Q&A - 2016

Updates refusing to install on Windows 7?
by Chris Taylor

I have a machine running Windows 7 and recently, when attempting to install an update though Windows Update, I received the message, Error 80240016, Windows update is currently installing other updates. Please try again later. I had gotten this error message before and solved it by restarting Windows. But not this time.

A quick search at Google identified a solution that worked. It turns out that if Microsoft Security Essentials is running a scan, this can prevent updates from being installed! And, I guess, this produces a completely inaccurate error message in Windows Update!

I checked and, although Microsoft Security Essentials was not running a scan, it was warning me that a scan had not been run in a while and my computer might be at risk. I let it run a quick scan, then tried Windows Update again and, this time, it happily installed the pending update.

Getting Cortana to work
by Chris Taylor

Cortana When Windows 10 was first released, Cortana (the digital assistant akin to Google Now or Apple Siri) was not able to work if your settings were set to Canada. When the November Update came out, it was reported that Cortana would work for Canadian English, so I decided to give it a whirl. I clicked in the search box on the Taskbar, then the gear icon, and then turned on Cortana. It started the configuration process and got to a screen where it said “Before I can help, you’ll need to go to Settings and change your speech language to one I speak.” I clicked the “Settings” button at the bottom and it took me to Settings | Time & Language | Speech. There, “Speech language” was set to “English (United States)”. When I clicked the drop-down, there was no other option (I was hoping for “English (Canada)”.) I knew from reading, that the speech language and region had to match. Under Settings | Time & Language | Region &amp language, “Country or region” was set to “Canada”. So I had a mismatch where the country was set to “Canada”, but the speech language was set to “English (United States)”. I didn’t see any way to add a speech language of “English (Canada)” A bit of searching found where this elusive, obvious-once-known (right, Chris, you keep telling yourself that…), option is; Settings | Time & Language | Region & Language | Languages, click once on “English (Canada) which opens a panel underneath. Click the “Options” button. The resulting dialog box will have an option to download the speech pack. Once that is done, Cortana will work. Note that the configuration wizard for Cortana will also insist you turn on location services and log into a Microsoft Account (if you are using a local account to log into Windows. Now I just have to figure out if I actually want to use Cortana!

Using Tabs in File Explorer

If you like the ability to use multiple tabs in programs like Firefox and Notepad++, you may appreciate having the same functionality in File Explorer. This is easily achieved by downloading a free utility named Clover 3 from: http://ejie.me/. This software acts as an automatic extension to File Explorer. Once you install the software, a new “half-tab” will appear any time that you run File Explorer. Simply click on the new tab to launch a second view of your file system. If you wish, you can drag the new tab to an open spot on the desktop and create a second instance of File Explorer in a separate window. (See also:  tips_tricks_traps_05) An alternative to using Clover, that allows running a second instance of File Explorer in a separate window, is to hold the Shift key down when clicking on the File Explorer icon in the task bar a second time.  (See:  http://superuser.com/questions/721342/how-do-i-run-more-than-one-windows-explorer)

Dubious practices for Windows 10 upgrades

With the availability of the free upgrade to Windows 10, Microsoft insists that that “…we want to help people upgrade to the best version of Windows”. Chris Taylor, OPCUG’s President, agrees with the sentiment, considering that Windows 10 is the best version of Windows that Microsoft has ever made. However, he has strong views on the tactics that Microsoft has used over the past few months to get users to upgrade, even to the point of considering some of the “options” as trickery! Read Chris’s thoughts on the process, and his tips on how to avoid the upgrade if you really want to stick with an earlier version of the OS. Download his article “Microsoft tricking people to upgrade to Windows 10″

Some backup programs are better - or more flexible - than others!

A recent question at a Q&A session involved a backup drive that was full, with the backup software telling the user to delete all the backup files and start over. The problem was that the software had made a baseline backup followed by a series of incremental backups. Once the disk was full, everything had to be deleted in order to make space for a new set of backups.

Now, while this would indeed allow a new backup to be made, it would also eliminate the ability of the user to recover specific files from past backups. Our solution was simply to switch to a more flexible backup program.

Read the full text article as published in our newsletter: Managing Backups; Ottawa PC News; p.4; June, 2016

Backup your data!

Windows 10 Help and Guidance

While the Internet is a rich source of information, if you are looking for specific help in tweaking Windows 10, you are likely to find a huge number of
sites featuring only a limited set of tips.

However, Laptop Mag has put together a very large collection of tips and tricks for Windows 10 titled “How to Use Windows 10” and grouped into sections:

  • Windows 10 Basics
  • Customize Windows 10
  • Fix Annoyances and Problems
  • Cortana Tips
  • Edge Browser Tips
  • Performance and Productivity
  • Security and Networking
  • Storage and Backup

Visit the site at: http://www.laptopmag.com/articles/how-to-use-windows-10

Windows 10: Increase the limit of items on jump lists

Windows 10 jump lists are great. These lists pop up when you right-click on an icon for a program or the button of a program on the taskbar. They allow you to easily access recently used documents used by the application in question. And if you frequently need to access certain items, you can pin them to the jump list where they will always be available Unfortunately, Windows 10 limits the number of such items to 11. However, with some light registry hacking, you can increase this number. Click the Search box on Windows taskbar and type in “regedit” (without the quotes) and when it shows in the results pane hit Enter. Jump listsNavigate to: HKEY_CURRENT_USER Software Microsoft Windows CurrentVersion Explorer Advanced Click on “Advanced” to see the values associated with the key in the right pane. Look for a value name called “JumpListItems_Maximum”. If it doesn’t exist, create it by clicking Edit | New | DWORD and name it “JumpListItems_Maximum” (again, without the quotes). Edit the value by double-clicking on it. Change the “Base” to “Decimal” and in the “Value Data” box, enter the new number you want for the maximum number of items on jump lists. Click on OK and close regedit. You may have to log off and back on again but, otherwise, that’s it!

Ejecting USB drives in Windows 10

Rather than just yanking out a USB-based storage device (flash drive or external hard drive) it is always advisable to use the tray icon with the tooltip “Safely Remove Hardware and Eject Media”. This ensures all files are closed and you won’t lose data. However, sometimes Windows 10 will report “Windows is unable to stop the device…” and will admonish you not to remove the device while it is still in use. This can happen when some unknown process has files open and,  sometimes, even when you swear you have no files open on the drive! The following procedure will still allow you remove the device. Windows is unable to stop the device Open File Explorer and find your USB device. One way is to click on “This PC” in the left panel, and then find the device in the “Devices and drives” section on the right. Right-click on the device and choose “Eject” from the pop-up menu. If there are actually no open files (i.e. the tray icon was lying to you), you will get the standard “Safe To Remove Hardware” message. If there are, in fact, open files, Windows will tell you that and give you the options to “Cancel”, “Try Again” and “Continue”. If you click the “Continue” button, Windows will unceremoniously close the files (which could cause data loss depending on the current state of things) – and then give you the “Safe To Remove Hardware” message.

Turn off automatic updates in Windows 10

By default, Windows 10 will download and install updates automatically. Sometimes this might prove inconvenient, especially if Windows Update cause the the computer to reboot. There are a few things that the user can do to take more control over the update process, but there are also some downsides to doing so. This issue is outlined in a presentation given at a recent Q&A session. See: tips_tricks_traps_04.pdf Update (August, 2016): With installation of the Windows 10 Anniversary Update (Redstone), the options to control a reboot have been almost eliminated, the only remaining choice is to select “active hours” (1 to 12 hours max.)

Check disk free space

A recently-purchased external 2 TB USB drive was found to have only 300 GB of free space when Macrium Reflect Free Edition aborted a backup process. Two suggestions were made for checking the space available on the disk. Firstly, in Windows Explorer, select the USB drive, right-click, and select Properties. A pie chart will show both the amount of disk space used and the amount of free space. A utility like WinDirStat or TreeSize Free can then be used to identify what is actually using all the space on the disk. For example, see:  Sizing up the hard drive

Toggling JavaScript

Unwanted pop-ups, fly-outs, and video clips on web pages are generally controled by JavaScript entries embedded in the underlying page code. One way to prevent these intrusions in the Firefox web browser is to install the JSOff add-on. The program’s description says “Disable and enable JavaScript using a simple toolbar button.” And, that’s exactly what it does!

Backup, backup... backup!

One of the most important things you can do to protect yourself against computer failure is to maintain a current backup of your operating system, applications (programs), and – especially – your data files. While you can always reload Windows and reinstall your programs (using the original CD’s or DVD’s), material that you have created such as word processing files and digital photographs isn’t available from any other source – unless you have all such files stored on a backup! But, don’t worry, we have you covered. Chris Taylor, OPCUG’s President, has summarized his views on four disk imaging programs that will help keep your computer system safe. Read his article, “Finding a Backup Program” on pp. 6-7 in the February, 2016 issue of Ottawa PC News (397 KB PDF).

An easy way to empty the Recycle Bin in Windows 10

Open the Recycle Bin and click on Manage. Now, click on the inconspicuous chevron in the top-right corner of the Recycle Bin window. This is a toggle that allows you to expand or minimize the ribbon.

If you expand the ribbon, Windows will remember your preference. So, next time you want to empty the trash, double click on the Recycle Bin icon on the desktop, and simply click on Empty Recycle Bin in the ribbon.

Windows Feedback

With Windows 10, Microsoft is making it easier for people to provide feedback. In the Search the web and Windows section of the task bar, type in windows feedback. In the results pane, you will see Windows Feedback – Trusted Windows Store app. To give feedback, click the Add new feedback button. Enter details of your suggestion or problem – then wait to see if Microsoft does anything about it! For more information, see: Ottawa PC News; p.1; January 2016 (652 KB PDF)

Update (August, 2016):
With installation of the Windows 10 Anniversary Update (Redstone),
Windows Feedback has been replaced by the “Feedback Hub” app.