News, tips, advice, support for Windows, Office, PCs & more
Home icon Home icon Home icon Email icon RSS icon

We're community supported and proud of it!

ISSUE 18.8.F • 2021-03-01
Logo
The AskWoody Newsletter
FREE EDITION

In this issue

LANGALIST: “Stuttering” glitch on a brand-new PC

BEST OF THE LOUNGE: Fry’s Electronics is closing

Additional articles in the PLUS issue

PUBLIC DEFENDER: Here’s looking at you, kid: the child-cam scam

LEGAL BRIEF: The best things in life are copyrighted

ONEDRIVE: Using Microsoft OneDrive on your Android device

PATCH WATCH: MS-DEFCON 4 – February updates trigger few issues

ADVERTISEMENT
Free financial technology website

This technology is finally free

Hi, Brian Livingston here. I wrote my first tech column in 1990. Now, 30 years later, I’ve published 11 “Windows Secrets” books and a new one about an exciting technology that’s finally free.

We used to pay for long-distance calls. Tech made them free. Once upon a time, we bought road maps. Now maps are free on our phones. Today, you can beat the world champions of chess using sophisticated software. Tech is great.

Computers do a much better job of growing the money in your 401(k), IRA, or other savings account than you can do with your mind. Wall Street knows these simple formulas. Finally, cloud computing is so cheap that I could make a website that reveals it all for free on any browser or smartphone. (See photo at left.)

I’m not selling this technology. As a journalist, I’m giving it away.

Get my free newsletter and a free special report. Do it NOW.

Use this link or enter in any browser BRI.LI/NT4. Thanks!


LANGALIST

“Stuttering” glitch on a brand-new PC

Fred Langa

By Fred Langa

A subscriber’s new system experiences erratic mouse and touchpad problems almost from the very first startup.

Unwanted pauses, hesitations, and stutters can afflict any PC of any age, potentially causing problems with numerous subsystems: mouse, keyboard, Wi-Fi, Bluetooth, Ethernet, disks and memory, screen operations, and more! Here are the likely causes, and fixes.

Plus: Taming CCleaner’s Smart Cleaning feature.

Erratic mousing on a new PC

AskWoody Plus subscriber Todd Collier is experiencing a disappointing glitch with his new hardware.

  • “Hi, Fred! I have been subscribing to the LangaList for almost 20 years.

    “I just got a new PC and cannot believe I am having this problem with it.

    “No help from Microsoft support except to do a full reinstall (done without benefit).

    “Both my PC’s touch pad and Microsoft Precision Mouse (Bluetooth) simultaneously stop responding intermittently, leading to delayed jerky movement of the cursor.

    “It doesn’t happen often, but twice a week is too much for a new system.

    “I know you have written about intermittent mouse ‘stuttering’ problems before.

    “I recall that with Windows XP, you advised changing the priority of CPU tasks to make the mouse the highest priority to prevent other processes from sabotaging the mouse/touch pad.

    “Any advice on what I should try with Windows 10 Pro, Version 2004, build 19041-572? My PC is a Surface Book 3. Thanks!”

Glitches with a brand-new machine? My sympathies!

You’re right: Unwanted and erroneous pauses, hesitations, dropouts, and interruptions have been a recurring theme in these pages because they can affect a wide range of PC processes and tasks: communication via Wi-Fi, Bluetooth, or Ethernet; mouse and keyboard issues; disk and memory problems; screen updating glitches; and more.

And yes, way back when CPUs were far more limited than today’s, these kinds of glitches would sometimes arise from the PC trying to juggle too many tasks at once. To prevent one task from stepping on another’s toes, you could manually adjust the tasks’ priorities — in effect, telling the CPU, “do this task first, before you do that one.”

I don’t think that’s going to help here. Today’s OSes and high-speed, multicore CPUs employ well-evolved internal mechanisms to efficiently distribute the workload and prevent almost all such old-style “me first!” contention problems among the PC’s hardware and software.

But there are still at least four other causes of these kinds of stutters and hesitations. You’ll read about them all below, but the most common one is trouble with device-level power-saving settings — when Windows improperly engages a driver-level power-saving feature on some device or subsystem. Seconds or minutes later, when you go to use that hardware, the device isn’t ready and takes a moment to recover, leading to a noticeable delay or hesitation or stutter.

Although this can happen in any PC, the aggressive battery-saving in portable devices — tablets, laptops, phones, etc. — can make them especially susceptible to power-control hiccups. Todd’s PC is a tablet, so it’s probably worth checking for power issues, even though you might now suspect erroneous settings in a new system.

Note that the issue I’m talking about here is separate from the Windows Control Panel Power Options settings — usually listed as Balanced, High Performance, and Power saver. (See the Microsoft support page How to adjust power and sleep settings.) Those are indirect, high-level settings; I’m talking about directly adjusting the low-level, driver-level settings that I suspect are the cause of Todd’s mouse stutter.

Fortunately, driver-level power settings are easy to check, and problems there are usually simple to fix. Let’s take a look and then discuss the other possible causes of this glitch.

Controlling power-saving options at the device driver level

Device Manager offers a setting called Allow the computer to turn off this device to save power. It’s usually on, by default. But if you disable it, Windows will then leave the device alone — allowing it to be always active, ready, and responsive. Your PC may use a little more power, but for something like a mouse, the amount is negligible.

The only real gotcha is that you’ll need to check this power setting in each of the PC’s subsystems that could be involved with the stutter; control of a given device may be split across or combined with several Device Manager categories.

That complicates things a bit, but it makes sense when you think about it. For example, a Bluetooth mouse’s performance will be affected not only by Device Manager’s mouse-specific settings but also by Bluetooth-specific settings, as well as by system-wide, general input device or human interface settings.

So, you’ll need to poke around a bit, expanding various Device Manager categories, until you’ve found all the devices whose power-control settings could be the cause of the stutter.

It’s not hard, and you needn’t be shy about “poking around.” Merely opening and examining the Device Manager settings won’t hurt anything. Better still, when you later find and disable the appropriate Allow the computer to turn off this device … settings, the change is nondestructive. If you don’t like the results, just re-enable the setting — no harm done!

All this is easier to understand when you see it, so here’s what to do:

Open Device Manager (i.e., type device manager into the Windows search box).

Look for and expand any/all categories of interest. When you’ve found a device that you suspect might be involved with the stutter, right-click to examine its Properties.

For example, on my PC, I’d expand Device Manager’s Human Interface Devices category and then right-click on my Microsoft Hardware USB mouse to open its Properties.

On the Properties page, I’d select the Power Management tab and then uncheck/deselect the option to Allow the computer to turn off this device to save power.

Power management
Figure 1. Unchecking this Device Manager option tells your PC not to power-manage the selected device.

Click OK to exit Device Manager. Reboot, and use your PC normally for a while to see whether the problem is gone.

If it recurs, try another potential stutter-related setting. For example, your mouse may have its own separate Device Manager setting (possibly under Mice and other pointing devices) with its own, separate Allow the computer to turn off this device to save power option. If so, try disabling that. Continue with that and other potentially related devices until the stutters no longer occur.

And again, feel free to poke around! Looking hurts nothing, and any power-related changes you make here are non-destructive. Take notes so you’ll remember what changes you do make, and if disabling any Allow the computer … setting causes a problem, simply re-enable it!

(Want more examples of adjusting this setting? See PC loses network connection after about an hour [AskWoody Plus 2016-07-11] and Problems with USB-attached external hard drives [AskWoody Plus 2016-04-19].)

These kinds of simple power-savings adjustments will often cure a case of the stutters, but if not, there are several other things to consider.

Additional likely causes of pauses, hesitations, and stutters

Normally, with a wireless mouse problem, I’d suggest checking the mouse’s own batteries. But Todd said his problem also affects his touchpad, which is not powered by a separate battery. So it’s not that.

More seriously, an unknown scheduled task might be kicking in and causing a temporary hiccup in system operation; or you may have a corrupted driver or bad update; or your PC may be suffering from intermittent electrical or electromagnetic interference. You can see how to track down these and similar issues in Wi-Fi stutters every evening like clockwork (AskWoody Plus 2020-09-14).

Note for older systems: Power-setting driver compatibility can be a problem for some Win7- and Win8-era PCs that have been upgraded to Win10. (Todd’s PC is new, so this shouldn’t be an issue for him.) Older hardware was built to earlier power-saving standards such as Win7’s obsolete Connected Standby or Win8’s now-superseded InstantGo; Win10 uses a new standard called Modern Standby. (More info? See Five different ways to fix airplane mode malfunctions (AskWoody Plus 2019-01-21) and Microsoft’s support document What is Modern Standby?) With an older PC, you’d definitely want to ensure the drivers were fully up to date and fully compatible with Modern Standby. But again, Todd’s new PC — from Microsoft — should already have current, correct drivers.

If none of the above helps, Windows’ built-in Reliability Monitor may be able to assist. It tracks and displays information on every hang, hiccup, and crash by Windows, drivers, and applications.

For information on accessing and using Reliability Monitor, click to The Windows Maintenance Challenge: Part 1 (Windows Secrets 2014-08-14) and scroll to the section labeled System stability and other errors.

But I don’t think it will come to that. I’m betting that a simple power-control adjustment, or one of the other listed fixes above, will cure Todd’s stuttering mouse!

Taming CCleaner‘s “Smart Cleaning”

AskWoody subscriber Phil Heberer wants to use CCleaner — a popular junk-clearing app (free/paid; site) — but doesn’t like the aggressive actions of its “Smart Cleaning.”

  • “Hello Fred!

    “In your columns over the years, you have often recommended CCleaner. I have also used it for what seems like forever, but the latest version has me perturbed! Have you noticed that even if you turn off ‘Smart cleaning’ in the settings, as soon as you open the program again, it’s right back! Not only that, but even after going into the Windows Startup list and deleting it, it also gets put back into the startup with Windows! 🙁 I really don’t care to have ‘smart cleanup’ running all the time, so how do I get rid of it?

    “Thanks in advance.”

Yup: You’ve discovered a bit of lazy interface design in CCleaner’s Smart Cleaning settings. As it stands, the order in which you make your selection determines whether the settings take effect. It’s all very logical and not wrong, exactly, but the click order doesn’t need to matter at all here. A few more lines of code would have let it work, regardless of the click order.

Anyway, here’s how to control Smart Cleaning:

Open CCleaner and click to Options/Smart Cleaning. You’ll see something like what’s shown below, in Figure 2.

Now here’s the thing: You first must deselect (uncheck/disable) Tell me when there are junk files to clean before you can permanently deselect (uncheck/disable) Enable Smart Cleaning.

Deactivation order
Figure 2. To deactivate Smart Cleaning, uncheck these options in the order shown.

I like the Smart Cleaning feature, and I mostly let it do its thing. But it can be disabled — and now you know how!

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

Fry’s Electronics is closing

Susan Bradley’s post about the closing of the venerable Fry’s Electronics, a leading computer store chain in the western US, elicited many comments, mostly of regret.


PUBLIC DEFENDER

This topic, spurred by Brian Livingston’s recent column, quickly turned to a discussion of the US Postal Service and was equally quickly branded “political.” Chime in and tell us what you think.


PUBLIC DEFENDER

Brian’s examination of methods to stay online when your primary provider is offline continued to draw comments for the third straight week.


MICROSOFT

AskWoody Plus member mpw rubbed shoulders with Microsoft when his Windows 10 20H2 update started to nag him about his Microsoft account. Join the conversation and share your experiences with Microsoft’s ongoing crusade to get all of us signed up. Should we fight for local accounts or be absorbed by the Borg?


LINUX

Sandra Henry-Stocker’s article describing methods for trying Linux on Windows has grown into one of the longest conversations of the last couple of months.


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!

PUBLIC DEFENDER

Brian Livingston

Here’s looking at you, kid: the child-cam scam

By Brian Livingston

In a routine examination of child monitoring webcams, I discover a deeper problem with one UK-based service and realize there is an emerging scandal.

LEGAL BRIEF

Fred Langa

The best things in life are copyrighted

By Max Stul Oppenheimer, Esq.

Even though there is a sea of material on the Web for almost effortless copying, nearly everything is subject to copyright law. And the purpose of copyright law is specifically to protect the creators of copyrighted works from unauthorized copying.

ONEDRIVE

Deanna McElveen

Using Microsoft OneDrive on your Android device

By Lance Whitney

In February, I covered the process for using OneDrive on an iPhone or iPad; now it’s time to see what it can do on an Android device. And with Android, Microsoft also offers its own Launcher!

PATCH WATCH

Susan Bradley

MS-DEFCON 4 – February updates trigger few issues

By Susan Bradley

I urge everyone to get the February security updates installed. For consumers, I’m not tracking any major issues. I also recommend that those of you still on 1909 consider installing 2004 or 20H2, unless they are not yet being offered on your PCs.

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 Tech LLC (sb@askwoody.com); editor: Will Fastie (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 Tech LLC. All other marks are the trademarks or service marks of their respective owners.

Your subscription:


Copyright © 2021 AskWoody Tech LLC, All rights reserved.