Introduction to Windows 10

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Introduction

This was ideally supposed to be one of the (logically) first entries in a series of articles about the newly minted Microsoft Windows 10.  However, owing to some of the more controversial aspects of the default settings in Windows 10, I felt compelled to do a quick write-up on what to disable first.  Not exactly what I’d planned, but such is life.

The hook

This is possibly what Windows 8 should have been – lean, sleek and efficient.  Microsoft has listened (perhaps with some chagrin) to the overwhelming feedback from the community and this version of Windows heralds the triumphant return of the stalwart Start Menu, last seen in Windows 7.

Desktop-Clean

There’s quite honestly, quite a lot to like about this new version of Windows.  I’ve tested it “bare metal” on a brand new high end Dell laptop as well as on an 8-year old hand-built PC tower, and the operating system has been reliable and fast.  The driver support coming across the wire from the Windows Update driver library has been remarkably impressive

The criticisms

Windows 10 though is not without controversy of its own.  This edition marks a significant change in how periodic system updates (or patches) are handled.  Rather than giving the end user oversight into what is installed and when, Windows 10 almost uniformly removes this oversight altogether, surprisingly even in the corporate targeted Enterprise edition.

Let’s move on though.

Great from the start

The installation was incredibly fast on the Dell however a tad slower on the desktop tower, owing to difficulties booting from USB (I had to resort to disc-based install). 

Lock-screen

As usual, I almost always perform clean installs rather than upgrading, even when upgrading retains most of your previous operating system.  The reasons for this are too long to go into detail here, but some of the upside is removing “guff” and ensuring everything is using the latest drivers and also the latest editions of all the software suites I use.

I’m going to assume by this point that you’ve either upgraded or you have a clean install – either way, you’re either staring at a shiny Windows 10 user interface, or you’re seriously considering installing and/or upgrading.  In case you haven’t read other reviews or seen my previous articles on the pre-release editions, I’ll walk you through the key parts of the revamped operating environment.

Desktop Areas

Let’s assume you have an account and you’ve authenticated to the desktop. Are we in for some surprises in this edition of Windows?  Let’s find out.  Here’s the basic layout of the Windows 10 desktop:

Desktop-Clean-Sectors

  1. Now, the desktop tends to pretty much work as you would expect
  2. The return of the Start menu
  3. The Task bar has been a feature of Windows since Windows 95
  4. The system tray is often overlooked by users, but Windows 10 adds some big value in this area

1. The Desktop

This is where all your apps render, and where you can save shortcuts (typically links to apps or websites) and other documents.  It hasn’t changed dramatically in this version as far as I can tell initially.

2. The Start Menu

Instinctively, the first thing I clicked on was the Start menu.  As I reported in an earlier article, its return is welcome.  I should point out that it is still possible to change the menu to be full screen, as it was in Windows 8/8.1.

Start-Menu

Microsoft has integrated the Metro-style menus into the Windows 10 Start menu, with live tiles and the usual suspects we’ve come to know from the previous edition.  What we do find here is the more familiar Start menu groups (“All apps”) which allows you to explore your installed software just like in the old days:

Start-Menu-Apps

Naturally, you can just start typing the name of an app, and the menu will predict matches for you.  You can also easily access important commands, such as the power (shutdown, restart) menu and the new “Settings” menu.  You can also still right click on the Start menu to get a cut down, by powerful context menu:

Start-Menu-Right-Click

I probably use the Start menu context menu more than any other menu – it has shortcuts to almost all of the critical an key Windows functions.

3. The Task Bar

This is where active apps and additional shortcuts to apps and websites live.  The change here is that an active application which has been “pinned” to the task bar is now underlined in white.  The icons are flatter and cleaner than in previous versions, as far as I can tell.

image

There’s also a button which arranges all active apps (“Task View”) which is a bit like the Windows + Tab combo.  You can also right click on items in the task bar to show frequently accessed directories and to pin/unpin things from the task bar.

taskview   task-context

4. The System Tray

Of all the improvements in Windows 10, my favourite has to be the changes to the System Tray area.  Aside from the usual handy tray icons and basic system info which is displayed here:

system-tray

There’s a new “slide out” menu which you can access  by gesturing (swiping) from the edge of the right side of the monitor inwards on a touch screen or by clicking on the notification icon (the white chat bubble icon).

Desktop

This handy menu will be slightly different depending on what’s installed on your computer.  On my high end Dell laptop, I have an array of useful features:

Slide-Out-Menu

Whereas on my more limited desktop, the options are fewer:

image

This is a really quick and handy way to access functionality which you might want to easily toggle (such as screen brightness) without having to set up keyboard shortcuts, hotkeys or to click several times into settings r the Control Panel.

The Settings Menu

Windows 8/8.1 had a special PC settings menu which was accessed via the “charm menu”, by swiping the right hand side of the screen, or pressing Windows Key + C.  This menu (or an approximation of it) finds its way into Windows 10 as the Settings menu.  You can access it from the new Start menu, or by clicking on the notification windows in the system tray and selecting “All settings”.

Settings-menu

This is somewhat confusing, since Windows 10 still retains the classic Control Panel which most of us are probably used to.  Yet this dialog contains a lot of settings which are not available elsewhere in the system (without delving into Group Policy or the Windows Registry).  Speaking of the Control Panel, it’s still here:

Control-Panel  Control-Panel-Detail-View

Of course, the best way to navigate the Control Panel is to switch to “Details View” (IMHO) which provides a comprehensive view of core system settings.

The App Store

The Microsoft App Store is still here, you can easily access it from the new Start Menu.  It renders as a windowed app, and is a handy way to search for and install useful apps:

App-Store  App-Store-Sanderstech

File Explorer/Windows Explorer

Finally, you’ll eventually access and start working with the Windows’ namesake – Windows Explorer.  In this edition, the system icons have been completely reimagined, and even display very nicely on high resolution displays.

Explorer-Icons

Task Manager

Our old friend the Task Manager is still around (right click on the task bar and select “Task Manager”).  The default (collapsed) version offers the same minimal set of details as in the previous edition of Windows, clicking the “More details” option provides roughly the same functionality you’d be used to from Windows 8/8.1.

Task-Manager-Basic  Task-Manager-Performance


Summary

Well, this was just a walk through the park, so to speak.  Advanced and power users wouldn’t find too much in this article which they probably hadn’t already worked out.  For those new to Windows 10 – or to the more recent editions of Windows, I hope this article was of some value.

We won’t be staying pedestrian for too long though.  Now that I have this article as a reference point, I can start to take a deeper look in my next few articles.  Check back for more of a detailed “under the hood” view of Windows 10.


Privacy in Windows 10

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Intro

Windows 10 was officially released last week.  In the wake of the release, concerns have surfaced about privacy and control issues which are enabled by default in all popular versions of the new Windows – including Enterprise edition.  We’ll take a look at what reasonable steps you could (or should) make to your install.

First off, it is worth taking note of what edition you are running.  Right clicking on the Start menu and selecting ‘System’ will yield the pertinent info:

Your edition of Windows 10

System

I am running Windows 10 Enterprise N, however most of what follows should apply to Pro and perhaps even Home edition.

Windows 10 Settings

Your first stop should be the Settings dialog.  Note that if you’d prefer to import registry settings, jump to the bottom of this article.

This shouldn’t be confused with the traditional Control Panel.  You can navigate easily here by clicking on the notifications icon in the system tray, or by right clicking on the Start menu and selecting ‘Settings’.

SysTray-Settings

The Windows 10 Settings

Settings

We’ll look at the most important places from this menu.

Privacy

You’ll want to read carefully through each tab in the Privacy dashboard.  I have taken screenshots of each one from the RTM build, showing what I’ve disabled.  I don’t like sharing my personal info as a general rule, so I’ve been quite liberal in disabling mostly everything.

Privacy-General Privacy-Location

Privacy-CameraPrivacy-Mic

Privacy-CortanaPrivacy-Account

Privacy-ContactsPrivacy-Calendar

Privacy-MessagingPrivacy-Radios

Privacy-OtherPrivacy-Feedback

Privacy-Apps

These are suggestions, you may or may not want some of the options enabled, depending on what apps and applications you are running.

Updates & Security

Some big things in this new version – the biggie being the Automatic download and installation of Windows Update patches,  You might want to disable how you receive your updates, you can do this by going into the Advanced settings.

Updates-Security-Installing  Updates-Security 

Updates-UpdateSettings  Updates-UpdateSettings-Advanced

I’d recommend disabling some of these settings.  They aren’t necessarily as nefarious as some have made out on the Internet, but there’s some value in taking some control over when and how your system updates.  More on this in the Group Policy section, below.

Windows Defender

Unless you have a really good reason to do so, I DO NOT recommend disabling Windows Defender.  However, there’s no harm in disabling the sharing of Defender information with Microsoft or others:

Updates-Defender

Accounts

If you use (or plan to use) a Microsoft Account, you might want to review what you share with the ‘Cloud’.

Accouints-Sync  Accounts-Signin

Network & Internet

WiFi Settings – WiFi Sense

If you don’t want to inadvertently share your WiFi details with contacts, you may want to disable WiFi Sense.  You do this through the Network & Internet settings.

wifi-settings  wifi-settings-sense 

Advanced

The next section requires a bit more work.

Group Policy

Policy is usually used by Network Administrators or Power Users to take more control over PCs.  You’ll need to run the Group Policy Editor with elevated permissions (i.e as Administrator).

Here is the Group Policy Editor (gpedit.msc.  Note that you can export to text file all the options.  This is recommended if you want to free search for specific values.

Export

Exported text

ExportedList

First off, why not use the policy to disable sending of diagnostic data (Windows Enterprise only):

Disable Telemetry (Sending Diagnostic Information)

Simply locate the “Allow telemetry” policy and enable, then set to zero (0) – applies to Enterprise edition only.

For non-Enterprise edition folks, you can try to disable Telemetry by modifying a registry value.

Open up the Registry Editor by launching regedit as an administrator.  Navigate to HKEY_LOCAL_MACHINE\SOFTWARE\Microsoft\Windows\CurrentVersion\Policies\DataCollection, select AllowTelemetry, change its value to 0, then apply.

GroupPolicy 

GroupPolicy-Telemetry

Disable auto-install of updates

This one may or may not work, you need to ensure you have configured both “Configure Automatic Updates” and “Allow Automatic Updates immediate installation” policies:

GroupPolicy-Updates 

GroupPolicy-WindowsUpdates-AutoInstall

Disable Web Search from Start Menu

Finally, I found disabling the obligatory “desktop and web” search in the Start Menu significantly speeds up the Start Menu.  Policy = “Do not allow web search”:

image

Cleanup: Remove Services

There are two key Windows Services which appear to participate in the sending of diagnostic data, Diagnostic Tracking Service “DiagTrack”and WAP Push Message Routing Service “dmwappushservice”.

image

Launch a Command Prompt as Administrator and execute the following:

sc delete DiagTrack

sc delete dmwappushservice

I haven’t noticed any ill-effects from removing these two Windows Services.

Registry Import

If you’d prefer to simply import that changes I made, copy this text and save it into a text file on your system (filename with a .reg extension) and import into the registry.

Windows Registry Editor Version 5.00


[HKEY_LOCAL_MACHINE\SOFTWARE\Microsoft\PolicyManager\default\Update]


[HKEY_LOCAL_MACHINE\SOFTWARE\Microsoft\PolicyManager\default\Update\AllowAutoUpdate]

“AllowedEnrollmentTypes”=hex(b):ff,ff,ff,ff,00,00,00,00

“HighRange”=dword:00000005

“LowRange”=dword:00000000

“MergeAlgorithm”=dword:00000001

“PolicyType”=dword:00000004

“value”=dword:00000002


[HKEY_LOCAL_MACHINE\SOFTWARE\Microsoft\PolicyManager\default\Update\AllowNonMicrosoftSignedUpdate]

“AllowedEnrollmentTypes”=hex(b):ff,ff,ff,ff,00,00,00,00

“HighRange”=dword:00000001

“LowRange”=dword:00000000

“MergeAlgorithm”=dword:00000001

“PolicyType”=dword:00000004

“value”=dword:00000001

“WNFStateName1″=dword:a3bd3075

“WNFStateName2″=dword:13920028


[HKEY_LOCAL_MACHINE\SOFTWARE\Microsoft\PolicyManager\default\Update\AllowUpdateService]

“AllowedEnrollmentTypes”=hex(b):ff,ff,ff,ff,00,00,00,00

“HighRange”=dword:00000001

“LowRange”=dword:00000000

“MergeAlgorithm”=dword:00000001

“PolicyType”=dword:00000004

“value”=dword:00000001

“WNFStateName1″=dword:a3bd2075

“WNFStateName2″=dword:13920028


[HKEY_LOCAL_MACHINE\SOFTWARE\Microsoft\PolicyManager\default\Update\PhoneUpdateRestrictions]

“AllowedEnrollmentTypes”=hex(b):ff,ff,ff,ff,00,00,00,00

“HighRange”=dword:00000004

“LowRange”=dword:00000000

“MergeAlgorithm”=dword:00000001

“PolicyType”=dword:00000004

“PreCheckDLLPath”=”%SYSTEMROOT%\\system32\\PolicyManagerPrecheck.dll”

“value”=dword:00000004

“WNFNotificationMask”=dword:00000001


[HKEY_LOCAL_MACHINE\SOFTWARE\Microsoft\PolicyManager\default\Update\RequireDeferUpgrade]

“AllowedEnrollmentTypes”=hex(b):ff,ff,ff,ff,00,00,00,00

“HighRange”=dword:00000001

“LowRange”=dword:00000000

“MergeAlgorithm”=dword:00000003

“PolicyType”=dword:00000004

“value”=dword:00000000


[HKEY_LOCAL_MACHINE\SOFTWARE\Microsoft\PolicyManager\default\Update\RequireUpdateApproval]

“AllowedEnrollmentTypes”=hex(b):ff,ff,ff,ff,00,00,00,00

“HighRange”=dword:00000001

“LowRange”=dword:00000000

“MergeAlgorithm”=dword:00000002

“PolicyType”=dword:00000004

“value”=dword:00000000


[HKEY_LOCAL_MACHINE\SOFTWARE\Microsoft\PolicyManager\default\Update\ScheduledInstallDay]

“AllowedEnrollmentTypes”=hex(b):ff,ff,ff,ff,00,00,00,00

“HighRange”=dword:00000007

“LowRange”=dword:00000000

“MergeAlgorithm”=dword:00000001

“PolicyType”=dword:00000004

“value”=dword:00000000


[HKEY_LOCAL_MACHINE\SOFTWARE\Microsoft\PolicyManager\default\Update\ScheduledInstallTime]

“AllowedEnrollmentTypes”=hex(b):ff,ff,ff,ff,00,00,00,00

“HighRange”=dword:00000017

“LowRange”=dword:00000000

“MergeAlgorithm”=dword:00000001

“PolicyType”=dword:00000004

“value”=dword:00000003


[HKEY_LOCAL_MACHINE\SOFTWARE\Microsoft\PolicyManager\default\Update\UpdateServiceUrl]

“AllowedEnrollmentTypes”=hex(b):ff,ff,ff,ff,00,00,00,00

“MergeAlgorithm”=dword:00000003

“PolicyType”=dword:00000001

“value”=”CorpWSUS”

“WNFStateName1″=dword:a3bd2875

“WNFStateName2″=dword:13920028

Inspiration(s)

The following links were helpful in compiling this article

https://www.reddit.com/r/Windows10/comments/3f38ed/guide_how_to_disable_data_logging_in_w10/

http://prntscr.com/7ykzbh


Installing Windows 10 on bare metal

As long time readers of Sanders Technology are no doubt are aware, I rarely install operating systems on bare metal (non-virtual) systems.  Partly this is a practical measure, there are a lot of releases if you take into account pre-release and beta versions, and partly an issue of convenience.  Therefore, it is something special when I install to bare metal, I put on some vinyl and get to work..

IMG_2688_Small

For this version of Windows, I had purchased a new laptop the previous month and it had been sitting somewhat idle with the news of the imminent release of Windows 10.  So I waited, and once the RTM build hit MSDN, I began the process of installing onto the Dell XPS 15.  Here’s a pictorial of the installation process and some handy installation tips.

Beginning

I booted the system via USB, and squinted at the tiny, tiny font.  Evidentially Microsoft haven’t fixed the screen scaling on 4K monitors.  Luckily for me, I have exceptional vision for tiny fonts, and was able to move on to the main installation.  I blew away the primary disk, and formatted for install.  I opted for a clean install over an upgrade because that’s become my default modus operandi of the past decade or so.

IMG_2728_Small IMG_2729_Small

The new boot sequence makes use of the manufacturer logo during the boot process, just in case you forgot you were sitting in front of a Dell.  After the initial boot loading of the setup files, we’re treated to a new progress clock screen which ticks up to 100% complete.  On this brand new laptop, it did not take long.

IMG_2730_Small IMG_2732_Small

Once the initial image is ready, we’re into familiar territory, being asked “Express” or “customize”.  No brainer, always go the customize route, which allows you to toggle off some of the more invasive data sharing “features”.  You’ll need to do a lot more later on, once the OS is up and running proper.

IMG_2733_Small

Finally, you’ll be prompted to create an initial account.  As I was domain-joining my machine, it asked me to create a local account, which is easy enough.  Once the setup had finalized, I authenticated with the local account and then changed the computer name and joined it to my domain.  Then I rebooted and prepared to authenticate as a Domain Admin to complete my personalized settings.

Logging in

IMG_2734_Small

This edition of Windows 10 is exceptionally striking, visually.  The UX design is impressive and looks far superior than the predecessor, Windows 8/8.1.  Once you’re authenticated, Windows will attempt to contact Windows Updates to finish off the remainder of the installation – my recommendation: allow this to happen.  For why, see below.

Troubleshooting

Nearly every bare metal install I’ve completed in the past required me to locate OS-specific drivers to complete the installation.  In cases where the manufacturer has not published newer drivers, I’ve been able to get away with using the previous edition’s drivers – provided the CPU architecture matches (e.g. 64 bit drivers for 64 bit OSes). 

The first time I installed Windows 10, I did not join the laptop to my WiFi (mistake #1).  The Dell website did not list any new drivers for Windows 10 despite assurances the laptop had been tested and was compatible with the new OS.  Curious.  So I did what I’ve always done – installed the previous versions (mistake #2).

The drivers installed fine, and all the unidentified devices were installed.  Then I rebooted the system.  That’s when the black screen of death occurred:

IMG_2735_Small

Windows 10 boots, and leaves you stuck on a black screen with a mouse cursor constantly in the “spinning circle” mode.  It turns out that the previous Windows 8.1 NVidia driver was the cause of this OS-limbo, and there wasn’t anything I could do about it.  I tried to get into Safe Mode, no dice. 

In the end I had to reinstall the OS, but this time I connected to WiFi.  Windows Update’s Driver Store, as it turns out, had valid and appropriate drivers (must have been supplied by Dell) so everything installed fine.  There were a few odd devices not identified which I was able to install using the old drivers.  It’s been fine since.

Therefore, if you encounter the black screen of death – I’d suggest attempting to get into some kind of protected mode (safe mode) and uninstall any custom drivers.  Worst case scenario, you might be looking at an OS-reinstall.