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ISSUE 17.22.F • 2020-06-08

 

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The AskWoody Newsletter
FREE EDITION

In this issue

WOODY’S WINDOWS WATCH: Coming to a PC near you: Win10 2004, the ‘May 2020 Update’

BEST OF THE LOUNGE: It wasn’t the SSD

Additional articles in the PLUS issue

LANGALIST: Is Windows’ ReadyBoost worthwhile in Win10?

UPGRADING WINDOWS: Determining what’s blocking Windows 10 2004

BEST HARDWARE:Helpful items for working during the pandemic


Woody’s Windows Watch

Coming to a PC near you: Win10 2004, the ‘May 2020 Update’

Woody Leonhard

By Woody Leonhard

Two weeks ago, Microsoft started rolling out the latest Windows 10 feature update — to little enthusiasm from customers.

Yawn … another Win10 release?

If you’re running Win10, you may have already seen an offer to “Download and install” version 2004. Or you might’ve seen a notice that your machine isn’t yet ready. As usual, the situation’s a bit complex — unnecessarily so.

But as with every new release of Windows, you’re well advised to avoid Version 2004 for now on any production or personal system. (Have a thoroughly backed-up spare machine? Feel free to take a tour of the new OS.)

To see the upgrade status of your PC, head over to Windows Update (Start/Settings/Update & Security). Do you see a message that looks like Figure 1 (as posted by Susan Bradley on AskWoody)?

Feature update rejection message
Figure 1. Susan Bradley received this message on her Lenovo ThinkPad laptop.

If so, be of good cheer. In all likelihood, it’s not precisely accurate to say that “your device isn’t quite ready for” Version 2004. It’s more probable that Version 2004 isn’t ready for your machine. And that’s okay; you really don’t want to install the “May” update until Microsoft shakes out most of the bugs lurking in the OS.

On the other hand, if you see a message that looks like Figure 2, keep your clicking finger well away from that Download and install link! And tell your friends and family to stay away from it, too. It’s not a box of chocolates under the tree.

Feature update offer
Figure 2. Even if you receive this Version 2020 upgrade offer, there’s no guarantee that the new release will install properly or play nicely with your apps and hardware.

Even Microsoft has punted for now

Microsoft is rolling out Win10 2004 at a snail’s pace — and that’s well and good. Over the years we’ve seen too many muck-ups with new feature releases. How slow? Even Microsoft’s latest and greatest Surface machines — the Surface Pro 7, Surface Laptop 3, Surface Book 3, Surface Pro X, and even the Surface Studio 2 (more info) — are being blocked from Version 2004. Perhaps it’s an abundance of caution; perhaps Microsoft doesn’t want the ignominy of installing a buggy update on its high-priced hardware. (Still, you’d think the company would have thoroughly tested the new OS on its own devices — or it has, and that’s the reason for the block.)

No matter the motivation, if Microsoft won’t put the “May” update on its machines, why on Earth should we?

The 2004 carrot

As usual, Microsoft would like you to believe that Win10 2004 includes all sorts of nifty new features that you simply can’t live without. Here are the highlights, such as they are:

  • Custom names for virtual desktops (I don’t use them — do you?)
  • Improvements in Search overhead (touted since Version 3.1)
  • Sign in to Safe Mode with a PIN
  • Cortana extracted from Windows and stuffed into an MS Store app
  • Task Manager indicates hard drive or an SSD
  • Notepad becomes a Store app, too (the kiss of death?)

If you’re attached to a domain/corporate network, your administrator might want to take advantage of other new features such as throttling download bandwidth, cross-platform Microsoft Defender, and improved update-push options. But for those of us rowing our own boats, the list of new features looks like the loss leader in automobile ads.

The 2004 stick

It’s still much too early for a full tally of Version 2004 issues, but we’re already seeing problems with Intel’s “Optane” memory and synching problems with iCloud calendar (both relatively easy to fix) plus an acknowledged list of around a dozen bugs, installation problems, blue screens, driver hiccups, and the like (more info).

The update itself is almost 4GB, so you’ll want a fast Internet connection — or set it to download overnight.

So far, this isn’t the most destructive Windows upgrade we’ve seen — no complaints of permanently deleted files, for example — but there are more than enough problems to warrant caution — particularly given the dearth of worthy new features.

At some point, we’ll all have to upgrade to Version 2004 (or maybe 2009?); but for now, it’s better to sit back and see what the unpaid beta testers discover. Keep an eye on the AskWoody posts, and we’ll all learn from others’ mistakes.

Especially Microsoft’s.

Questions? Comments? Thinly veiled prognostications of impending doom? Join the discussion about this article on the AskWoody Lounge. Bring your sense of humor.

Eponymous factotum Woody Leonhard writes lots of books about Windows and Office, creates the Woody on Windows columns for Computerworld, and raises copious red flags in sporadic AskWoody Plus Alerts.


Best of the Lounge

It wasn’t the SSD

Knowing how computers work is important to diagnosing their problems. But even when your gut says it’s failing hardware, you hold out hope you’ve just overlooked something simple.

Plus member kevmcc is no stranger to the inner workings of a computer. And in his endeavor to diagnose why his Dell laptop kept shutting itself down, he took “never say die” to a new level.

The shutdowns occurred only when the machine’s SSD was used as the primary drive. Swapping in the original OEM hard drive eliminated the problem. At that point, it’s likely that most users would have simply pointed a finger at the SSD and replaced it. Not kevmcc! As he related in an AskWoody post, he went to extraordinary lengths to solve the riddle — including swapping in various components from his wife’s identical computer. He even put his SSD into her machine. (In both cases, the problem persisted.)

Updating drivers, reinstalling Windows, and running tests proved fruitless. Possible cures provided by Forum members were tried and/or rejected. Then, after a conversation with a Crucial tech, kevmcc tried removing the standard Dell drivers and using Microsoft’s default SATA software. Eureka! Problem solved. Never say die — until you absolutely, positively have to!


Upgrading

Plus member steevo40 was having difficulties upgrading from Windows 1903 to 1909 on his Dell All-in-One computer. A few questions from PKCano prompted steevo40 to check the Windows Update deferral setting. That was it! If only all computer problems were this easy to fix.


Windows 10

A friend of Plus member lenrdbik bought a computer and then asked why the new machine is slower than molasses in January. At one time or another, we’ve all been there: purchase something now, then question the choice later. In this case, the friend had bought an inexpensive Lenovo IdeaPad S145 — and immediately had buyer’s remorse. As a gesture of help, lenrdbik naturally turned to the Lounge for suggestions on speeding up the machine. As you might suspect, more memory and an SSD top the list.


iPhone

Some buying experiences are better than expected. MVP Rick Corbette is quite happy with his recent purchase of an SE2 iPhone. Rick reveals its new and improved functions, the missing Bluetooth icon of old, and the vastly improved battery life. New toys (and tools) are always fun. Read Rick’s first-hand account of how the SE2 compares with his old phone.


Email

March updates for Win10 1903 hosed all of Arctic Eddie‘s third-party email checkers. More annoying, each threw out a different error message. The lesson here? As Windows changes, older applications may fall behind — and might never again be viable on the most current OS. In some cases, a new Win10 update might provide a fix; in other cases, it’s simply time to find a newer app. Arctic Eddie is now using MailWasher to check email accounts. So far, so good.


Windows 8.1

Watching a show on your computer is nice, but streaming that show to your not-so-smart television would be so much better … if only you knew how to do it! Facing that challenge, Plus member southieguy turned to the Lounge for how-to instructions. Fellow members offered tips and tricks, and now, with the help of Chromecast, the small screen goes big!


Hardware

Lounger wahoosteve partitioned and cloned a new and larger SSD to replace a smaller one. All went well until a Windows update caused the computer to suddenly fail bootup. After a few Q&As, the problem and cure were revealed — in this case, fixing an unallocated partition.


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

Is Windows’ ReadyBoost worthwhile in Win10?

By Fred Langa

ReadyBoost is a storage technology that can enhance PC performance by using USB flash drives for fast caching.

Debuting in Vista, it was once cutting-edge technology. But does it still make sense with today’s PCs?

Plus: Safely preserving XP, Win7, and other old setups inside Win10.


Susan Bradley

UPGRADING WINDOWS

Determining what’s blocking Windows 10 2004

By Susan Bradley

Whenever Microsoft releases a new version of Windows 10, days, weeks, and even months can pass before the upgrade successfully installs on individual PCs.

Why? Why does Microsoft take so long to fully roll out a new feature release?

So I wondered: Are there are ways to determine why a machine isn’t qualified for a Windows feature upgrade? The answer in short: There are, but they’re not easy.


Michael Lasky

Best Hardware

Helpful items for working during the pandemic

By Michael Lasky

In one way or another, we’ve all been touched by the COVID-19 event. This crisis has truly transformed how we work, play, travel, and shop.

All things considered, it’s not surprising that hardware and software vendors see the pandemic as a huge opportunity for selling us work-at-home merchandise that will purportedly enhance our safety and productivity. Some of those items are actually useful!

Here are three such products that I put to the test. Not only did they accomplish their professed raison d’être, each will remain part of my post-COVID-19 life.


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

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