Tuesday, November 27, 2012

USB Drive Backup Speed Slow

Howto: Speed-up all USB drives in Windows 7 and Windows 8. USB speeds for all Thumb drives, cameras, and other external USB disks will be oodles faster with a minor tweak.  This change is recommended.  Updated for Windows 8. 

When I converted my Dell XPS M1530 laptop to Windows 7 x64 and later, Windows 8, and then ran an Acronis 2010 full system USB backup, the backup speeds were horrible -- 8 hours to backup 50G. The backup should only take about 20 minutes.

At first I thought it was a problem with the 64-bit drivers, then I suspected a problem with the backup program, but the real issue turned out to be how Windows 7 and 8 handles USB drives. This turned out to be interesting and is applicable to all kinds of devices.

Follow these steps - which must be done for each plugged-in USB Device where you want improved speed.  The drawback to this change is you can't unplug the drive at will; you must use a simple menu, described below.


In Device Manager, change the drive's USB Policy to "Better Performance".

1. Plug-in the USB drive and allow it to mount normally.

2. Start, Control Panel, "Device Manager"

3. Open the "Disk Drive" section, locate the USB drive section (illustrated in red box). In the details, locate the USB drive. Make these changes:

a. Other-mouse-click (right mouse) the drive, Properties
b. Click the [Policies] tab
c. Choose "Better Performance"
d. Click OK and close the control panel

4. In the System Tray, click the arrow to expand hidden icons; choose the USB icon ("Safely Remove Hardware and Eject Media); eject the disk and unplug the USB cable. Re-plug-in the disk for the changes to take effect.

If you purchase a new USB drive, you will need to make this same setting. 
Set one time per device, regardless of which USB port it is plugged into.

This holds true with thumb drives, cameras and all other external writable drives. I have not researched, but there is probably a global policy which can set this for all devices.


USB Disk operations will be a zillion times faster. The new backup took exactly 23 minutes, which was a slight improvement over the original 8 hours. Everything, including standard file-copies to this drive, was improved.

Microsoft made a conservative default setting, which allows you to pull drives without fiddling around with software. But if you make these changes, you will have to exercise restraint when pulling a drive; you will have to use the System Tray menu to eject the disk.


If you like to jerk the USB drive when you are done, you may be in trouble.  With this change, you must click the system-tray icon and eject the disk in a controlled manner. Out of habit, you should be doing this anyway -- just to be safe.

Cameras seem to corrupt their memory cards more-often-than-not and it is probably best to leave the USB settings for this device unchanged, mostly because people tend to unplug cameras and run away; everyone is always in a rush.. 

Hard Disk Cache

The local Hard Disk has a similar setting, which I also enable on my own computers.

A.  In Control Panel, Device Manager, "Disk Drives"
      Locate the hard disk (may be labeled as "ATA Device")

B.  Select Properties
[x] Enable Write Caching on the Device
[x] Turn off Windows Write-cache buffer flushing on this device*

*only recommend doing this on battery-powered laptops or on desktops with UPS protection.

Related Articles:Disk Imaging Cleanup Steps - Make your backups faster
Acronis 2010 Step-by-Step
Recovering a single file with Acronis

Windows 7 Explorer Changes

Streamline Windows Start Menus

Saturday, November 24, 2012

Run a Windows 8 DOS CheckDisk

If your disk-image backup program hangs or crashes, or you have other reasons to believe a disk is corrupt (power failures, etc.), run a DOS check disk (chkdsk).  This command will more thoroughly repair the disk than the default Windows-based error-check routines.


A check disk will take approximately 1.5hrs, depending on the size of the disk.  It will spend a huge amount of time at 28%, be patient.

1.  Launch an Administrator DOS Prompt

     Windows 8
     a.  From the Start Page, swipe from bottom or "other-mouse-click" background
     b.  Click "All Apps"
     c.  Locate "Command Prompt"
     d.  Other-mouse-click Command Prompt icon; choose "Run as Administrator"

     Windows 7
     a.  In the Start Menu, locate "Command Prompt"
     b.  Other-mouse-click menu item, choose "Run as Administrator"

2.  Type this command:

     chkdsk C: /f /r    (enter)

     With the C: drive, DOS will complain the disk is in-use ("volume in use")
     Acknowledge the prompt with "Y".
     Nothing else will happen.

3.  Close the DOS window by typing this command:  exit

4.  Gracefully reboot / restart the computer. 

     The CheckDisk will start when the machine boots.
     Go out and have a nice dinner.
     When done, it will automatically load Windows.

Review the Results:

Windows 7 and Windows 8 may not show the results of the scan, especially if no errors were found.  Optionally confirm what Chkdsk found by looking in the Application Event Log.

5.  In Control Panel, Administrative Tools, "Event Viewer"
     Open Windows Logs, Applications
     Click "Filter"
     In Event Sources, type "chkdsk"; Click OK

     Review the events.
     Within each found event, note the two tabbed items below. 
     Scroll down to read the reports.

     What you want to see is a report similar to this:

   Windows has scanned the file system and found no problems.
   No further action is required.
   0 KB in bad sectors.

      Anything else may be cause for concern; see below.

 6.  With File Explorer, examine the root directory of the scanned disk (C:)

     Look for chkdsk log files with names similar to this:

     If found, these are recovered damaged files but are likely not useful.
     Examining (with Notepad) and you will probably find they are useless and can be

What if Bad Sectors / Bad Clusters are Found?

A few (hundred) bad sectors is not the end of the world, but does indicate some kind of hard disk trauma or power problem.  As Chkdsk runs, it marks bad clusters and takes them out of rotation.  Rarely, viruses will damage clusters but most do not do this anymore - a killed host can't propagate the virus. 

If you find a larger number of chkdsk log files and the Event Viewer shows a large number of errors, Reboot and run these steps again. If errors continue, your disk is failing.  Manually copy important files to separate media and replace the drive, or if you are like most people, buy a new computer. 

Times like this are a good time to take an image of the disk, but the image may fail if clusters are misbehaving.  This can be a scary time.  See this keyliner article: Acronis Step-by-Step.

Related Articles
Acronis Step-by-Step
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Acronis 2010 Hangs in Windows 8

Acronis 2010 Hangs in Windows 8

While running a backup to an External USB disk, using the Emergency Recovery Disk, the backup hangs after running for a few minutes.  Mouse is unresponsive.  No disk activity. Status bar stops at apx 3%.

a.  The backup is incomplete and must be abandoned.
b.  Because the machine is hung, you have no choice but to Power off.
c.  Reboot into Windows.
d.  Consider launching File Manager and deleting the backup files created by the failed run.


Acronis 2010 will not work in Windows 8.
Upgrading to Acronis 2013 resolves this issue.
Update: Acronis Documentation on this problem

If Acronis 2013 continues to hang on Backup

Run a DOS Checkdisk - this time-honored solution almost always fixes Acronis backup problems.

See this article:  Run a DOS CheckDisk

Want to speed up your backup?

Follow the steps outlined in this article; which work well in Windows 8. 
Keyliner Article: Acronis 2010 - Step-by-Step

Although this refers to Acronis 2010, the steps are nearly the same for Windows 8 and Acronis 2013.

Related Article:
Exposing the Windows 8 Run Tile
Disk Imaging Cleanup Steps - Faster backups
USB Backup Drive Slow

Thursday, November 15, 2012

Windows 8 'All Users' Start Tiles

The question:  Where is the "All Users" folder for pinned Start Page Tiles in Windows 8?

The short answer:
There is not an exposed location for this.
If you find it, drop everyone a note here by leaving a comment.

I think Microsoft is in a little trouble here:  There is no mechanism for an all-users start tile because, by definition, how the Start Page is organized and grouped is a user-specific preference.  An all-user tile arriving in the middle would interfere with that user's preferences.  There is no doubt this hurts in a corporate environment.

Finding a Start Tile's location:

A Start Tile's location can be found with these steps:

1.  From the Start page, "other-mouse-click" (right mouse) the tile to select.  Illustrated below, note the Firefox icon with a check in the upper-right corner.

2.  From the bottom context menu, choose "Open File Location"

File Explorer (formerly Windows Explorer) opens, pointing to the shortcut / link file.

Tile Locations:

Microsoft Installed Tiles are stored here (think "All Users"):
C:\ProgramData\Microsoft\Windows\Start Menu\Programs

But if you try to pin any program to the Start Page, it arrives here:
C:\Users\(your ID)\AppData\Roaming\Microsoft\Windows\Start Menu\Programs

No matter how hard you try, you cannot point a pinned icon to the ("All Users") location.

The issue is this:  If an administrator installs a program and builds a Start Tile; then logs out, other users will not see the Start Tile.  They would have to build their own.  I am still looking for a solution to this problem.  As of Windows 8.1, this is still an issue.

More Details:

Related Articles:
Everything you wanted to know about Tiles

Saturday, November 10, 2012

Windows 8 Border Thickness

How to: Change Windows 8 default border thickness

The default Windows 8 border thickness is too thick for desktop and laptop users.  You can make the border thinner, matching the Windows 7 style. 

  • Make this change only on desktop and laptop computers.
  • For some people this change may not be recommended on touch-screens - the border may be too thin for accurate finger placement.  This is easily tested.


This change requires editing in the Windows Registry.

1.  From the Start Page, "other-mouse-click" the background (or swipe from bottom).
Click "All Apps"

2.  From the Charm menu, search for and run "Regedit"

3.  In the Registry Editor, locate this key on the tree-side:

Control Panel

HKCU\Control Panel\Desktop\WindowMetrics

4.  On the detail side, change these two values:

BorderWidth from -15 to 0 (zero)
PaddedBorderWidth from -60 to 0 (zero)

Click for larger view
5.  Close Regedit

6.  Reboot.  You must reboot to see the change.


Launch any standard desktop application, such as Notepad; Confirm border width / thickness.
To undo this change, return the two values to their previous value (documented above) and reboot.

Additional Notes:

Unfortunately, this registry change can only be made in the Current User Registry key and cannot be made in the HKLM key.  Because of this, it must be made for each new user in the system. 

This key can be changed in the Default User's key but this will only help new users added to the system (Keyliner, untested).
HKEY_USERS\.Default\Control Panel\Desktop\WindowMetrics

Changed Keys:
HKCU\Control Panel\Desktop\WindowMetrics\BorderWidth
HKCU\Control Panel\Desktop\WindowMetrics\PaddedBorderWidth 

Thursday, November 1, 2012

Stop Messages in PSP X3, X4, X5

How to: Stop advertising messages in Corel Paintshop Pro versions X3, X4, X5

Paintshop Pro (PSP) has developed an annoying habit of displaying the same advertsising messages when the program closes.  One would think once the message was read, it would go away; alas, no.

These steps work in Windows XP and Windows 7, but may not in Windows 8.
Read below for more information.

Steps to Stop Message Popups:

Windows XP, Windows 7, Windows 8

1.  Launch Paint Shop Pro into Edit mode

2.  Click the funny icon near Close box

3.  Click Settings Icon (gears), choose message Preferences; uncheck message box.

4.  Close PSP and re-open/close to test.  You may need to dismiss messages one more time.

Wish: Instead of this obscure location, one would hope these settings would move into the expected "Preferences" screens and you wouldn't have to read articles like this.

Messages are stored in the appdata folder and can be deleted manually with these steps:

For Windows Vista and 7 users (also Windows 8, but steps do not help):
  1. Launch File Explorer
  2. In the URL bar (address bar), type:  %appdata%
  3. Open the Corel / Messages Folder
  4. Delete contents
For Windows XP users:
  1. Click START
  2. Click RUN
  3. Type:  %appdata%
  4. Double click on the Corel Folder
  5. Highlight the Messages folder and press the delete button on your keyboard

Other Possible Windows 8 Steps:

On one of my machines, the above steps did not resolve the problem. De-installing and re-installing PSP resolved the problem.  This is not a great answer to this problem, but after several messages with Corel Support, I could not find a better solution.

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