Windows Archive

This is Microsoft’s new modern File Explorer overhaul for Windows 11

As was revealed a handful of weeks ago, Microsoft is currently working on a significant update to File Explorer on Windows 11 that will update several core areas of the app with modern designs and new features that will better integrate the experience with OneDrive and Microsoft 365. The home page itself is being updated with more integration with Microsoft 365. Along the top will be a feed of “recommended” files, which will be presented with larger thumbnails that will make it easier to see what files are being suggested to you. That’s a lot of excuses for ads.

Windows 3.x VDDVGA

While working on my Windows 3.x display driver, I ran into a vexing problem. In Windows 3.1 running in Enhanced 386 mode, I could start a DOS session and switch it to a window. But an attempt to set a mode in the DOS window (e.g. MODE CO80) would destroy the Windows desktop, preventing further drawing from happening properly. It was possible to recover by using Alt+Enter to switch the DOS window to full screen again and then returning to the desktop, but obviously that wasn’t going to cut it. Oddly enough, this problem did not exist in Windows 3.0. And in fact it also didn’t exist in Windows 3.1 if I used the Windows 3.0 compatible VDDVGA30.386 VxD shipped with Windows 3.1 (plus the corresponding VGA30.3GR grabber). A classic retro computing bug hunt! These stories are always a good read.

Windows 11 is getting ReFS support

Recent Windows 11 Insider builds include support for ReFS, the Resilient File System. The file system is currently only available in Windows server operating systems, but not in client systems. Resilient File System is designed to “maximize data availability, scale efficiently to large data sets across diverse workloads, and provide data integrity with resiliency to corruption” according to Microsoft. I doubt ReFS will replace NTFS any time soon, but with Windows’ lacklustre support for file systems, it’s always interesting to see something new come up.

The defender’s guide to Windows Services

This is the second installment of the Defender’s Guide series. In keeping with the theme, we are discussing Windows Services, the underlying technology, common attack vectors, and methods of securing/monitoring them. Services are an important part of the Windows operating system, allowing the control and configuration of long-running processes essential to keeping the OS functional. This also allows services to be a common vector of escalation and persistence by attackers. Some services (especially custom services) run with high privilege levels, and are set to restart themselves on boot. This is a slam dunk for the enterprising attacker looking to gain a foothold in an environment. Everything you ever wanted to know about services in Windows, particularly as it relates to security.

No start menu for you

I tend to launch most programs on my Windows 10 laptop by typing the <Win> key, then a few letters of the program name, and then hitting enter. On my powerful laptop (SSD and 32 GB of RAM) this process usually takes as long as it takes me to type these characters, just a fraction of a second. Usually. Sometimes, however, it takes longer. A lot longer. As in, tens of seconds. The slowdowns are unpredictable but recently I was able to record an Event Tracing for Windows (ETW) trace of one of these delays. With a bit of help from people on twitter I was able to analyze the trace and understand why it took about a minute to launch notepad. I loved reading every bit of this post. Even for someone not versed in programming, it’s quite easy to follow along and understand what is happening deep in the bowels of Windows when this bug occurs. I’ll spoil the surprise: This deserves reiterating. My start menu was hung due to the combination of heap corruption and WerFault.exe deciding that it needed to upload the crash dump before releasing the old process so that a new one could be started. And uploading the crash dump ran into issues, causing the delay. The tools to watch for bugs is causing more bugs. Who watches the watchers?

Windows 7 and Windows 8.1 reach the end of the line

Ars reports: It’s the end of the line for Windows 7 and Windows 8.1. These older versions of Windows (plus Windows RT) stop receiving all security updates today, over a decade after their original releases. Microsoft will also stop providing Microsoft Edge browser updates for these operating systems in a few days, and the remaining third-party apps that still work will eventually follow suit (Google Chrome support, most notably, ends early next month). Windows 7 support for most people actually ended three years ago, but businesses that still used it could pay for up to three years of additional support while they transitioned to Windows 10 or 11. That window has now closed, and Microsoft isn’t offering a paid support option for Windows 8.1. Run an unspported operating system, or invite more ads and spyware. Tough call.

Microsoft backtracks one of the worst Start menu changes in Windows 11

Several weeks ago, we published an article detailing five not-so-great features coming soon to Windows 11. Recommended websites in the Start menu (introduced in build 25247) appear in the list as arguably one of Microsoft’s worst ideas. Luckily, the company has decided to backtrack that controversial change. Those unhappy with Windows 11 showing more ads on the Start menu will be glad to learn that developers removed recommended websites in the latest preview build. A bit of positive news on the ads-in-Windows front for once.

How many layers of UI inconsistencies are in Windows 11?

It’s 2023, and Windows 11 is finally a mature operating system that most people would be happy to use. Sun Valley has finally arrived, and it’s all about a long overdue reinvestment in design under Panos Panay’s leadership. But is it enough? Let’s take a look. For the purpose of this research, I used Windows 11 build 25267, which as of now is the latest Insider Dev build. Death, taxes, and new windows theme layers.

WuMgr gives Windows 10 users control over updates

WuMgr (Update Manager for Windows) is a tool to manage updates of Microsoft products on the Windows operating system. It uses the “Windows Update Agent API” to identify as well as download and install missing updates. It allows the user fine control of updates on modern (Windows 10) operating system versions, comparable to what windows 7 and 8.1 offered. This functionality should be included in Windows by default, and the fact that it isn’t is just one of the many laughable deficiencies Windows is riddled with. And speaking of laughable deficiencies in Windows, a third party user interface to the optional and limited winget package “manager” has recently been updated.

Win16 retro development

Several months ago I had a go at producing a high resolution 256-color driver for Windows 3.1. The effort was successful but is not yet complete. Along the way I re-learned many things I had forgotten, and learned several new ones. This blog entry is based on notes I made during development. There’s tons of lessons to re-learn when focusing on older platforms, whether as a mere user exploring or reminiscing, or as a developer trying to deal with all the constraints and limitations these old systems bring to the table. I’m glad it’s being documented, because the older these platforms get, the less we’ll remember about them.

Windows 11 22H2 to get more new features as several “Moment” updates are planned

Reports have indicated that Microsoft is planning to release a new Windows version every three years like it was in the times of Windows Vista and Windows 7. However, Microsoft doesn’t want Windows 11 to become boring or unexciting. Microsoft wants to keep Windows 11 constantly updated with “Moment” and some “feature” updates. Microsoft has reportedly scrapped the original Sun Valley 3 project and Windows 11 will receive Windows 11 23H2 based on the existing version 22H2, similar to enablement package updates for Windows 10. Microsoft wants to release a new Windows in 2024 (Windows 12? We don’t know yet). Version. Moment updates. Feature updates. Enablement package updates. 22H2 and 23H2. Cumulative updates. Main development channel. Windows 11 2022 Update. Windows 11 Build 25262. But sure, I am the idiot for not being able to keep track of this nomenclature diarrhea.

Legacy Update revives the original Windows Update website for XP, Vista, 7, and more

This is a community-run resource to help you fix the Windows Update service on earlier versions of Windows. Since Windows XP was discontinued in 2014, followed by Windows 7 in 2020, Microsoft’s support for their earlier OSes has significantly dwindled. As XP and earlier don’t officially support modern security improvements, such as the SHA256 hash algorithm required by modern SSL and Authenticode certificates as of 2019, much of the internet has become inaccessible to these devices. Adding insult to injury, Microsoft actively removed many downloads for XP and earlier versions in 2020. In effect, working with these OSes is now incredibly difficult. Windows Update provides many optional and recommended updates, in addition to drivers for your system, but Windows XP and 2000 can only install critical security updates through the built-in Automatic Updates feature. Legacy Update revives the original Windows Update website – the only way to see and install every update available for your system. This is very cool for virtual machines and old boxes you may have lying around for use with legacy software or games.

Atlas: third party Windows ISO for gaming

Atlas is a Windows version designed for gamers. Atlas users can enjoy higher framerate, lowered input delay & latency. Great for people on a low-end system, or high-end gaming machine. I had no idea people still did this – create custom versions of Windows ISOs and try to pawn them off as something special. The legality of this is more than dubious, of course, and you can probably achieve the same results with some of the countless scripts that are out there that also remove services, telemetry and pointless applications.

The Windows Subsystem for Linux in the Microsoft Store is now generally available on Windows 10 and 11

Today the Windows Subsystem for Linux (WSL) in the Microsoft Store is dropping its “Preview” label and becomes generally available with our latest release! We are also making the Store version of WSL the default for new users who run wsl --install and easily upgradeable by running wsl --update for existing users. Using the Store version of WSL allows you to get updates to WSL much faster compared to when it was a Windows component. In response to the WSL community’s requests, WSL in the Store will now also be available on Windows 10 in addition to Windows 11. So, Windows 10 users will also be able to enjoy all of the latest features for WSL including systemd and Linux GUI app support! I obviously have no hard data on this, but I feel like WSL is actually quite popular among developers, as it gives Windows users easy access to a very popular tool chain and development platform. I don’t know just how transferable knowledge and experience gained through WSL is to “real” Linux, but it seems close enough.

Ads in Windows 11 might make sense to Microsoft, but it’s really bad for consumers

Earlier in the week, some Windows 11 Dev Channel users spotted Start menu ads/promos encouraging them to back up their data to OneDrive, sign up for a Microsoft account, and complete their profile. This obviously opened the door to lots of conversations over on social media platforms such as Twitter as well as the comments section on our own coverage as the majority of readers proceeded to bash Microsoft for pushing what they believe to be advertisements in their OS. To be fair, this backlash isn’t surprising. Microsoft has previously been caught red-handed testing advertisements for Microsoft Editor in the File Explorer. At that time, the company quickly removed them, claiming that they were not meant to be published externally. Even then, I expressed concern that while the banner ads were published accidentally this time, the real problem here is that Microsoft is definitely playing around with this idea and there’s no knowing when the tech giant decides that it’s the right time to green light this initiative for the public. It’s not going to matter. People who (think they) need Windows will keep using Windows, keep taking the user-hostile nonsense, because they don’t know any better. Windows users are a goldmine waiting to be split open and rushed, and Microsoft knows it.

“Project Volterra” review: Microsoft’s $600 Arm PC that almost doesn’t suck

It’s undeniably good for the Arm Windows app ecosystem to have a viable, decently specced PC that is usable as an everyday computer. The Dev Kit 2023 is priced to move, so there may be some developers who buy one just for the hell of it, which might have some positive trickle-down effects for the rest of the ecosystem. Because eventually, the Windows-on-Arm project will need to develop some tangible benefit for the people who choose to use it. What you’re getting with an Arm Windows device right now is essentially the worst of both x86 and Arm—compatibility problems without lower power use and heat to offset them and so-so performance to boot. Apple has cracked all three of these things; Windows and Qualcomm are struggling to do any of them. I’m just not entirely sure who Windows on ARM is supposed to be for. I want it to succeed – the more choice the better, and x86 needs an ass-kicking – but I don’t think the current crop of Windows on ARM devices are even remotely worth it. Either Qualcomm finally gets its act together and comes up with an SoC to rival Apple’s M series, or Microsoft takes matters into its own hands. Either way, they’re going to need to do something about the performance of x86 code on Windows on ARM.

Windows 11 gets Task Manager search

We are bringing process filtering to Task Manager. This is the top feature request from our users to filter/search for processes. You can filter either using the binary name, PID or publisher name. The filter algorithm matches the context keyword with all possible matches and displays them on the current page. The filter is also applied as you switch between pages. You can also use the keyboard shortcut ALT + F to focus on the filter box. This is a helpful feature if you want to single out a process or a group of processes and want to take action or just monitor the performance of the filtered processes. I am baffled by how slowly new, actually useful features seem to be added to Windows these days. Weren’t all the changes in development and release cycles supposed to speed up the development of Windows? It feels like it’s a small trickle of minor features here and there, that then get massive press attention because… Well, at least something is happening. But nice, I guess. A feature present on virtually every other platform for decades.

Microsoft is showing ads in the Windows 11 sign-out menu

Microsoft is now promoting some of its products in the sign-out flyout menu that shows up when clicking the user icon in the Windows 11 start menu. This new Windows 11 “feature” was discovered by Windows enthusiast Albacore, who shared several screenshots of advertisement notifications in the Accounts flyout. The screenshots show that Microsoft promotes the OneDrive file hosting service and prods users to create or complete their Microsoft accounts. Apple and Microsoft are actively ruining their operating systems just to squeeze a few more lousy coin out of their trapped users. What dreadful places to work they must be, with bean counters looking over every programmer’s shoulder to find ever more places to stuff in ads.