Copying a directory tree on a Windows system using XCOPY and ROBOCOPY

My usual method for copying a directory tree without any of the files in there involves the use of the Windows commands line XCOPY and the command takes the following form:

xcopy /t /e <source> <destination>

The /t switch tells XCOPY to copy only the directory structure while the /e one tells it to include empty directories too. Substituting /s for /e would ensure that only non-empty directories are copied. <source> and <destination> are the directory paths that you want to use and need to be enclosed in quotes if you have a space in a directory name.

There is one drawback to this approach that I have discovered. When you have long directory paths, messages about there being insufficient memory are issued and the command fails. The limitation has nothing to do with the machine that you are using but is a limitation of XCOPY itself.

After discovering that, I got to checking if ROBOCOPY can do the same thing without the same file path length limitation because I did not have the liberty of shortening folder names to get the whole path within the length expected by XCOPY. The following is the form of the command that I found did what I needed:

robocopy <source> <destination> /e /xf *.* /r:0 /w:0 /fft

Again, <source> and <destination> are the directory paths that you want to use and need to be enclosed in quotes if you have a space in a directory name. The /e switch copies all subdirectories and not just non-empty ones. Then, the xf *.* portion excludes all files from the copying process. The remaining options are added to help with getting around access issues and to try copy only those directories that do not exist in the destination location. The /ftt switch was added to address the latter by causing ROBOCOPY to assume FAT file times. To get around the folder permission delays, the /r:0 switch was added to stop any operation being retried with /w:0 setting wait times to 0 seconds. All this was enough to achieve what I wanted and I am keeping it on file for my future reference as well as sharing it with you.

Using PowerShell to reinstall Windows Apps

Recently, I managed to use 10AppsManager to remove most of the in-built apps from a Windows 10 virtual machine that I have for testing development versions in case anything ugly were to appear in a production update. Curiosity is my excuse for letting the tool do what it did and some could do with restoration. Out of the lot, Windows Store is the main one that I have sorted so far.

The first step of the process was to start up PowerShell in administrator mode. On my system, this is as simple as clicking on the relevant item in the menu popped up by right clicking on the Start Menu button and clicking on the Yes button in the dialogue box that appears afterwards. In your case, it might be a case of right clicking on the appropriate Start Menu programs entry, selecting the administrator option and going from there.

With this PowerShell session open, the first command to issue is the following:

Get-Appxpackage -Allusers > c:\temp\appxpackage.txt

This creates a listing of Windows app information and pops it into a text file in your choice of directory. Opening the text file in Notepad allows you to search it more easily and there is an entry for Windows Store:

Name                   : Microsoft.WindowsStore
Publisher              : CN=Microsoft Corporation, O=Microsoft Corporation, L=Redmond, S=Washington, C=US
Architecture           : X64
ResourceId             :
Version                : 11607.1001.32.0
PackageFullName        : Microsoft.WindowsStore_11607.1001.32.0_x64__8wekyb3d8bbwe
InstallLocation        : C:\Program Files\WindowsApps\Microsoft.WindowsStore_11607.1001.32.0_x64__8wekyb3d8bbwe
IsFramework            : False
PackageFamilyName      : Microsoft.WindowsStore_8wekyb3d8bbwe
PublisherId            : 8wekyb3d8bbwe
PackageUserInformation : {S-1-5-21-3224249330-198124288-2558179248-1001
IsResourcePackage      : False
IsBundle               : False
IsDevelopmentMode      : False
Dependencies           : {Microsoft.VCLibs.140.00_14.0.24123.0_x64__8wekyb3d8bbwe,
Microsoft.NET.Native.Framework.1.3_1.3.24201.0_x64__8wekyb3d8bbwe,
Microsoft.NET.Native.Runtime.1.3_1.3.23901.0_x64__8wekyb3d8bbwe,
Microsoft.WindowsStore_11607.1001.32.0_neutral_split.scale-100_8wekyb3d8bbwe}

Using the information from the InstallLocation field, the following command can be built and executed (here, it has gone over several lines so you need to get your version onto a single one):

Add-AppxPackage -register “C:\Program Files\WindowsApps\Microsoft.WindowsStore_11607.1001.32.0_x64__8wekyb3d8bbwe\AppxManifest.xml” -DisableDevelopmentMode

Once the above has completed, the app was installed and ready to use again. As the mood took me, I installed other apps from the Windows Store as I saw fit.

Forcing an upgrade to Windows 10 Anniversary Update

There remain people who advise those on Windows 7 or 8.x to hold fire on upgrading to Windows 10. Now that the free upgrade no longer is available, that advice may hold more weight than it did. Even so, there are those among us who jumped ship who do not mind having the latest versions of things at no monetary cost to see what is available and I must admit to being one of those.

After all, I do have a virtual machine with a pre-release version of the next update to Windows 10 installed on there to see what might be coming our way and to get a sense of what changes that may bring so that I am ready for those. Otherwise, I usually am happy to wait but I noticed that the Windows 10 Anniversary Update only came to my HP Pavilion dm4 laptop and not other machines with Windows 10 installed so I started to wonder why there was a lag when it came to automatic upgrades.

So that these things do not arrive when it is least convenient, I took advantage of a manual method in order to choose my timing. This did not involve installation from a disk image but was in-situ. The first part of the process is standard enough in that the Settings app was started and the Update & security item chosen. That dropped me onto the Windows Update and I first clicked on the Check for updates button to see what would happen. When nothing came of that, the Learn more link was clicked to bring me onto part of the Microsoft support website where I found that the Windows 10 Anniversary Update installer could be downloaded so I duly did just that.

Running it produced a screen asking whether or not I wanted to proceed. Since I wanted to go ahead, the appropriate button was clicked and the machine left alone until the process complete. Because the installer purely is a facilitator, the first stage is to download the rest of the files needed and that will take a while on any connection. Once downloading was completed, the actual process of installation commenced with several restarts before a log-in screen was again on offer. On logging in to the machine, the last part of the process started.

The process took quite a while but seemingly worked without a hitch. If there was anything that I needed to do, it was the re-installation of VirtualBox Guest Additions to restore access to shared folders as well as dealing with a self-inflicted irritation. Otherwise, I have found that previously installed software worked as expected and no file has been missed. Waiting a while may have had its advantages too because initial issues with the Anniversary Update will have been addressed but it is best not to leave it too long or you could have the feeling of being forgotten. A happy balance needs striking.

Dealing with an “Your insider preview build settings need attention” message in Windows 10 Settings

Fix-Your-Insider-preview-build-settings-need-attention_560

Having now upgraded all my Windows 10 machines to the Anniversary Update edition without much in the way of upheaval, I came across the following message on one of them:

Your insider preview build settings need attention. Go to Windows Insider Programme to fix this.

It appeared on the Update screen of the Settings application and I believe that I may have triggered it by letting foolish curiosity take me to the Windows Insider Programme screen. Returning there offered no way of resolving the issue so I had to try the registry editing tip that I discovered elsewhere on the web. Naturally, the creation of a System Restore Point before proceeding with changes to the Windows Registry is advised.

Typing REGEDIT into Cortana brings up a clickable link to the Registry Editor. Having clicked on this, I then clicked on the Yes button on the ensuing dialogue box that Windows 10 throws up every time you make a system change such as installing new software. With the Registry Editor opened, I made my way to the following location:

HKEY_LOCAL_MACHINE\SOFTWARE\Microsoft\WindowsSelfHost\UI\Strings

Once there, I deleted every entry that mentioned “Insider” or “Windows Insider” to leave only two afterwards: “(Default)”, “UnknownErrorDialogValues”. That resolved the issue and I now intend to stay away from the Windows Insider Programme screen in Settings so that the message never appears again.

Thoughts on eBooks

In recent months, I have been doing a clear out of paper books in case the recent European Union referendum result in the U.K. affects my ability to stay there since I am an Irish citizen. In my two decades here, I have not felt as much uncertainty and lack of belonging as I do now. It is as if life wants to become difficult for a while.

What made the clearance easier was that there was of making sure that the books were re-used and eBooks replaced anything that I would wanted to keep. However, what I had not realised is that demand for eBooks has flatlined, something that only became apparent in recent article in PC Pro article penned by Stuart Turton. He had all sorts of suggestions about how to liven up the medium but I have some of my own.

Niall Benvie also broached the subject from the point of view of photographic display in an article for Outdoor Photography because most are looking at photos on their smartphones and that often reduces the quality of what they see. Having a partiality to photo books, it remains the one class of books that I am more likely to have in paper form, even I have an Apple iPad Pro (the original 12.9 inch version) and am using it to write these very words. There also is the six year old 24 inch Iiyama screen that I use with my home PC.

The two apps with which I have had experience are Google Play Books and Amazon Kindle, both of which I have used on both iOS and Android while I use the Windows app for the latter too. Both apps are simple and work effectively until you end up with something of a collection. Then, shortcomings become apparent.

Search functionality is something that can be hidden away on menus and that is why I missed it for so long. For example, Amazon’s Kindle supports puts the search box in a prominent place on iOS but hides the same function in menus on its Android or Windows incarnations. Google Play Books consistently does the latter from what I have seen and it would do no harm to have a search box on the library screen since menus and touchscreen devices do not mix as well. The ability to search within a book is similarly afflicted so this also needs moving to a more prominent place and is really handy for guidebooks or other more technical textbooks.

The ability to organise a collection appears to be another missed opportunity. The closest that I have seen so far are the Cloud and Device screens on Amazon’s Kindle app but even this is not ideal. Having the ability to select some books as favourites would help as would hiding others from the library screen would be an improvement. Having the ability to re-sell unwanted eBooks would be another worthwhile addition because you do just that with paper books.

When I started on this piece, I reached the conclusion the eBooks too closely mimicked libraries of paper books. Now, I am not so sure. It appears to me that the format is failing to take full advantage of its digital form and that might have been what Turton was trying to evoke but the examples that he used did not appeal to me. Also, we could do with more organisation functionality in apps and the ability to resell could be another opportunity. Instead, we appear to be getting digital libraries and there are times when a personal collection is best.

All the while, paper books are being packaged in ever more attractive ways and there always will be some that look better in paper form than in digital formats and that still applies to those with glossy appealing photos. Paper books almost feel like gift items these days and you cannot fault the ability to browse them by flicking through the pages with your hands.