Category Archives: Microsoft

Moving the Offline Folder Cache in Windows (7, 8, 8.1 and 10)

WARNING:  This post involves playing around with your operating system’s registry.  You use this information at your own risk.  For other warnings, please see the disclaimer.

I’m a big fan of Windows’ offline folder caching and have used it on my laptops for over a decade.  One thing I don’t like about it, however, is how difficult Microsoft has made it for the cache to be moved out of the Windows folder.  (By default, it’s found at \Windows\CSC).

WARNING:  If this isn’t a FRESH installation of Windows, make sure you have synchronized your offline files.  This procedure will ERASE ALL EXISTING OFFLINE FILES AND FOLDERS!!!

In order to move the cache, follow these steps:

1. Clear the content of your existing cache
Yeah, you have to do this.  And, it’s not a very obvious procedure.  You end up creating a registry key that resets the cache at startup and then deletes itself.  Here’s the command to create the registry key (you can do this at a command prompt):

REG ADD “HKLM\System\CurrentControlSet\Services\CSC\Parameters” /v FormatDatabase /t REG_DWORD /d 1 /f

Once you’ve done this, reboot.

2. Create the folder in the location where you’d like to have your cache
I always like to keep my data separate from my OS by storing it on a different drive (or, at the very least, a different partition).  For this example, I’m using the path X:\Data\Cache

3. Create a new registry value
Open Registry Editor and browse to:

HKEY_LOCAL_MACHINE\SYSTEM\CurrentControlSet\Services\CSC\Parameters

This is the same key we modified before.  Notice how there’s no “FormatDatabase” value even though we added it prior to the last reboot.

Right-click on Parameters, hover on New and select String Value:

String Value Key Menu

Name the new string value “CacheLocation”:

CacheLocation

Double-click on CacheLocation and input the path to the new cache location and then click “OK”:

Edit String

Notice the “\??\” in the value.  This is an NT Object Path used by the OS to reference the local path.  (If it was “\??\UNC\, it would be referencing a network path.)  You must use this format.

You’ll see the value populated now in your registry editor:

CacheLocation Populated

4. Reboot
 Once the OS is back up, it should be using the new location.  You can test this by opening the new folder and you should see a folder in there called “v.2.0.6”.  You should get a permission error if you try to open that folder.

I hope you find this useful!  If you see anything wrong, please let me know.

Fixing Typing Lag in Word 2013

I’ve been pulling my hair out trying to figure out why I was experiencing so much lag when typing in Word 2013.

Here is the basic symptom:

When I typed something in a Word document – whether it’s a blank document, a document created from a template, or an existing document – I experienced incredible lag.  It would take a while for the characters to appear in the document.  Sometimes 2-3 seconds, other times as much as 45 seconds or more.

Of course, this happened right in the middle of a huge project with very, very tight deadlines.  And, of course, I was already running behind.

My first thought was I had a virus of some sort.  So, I did deep scan, and nothing was found.  I ran a repair through Control Panel > Programs and that didn’t help.  It felt like the CPU was pegged, but it wasn’t… although Word was using more than its fair share of CPU time.  I closed all other programs and that didn’t help.  I was getting pretty frustrated.

I finally figured out the problem, and it had to do with my video cards.  Apparently, Word didn’t like the fact the video cards were trying to handle the graphics.  I’ve read up on this a little and have learned that this setting is a little flaky.  Here’s where you find it:

1. In Word 2013, go to “File” and “Options”

File

Options

2. Click on “Advanced” and scroll down to find the “Display” settings.

Advanced Display

3. Find the “Disable hardware graphics acceleration” setting.

Disable

Here’s where it gets a little hinky.  One would think checking this box would be a bad thing as it would slow down your graphics rendering and cause the lag.  That very well could be the case.  Or, it might be that Word doesn’t like your video card and so this box needs to be checked.  Basically, if it’s checked, remove the check from the box.  If it’s not checked, then put a check in the box.  Either way, it should fix your problem.

In my particular case, I had to disable acceleration, so I put a check in the box.

I hope this helps you out!

Moving the Offline Folder Cache in Windows 7, Windows 8 and Windows 8.1

WARNING:  This post involves playing around with your operating system’s registry.  You use this information at your own risk.  For other warnings, please see the disclaimer.

I’m a big fan of Windows’ offline folder caching and have used it on my laptops for over a decade.  One thing I don’t like about it, however, is how difficult Microsoft has made it for the cache to be moved out of the Windows folder.  (By default, it’s found at \Windows\CSC).

WARNING:  If this isn’t a FRESH installation of Windows, make sure you have synchronized your offline files.  This procedure will ERASE ALL EXISTING OFFLINE FILES AND FOLDERS!!!

In order to move the cache, follow these steps:

1. Clear the content of your existing cache
Yeah, you have to do this.  And, it’s not a very obvious procedure.  You end up creating a registry key that resets the cache at startup and then deletes itself.  Here’s the command to create the registry key (you can do this at a command prompt):

REG ADD “HKLM\System\CurrentControlSet\Services\CSC\Parameters” /v FormatDatabase /t REG_DWORD /d 1 /f

Once you’ve done this, reboot.

2. Create the folder in the location where you’d like to have your cache
I always like to keep my data separate from my OS by storing it on a different drive (or, at the very least, a different partition).  For this example, I’m using the path X:\Data\Cache

3. Create a new registry value
Open Registry Editor and browse to:

HKEY_LOCAL_MACHINE\SYSTEM\CurrentControlSet\Services\CSC\Parameters

This is the same key we modified before.  Notice how there’s no “FormatDatabase” value even though we added it prior to the last reboot.

Right-click on Parameters, hover on New and select String Value:

String Value Key Menu

Name the new string value “CacheLocation”:

CacheLocation

Double-click on CacheLocation and input the path to the new cache location and then click “OK”:

Edit String

Notice the “\??\” in the value.  This is an NT Object Path used by the OS to reference the local path.  (If it was “\??\UNC\, it would be referencing a network path.)  You must use this format.

You’ll see the value populated now in your registry editor:

CacheLocation Populated

4. Reboot
 Once the OS is back up, it should be using the new location.  You can test this by opening the new folder and you should see a folder in there called “v.2.0.6”.  You should get a permission error if you try to open that folder.

I hope you find this useful!  If you see anything wrong, please let me know.

Scheduling a Task in Windows 8.1

Backing up your data is the single most important thing you can do to maintain your mental and emotional health as a computer user.  As an IT professional, I stress again and again to my customers that their backups must be a top priority and they must also be frequently tested to ensure they are working properly and consistently.

Of course, this means my own data is vulnerable as I almost never backup my own stuff.

I’m trying to mend my ways and backup the things I find most useful and I do have some pretty spiffy backup software that I use to take image snapshots of my drives.  However, I also want some simple backup jobs that just grab a file here and there so I don’t have to go and muck around with scheduling an entire recovery task.

I’ve created a couple of small batch files that grab some data here and there for my most often-used applications and I scheduled those tasks to run at midnight every night.  If you’ve never scheduled a task in Windows, it’s pretty straightforward.

 

1. Open your Control Panel
In Windows 8.1, you can just right-click on the Windows icon in the lower left corner of the screen and select “Control Panel”.

Start Menu 8.1

Control Panel

2. Select “Schedule Tasks” from the Control Panel
You’ll find this by selecting “System and Security” and looking under the “Administrative Tools” heading.

CP Schedule Tasks

3. In the Task Scheduler interface, select “Create Basic Task” and go through the wizard.
I’ve highlighted it below with a red box.

Create Basic Task Select

Give your task a name.  The description is optional.

Task Name

You have a lot of options for scheduling the task to run.  Feel free to play around with those.  I’m scheduling mine to run daily at midnight, so I’ll keep the default of “Daily”.

Task Trigger

Set your start day and start time and recurrence.  The only time you have to worry about the time zone synchronization is if your computer might be in different time zones as you travel.

Daily Trigger

The next window is a bit frustrating as Microsoft has deprecated two of the options available for scheduled tasks.  This means that those features will be unavailable in a future (probably the next) version of Windows.  So, if you need to automatically send an email or display a message, you’ll want to use PowerShell.  In my case, I don’t need those features, so I’ll keep “Start a program” selected and just click “Next”.

Start a Program

Now, browse to the script you’d like to execute on this schedule and then click “Next”.  (If you have command line arguments or options, you’ll want to specify those in the “Add arguments (optional):” field.)

Select Program

Review the task information and click “Finish”.

Finish

4. Check to make sure the task is active

Once you click “Finish”, you’ll find yourself back at the Task Scheduler interface.  Look under “Active Tasks” and make sure the task you’ve just created appears there.  If so, you’re good to go!

Check Active Task

I hope this helps someone and saves some time.  If you see anything wrong, please let me know.

Accessing Another Windows Computer’s Registry from a Disk in Windows 8.1

WARNING:  This post involves playing around with your operating system’s registry.  You use this information at your own risk.  For other warnings, please see the disclaimer.

Recently, I had to recover some data from another computer which had crashed and the only thing I had left was its hard drive.

While this is a fairly common occurrence, what made this unusual for me was some of the information I needed was in that computer’s registry.

While I’m familiar with access the local machine’s registry as well as a remote machine’s registry, I wasn’t familiar with accessing the registry files directly from a disk.  Here’s how you do it:

1. Open your Registry Editor
Click your Windows icon, type “regedit” and select regedit.exe from the list of apps.

2. Select the desired registry hive
There are several different hives which are stored on disk for your operating system.  To see the file locations for the hives, you can go to HKEY_LOCAL_MACHINE\SYSTEM\CurrentControlSet\
Control\hivelist.  To save you the trip, here they are:

HKEY_LOCAL_MACHINE\SYSTEM:  %windir%\system32\config\SYSTEM
HKEY_LOCAL_MACHINE\SAM:  %windir%\system32\config\SAM
HKEY_LOCAL_MACHINE\SECURITY:  %windir%\system32\config\SECURITY
HKEY_LOCAL_MACHINE\SOFTWARE:  %windir%\system32\config\SOFTWARE

You can also find the Default User registry hive in the same directory:

HKEY_USERS\.DEFAULT:  %windir%\system32\config\DEFAULT

For Windows Vista or later, If you want to find specific users, go to the \Users folder on the root of the drive (assuming you have the old “C:” drive or boot drive) and look for NTUSER.DAT in the root of the user profile directory.  For Windows XP and earlier, you’ll find the profiles under \Documents and Settings.

3. Load the desired registry hive
It doesn’t really matter what hive you want to look at; the process works the same for any.  In this case, I want to look at the old machine’s SOFTWARE hive, so select HKEY_LOCAL_MACHINE.

regedit1

Now, click on the File menu and select “Load Hive…”.

regedit2

Browse to file location on the hard drive and select the hive which you wish to load.

regedit3

The hive you’re loading is going to show up as a registry key in Registry Editor.  Click “Open”, and give the new key a name.

regedit4

You’ll see that the new registry key appears under HKEY_LOCAL_MACHINE.

regedit5

4. Unload the hive once you’re done
Once you’ve found the information you need, make sure you get rid of this key you’ve created.  It most likely won’t harm anything if you forget (after all, nothing in the OS is going to look for information there), but better safe than sorry.  You can’t just delete the key (you’ll get an error).  Instead, you have to unload the hive.  Just select the key, go to the File menu and select “Unload Hive…” and you’re done.

regedit5

regedit6

I hope this helps someone and saves some time.  If you see anything wrong, please let me know.