SOLUTION: “Restart your computer to install important updates” won’t go away in Windows 7

In recent weeks, I’ve encountered multiple machines unable to install Windows Updates thanks to a perpetual message claiming:

No matter what the user does, these machines simply won’t install any updates.  If they’re rebooted as requested, nothing happens, and the message simply reappears upon reentering Windows, no matter how quickly the user attempts to invoke the process.  Resetting the SoftwareDistribution repository, by the way, does not solve this problem.  Neither does restoring the conventional Windows Update settings using a variety of troubleshooters, such as the Microsoft troubleshooter.

What does work, however, is removing a single registry key which is responsible for the problem:

osupgrade-key(apologies for high-res screenshots; I’m too lazy to correct this)

The particular key in question is:

  • HKLM\SOFTWARE\Microsoft\Windows\CurrentVersion\WindowsUpdate\Auto Update\OSUpgradePendingReboot

All that’s necessary is to delete this key, and the problem evaporates, like it never even happened!  The key is related to the Windows 10 in-place upgrade process which (used to) take place through Windows Update.  The situation seems to suggest that these machines were nearing the final stages of the upgrade when something happened and they failed to install it.  Now, the upgrade windows has officially passed.

As always, of course, it’s wise to create a System Restore point before modifying your registry, etc., yada yada.

Hope this helps!

SOLUTION: IAStorDataSvc consumes 20-40% CPU following Windows 10 build upgrade

Intel’s Rapid Storage Technology drivers haven’t been getting a lot of love from me recently, and unfortunately, that isn’t about to change today.  A recent Windows 10 upgrade (the Anniversary Update, build 1607) also includes a new Intel RST driver, and on some systems, it’s a source of significant headaches.  These systems are stricken by suddenly noisier than usual operation and higher temperatures, both of which stem from higher-than-normal CPU consumption from the Intel RST system service.

How do you know if your system is affected?  In Task Manager, you should see IAStorDataSvc consuming CPU cycles in excess of 20%, and sometimes as much as 40%.  You can kill the process, but the permanent fix is to uninstall Intel Rapid Storage Technology entirely.  The program is unnecessary for the drivers to continue functioning normally, so it won’t hurt to simply leave it out in most cases.  Before you do so, however, for safety’s sake, you’ll want to create a System Restore point.

You can also upgrade the package to its latest available version in hopes that this will correct it.  If you wish to do so, Intel lists it in the Download section on their site, or you can obtain them directly from your PC manufacturer.

SOLUTION: “No bootable devices found” on Dell Laptops – SSD not detected

A relatively new form of problem which has been introduced by the wider adoption of solid-state drives (and other drives with more particular power requirements than standard mechanical hard drives) is that of drive detection and compatibility.  This applies most notably to sleep/resume and cold boot detection of these devices, which sometimes are not detected at all on specific systems.  Occasionally a BIOS update on the computer or a firmware update to the drive can resolve the issue, but other times, the drive may simply be incompatible.

I have seen this most recently with Crucial brand SSDs, which by and large have proven to be a good value — when they work.  Reliability hasn’t been a concern with regard to the drives I’ve purchased for my clients, but on occasion, drive detection is a problem.  Specifically, some of the newer Dell Latitude laptops (of which I purchase and service quite a large number) seem to struggle with Crucial SSDs.

The message you will see on a Dell Latitude if this happens to you is:

No bootable devices found.
Press F1 key to retry boot.
Press F2 key for setup utility.
Press F5 key to run onboard diagnostics.

Interestingly, if the user presses F1 to retry, the machine then boots normally.  This indicates that the problem has to do with the machine not detecting the drive quickly enough during POST to continue with the boot process.

With other machines, the problem can be resolved by switching ON “Hot plug support” (or similar) in the BIOS Setup.  However, this option does not exist within Dell’s BIOS Setup.

So, then, what’s the solution?  Actually, it’s precisely the same thing I posted in my previous update as a response to a completely different problem: bypass the RAID controller and use AHCI interface instead.  The problem apparently seems to be related, at least in part, to how the system processes the communication between the drive and the chipset via the Intel RAID controller.  Disabling RAID does require jumping through a couple of hoops, but it’s relatively quick and easy.  See my post here for full instructions!

Once this is complete, the machine boots normally each and every time!

SOLUTION? “Class not registered” when trying to open Chrome in Windows 8.1/10

Recently I have been seeing an increased incidence of this particular issue on newer Windows 8/8.1/10 machines.  It occurs when the user attempts to launch Chrome via any shortcut on the Desktop, taskbar, or elsewhere, or when opening any file or protocol (URL, etc.) associated with Chrome.  The only permanent “solution” is to create a direct shortcut to the Chrome.exe executable in the %PROGRAMFILES(x86)%\Google\Chrome\Application directory and then launch it from there.  However, this doesn’t fix the problems with trying to open .HTML files and URL links from other applications, which still trigger the error.

Lots of suggestions abound across the internet regarding ways to temporarily correct this problem.  Most of them center on the deletion of the Chrome Classes registry keys affiliated with the file/protocol associations, but these are only temporary; the problem resurfaces each and every time Chrome updates itself, which happens a lot.

Instead, there seems to be a much easier solution.  Bear in mind that I have only thus far tried this on one machine, but it worked immediately, and it jives with other research I’ve done on related subjects.  Please let me know in the comments if this solution also works for you.

The fix?

  1. Uninstall Java (all versions).
  2. Uninstall Chrome.
  3. Reboot.
  4. Reinstall Chrome.

This corrected the problem completely on my user’s machine.  It may or may not work for you; if it doesn’t, try one of these other solutions:

  1. Open regedit.
  2. Delete (if present) the following registry keys:
    1. HKEY_CURRENT_USER\Software\Classes\Wow6432Node\CLSID\{5C65F4B0-3651-4514-B207-D10CB699B14B}
    2. HKLM\Software\Classes\Chrome
    3. HKLM\Software\Classes\ChromeHTML\open\command\DelegateExecute
  3. Reboot.

Then:

  1. Open Default Programs and set a different browser temporarily to default (for example, IE).
  2. Open Chrome and choose to set it as default when automatically prompted.

Hopefully this helps someone else struggling with this problem.

ASUS Q502LA Official Driver Downloads

Looking for drivers for your ASUS Q502LA notebook? Good luck, because entering the model number at the ASUS website won’t get you to the right page.  Wondering why that is?  So was I, so I eventually located the correct page and have made the link available for you here:

https://www.asus.com/us/support/Download/3/686/0/1/CPUDRIVER_Ix-5xxxxU/45/

That’s it.  Because you need a support post to find drivers on ASUS’ fundamentally broken website.

By the way: if you’re having trouble with sleep/resume (you see a black screen) after upgrading to Windows 10 on this machine, you’ll want to ensure you have the latest ASUS system software installed (ATK, FlipLock, etc.) as well as the latest BIOS version.

SOLUTION: Cannot Uninstall Microsoft Security Essentials from Windows 10

Recently, I encountered two different workstations that had upgraded to Windows 10 from Windows 7 on which Microsoft Security Essentials inexplicably was not uninstalled during the upgrade process by Windows Setup.  This is baffling, because MSSE isn’t designed to work with Windows 10 (it doesn’t work), and plus, it precludes the use of Windows Defender, which is essentially the Windows 10 upgraded equivalent of MSSE.

If you’re in the same situation, you’ll also discover that it is impossible to remove Microsoft Security Essentials from Programs and Features; when attempting to do so, you simply receive a generic message which states “You don’t need to install Microsoft Security Essentials.”  That’s great, Microsoft, because we don’t want to install it, we want to uninstall it.

Anyway, the solution to this problem is actually quite simple:

  1. Press Windows Key + R to open the Run dialog.
  2. In the Open: field, type:
    • explorer “%PROGRAMFILES%\Microsoft Security Client\”
      and press ENTER.
  3. Highlight the file Setup.exe, right-click it, and choose Properties.
  4. Choose Compatibility.
  5. Click Change settings for all users.
  6. Check the box next to Run this program in compatibility mode for: and choose Windows 7 from the drop-down box.
  7. Click OK on all dialogue boxes to exit all windows.
  8. In the search box at the bottom of the screen, type cmd. At the top of the pop-up window, underneath the heading Best matchright-click Command Prompt and choose Run as administrator.
  9. In the Command Prompt window that opens, type the following command:
    • “%PROGRAMFILES%\Microsoft Security Client\setup.exe” /x /disableoslimit
  10. Follow the instructions to uninstall.

That’s it!

Special thanks to corrado_boy_g60 at the Microsoft Community for information leading to this solution.

SOLUTION: Mouse cursor freezes after typing in Windows 10

Recently, a client came to me with a problem where his mouse cursor would freeze for a few seconds after pressing any key on the keyboard in Windows 10.  The delay was driving him nuts, and I empathized with him after using the computer for a short time.

In retrospect, the problem appears to be mostly limited to Synaptics drivers, and only on systems where such drivers are installed and active within Windows 10 (which also features its own “precision” touchpad driver settings).

Fortunately, the solution — while elusive — was simple:

  • Search Mouse in the searchbox at the bottom of the screen; Choose Mouse & touchpad settings from the results
  • Choose Additional mouse options
  • Click the ClickPad tab, then click Settings…
  • Click the Advanced tab
  • Set the Filter Activation Time slider all the way to 0.

touchpad(Note the slider just below the touchpad diagram)

That’s it!

SOLUTION: Windows 10 Start Menu text is unreadable / too dark

This problem seems to affect primarily Haswell-based notebooks with Intel HD Graphics drivers in use.  I have not yet seen it affect Broadwell chipsets, but it may.

The issue is that the Start Menu text is too dark — and in fact, it becomes gradually darker — and illegible, fading into the background of the Start Menu.  While it seems likely that a Windows 10 setting (or theme) should be to blame, it actually is neither.

The problem is the Intel Graphics driver, which includes a setting that purports to implement application-specific fixes.  To correct the problem, all you have to do is disable the setting and reboot the PC:

  1. Right-click the Desktop and choose Graphics Properties…
  2. Choose 3D.
  3. Under Application Optimal Mode, click Disable.
  4. Reboot the PC.

The problem is solved!

It’s likely in the future that Intel will correct their driver optimization presets for the Windows 10 desktop windows manager / Explorer.exe, but until that day, this is the correct workaround.

SOLUTION: Windows Update cannot currently check for updates, because the service is not running.

A common problem following the replacement of a hard drive (or other low-level storage-related change, such as a storage driver or interface change) is a broken Windows Update.  I’ve been seeing this more and more frequently, in fact, on Windows 7 machines after performing drive recoveries and installing a new drive.

The exact message is:

Windows Update cannot currently check for updates, because the service is not running.  You may need to restart your computer.

While lots of solutions are offered across the internet for this problem, ultimately, it’s actually relatively simple: the storage driver is frequently to blame.  Specifically, the Intel storage driver (generally iaStor.sys), which comes as a part of the Intel Matrix Storage Manager package (renamed to Intel Rapid Storage Technology on later versions of Windows).

It’s been documented in other places as well that this is in fact the root of the problem.

Problem is, there are different versions of the Intel Matrix Storage Manager for each manufacturer — so it isn’t always possible to simply download the latest version directly from Intel and install it.

The HP version of that driver is listed above, and it will indeed work for many systems in question.  For other manufacturers, it’s best to search for the driver manually and download it directly from the PC manufacturer’s web site.  You can use search terms such as:

intel rapid storage technology driver ich10r site:dell.com vista 32-bit

To locate a suitable version for your particular situation.

If this still does not correct your issue, you may need to follow up the driver upgrade with a reset of the Windows Update repository:

  1. Open an elevated Command Prompt (Run as Administrator).
  2. Type the following commands (pressing ENTER after each one):
    1. net stop wuauserv
    2. net stop bits
  3. Open a Windows Explorer window and navigate to %WINDIR% (e.g., normally C:\Windows).
  4. Rename SoftwareDistribution to SoftwareDistribution.old.
  5. Return to the elevated Command Prompt and type these commands:
    1. net start wuauserv
    2. net start bits

This procedure has corrected the problem on all of the PCs where I’ve encountered it thus far.

SOLUTION: Malware extensions continually reload within Chrome even after reinstallation

Greetings again random internet-surfing technology enthusiasts,

Today, I’d like to tackle a puzzling issue that many techs encounter with regard to disinfecting Chrome and problematic extensions that manifest within it.  Of course, anyone with any technical expertise is aware of the fact that browser extensions are currently one of the hottest attack vectors for unsuspecting users’ machines, but removing and keeping such extensions from reloading is another matter entirely.  Some of examples of these include:

  • AdBlocker (not the legitimate and excellent AdBlock)
  • Vosteran Search
  • WebProtector
  • and many, many others

Most techs use some degree of automatic scanning and removal tools, and that’s fine, provided they don’t rely on them exclusively (as it doesn’t work… something I’ve covered countless times in the past).  However, even those who dabble in manual or assisted-manual disinfection procedures have probably found that Chrome is one of the most problematic items to permanently clean on a user’s PC.  This is ironic because Chrome also happens to be the browser I recommend to my clients for safety and speed currently (and it has been for quite some time).  Does that mean that we should move on to a different browser choice instead?

Fortunately, nope.  There is indeed a pretty universal solution to this problem, and today I’ll reveal it to you.  For purposes of illustration, we’ll choose the third example extension I listed above for today’s explanation (WebProtector).

Each Chrome extension is affiliated with a unique identifier to help users locate and install the extension from the Chrome Web Store.  WebProtector’s, for instance, happens to be kfecnpmgnlnbmipaogfhoacoioifjgko.  The Web Store does indeed host this extension in spite of its fraudulence; and Google, for all their great work in producing a relatively safe browser in Chrome, have done a pretty terrible job of keeping the store cleaned of such filth.  The problem with WebProtector (and many of these other extensions) is that even after they’re cleaned from the computer and all other malware is removed, the users may find that they reload themselves regardless later on with little or no warning.  You might think that completely uninstalling Chrome, removing all directories on the system relating to Chrome, and cleaning/resetting the user’s Chrome Data profile (as I described in another post recently) should logically solve the problem.  But it doesn’t.  The extension yet again reloads itself upon future reinstallations.

The answer to the puzzle is Policies in the Windows registry.  Chrome stores its policies in the following two keys:

  • HKCU\Software\Policies\Google
  • HKLM\Software\Policies\Google

Under these keys you will find a subkey called Extensions; it is from this key that Chrome is instructed to load the infected extensions upon each reinstallation and subsequently thereafter at regular intervals.  Simply deleting these keys (provided the user is not reliant on any policies in Chrome for administrative purposes) will prevent the behavior.  At an elevated command prompt, try typing these commands:

REG DELETE “HKCU\Software\Policies\Google” /f
REG DELETE “HKLM\Software\Policies\Google” /f

Specifically, the autoinstall keys that are likely being used are:

HKLM\SOFTWARE\Policies\Google\Chrome\ExtensionInstallForceList

HKCU\SOFTWARE\Policies\Google\Chrome\ExtensionInstallForceList

However I like to remove the entire Policies key on most machines as other suspect keys are also often used, such as whitelisting of bad extensions and even blacklisting of good ones.

It also goes without saying that the extension itself must first be removed for this to work.  That includes killing the keys relating to it in the following locations:

  • HKLM\SOFTWARE\Google\Chrome\Extensions\
  • HKCU\SOFTWARE\Google\Chrome\Extensions\

As well as the associated files within the user’s Chrome User Data directory.  If you’re really just looking to clean sweep the entire program, you can follow my previous instructions to backup the user’s Bookmarks and other personal items and then simply wipe out all related keys and files after uninstalling Chrome.  This will finally solve the problem!