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PowerShell Management of Built-In Modern Apps

December 23, 2015 Leave a comment

The built-in Modern Apps that came with Windows 10 can’t be uninstalled easily.  However you can uninstall and reinstall these apps via PowerShell session.

Notes:

  • Uninstalling Modern Apps that don’t work / got corrupted for some reason cannot be repaired by uninstalling and then reinstalling them.  If an app isn’t already working before you uninstall it, then it will still not work after reinstalling it – at least, that’s from my experience.
  • Actions done to uninstall and then reinstall Modern Apps in one user profile account don’t impact other user profile accounts.  In other words, the scope of the PowerShell commands used was just for the currently signed-in user.

The command to list all Modern Apps installed for a user profile account is as follows.

get-appxpackage | select name, packagefullname

The key command here is get-appxpackage; you pipe the output of this command into a readable format just listing the name and full package name of all apps in a user profile account.

Obtain the exact package name of the Modern App first.  Examples:

Microsoft.WindowsStore

Microsoft.WindowsStore_2015.23.23.0_x64__8wekyb3d8bbwe

Microsoft.Windows.Photos

Microsoft.Windows.Photos_15.1208.10480.0_x64__8wekyb3d8bbwe

Built-in Modern Apps cannot be uninstalled from the Settings > System > Apps & features section, so the only way to remove it is through PowerShell.  The command to uninstall a particular Modern app is as follows; the full package name needs to be specified as in the example here that removes the Photos app.

Remove-AppxPackage Microsoft.Windows.Photos_15.1208.10480.0_x64__8wekyb3d8bbwe

The command to reinstall a Modern App is as follows; the full package name needs to be specified, as well as a few other parameters needed.

Add-AppxPackage -register “C:\Program Files\WindowsApps\[PackageFullName]\appxmanifest.xml” -DisableDevelopmentMode

Note that this is the location of the app’s manifest file that describes the package to be installed.

C:\Program Files\WindowsApps\[PackageFullName]\appxmanifest.xml

The following is an example to reinstall the Photos app:

Add-AppxPackage -register “C:\Program Files\WindowsApps\Microsoft.Windows.Photos_15.1208.10480.0_x64__8wekyb3d8bbwe\appxmanifest.xml” -DisableDevelopmentMode

 

Change the Location of Microsoft Edge’s Cache and Other Temporary Folders

October 25, 2015 Leave a comment

Background and Problem: I was doing research on how to relocate the Internet cache of Microsoft Edge.  I didn’t want such temporary files to take up space in the partition where the Windows 10 operating system was also installed because such has limited space.  As of this writing there’s no user-configurable setting to make this happen.  (For comparison, it was easy with Internet Explorer since you can change the location via Internet Options.)

Solution: In the course of my research I revisited a technique used to relocate the user profiles folders in Windows 7 that continued to work in Windows 10 per my testing.  Aside from relocating the Internet cache of Microsoft Edge, this technique will also relocate any temporary folders that are part of a standard user profile.  The technique works to save space off the primary partition of your system if such space is limited (such as if the disk is an SSD) and save any files in a separate, larger capacity drive (usually the traditional hard disk).

There are two options to change the user profiles location, both of which are covered in two articles in the NextofWindows.com web site.

Option 1: How to Change User Profile Default Location in Windows 7

Option 2: How To Change User Profile Location in Windows 8 without Registry Hack

The links describe further detail on how to go about making the changes for either option.  I can only talk about Option 1 here since this is the only approach I’ve been able to test on my machine.  (This is also the only option I’m comfortable doing — that’s just me.)

In summary, the steps for Option 1 are as follows:

Note: Plan ahead.  These steps will only take effect for any new user accounts created.  It will not apply to the user account that executed these changes.

1. Create a new folder to house the profile folders in another partition.  In my example, I’m relocating the profile folders in a new E:\Users folder.

2. Copy the original Default profile folder in C:\Users to E:\Users.

  • By default this “Default” directory is hidden, so in File Explorer you need to go to View > Options > View (tab) > Show Hidden files, folders, and drivers.
  • If you upgraded from a previous version of Windows, then you might see other “Default” folders; copy these, too, such as “Default.migrated” and “DefaultAppPool.”  (I don’t think such is necessary, but to be safe copy these as well.)

3. Copy the original Public profile folder in C:\Users to E:\Users.

Default folder location

4. Open the Registry Editor and navigate to HKEY_LOCAL_MACHINE\SOFTWARE\MICROSOFT\WINDOWS NT\CurrentVersion\ProfileList.

5. Change the value of the Default, Public, Profile Directory keys to the new paths inside the E:\Users, accordingly.

6. Restart the machine.

From this point forward, any new user created and who logs in to the machine will have a new user profile that’s located in the new location.  The Internet cache folders of Microsoft Edge will be saved in the new location you specified for user profiles.  Any temporary folders and files will also be saved in this location.

The default save location for all new files is still pointing to the operating system partition.  If you prefer to have the default save location in another location then do one of the following (you only need to choose one option):

Option 1: Go to Settings > System > Storage.  Reconfigure the save locations of all documents and files to another partition.  Open File Explorer and check that a new folder using your user name has been created, with new folders for documents and other files.

 

Storage locations

Option 2: Open File Explorer and re-set location settings of the Documents, Music, Pictures, Videos, Downloads, etc. folders.  Right-click the File Explorer folder concerned to open its properties, and go to the tab where the location is specified; change the target locations from here.

Set location of folders

 

Cable Internet: Connection Metrics to Monitor

July 5, 2014 Leave a comment

Material in this post came from FAQ: Acceptable cable modem signal levels and Cable Modem Signal Levels.  Please refer to the source materials for additional details and recommendations on fixes to issues you can try from your end.

There are three connection metrics that you can use to monitor the stability of your cable Internet connection.  Access these metrics by going to http://192.168.100.1/ from your browser and look at the following values reported by the modem:

Metric Range Remarks
Downstream (Rx) Receive Power Level -15 dBmV to +15 dBmV maximum Recommended range between -12 dBmV to +12 dBmV

 

“Optimal” level at 0 dBmV

Upstream (Tx) Transmit Power, a.k.a. Return Signal Level +8 dBmV to +58 dBmV maximum for QPSK (DOCSIS 1.x)

 

+8 dBmV to +55 dBmV maximum for 8 QAM and 16 QAM (DOCSIS 1.x)

 

+8 dBmV to +54 dBmV maximum for 32 QAM and 64 QAM (A-TDMA DOCSIS 2.0)

 

+8 dBmV to +53 dBmV maximum for S-CDMA DOCSIS 2.0 modulation rates

Recommended range between +35 dBmV to +52 dBmV

 

Values in the 40+ dBmV range are common and considered normal

SNR (Signal-to-Noise Ratio) Level QPSK: 12 dB minimum; 15 dB or higher recommended (often used in upstream channels)

 

16 QAM: 18 dB minimum; 21 dB or higher recommended (often used in upstream channels)

 

64 QAM: 24 dB minimum; 27 dB or higher recommended (often used in downstream channels)

 

256 QAM: 30 dB minimum; 33 dB or higher recommended (often used in downstream channels)

SNR should be 30 dB or higher; the higher the better

If your metrics are not within the ranges then your Internet connection is not stable.  If you are consistently close to either the minimum or maximum limits (except where noted for the SNR) then consider this a warning that something might be wrong.

Recommendations on what can be done from your end are beyond the scope of this post.  Suffice it to say, you can try referring to the two source materials mentioned at the start of this post.  Contact your Cable ISP for assistance in troubleshooting risks or issues encountered as per monitoring these particular metrics.

Speaking from my own experience, I’ve been monitoring these metrics every time I’m online and before doing anything else on the network.  This has helped me set my expectations on the reliability of my connection, which for the most part has been stable.  For the times I suddenly lose my connection or it acts sluggish, I consult these metrics to see if there’s something wrong in the line; I found the information I got useful in reporting problems with my ISP, though they can actually monitor the same from their end.

Microsoft Security Essential’s Real Time Protection Getting Turned Off

March 8, 2014 Leave a comment

Problem Statement: The real time protection feature of Microsoft Security Essentials (MSE) was observed to be getting turned off for no obvious reason.

How the issue happens:

Upon first boot up and login using an Administrator account, it works fine, and the real time protection is enabled and confirmed by the presence of a green icon for MSE. Using Fast User Switching, login happens to an account that is not an Administrator, and work is done in that account for a while. The MSE in this account is okay. When switched back to the Administrator account, it’s seen that the real time protection of MSE in this account is now turned off.

The issue was observed to happen only once every boot or reboot, and once that’s resolved, it doesn’t re-occur.

A question was posted in the Microsoft Community Forum to get the feedback of people who might have experienced this issue also. In checking the various forums posts I’ve seen a number of people having a similar issue but none that had any satisfying answer, at least not in this particular case.

A ticket was also submitted to Microsoft Customer Support. The solutions of the engineer were only partially followed.

Workarounds applied: The only thing that consistently resolved the issue for the short term was to log-off and re-login to the account affected with this issue. A previous attempt to run a Quick Scan somehow forced real time protection to be enabled again, but this solution was not consistently working.

What has been attempted to resolve the issue:

1. Tried turning on real time protection per the button to turn it on, but MSE just seems to hang, so the issue was only resolved by logging-off the account. When the Setting tab of MSE was checked, the option for real time protection was still checked despite MSE reporting that it’s turned off – this was confusing because the settings showed it’s checked but somehow not enabled.

2. Tried scanning the system using MSE; no viruses were found. Tried scanning using MalwareBytes (MBAM, on-demand version only, not the one with real-time protection); no viruses were found.

Notes:

• Per http://experts.windows.com/w/experts_wiki/89.aspx MBAM shouldn’t conflict with MSE.

• Prior to the time this issue was observed, there have not been MBAM and MSE conflicts encountered. It’s highly doubtful that there were conflicts between these two anti-virus scanners, especially since MBAM was not providing real time protection unlike (supposedly) MSE.

3. Tried scanning using the stand-alone root kit remover version of MBAM; no viruses found.

4. Tried scanning using Kaspersky’s TDSSKiller; no viruses found.

5. Tried restoring the system to a previous restore point, which was the last time this issue was not present, but the issue still came up.

6. Initially suspected that the issue was just isolated with the Administrator account which was running in the background (disconnected), however was able to observe this issue with the non-Administrator account.

7. Initially suspected that the daily scheduled Quick Scan had something to do with it, but was able to recreate the issue after a Quick Scan completed, so this theory was ruled-out.

8. Attempted to discover the cause of the issue using Process Monitor; this was run in the Administrator account while work was happening in the non-Administrator account. Unfortunately the log file collected was saved in CSV format and Excel could not open all the contents; it was able to open rows up to the point 15 minutes prior to the issue occurring, thus making the log useless for diagnostic purposes.

9. Successfully captured another Process monitor session which contained the issue, and this time was saved in the native format of the tool. Was successful this time in opening the log, unfortunately did not find anything outstanding that could explain why real time protection was getting turned off. In fact in the logs all indications showed that real time scanning was actually still working despite MSE reporting that it was turned off.

10. Microsoft Community forum post suggestion was to uninstall and reinstall MSE; with not much options left, decided to take this approach. Installer of MSE as well as an offline copy of the virus definition updates (KB971606) was downloaded. Machine was disconnected from the Internet. MSE was uninstalled, then reinstalled. Offline copy of the virus definition updates was installed. Machine was reconnected to the Internet, an update to the virus definitions was done again, and then a Quick Scan was performed; no viruses found.

11. Just for good measure, Windows Update was also run to check for the latest version of MSE and its virus definition files (it’s set it to check other updates to Microsoft products, not just the operating system), and everything was still up to date. A fresh and up to date install of MSE now active in the machine.

Resolution: Uninstalling and reinstalling MSE resolved the problem. This issue has not resurfaced.

Root Cause Analysis and Recommended Preventive Measures:

Root cause of the issue continues to be unknown since the Process Monitor logs didn’t capture any error that can be obviously linked to real time scanning getting turned off – but apparently still turned on somehow.

I was advised that a regular Full Scan is needed to prevent this from happening; the daily scheduled Quick Scan was supposedly not sufficient. As new or updated software is introduced in the machine, MSE is not able to scan this as per Quick Scan which just checks essential system files. Thus, MSE will eventually report that it’s not running efficiently. The supposed reason doesn’t make sense – either that or I just don’t understand it. In any case, doing a regular Full Scan is still good advice to implement.

Windows Server 2008 UAC and AD account lock-outs

September 1, 2012 Leave a comment

Problem: One of our Active Directory application ID accounts gets periodically locked out for some reason in one of our servers.  This particular application ID is used to run jobs from a command line.  Checking the Windows Event logs didn’t find anything useful as to why such account got periodically locked-out.

Here’s what we found out: Further investigation into the history of the server showed that it used to be on Windows Server 2003, but was just recently upgraded to Windows Server 2008.  The application ID was given Administrator rights, and continued to have the same after the upgrade.

Solution: It was suspected that UAC was preventing the run of the jobs, and such was right.  Repeated attempts to run the job using the application ID failed, and due to such attempts and failures, the account itself got locked-out, AD interpreting it as a failed attempt to connect and authenticate.  There was no UAC when the box was still on Windows Server 2003, and so the application ID, running as an Administrator, was able to execute the jobs successfully, however now in Windows Server 2008, the UAC prevented such.  Turning off UAC (for purposes of investigation) enabled the application ID to run the jobs uninterrupted, and this in turn did not cause a lock-out of the account.

We have yet to figure out how to make the application ID run the jobs with UAC turned on; it doesn’t help that the application ID requires Administrator level privileges to run the jobs. A challenge that we have is the inherent limitation of the commands executed in the jobs themselves, since these are legacy code that is not UAC-friendly.  Ultimately the solution might be found in doing something with the code of the commands so that we don’t have to grant Administrator rights to the application ID that runs the jobs, and consequently we can turn UACK back on.  Until then, this quick and dirty solution is in effect.

2011 in review

January 1, 2012 Leave a comment

The WordPress.com stats helper monkeys prepared a 2011 annual report for this blog.

Here’s an excerpt:

A San Francisco cable car holds 60 people. This blog was viewed about 2,500 times in 2011. If it were a cable car, it would take about 42 trips to carry that many people.

Click here to see the complete report.

Enable or disable user accounts in Windows 7 Home Premium and lower

December 21, 2011 1 comment

For editions of Windows 7 on Home Premium and lower, there is neither an option in the GUI in User Accounts nor a Local Users and Groups section in Computer Management that can be used to disable a user account; this is by design.

If you want to disable or enable a user account in said editions, then you need to use the net user commands from an elevated Command Prompt.

  1. Open an elevated Command Prompt.  Type cmd on the Search bar of the Start Menu; once it comes up, right-click and select Run as administrator.
  2. To disable an account, type net user <user account > /active:no.  Enclose the user account in quotes if it has spaces in the name.  Example: net user “PC User” /active:no.
  3. To enable an account, type net user < user account > /active:yes.  Enclose the user account in quotes if it has spaces in the name.  Example: net user “PC User” /active:yes.

I tested this on a laptop with Windows 7 Home Basic, and it works.

Reference: http://lichao.net/eblog/how-to-enable-or-disable-user-account-in-windows-7-home-premium-201110643.html.