F.A.Q. and Tips

Commonly asked questions and their solutions.

How do I access the recovery tools?

  1. If you are able to access to the login screen, click the power icon and hold Shift + click Restart.

  2. If you are not able to access the login screen, interrupting the boot process three times will trigger Automatic Repair. If the recovery tools are present. During the boot process (you see the Windows logo) hold the power button to kill the power. When you see the text at the bottom of the screen "Preparing automatic repair..." you should soon see the recovery tools.

  3. If you are already logged in, open the start menu, click the power icon and hold Shift + click Restart.

  4. If you are already logged in, go to [Settings] > [Updates and Security] > [Recovery] > [Advanced Startup].

I want to reset my PC.

  1. Access the recovery tools and click [Troubleshoot] > [Reset this PC].

  2. Insert your USB device or mount an ISO with the Windows installation media on it.

  3. [Settings] > [Updates and Security] > [Recovery] > [Reset this PC].

I'm having issues after a recent update.

Access the recovery tools and click [Troubleshoot] > [Advanced Options] > [Uninstall Updates] or [System Restore].

Note: Some updates cannot be uninstalled as they are flagged by MS as critical. These are usually security updates.

I'm unable to login in to my account.

​Click this to read more.​

Where can I quickly see recent problems?

Search for Reliability History from start or search.

Where do I find logs?

​Click this to read more.​

I saw a guide that says to use Group Policy Editor. I can't find it.

The Group Policy Editor (GPO/gpedit) is only available to Pro or higher versions of Windows. Home users do not have access to it. You can usually find the associated registry key in the same guide. If it does not, you'll have to continue looking. However, Home has been known to not respect the same entries as Pro and higher does. Even if you do manage to set the registry entry, there is a chance Home will ignore it entirely. Additionally, the hack to get GPO to work on Home will be reverted by Windows during system updates. Windows detects the modification and thinks there is a corruption. Thus it is repaired. There is no way to stop this other than disabling Windows Updates. This is also technically piracy as it is a feature from an upgraded version of Windows you haven't paid for.

How do I boot into safe mode?

  1. Access the recovery tools and click [Troubleshoot] > [Advanced options] > [Startup options]. On reboot press the number 4, 5 or 6.

  2. With PowerShell admin, enter: bcdedit /set {current} safeboot minimal

A program keeps crashing. What can I do?

Dump files are stored at C:\Users\username\AppData\Local\CrashDumps.

Reliability Monitor and Event Viewer will contain information in detail.

My screen is black. What do I do?

DWM buffer is corrupt. Either by driver or OS issue. Press WIN + CTRL + SHIFT + B. This will discard the DWM buffer and re-create the allocation. It does not restart your GPU driver. This hot key was specifically designed to rectify black screen issues. If the issue persists, reinstall graphics drivers and repair OS files.

How do I cleanly reinstall graphics drivers?

Reboot into safe mode and run DDU.​

How do I clean up my PC?

Use Disk Cleanup as an admin. Browser data should be cleared through the browser. You do not need cleaning tools! They can cause more harm than good. There are plenty of articles about it. Additionally, these tools clean caches that are otherwise beneficial to computer performance. Caches allow programs and services to load faster.

How do I check a disk for errors?

chkdsk /f for the current booted Windows disk. You will need to reboot to the run check. For all other disks use chkdsk /f [D|E|F|...]:

How do I update drivers?

Use Windows Update or visit the manufacturer support page. You do not need driver updating tools! They can cause more harm than good. If you cannot find a more recent driver, one likely doesn't exist.

How do I activate Windows?

TL;DR: It's automatic.

Explained: Starting with Windows 8, Prebuilt computers from OEMs (Dell, HP, etc) have their keys stored in the BIOS/UEFI firmware. When you install Windows, the key is pulled. OEM keys have always been one-time use and bound to the hardware permanently with a unique ID. So that computer will be activated for life. Windows 7 era computers didn't have this benefit of modern hardware. You needed the sticker with the key so you could reinstall.

With modern computers, its all automatic and entirely useless information to know the OEM key. However if you insist, you can use PowerShell admin to pull the original OEM key from the firmware. There is no need for third party software.

get-wmiobject softwarelicensingservice OA3xOriginalProductKey

If the computer was upgrade from Windows 8 to Windows 10, the key was used to grant the computer a digital entitlement. As such, a placeholder key is shown to you throughout the OS. Third party software will show you this placeholder key.

How do I force install a different version of Windows?

As explained above, installing Windows on OEM computers will bypass asking for a key because it is automatic. The Media Creation tool will create a multi-edition of Windows. There is a 99% chance the embedded key in the firmware works for one of these versions. Therefore it will not ask you which version of Windows you want to install. It will ask you if the installer is lacking the edition the key is meant for, or you’re forcing an install of a different edition. Most OEM computers ship with Home. The following example will show you how to force install Pro preventing Windows from automatically selecting Home based off the key it finds in the firmware.

  1. Open Notepad or a text editor you prefer.

  2. Paste the following contents:

  3. Save this as EI.cfg

  4. Copy this file to your USB at X:\sources.

  5. Boot from the USB.

The default choice will be Pro. You will be asked for a key. If you do not have one or want to purchase one later, you can do so by clicking you don't have a product key.

How do I block an update?

​Watch the demo and read the support page​

What is a clean shutdown?

Shutting down without a kernel or user session hibernated.

Because Fast Start is enabled by default, the kernel session is hibernated on shutdown. To prevent Windows from doing this, hold SHIFT + click Shutdown. You can disable this setting by going to [Control Panel] > [Hardware and Sound] > [Power Options] > [System Settings].

What is a clean start?

Booting without 3rd party services and programs.

To do this you use msconfig. Click the Services tab. Tick the box at the bottom labeled Hide all Microsoft services. Everything you see listed now will be third party services. You need to untick all of them and click Apply. Reboot.

How do I remove the preinstalled apps?

​Here is a list of commands that contain safe to remove apps. Other software preloaded by your OEM will need to be uninstalled through Settings or Control Panel. Or you can cleanly fresh install.

How do I check my license/activation status?

slmgr /dlv

Windows update keeps failing. What do I do?

Open Services. Find Windows Update and stop it. Open C:\Windows\SoftwareDistribution. Delete all the contents of that folder. Run DISM cleanup. Reboot. Check for updates again.

The MS Store isn't working. What do I do?

You can try wsreset. If that fails to work, run DISM clean up. Then reset again. If the issue still persists, try the suggestion below.

None of my apps are opening. They close on startup. What do I do?

This is likely a permission issue.

  1. Access the Recovery Tools.

  2. Click [Troubleshoot] > [Advanced options] > [Command prompt].

  3. Click your account. Enter the password if asked.

  4. Command will now show.

  5. icacls "C:\Program Files\WindowsApps" /inheritance:r /q

  6. icacls "C:\Program Files\WindowsApps" /T /Q /C /RESET

  7. exit

  8. Click exit to Windows.

Game Bar recording / streaming isn't working right.

Consider using OBS. It's better in every way. Game Bar and the XBOX apps are buggy. They crash frequently, bug out or fail to work period. The reviews for both apps suggest that MS is doing a subpar job. At this time, I can only recommend you use it for chat.

My computer just blue screened. Help!

90% of the time it is either a failed Windows Update or a driver issue. The stop code and error text are required to assist. Reliability History and Event Viewer are of use in diagnosing what went wrong.

Windows Clock Dual Boot

Paste this line in PowerShell as admin.

New-ItemProperty -Path "HKLM:\System\CurrentControlSet\Control\TimeZoneInformation" -Name "RealTimeIsUniversal" -Value "1" -PropertyType "DWORD"

My icons are not working. / Have black boxes around them.

  1. Open PowerShell as Admin.

  2. taskkill /f /im explorer.exe

  3. cleanmgr

  4. Tick the box labeled Thumbnails.

  5. Click OK.

  6. logoff

  7. Log in.

If this fails, you can try a comprehensive clean-up.

My game shortcut icons are broken.

First you should know most game launchers are not a native Windows application. It's literally a web browser (Chromium), wrapped in a custom window. It's called Chromium Embedded Framework (CEF) and in other case, Electron. It's the lazy way to develop a "native" desktop app. Steam is the exception to this as it's not Electron as a whole, but does use CEF. Issues with this aside, when shortcuts are created they are just URL shortcuts and not traditional .lnk shortcuts. There are two ways you can fix those icons if they're wrong or broken.

  1. Verify game files. Process varies by launcher, but you should be able to do this without details. Verifying triggers a few things "under the hood" that should correct the broken icon.

  2. You need to recreate the association by editing the registry with PowerShell:

  3. cd HKLM:\Software\Classes\IE.AssocFile.URL

  4. remove-item DefaultIcon

  5. remove-item Shell

  6. remove-item ShellEx

  7. cd HKCU:\Software\Microsoft\Windows\CurrentVersion\Explorer\FileExts

  8. remove-item .url

  9. ie4uinit.exe -show

  10. start ms-settings:defaultapps

  11. Scroll down and click Set defaults by file type.

  12. Select .URL.

  13. Change to Internet Browser. It will have a generic house icon.

  14. Icon cache will then rebuild. Your icons should be corrected now.

Where can I find the old Windows games?

Classic games from Windows 7 can be found here. Pinball from XP can be found here.

Search isn't working.

Disable Bing web searches from start. Paste this line PowerShell as admin:

New-ItemProperty -Path "HKCU:\Software\Microsoft\Windows\CurrentVersion\Search" -Name "BingSearchEnabled" -Value "0" -PropertyType "DWORD"

UWP app(s) display(s) a "!" and is greyed out.

The install has broken. You can either reinstall, reset, or run a UWP re-register command.

Taskbar thumbnails aren't showing more than one.

For one reason or another, the threshold has changed. You can fix this with the registry:

New-ItemProperty -Path "HKCU:\Software\Microsoft\Windows\CurrentVersion\Explorer\Taskband" -Name "NumThumbnails" -Value "10" -PropertyType "DWORD"

My CPU is running at max frequency all the time.

Change your Windows power plan to Balanced. High Performance tells the OS to lock the CPU at max. If you need to adjust power settings, use the advanced window for Balanced.

Search a specific string in file contents

content:~"*your search query*"

How do I list installed drivers?

For a list of just third party drivers, use

pnputil -e > c:\drivers.txt
Get-WindowsDriver -online > c:\drivers.txt

For a list of all drivers, use

Get-WindowsDriver -online -All > c:\drivers.txt

How do I backup or export installed drivers?

Third party drivers only

pnputil /export-driver * c:\drivers
Export-WindowsDriver -Online -Destination c:\drivers
dism /online /export-driver /destination:c:\drivers

My Audio is Popping and Cracking

There are a few ways to solve this.

  1. Audio Device Class Inactivity Timer Implementation: Normally this is only applied to laptops or a tablet hybrid. Something with a battery. After a set period of time Windows will put the audio drivers to sleep to prolong battery life. When audio is played it will wake the drivers, which results in a pop or crackle. You can fix this by making a change in the registry.

    • Open regedit. Win + R type in regedit.

    • Next navigate to HKLM\SYSTEM\CurrentControlSet\Control\Class.

    • In that key double click on {4d36e96c-e325-11ce-bfc1-08002be10318}

    • Under that key you’ll see numbered keys like 0000, 0005 or 0007.

    • One or more of those will house a key called PowerSettings.

    • In PowerSettings find a entry called ConservationIdleTime

    • Change its value from 1e 00 00 00 to 00 00 00 00.

  2. High Precision Timer: By default Windows will use a software timer. In some cases using a hardware time will solve your issue.

    • Check your computers firmware (BIOS) for the option to enable or disable HPET. If you do not have the option, it is already forced on and hidden from you.

    • Boot back into Windows and enter in: bcdedit /set useplatformclock yes - Reboot and test.

    • If it still pops let's try disabling synthetic timers: bcdedit /set useplatformtick yes - Reboot and test again.

    • If it still pops disable dynamic tick: bcdedit /set disabledynamictick yes - Reboot and test again.

If none or any combo of the values work you can delete them all.

  • bcdedit /deletevalue useplatformclock

  • bcdedit /deletevalue useplatformtick

  • bcdedit /deletevalue disabledynamictick

  • Driver Reinstall: Simply uninstall your audio drivers in safe mode. Reboot and install the latest.

  • Try a Live USB: Windows-To-Go or Ubuntu. If you do have issues, it is the hardware to blame. If no issues, try reinstalling Windows.

Where is the classic Sound Panel?

[Settings] > [System] > [Sound] > [Sound Control Panel]

Or, you can right click on the desktop and create a new shortcut. The location is %SystemRoot%\System32\mmsys.cpl. Once created, right click that shortcut and change the icon. The speaker icons are located at %SystemRoot%\system32\mmres.dll.

List mounted registry hives