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ISSUE 17.48.F • 2020-12-07

 

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The AskWoody Newsletter
FREE EDITION

In this issue

LANGALIST: Is 32GB really too small for a Windows upgrade?

BEST OF THE LOUNGE: Upgrading to Acronis True Image 2021?

Additional articles in the PLUS issue

BEST UTILITIES: Freeware Spotlight — Beeftext

SMALL-BUSINESS COMPUTING: A new way to manage Exchange’s auto-forwarding rules

BEST HARDWARE: Versatile gadget gifts for stuffing stockings large and small

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LANGALIST

Is 32GB really too small for a Windows upgrade?

Fred Langa

By Fred Langa

Last year, Microsoft quietly upped Win10’s minimum disk-size requirement.

Now, even a 32GB drive might be insufficient, as an AskWoody subscriber discovered.

Plus: Restarting a laptop that’s been off for a year.

Tons of space, but no room for Windows?

AskWoody subscriber Tom Raab’s PC hasn’t enough free disk space to complete a Win10 update — even after he added 3TB of additional storage!

  • “Fred: I have a desktop PC with a small 32GB internal drive. The system is having trouble loading Windows 10 update 2004.

    “I’ve attached a 64GB external USB drive, but I’m still unable to get enough working space to complete the update. The system seems to stall for hours at about 15 percent. I even tried a 3TB external drive but had similar results.

    “Any suggestions?”

Sure! As you suspect, disk space is the issue. Starting with the May 2019 (1903) version of Win10, Microsoft increased the official minimum disk-size requirement to 32GB — and added numerous caveats explaining why even that might not be enough!

Here’s the relevant information from Microsoft’s “Windows 10 Computer Specifications & Systems Requirements” page:

“The size of the Windows operating system that comes with your device and the amount of space needed to download and install Windows updates are highly variable, as they depend on a variety of factors. The factors that impact the amount of free hard drive space needed to take an update include the versions of Windows previously installed on the machine, the amount of disk space available to reuse from Windows files such as the virtual-memory pagefile or hibernation file, which applications are installed on your device, and how those applications store data.

“Starting with the May 2019 Update, the system requirements for hard drive size for clean installs as well as new PCs changed to a minimum of 32GB. The 32GB or larger drive requirement is set to leave space for users to install apps and to keep data on the device.”

Thus, Tom’s 32GB drive is nominally within the required spec. But other factors — the amount of free space, size of the pagefile and hibernation file, and so forth — might conspire to make the disk functionally too small to allow the upgrade to complete.

However, the page above also states:

“When updating, Windows will attempt to automatically free up enough hard drive space and guide you through freeing up even more, if the automatic cleanup is not sufficient. You can also take steps to free up space on your own. For more information, see Free up space for Windows 10 updates or visit the related tips and FAQ.”

So, Tom, your first order of business is to see whether you can free up enough space on your existing setup to allow the install to complete, either by using the space-clearing suggestions above or by figuring out what you can manually remove, uninstall, relocate, or compress on your drive.

Then try Win10 Setup again, taking care to exactly follow the recommended steps for using an external drive for additional — and temporary — space during the upgrade process. You’ll find the process laid out on the “Free up space for Windows 10 updates” support page under the heading Get more space with external storage.

But even if you follow those steps precisely, it’s not guaranteed to work because Windows can be fussy about using external storage devices in unusual ways. For example, Windows ReadyBoost (MS info) and Windows To Go (MS info) both have exacting USB hardware requirements that many flash drives and external storage devices simply do not meet.

Note, too, that in the specific case of using an external drive as temporary storage during an upgrade, the external device must have at least 10GB free and must not use a micro-USB connector (Wikipedia: USB connectors). There may be additional restrictions, but Microsoft’s documentation on this point is almost nonexistent.

So, you might do everything perfectly and find it still doesn’t work. I’m right there with you; I just spent the morning trying to replicate this problem on a virtual PC with a too-full 32GB drive. But nothing I did would allow the update process to use any of the external drives I tried, including known-good, empty, fast drives that — according to all available documentation — should have worked. Sigh.

On the other hand, Susan Bradley has successfully used this technique on an Acer portable with a tiny hard drive. She uses the following steps:

  • Have a Western Digital external USB hard drive at hand. Other drive brands might be suitable, but I’ve stuck with what works every time. (I’ve been told that flash drives have worked for others, but they never have for me.)
  • Download the Windows 10 ISO to the WD drive.
  • “Mount” the ISO file as a virtual drive by simply double-clicking it, and then copy the contents of the virtual drive back to the root of the physical/external drive. (They won’t reside on the main C: drive.)
  • Click setup.exe, which actually launches the upgrade from the external drive. When the setup process reports that it needs more space, assign the external drive.

If none of the above lets you perform an in-place upgrade on that PC’s small drive, an alternative method will almost surely get you there. Make a complete system backup, reformat the system drive, and install Windows afresh, letting it occupy as much of the 32GBs as needed. Then keep as much other stuff off that drive as possible — perhaps storing most of your files on one of your capacious external drives instead.

In short, if you give your copy of Windows the full 32GB it’s looking for, your install (and later reinstalls and upgrades) should go smoothly — and fast!

Of course, the ideal solution would be to replace the small internal drive with a much larger model. But if your desktop is, say, an all-in-one PC, that might not be practical. (Swapping drives on a standard desktop is usually exceptionally easy.)

For the full and official details on Win10 hardware needs, see the MS Windows page “How to Find Windows 10 Computer Specifications & System Requirements.”

Restarting a laptop that’s taken a year off

Alfredo Revilla wrote in to ask:

  • “My laptop has been turned off for a year now. Is there any danger in charging it after so much time?”

The danger’s not zero, but it’s exceedingly low. If it were my notebook, I’d plug it into a wall outlet and fully expect it to work — but I’d stick around to keep an eye on things during that first recharge.

However, here’s why it might not work. Lithium-ion setups typically need at least a small battery charge (a single-digit percentage; often around 3 to 5 percent) to energize the safety-related charging circuitry. If the said battery is completely discharged, the charging circuitry can’t get going, and the battery won’t accept a recharge.

So, if you connect your laptop to AC and nothing happens, the battery has become too discharged while in storage and can no longer be safely charged.

In that case, replacing the battery will likely let the device pick up right where it left off a year ago.

But again: the odds are good that your laptop, with its existing battery, will charge just fine. A Li-ion battery, in good condition, will lose its charge slowly while in storage. If the laptop was put away with any kind of reasonable charge, it should still be fine — it should have enough energy left to safely begin its recharge.

For maximum safety, I suggest you resist the temptation to use the laptop right away. Let it sit quietly, turned off but connected to its charger, for an hour or so. From time to time, especially during the first minutes, touch the battery case and charger brick to check for excessive heat. If things feel dangerously toasty, unplug the charger and replace the battery.

Note that there’s an equally negligible chance that the laptop’s hard drive might have difficulty spinning up after its long sleep. If that’s the case, your screen should light up but the system won’t boot. With a fully charged battery, you can try multiple cold starts. But you might have to replace the drive.

Also keep in mind that a PC that’s been offline for a year will be way, way behind in its security-related software updates. Therefore, one of your very first tasks with the revived system should be to update Windows and any third-party security tools installed on the laptop.

So go for it! Plug it in!

Send your questions and topic suggestions to Fred at fred@askwoody.com. Feedback on this article is always welcome in the AskWoody Lounge!

Fred Langa has been writing about tech — and, specifically, about personal computing — for as long as there have been PCs. And he is one of the founding members of the original Windows Secrets newsletter. Check out Langa.com for all of Fred’s current projects.


Best of the Lounge

Upgrading to Acronis True Image 2021?

We know it’s generally good practice to keep software updated. But must we always buy upgrades to newer versions? That was Plus member Kathy Stevens’s question to the Lounge after she was offered Acronis True Image 2021 at a discount.

The consensus from forum members? Research the changes, but don’t feel obliged to pay for the “latest and greatest.”


PRIVACY

Now here’s a topic guaranteed to generate chatter in the Lounge. Plus member AWRon is looking for a new portable but can’t find one with a version of Windows other than Windows 10. New to Win10, AWRon is concerned about OS telemetry (as are we all). That sparked a debate over the pros and cons of this infamous feature. But fellow members also offered helpful tips for controlling what’s sent to the Microsoft mothership.


TROUBLESHOOTING

Nothing spikes the old blood pressure like a system-restore failure. Plus Member Casey H was probably feeling some stress when a restore attempt using AOMEI Backupper resulted in no mouse or keyboard activity. With help from the Lounge, Casey H found the solution. The moral of the story? Thoroughly test your backup/restore system before you actually need it!


UPGRADING

Da Boss Susan Bradley put that question to the Lounge. As one might expect, the replies were a mixed bag. Some members are sticking with Win10 1909, some have already moved to Version 2004, and a few are simply skipping the spring release and going straight to Win10 20H2, which shares the same core as its predecessor.


Windows

Batch file renaming can be an ordeal. Plus member BobStr was looking for a better solution than manually changing file names. Fellow Lounger Alex5723 points to a source for solutions, and BobStr settled on Bulk Rename Utility.


SCAMS

Plus member Alex5723 posts a link to an important U.S. Federal Trade Commission alert. Bogus support calls try to convince users that their digital devices are compromised. But the real compromise comes with responding to the supposed help.


SCIENCE

For 57 years, this titanic radio telescope listened to the universe. Many were sad to hear of its end, following cable failures on December 1 that culminated in a complete collapse. Loungers offered their thoughts, related experiences — and condolences.


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 — Beeftext

By Deanna McElveen

If you’re like me, you find yourself typing the same bits of text over and over again.

Ideally, you’d have a handy tool to let you quickly paste frequently entered prose.

There are a number of utilities for entering strings of text via keyboard shortcuts (examples). But another spin on that trick really caught my attention. Xavier Michelon’s Beeftext uses text-based keywords rather than keyboard key combinations. Why is a text keyword better? You don’t have to worry about key-combo conflicts with applications.


Amy Babinchak

SMALL-BUSINESS COMPUTING

A new way to manage Exchange’s auto-forwarding rules

By Amy Babinchak

Here’s one never-changing rule for IT pros: Microsoft will always change the way that things get done.

For example, in September, the company rolled out a new version of the Exchange admin center (EAC). This change and others mean that we’re forever working to keep our system/service settings and configurations up to date.

A security staple for IT staff is preventing email from auto-forwarding off domains. Recently the transport rule that powered this function stopped working for two of my clients. It’s continued to work for others, but it’s probably just a matter of time before they run into this issue, too. So, my staff is off making changes — proactively.


Michael Lasky

BEST HARDWARE

Versatile gadget gifts for stuffing stockings large and small

By Michael Lasky

Christmas stocking stuffers are usually thought of as small, whimsical, and not necessarily practical.

But relatively inexpensive tech gadgets can be both useful and appealing to your favorite digital denizen. You might even secretly covet them for yourself.

If your holiday list is still missing something, and you’re down to last-minute shopping, consider picking up one or more of the following devices.


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.

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