features – like the touch screens and pens – have made the Surface line one that I find very valuable, especially in a corporate setting. The Surface Pro and the Surface Book are both perfect for Microsoft OneNote and for a number of different business applications, including custom sales and invoicing apps as well as process and business flow.

Recently, Microsoft released an update to their Surface Book line, and this update, is squarely aimed at not only the creative professional, but the enterprise as well. The Surface Book 2 now comes in both its original 13 inch size, but also a new, 15 inch version. The new size, paired with Intel’s eight generation Core i processor and better graphics hardware also enables Microsoft’s Mixed Reality Headsets.

Like its earlier iterations, the Surface Book 2 has put the bulk of its processing power in the tablet. The keyboard houses both the extra battery and the new Nvidia graphics cards. The 13″ version has an optional Nvidia GeForce 1050 and the 15″ gets a GeForce 1060 by default. Both are mainstream gaming graphics cards and a big step up from what the Surface Book was previously equipped with.

The following are basic specs for both versions of the Surface Book 2.

 

 

Surface Book 2 – 13″ Surface Book 2 15″
Processor Intel 8th-gen Core i5 (dual-core) or i7 (quad-core) U-series processors Intel 8th-gen Core i7 U-series processors
Display 13.5-inch 3,000×2,000-pixel display 15-inch 3,240×2,160-pixel display
Graphics Nvidia GeForce GTX 1050 GPU

(Core i7 version only)

Nvidia GeForce GTX 1060 GPU
USB Ports 2x USB-A 3.1 ports

1x USB-C 3.1 port

2x USB-A 3.1 ports

1x USB-C 3.1 port

Card Reader SDXC card reader SDXC card reader
RAM 8GB or 16GB RAM 16GB RAM
Storage 256GB, 512GB or 1TB SSD storage 256GB, 512GB or 1TB SSD storage
Intel 8th-gen Core i5 (dual-core) or i7 (quad-core) U-series processors Intel 8th-gen Core i7 U-series processors

When it comes to augmented reality, both of these convertibles are in good shape to perform well. Both work well with Microsoft’s Pen and the Fall Creators Update version of Windows 10. You can, for example, create a file in Microsoft’s Paint 3D and then drop it into a real word situation, capturing everything with the device’s 8MP, rear-facing camera. The only problem that you’re going to have here, when trying to hook into AR headsets is the lack of an HDMI port, though you shouldn’t have any real concerns with performance of the box or its graphics adapters. According to recent test results, both versions of the Surface Book 2 can be taken seriously as gaming machines, which is kinda cool.

Microsoft is also releasing a new mouse, called the Surface Precision Mouse. It’s got a more traditional design than either the original Surface Mouse or the Surface Arc Mouse. It also includes a set of programmable left side buttons; and supports both wired USB and wireless Bluetooth connectivity. As of this writing, pricing for these devices has not been released, though you should expect them to fall somewhere between $50 and $80 USD.

Microsoft is putting the Surface Book 2 directly against the new Apple MacBook Pro. According to Microsoft, the Surface Book 2 is a much better performer. There may be some truth to this, as the Apple MacBook Pros are still using previous generation Core Intel processor. Pricing for the new Microsoft Surface Book2 starts at $1499 USD for the 13 inch version and $2499 for the 15″ version.

In my opinion, pricing for the Surface Book line has always been a bit on the high side. As I previously stated, Microsoft is clearly targeting the Surface Book 2 at Apple’s MacBook Pro. The problem that I have with this pricing strategy is that the MacBook Pro is a clearly well established, top performing machine with a long history of top notch components and high price tags.

Microsoft doesn’t have any of these precedent, with any version of the Surface Book. The device has had what I would consider to be a mediocre performance history, especially with all of the issues that were first encountered with the original Surface Book and its ROM problems.

This update is also mostly what I would call an evolutionary update rather than any update of note. Surface Book with Performance Base, released earlier this year, put a better graphics card in the keyboard along with the extra battery. It also bumped the price up quite a bit.

The Surface Book 2 offers a new processor and a new graphics card; but the fact that it also offers a new 15″ screen size takes this device to a completely new level, in my opinion. It clearly brings the Surface Book up into a better class of computing device, and may actually make the larger price tag, a bit more reasonable. To be honest, we’re going to have to wait and see on that one, though. The a5″ version is new. It’s a completely different device than the 13″ version, with different components and different drivers; and Microsoft has always had an issue with drivers and components when it comes to Windows, regardless of version. So this clearly falls in the wait and see category…

Is Surface Book 2 something that you’re interested in? Will it be a convertible that you pursue or keep your eye on as a potential work tool? I’d love to hear what you plan to do. Why don’t you give me your thoughts in the Discussion area below?

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Immediately Speed Up Windows 10

Make an instant impact on your Windows 10 PC’s performance with this must do tweak

If there’s one thing that I know, and know pretty well, it’s that Windows machines nearly always operate below their potential. Windows has a tendency to be a bit of a memory pig. One has only to look at Windows Vista and the performance hit that its version Aero brought to the OS to realize this is the case, and that in the last 10 years SINCE Windows Vista, things haven’t changed too much. Unfortunately, Windows performance hits have just changed their area of impact and haven’t been completely eliminated.

Thankfully, this doesn’t have to be the end of it. You can have a well performing Windows machine without spending an arm and a leg; and that’s important. To be honest, just because you spend a lot of money on a Windows computer – like on a Surface Book, Surface Laptop or Surface Book – doesn’t mean that you’re going to get a lightning fast machine. Depending on the hardware’s specs – and the way you have it configured – even the expensive ones can suffer from poor performance. If your PC is also maxed out as far as the amount RAM is can support, this is even a bigger problem, because, while more RAM can always make things better, your PC has all that it can handle.

However, there are a couple things that you can do to help resolve this, giving YOUR PC, regardless of its cost or specs, the best chance for optimization. If you follow the steps I’ve outlined below, you WILL see a performance bump on your PC, period.

The biggest performance hit to any Windows machine lies in the settings for the following:

• Performance Settings
• Start Up and Recovery Settings

Performance Settings
To adjust these settings, you’ll need to open up Advanced System Properties on your Windows 10 machine. The easiest way to do this is to

1. Click the Start button
2. In the search bar type, “Advanced System Settings,” and press the enter key. The Advanced Systems Settings Dialog box should appear.

Advanced System Settings

 

This how to is going to assume that you’re going to sacrifice most of the eye candy and frills that Windows provides in order to boost your PC’s operating performance. To adjust performance settings, including visual effects, processor scheduling, memory usage and virtual memory, do the following:

1. Click the Settings button in the Performance section.
2. On the Visual Effects tab, click the Adjust for best performance radio button. All the eye candy is going to go when you choose this option. If you simply HAVE to have a couple things back, go into the list and click the stuff that you can’t live without. Please remember that when you do this, you’re going to burn RAM.

Visual Effects

3. Click the Advanced tab. In the Processor scheduling section you can adjust your PC’s performance to give processor precedence to either programs or background services. This is either going to make your apps run faster, or make the stuff that happens behind the scenes run faster. Both will speed up your PC. You just need to decide what’s more important to you – the apps you run or the services they run in the background.

Click the appropriate radio button to make your choice.

Advanced

4. In the Virtual memory section, you can control the size of your swap file. Click the Change button in the Virtual memory section. Here your best bet is to let Windows manage everything, but if you absolutely HAVE to tweak the settings, this is the place to do it.

5. In the Data Execution Prevention tab, you can configure how DEP works. Data Execution Prevention protects your data and PC against damage from viruses and other malware. You can turn DEP on for all apps except the ones you specify.

DEP

Startup and Recovery
To update settings related to how your computer starts up or recovers after a system failure, click the Settings button in the Startup and Recovery section. The resulting dialog box has two sections

1. System Startup
2. System Failure

System Startup
The System Startup section allows you to set delay times for system startup when the normal startup process is interrupted and errors out. If the system restarts after a bad shutdown, or if you have a more than one OS installed on your machine, you get to determine the amount of time a recovery or boot screen displays. The default time is 30 seconds.

System Failure
When your system craps out and shuts down unexpectedly, sometimes it will auto reboot, especially if the Automatically restart checkbox is selected. If you’re not careful, you can get yourself into an unrecoverable boot loop with this option. Its best to leave this option unchecked.

Startup

Conclusion
It’s not uncommon for Windows computers to run into performance issues, regardless of how expensive or powerful they are. If you want to resolve those issues, it’s really not all that problematic or troublesome. All you need to do is bring up the Advanced System Properties dialog box on your PC. After a few tweaks, you should see marked speed and performance improvement on your computer.

Setting your computer up to run at its best possible speeds is really nothing more than just a few clicks away.

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How to Fix Windows 10 Memory Leaks

Windows 10 can sometimes use more RAM than it actually needs. Here’s how to resolve that issue…

Introduction
Ove the years, I’ve noticed that the more you do with your computer, the more RAM you need. Now, that statement likely isn’t surprising for anyone. I mean, it makes perfect sense. If you wanna do more, you’re gonna need more – RAM, processing power, hard drive space – you’re gonna need more. It’s really just that simple.

However, with RAM, Windows has cleanup procedures that often take RAM that was used by one app, but is no longer needed and “cleans it up,” returning it to a larger, common “pool” of memory that any and every application can take needed memory resources from. Unfortunately, this clean up process doesn’t always work correctly, and in some cases, applications can grab RAM and not give it back. These applications don’t manage memory correctly, and continue to consume more and more RAM until you either run out, start using virtual memory (in the form of your swap file growing in size) or until you notice the performance of your PC tanking. It’s this type of memory “leak” that is often a problem for many PC users.

If you find yourself in that last category, don’t worry… you’re not alone. Windows has a history of memory leaks that go back to the earliest days of Windows. Some people will tell you that – depending on the app or applet – Windows versions from 3.x to Windows 95 to Windows Vista, heck even Windows 10, can leak like a sieve.

Fortunately, there ARE things you can do to better manage your resources. Let’s take a look at a few of them.

I Forget What Kinds of Memory my Computer Uses
I get this all the time… many folks don’t know or understand the difference between the different kinds of memory their computers use. So, here, very quickly, is a rundown of the different types of memory a computer uses.

• RAM
RAM stands for Random Access Memory. This is the type of memory that your computer uses to actively think. Its where the OS and other running applications and actively used data are stored and accessed by the PC’s processor(s). It’s different from storage or other kinds of memory (like SD cards) that are used to store data. Once this type of memory loses power, any and all information stored there is lost.

Depending on the type of application or program that is running, your computer may request more and more RAM. As programs end processes or terminate (close or exit), RAM is released back to the operating system where it can be reused by other applications, programs and processes.

Depending on how many applications you have running (as well as the type, as noted above), it is possible for you to run out of available RAM. Your computer can then use any available hard drive or SSD space as “virtual memory,” through a file called a “swap” file. Virtual memory allows you to do more with the limited amount of RAM that you have, but the process slows down your PC, as your computer has to write the information it needs to your storage space, but then read it back when that information is needed.

• Storage
This is your hard drive or SSD; or even in some cases, an SD card or other external storage device. This is where data can be permanently written to and read from. This is where your documents and data – like your pictures, videos and other content – are stored and viewed.

The amount of space available here is almost always larger than your available amount of RAM, and despite the speed of your hard drive or SSD, is nearly always slower than the RAM your PC has. The upside is that you can store a great deal of information here, without fear of it being lost after the power on your PC is turned off. The downside, as I mentioned, is that its slower than the RAM of your PC. Depending on the demands of your computing activities, it’s possible that your PC may need to read and write information to and from your storage faster than your storage can keep up. In cases like this – with large picture or video editing tasks, for example – your storage device can create a bottle neck, requiring you to wait for the hard drive to “catch up” with the needs of your microprocessor.

• VRAM
VRAM or video RAM is a special type of memory that is often directly hard wired to your computer’s graphics card. In the cases where your PC has integrated graphics (instead of a dedicated and separate graphics card), VRAM is simulated by the graphics processor. Your GPU will segregate a set amount or set amount range of available RAM specifically for graphics processing on your computer.

Dedicated VRAM is nearly always faster (or at least as fast) as your PC’s RAM. When your computer’s integrated graphics processor simulates VRAM from available RAM, the amount available to the rest of your PC’s OS and running applications is reduced.

Memory Leaks and How to Plug Them
So, what exactly is a memory “leak?”

A memory leak refers to a loss of available memory to the operating system. Available memory continually decreases due to programs and processes not releasing it back when they are done. Memory continuously gets allocated and is never reusable by the OS or any applications. The lack of available memory causes the PC to use virtual memory, taking up hard drive space. The result is a slower computer.

Several experts in popular forums have identified the Windows 10 system process notskrnl.exe as a major cause of memory leaks, and since memory leaks are software related – and software can change – this is a temporary problem.

Thankfully, there’s a quick fix for all of this. You can use Windows Task Manager to determine what processes and program as using more memory than any other app or process, or they reasonably should. For example, if you open Task Manager, and find that a program like Notepad, for example, is consuming 50% of all of your RAM, it’s a pretty good sign that it has a memory leak.

To check for a memory leak, follow these steps:

1. Open Task Manager
a. Right click the Task Bar
b. Select Task manager from the context menu that appears, OR
c. Press CTRL-Shift-Esc
2. Click More Details
3. Click the Processes tab
4. Click the header in the memory column twice to sort by memory usage

Check the amounts of RAM being used. If you see an app that’s got a disproportionate amount of your RAM being used, it’s a candidate for a memory leak. Possible causes of a memory leak include malware infections, outdated drivers, and just buggy software.

Stopping Memory Leaks
Stopping memory leaks takes a bit of doing; but it’s not hard. Once you figure it out, it’s fairly easy. However, getting it right is hard. There are two basic ways to do this – updating your drivers and programs, and disabling startup items.

Updating your Drivers
If your earlier versions of Windows were running well and you started noticing memory leaks after you upgraded your PC to Windows 10, it’s very probable that Windows 10 and the current version of your peripherals or PC ‘s drivers don’t work and play well together. The best thing to do here, is to check for updates and then install those updates. There are a couple of ways to accomplish this.

Update your drivers via Device Manager
Despite Windows 10 redesigned user interface, it’s still possible to get access to Device Manager.

To get access to Device Manager, follow these steps

1. Click the Start button and then type the term, “device manager” into Cortana’s search bar. When Windows locates what you’re looking for, press enter. Device manager will open
2. From Device Manager, search for your custom peripherals.
3. Click the arrow to the left of the peripheral.
4. From the expanded category, find the device’s driver and right click it.
5. Click Update Driver from the context menu that appears.
6. On the following screens, follow the instructions for downloading an update to your component’s drivers.

Download Drivers via the Web
Many of the peripherals that you buy will have either a CD or other media that contains the drivers you need to run your new computer gadget; or will have a link for you to download an install file.

The best way to get the latest version of your gadget’s drivers is to visit the manufacturer’s website and download the latest version driver.

Disable Startup Programs
The other way to get rid of memory leaks on your PC is to disable startup programs. If the bad app has a startup component, you can disable it.

To disable startup programs on your PC, follow these steps

1. Open Task Manager
a. Right click the Task Bar
b. Select Task manager from the context menu that appears, OR
c. Press CTRL-Shift-Esc
2. Click More Details
3. Click the Startup tab
4. Click on the startup program you wish to disable.
5. Click the Disable button.
6. Repeat for any other desired program(s) you wish to disable
7. Restart your PC.

With the apps disabled, they won’t load when your PC starts, thus removing any memory leak that may exist.

Conclusion
Windows 10 can be an awesome operating system. However, it’s not without its issues. Its memory management is better than in previous versions of Windows, but it’s not infallible.

Windows still relies on drivers and other apps to help you get work done. Application developers are not all created equally, either. Some of them are obviously better than others, and it’s very possible that you can bump into a badly written, not very well behaved application or utility. When that happens, it’s very possible that you’re headed for a memory leak.

While this can be bad, it’s not the end of the world. Resolving memory leaks is simply a matter of removing the offending app or process. It may take a bit of investigation, but is not too difficult.

I’ve given you some really easy to follow steps for a few solid methods for plugging memory leaks. Eliminating leaks will help keep your PC running at its peak performance capabilities.

Have you noticed your PC acting strangely? Have you noticed performance issues when you run specific applications or utilities; or perhaps after you installed a new application? If you started noticing performance issues after you visited a new internet site, you may have contracted some malware. Assuming that this is NOT the case, then giving my advice a go, can and likely will restore your PC to its former performance glories.

If you’ve had a memory leak that you’ve plugged, I’d love to hear about it. Why don’t you meet me in the Discussion area below, and tell me all about it?

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Top Privacy Settings for Windows 10

In light of all the new malware out there, you should check and update your Windows 10 privacy settings…

Introduction
If there’s one thing that really gets my dander up, its malware. Saying that it drives me a bit nuts is an understatement. I work too hard to keep my PC running as fast and efficiently as it can. I don’t need some random jerk ruining my work simply because they want to make a quick buck.

All that being said, Windows is one of the biggest malware traps in the world. It runs on nearly every enterprise PC ever deployed, and runs the majority of consumer PCs as well. There are some things that you can do to protect yourself, though; and quite honestly, you should do them. I’ve run into malware before, and its not fun. If you want to protect yourself, follow the advice I’ve given in those two linked articles. You can further protect yourself by adjusting some privacy settings in Windows 10.

While you may not want to do all of these, if you implement them all, you’re likely going to lock yourself down pretty tightly. At that point, you shouldn’t have too much to worry about. However, please note that if you implement all of these, you’re going to shut down some pretty useful Window 10 features. You have to balance your need for privacy with your need for safety. In the end, this is all on you…

Shut Down Cortana
Cortana is only your best friend in the world when she knows nearly everything about you. The more she knows, the more she can do. However, the more she knows, the more your data is “out there.” Cortana interacts with you via voice and through the searches you do when you type questions or search criteria into Windows 10’s search box located on the Task Bar.

You can stop Cortana from getting to know you by following the steps I’ve outlined below. However, if you do this, there are going to be a few repercussions:
1. You won’t be able to speak to Cortana any longer. When you turn her off, you totally get the “talk to the hand” experience from her.
2. She forgets all of the information that she had been gathering on you. If you later change your mind and wish to turn Cortana back on, you’ll be building your relationship from scratch again.

To turn off Cortana,
1. Go to Settings – Privacy – Speech, inking and typing.
2. Under Getting to know you, tap the Turn off speech services and typing suggestions button
3. Under Manage cloud info, tap the Manage my voice data that’s stored in the cloud with my Microsoft Account, link and clear all the data that Cortana has stored on you

Please remember that Cortana remembers all of your data as part of OneDrive. Keeping that information out of potentially prying eyes may be important to you. If you don’t want information on your stored in the cloud, this last step is important.

Turn off Location Services
Location Services are used by your Windows 10 device to help locate you geographically. Yes, this means GPS services are being used on your Windows 10 laptop. There are a number of different apps and security settings that that will use Location Services. Maps and Weather are probably the most obvious of these.

If you’re not using a Windows 10 Mobile device (and to be honest, I don’t know of ANYONE who is…), this means that unless your Windows 10 PC has a cellular connection (some do, some don’t…), your actual location and its accuracy is managed by Wi-Fi, though even in a mobile data world, anyone with a smartphone will tell you that your device and its location services will complain to no end when Wi-Fi is turned off.

When your device does report its location, Windows 10 keeps track of that for up to 24 hours and allows apps with permission to access the location and any related or associated data. When and if you turn off location services, apps and services that require that information won’t be able to function properly. In those cases, you may have to manually set your location.

To manage Location Services, follow these steps:

1. Go to Settings – Privacy – Location
2. Under Location,
a. Under Location service, slide the On/ Off slider off to turn Location Services completely off
b. To manage Location Services for your device, tap the Change button and change the position of the One/ Off slider
3. Under Default location,
a. To manage your device’s Default location, the Set default button. This will bring up Maps.
b. Follow the instructions on setting your device’s default location.
4. Under Location history
a. To clear the location history maintained on your device, tap the Clear button under, Clear history on this device.
5. To manage apps that use Location Services
Those apps that make use of Location Services will be listed in the, “Choose apps that can use your precise location” section.
a. Review this list of apps
b. Tap the slider of those apps you wish to change the service status of.
c. Turning an app on will allow that app to use your location while it runs. It may also leave a service stub running in the background so that it always has location specific data for you
d. Turning an app off will prevent that app from using location specific data.
e. Cortana’s use of Location Services can be managed in the Speech, inking and typing section of Privacy.
6. Action Center Settings
a. The Action Center by default has a toggle for turning Location Services on and off.
i. Display the Action Center
ii. Tap the Location Services tile to turn Location off.
iii. Tap it again to turn it on.

Stop Synchronization Services
Windows 10 synchs with a number of different services. If you sign into Windows 10 with your Microsoft Account, your settings, including your passwords, may be synched across a number of Windows 10 devices. If you turn off synching, your settings and passwords won’t be synched to your other devices, and the unified experience that Microsoft is trying to perpetuate throughout its OS, regardless of type, brand or vendor, is seriously deprecated.

There are two ways to handle this. You’ll need to insure that you’re connected to the internet as well. Once connected, you can stop synching entirely, or you can toggle the sync settings for an individual app. To adjust these settings, you need to visit the Settings page for Sync.

To adjust your synchronization settings, follow these steps:

1. Go to Settings – Accounts – Sync your settings
2. Under Sync Settings, you can turn sync on or off. Turning it off will turn it off for all services.
3. If you wish to control sync for specific items, under Individual sync settings, you can control
a. Theme
b. Internet Explorer Settings
c. Passwords
d. Language Preferences
e. Ease of Access, and
f. Other Windows Settings

If you wish to turn off notification synching, open Cortana and go to Settings – Send notifications between devices. Here, you can toggle notification synching on or off. You can also edit your sync settings to manage your different signed in devices.

Lock Down your Lock Screen
One of the neatest things that Windows 10 can do is provide a customized lock screen on each of your devices. Depending on your privacy concerns, you can have some convenient information – like text messages or your next appointment – display on your lock screen. However, depending on your privacy concerns, you may not want to do that.

Guessing that this is likely the case, because who wants to have that kind of personal information just hangin’ out there for anyone who passes by your PC to see, you can actually prevent this information from displaying there, if you wish. In fact, there are likely three things that you don’t want appearing on your lock screen – however, most of them start and stop with your email address and your appointment notifications.

In order to secure your lock screen, you’re going to have to make changes in a few different places. To make changes to your Lock Screen, follow these steps:

1. Go to Settings – System – Notifications and actions
2. Turn off Show notifications on the lock screen

After you have done this, you’ll need to attend to Cortana, if you haven’t already. There are a couple of things to take care of here.

To turn off Cortana on your Lock Screen,

1. Go to Settings – Personalization – Lock screen
2. Click the link, Cortana lock screen settings
3. Cortana’s lock screen settings will pop up out of the Start Menu. Turn OFF the following items
a. Let Cortana respond to, “Hey Cortana.”
b. Use Cortana even when my device is locked
c. Send notifications and information between devices
4. Under Choose an app to show detailed status
a. Remove all icons. Tap them and choose None from the fly out menu

The downside to turning all of this off is that your device becomes localized to itself and Windows 10 loses some of its interconnected intelligence.

You can also hide your email address from the log-in screen. This will keep your email address away from unauthorized scrutiny.

To hid your email address on your log in screen,

1. Go to Settings – Accounts – Sign in options – Privacy
2. Turn off Show account details on sign in screen

This option really doesn’t have a downside to it. Not showing your email address on the lock screen doesn’t deprecate any functionality. This just keeps it away from prying eyes.

Turn off your advertising ID
Each Microsoft account has a unique advertising ID that Microsoft uses to collect information on you and your computing habits. It allows Microsoft to deliver a unique advertising experience to you across different platforms.

It’s annoying as hell.

If you sign in to Windows 10 with a Microsoft account, you’re going to get personalized ads following you all over your PC. You’ll see them in apps and even in the OS itself, like in the Start Menu. Thankfully, you can stop the madness and get off the advertising merry go round.

To turn off ads in Windows 10, follow these steps,

1. Go to Settings – Privacy – General
2. Turn off Let apps use advertising ID to make ads more interesting to your based on your app usage.

You may still see ads on your PC, but they won’t be personalized. Turning this feature off prevents personalized ads from polluting your Windows 10 computing experience. However, as I mentioned, it won’t keep you from seeing ads when you use your Microsoft Account on other platforms. If you wish to remove ads on other platforms as well, you can either use an ad blocking utility or you can head over to Microsoft’s advertising opt out page.

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Top Creator’s Update Issues and How to Fix Them

Here are the top problems with Microsoft’s Creator’s Update and the way to resolve them all…

The Creators Update is the latest update to Microsoft’s Windows 10. It’s the start of what Redmond says will be a biannual update to their desktop operating system. The Creators Update was released in April of 2017. The next update, the Fall Creators Update is scheduled to be released in September of 2017.

The new strategy behind Windows 10 is to release two major feature updates per year. Over the past few months, I’ve been doing a bit of research on the Creators Update; and it introduced a number of new features. With the implementation of new features and functionality, there are likely to be problems and issues. Some are easy to resolve. Others, take a bit more doing to resolve.

So, without any additional hullaballoo, here are the top Windows 10 issues and the best and easiest ways to resolve them.

The Update Doesn’t Download
If you’ve got the Anniversary Update – Version 1607 – then you’re a prime candidate for the Creators Update – Version 1703. However, it doesn’t always get to you when you want it or when you’re ready for it. Sometimes, it just seems like it doesn’t want to come down to your PC. If that’s true, there are a couple different things you can do, however, depending on your PC, you may be intentionally blocked due to a technical problem with your PC that hasn’t been patched yet.

If you can’t get the update, that may be the best thing. However, if you have to have it, you can do the following things:
Download the Windows 10 Update Assistant. It will pull down the Creators Update and upgraded your computer the ISO. There’s an ISO image. You’ll need to be a registered Windows Insider first, but you can still get it.

Windows Update gets Stuck
Similar things have happened to me with other updates. You wait for the update to come down and update your system; but while doing so, the update either stops coming, or it won’t actually update your system no matter how many times you’ve hit “Restart and update.” Unfortunately, Windows Update isn’t the best at what it does. When this happens, you’ll need to open the Command Prompt, with elevated privileges so you can execute some administrator level commands.

To get the Creators Update moving again, follow these steps:
At the command prompt, type,

net stop wuauserv

and hit enter. This will temporarily stop the Windows Update service.
Open up a Windows Explorer Window and navigate to C:\Windows\SoftwareDistribution. Delete any and all files you find in that folder. Do NOT delete the actual folder itself.
Go back to your Command Prompt. Type,

net start wuauserv

and hit enter. This will restart the Windows Update service on your PC.
Go back to Settings – Windows Update and have it look for updates again. It should find the Creators Update and start downloading it again.

Windows Defender Can’t Update
Nearly everything comes down as a result of Windows Update. This includes updates to Windows Defender and its malware definitions. Unfortunately, sometimes Windows Defender’s updates gets stuck, too. When that happens, you can do one of the following things to get things going again.

Try again.

Sometimes getting Defender updated just requires you to run Windows Update again. Pull the trigger again, and see if the updates come down all the way. If they do, you’re in business. If they don’t, move on to the next step.

1. Reset Windows Update
You can use the steps I noted above to kill Windows Update’s cache. If simply running Windows Update again doesn’t download new malware definitions for today, and you know you haven’t gotten them already, use the steps I noted above to stop Windows Update’s service, delete its cache files, and then restate the service
2. Malware Updates Windows Defender
Alternatively, you can manually download Windows Defender malware definitions from Microsoft here. Once you do, just run the .exe file, follow the prompts, and your Windows Defender is up to date.

Windows won’t Add New Users
Adding new user accounts to a single PC can be a big deal. Sometimes, you just have to share workstations. In some instances, Windows won’t let you add new users to an existing Windows 10 install when they don’t have Microsoft Accounts.

It’s unclear whether this is actually a bug or whether this is all part of Microsoft’s evil plan to take over the world. Any way you slice it, this is an issue, but don’t worry there’s an EASY resolution.

Turn off your internet connection.

If you’re using Wi-Fi, turn the adapter off. If you’re using an Ethernet connection, pull the cable. Either way, the lack of a connection to the internet is what you’re looking for. When Windows 10 can’t communication with the outside world, it will let you add a standard, local account without demanding that it be a Microsoft Account.

Please note that you won’t need to do this every time you want to add a local account. The only time you’ll need to kill your internet connection is if and when Windows 10 Creators Update won’t add the local account while you’re connected to the internet. Again, simply killing the internet connection will turn off Windows 10’s apparent need to be all Microsoft Account connected.

Windows Won’t Shut Down All the Way
Sometimes Microsoft goes out of its way not really NOT help itself. Such is the case with the Creators Update and some of its performance features. In some cases, the OS can’t get out of its own way. On rare occasions, installing the Creators Update may accidentally enable Windows Fast Startup option. Fast Startup puts your PC into a low-level hibernation state instead of actually shutting the PC down.

Fast Startup allows your computer to hibernate instead of actually, fully shutting it down. This can make turning the PC back on a lot faster, as the PC doesn’t have to go through its full startup procedures which may include a full POST.

This “benefit” may create startup problems as well as making it difficult to access your BIOS if you need to make adjustments or changes to boot sequences or other startup options. Thankfully, there’s an easy fix to this – you just need to disable hibernation through elevated permissions via the Command prompt.

To do this, follow these steps:

1. Open the Command Prompt in Administrator Mode
2. Type the following at the prompt –

powercfg /h off

3. This will disable hibernation system wide and should turn off fast startup.

A couple of normal restarts later, and you may be able to reverse this by typing

powercfg /h on

later. If you really need hibernation back, and have found that your PC now shuts down like it’s supposed to, turning this back on should be ok. If you find yourself in the same boat, turn hibernation back off by repeating the above commands.

Location Services won’t Turn Off
Location services are a big part of Windows 10; and they can, if not monitored correctly, use up a great deal of battery power. With early installations of the Creators Update, some users are reporting that the Update is causing Location Services to turn on and remain on, despite the fact that users have turned them “off.” Unfortunately, this is a bug in the OS, and its one that Microsoft is going to have to fix. Don’t worry… they’re get to it, eventually.

In the meantime, if you want to try to work around it, you can do the following.

1. Open Settings.
2. Click Privacy and navigate down to Location
3. Turn the feature off entirely.

This will turn off all location based updates Windows makes, but should resolve the issue and the potential battery drain. You’ll need to pay attention to the updates that Windows Update installs. If any of them update Windows Location Services, try turning Location Services back on to see if the issue is resolved

Gaming Mode Disables Night Light
It’s never fun when one feature implementation interferes with the functioning of another. Unfortunately, as I’ve learned over the years, this is just the way software works sometimes. In cases like these, you have to watch out and be careful.

Unfortunately, there are some instances where Microsoft’s new Gaming Mode can interfere with another new feature, Night Light. Night Light is a blue light filter system that diminishes the amount of blue light your screen emits at night time. The thought here is that if Windows can automatically warm your PC’s display output colors, thereby limiting the amount of blue light it emits, you’re going to sleep better at night. Blue light stimulates your brain and increases brain activity.

Unfortunately, the Creators Update can disable Night Light when game mode is on and you’re playing a game. In cases like these, Night Light gets disabled not only in Game Mode, but also at a system level. There are two ways to resolve this issue.

1. Display Settings
Open your video games’ video settings and switch it from full screen to borderless windowed. This should prevent Night Light from being disabled. You may notice a performance hit here, as everything will be run in a Window instead of in full screen mode. However, this shouldn’t impact FPS rates too badly.
2. Disable Night Light
if using the feature is important to you, you might want to consider going with a third party alternative. Disable Night Light and then install an app like F.lux to manage the warming of your display. Using a third party utility should also resolve any performance hits your PC might take as well.

Windows Game Bar prevents some users from streaming
Gaming updates in Windows 10 Creators Update are a big deal and are a huge addition to the overall OS. I know that the integration of Gaming in Windows 10 makes it a lot easier for my son to play Xbox One games while I still get to use the TV in my living room. He can stream games directly to his gaming desktop from the console, providing the family with a great deal of peace and quiet as no one vies for the TV screen.

In the Creators Update, Microsoft has rolled out a number of new tools, like Game Mode and a new version of the Game Bar, making Windows gaming more accessible and reliable. Microsoft’s streaming service, Beam, will now natively integrate with the Gaming Bar, allowing you to stream any game on your PC.

Unfortunately, and somewhat unsurprisingly, there are issues with streaming in the Creators Update. Beam either fails to broadcast entirely, or prevents certain accounts from streaming at all. Unfortunately, there’s no solution right now; but there are work arounds.

The easiest way around this problem, unfortunately, is the least desirable – set up a new Beam account. If you have a following on Beam, this might not be the best option for you. However, if all you’re really trying to do is stream games to a couple of your buddies, then, this just might be the way to go.

If you need to stick with your existing Beam account, you can always try signing out and signing back in. If that doesn’t work, you can try unlinking it from your Microsoft Account. You can do this through your Beam.pro account page. After you unlink Beam from your Microsoft Account, you’ll need to reinstall the Creators Update by redownloading and running the update on the ISO file.

When the update finishes, you can relink your Beam account and retry your microphone. If it still doesn’t work, you may be better off with another streaming solution like Twitch or Steam’s game streaming until Microsoft has a chance to address the issue.

Game Mode cuts off microphone access for third-party apps
Gaming on Windows 10 provides an improved experience in the Creators Update. Now, you get optimized performance of your system resource usage; or at least your supposed to. There have been reports of some microphones not working in third party apps while Game mode is enabled. When this happens, you might be better off just turning Game Mode off.

To disable Game Mode, open Settings. Under the gaming category, you can toggle Game Mode on or off inside individual games with the Game Bar, accessible when you press Win-G.

Conclusion
Microsoft’s Creators Update is the latest release of its desktop operating system, Windows 10. It brings a great deal to the table. However, it also brings users as many issues and problems as it does beneficial updates.

While the update was originally released in April of 2017, the new bits haven’t reached everyone yet. For example, after I had to wipe my Surface Book, it hasn’t come back down for me. I’m still waiting for it.

The problems and solutions I’ve outlined here are likely the most common problems, and the best solutions available for them. If you’ve bumped into these problems and resolved them, I’d love to hear about it. I’d especially like to know if you’ve resolved your issues using the solutions I’ve outlined above, or if you’ve found a different work around.

If you’ve bumped into additional problems than the ones I’ve outlined, above. I’d like to know what those are too. Have you found a way around those additional issues, or are they still a problem? If you have found a way around them, I’d love for your to share those additional solutions with the rest of the class.

Any way you slice it, kids… I’m in the Discussion area below. You need to give me the latest update on what’s going on with you and with your Windows 10 Creators Update powered PC.

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Microsoft Replaces Placeholders with Files on Demand

OneDrive’s Placeholders have finally gotten a replacement on Windows 10…

I think nearly everyone will agree – Windows 8 was pretty much a train wreck. The OS confused nearly everyone that used it; and that confusion came in the guise of a tablet “interface” that had features missing, existing features deprecated, and a new set of applications that just didn’t fit the design language that everyone was used to when it came to Windows.

However, there was one thing that came out of it that nearly everyone, present company included, really liked, and that was OneDrive Placeholders.

Placeholders in OneDrive were special file stubs that looked like your documents but actually just “took the place” of the actual document. When you actually wanted or needed to edit the actual file, you could double click on it to open it or sync the actual copy down to your hard drive and use it as you normally would. Placeholders were a wonderful way to seeing every file that was stored on OneDrive. This was especially helpful so that you wouldn’t have to choose what files to have on your PC or not. You could bring down what you needed and the rest was done with Placeholders.

Unfortunately, the version of OneDrive that came with Windows 8.x was not compatible with Windows 10. Microsoft further deprecated all subsequent versions of OneDrive so that all platforms (all versions of Windows, macOS, etc.) ran off the same sync engine. Placeholders, we were told would come back at a later date.

My friends… that time has come.

As part of the latest Windows Insider build on the Fast Ring – Build 16215 – Microsoft is releasing a new OneDrive client that has a new feature called Files On-Demand. In an entry on the Windows Blog, Dona Sarkar, a software engineer in the Windows and Devices Group at Microsoft noted,

“With Files On-Demand, you can access all your files in the cloud without having to download them and use storage space on your device. All your files—even online-only files—can be seen in File Explorer and work just like every other file on your device. You’ll be able to open online-only files from within any desktop or Windows Store apps using the Windows file picker. And you’re covered in both your home and professional life since it works with your personal and work OneDrive, as well as your SharePoint Online team sites.”

The updated OneDrive client will be rolling out over the next few days but can also be installed from here.

After enabling Files On-Demand in the updated OneDrive client, your files will have an “Online-Only” status and be shown with an icon with a “cloud” overlay, similar to what you see below. Local files will have a green checkmark with a white background. Always available files (those that are marked, “always keep on this device”) will have a white checkmark with a green background. Examples of all three icons can be seen immediately below.

Please note that installing this version of the OneDrive client on any other Windows version – for example, Windows 7 – won’t enable the feature. The feature is dependent upon the latest Fast Ring Build, currently Build 16215. Release notes for that build can be found here.

When installed on a Windows 10 PC with the right Fast Ring Build, the user will see the following when they click on the OneDrive icon in their system tray:

Unfortunately, for me, I don’t sit in the Fast Ring any longer. I’ve had too many issues with prerelease versions of Windows to understand that if I want my Surface Book (or other designated Windows 10 PC) to run without issue or problems, I need to stay away from them. It’s really a one way move. Every time I’ve tried to reset my PC back to a released version of Windows 10, its died.

Files On-Demand is currently scheduled to be part of the Windows 10 Fall Creators Update, due out sometime in Q3 2017.

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Wondershare Video Converter Ultimate

Download, Convert and burn your videos to DVD’s with this easy to use cross-platform tool.

When you’re a parent or grandparent, believe it or not, video is what you live for. Thirty to forty years ago, it used to be pictures. Grandparents would patiently wait for pictures of their grandchildren to come in the mail; or they’d be hand delivered to them. Either way, what they got were physical stills, and that’s about it.

Today, it’s a completely different story.

Today with smartphones and with the internet, parents (and grandparents alike) can take and share not only stills but video with nearly everyone, at any time. However, not everyone is as technology savvy as the next person. Sometimes, you need a different, more traditional way to share video. That’s why I like Wondershare Video Converter Ultimate. It’s a cross platform (Windows and Mac) tool that allows you to share your story regardless of computer type.

Wondershare Video Converter Ultimate is an all-in-one multimedia suite that enables you to extract audio from videos, convert videos to any popular format with zero quality loss and 30x faster conversion speed. With it you can transform any home DVD movie to nearly any format you want, burn & copy home DVDs, provide one-click online video download, edit videos and more. The package is very compact and easy to use.

Wondershare Video Converter Ultimate supports native codecs like Apple Pores, Intermediate Codec, and DNxHD, so you can convert videos to one optimized format for iMovie, FCP etc., and then edit them for the best overall effect. The process is fast, over 30x faster than previous versions; and allows you to convert both audio and video to and from over 70 different formats. The app also supports native codec support for professional apps like Final Cut Pro.

App Pro’s: Works on both Mac and Windows platforms, provides for conversion, downloading

App Con’s: Not all web browser extensions install correctly

Conclusion: Wondershare Video Converter Ultimate is an easy to use multi-platform application that is fast and easy to use. You can use it not only to download non-copy protected videos from the internet; but you can use it to burn DVD’s with cool menu systems as well.

The app runs off of a subscription service, costing $40USD per year for a single computer license. You can also purchase a single, lifetime license for $60USD. A family license (2-5 computers) for $118USD for Macs and $100USD for Windows PC’s.

I’ve really liked using this app. It’s easy to use and offers a great many features that you would normally only find on a much more expensive, desktop app. The only issue I’ve had with this app is the installation of its Chrome Extension. The process generates an HTTP404 error, clearly indicating that either the application is in error, or the extension location in the store has been moved.

URL: http://wondershare-video-converter-ultimate-mac-version.soft32.com/

 

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Why Don’t they just Upgrade, Already..?!?

Is it me, or does this seem like it would be a no brainer??

I’ve been in IT for a LONG time. I cut my teeth on Windows 95, Windows 98 and Windows 98SE. Microsoft’s Windows XP days were some of my biggest hay days because I wrote literally THOUSANDS of tips covering ALL of these Windows versions and Office 95 – 97 and Office 2000 – 2007 during my tenure there. When I got through it, I was – and still am – one of the more knowledgeable Windows pundits out there.

Given all of the ransomware recently targeting older machines running unsupported versions of Windows – like Windows XP and Windows 8, a lot of people are starting to point fingers at others trying to figure out who exactly is at fault. Some blame Microsoft, because they’re Microsoft, because they run 97% plus of all the computers that run the businesses of the world, and because they have bazillions of dollars. Others blame the IT departments and workers in those businesses for not either abandoning those outmoded operating systems for something more modern.

My former co-worker Paul Thurrott had this to say in his 2017-05-19 Short Takes:

WannaCry is not Microsoft’s fault

If you’re looking to point the finger of blame for WannaCry, I think we can find some better culprits than Microsoft. For example, the hackers responsible for this attack are an obvious place to start. The businesses—which include hospitals and other medical facilities, banks, and more—that are still inexplicably running Windows XP and putting their customer’s data in harm’s way. And yes, sorry, also the over-cautious IT staffs at businesses around the world who delay Microsoft security patches for far too long because they are in some cases trying to justify their employment or have just lost sight of what’s really important in the risk/benefit debate around Windows patching. I know it’s not everyone. But the sheer scope of this attack says a lot about how we do things. And it says almost nothing about Microsoft except that, in this case, they did the right thing. Stop deflecting the blame.

There are a number of issues in Paul’s quote – as well as other mitigating circumstances – that I want to touch on, but let’s start at the beginning… There are a lot of folks out there that may not know what WannaCry is.

WannaCry is a serious strain of malware/ ransomware targeting Windows PC’s worldwide. The attacks from this nasty bug started on Friday 2017-05-12. The bug was targeted at computers and systems running Windows XP and Windows 8 machines, and while it effected systems around the world, it was initially targeted at the UK’s National Health Service. Infected machines had their data encrypted and users were locked out, unable to access any data on any connected drive or system.

This originated as a phishing attack. Meaning that someone emailed a potential target a message with an infected attachment . That person opened the attachment, releasing the virus. The hackers responsible demanded $300USD in bitcoin to unencrypt the effected machines. Aside from the UK’s NHS, Germany’s rail system, Renault and Nissan factories, FedEx, Spanish telecom Telefonica, and even Russia’s central bank got hit by the data encrypting malware. In the end, well over 300,000 computers were infected globally.

There are a couple of things of note here:

  1. Why are these Older Systems Still Out there?
    To be blunt, there could be a number of reasons – The company using the machine doesn’t want to spend the money to replace the system, or they don’t have the money to replace the system because (reasons).More than likely, the effected machine is a legacy system sitting on a medical device or label printer or some other mission critical piece of equipment that is ONLY guaranteed to run on certain versions of an operating system, and the company that owns it can’t afford to replace it because nothing else like it is available; or they can’t find a way around the loss of the machine to their business process, or some other cost prohibitive reason that mandates that THAT specific machine stays exactly where it is, doing that one specific thing that the company can’t seem to live without.I’ve seen this happen at hospitals with ultrasound machines or some other medical device that can’t be replaced or upgraded due to licensing, budget or other cost based issues. I’ve also seen this happen in industrial settings (like the cited FedEx example, above) where there’s one piece of equipment that only runs software/ drivers that are compatible with a specific version of Windows and the business can’t or won’t replace it due to cost, or some other reason.As of this writing no known US government systems have been infected.
  2. Why haven’t the IT Department Updated/ Upgraded these Systems?This is a multi-faceted issue. No matter how you slice this issue, the effected IT department carries a large part of the blame. In some cases, the IT department got overruled and management has opted to roll the dice and risk getting hit by malware. However, Microsoft itself is also partially to blame, here. Allow me to elaborate…Microsoft has a huge history of releasing security patches and then patches for those patches because their testing process failed to account for every driver of every peripheral possibly attached to any and every partner, OEM’ed version of Windows out there. In other words, no matter how extensively Microsoft’s QA department tests, they’re always going to miss testing some testing some edge cases and that causes stuff to break in the wild.So, because there’s so many different kinds of computers that can work with some many different kinds of devices and peripherals, Microsoft can’t release patches without breaking something, somewhere.As a result, many IT departments/ businesses unwilling to risk having some mission critical piece of equipment going down due to a bad or faulty patch being applied opt NOT to patch, leaving their systems buggy and vulnerable to attack.

    IT departments are also largely unwilling to apply patches to every day production machines without the “proper” amount of testing being completed in their own test labs, prior to deployment. In fact, in many cases, Microsoft releases patches for previous patches and instead of updating their systems and living with the new problems (which could be bigger problems than the ones they’re currently living with), they wait for “early adopters” to discover them. These wait and see IT departments gain the benefit of avoiding new bugs and issues at the expense of remaining unpatched and vulnerable to known vulnerabilities.

    For them, patching Windows has historically been a lose-lose game.

So, given all of this mess, what SHOULD you do?

That’s simple –

  1. Stop running an unsupported operating system.
    Even though Microsoft patched the WannaCry exploit months ago and also provided patches for Windows XP and Windows 8 (even when they said they weren’t going to provide patches for those OS’ any longer), the best thing that you can do is find a way off the out dated, unsupported platform.
  2. Update Your Mission Critical Components
    In the case of mission critical hardware requiring drivers or other middleware only rated to run on older machines/ operating systems – find a way to live without them. Period. Change the business process, change operating systems/ platforms… do SOMETHING other than staying where you’re at. While it may be costly, in the end, it’s going to be cheaper than figuring out how to disinfect or decrypt effected systems
  3. Upgrade Already!
    Microsoft is never going to allow the circumstances that allowed Windows XP to stay on the market for 15 or so years to recur again. It’s YOUR business’ responsibility to figure out how they’re going to get you from one major OS version to another without killing the company’s productivity.WannaCry doesn’t target Windows 10. It also doesn’t work on patched systems.

So, is my PC at risk?

Your PC is at risk if its running

  • Windows Vista
  • Windows 8.x
  • Windows Server 2008 R2
  • Windows Server 2012
  • Windows Server 2012 R2
  • Windows Server 2016

If you’re running Windows XP, you need to upgrade immediately. If you’re running any of these other operating systems, Microsoft has issued patches to prevent WannaCry from infecting your system. Run the patch or upgrade your computer.

Regardless of which version of Windows you’re using, you need to make certain you’re up to date on all of your security patches.

OK, now that that’s out of the way, let’s talk about Paul’s statements and wrap this all up.

It’s not all Microsoft’s fault
There are literally hundreds if not thousands of different kinds of Windows compatible peripherals out there that require some kind of driver or middleware to work and Microsoft can’t buy and test them all. When you start working out the different permutations on all of these, it’s easy to get dizzy very fast. The best anyone can expect from Microsoft is to test those combinations that seem to be the most popular. After that, you’re on your own.

IT Departments Need to Upgrade
Debugging Windows problems can be a huge headache. The biggest way to avoid the problems is to not patch in many cases. Not everyone is going to get hit by every problem out there, so reducing cost by increasing risk can save a lot of time, money and headaches. However, when issues do arise, they tend to be big ones…

If your computer has been infected, you have a couple of options

  1. Restore from an Uninfected Backup
    Having a redundant backup plan is important. If you’re hit by WannaCry or any other virus and can’t get clean, restoring from a known, good backup may get you back up and running quickly. If you don’t have a redundant backup plan (local backup, local backup of backup and off site backup) figure one out now.
  2. Blow the Machine and Start Over
    Cutting your losses and starting over may be the only option you have, especially if you don’t have an uninfected backup to restore to. In this case, starting over is likely your only option. This may be less painful if you have your data stored on a cloud service like Drop Box, Google Drive or Microsoft OneDrive. That way, with all of your data easily resyncable to your computer, all you need to do is install the OS, reinstall your apps and download all of your data. This is somewhat similar to the work in option #1, above.

The last thing you’ll need to do is make certain you have an anti-malware package installed and running on your machine. Having an offline anti-malware scanner for when you get bugs that your regular scanner can’t remove is also helpful.

Did you or anyone you know get hit by WannaCry? Have you ever gotten hit by any kind of ransomware or other piece of malware that basically killed your access to your computer and all of your data? Did you pay the ransom? Did you get your data back? Did the hacker make you pay more than once? How did you get rid of the infection? I’d love to hear about your situation, in detail. Why don’t you meet me in the discussion area, below and tell me all about it?

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