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July 11, 2020

Thoughts on Updating PowerToys (Preview)


PowerToys has been nagging me for the past few days that it’s ready for an update to v0.18.2. For those who don’t already have it installed, that means visiting its GitHub release page to grab same. Those who do have it installed can simply click the “Check for udpates” button on the General settings page shown in the lead-in graphic for this story. But if they do that, I’m reporting it may not lead to instant gratification (or installation, more to the point). Let me explain… (and please also check the note at the end of this story, too).

Updating PowerToys Can Prove Tricky

When I tried to update from 18.1 to 18.2 I got a message from the installer that reported several open applications needed closing before it could complete its work. In my case, the following applications had to be closed and I had to click a “Retry” to consummate the 18.2 install: Microsoft Teams, Outlook and — surprisingly — my Nitro Pro PDF reader/editor application. Because I had 6 documents open in Nitro, and a bunch of Outlook windows open, this actually took some “save your work” activity and a fair number of mouse clicks to accomplish. I wanted to reproduce this sequence and warning, but when I tried to install 18.1 from GitHub I found my test machines sporting 18.2 despite my efforts to force-install an older version. That’s why I’m having to indulge in a bit of hand-waving here to explain what happened to me.

But there is a bit of good advice about installing PowerToys updates that I  can now dispense, thanks to my recent (if hard to reproduce) experience. It’s a good idea to wait until just after you’ve rebooted or started up your PC to install a new version of PowerToys. That way, the number of “other things” you’ll need to get out of its way to complete the install will be minimal. In my case, I still would have had to close Teams, because I log into teams as part of my normal Windows 10 startup routine. Thus, consider yourselves warned that, if you use PowerToys (I love ’em myself), you’ll want to time your updates around a restart or cold boot for best (or least intrusive/labor-intensive) results.

And that’s the way things go sometimes, here in Windows World. It’s always an adventure!

Note Added July 1, 2020

When I posted my findings here, and publicized them to Twitter, I head back immediately from Clint Rutkas, the Senior Program Manager at Microsoft in charge of PowerToys, who informed me that this issue would be addressed in the upcoming 19.0 release of PowerToys. In fact, most of them have been addressed — Teams remained the only holdout (see screencap following) — and his team apparently did a whole bunch to improve the stability and reliability of the PowerToys tools (see the release notes for details; they appear immediately following the Release v0.19.0 entry on the afore-linked webpage).

thoughts on updating PowerToys.v0.19.0

Down from 3 in need of closing on v.0.18.2 to 1 in v.0.19.0 marks significant progress in my book.

I still had to jump into Task Manager to kill the whole process tree for Teams to get the installation to complete, though. Apparently, Teams spawns a number of processes. Closing the Teams application on the taskbar does not close these other item, as I have observed through my own direct experience. When I tweeted Clint to let him know, he asked me to file a bug report through GitHub (which I did do). I have to imagine this lone holdout will be addressed in a future release (and fairly soon, if the responsiveness already displayed continues).

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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