Windows Archive

Microsoft digitally signs malicious rootkit driver

Microsoft gave its digital imprimatur to a rootkit that decrypted encrypted communications and sent them to attacker-controlled servers, the company and outside researchers said. The blunder allowed the malware to be installed on Windows machines without users receiving a security warning or needing to take additional steps. For the past 13 years, Microsoft has required third-party drivers and other code that runs in the Windows kernel to be tested and digitally signed by the OS maker to ensure stability and security. Without a Microsoft certificate, these types of programs can’t be installed by default. One of the reasons Windows 11’s hardware requirements are so stringent is because Microsoft wants to force Trusted Platform Modules and Secure Boot down everyone’s throat, in the name of security. This way, Windows users can feel secure in knowing Microsoft looks out for them, and will prevent malware and viruses from… I can’t keep writing this with a straight face.

Announcing ARM64EC: building native and interoperable apps for Windows 11 on ARM

ARM64EC is a new application binary interface (ABI) for Windows 11 on ARM that runs with native speed and is interoperable with x64. An app, process, or even a module can freely mix and match ARM64EC and x64 as needed. The ARM64EC code in the app will run natively while any x64 code will run using Windows 11 on ARM’s built-in emulation. The ARM64EC ABI differs slightly from the existing ARM64 ABI in ways that make it binary compatible with x64 code. Specifically, the ARM64EC ABI follows x64 software conventions including calling convention, stack usage, and data alignment, making ARM64EC and x64 interoperable. Apps built as ARM64EC may contain x64 code but do not have to, since ARM64EC is its own complete, first-class ABI for Windows. Another tool in the toolbox for Windows developers who wish to treat ARM64 as a first-class citizen.

Microsoft confirms TPM 2.0 is a hard floor for Windows 11

Microsoft has published a blog post, trying to dispel some of the confusion around Windows 11’s system requirements. First and foremost, the company makes it clear that TPM 2.0 and 8th generation Intel and 2nd generation Ryzen are hard floors. Microsoft adds that based on the feedback during Windows 11’s testing process, support for 7th generation Intel and 1st generation Ryzen processors might be added. Using the principles above, we are confident that devices running on Intel 8th generation processors and AMD Zen 2 as well as Qualcomm 7 and 8 Series will meet our principles around security and reliability and minimum system requirements for Windows 11. As we release to Windows Insiders and partner with our OEMs, we will test to identify devices running on Intel 7th generation and AMD Zen 1 that may meet our principles. There are ways around these hard floors, through registry hacks and custom Windows 11 ISOs, but updates might break those, and who knows if Microsoft will plug those holes.

Microsoft remains vague and unclear about Windows 11’s minimum requirements

In my first story on the unveiling of Windows 11, I remarked that the system requirements remained largely unchanged from Windows 10. Well, as it turns out, I couldn’t have been more wrong. Since the announcement, Microsoft has been incredibly obtuse and back-and-forth about the system requirements for Windows 11, and at this point, it seems like nobody has any clue anymore what’s true and what isn’t. Windows 11 is arriving later this year as a free upgrade for Windows 10 users, but many are discovering that their hardware isn’t compatible. Microsoft has altered its minimum hardware requirements, and it’s the CPU changes that are most surprising here. Windows 11 will only officially support 8th Gen and newer Intel Core processors, alongside Apollo Lake and newer Pentium and Celeron processors. Windows 11 will also only officially support AMD Ryzen 2000 and newer processors, and 2nd Gen or newer EPYC chips. That’s one hell of a hard cutoff, and one that seems entirely arbitrary. There’s nothing in Windows 11 that a first generation Ryzen or 6th or 7th generation Intel Core processor cannot handle, so why rule them out? A lot of people just assume Windows 11 will work on older processors than those listed, but there’s no confirmation from Microsoft that this is the case. Aside from processor support, there’s another aspect that Microsoft is vague about: does Windows 11 require TPM 2.0 or TPM 1.2? Do you need a hardware TPM, or will a firmware TPM, available in about every modern x86 processor but turned off by default, suffice? Nobody seems to have the answers, and it’s leading to a lot of speculation ad uncertainty. The same applies to Secure Boot and UEFI – Microsoft lists both of them as requirements, but most news stories online just assume Microsoft doesn’t truly think of them as requirements, more as suggestions. There’s a lot of uncertainty in the air here for Windows users.

The death of Alpha on NT

Let’s take a step back from Windows 11 and go back in time – to 22 years ago, to be exact. Alpha on Windows NT is dead. As far as NT goes, it’s an Intel world. Last week, Compaq announced that it was laying off more than 100 of its Alpha/NT employees in its DECwest facility located near the Microsoft campus. This group of developers was tasked with making Alpha on NT a technical reality. Citing Compaq’s decision and the strength of Intel’s architecture and systems, Microsoft says it will discontinue development of future 32-bit and 64-bit Alpha products across its existing product line. Windows NT on PowerPC, Alpha, MIPS, and Itanium have always been deeply fascinating to me, and at some point, I want to get my hands on some supported hardware, just for the fun of it.

Microsoft will allow you to install any Android APK file in Windows 11

Next up, an important detail regarding Windows 11’s support for running Android applications. While there’s no Google Play Services or Play Store, you can sideload any APK you want. Microsoft has now confirmed that it will allow users to install any Android APK on Windows 11 devices. Yes, you can download a 3rd party Android APK file and install it on your Windows 11 device. This is a great decision by Microsoft as it enables consumers to install their favorite Android apps from various sources. This is good news, and I’m sure it will take about four days for XDA to hack Play Services and the Play Store onto Windows 11.

Microsoft unveils Windows 11

At an online event today, Microsoft officially announced Windows 11, the next major version of Windows. Windows 11 comes with several new features and improvements for end users. Microsoft highlighted the below features during the event today. Aside from the visual nip and tuck that we were already aware of, there’s a new Windows Store experience, a shift to a yearly update schedule, lots of new features for gaming, and the biggest new feature of all: Android applications are coming to Windows. Android applications on Windows have a few asterisks, though, the biggest of which is that Microsoft is collaborating with Amazon on bringing Android applications to Windows – after installing or upgrading to Windows 11, you first have to install the Amazon App Store from within the Windows Store, after which you can install Android applications, but only those found in the Amazon App Store. There’s no Google Play Store here, and no Google Play Services. My guess is that Google wasn’t going to play ball on this one, so Microsoft had to settle for this. Microsoft also showed off a revamped Settings app, redesigned versions of Notepad and Paint, and teased a UI overhaul for Windows Explorer, merely replacing its ribbon with a few buttons, so there’s no truly new, improved Explorer here. There’s more, but these are definitely the highlights. Windows 11 will come out later this year, and will be a free upgrade for Windows 10 users. The hardware requirements are roughly the same as Windows 10.

State of the Windows, part 2: did Windows 10 slow down with each feature update?

One of the main reasons some people tend to avoid updating their PCs is that “it makes it slower”. Especially with Windows 10’s Software as a Service approach, where it gets the so-called “feature updates” twice a year. But is it actually true? Today we’re gonna find out how much Windows 10’s performance has changed over time, by benchmarking 10 elements of the OS experience. As much as I dislike Windows, performance really was never an issue for me. It’s been responsive and snappy ever since Windows 7, but it’s still interesting to see the changes in performance over Windows 10’s lifetime.

State of the Windows: how many layers of UI inconsistencies are in Windows 10?

We’ve all heard this riddle: if you dig down deep enough in Windows 10, you’ll find elements that date from Windows 3.x days. But is it actually true? In this article we’ll discover just how many UI layers are in Windows and when they were first introduced. This is just painful to read. It highlights just how messy, inconsistent, and jarring Windows has become, which is a damn shame, since during the days of the ‘Classic’ theme, Windows was actually quite consistent and predictable. It’s pretty much been downhill since Microsoft introduced the Luna theme in Windows XP, and it’s clear Windows 11 isn’t fixing this issue either. To dispel a common myth – this issue does not just affect what the various parts of Windows look like – it also affects how they act and behave. There are still scrollable areas in Windows 10 that do not register mouse wheel input, or cramped dialogs and windows that should be resizable but aren’t, all because they were designed in the era of Windows 95 or even Windows 3.x. This is simply inexcusable, and the fact a massive company like Microsoft does not seem at all interested in addressing these issues, preferring to develop yet another five new application frameworks not even Microsoft will use, shows how little they actually care.

Windows 11 with new UX confirmed in a leak

Me, three weeks ago: Mark my words: this “next generation of Windows” is nothing but a few nips and tucks to the current, existing UI to make it slightly less of an inconsistent mess. Nothing more. Fast-forward to today, and we have a leaked build of this “next generation of Windows”, Windows 11, and much to my utter, devastating surprise, it turns out I was 100% right. Windows 11 is exactly what I said it would be: Windows 10, but with a few small nips and tucks (rounded corners, centered taskbar, tweaked Start menu), and that’s it. All the old Windows 95, XP, and 7-era stuff is still there, and since you can actually easily turn off a lot of the changes in Windows 11, there’s now a whole new layer of old design – Windows 10-era stuff. If this is the “next generation of Windows”, Microsoft is delusional.

Windows 10 is now nagging users with Microsoft Bing alerts

A new update has brought back Microsoft’s recommendation for Bing and Chromium Edge on Windows 10. After Microsoft Edge 91, Windows 10 has now started displaying a pop-up message that appears through Windows 10’s built-in notification center. The nag prompt enthusiastically addresses users on the benefits of using “Microsoft Bing” as the default search engine. And as you might guess, this prompt is being delivered only when Microsoft Edge is not the default browser or you’ve moved away from Bing to another search engine manually. Apple and Microsoft are cramming ever more ads into their platforms – platforms you pay to use, making the practice even more user-hostile. I’m so glad I left Windows, macOS, and iOS behind – they treat users like credit cards on legs. It’s dreadful.

Microsoft teases a ‘next generation of Windows’ announcement ‘very soon’

Microsoft isn’t talking about its big Windows plans at Build 2021 this week, and that’s because the company is preparing to detail what’s next for its PC operating system separately. Microsoft CEO Satya Nadella teased this announcement during his Build keynote this morning, revealing he has been testing “the next generation of Windows” in recent months. Windows is in a bit of a rut. As far as its core frameworks and lower levels go, it’s an incredibly solid, fast, extensible, and yes, secure operating system that can chug along just fine. The user experience, however, is a garbled, confusing mess consisting of bits and pieces dating back to Windows 3.11 (if you look hard enough). Almost every part of the operating system has multiple sides to it with different user experiences, looks, and feels, and if you come from a modern Linux distribution, the update experience, installing and managing applications, changing settings, and so on, are just downright laughably bad. The user-facing part of Windows doesn’t just need an overhaul – it’s had countless overhauls over the years, all leaving various bits and pieces around that you still encounter today – but a complete redesign. I think the lower-levels and core frameworks are more than fine, but everything on top of that needs a clean start. Microsoft has promised countless of these “next generations” of Windows, and aside from the move from Win9x to Windows NT, they’ve all been thin, patchy veneers atop all the thin, patchy veneers that came before. After so many empty promises, it’s just hard to take them seriously. Mark my words: this “next generation of Windows” is nothing but a few nips and tucks to the current, existing UI to make it slightly less of an inconsistent mess. Nothing more.

Microsoft shelves Windows 10X, it is not shipping in 2021

As we head into the spring of 2021, the plans are changing again for the OS. According to people familiar with the company’s plans, Microsoft will not be shipping Windows 10X this year and the OS as you know it today, will likely never arrive. The company has shifted resources to Windows 10 and 10X is on the back burner, for now. Microsoft missed the boat on the modern smartphone, and as far as their operating system business goes, they seem like a rudderless ship in a hurricane ever since. If I cared, it’d be painful to watch.

Microsoft announces Windows 10 May 2021 Update (version 21H1)

The Windows 10 May 2021 Update has been finalized and Build 19043.928 is likely to be the release candidate. Unsurprisingly, May 2021 Update will begin rolling out to millions of users around the world in May, and it will ship with a few minor improvements, mostly for enterprise customers. Microsoft has officially named the version 21H1 update as “May 2021 Update” and published the final bits in the Release Preview Channel. I wish Microsoft would rethink its obtuse versioning and naming scheme for windows, because none of this makes any sense to me anymore. This is a small update, and mostly focused on remote work scenarios in the enterprise.

Microsoft is building a new app store for Windows 10

Microsoft is working on a brand-new Store app for Windows 10 that will introduce a modern and fluid user interface, as well as bring changes to the policies that govern what kind of apps can be submitted to the store by developers. According to sources familiar with the matter, this new Store will pave the way to a revitalized storefront that’s more open to both end users and developers. The biggest change is that Microsoft will supposedly allow developers to host unpackaged, unaltered, bog-standard Win32 applications in the Store. Right now, even Win32 applications need to be packaged as MSIX, but this requirement is going away. The Microsoft Store definitely needs a lot of love, but I feel like the problem isn’t the Store itself – it’s just how messy and fragmented managing applications on Windows really is.

Why does trying to break into the NT 3.1 kernel reboot my 486DX4 machine?

While installing Windows NT 3.1 worked perfectly, I really like to tinker with my retro stuff. The Windows NT 3.1 CD comes with the full set of debugging symbols, I’m curious into investigating why NetDDE throws an error into the event log, and the system crashes with a specific EISA ethernet card (which might be due to faulty hardware), so I decided to dive into kernel debugging. Setting up kernel debugging is straight-forward, once you realize you should use the i386kd executable supplied with Windows NT 3.1 instead of kd/ntkd from the current Windows 10 develepmont kit. As soon as I want to break in (using Ctrl-C in i386kd), the target machine reboots instead of providing a kd> prompt. Such an obscure question and bug, and yet, there’s someone providing a detailed answer – and a fix.

GUI app support is now available for the Windows Subsystem for Linux

WSL lets you run a Linux environment, and up until this point has focused on enabling command line tools utilities and applications. GUI app support now lets you use your favorite Linux GUI applications as well. WSL is used in a wide variety of applications, workloads, and use cases, so ultimately, it’s up to you on what you’d like to use GUI app support for. Useful for developers who target multiple platforms.

WinGet is terrible. I want AppGet back.

It’s a year later and we can now safely conclude that WinGet is terrible. It calls itself a package manager, but it doesn’t really manage packages: it can only install them. With AppGet you could actually manage your software. If it got outdated, you could update it. If you no longer wanted it, you can uninstall it. WinGet doesn’t do that. It just downloads software and installs it. For months there’s been “experimental” support for the most important feature of a package manager: upgrades. It just doesn’t work. Sure, it will download the updates. It’ll even pretend to install them. And if you run it again, it will do it all over again for the same packages. It’s pointless. It just pretends to upgrade software, just like it pretends to be a package manager. One of the main reasons I use Linux is just how insanely superior installing and managing applications is on Linux compared to Windows and macOS. As a Linux Mint user, I’m part of the Debian ecosystem, meaning virtually every piece of Linux software comes packaged as a .deb (you’ll have a similar experience with e.g. RPM or Arch-based distributions), managed from one central place. I never have to think about how to install, update, or remove an application. Windows and macOS have various different methods of installing, updating, and removing applications, and many of these methods leave files all over the place. On both Windows and macOS, you have to deal with individual per-app update tools, application stores, downloading individual updates from the web, using tacked-on, always-breaking ports systems, and it’s up to you to remember how, exactly, each application handles its installation, update, and removal procedures. WinGet is just another mess to add to the giant pile of garbage that is managing applications on Windows.

Windows 95: how does it look today?

Windows 95 was the “next-generation” OS from Microsoft: redesigned UI, long file names support, 32-bit apps and many other changes. Some of Windows 95 components are still in use today. How does it look? Let’s test it and figure it out. It’s always fun to dive back into old operating systems we used to use every day. Windows 95 is such a monumental release, and one that changed the face of computing overnight. It turned an already massive computer company into one of the largest, most powerful companies in the world, and its influence on how desktop and laptop user interfaces work today can be seen everywhere. Windows 95 also happens to be delightfully pleasant to look at, especially taking into account the jumbled, chaotic mess of a user interface Windows has become today.

Windows 10 update to hide 3D Objects folder in File Explorer

Unfortunately, Microsoft doesn’t allow you to remove 3D Objects and other folders from File Explorer using Control Panel or Settings. If you want to remove these folders, you need to use Registry editor and delete the entry. With the Sun Valley update, Microsoft is looking to reduce the clutter in File Explorer and they plan to hide the 3D Objects folder by default. After the update, this useless folder will no longer be shown under ‘This PC’ unless you right-click and select the “Show all folders” option on the navigation pane. I know this is a small change, and I know it’s insignificant, but these unremovable garbage folders always feel like such a slap in the face. It’s an annoying reminder that when you use Windows, you don’t really own your computer.