News, tips, advice, support for Windows, Office, PCs & more. Tech help. No bull. We're community supported by donations from our Plus Members, and proud of it
Home icon Home icon Home icon Email icon RSS icon
ISSUE 17.16.0 • 2020-04-27 • 2020’s Windows 10 2004
Logo
The AskWoody Newsletter
FREE EDITION

In this issue

WINDOWS 10: 2020’s Windows 10 2004

BEST OF THE LOUNGE: Free Windows 7 ESU installer

Additional articles in the PLUS issue

LANGALIST: ‘Overprovisioning’ your SSD

PHOTO EDITING: Photoshop Elements: Fun with pictures

BEST UTILITIES: Freeware Spotlight — Staying at home edition

ADVERTISEMENT
ToDo Backup

Get EaseUS for complete data recovery and backup

EaseUS Todo Backup Home is your complete go-to solution for data protection: backups, cloning, and data-transfer. It’s simple, smart, and automatic. AskWoody Plus Newsletters get 50% off a one-year subscription with this link

Lost data? EaseUS Data Recovery Wizard Free is your all-in-one solution for quick and complete file recovery on Windows-based desktops, laptops, and other devices. Recover up to 2GB of data for free! Get 50% off a one-month subscription for Data Recovery Wizard Pro with this link

INTRODUCTION

Windows Secrets is now AskWoody

Welcome to the free edition of the AskWoody (formerly Windows Secrets) Newsletter. In case you missed the memo, the original Windows Secrets cast has joined forces to resurrect Windows Secrets, renovate it, and meld it into AskWoody.com. You’re receiving this newsletter because you’re a former Windows Secrets Free Newsletter subscriber.

Please feel free to send a copy of this newsletter to your friends — and suggest they order up their own copy on our signup page. It’s free! We don’t sell, give away, or trade our mailing list. Instead, we hope that you’ll consider registering as a member of the AskWoody.com forums (that’s free, too) — and if you find the site valuable, making a donation of any amount to become a Plus Member. You’ll receive the full newsletter.


WINDOWS 10

2020’s Windows 10 2004

Susan BradleyBy Susan Bradley

Well, it’s that time of year! Microsoft releases a new version of Windows 10 … and we promptly put it off for as long as we can.

Or at least until we know it’s stable and thoroughly tested. As you might expect, I’m going to recommend that you don’t install this latest feature update when Microsoft first offers it. Instead, I regard a new Win10 release as an occasion to take a brief time-out — a moment to take stock of what versions I’m running at home and at the office, and to decide whether it’s time to upgrade to a newer but thoroughly vetted version.

A brand-new Win10 is also a reminder that I need to download and save the latest Win10 install/recovery ISO. Microsoft often makes it difficult to acquire any version other than the most recent one. In other words, once Win10 2004 is rolling out to users’ machines, you might be unable to get the code for Version 1909 without jumping through hoops.

That’s especially annoying for Win7/8.1 users who might want to upgrade to a known-good Win10 release. (It’s just good policy to keep up-to-date installation media for the two or three most recent Win10 versions — just in case you need to do a full recovery or roll back to a previous release. More on that in a minute.)

Start by confirming that you’re running the Win10 version you think you are. You might be in for a surprise: it’s not always obvious that your machine has been upgraded. That’s especially true with Version 1909, which is more like a service pack for Win10 1903 than it is a true upgrade. And in some cases, upgrades fail without any real warning.

In Windows Settings, click System/About and then scroll down the page to the Windows specifications section. For business applications, I recommend Version 1903; for home machines, I tend to stay one release newer than my work systems — in this case, Version 1909. That way, my personal PC becomes a sort of test platform/early-warning system, where any egregious flaws will hopefully surface before that version gets deployed in the office.

The next stop is Microsoft’s Download Windows 10 site. Under the Create Windows 10 installation media section, click the Download tool now button and follow the prompts. On the What do you want to do screen, be sure to select Create installation media … . You’ll then be offered two choices: USB flash drive or ISO file. I recommend saving an ISO to an external hard drive. If one of my systems chokes on a feature update, I can try an upgrade from the ISO. (I’m looking at you, my Acer Spin with the puny 32GB drive.)

This is also an excellent time to review your disaster-recovery strategies. Along with the ISOs, that includes ensuring you have a list of all product keys, usernames/passwords, and any other system information that isn’t currently documented.

For businesses, the release of a new Win10 should trigger another task: checking in with their line-of-business software vendors. You want to know how and when they will support the next Win10 release. In my case, staying a couple of versions back at the office ensures that my vendors have had plenty of time to make their products fully compatible with all changes to the OS.

Cleaning house

I also use this time to make sure other components are fully up to date: primarily the bios and hardware drivers — especially graphics. Failed Windows upgrades are often tied to old graphics software. Ensuring your preferred antivirus software is fully up to date will also help raise the chances of a good upgrade experience.

Next, check your Windows health by running its built-in tools. Start with the System File Checker applet to find any corrupted system files. Here’s the quick how-to:

  • Confirm that you have a recent backup. Then close all running apps and enter “cmd” into the Windows search box.
  • When Command Prompt pops up, right-click it and select Run as administrator.
  • Enter sfc /scannow at the prompt; when it finishes, review the results of the scan.

If the System File Checker reports issues it can’t fix, try the Deployment Image Servicing and Management (DISM) command. The service runs three health checks, but only the last one can fix errors. Still, I recommend running all three.

  • In an open command window with admin privileges, enter Dism /Online /Cleanup-Image /CheckHealth at the prompt.

This command will run for a bit and then report any issues it finds. You then go to the next command to check for Component Store corruption. (Again, neither CheckHealth nor ScanHealth actually fixes anything.)

  • In an open admin-level command window, enter Dism /Online /Cleanup-Image /ScanHealth at the prompt.

The final command — RestoreHealth — does attempt to automatically repair issues it finds.

  • Enter DISM /Online /Cleanup-Image /RestoreHealth at an admin-level command prompt (see Figure 1).

    Windows health scans
    Figure 1. In this screenshot, I’ve run four built-in tests to check Windows’ health.

Repair versus restore?

If your system is still reporting problems, you have two options: continue looking for causes, or reinstall Windows 10. In most cases, I think the second choice is the fastest and easiest solution.

On occasion, I’ve opened a support ticket for a user whose Windows Updates wasn’t … well, updating. Diagnosing the problem would often consume many hours of reviewing the case notes, digging through cbs.log files, and then trying to translate the information. If I was lucky, I might discover which patch didn’t quite take properly and needed to be added manually to the machine using DISM.

It’s always a painful process, one that you’d want to tackle only on a legacy machine that can’t be fixed by reinstalling Windows 10. Bottom line: Restoring everything on a PC might seem painful, but attempting a detailed diagnosis and repair can be far worse. (The fastest way to get up and running is to keep applications and data in the cloud. Once Windows is reinstalled, you’re essentially just a username and password away from a fully functioning system. But most of us simply aren’t there yet.)

Fixing Windows Update: For the vast majority of Windows users, the monthly Win10 updating process goes smoothly — especially if they defer the updates for a few weeks. Severe patching problems typically strike a small minority of machines — something in their configuration is flawed, out of date, or odd. Here again, reinstalling the operating system will usually be far less painful than trying to diagnose the problem. (Of course, this assumes you have current Windows ISOs and good backups.)

What’s new in 2004

Again, the move to Win10 1909 was generally fast and painless because it was more like a service pack for 1903. (In fact, the two versions share the same cumulative updates.) But Win10 2004 will be the real deal — a full operating-system upgrade.

Cortana: Microsoft’s digital assistant will no longer be a component of Windows. It becomes a native application that can be updated more frequently or less frequently via the Microsoft Store. Fixes and enhancements are no longer tied to operating-system updates.

CPU temperature: This important system information will now show up in Task Manager — if your system supports it. Task Manager will also list whether drives are solid-state or hard-disk.

Speaking of storage, if your copy of Win10 is still running on a spinning-platter drive, I suggest it’s time to bite the bullet and upgrade to an SSD — or purchase a new system with one. Crucial has a handy system for matching a new drive with your particular system.

There are, of course, lots of other small fixes and enhancements in Win10 2004. For example, current versions of Windows 10 let you control update downloads by percentage of bandwidth via Deliver Optimization/Advanced options. Version 2004 will add the ability to set a specific megabits-per-second limit.

Still, I don’t see any new must-have features — cool things that would compel me to upgrade soon after the new OS is released. You can review some of the other expected features in a Fossbytes post.

Getting ready for 2020’s 2004

The tea leaves suggest that the new release will appear sometime in May. If you have a test system, you can download its ISO now. The better news? If you’re running Version 1903 or later, you won’t be immediately shoved onto Win10 2004. Rather, at some point you’ll get a prompt that the next feature release is ready for your machine; you can then pick a time to install it.

Now’s the time to review your current Windows setup, check its overall health, and ensure everything is fully updated. When you do get around to installing Win10 2004, the process is more likely to go smoothly. Bottom line: We’re all dealing with a major disruption in our lives. Don’t add to it by upgrading to the latest Windows 10 right away.

Questions or comments? Feedback on this article is always welcome in the AskWoody Lounge!

In real life, Susan Bradley is a Microsoft Security MVP and IT wrangler at a California accounting firm, where she manages a fleet of servers, virtual machines, workstations, iPhones, and other digital devices. She also does forensic investigations of computer systems for the firm.


Best of the Lounge

Free Windows 7 ESU installer

We all like a nice workaround for computing problems. If your OS has reached its end of life, that might include acquiring security updates.

What if your operating system is Win7, and you’re not willing to pay Microsoft for extended support? What are your options? Go without support? Move to a current operating system?

MVP abbodi86 has posted a tutorial for getting the paid Win7 Extended Security Updates for free. That, in turn, raised questions and comments both ethical and moral.


Windows 10

Seeking advice on how to safely reformat a hard drive and install a fresh copy of Windows 10, WSAnders Family turned to the AskWoody Lounge. Helpful advice was forthcoming, and all was working as expected — until WSAnders Family accepted OneDrive’s backup services. That decision caused OneDrive’s free space to immediately fill up — and files to disappear. A final “HELP!” question to readers solved that issue as well.


Linux

When Plus member Larry B wanted to run Linux, he booted to an external hard drive. But a Linux update hosed both the Windows and Linux boot process. Launching either required jumping through hoops. After following some detailed suggestions from fellow forum members, Larry B now has both Linux and Windows playing nicely again.


Windows 10

After Plus member Thompson DK applied a Quicken patch to Win10 Pro, all saved passwords and transactions in the app disappeared. Reinstalling Quicken did not help. So Thompson reverted to a backup Win7 PC. But what about Quicken on the Win10 PC? Some experimentation revealed that Windows Defender was the culprit. Moving to a different anti-malware product solved the problem!


Windows 10

Building your own computer gives a lot of satisfaction — and ensures you get just the machine you want. But when you buy a Windows license to go with that build, you’ll probably have the same question posed by Plus member Casey H. Is an OEM or retail license transferable to some new DYI project down the road?


Macrium Backup

We typically download an application on the machine it will run on. But Plus member Mike wants to download Macrium Reflect 7 on one PC and install it on another. Unfortunately, the options are a bewildering array of “Installers,” “REs,” and “PEs.” AskWoody readers put Mike on the correct path.


Windows 10

On wakeup, Plus member Alex5723‘s laptop displayed a different OneDrive icon on the taskbar. There had been no recent updates, so everything should have been unchanged. More irritating, pressing PrtSc popped up an offer to save the screenshot to OneDrive. Alex questions Microsoft’s right to do unannounced changes to his computer. But it seems clear that the company’s EULA disagrees.


If you’re not already a Lounge member, use the quick registration form to sign up for free.

Stories in this week’s PAID AskWoody Plus Newsletter
Become an ASKWOODY PLUS member today!

 

Fred Langa

LANGALIST

‘Overprovisioning’ your SSD

By Fred Langa

You may be able to extend the life and increase the speed of your solid-state drive through overprovisioning — reassigning some of the drive’s file-storage capacity for use by the drive’s firmware.

As usual with tech “hacks,” there are significant gotchas to overprovisioning: its benefits might be minimal on a consumer PC, and you may have to move or resize some disk partitions to set it up.

Here’s what’s involved and how to do it — plus some excellent free tools for managing the technology.


Lincoln Spector

PHOTO EDITING

Photoshop Elements: Fun with pictures

By Lincoln Spector

Special effects aren’t limited to Hollywood movies anymore — or professional photographers.

Today, with some help from image-editing apps, even a snapshooter can perform photographic tricks — place yourself somewhere you’ve never actually visited, turn black-and-white into color (and vice versa). With the right tools, almost anyone can cleanly remove people from a photo — without cropping! (Are you paying attention, Match subscribers?)

There are dozens of photo editors to choose from, but I’ve been using Adobe’s Photoshop Elements for longer than I can remember.


Deanna McElveen

BEST UTILITIES

Freeware Spotlight — Staying at home edition

By Deanna McElveen

We’re certainly living in a different world right now — social-distancing with friends, co-workers, and others; social-bonding with family.

Those of us still working are in many cases doing so from home — some with the added complication of kids. And then there’s the drain on our bank accounts. All of which make the community of open-source and freeware software development more important than ever.

To help you get through the current trials and tribulations, here’s a compendium of utilities and apps, for both adults and kids, that might make your stay-at-home experience a bit easier.

Here we go …


You’re welcome to share! Do you know someone who would benefit from the information in this newsletter? Feel free to forward it to them. And encourage them to subscribe via our online signup form — it's completely free!


Publisher: AskWoody LLC (woody@askwoody.com); editor: Tracey Capen (editor@askwoody.com).

Trademarks: Microsoft and Windows are registered trademarks of Microsoft Corporation. AskWoody, Windows Secrets Newsletter, WindowsSecrets.com, WinFind, Windows Gizmos, Security Baseline, Perimeter Scan, Wacky Web Week, the Windows Secrets Logo Design (W, S or road, and Star), and the slogan Everything Microsoft Forgot to Mention all are trademarks and service marks of AskWoody LLC. All other marks are the trademarks or service marks of their respective owners.

Your email subscription:


Copyright © 2020 AskWoody LLC, All rights reserved.