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Fixing 5 Windows 10 annoyances that drive me crazy

The real world of computers is messy despite what Microsoft or Apple might like you to believe. OK, maybe Apple has a leg up in this department as I've never had an issue that really bugged me with my iPad. But hey, it's just running iOS and not a full-fledged desktop operating system, so my expectations are already pretty low of what I'm able to do on my iPad anyway.

Windows, however, is another matter. From my 25-plus years of experience using, managing, and troubleshooting Windows, I have high expectations of what kind of things they're able to perform when you put the rubber on the road. And by and large, I've been pretty satisfied over the years as Microsoft keeps raising the bar of what's possible as each new version of Windows and Windows Server has appeared. I can still remember seeing the sign with Microsoft's motto "Your potential. Our passion" written in large letters the first time I visited Microsoft's campus many years ago. I haven't been there in a while so I don't know if their motto is still the same or has continued to evolve but it struck a chord with me then and it still holds true with me to some degree today.

But let's get back on point to the main topic of today's article: Windows 10 annoyances that drive me crazy. Being a busy IT professional, I tend to let small things slide even though they bug me each time I'm faced with them. But this last week I decided I would take some time and actually try to find fixes for the issues that have been frustrating me with the laptop I tend to do most of my writing work on these days. The machine is an HP Envy 17 laptop that I bought at Staples two years ago and that I got really cheap because of a bunch of gift cards I had accumulated from cashing in some points on a credit card. The laptop had Windows 8.1 preinstalled on it, so right away I upgraded it to Windows 10 using the free upgrade Microsoft was offering at the time. You can read about my upgrade story in a back issue of WServerNews titled 3am tech support. I ended up liking the machine so much that I bought several more for our offices. But then the Windows 10 annoyances started to happen, which were mostly not HP's fault but Microsoft's.

Annoyance #1: Disabling the lock screen

The first of the Windows 10 annoyances I faced was that often when I opened the lid to wake the machine from sleep, the Windows 10 lock screen was displayed and I couldn't make the logon screen appear either by pressing keys or using the trackpad. As a result, I had no way of logging on to the machine, and I couldn't power it off either to reboot it!! Sometimes closing the lid to put the machine to sleep again and then waking it up again would provide me with a responsive lock screen that would allow me to reach the logon screen, but if this repeatedly failed the only workaround I found was either to let the battery run out or to shut the lid and remove the battery. Arrgh

I searched online for users who were experiencing similar problems but had no luck. Fortunately, I then came across the following tip on groovyPost that explains how you can edit the registry on Windows 10 Home (what my laptop is currently running) to prevent the lock screen from displaying and just have the machine display the logon screen when it wakes from sleep.

Since my laptop doesn't have a touch-sensitive screen (hate those in laptops as they make them top-heavy and so hard to use on your lap) this did the trick.

Annoyance #2: Creators Update snafu

The second on the list of Windows 10 annoyances that hit me was when I decided to take the plunge and update my machine to the latest Win10 version called Creators Update. The update process went smoothly (though it took a long time) but after it was finished and I logged on, the following error dialog popped open:

This led to some troubleshooting which I related in detail in an issue of WServerNews titled Cat 1 Mouse 0 and the outcome after trying to get some help from HP Support was that I decided to hold off updating the other HP Envy laptops in our offices until a fix had been found for the particular problem I was experiencing on my own machine. Yes, that's right, I dogfood for others using my own production machine — ack!

Fortunately, a few days after that issue of WServerNews was published, an HP employee replied to my question on the HP Support Forum and advised me to install the Microsoft Visual C++ Redistributable Packages for Visual Studio 2015 Update 3, which can be found here.

After doing this and rebooting, the error message went away, so problem solved — whew!

Annoyance #3: Low memory

The third of the Windows 10 annoyances that frustrated me happened about a year ago. I opened the lid to wake my machine up from sleep and the following dialog appeared:

My reaction was, "Wait a minute — there are no applications currently running on this machine, only the operating system." I clicked OK and everything seemed fine and the dialog hasn't reappeared. Still, that doesn't answer why it appeared in the first place. Unfortunately, Windows is such a complicated beast that sometimes transient issues like this that appear just never get solved.

Which reminds me of another transient issue with my laptop that bugged me no end but that somehow seems to have resolved itself. It involved an ongoing issue of waking my machine from sleep. About every 10th or 15th time I woke my laptop by opening it up, nothing happened when I clicked on anything — I couldn't open the Start menu and I couldn't launch programs by clicking on their pinned taskbar icons. This happened regardless of whether I was using the trackpad or my Bluetooth mouse. My only recourse was to hold down the power button and hard power it off and then power it back on again. Why??

I never found out why but the issue eventually stopped. Maybe a BIOS update HP pushed out fixed it. Or maybe a Windows Update solved the problem. I'm just glad that it no longer happens.

Annoyance #4: Battery life

Another of the common Windows 10 annoyances you face with large screen laptops is that their batteries don't last as long as you want them to (or as long as the vendor advertises that they will last). This is certainly true of my HP Envy 17, which typically only gives me about three hours of usable battery time unless I turn the screen down until it's uncomfortably dim. This has bugged me a lot, but I had just decided to live with it until last week when I finally decided to check whether there was some way I could turn the display OFF completely without putting Windows itself into sleep mode. (Unfortunately, there's no function key on the Envy that will do this.) Well as luck would have it I discovered that there's a way to do this and it works with Windows 10. Go to this page on The Windows Club and download ScreenOff 2.1, a small standalone utility that does just want you desire. After you've downloaded the zip file, extract it and then drag ScreenOff 2.1.exe onto your taskbar. Now anytime you want to turn off your display, just click the icon on your taskbar and voila! To turn your display back on, just press ESC or click your mouse. Nice!

Annoyance #5: Orange, really??

The final thing that hit me earlier this week was when I changed the background on Windows from its default picture to a custom PNG file that I wanted to use as a background. Now I normally don't fiddle around with personalization stuff like this as my computers are used for business not fun (I read books for fun, i.e. those funny things that have paper in them). But in this case, I wanted a background that had some text on it that would always be "in my face" so I created a PNG image in my favorite artistic expression program (MSpaint.exe) and then right-clicked on my desktop, selected Personalization, and set it as my background.

Then pressed the Windows key to open the Start menu (or whatever it's now called in Windows 10) and most of the app icons were orange — what?

I thought maybe I should reboot my machine to make the new background "take" properly, so I did this and when the login screen finally appeared, guess what? It was orange!

Good grief! Could this be a regression of some sort in Windows 10 Fall Creators Update (version 1709)? I googled and binged and even went duckducked but couldn't find anything that might explain my machine's sudden preference for the color orange. Except maybe that the text on my blue PNG image was in orange. Could that maybe have something to do with it?

More googling, and binging, and quack-quacking ensured. Then finally I stumbled on a forum thread that led me to look carefully at a tab called Colors on the Personalization screen of the Settings app:

I noticed that the checkbox labeled "Automatically pick an accent color from my background" was checked by default on my Windows 10 installation, so I unchecked as shown above and picked blue as the accent color, and now my Start menu and login screens are blue again — yay.

Just goes to show me that I need to avoid wasting time by fiddling around trying to personalize Windows.

How about you?

Which Windows 10 annoyances have been bugging you that you've finally found a fix for? Post a comment below or send me an email at wsn@mtit.com so we can share your annoyance stories in a future issue of our weekly newsletter WServerNews.