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ISSUE 17.25.F • 2020-06-29

 

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The AskWoody Newsletter
FREE EDITION

In this issue

PATCHING: A Win10 guide for Windows Update settings

BEST OF THE LOUNGE: A reCAPTCHA? Am I signed in?

Additional articles in the PLUS issue

BEST UTILITIES: Freeware Spotlight — ScreenToGif

PATCH WATCH: June updates crash printing

SMALL BUSINESS: Eight ways to grow email lists for small businesses

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INTRODUCTION

Ask the Lounge

At AskWoody.com, we keep a close eye on Microsoft’s patches — their problems and solutions, general warnings, and our experienced observations.

Please drop by AskWoody and sign up for a free account (click Register in the upper right corner). Look around a bit and don’t feel bashful about posting questions. We’ve seen more than a million of them.

AskWoody volunteers are here to help, around the clock, with any tech question. Yes, we have discussions and support for iPhones and Androids, iPads and Chromebooks — just about anything computer-related that you can imagine.


PATCHING

A Win10 guide for Windows Update settings

@PKCano

By @PKCano

For most PC users, the basic task of keeping Windows up to date involves a bewildering pantheon of terms.

To make the process of patching Windows and Office a bit easier, here’s a simple summary of Microsoft’s updating system. This article isn’t aimed at business users who have the support of IT departments. It’s dedicated to consumers and small-business owners who strive to keep their machines safe from malware, operating-system flaws, and other threats. The descriptions below apply to Windows 10 Versions 1903 and 1909. I’m still looking at the updating-process changes in the new Win10 2004.

(This information was originally posted in the AskWoody forum. It has been edited for the newsletter. Feel free to forward this article to friends and family.)

Reminder: Before making any significant changes to your computer, it’s good practice to create a fresh and full image backup plus a separate backup of your user data. And have a bootable rescue disk at hand. If an update renders your machine completely unusable, you’ll always be able to make a full recovery.

Basic Windows Update terminology

Here’s a quick glossary of the Windows elements you should know in order to comfortably manage the updating process.

Patch types

  • Feature update: The large, twice-yearly upgrades that have different Win10 version names — i.e., 1809, 1902, 1909, and 2004.
  • Quality update: The monthly security/cumulative patches typically released by Microsoft on the second Tuesday of the month (aka Patch Tuesday).
  • Optional updates: Also known as preview updates, these non-security cumulative updates are released between Patch Tuesdays (officially called the C, D, and E weeks, and possibly the next month’s A week). When they’re released is at Microsoft’s whim. These updates are usually a “preview” of the next month’s non-security fixes, and they’re used primarily by IT admins for testing compatibility.
  • Servicing stack: This patch updates the Windows-updating mechanism and is typically installed before the cumulative updates.
  • Other updates: The above updates are for the operating system. Additional patches released each month include updates for .NET Framework, Adobe Flash, Windows Defender, Internet Explorer, Office, Windows Malicious Software Removal Tool (MSRT), and others.

    They may also include Out-of-band updates, released whenever there is a major patch failure or an imminent threat from malware due to a newly revealed vulnerability in an MS product.

User-configured Windows Update components

  • Check for updates: This is perhaps the most notorious button in Windows 10. Labeling aside, it doesn’t just benignly list available patches — it downloads and installs all updates Microsoft wants to add to your system. As a general rule, never click Check for updates unless you want forthcoming quality patches — and possibly feature updates as well.

    (If updates are Paused, Deferred, or manually hidden, they won’t show up in Windows Update.)

  • Pause updates: This option takes effect when you click the Pause updates for 7 days button in Windows Update. Patches can be delayed in seven-day increments for up to 35 days (see Figure 1). Note that the best time to click Pause … is the day before Patch Tuesday — before the updates download to your machine. If you wait until Patch Tuesday, you have to take into account the difference between Redmond time and your local time. Better safe than sorry.

    Pause updates button
    Figure 1. You can click the Pause updates for 7 more days button up to five times to delay patching for a maximum of 35 days.

    Under “Advanced options,” the pull-down item under “Pause updates” lets you manually set the day when a patch should be installed. Remember, when that date arrives, you’ll immediately get the updates. This option is convenient if you want the updates added, say, on the weekend.

    Keep in mind that you’ll have to manually reset the pause period after each patch cycle. Note the date that the pause will end; it’s given under the “Updates paused” banner. Mark that day on your calendar so you’re ready!

  • Defer updates: There is a seemingly subtle difference between deferring updates and pausing updates. The deferral period begins when updates are released by Microsoft, and it lasts for the number of days you set — for up to 30 days. Most importantly, this option automatically resets each patch cycle — no user intervention needed. Look for this option under Choose when updates are installed (Windows Update/Advanced options).
  • Metered connection: This setting tells Microsoft that you have a relatively low data cap on your Internet connection (even if you really don’t) and overages will cost you extra. In theory, when metered connection is switched on, Windows Update will download only “priority updates” (more info). Look for the “Metered connection” switch in Settings/Network & Internet/Change connection properties (Figure 2).

    Metered connection
    Figure 2. The metered connection switch can be used to help delay patch installation.

  • wushowhide.diagcab: This is a downloadable Windows troubleshooter app (more info) that lets you check for pending updates and hide patches you don’t want to install — for example, new hardware drivers. As with Windows 7 and 8.1, hidden updates will not show up as pending, and they must be “unhidden” before you can install them.

    But using the app with current versions of Windows 10 is tricky. Before you try it, read the AskWoody post How to use wushowhide. The two key steps are to switch on Metered connection and, when you first launch the tool, click “Advanced.” Then uncheck the box to “apply changes automatically.” You also need to have update pausing turned off.

    Note that wushowhide uses the Windows Update Service to search for updates, so it won’t run if the service is disabled. Also, when you hide updates, you may have to clear the Windows Update queue in order to prevent hidden updates from installing. Instructions for clearing the Windows Update queue are found in AskWoody post AKB2000013. Once the queue is cleared, you may have to wait until Windows Update checks for patches to see what’s offered. Do not click “Check for updates.”

For Windows 10 Home users

The update-management options in the Home edition are considerably more limited than in Win10 Pro. For example, there’s no Group Policy Editor for setting more advanced patching controls. Here’s a quick rundown of Home options:

  • Pause … : Again, you can pause updates for up to 35 days in seven-day increments, and the delay begins when you trigger this option. Each time you click “Pause updates for 7 (more) days,” you should see the resume-updating date (under Updates paused) advance an additional week. Remember: When pausing is active, Windows Update won’t show pending patches (those ready to download or install) — so you’ll not know what’s offered. It’s rather annoying, but there is a solution described below.

    At the end of the pause period, updates will automatically download and install (unless, possibly, you’ve enabled “metered connection”). You can add more seven-day increments at any time while a pause is still active (up to the 35-day maximum).

    You can, of course, end pausing whenever you wish by clicking the Resume updates button.

    For quality updates, we typically recommend pausing updates for at least 14 days (two clicks) and preferably 21 days (three clicks). This should give enough time to see whether offered patches are free of significant problems.

  • Advanced updating options: Home editions include the more powerful Pause updates control under Advanced options. As mentioned, this lets Windows Update initiate patching on a specific date that’s convenient for you. (Again, the limit is 35 days.) But you don’t have the ability to automatically defer updates each month via the Choose when updates are installed controls found in the Pro editions.
  • Feature and optional updates: If a Download and install now link appears, clicking it might download and install a new version of Win10 or some other optional update. Don’t click it until you’re ready. (Note: if your version of Win10 is nearing its end of life, Microsoft might force an upgrade to a newer version.) If updates are paused, the Download and install now link should not appear.
For Windows 10 Pro users

The following updating options reflect why we recommend that Win10 Home users upgrade to Pro.

Advanced Windows Update options

  • Choose when updates are installed: Again, these controls under Windows Update/Advanced options let you have Quality and Feature updates automatically deferred for a set number of days.
  • Feature updates These can be put off for up to a year, starting on the day the update was released. It can apply to several feature updates at a time. Say, for example, Version 1903 was released 220 days ago and 1909 was released 30 days ago (obviously, we’re working in the past; the numbers are made up). Setting the deferral to 200 days will make Win10 1903 available to Windows Update — but not 1909. Setting the deferral to 20 days will bypass Version 1903 and install 1909. (See the “Chasing the elusive upgrade for Win10 Pro v1803” post for another example.)

    Deferring 120 or 180 days will usually take you past the “beta-testing guinea pig” stage of a new version. At that point, Microsoft should have a stable OS. (We’re currently in the “public beta” phase for Win10 2004.) Be careful with this setting: if you push out a new version for, say, 365 days, your current Win10 release might run into its end of life before the deferral period expires. Also, keep in mind that feature and optional updates won’t be posted in Windows Update during the deferral period.

  • Quality updates can be automatically deferred for up to 30 days. Here, too, the deferral period starts when the updates are released by Microsoft. As with Home editions, we recommend deferring monthly security and cumulative patches for 21 days.
  • Group Policy settings: The various advanced updating settings available through gpedit are designed for business environments — not the average PC user. If you use Group Policy settings, options in Windows Update might be grayed out and/or unavailable. (You’ll usually see a message in Windows Update stating: “Some settings are managed by our organization.)

    That said, there is one setting I recommend. See the details below.

The setting I use

All Windows 10 users have to use an updating method they’re comfortable with. As a highly experienced PC user, I’ve settled on the following. It includes two advanced settings in Windows Update and one Group Policy setting.

Feature updates: In Windows Update/Advanced options, under Choose when updates are installed, I defer new Win10 versions for 365 days (see Figure 3). When I’m ready to install a new Win10 release — say Version 2004 — I simply lower the deferral number and wait for the system to check for updates on its own. Just remember that you probably shouldn’t wait the full year — your current version could reach its end of life, and Windows will upgrade at a time that might not be convenient for you.

Choose when updates install
Figure 3. These are my updating preferences in the Windows Update Advanced options window.

Quality updates: This setting is directly below the feature-deferral-days box. I set the quality updates to 0 dayshowever, I also couple this setting with the following Group Policy configuration.

This combination will make new patches show up in the Windows Update queue on Patch Tuesday, so you’ll know what’s being offered to your machine. But … they will not download until you click the “Download” button. If there are updates you don’t want installed, you can hide them using wushowhide. Again, if they still appear in the Windows Update after hiding, you should clear the update queue (more info).

Group Policy setting: Using gpedit, I enable Configure automatic updates and select 2 – Notify for down and auto install). This is the option that holds patches in the updating queue until you click the “Download” button.

To apply this setting, launch gpedit and click through Computer Configuration/Administrative Templates/Windows Components/Windows Update/. Look for and double-click Configure Automatic Updates. In the dialog box that opens, click Enabled and then select 2 – Notify for download and auto install (see Figure 4). With this setting, patches show up in Windows Update the day they’re released. But again, it also prevents the updates from downloading/installing until you’re ready for them.

Gpedit settings
Figure 4. This setting in Group Policy will let you see available updates and install them at your convenience.

To repeat: This is the only Group Policy setting related to Windows Update that I recommend. All others should be set to the default. Other Group Policy settings under Windows Update and Windows Update for Business can cause settings in the standard Win10 Settings/Windows Updates screen to become grayed out and unusable.

Note: If you use the aforementioned Group Policy setting and also have metered connection switched on, there may be a hitch. When I turned that option off sometime later — with nothing hidden via wushowhide — the pending updates downloaded and installed. Windows Update effectively ignored my Notify for download and auto install Group Policy setting. So you might want to ensure metered connection is off from the start.

Pause: With the combination of Windows Update and Group Policy settings described above, I don’t use the Pause for updates for 7 days option. It’s not needed, and you have to remember to apply it every month.

Note: If you’ve configured my recommended settings and you do click Pause, any listed pending patches will disappear from the Windows Update queue. And because wushowhide uses the Windows Update Service, those now-vanished patches can’t be hidden. Moreover, the list of hidden updates will also disappear.

If your updates are paused and you then click Resume updates (or the pause period ends), the pending updates will immediately download and install. Moreover, your Group Policy setting is ignored. But updates hidden before you clicked Pause will reappear in the wushowhide hidden-updates list.

Bottom line: My recommended settings mean you no longer have to fiddle with pausing updates each month. Deferrals are automatically reset. You can also see which updates are pending (for download or installation) and hide unwanted patches. New updates won’t download without your intervention. You can also choose the feature upgrade you want — and when it should be installed — by simply lowering the deferral days appropriately.

Look for more information on Windows 10 updating — including my observations about Win10 2004 — in the regularly expanded AskWoody forum post 2000016: Guide for Windows Update Settings for Windows 10 — and elsewhere in askwoody.com

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

AskWoody Lounge administrator and moderator PKCano knows all and sees all. You’ve been warned.


Best of the Lounge

A reCAPTCHA? Am I signed in?

Here’s a face-palming scenario: You created a reply to a post in the AskWoody Lounge and clicked the Submit button. Yikes! You suddenly realize you weren’t signed in, and your post is tagged as anonymous/Guest. That certainly wasn’t your intention. So you own the mistake, sign in, create another post, and confess that the anonymous post was yours.

Typically, this isn’t a problem, because a moderator can copy the contents of the original post and put it into your mea-culpa post, then place it where it belongs in the thread. (The anonymous post is then deleted.)

Plus member Kaj4strom asked whether members could make this sort of change themselves. The short answer: No.

Forum members can alter posts if they do so within 15 minutes of submission. After that time limit, you can’t change your own post — and for a very good reason: it protects the integrity of the forum. One person’s good intentions are another’s nefarious act. This rule generally holds true for all online forums.

So check your sign-in status before creating a post. Another big telltale indicator that you’re not signed in is the reCAPTCHA you must complete before submitting a post. The exception to this rule is first-time posts by members going through the vetting process. But that includes a reCAPTCHA, too.


Windows 10

Hoping to fix a ThinkPad’s slow and erratic performance, Plus member Davidhs applied Windows’ Refresh option. Normally, that would be a good tactic. But in this instance, the refresh upgraded the machine to the new Windows 2004 — and left it still ailing. Fellow Loungers offer some suggestions — but as is often the case, doing a full restore brought the laptop back to good health. Woody has advised against installing Windows 2004 — for reasons just like this.


NETWORKING

A series of dropped Internet connections made Lounger WStnesler wonder whether a four-year-old NETGEAR N750 router was giving up the ghost. 5GHz Wi-Fi connections worked fine; it was just the 2.4Ghz connections that kept failing. But some devices don’t support the higher bandwidth channels. Wireless issues in densely populated locations become especially thorny. Forum members provide tips on analyzing local Wi-Fi and setting channels.


SECURITY

Shortly after upgrading to Microsoft 365 Business Premium, Plus member Jonathan Handler discovered that his local admin-account password had expired. Why? Jonathan‘s Lounge post prompted numerous helpful replies about setting up local accounts during the initial Windows setup. There are ways to get around Microsoft’s pushy preference for MS accounts.


Windows 10

Plus member WSlavoro was having a problem running chkdsk on a Win10 laptop. The error message “Chkdsk cannot run because the volume is in use by another process” kept popping up. In typical Windows fashion, the message offered the option to run the disk-checking tool on system restart — but didn’t say that a restart was required. Reading between the lines becomes a habit with Windows messages. A simple “You must restart your computer for this process to run. Do it now: Y/N” would make things clearer.


PATCHING

Windows 10 offers various tools for pausing and deferring monthly fixes. Using the less-known wushowhide.diagcab can help with this management task — if you know exactly how to use it. When Plus member mpw asked for help with applying this tool for hiding updates, fellow Loungers obliged with tips, detailed information … and patience.


SOFTWARE

Plus member geekdom posted a list of suggestions for vetting new software that’s not from Microsoft. Forum members offer their opinions and suggestions for the list. Looking for pitfalls before installing any software is always a good idea!


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!

 

Deanna McElveen

Best Utilities

Freeware Spotlight — ScreenToGif

By Deanna McElveen

Usually, when an app becomes one of my favorites, I just assume everyone else knows about it.

So there I was, working with Nicke Manarin’s ScreenToGif utility on a simple task: creating instructions for a client on how to change Windows from double-click to single-click. And then it hit me: this handy-but-relatively-unknown app is … article material!


Susan Bradley

PATCH WATCH

June updates crash printing

By Susan Bradley

In a normal monthly Windows and Office patching cycle, I almost never roll out any optional updates that Microsoft releases between Patch Tuesdays.

It’s hard to say what’s “normal” with Windows updating, but June is atypical even by the usual patching tribulations.

Soon after the Patch Tuesday security updates dropped (on June 9), there were reports of printing failures. The problem hit close to home; after patching my systems, I could no longer print to any of my large multifunction Ricoh printers — a huge problem for my business.


Nathan Segal

SMALL BUSINESS

Eight ways to grow email lists for small businesses

By Nathan Segal

According to Maria Veloso, author of Web Copy That Sells, most small companies tend to put too much focus on one-time sales, even if they don’t intend to.

Which could mean leaving lots of repeat business on the table.

Staying in contact with clients and customers is an important tool for small firms with limited marketing funds and resources. Here are some tips for building effective email lists.


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

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