“Fast Boot” is some sort of new “hybrid shutdown” feature that Redmond came out with in Windows 8, but since no one used that stub of crap, everyone (myself included) thought it was a new feature in Windows 10. Either way, it’s a great feature that really speeds up the boot time through some sort of Windows OS magic! In my copy, it was turned on by default, but just in case yours isn’t (or just to ensure that it is), it’s a fairly simple task to enable fast boot in Windows 10.
Ask Cortana for Power Options (in other words, type “power options” into the search bar; it should be the first result). You can always navigate Control Panel -> All Control Panel Options -> Power Options.
On the left sidebar, click “Choose what the power buttons do”.
In the “Define power buttons…” dialog, click the “Change settings that are currently unavailable” option.
Under “Shutdown settings”, make sure the fast startup option is checked.
It used to be fairly easy to find things in Windows 7, but after 8, Microsoft decided to start hiding system settings under oddly generic menu headings. This has become a tradition now in Windows 10, which makes it somewhat difficult to find the correct user settings to automatically log into Windows.
The easiest way, of course, is to ask Cortana. Type “netplwiz” into the search bar. This will bring up the list of accounts on the computer. Highlight your account (or, if you’re like me and the only user, the Administrator account) and uncheck the box next to “Users must enter a user name and password to use this computer”.
Upon restart, you should no longer be prompted for a password with that beautiful Pacific beach scene. Oh, well.
Ever the optimist, I jumped feet-first into Windows 10 on the VCR, because there isn’t much documentation on the sorts of things I’m trying to do with Windows and the project. For the past couple of weeks, I’ve been blazing a trail through the digital wilderness trying to get peripherals and software working perfectly under the new OS, and I hate to say that I’ve run across some glaring dead-ends.
The first to go was the real support for my remote control. Because it uses the MCE protocol, which is no longer supported by Windows 10 (since they dispensed with MCE in a vaguely boneheaded move to sell more XBones? [Pun intended]). WinLIRC, which was already a finicky primadonna under 7 has simply refused to work more than once under Windows 10. The Xbox 360 remote still works (sorta), but I prefer to have the different protocols so I’m not transmitting odd signals to one machine or the other. I’ve been having to use a keyboard and mouse combo primarily for simple navigation, which is getting old, so I decided to give the gamepad a go. Which leads to dealbreaker number 2.
Either Logitech is not supporting its devices properly or Microsoft has decided to abandon support for generic X-Input devices. Probably both. Logitech has taken the official position that gamepads should use Direct-Input and map controls through their proprietary software which immediately does not work because I lose the programmable functionality of the “Guide” button which I will make extensive use of in future upgrades to the system.
It stands to be said that the only reason I am using Windows in the first place is for proper game support. Instead of a hacked-up solution involving WINE under Ubuntu, I would rather have the operating environment with minimal “intrusion”. Granted, for media and hardware support, I would rather be running under Ubuntu anyway, but I’ve got to sacrifice one to get the other.
I was working on a new laptop for a client (preapring a basic setup and installing some software solutions for his business) that came pre-installed with Windows 10 and no support media. After a nominal wait for the OS to perform its “first run” checks and setup, I was presented with the Windows 10 login screen, but the only user account available was this “defaultuser0”, which I did not have the password to. Normally, I would refer to the manual (or quick start guide in a pinch), but the refurbished Acer from Newegg came with only a single slip of paper explaining the warranty. My years of experience with Windows taught me that the first step in troubleshooting is to reboot (possibly into Safe Mode) which you can technically only do from inside Windows, so I did the next best thing: a hard power-off reset.
Yes, I know you’re never supposed to do that. Sometimes you have no alternative but to use a little brute force.
Upon the reset, Windows returned to the initial setup screens, asking me for language, keyboard layout, and prompting me to leak as much data as possible back to Microsoft (to which I always opt out). So far, so good; however, after an unusually long “Just a moment…” screen, the monitor dropped to a blank screen with only a cursor. All the information that I was able to locate pointed to a driver problem and that the screen would initialize after a prolonged wait. That was a sucker test. I waited an entire day before giving up the ghost on that idea.
After much gnashing of teeth, I was able to assemble a solution from several partial solutions scattered through the Windows 10 fora, but lucky you, I’m going to share the fruits of my labor!
First thing to do in this situation is perform the hard reset. Hold the power button until the computer turns off. Wait a few moments for the hard drive(s) to stop spinning before powering the computer on again.
Once Windows gets as far as the Regional Settings dialog (the screen asking for language, time zone, and keyboard layout), press CTRL+SHIFT+F3 to reboot the computer into audit mode. Once you’re finally “properly” into Windows, ignore the System Preparation Tool window, open the Start Menu, then click “Power”. Hold down the left-hand SHIFT key, click “Restart” and keep the SHIFT key held until the reboot options screen appears.
Click “Troubleshoot”, then “Reset This PC”, and finally “Remove Everything”. You’ll drop to a black screen with the word “Preparing” in the large, friendly letters characteristic of Windows 10. Eventually, you will return to a blue screen asking if you want to clean the drives as well. Click “Just remove my files” and then the “Reset” button on the next page. The screen will go black again and display the Windows 10 progress indicator while it chugs through the reset process.
Grab yourself a beer and watch some cartoons because it will take a while to finish, but when it completes Windows should be ready to play nicely during setup, and not throw you another defaultuser0 error.
Windows Terminal has proven to be one of my favorite additions to the PC world in a while. Coming from the Linux and Mac paradigm for the last decade-and-a-half, I felt like I needed a capable terminal emulator if I was going to be running a Windows machine as a daily driver again. Of course, the Windows Subsystem for Linux (WSL) just makes me giggle with glee at being able to run Ubuntu at the hypervisor-level instead of using virtualization software like VMware to do the handful of specialized tasks that I would easily perform in a Mac/Linux terminal window.
Of course, if you’re going to have a modern terminal emulator, you need to be able to customize it. Under MacOS, I was rocking a classic green-on-black look that reminded me of playing Zork on an Apple II and was great for getting that “digging around under the hood” vibe. I’ll probably bring that look back for one of my specialized terminal implementations (maybe the dedicated Telnet profile I’ve set up for dialing into the occasional BBS), but for the Ubuntu profile, I wanted something that evoked the orange and purple color scheme that I’ve come to associate with my distro of choice. These colors aren’t exactly the official “on brand” colors that Canonical uses, but they get the idea across.
In Windows Terminal, you can access settings.json from the Settings tab and add the following data to the schemes section:
Once you get this inserted, you should be able to select “Ubuntu” from the Color Scheme drop-down under the Appearance tab in your Ubuntu profile, and you’ll get a terminal that looks like this:
Now that we’ve got the colors all set, we just need to add a custom icon to complete the look. I just grabbed a transparent *.png of the Ubuntu logo and converted it to an *.ico file. I’m weird in that I don’t really use my library folders the way they’re intended. I keep photos on my server, so I don’t have much use for the Pictures library folder. As such, I use the folder for “system” images like custom icons, profile images, and wallpapers. I just dropped the icon into the folder and pointed my Windows Terminal profile to it. Now I’ve got a terminal implementation that reminds me that I’m running a separate operating system on top of Windows and isn’t just another basic grey/white-on-black (that look is reserved for CMD and DOSBox).
I’m one of those weird people that doesn’t really use the standard library folders that come in Windows (or MacOS, for that matter), but while I can easily customize Mac’s Finder menu to not list the libraries I don’t use, customizing the Windows Explorer menu is less straightforward. I like opening new instances of Explorer to the Quick Access view where I have all my attached drives, commonly used libraries (Downloads, Desktop, and Documents), and mapped network drives available at a glance. I also have locations for files synced across my devices and the Recycle Bin pinned to the menu, giving me ahem quick access to these commonly-used locations. Because of this setup, the stock “This PC” listing is redundant–listing many of the same locations twice and taking up precious screen real estate. As such, I wanted to customize this menu as much as possible with the hope of getting it similar to my Mac’s Finder sidebar menu.
Editing the Registry
The Windows Registry holds all the power under the hood in the Windows ecosystem. The problem is that it isn’t always clear what registry key values affect what parts of the OS. Fortunately, a little Google Fu is all that is needed to find the appropriate changes to make. First, open the Registry Editor by launching regedit from the Run (WIN+R) dialog. In the Registry Editor, navigate to HKEY_LOCAL_MACHINE\SOFTWARE\Microsoft\Windows\CurrentVersion\Explorer\FolderDescriptions then locate the appropriate folder according to the GUID key list below and expand the folder to show its nested PropertyBag folder.
With the appropriate PropertyBag selected, right-click the ThisPCPolicy value in the main pane and select Modify. Change the value from Show to Hide, then click OK. Conversely, to re-show a particular folder, just change the data back to Show.
In some cases, ThisPCPolicy doesn’t have a defined value in the PropertyBag. In these cases, right-click on the main pane and select New > String Value, naming it ThisPCPolicy. Then set the value appropriately.
Enabling The Libraries Folder
For convenience sake, I do like to have access to the Libraries–just not at the top of the list. You can enable the Libraries folder in the sidebar menu through Folder Options in Windows Explorer. The check box is located under the “Navigation Pane” header below the View tab.
Putting things together like this makes Windows Explorer rather usable at this point!
I picked up one of those super-cheap ~$200 Windows 10 netbooks from Best Buy a while back because I wanted something inexpensive to keep at the shop for incidental tasks like programming microcontrollers or burning SD cards for Raspberry Pi. Unfortunately, someone at Microsoft boasted that Windows 10 could be installed on a 32GB storage drive, so manufacturers like Asus put exactly 32GB in their discount netbooks leaving very little space (after updates, usually less than 5GB) to install applications.
Fortunately, Windows 10 comes out of the box with the ability to change the default storage locations for the library folders and installation location for apps installed via the Windows Store. However, I use a lot of applications that aren’t available in the Store and I also require a fair bit of space for screen capture videos when I’m walking through a project, so I’m going to need some extra storage space. At least the little Asus that I selected has a MicroSD card slot so I can just grab a 128GB unit and leave it inserted. Windows treats it like any other removable media, but be warned: the MicroSD read/write speed isn’t anything you’re going to write home about! Applications are going to load more slowly, but in most cases will run just fine from RAM. (Writing that previous sentence gave me weird flashbacks of the 8- and 16-bit eras when we often ran applications directly from a floppy and experienced the associated slowdowns.)
Install Windows Applications To SD Card
In most cases, Windows application installers will offer the option to select the install folder. For these, I just have the folder structure of the C: drive root copied to my MicroSD card, notably the Program Files and Program Files (x86) folders, so I just change the drive letter and everything installs like normal. However, many newer applications take advantage of the Windows User/AppData folder to store local data. One notorious example is Fusion360, which installs to the AppData folder and offers no option to do otherwise! For these exceptions, we’ll need to create a symbolic link from the C: version of the AppData folder to the D: drive location.
Use Symbolic Link To Redirect Folders
First off, using a symbolic link to redirect system folders to another location is generally bad practice because it can expose the machine to symlink attacks, but considering we’ve been backed into a corner by arrogant developers and clueless manufacturers, we’re going to need to pull this trick out of the bag. I wouldn’t use this kind of workaround on any mission critical systems, but it should be just fine for this little auxiliary machine. (Technically, Windows shortcuts are symbolic links, so we’re not doing anything too weird. We’re just forcing Windows to use a different storage location for something it prefers to have on the main storage device). The first step is to create a directory on the D: drive that will hold our AppData (since it’s a hidden folder and I’m the only user, I’ll just put it in D:\AppData). From here, just copy the contents of the AppData directory over to the new location and delete (yes, I said delete) the original.
Create Symbolic Links With Windows Command Line
Windows comes with the mlink command to create symbolic links, but you have to use the Command Line terminal to invoke it. Open an elevated command prompt (one with Admin privileges) by pressing Win + X and selecting the appropriate option from the list. The syntax for the command is as follows:
mlink /switch <link> <target>
So, to make C:\Users\<user>\AppData point to the new location on the D: drive, we’ll invoke the following command:
mlink /D "C:\Users\<user>\AppData" "D:\AppData"
Once the link is created, as far as Windows is concerned, the two locations are the same place. If an application needs to access the folder, it will seamlessly connect to the location on D:. As such, Fusion360 will run without a hitch (although it will load more slowly due to the reduced read/write speed)!
Unfortunately, this trick does not work to upgrade Windows 10 to 11, so this machine will be stuck in the late 2010s forever (or until I decide to install Linux on it…again).