Windows 10: Don’t Skip Your Automatic Updates

Mark Funchion is a network technician at Tech Experts.

Windows Automatic Updates: a simple feature with a name that puts you at ease. Windows is the operating system installed on most of our home and business PCs, and as we often mention, malicious individuals try to make our lives miserable by attacking those systems.

Windows, by default, is set to automatically update and protect itself from new viruses and exploits, which is a great feature.

Granted, some updates may be flawed and may need to be removed, but you can prevent those updates from installing. What’s more important than the errant glitch or bug is keeping your PC up-to-date.

However, how many of you have come in the morning and been greeted with a message that your update failed and changes were being undone?

Then, after a lengthy wait, your system restarts and says it will try again later. Most of us ignore that message. Sometimes, repeatedly.

Microsoft deploys small updates as well as large feature updates, so if you put it off for too long, you won’t only be behind on updates but possibly entire versions. Windows 10 has had ten major updates total since 2015, and there are usually two feature updates released per year.

The four most recent versions are 1909, 2004, 20H2, and now 21H1 – and we’ve seen some computers get stuck as far back as Versions 1903 or 2004.

Version 1903 was released in May 2019 and Version 2004 was released in May 2020; if your updates are that far behind, that’s a lot of time spent vulnerable.

That long of a timeframe means the smaller updates that often work, even when the larger versions fail, are no longer produced. Over time, we have seen systems not only stop operating completely, but left in a state unable to perform certain tasks.

One example we’ve encountered is a problem where users on old Windows versions are no longer able to connect to Office 365 with Outlook.

That means having to use the web-based version, which many do not prefer, or trying to fix the update installation errors.

This is where having a managed service provider such as Tech Experts can help. We follow and encounter these issues and know that simple things such as a particular audio driver or a permissions error can cause these update problems.

We manage your updates and take a proactive approach to resolving them before they impact your daily work. When an update needs some manual tweaking, we can schedule a time convenient to you to resolve these issues, often before you’re even aware of them.

Our service extends beyond just these updates, but like a house, if the foundation of your PC (the operating system) is not strong, then every other part is weakened.

We also inspect the rest of your system on a regular basis to keep you protected. Tech Experts can stay on top of these things – from updates to exploits and bugs to enhanced security measures – and guide you in the right direction as a more informed user.

Did Your Windows 10 Search Function Break?

Jason Cooley is Support Services Manager for Tech Experts.

It seems like every time I turn around I have a new Windows 10 story to share. The combined abundance and variety of issues has been frustrating to say the least. The number of users affected normally varies as people will install updates at different times, but those updates are the most likely cause of a widespread issue.

Microsoft recently had one of the most widespread issues in its Windows 10 OS history, and that is quite a statement. It likely affected more users than any group on a given operating system version.

When trying to update something in its own programming for Windows 10, Microsoft broke the search feature.

First, some background information: Windows 10 search is built-in and Microsoft has integrated the search with Bing to allow for both local searching of your system and online results as well.

The option can be very useful for users as it allows a centralized location to look for whatever you might need to find. Personally, I still use the search feature for Windows functions and use Google to do any web searches. That said, I can see the value the search feature has for some.

For each person it works well for, there is a user that will search for something on their computer then accidentally open a Bing search result for something they never had any intention of opening.

It happened recently to someone I know. They were searching for their scanner and nearly downloaded a third party application from an untrusted source. It can happen easily and frequently.

Whether you find use in local and online results or you are more like me and use the search purely for Windows functions, you likely rely on it to some degree.

So what would you do if you had no ability to search at all? What if the entire functionality of searching was broken in Windows 10? That is what happened recently to just about every person who happened to login over a few day period recently. Microsoft was updating some of its backend search code (likely making changes to Bing itself) and didn’t account for an impact on the integrated search.

The impact on each user varied, but even as someone who is very comfortable using Windows 10, the broken search function really made things more difficult. Fortunately, the problem was very quickly resolved.

In terms of a Microsoft turnaround, a 1-day fix is quite incredible. Some users experienced it for a bit longer as the fix was not always applied automatically. The problems were sporadic, but some machines took a few restarts to apply the hotfix.

When you break Windows for almost all of your users (especially right after taking away the most loved operating system of all time), fixing it quick is in your best interest. That is exactly what Microsoft did. Let’s just hope we all achieve a little stability now that some of their resources have been freed up with the end of Windows 7.

Windows 10 Issues Persist After Windows 7 Retires

Jason Cooley is Support Services Manager for Tech Experts.

January marked the end for Windows 7. After ten years and more than a few extensions, Microsoft finally made the cut-off and will no longer be updating what many would call its most reliable operating system ever.

Many businesses held out as long as possible, and some have even paid for privatized extended support.

Microsoft certainly had to split its focus while having more than one operating system in production, but with the end of Windows 7, one would assume that Windows 10 would have more developers working on the issues and updates as they arise.

It hasn’t been long, but so far, we have not seen anything to indicate a brighter future for Windows 10.

Now, Microsoft is no stranger to a failed OS. Who can forget Windows ME (Millennium Edition), Windows Vista, and even Windows 8? These were deemed failures and had a much shorter life span than favorites like Windows XP and Windows 7.

That said, Windows 10 won’t fall into the same category as ME, Vista, or Windows 8. Windows 10, when correctly functional, really is one of the better user experiences there has been. It has already proven commercially to be more successful with a larger market share than any of the failed systems.

Of course, that could also be attributed to the fact that there was another OS available at the times of ME, Vista, and Windows 8. Windows ME couldn’t break the grasp that Windows XP had. Vista was a victim of Windows XP and Windows 7. Windows 8 was decimated by Windows 7 and Windows 10.

Windows 10 from a user standpoint is not a failure, but there are a few ways that it exceeds the issues that some of these failed operating systems had.

Windows 10 has had some fairly widespread issues. The most recent problem? A majority of Windows 10 users found themselves unable to use the search feature in Windows. The start menu would allow you to open it, but the search never returned results.

Microsoft was able to fix the issue within a day or so, but what caused the issue?

The broken search was related to a broken link to Bing search. The search function is integrated with Bing, and the functionality of the feature was completely broken because of it.

There have been other issues as well. One of my favorite and most unique problems with Windows 10 was a few month span during an entire feature update where Microsoft had broken the ability to install Microsoft Office.

There was no fix. If the problem occurred, you had to either roll back to install Office or wait until the next feature update.

You almost expect there to be issues with third party software during a new update, but when it’s the company’s own product? It is definitely a headscratcher. Relatedly, there were frequent problems with Office activation and the Microsoft store being completely missing or broken.

While Windows 7 didn’t have all of the features that Windows 10 did, it seemed to be much more reliable.

We can only hope that Microsoft gets those extra developers working so Windows 10 can be as reliable as its predecessor. Despite these issues, the potential is there.

Microsoft Starts Forcing November 2019 Update On Users

Jason Cooley is Support Services Manager for Tech Experts.

The Windows 10 November 2019 update (also known as Version 1909) is live and many users have moved to Microsoft’s latest feature update.

As an IT professional here at Tech Experts, it seems like these feature updates happen one right after another.

Although this is not the case as Microsoft only releases feature updates twice a year, the issues we encounter during each feature update’s life cycle make it seem that way. The only notable updates between these feature updates are ones that may fix an issue, which may or may not have been caused by the last feature update.

So what are updates like for someone who is not one of the Tech Experts?

As a user, you may or may not notice updates a lot more frequently, but those are smaller updates and may not fix anything at all. There are regular security updates made during each cycle, updates to Microsoft applications, important system files, drivers, and numerous other things.

The larger ‘feature updates’, while not intending to do so, are the most likely to cause system issues. Many users who are more tech savvy avoid installing these until they are certain it is stable. In some cases, users will try to avoid installing them at all.

Many people live under the “if it isn’t broke, don’t fix it” mentality. Minus security updates, I can see a strong case for this line of thinking.

For years, many users (myself included) could selectively manage their updates. I could avoid installing many updates and keep installing only security updates.

While there is still some ability to manage updates in Windows 10, it is also more limited. One way Windows 10 has made managing updates easier for everyday users is by having the option to pause updates altogether. There is even an option specifically allowing you to stop those feature updates, which is great if your system is running well and you don’t want to cause any issues.

There are also times where you may have a specific piece of software that is not compatible with the newest feature update and you need to avoid software incompatibility. That is when you are probably most grateful for the pause feature updates option.

Well, the time has come for Microsoft to go against your choices and decide that it knows what is best for you!

The November 2019 update is being pushed out to users, whether you want it or not. While it sounds deceitful, there is – as always with Microsoft – more to it.

Users who are currently on Version 1809, which is now two versions behind, are being pushed to the November update. There are new security updates for Version 1909, and they cannot be applied to 1809.

Microsoft is taking this precaution to make sure users stay protected. In the past, Microsoft typically reserved forced rollouts for Windows Home version, but these forced updates will also apply to all computers running Windows 10 Professional.

If you are on Version 1809 and want to avoid being updated to 1909, you may be able to delay the process by manually moving to Version 1903 instead. Just remember, Microsoft is prioritizing your security, not comfort.

Has Windows 10 Deleted Your Programs?

Jason Cooley is Support Services Manager for Tech Experts.

With the litany of ongoing issues and quirks associated with Windows 10, we’ve come to expect hiccups but something is getting a lot of attention in the recent major upgrade patches.

Windows, silently and without notice, is deleting installed software.

While this can be infuriating, it is actually Microsoft attempting to look out for the average user. The belief is that the average user will not be able to deal with a program being non-functional, causing driver errors, or worse.

Although this makes sense, the issue isn’t the fact that you are being protected. It’s the lack of notification.

You upgrade to the latest version, go to use a program, and it’s gone. While someone who works in IT will likely know what happened, the average user is in the dark. The same people Microsoft are “protecting” are left scratching their heads with no explanation.

Let’s continue by acknowledging the fact that, even though these programs might have been uninstalled, the data associated with the program is likely safe.

Windows, during large feature updates, will create a Windows.old file. This will contain the previous version of Windows and the files associated with it.

The files that have seem to have vanished associated with your software? It’s tucked away in the Windows.old folder.

However, do not assume this is a safe place to leave the data. If you need to have the data, make sure to copy it from that folder. After a week or two, it will be gone.

So is the folder there just to catch the programs and files Windows decided to remove? Nope! The good news is the main purpose of this folder is to store the version of Windows from before the large feature update.

This will allow you to roll back to the previous installation and use your software again. Your associated files would be back as well.

What’s the catch? At some point, you are probably going to have to update. Windows is becoming increasingly strict about forcing updates to users at some point. The good news is that a lot of the incompatibility issues will already be resolved by the time you’re forced to update.

Granted, that’s not guaranteed, so if you have essential software that may not be compatible moving forward, you would want to investigate other options.

This shouldn’t be a problem for an average user. Normal everyday use programs like Microsoft Office will always be fixed when compatibility issues arise, assuming you are still using a supported version of the program as well. (Condolences to those of you still using Office 2007, but if it breaks, they aren’t going to fix it.)

There are options to delay updates by default, which could possibly save you from ever having to deal with this problem.

If you have to download programs to replace any outdated ones, be selective and make sure they’re from reputable sources.

At the end of the day, Microsoft isn’t trying to ruin your day, but some of these issues sure can do that, intentionally or not.

Give us a call if you have any questions about Windows 10 or application upgrades. We’re happy to help!

Windows 10 Feature Updates: Changes Going Forward

Jason Cooley is Support Services Manager for Tech Experts.

Windows 10 and its updates have been an interesting ride to say the least. For IT professionals, like us at Tech Experts, Windows 10 updates have caused a myriad of problems in the last few years. You don’t have to be a Tech Expert to have experienced some of these problems.

Over the years it has not been abnormal for Windows Updates to cause issues for users. Third party software could potentially function different or not at all after updates. Your printer may stop working. You could lose a shortcut.

While inconvenient, it isn’t Microsoft intentionally causing you grief. To simplify it as much as possible, Microsoft makes changes they find necessary. Sometimes, those changes cause already installed software (and potentially any future installed software) to stop working.

These issues seem to be more prevalent in Windows 10 and there are more than a few I would classify as large scale issues. Microsoft attempts to fix issues that are reported, based on how impactful they are and how many users they affect. If a common sound driver isn’t working for 50% of Windows users, that would be a priority fix.

So where do these issues come from?
Windows has different types of updates. The large updates with major changes to the system are called Feature Updates. These updates have been rolling out twice a year and in the opinion of many, this is where the issues originate.

Twice a year, your system has a good chance of having something not work correctly for an unspecified amount of time. Not a great user experience. Feature updates are intended to create a better user experience, make needed changes, or improve functionality. The broken software, drivers, or even data loss are just free bonuses.

Additionally, Microsoft has two groups for how updates are sent out. If you are a Windows Insider, you get the upgrade first and act as a live tester to eliminate the worst of these issues. Then, once Microsoft determines they are ready to deploy to the second group of users, the feature updates push all of the changes all at once, for better or worse.

Good news ahead
I have been hard on the updates because of the level of frustration caused by them for consumers and professionals alike. Thankfully, Microsoft recently announced that next year it will start a new model for its update cycles. Instead of two major feature updates every year, there will be one major and one minor feature updates per year. The schedule will include major upgrades in the spring and minor upgrades in the fall.

There are more changes to the way updates work coming as well, and I believe they will help prevent many of the problems that the updates the last two years have caused.

There are changes to the deployment model coming as well. The Insiders will still receive the updates first, but the rest of the Windows users will catch a big break here.

Instead of the major feature update coming all at once, the feature changes and upgrades will be released slowly. As Microsoft’s John Wilcox notes, “we are using a controlled feature rollout (CFR) to gain better feedback on overall build quality, [so Slow Ring subscribers] may not see the new 19H2 features right away.”

These last two years haven’t been easy, but the new process will almost certainly save us a lot of time, alleviate a few headaches, and make for a better user experience.

Basically, what they were supposed to be doing all along.

Your Guide To Microsoft’s End Of Windows 7 Support

Thomas Fox is president of Tech Experts, southeast Michigan’s leading small business computer support company.

Support for Windows 7 is coming to end this year. The operating system is 10 years old, and in the near future, Microsoft will discontinue all support – including security updates – for this version of Microsoft Windows.

This means the end of Microsoft security updates and this means many 3rd-party security tools like anti-virus may no longer function.

“Malicious Actors” a. k. a. “Hackers” will quickly exploit any Windows 7 computer the moment security updates stop and any future security vulnerability is discovered.

Microsoft tells us that as of October 2018, about 39% of business computers are still running Windows 7. Clearly, there is a lot of work to do over the coming months to prepare businesses for the end of support of Windows 7. [Read more…]

Back At It Again: Microsoft Suspends Windows Updates

Jason Cooley is Support Services Manager for Tech Experts.

Windows 10 was released in July 2015 and there were plenty of reasons to be excited. If you have been around for the last few versions of Windows dating back to Vista, you may have a love/hate relationship with Microsoft.

Windows Vista, for instance, was once known as the biggest failure Microsoft had experienced. That is, until Windows 8. Just using the adoption numbers, it’s clear that Windows 8 was the least successful OS that Microsoft has ever released.

So, Microsoft and their users had many reasons to be excited about Windows 10. Microsoft assured users that Windows 10 would be a return to the golden standard of Operating Systems: Windows 7.

As with all releases of a new operating system, there have been some issues. Some of these problems are indicative of a bigger problems while others are standalone issues.

With a myriad of different types of problems that have surfaced over the last couple of years, Windows 10 may be the most problematic OS of all-time.

Since launch, Windows 10 has had some very unusual problems. While it is almost expected for issues to arise with a new OS, the frequency and type of problems is what’s disturbing. The issues have ranged from broken drivers that leave devices nonfunctional to our latest and greatest issue: the deleted documents folder.

A few times a year, larger updates called “Feature Updates” are released. In April 2018, there was an update that would incorrectly create a duplicate of your documents folder. A lot of these folders were empty and had no real purpose.

At this point, Microsoft decided to implement a fix with their next feature update, due in October 2018. The “fix” would remove the duplicate folder.

There was one very large issue with this. The update did not check if the folder was actually empty before deleting it from your system. People all over began reporting the issue where, all of a sudden, their files were gone.

Once reported, Microsoft acted quickly to halt the update before further systems were affected. The update would still download but would not apply. It was necessary that the access to the update be stopped to save additional systems from data loss.

A strange side effect of the update being put on hold was the failure to apply the downloaded Windows updates.

This resulted in much longer shut down/restart times as the update would attempt to apply, then roll back once it failed. This also provided users with another reason to be frustrated.

The issues are now resolved. The fix has been implemented and there is no more possibility for further data loss.

For what it’s worth, Microsoft also asked for users who lost data to reach out, and they would try to recover it where possible.

It seems like the least they could do considering the issue was created due to poor planning, poor programming, or some combination of those.

When possible, look into deferred updates. Let the problems work themselves out before taking on the unnecessary problems.

Windows Fall Update 2018: How To Prepare & Avoid Downtime

Jason Cooley is Support Services Manager for Tech Experts.

Here it comes again. Windows is coming back with another large feature update for Windows 10, named Redstone 5. As always, Microsoft is attempting to give people more of what they want and better the user experience.

The upgrades and changes slated to hit this fall vary greatly, from a dark theme for File Explorer to the new Windows 10 smartphone integration feature.

While there may be a little something for everyone, what can you expect your experience to be? We can start by examining the numerous changes coming our way this fall.

The first new feature is Clipboard history and sync. By pressing the Windows key and V, you can open up Clipboard history. Allowing all of those copy and pastes you’ve been doing to be easily recalled. This feature will be great for some users and some will never utilize the functionality.

For an IT professional like myself, I spend a lot of time copying and pasting different things in, not limited to passwords. This brings up many questions, including, “How secure will the sync between devices be?” and “Will any personal information be safe to copy and paste this way, when there is an obvious trail left?” This remains to be seen, but the potential for usefulness, if secure, is exciting.

Another new feature I mentioned earlier is the Dark Theme for File Explorer. This feature allows the color of File Explorer to be changed from white to black. Eyes rejoice! Many people find browsing files and even reading easier to do with a black background and white font. If the brightness is just too much for you to look at day in and day out, then this feature is for you! There is no downside or issue I can see with this feature, as it is purely cosmetic.

Everyone, welcome SwiftKey to Windows 10! Back in 2016, Microsoft purchased the SwiftKey keyboard. SwiftKey is a touch screen keyboard that allows for swipe styling typing. Not impressive on its own, the SwiftKeyboard boasts that it has more accurate autocorrect and predictions by learning your writing style. SwiftKey is intriguing, but a feature that, in reality, doesn’t change much for most people.

The final big feature, the Windows 10 smart phone integration, is equal parts exciting and scary. Any new sync system has the potential to be attacked, depending on the security in place.

The integration brings you the instant access to your photos from your phone to your PC. There are also plans to add sync notifications in the future. There is also the “Continue on PC” option that will allow you to access a link from your computer, picking up where you left off on your phone.

While there are no earth-shattering changes, the biggest concern is how these updates and changes to Windows 10 will affect you in the long run. As with updates in the past, there is a possibility that any of these new system changes will cause issues with different existing applications and processes. 2017’s Fall Creator’s update was the culprit behind numerous applications failing, even people having to do full system restores for no real reason.

While the update will be available in early fall, I would suggest avoiding installing the update until you have to. Especially in a business setting. You can try it at home first, but unless you are running the same applications, there is no way of telling how the changes will affect your system until others discover potential issues.

Nine Useful Windows 10 Features You Probably Never Use

Frank DeLuca is a field technician for Tech Experts.

Microsoft’s operating system runs on nearly half a billion PCs and laptops worldwide. It’s so commonplace that most of us don’t pay attention to the ways it can make our lives easier.

These are not secret features that Microsoft doesn’t want us to know about by any means. We may have just forgotten that these powerful tools exist.

Disk Cleanup
Disk Cleanup is a simple way to delete files you no longer need and to ensure your recycle bin is cleared out.

On Windows 10, type “disk cleanup” into your taskbar where it says, “Type here to search.” Then, click on the Disk Cleanup app.

Click on any of the entries in the list to see a description of what the files are and how much space can be reclaimed by removing them. Place a check mark in the box next to each entry you want deleted, such as temporary files.

Malware Removal
It’s more important than ever to have a multilayered approach to cybersecurity. Windows Defender is a security tool that can be set up to block malware attacks in real time or you can perform a scan when you need it.

To make sure Windows Defender is running, type “Windows Defender” into your taskbar. Select Windows Defender app.

Make sure it is set to real-time protection and that virus and spyware definitions are up to date.

Quick Assist
We all have that tech-challenged family member, but did you know that you can remotely manage a friend or family member’s computer (or vice-versa) so you can help fix their tech-related problems?

This handy feature is called Quick Assist and it can really be a lifesaver when offering IT assistance.

In Windows 10, type “Quick Assist” into your taskbar. Select Get Assistance or Give Assistance and then follow the onscreen instructions. You’ll thank me later.

Video Streaming
Windows 10 comes with its own built-in DLNA video and media streaming protocol. All you need is a DLNA-compatible device to stream to, like an Xbox One or Roku.

Type “Media Streaming” into the Windows 10 taskbar. Select Media Streaming Options and follow the instructions.

Task Scheduler
Task Scheduler helps you schedule tasks on your computer, like turning your PC off at a specific time each day. Type “task scheduler” into your taskbar to get started.

Virtual Desktop
The little rectangular box to the right of your “Type here” taskbar will change to display all windows you have open. Or you can click on New Desktop to create a new workspace without closing the windows you have open.

Find Missing Files
The command prompt can help you find files that your Windows operating system needs to work properly. It can also help you fix problems.

Type “cmd” into the taskbar. Right click on Command Prompt and select Run As Administrator. To find missing files, type “sfc /scannow.” To check for system problems, type “chkdsk /f.”

Print PDF
PDF is a print format that is compatible across multiple operating systems and software programs. You may not know that you can print in PDF format from any program running on Windows 10.

To do this, just go through the steps to print that you normally would. When you see the option to choose a specific printer, select the one that says, “Microsoft Print to PDF.”

Record Screen Activity
Did you know you can record videos on Windows 10? Just click the Windows key and the letter ‘G’ at the same time – then follow the prompts to record.