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ISSUE 20.40.F • 2023-10-02 • Text Alerts!Gift Certificates
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Susan Bradley

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In this issue

ON SECURITY: Microsoft Backup triggers help-desk calls and confusion

Additional articles in the PLUS issue

PUBLIC DEFENDER: How Amazon ejected AI-written e-books from its bestseller lists

MICROSOFT 365: Ten stunning features in Microsoft Word

HARDWARE: Thunderbolt

The Nokbox

The Nokbox

Estate Planning & Organization

If something were to happen to you tomorrow, would your next of kin be prepared to manage all of your assets, finances, and wishes?

They will if you have a Nokbox: a Next of Kin box.


Microsoft Backup triggers help-desk calls and confusion

Susan Bradley

By Susan Bradley

I applaud Microsoft for admitting that we all need to back up our computers and workstations, or at least have a recovery plan of some sort.

But Microsoft’s recent backup implementation, its suddenly appearing Microsoft Backup app, is not well thought out and is a one-size-fits-all solution — that doesn’t fit well at all.

Here’s the backstory. The new Backup app is available for both Windows 10 and 11. That’s a surprise, because we’ve been put on notice that Windows 10 22H2 is the final release, with only security updates coming our way until October 2025.

Recently added

That should mean no more feature releases, but suddenly the new Backup app that I thought was intended only for Windows 11 appeared on my Windows 10 PCs, with no warning. Not only was it added to the Recently added section of the Start menu (no doubt to make it supremely obvious), it was also added under W!

And I got two of them under Recently added. What’s that about?

At any rate, the September updates installed the new Backup app.

Many of us have taken Microsoft to task for its mixed-up history with in-box backup applications. (“In-box” refers to apps that are included as part of Windows.) Fully featured backup and restore apps were provided with both Windows XP and Windows 7, but they were incompatible with one another. In their own right, they were good backup apps. With Windows 10, we were advised to use File History, as described in the oddly named Microsoft support article Backup and Restore in Windows (isn’t the article about File History?). Now we have yet another app, apparently for both Windows 11 and Windows 10.

A complete, safe backup involves getting everything on the PC except the operating system onto a separate backup device, usually a hard drive. The drive is kept offline except when being used to create a new backup. That makes it inaccessible to ransomware attacks, computer malfunctions, or a faulty patch and thus enables you to reinstall Windows and recover.

That’s important to keep in mind because the newly released Backup application doesn’t quite work that way. By default, it wants to create a backup using OneDrive — supplied by your Microsoft account or a consumer Microsoft 365 subscription. It appears to be doing the right things by backing up the folders you select (Documents, Photos, etc.) along with specific cloud-based applications, Windows Settings, Preferences, Wi-Fi passwords, and other credentials. The problem is that you can’t put the backup where you want. Microsoft is deciding for you.

The Backup application was installed in the August preview update KB5029331 (for build 19045.3393), immediately followed in September by the cumulative update KB5030211 (for builds 19044.3448 and 19045.3448). KB5030211 was billed as a security update, which means users and IT admins may have simply applied the security updates without realizing a new feature was being installed as well.

Unfortunately, this is not a new scenario. Microsoft has a habit of testing features in the Insider versions and then rolling them into the Preview updates. When the main security update comes out the following month, changes released in the prior Preview release are not explicitly mentioned. It’s up to you to remember that nonsecurity updates from last month’s previews are included in this month’s security updates.

Because the Backup application, as delivered, depends on the existence of a Microsoft account and thus OneDrive space, it’s easy to assume that this is an effort on the company’s part to encourage the use of both. Backup is a good thing, right? You just need that Microsoft account to use it.

That’s why I use Macrium Reflect. At least I know it works the way backup should. And I’m not shilling here; there are other suitable backup solutions, too.

The little problem with Microsoft accounts

You can already see what’s coming, right? What if you don’t have a Microsoft account or, if you are in a business setting, you have a OneDrive for Business account, not a Microsoft account connected to your computer? Will there be a problem?

If your PC is running with a local account, the Backup application will urge you to create a Microsoft account. That’s an annoying marketing ploy, but no problems result if you decline. You can use the alternative backup solution of your choice.

Not supported

For a business setting, this new Backup application feature wasn’t well thought out. There are several scenarios.

Many smaller firms utilize some form of drive imaging to centralized network-attached storage, so that every unique workstation on the network is automatically backed up. Using a third-party backup program allows monitoring of all backups from one console.

Another possibility is simpler. Workstations are configured so that key documents are stored in a network drive (perhaps on an on-premises server) or by using OneDrive for Business. If something happens to a workstation, it can be redeployed using tools such as Autopilot. In this case, backup is handled centrally and the workstations themselves are not backed up.

And then there is a truly confusing situation. If the business is using a traditional Active Directory domain or is using a Microsoft 365 deployment, launching the new Backup application results in the message shown above. This happens not because a group policy is blocking OneDrive or because some other block is in place. It happens because this new Backup application is looking for a consumer Microsoft account and its associated OneDrive.

Ignoring it in a business setting

This is not a good look for business workstations. It will inevitably result in spurious help-desk calls. A number of consultants have studied the matter and determined via AppLocker logs that Backup is a packaged application called MICROSOFTWINDOWS.CLIENT.CBS. Using AppLocker and WDAC, one can proactively block the launching of this application, but many admins have pointed out that this is not an ideal solution.

The day after Backup appeared, I rebooted one of my office PCs and was greeted by a pop-up message “suggesting” that I check out a new application. As you might expect, doing so simply displays the “not supported” message. It’s possible to disable such suggestions, which may help to calm fears about the pop-up being some sort of phishing attack. In some circumstances, you may wish to use a group policy to disable OneDrive.

Setting up the backup

Setting up the backup is relatively easy on a Windows 10 22H2 computer because there is no setup. You simply launch the app and click to start the backup.

Of course, your Microsoft 365 consumer subscription determines how much space is available. If you are using just your Windows account, there is only 5GB of space available, virtually nothing for backup purposes. You may need to purchase additional OneDrive space or sign up for a consumer 365 subscription that includes more.

I tried the backup on a fast Comcast connection at home. It didn’t take very long, but keep in mind that the new app isn’t doing a full backup that includes the operating system — it’s just moving data. So as a selective backup to the cloud, it performed as expected.

Then I began to study how to selectively restore the backup I just made. The deeper I got, the more I thought, “They have to be kidding.” This Windows Backup app does not do the kind of backup you and I would consider beneficial. In fact, this “backup” is a page out of the Apple iPhone migration handbook, designed to make moving to a new computer easier.

And that is the big clue as to why this so-called backup app is not just a new feature for Windows 11 PCs but was surprisingly deployed to Windows 10 PCs as well. Microsoft is clearly attempting to simplify the migration process to Windows 11 to (obviously) increase the share of Windows 11 deployments.

There’s no question that the iPhone migration is magical. Just put your old and new phones near one another, and then sit back and let the Wizard guide you through the entire process. It just flat-out works, and in the process washes away any resistance you might have felt about leaving that old phone behind. There’s even a migration Wizard for the Android-to-iPhone process that works just as well and makes you think, “Gee, that was a lot easier than my last Android-to-Android migration.” Hmmm. (By the way, both the Android and iPhone migrations are beautifully documented at Apple’s site.)

I’ve often said that Microsoft needs to take a cue from Apple and make the migration process easier for consumers. Clearly, Microsoft heard this feedback. But instead of calling it a migration app, they called it Backup. In the Insider blog that talks about this new feature, Microsoft states:

Windows Backup app – we’re introducing this new app to quickly get your current PC backed up and ready to move to a new PC. App pins – your Store apps from your prior PC will be pinned where you left them, both on taskbar and in the Start menu. Settings – Settings from your previous device will restore to your new PC to help you get back into the flow as quickly as possible.

In other words, this really is a migration application, not a Windows backup application. It will back up only store-installed applications, not your YuleLog application that you’ve been using to track your Hallmark Christmas ornament selections for the past 30 years. Yes, I’m talking about you, sister. But Sis would really like to make sure that app and its data migrate to any new computer she gets.

Whoever in the Microsoft team signed off on calling this the Windows backup application needs to understand the connotation and reputation that word brings. It means you can restore the computer to the same hardware with the same applications, not just move the desktop and Microsoft store apps to a new computer. To use a baseball phrase, this was a swing and a miss.

Ignoring it in a home setting

For home users, it’s an annoying reminder of our Redmond overlords. But it’s not something I recommend you attempt to rip out. Trying to de-bloat Windows often ends up breaking too many things. So unless there is an official “remove” script sanctioned by Microsoft, my advice right now is to ignore it.

I’m hoping such an official script might soon come, given that this app has no business (pun intended) being deployed to business computers that would never, ever, use a OneDrive backup-and-restore methodology to deploy new computers. No service is running, so the footprint and impact to your computer — other than the visual annoyance — is minimal. You’ll probably find it slightly annoying, as do I, that so much time and effort are being put into having us migrate without acknowledging that older Windows apps, not Store apps, are the reason many of us stay on Windows.

Bottom line: This is not a Windows backup. You still must rely on a third-party solution to do a full backup to an external hard drive. For me, that’s a Macrium Reflect backup that runs at least nightly (depending on the computer) to an external USB hard drive — one that is several times larger than the drive I’m backing up.

That, Microsoft, is a true Windows backup.


Talk Bubbles Join the conversation! Your questions, comments, and feedback
about this topic are always welcome in our forums!

Susan Bradley is the publisher of the AskWoody newsletters.

Completing the Puzzle

Here are the other stories in this week’s Plus Newsletter


Brian Livingston

How Amazon ejected AI-written e-books from its bestseller lists

By Brian Livingston

The giant online retailer,, faced a problem. Hackers were using chatbots to create fake e-books — mostly novels full of gibberish — and posting them into the Kindle Unlimited (KU) service.

The perps then launched scripts to “read” their works. The automated traffic resulted in Amazon’s e-book bestseller lists being dominated by drivel.


Peter Deegan

Ten stunning features in Microsoft Word

By Peter Deegan

Microsoft Word has been around for so long, it’s easy to forget how great it really is.

If you ask Microsoft about great Word features, they’ll drag out a list of recent innovations (starting and ending with “AI” and plenty of “cloud” in between). My own “stunning features” are things we take for granted, with some tips to make better use of them.


Lance Whitney


By Ed Tittel

Not many people know this, but Thunderbolt originated as an optical networking technology. Apple and Intel worked on its initial design.

Known as Light Peak, it was based upon optical components and fiber-optic cables at Intel’s Silicon Photonics lab. When it turned out that copper cables could deliver the same 10 Gbps bandwidth as the more expensive and finicky optical elements, the cheaper, less demanding technology won.

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