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July 5, 2020

Ruminating on New PC Setup

Last Thursday, I received a welcome interruption to my working day. Late the previous week, I’d uncovered what I believed to be a “killer deal” on a Lenovo Thinkpad X380 Yoga laptop. Because it was an eBay thing, I was mildly apprehensive about what would get delivered. But when I unpacked the unit I ordered from Max Mart LLC, it was indistinguishable from a nearly identical unit I received direct from the maker last April (only real difference: a Toshiba NVMe SSD instead of a Samsung OEM equivalent to the 970 EVO). Thereupon I began the process of upgrading, updating and customizing that PC so I can use it as a Windows 10 Insider Preview Fast Ring test and occasional road or family use laptop here at Chez Tittel.

There’s a Method to This Madness

To begin with, I had to bring Windows 10 up to snuff. The unit I received had obviously come out of the factory some time before, because it ran Windows 10 1803 out of the box. After a couple of go-rounds with Windows Update, I ran the Update Assistant to bring the machine up to Build 18362.388. I also used the Lenovo Vantage tool to install a veritable raft of driver, firmware, and BIOS updates to the X380. Having now  worked extensively with the assessment and update tools from HP, Dell and Lenovo, I can say with some authority that Lenovo does as good a job as any major PC maker in keeping its hardware current. The same Vantage tool works with equal facility on my 2012/13 vintage Lenovo X220 Tablet and T420 laptops, in fact, though the older hardware doesn’t get much in the way of new drivers anymore. After I had the OS and the drivers caught up (a half-day process), I upgraded to Build 18995.1 on the new X380, which it runs quite happily.

Ruminating on New PC Setup.winver

Took a while, but the X380 is now upgraded to the latest Fast Ring Build (18995.1).

Bring on the Applications!

After laying the right foundation as described, I would spend part of the next couple of days building on top of that work. I used the Chocolately package manager in PowerShell (a Win10.Guru admin toolkit item) to add lots of applications, including Firefox, Chrome, Macrium Reflect, Notepad++, Dropbox, (Search) Everything, FileZilla, IrfanView, Revo Uninstaller, WinDirStat, and more. I had to add a few items by hand as well, including Josh Cell’s UnCleaner, and nifty new gadget I came across named Unknown Device Identifier. I also grabbed and installed DriverStore Explorer (RAPR.exe), a tool I use pretty exensively as well (another Win10.Guru admin toolkit item). I’m still not all the way there yet with this machine, and will probably keep uncovering bits and pieces I want it to have over the next little while. But it’s as close to done now as a work in progress can get, and I’ve been working on it “for real” since yesterday.

Snapshots Along the Way

While I was putting things together, I made sure that Macrium Reflect was among the first applications to make its way onto the PC. Thus, I was able to capture an image right after upgrading to 1903, then again after squaring the drivers way, once more after upgrading to 20H1 (Build 18895.1), and finally after getting the applications as close to right as I could. This gives me a collection of images to which I can return at will. I’m also in the habit of backing up after updates and upgrades as well. Alas, I learned the hard way that it’s much, much better to have a backup and not need one, than to need a backup and not have one!

Author: Ed Tittel

Ed Tittel is a 30-plus-year computer industry veteran. He’s a Princeton and multiple University of Texas graduate who’s worked in IT since 1981 when he started his first programming job. Over the past three decades he’s also worked as a manager, technical evangelist, consultant, trainer, and an expert witness. See his professional bio for all the details.

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