Microsoft on Thursday is set to discuss the future of the Windows desktop. (Get ready for Windows 11.) Before that happens, I’d like to provide Microsoft with some unrequested feedback from an IT admin perspective on what still needs to be fixed in Windows 10.
First, can we have a normal human readable Windowsupdate.log — please? Originally, we were told the log file was changed to a PowerShell convertible event log to save space on the hard drive. But given the bloating of the WinSXS folder in Windows 10, that justification seems a bit hollow. In the meantime, when you use the PowerShell command Get-WindowsUpdateLog cmdlet, the resulting event log is difficult to parse and understand. Microsoft? Bring back a plain text event log.
While we’re at it, in the event logs can we get updates in KB number format? Currently, they show up with GUID numbers — and it’s always hard to correlate KB patch numbers and GUID numbers. Microsoft, it’s time to bring back plain text KB numbers in event logs. Or at least provide some sort of tool to make it easier to diagnose issues.
Next, we need a tool to really fix Windows update issues. While Windows 10 desktops can be fixed with either a repair install over the top on desktops or by installing a feature release, those of us that have GUI based server installs are stuck with sfc /scanow or DISM commands that often don’t work. That means if you have a server with a unique line of business role, specialized SQL installs, or systems that are a total pain to rebuild, reinstall or recover, options are limited. How about a tool to really diagnose what’s wrong with Windows update and actually repair the component-based servicing when it has issues?
Next, when a feature release arrives and it won’t install, can you provide a more obvious diagnosis of the problem? Telling us the machine is not worthy isn’t helpful. Windows 10, in particular, is highly dependent on up-to-date BIOS and drivers; if they are not available, there are often side effects. Case in point: the infamous Conexant audio driver issue that blocked the install of Windows 10 2004. On some machines. The only workaround offered was to let the install proceed, let it fail, and then try the install again. What was really going on under the hood is that during the first failed install, the Conexant audio driver was removed, allowing the second installation to work. It would be better if the installation process could proactively flag an offending driver and prepare the system properly for a feature upgrade.
On a related note, if there is a specific reason a feature update is not being offered to my machines, let me know. Digging through setup logs and panther logs doesn’t make it obvious what’s wrong or missing.
Next, it’s time to reenable certain default functions once allowed us to better repair the operating system. Starting with Windows 10 1803, the Registry is no longer automatically backed up. Until 1803, the operating system would place a backup of the Registry in \Windows\System32\config\RegBack; that way, if the registry become corrupted, you could get a copy and restore it. Yes, you can manually reenable it by going to HKeyLocal machine > System > CurrentControlSet > Control > Session Manager > Configuration Manager, adding the value of EnablePeriodicBackup, and typing in REG_DWORD with a value of 1. (This is spelled out in documentation.) Now, restart the computer.
Adding that key will automatically create a scheduled task in the Microsoft\Windows\Registry folder. Microsoft notes that “this change is by design and is intended to help reduce the overall disk footprint size of Windows. To recover a system with a corrupt registry hive, Microsoft recommends that you use a system restore point.” Once again, hard drive space is used as an argument to get rid of a potentially life-saving feature. Microsoft, put this feature back and just be up front about the minimum requirements needed for a base install of Windows 10.
System restore points are no longer emphasized in Windows 10; if you have a smaller hard drive in particular, system restore points are often disabled — you have to manually reenable them. And I recommend you double check the setting after each feature release is installed to make sure the setting you intended has been kept. Microsoft’s enterprise focus clearly shows an assumption: that users will generally redeploy operating systems rather than make repairs. I’d like to see more emphasis on better ways to repair Windows that go beyond a redeployment.
Finally, I’d like more obvious options for setting up Windows 10 without connecting it to a Microsoft account, and more ways to opt out of telemetry. Every time a feature release comes out, I test to make sure I can still set it up without a Microsoft account (you have to ensure there is no internet connection as you set up the OS). I’m also starting to see pushback that too much private information collected with telemetry is being shared to vendors. Privacy is increasingly seen as important by users who dislike sharing information with websites. How many of us have surfed online only to see the same advertisements pop up on sites we got? Apple recently added application tracking transparency to its iOS platform; it specifically allows you limit tracking of your activity across other companies’ apps and websites.
Microsoft should follow suit. I’d like to see more privacy and telemetry options offered as you set up Windows 10.
So what’s your feedback to Microsoft? Feel free to weigh in on Askwoody.com as we await Windows 11.