Ping: IT Admins

Ever have a really, really tricky technical issue that was a major pain to solve?

Did your Web searches yield no answers or, worse, a number of time-wasting "solutions" that had nothing to do with your particular issue, though you're sure that someone must have solved the issue before?

Maybe someone posted what you need here at The Grim Admin. Maybe you will post the solution for someone else.


Get Windows Drivers Off Your Computer


Scripts & Tools

Did you know that you can, with one easy PowerShell command, extract all 3rd-party Windows drivers from a computer to a folder? It uses the DISM module and is built into newer versions of Windows.

  1. Create a folder location that you want to save the driver files to. In the example we will use C:\Drivers
  2. Open PowerShell elevated (as Admin)
    • Tip 1: Right-click on the Start Menu Button and click "Windows PowerShell (Admin)"
    • Tip 2: Or do it all with your keyboard >> Press Windows Key + X and then press the A key
  3. Type the following command:  Export-WindowsDriver -Online -Destination C:\Drivers | Out-File -FilePath C:\Drivers\Drivers.txt
  4. Wait a minute and now you have a folder of all your current drivers backed up or to use for deployment

All the details and switches for this are available from Microsoft's PowerShell Documentation at https://docs.microsoft.com/en-us/powershell/module/dism/export-windowsdriver

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Windows Updates Says "Your device is missing important security and quality fixes."

But There are No Updates to Install


Solutions

In Windows Update, when you haven't installed patches for a little while, you will receive a notification in the system tray and also in Windows Update Settings that says "Your device is missing important security and quality fixes." In some cases, your computer might say this message, but when you check for updates from Microsoft servers, it says there are none available.

The possible solution is that your computer is only checking for Windows updates and not for updates to programs such as Microsoft Office. Even if you are up-to-date on updates for Windows itself, the message will still appear if you are behind on Office updates, etc.

To change the setting, go to Start > Settings > Update & Security and click the Advanced options link. Make sure "Give me updates for other Microsoft products when I update Windows" is turned On. After you do that, go back and recheck for updates. Once installed, the warning message should be gone.

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Fix Windows Update Errors


Solutions

The thing about Windows Update services (WU or WUS) is that so many things can go wrong. Microsoft provides a Windows Update Troubleshooter that you may want to try before messing around with items manually, but we've found it rarely solves issues when Windows Update is acting up.

First off, look in the Application event log for events with Event ID 1001 and the "Information" level. The Event Name for WU issues is "WindowsUpdateFailure3" and typically paired with a fault bucket of type 5. In the problem signature, look for the code in the P2 line (such as 80246008 or 800706d9). Those are the codes you will want to include in your Web searches to see if you can find the exact cause of your issue.

If that fails to provide you a solution or you just want to reset Windows Update without having to troubleshoot too much, we've found that the following general steps fix ~90% of Windows Update errors. This should work in Windows 7, 8, 8.1, 10 and most flavors of Windows Server.

Continue on for the steps and some great tips...

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Veeam Backup Error With SqlServerWriter


Solutions

If your Veeam backups are failing with the following or similar errors:

Cannot create a shadow copy of the volumes containing writer's data.
A VSS critical writer has failed. Writer name: [SqlServerWriter]. Class ID: [{a65faa63-5ea8-4ebc-9dbd-a0c4db26912a}]. Instance ID: [{d0c7eea6-f80c-43e4-9625-8269bd1d675b}]. Writer's state: [VSS_WS_FAILED_AT_PREPARE_SNAPSHOT]. Error code: [0x800423f4].]

 

Unable to release guest. Error: Unfreeze error: [Backup job failed. Cannot create a shadow copy of the volumes containing writer's data. A VSS critical writer has failed. Writer name: [SqlServerWriter]. Class ID: [{a65faa63-5ea8-4ebc-9dbd-a0c4db26912a}]. Instance ID: [{d0c7eea6-f80c-43e4-9625-8269bd1d675b}]. Writer's state: [VSS_WS_FAILED_AT_PREPARE_SNAPSHOT]. Error code: [0x800423f4].]
Error: Unfreeze error: [Backup job failed. Cannot create a shadow copy of the volumes containing writer's data. A VSS critical writer has failed. Writer name: [SqlServerWriter]. Class ID: [{a65faa63-5ea8-4ebc-9dbd-a0c4db26912a}]. Instance ID: [{d0c7eea6-f80c-43e4-9625-8269bd1d675b}]. Writer's state: [VSS_WS_FAILED_AT_PREPARE_SNAPSHOT]. Error code: [0x800423f4].]

It lis likely that there is something messed up with the SQL Server. Even if you didn't install SQL, some programs use an instance of Microsoft SQL Express LocalDB. You will also see errors in the Application Event log such as:

Source:        SQLVDI
Event ID:      1

SQLVDI: Loc=SignalAbort. Desc=Client initiates abort. ErrorCode=(0). Process=2404. Thread=380. Client. Instance=LOCALDB#SH3A9C8C. VD=Global\{D8287396-2820-4D92-B112-C1ABC614C622}1_SQLVDIMemoryName_0.

 

Source:        VSS
Event ID:      8229

A VSS writer has rejected an event with error 0x800423f4, The writer experienced a non-transient error.  If the backup process is retried,
the error is likely to reoccur.
. Changes that the writer made to the writer components while handling the event will not be available to the requester. Check the event log for related events from the application hosting the VSS writer. 
Operation:
   PrepareForSnapshot Event
Context:
   Execution Context: Writer
   Writer Class Id: {a65faa63-5ea8-4ebc-9dbd-a0c4db26912a}
   Writer Name: SqlServerWriter
   Writer Instance Name: SQL Server Code-Named 'Denali' CTP2:SQLWriter
   Writer Instance ID: {d0c7eea6-f80c-43e4-9625-8269bd1d675b}
   Command Line: "C:\Program Files\Microsoft SQL Server\90\Shared\sqlwriter.exe"
   Process ID: 2404

Continue on for the simple solution...

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Apple Security Questions (And How to Reset Them)


Havening Problems

Trying to log into an Apple ID, I was met with the request to answer a couple security questions. Of course, I document and encrypt not only my login information when I create accounts, but all the relevant information such as account numbers, email address on file, and... security questions. I had 5 security questions and answers written down for this account, but one of the questions that I was asked was not in my list. Okay. That's weird. I can't log in Apple. Thanks.

But, thinking about it perhaps I made a mistake in documenting or clicked the wrong dropdown. So, I try a couple of my other answers to different questions for my "First Pet". After two failed attempts I decided I didn't want to lock myself out. I clicked the button to reset security questions and they prompt me with an option to... answer security questions. I was intrigued at how this would work, so I clicked it. From there I was prompted with... a SINGLE security question. I answered that one and then it allowed me to choose three new security questions and answers for the account.

So, Apple ID people: Why do I need TWO security questions answered correctly to log in, but only ONE security question answered correctly to reset my security questions?

And so, I think either Apple or I were havening problems.

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Screensaver Operations 1.5 Released


Scripts & Tools

Update (2017-06-27): We release a patched version (1.5.4) that implements a couple other minor updates and changes.

We've finally released the next version of Screensaver Operations.

Screensaver Operations is an application for Microsoft Windows systems that allows you to perform configurable actions after a computer has been left idle for a specified amount of time (e.g., log off, shut down, run a process).

Download Screensaver Operations 1.5

There are a lot of new bug fixes and a couple features in the latest release:

  • Bug/Security Fixes
    • Fixed issue where when enabling RunProcessEnabled, the default title and message texts were incorrect.
    • [Window XP & Windows Server 2003 Only] When using the RunProcessEnabled flag, older versions of Windows (XP, 2003) close the process when the screensaver ends. This is due to multiple factors. Windows XP, etc. closes child processes along with the screensaver. It also puts the screensaver in a separate Virtual Desktop and kills all processes in that desktop when the screensaver ends! We have implemented a workaround and running a process in older versions of Windows should work. This issues took many days to fix so we are glad that we got it to work!
    • Changed action button on process run to "Start Now" rather than "Start Process Now" (which was cut off as it only showed "Start Process").
    • Opens "Configure" properly from right-click context menu on SCR file.
    • Fixed some issues with double-quotes in process path or process argument.
    • Fixed issue where sometimes the Keyboard Filter "DisableSpecialKeys" would crash the program when a special key (e.g., the Windows key) was pressed.
  • New Features
    • Added: BackgroundOpacity registry value - Setting allows you to modify background opacity from the default of 75%. Some organizations might want to completely hide content. Note that this setting is not yet available from the Configuration GUI and can only be set via registry and ADMX. (Note: In Windows 8 and newer, Windows always shows an opaque background color as a security feature)
    • Added: A "Snow" Easter Egg. See the README for more information. :-)

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Outlook 2013 2016 Starts Disconnected with Outlook.com & Exchange ActiveSync (EAS) Accounts


Solutions

In Microsoft Outlook 2013 & 2016, when connecting to a Microsoft Exchange ActiveSync (EAS) account such as Microsoft Outlook.com (Hotmail, Windows Live, etc.) some users are reporting that the accounts are disconnected when you open Outlook or after a certain period of time. A workaround is to put Outlook in offline mode and then return so you are working online, but this is quite an annoying solution to have to do this everytime you open Outlook.

Read more to get the details and resolution...

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Screensaver Operations News - March 2013


Scripts & Tools

Thanks for the suggestions everyone. What’s in the pipeline? This:

 

 

UPDATE (2013-04-02): 1.4 was completed last week; we just are working getting the proper installer file(s) working. Expect it out this week.

UPDATE (2013-04-05): 1.4 has been released. ADM files are in the works still. Note that following Microsoft's installations standards has forced us to create separate 32-bit and 64-bit MSI installers. Both versions should upgrade the previous 1.3 install without issues (assuming you previously used the MSI to install).

  • Official release of SSO 1.4
    • I’ve been trying to do coding here and there in the little free time I have right now. I am planning on releasing 1.4 sometime this month. Yay!
    • A number of requests have already been implemented in the beta (http://www.grimadmin.com/forum/viewtopic.php?showtopic=43) and the as-of-yet unreleased code has a few more already completed. I have only a couple more things to pop in, including a variable naming conflict that a forum poster found in the beta.
    • Some requests are a little trickier to implement due to staying with the older .NET 2.0 (e.g., capturing mouse clicks outside the program window), but this is worth it IMO to prevent those still running older versions of Windows like XP from having to install.NET framework runtimes.
  • ADMX/ADML files for Group Policy: While I think using registry collections in GPP is simple enough, especially with the registry locations now being the same in version 1.4 for both 32-bit & 64-bit Windows, I am going to create some Group Policy Settings files for SSO due to all the requests. If anyone knows of a better free ADMX editor than the ADMX Migrator tool (http://www.microsoft.com/en-us/download/details.aspx?id=15058) let me know!
  • Some have wondered about adding to the project. If there are any experienced coders out there who would like to work on the code, I’d be happy to work with them (contact me here). I’m also willing to share the source code if someone needs to review it before deploying; you can change anything for use within your organization, but I ask that you not publicly post any source files for the time being. If I ever stop working on the project, I’ll upload the source code under an open & royalty free license.
  • Hate to plug this, but the advertising on this site is minimal and [hopefully] unobtrusive; it honestly doesn’t come close to covering even the hosting costs. I know most admins out there have trained themselves to completely ignore ads, but please take a quick glance over at them once in a while to see if you find them interesting. Please don’t go spam clicking on them though! The SSO page also has a donate button on the bottom of the page if you would like to donate anything.
  • Finally, a reminder that I may not see comments posted to stories or the download pages. Please submit any suggestions, issues, questions, etc. to us using http://www.grimadmin.com/profiles.php?uid=2 to e-mail me or by posting on the forums.

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Screensaver Operations Beta 1.4-b Now Available


Scripts & Tools

Dear admins! I know we've been missing with updates for a while, but we hope to get things rolling again soon! To that end, I wanted to update everyone on the latest beta version of Screensaver Operations. This beta release is primarily marked by the ability to natively run on both 32-bit and 64-bit Windows, as well as some feature requests.

 

Download Screensaver Operations Beta 1.4-b now in our forums!

 

Screensaver Operations is an application for Microsoft Windows systems that allows you to perform configurable actions after a computer has been left idle for a specified amount of time (e.g., log off, shut down).

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Windows 8 Tips: Close the Active App and More


Solutions

Playing around with Windows 8 RTM has been quite an adventure! I tried working without the Start Menu for a few weeks, but the new Start Screen was usually such a horrible productivity sink that I ended up installing one of the 3rd party Start Menu add-ons (Stardocks's Start8). Most of my usual programs worked fine, though I did hit some walls on a couple forcing me to migrate to alternatives until Windows 8 compatibility is added. The Metro style (or Windows 8 style, now that MS can't use "Metro" anymore) apps.... some are good, but the majority are quite horrid and this unfortunately includes most of the default apps that come with Windows 8. For example, the Mail app doesn't allow you to adjust the three panes' column widths. Everything Metro is dumbed down to the point of being unusable. Also I've hit my share of bugs, even with the RTM release. For example, I added my Google calendar to the Calendar app and it loaded it without issue, but when I try adding events after hitting save everything I type in just goes into oblivion. Nothing shows up, yet no error message or anything else. Hopefully most of the worst show-stopper bugs will be fixed once the October release hits and since the apps are all on the App Store you can get updates quite easily. As for the back-end of things... beautiful. So many great features and improvements that I wish everything except the Start Screen (and the fact that they took away most of the old Desktop/Taskbar customizations) was simply part of a Windows 7 service pack. It's just that good from the Task Manager to the Copy/Move file dialogs.

 

Finally, the most absolute worst part of Metro is from a usability perspective. Absolutely nothing is intuitive other than tapping the tiles to open apps. Microsoft is trying to get us to learn this new environment that will be on all their device types, but throws you in without much of a tutorial at all. Here's my initial list of tips... I'll edit this post as I come across new ones. 

 

  • Tip 1: if you aren't sure how to do something in an app, do one of two things -> (1) Right-click or (2) Move your mouse to the upper-right corner and move the mouse down or the lower-right corner then move it up. This will bring up other menus. Don't always expect left-clicking on things to do what you expect it to do or give you all the available options.
  • Tip 2: To close the currently opened Metro-style app, grab the top of the app and drag it all the way down to the bottom of the screen.
  • Tip 3: To view all the opened Windows 8 apps (Metro apps) move your mouse to the upper-left corner and move the mouse down or the lower-left corner then move it up. Right-click on any of them to get an option to close them.
  • Tip 4: On the Start Screen, click the little minus "-" symbol in the lower-right corner to zoom out. Now you can more easily group tiles and even title the groups by giving them a name.
  • Tip 5: Right-click on any Start Screen tile to Run as Admin, Uninstall, Resize the Tile, etc. You can right-click on multiple Start Screen tiles to select more than one so you can unpin multiple tiles at once.

Hope this helps!