Windows 11 – Early Use

It has been about a month since installing Window 11 on my laptop and for the most part, I’ve found the transition fairly seamless. With the notable exception of the Minecraft Launcher crash, the majority of my experience to date is very much the same as before.

I am still getting used to some interface differences, though. For example, I have to adjust my habitual expectations when I right click on files to access the action options. What used to be a simple list, is now a mixture of list and buttons. It is taking me a while to remember the button icons so it slows me down, but I’m sure over time they’ll become second nature.

One feature I was hoping a future update would improve is the start screen. Although the most recent update increased it a little bit, it still is smaller than the Windows 10 version and therefore allows for fewer tiles (shortcuts) to open various apps. I used that extensively (expanded start menu) in Windows 10 and now I find I do not have enough slots for the number of apps I use regularly enough to warrant a shortcut, but not so often that I want the shortcut on the task bar. I should note here my idiosyncrasy – I do not like ANYTHING on the desktop, so that means I rely on the start menu and task bar for quick access.

One tweak I made immediately was to move the task bar icons to the left side. I do not like them in the center.

The different look of notifications in the lower right corner of the screen is also a bit annoying. It is cluttered by the calendar showing each time I check the notifications. So far, I have not found a way to change that other than to minimize the full month view of the calendar to show just the current date. I don’t mind (even like) having the time/date show on the task bar, but I do not want the calendar to pop up every time there is a notification to see.

Overall, I like the general look of Windows 11 better than 10.


Desktop Major Freeze

I have intentionally waited a few weeks to see if the issue would repeat itself, but so far it has not. The issue? A major freeze of the desktop (using Windows 10).

I do not know for sure what happened, but it took a failed shutdown & startup followed by hard shutdown to fix the problem. I am suspecting the motherboard may be failing. It is well over 10 years old now and I’ve been somewhat surprised that it has lasted this long.

Another issue that may or may not be related is the suspicious failing of WD Backup to actually back up changed files. The notifications, both in Windows 10 and in the app itself, show that a backup was started then finished, but when I check the files, they are not really backed up with the latest changes.

I use two different WD backup drives and this problem started with one (My Book) but not the other (Passport). I finally just deleted the failing backup profile and started over and for the My Book drive it appears to be working again now. However, shortly after that failure, the Passport backup stopped working and for quite a while it also was not fixed until I started over.

At that point, I suspected the issue to be the WD Backup software needing an update. That suspicion came from the fact that my original issue first appeared after a major Windows 10 update. Another reason I suspected the WD software is I have had some issues with the same software on my laptop (Passport Ultra), but in that case, it just occasionally reported that not all files could be backed up. When I checked which files they are, they turned out to be obscure files, sometimes just one file, and a backup or two later the complete backup worked fine again.

Even so, I finally woke up and went online to the WD support site and discovered they are no longer supporting WD Backup and they recommend Acronic True Image instead. I decided to give it a try, so downloaded and installed it on my laptop (taking a chance that it would work with Windows 11 even though the info online about it does not say it does). It didn’t take me too long to decide that it has some problems – maybe Windows 11 related? – and uninstalled it a day later. I did not like it anyway, especially because the file save format is proprietary and one cannot see the files in File Explorer.

So, I’m back to using WD Backup and will just have to deal with its idiosyncrasies.

Windows 10 App Issues

It was when the Minecraft launcher failed to install that I discovered six other apps, including To Do, were also stuck. They apparently were part of an automatic update that went on in the background unknown to me. Since I use To Do all the time for lists as well as reminders of items to do, I wanted to get that figured out as soon as possible.

At first it appeared the problem might be in the Microsoft Store app, since that is where the apps showed as stuck. So, I tried closing and reopening it; I tried logging in with different Microsoft accounts, all to no avail. Online help suggested some options for fixing the store, so I tried them. Even resetting it did not work. Finally, I tried uninstalling To Do in hopes a fresh install would fix it at least. Unfortunately, it just uninstalled To Do but would not reinstall it properly – still stuck in the store “pending”. After that, I knew I had to get serious about fixing the whole problem because I needed to have To Do back on the desktop.

Ultimately, the only thing I could think of was to do a system restore of Windows to a previous point a few days earlier. I had to go online to get help remembering how to do that, but finally did a system restore. It turned out I actually had to do it twice, because the first time it failed. The failure notice indicated the failure was probably due to antivirus software running and to temporarily disable that and try again. So, I disabled Malwarebytes and Windows Security and tried again. What actually happened next was Windows had to cancel the first restore attempt and when that was done it automatically restored Windows to the latest restore point.

To my amazement, that did the trick. All the apps (minus the new Minecraft Launcher I had stopped/cancelled) were updated and working fine without any warning notices of “updates in progress” or “this app may need to restart”. I was expecting to have to do another restore to days earlier.

I am still not completely sure if the stuck store issue was caused by the Windows 10 Cumulative Updates or the messed-up Minecraft launcher. Either way, I am glad to have To Do back and working as well as ever.

I’m kind of not impressed with Microsoft right now given they own Minecraft and the other apps. Whatever happened was a massive coding failure and I’m not anywhere close to trying to install the new Minecraft launcher again anytime soon.

Minecraft Launcher Crash

A few days ago, I ran into some significant problems that took up a good deal of time in trouble-shooting for days. At this point, it is difficult to know for sure the root cause of the problems because so many different things were updated the same day, if not virtually the same time, but I’m fairly certain a major contributor was the new Minecraft Launcher. I saw the issue was acknowledged for Xbox Game Pass paid subscribers, but I am not one of them, however, the download process did require a login Microsoft account and went to the Xbox profile so maybe it is the same issue.

The series of changes that I did on the two computers include downloading and attempting to install the new Minecraft Launcher, upgrade to Windows 11 on my laptop (got the invitation), installing two cumulative updates to Windows 10 on the old desktop that does not qualify for upgrade.

Coincidentally, my invitation to upgrade to Windows 11 came the same day as the notice of the new Minecraft Launcher and that is the day the problems started.

I decided to upgrade to the new Minecraft Launcher first because I thought it would be relatively fast and I was curious to see what it was about given the hype in the notice. I also was not sure how long the upgrade to Windows 11 would take. When trying to download and install the new launcher it got hung up and never completely installed. When I checked the Microsoft Store it just showed pending, along with 6 other apps, most of which I never use and don’t care at all about. The download/install process never finished. I had the same problem on the desktop.

Back on the laptop, I just gave up and decided to do the upgrade to Windows 11. That went relatively smoothly including, not surprisingly, some updates immediately available.

When I tried to install the new Minecraft Launcher again in Windows 11, it worked and for a day I was able to launch and play Minecraft as normal. Then a couple of days later, when opening the launcher and clicking ‘play’ the whole system crashed all the way to the proverbial “blue screen” (now a dark gray screen in Windows 11). After waiting a minute or two for automatic reporting of the issue, Windows 11 rebooted and all but the launcher worked fine. I tried three times that day to open the launcher, each with the same crash and reboot result, so I quit using the new launcher and reinstalled the old one. Both launcher versions remain installed on my laptop and, fortunately, the old one works fine.

After waiting another day, I tried again to see if it was fixed and ended up with the crash again, so I have not even tried since. Maybe someday I’ll check online forums to see if it has been fixed, but I don’t really care that much because I’m fine with the old launcher and it appeared the new one was more for gamers who want to play on more than one platform and the rest of the new stuff was basically notification hype. Not interested!

Meanwhile on the desktop, the install process never completed. I ended up stopping it which meant deleting the download. The other six apps also never completed download/install so I had more work to do to figure out what was wrong, but that is another story for another post.

As of right now, I am still running the old Minecraft launcher on both machines and finding it works just fine for my use. It is a bit annoying to see the notice every time that there is a new launcher to download (on the desktop), and that as well as a second notice (on the laptop) that says it is installed, that I have to dismiss every time. So far, it is not annoying enough to just uninstall the new launcher as I did on the Windows 10 machine.

Windows 11

The latest version of Windows is now here. I first read about its planned release on The Verge a few months ago and have seen many articles since describing its new features as well as some of the things lost from Windows 10.

Not surprisingly, Microsoft is rolling out the upgrade invitations slowly. My understanding right now is new computers are the top priority. After a recent Windows update, I received notification that my gaming laptop meets the minimum hardware/security standards and eventually will receive an invitation to upgrade.

After using the Microsoft tool to check, I found that my desktop computer does not have the needed hardware for it. That is not surprising, since its motherboard dates back to 2010. I’ve already decided not to even try the work-arounds to install Windows 11 on it.

So, I’ve begun to look for a new desktop computer. I’m in no rush, though. I want to upgrade to Windows 11 on the laptop first, use it for a while to get used to it, and then decide if it is worth buying a new desktop right away. It is entirely possible I will just wait until the old motherboard eventually stops working.

For now, I’m watching and waiting.

Other Devices

I’ve discussed the PCs and laptops as my primary computing devices already. In addition, my wife and I use other devices that technically are computers. We each have a smartphone (same brand and model for minimizing confusion). In addition, I use an old iPad (2nd generation that is maxed out at IOS 9 latest and therefore cannot use the most recent IOS 12), and my wife uses an iPad Mini that just updated to IOS 12.

For years we resisted getting smart phones, because we did not feel the need to have the features they provide when we had two computers for those things. We had basic cellphones. When the batteries were near dead on those old phones, we finally succumbed to the new age and bought Samsung Galaxy 6 phones (not the most current at the time even), but their size was more appealing than the Galaxy 7.

My challenge is to be well enough versed in all the operating systems to do trouble-shooting when necessary.

Windows 10 Pro

One positive side-effect of having so many computer problems over the last six months is how much I have learned about Windows 10 in the process of trouble-shooting. I’m a little fuzzy on the differences between the Home and Pro versions now, because I have been using Pro exclusively for a couple of months, so I may have to do a little more research on that someday if that becomes important.

As I write this, my current version is:

  • Windows 10 Pro
  • Version: 1803
  • Build: 17134.285
  • x64-based processor

Following are some of the useful things I’ve learned recently:

  • When the most recent major update came out this past April, it made one noticeable, major change that has been a challenge at times to work around. That change was eliminating the Windows Home Group function. In the long run, this will be an improvement, mostly because it is much easier to share a file or folder with others on a network than it used to be and no longer requires a password, but my issue with it as of this date is I cannot consistently share a new whole drive or computer. Fortunately, I have been able to share at the folder and file level, but getting easy access required a work around. After setting up the folder and/or file to be shared with everyone on the network, I manually accessed the folder/file from the other computer then pinned that to Quick Start. So, now I can move files from one computer to another easily. The quirky part of this glitch is somehow Windows 10 treats computers that were part of a Home Group differently than one that was not. For some reason, the desktop (which was setup with a Home Group and password) can be accessed on the network by the laptop, although the C drive (operating system drive) cannot as a drive (folders and files within in are accessible if specifically shared). However, my new laptop which did not have any previous Home Group setup, cannot be accessed by the desktop on the network. That can make sharing a combination of folders and files rather tedious. Each time there is a comprehensive update (as there was today, September 13, 2018), I hope it is fixed, but so far it is not.
  • I have decided for our household uses, having two separate computers not in Windows sync is the best option. We therefore use the local account sign-in option on both computers rather than signing in to my Microsoft account. I am aware we are missing out on some functions as a result, but at this point we have no problem with this approach.
  • Another interesting option in Windows 10 I have now disabled is focus assist. It is supposed to minimize or stop the automatic notifications that come from various sources when you don’t want them interrupting. Having turned off almost all of the app notifications, I found the ones I do want on do not disrupt anything, including during gaming, so I do not have a use for focus assist.
  • By far the most useful feature for gaming is the Windows 10 Gaming Mode. At first, I had this disabled thinking it was only for Microsoft games, but since have learned it is a great way to give priority of computing power to the game and either shutting down or diminishing the focus for background operations. I believe that has helped make Civ VI especially operate more efficiently. I really like the relative ease of use of the Gaming Bar and the fact that once a particular game is turned on, it will automatically be so in the future when you start the game, removing the need to manually turn it on each time you play a game. While I do not use the functions of recording, taking snapshots, etc., the Gaming Bar makes doing so very easy.


Most Recent Challenge

The most recent problem had to do with the Windows 10 license. The desktop suddenly started to report the license was about to expire. Interestingly, this is the second time this message showed up on this computer. The first time was several years ago, not long after I upgraded from Windows 7 to 10 taking advantage of the free upgrade Microsoft offered when it was first released. I won’t go into detail right now about the disaster I created soon after upgrading that totally crashed the operating system, but I had to have the shop do a complete reinstall because the reset option did not work for me. A few months later, the license message started to appear so I ended up having to take it in again to get that fixed. I do not know what they did to fix it, but presume they had communication with the Microsoft license folks to get it corrected.

Just a few weeks ago now, when the message appeared again, I called the shop and took it in again. The odd part about it this time was I noticed that it now showed I had Windows 10 Pro when I only had the Home version before. It also said the Pro was installed in early May and I know I did not do that. The guys at the shop were baffled by how that could happen also. After they did what they could to find the original license or product key unsuccessfully, they told me it was actually the Enterprise Pro version. How that got installed is a complete mystery to me. The only solution this time was to buy a completely new key, so I had them do that and activate it. Since then it is now functioning normally again.

What I have learned through this process is there is a difference between a product key and digital license. I asked the shop to give me the new key so I would have it if needed. They did so and they called it the Windows 10 Key. In the Windows 10 Settings it says the product was activated with a digital license. I am hoping never to have to use the key again, but given the strange happenings of late, I’m not betting on that.