Category Archive: The Infernal Machines

Windows 10 report

[Updated; scroll to the end.]

I’ve been updating Windows 7 machines around here to Windows 10 and generally have had good results.*

  • Dell Precision M6700 (main daily work machine):  Had problems at first because the System Reserved partition wasn’t big enough (and was nearly full).  There was extra unused space at the end of the disk; problem being that the System Reserved partition is at the beginning of the disk where I couldn’t expand it.  Found a tool called “MiniTool Partition Wizard” which I used to move things around so the System Reserved partition could be extended.  Voila, once that was done, Windows 10 installed without a hitch.  (I suspect the original System Reserved partition was shrunk to its smaller size when I migrated the OS disk from a spinning disk to a solid-state disk.  But I’m not sure about that.)  This machine is close to six years old but because I’ve been proactive about upgrades (SSD boot drive, increased RAM from shipped 8GB to max 32GB, and it’s an i7 to begin with), it still kicks a fair amount of butt and I have no plans to retire it any time soon.
  • Dell Precision M4300 (old travel laptop from when I had a desktop machine for daily work):  I actually did this one first, as proof of concept that you can actually still upgrade a properly-licensed Windows 7 machine for free using the Get Windows 10 installer.  (See here for more information.)  This upgrade went flawlessly, and the only problem now seems to be that the wireless card occasionally can throw a fit and blue-screen Windows.  I’ve only had that happen once, so crossing fingers that I don’t have to upgrade the wireless card.  (The antenna wires are too short to reach a half-mini card that would replace a full-mini card.)
  • Dell Latitude 2100 (old netbook for odd jobs like running the Q10 text editor): Surprisingly enough, this little machine with an Intel Atom processor and only 2GB RAM upgraded fine.  Very slow to do so, but that was only to be expected.  This was one of two of these little buggers that we have in the house; the other will be upgraded this weekend (it’s my wife’s).**  (These things actually weigh less than my iPad Air 2 in its Otterbox cover, and they have a real keyboard to boot.  Nice restaurant/coffee shop laptop alternative, if you can deal with the tiny screen.)
  • Dell Vostro 14R (N4010) (wife’s old laptop that she still uses for games and such):  This machine hasn’t been upgraded yet, but indications are that it will take the upgrade.  I’ll attempt it this weekend.
  • Dell PowerEdge T30 that doesn’t belong to me; I’m secretary-treasurer of the organization it belongs to, but it lives in my office.  Not ready to upgrade it yet, as it’s still running some legacy applications that I’m not sure are Windows 10 compatible.  This is the only non-laptop Dell machine in the house.  Windows 7 was kind of a bear to install on it, because technically it doesn’t support Windows desktop operating systems, just Windows server operating systems.  Eh.  You can make anything work.

Another machine is an old Frankenbox with an i5 and an ASUS motherboard that upgraded itself one night back in the GWX “here let us force you to upgrade when you’re least expecting it” days, so it’s been running Windows 10 for several years now.  It’s had issues but mostly they are sorted.  One of the problems it had was that it wouldn’t boot if the USB backup drive was connected.  That was solved by disabling boot from USB devices in the BIOS.  This is the machine I use in the radio shack, and it is going to be replaced by something faster one of these days.

Yet another machine is another old Frankenbox with an i5 and an Intel motherboard.  This one won’t upgrade, period.  The i5 processor is too old and isn’t supported by Microsoft; and Intel flatly withdrew support for their old desktop motherboards when Windows 10 came out, so no drivers.  Intel have never supported Windows 10 on those boards (and of course they don’t make motherboards anymore).  This is a shame, because that machine is actually faster than the shack machine.  Oh well.  (I’m giving it to a friend who wants to keep running Windows 7 for a while, so it won’t go to waste.)

Finally, I still have my old Inspiron 600m laptop (32-bit Pentium-M with 4GB RAM) that I bought years ago (like in 2001) for travel purposes.  It still runs XP (so it never talks to the network).  It is apparently barely upgradeable to Windows 7 and as I understand it there are no drivers for anything after that.  I’m not going to waste my time upgrading it to Windows 7, and it’s probably not worth putting Linux on (I did have Fedora Core on it years ago but wiped it and put XP back on it).  So that machine is either going to recycle, or I’ll find a stubborn old ham who still uses XP to take if off my hands.  (Most likely it will go to recycle.)

I’m actually surprised this has gone so easily.  I keep hearing horror stories from people who have upgraded or attempted to upgrade their Windows 7 machines.  I don’t know why I don’t have problems like they do.

I have to say that someone at Microsoft must have actually listened to the focus groups this time.  If Windows 10 decides it can’t install for some reason, it doesn’t simply die and leave you beached with a machine that won’t boot or is half-upgraded; it ROLLS BACK the upgrade and puts you back where you started (and is even apologetic about it).  At least this has been my experience.  YMMV.

You will note, BTW, that all of our laptop machines are Dells.  I have been buying Dells for years because they are solid consumer contenders.  (I don’t care much for their servers but I’m spoiled by HP, whose consumer PCs I wouldn’t touch with a ten-foot Pole, or even a twelve-ounce White Russian, but whose servers are fucking bombproof.)  The names Toshiba and Lenovo are not spoken in this house.  And the only Apple stuff we have are our iPads.  Our Dell laptops just keep running; I’ve only destroyed one, and that was an accidental Diet Pepsi spill right into the keyboard that fried the CPU and the motherboard.  Got home from that trip, found a nearly-identical machine (with a better graphics card) on eBay for less than $400, swapped out the hard drives, and was back up and running again within a week.  Windows 7 never noticed the difference, other than needing to update a couple of drivers.

And that’s why I stick with Dell.

UPDATES:  Monday, May 20:

I didn’t get to the Vostro 14 yet.

I got the other Latitude 2100 updated; it lacked a System Reserved partition altogether, but that didn’t faze the installer, so I guess if you have one, it just has to be large enough for Windows 10 to write things there.  The minimum recommended size seems to be between 400-500MB, which is a tiny sliver out of a terabyte (or even 500GB) drive, all things considered.

I found another machine in the closet that I’d forgotten about; it’s another Atom-powered machine, but it’s a mini-ITX desktop with 4GB RAM.  It also upgraded nicely.  The interesting thing is that the motherboard is an Intel D525MW, suggesting that not ALL Intel motherboards aren’t supported.  On the other hand I think this one is a lot newer than the one I was trying to upgrade that failed.  This machine badly needs to be upgraded with an SSD, and I have an extra Intel 7260HMW wireless AC card I can put in it, too.  Hooray for miniPCIe slots on modern motherboards.

In the process of upgrading these older machines, I’m discovering lots of other things in Windows that can be safely disabled; I will probably make another post about that later.  Obviously I’m also getting rid of all the XBox shite.  There’s no use for it on these machines.  But there are other things that can be removed only by going into Powershell — see this link for example, which includes among other things instructions on how to rid yourself of the pesky XBox junk.

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* There has never been a Windows 8.x machine in this house. Just like there was never a Vista machine or an ME machine in this house.  Windows 11 is going to be a disaster, you know 🙂

** If you try to update one of these, or frankly any small computer/netbook that can’t be upgraded with a decent amount of RAM (at least 8GB is my modern recommendation — RAM is cheap), for $DEITY’s sake, at least turn off Cortana — what a CPU and memory sink, and you don’t need it because search will still work at the machine level.  You can use Google or Bing or DuckDuckGo for Internet search, you don’t need Cortana.

Fuck you, AOL.

My wife has a basic AOL account (the free one) that got hacked the other week, and after she got control of the account back, all of her mail was going to trash.

So she called AOL support and asked how to fix it.

Long story short, they told her she’d have to pay for them to fix it.  We just need your credit card, ma’am, because you’re not a Gold Member (or whatever they call it now).  To make a short story shorter, she told them, “fuck off, you’re as bad a scammer as the guy who hacked my account.”

So she’s been trying to move over to Gmail and telling people to write to her there, and of course nobody is paying attention and just responding to her AOL account.

I am NOT technical support after hours, but I finally got tired of hearing her complain about it and went into her accounts to try to fix things.

First of all, I found out that the hacker had created a filter sending all of her inbound mail to trash.  AOL had actually told her that but I guess it didn’t translate back through her to me.  So I killed the filter and moved all of her trash back into her inbox.

Next, I solved the problem of people writing back to her at AOL; I made her a vacation message that says “don’t write to me here, write to me there.”

There’s apparently no way to set up an account forward (figures since it’s the free account) so now I have to figure out how to download her mail.  Using the Gmail method of importing from the other account apparently doesn’t work because AOL doesn’t extend POP privileges to free accounts.  It might download with IMAP to Outlook, but I don’t hold out much hope for that.

AOL, you coulda been a playa, but your service sucks.  May you soon be out of business and out of our hair.

Effing Microsoft

I’ve been having trouble for months with .NET 4.7.x updates on my Windows 7 main machine.  I managed to get 4.7 to install last year, but 4.7.1 and 4.7.2 absolutely refused to install, throwing “error 643” which is about as non-specific as you can get.

Story goes that in order to fix this problem, you uninstall .NET and reinstall it.  So I uninstalled .NET 4.7.  Bad move, because that dumped me back to .NET 3.5 and a whole bunchatonastuff relies on .NET 4.x anymore, so when I rebooted a whole bunchatonastuff failed to start.  And at that point, I was screwed, because even .NET 4.0 wouldn’t install.

Digging around on the net, I finally found the answer that worked:

Looks like the easiest fix to try is to rename C:\ProgramData\Microsoft\Crypto\RSA\S-1-5-18 to C:\ProgramData\Microsoft\Crypto\RSA\S-1-5-18_old and re-install. If that doesn’t work that link has other possible fixes.

Sure enough, that fixed it.  So I’m making a note for myself, for when .NET 4.7.3 will probably refuse to install.

Edit to add:  Why this was abysmally bad was that it actually had me considering an upgrade to Windows 10.

Edit 15 Aug 2018 to add:  Why does Microsoft make it so FUCKING HARD TO FIND OUT WHAT VERSION OF THE .NET FRAMEWORK YOU HAVE INSTALLED????? This should be exposed somewhere sensible, like, shit, I dunno, the Control Panel/System and Security/System page in Windows 7? Jesus wept.

Windows 10 tweakage

Just putting these here for my future reference.

Mandatory FTC disclaimer:  I have no connection with the companies or the software referenced below.

Start10 Windows 10 Start Menu Alternative

How to make Windows 10 File Explorer look like Windows 7 Windows Explorer

Windows 10 breaks Outlook 2010 clickable links in messages if IE 11 is default browser