problem at logon with bad skining and file explorer hangs

By on September 20, 2013 9:24:27 PM from Stardock Forums Stardock Forums

sambastrakan

Join Date 05/2013
0

Hi,

 

Well, I was not sure but now I am as the problem occurs with a fresh win7 x64 install:

- Sometimes (well, a lot of), after (first) logon right after boot, wb seems to miss something and my skin is not using "per pixel frame". Worst, if I try to open a folder with windows file explorer it hangs for about 20-30 seconds (same thing I I try to open the configuration panel). In that case, everything is ok after asking WB to skin again, or after a logout/login (without reboot of course). Doing that, file explorer works ok and the skin is well applyed.

It seems that the problem happens randomly when the system is busy (initializing a lot of things at the end of boot and logon). If I wait a little before logon (to let the pc terminate the init) sometimes these 2 problems does not occurs, sometimes they do.

I have the same problem with wb7, wb8, wb8.1. I thought about an antivirus problem but I tried with ESET and Kaspersky, same thing.

On my fresh install, file explorer problem occurs after installing wb (I installed it for last, after all the others), so I think it's really a problem linked with WB. Strange that I don't see anybody talking about this issue ...

Any opinion ?

 

Also, It's not related but I'd like to know what happens in term of disk activity when applying a skin. When doing so, we can see a significant disk activity... and I wonder how it's problematic for a SSD ... When making a skin we do apply it a lot to test, and after every boot the skin is applyed. So considering the limited write cycles of a SSD, WB may have a big impact for SSD lifetime.

Opinions ?

 

thanks

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September 20, 2013 10:21:39 PM from Stardock Forums Stardock Forums

small precision, just in case: my Users folder is not on my SSD, it's on a HDD, which include public documents where the WB skins are located.

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September 20, 2013 11:42:34 PM from Stardock Forums Stardock Forums

Just curious.  Did you move the Users folder post-install or part of OOBE during installation?  I'm merely wondering if the junctions/symlinks that Windows sets up are still pointing to where they should be.  WB uses them also to show the Stardock folder in your Documents which is actually in the Public's documents folder.  Ah, the things we do for backwards compatibility....

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September 21, 2013 12:17:41 AM from WinCustomize Forums WinCustomize Forums

WB is simply a service which running on the background as system ones'. It has lots of chances that your unique environ hindered it,this being said it has no such quirk that has made your disk busy.  

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September 21, 2013 3:29:36 AM from WinCustomize Forums WinCustomize Forums

Have you tried a different skin?

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September 21, 2013 5:06:08 AM from Stardock Forums Stardock Forums

@Gameshooters,

 

If some of the links are wrong and its setup to continuously retry to find its skin files or config files then it definitely would.  If it were me, I'd go into EventViewer under Administrative Tools and look under:

Custom Views\Administrative Events
Windows Logs\Application
Windows Logs\System
Application and Service Logs\Microsoft\Windows\Diagnostics-Performance
Application and Service Logs\Microsoft\Windows\Disk-Diagnostic Application and Service Logs\Microsoft\Windows\Resource-Exhaustion-Detector
Application and Service Logs\Microsoft\Windows\Diagnostics-Performance
Application and Service Logs\Microsoft\Windows\WER-Diagnostics (usually pretty helpful)

Anything looking somewhat related or repeated over and over in a short amount of time is usually a good starting point.

 

Also, instead of logging in and out, why not see if using the WindowBlinds configurator to reapply the same skin see if it fixes it or not?  If it doesn't then its probably not related to booting, if it does then maybe but probably indirectly if anything.  I'd probably then restart the system regardless if it fixes it or not and also try restarting the Explorer process to see if that makes a difference too.  Probably can't hurt to make sure you have the StarDock WindowBlinds service under Administrative tools set to Automatic and not Manual but I doubt that's the case.

 

By the way, where are you looking and deciding that its not using per-pixel frames or are you just eye-balling it?  If you're looking in the config program and it keeps getting reset, that's pretty relevant.  Looks like the setting value is stored in:

HKEY_CURRENT_USER\Software\Stardock\WindowBlinds\WB5.ini\WBLiteFX\NoPerPixel

 

As for your SSD comment, 

For one I would make 100% sure the disk activity is on the SSD disk using perfmon.  If it is, then part of the SSD optimization process is to drop your pagefile.sys down to about 1-2gb depending on how much RAM is in the system which if you'd like to include would help.  You can setup a pagefile on your alternate disk instead too.  Keep in mind that SSD failure (which actually takes a decent bit to fail on its own) has nothing to do with reading files off the disk, only writing to it.  Usually with these types of questions, its best to include the relevant hardware info such as any RAID controllers, motherboard, SSD drive model, etc.  If you're concerned about it and don't mind grabbing the info above or spending a few minutes running a few small diag tools, then I'll show you how to actually track down what its doing.  I just don't want to write it all out on here if it won't get used, ya know?  Most of the tools I'm going to suggest are extremely helpful in general so I don't install Windows without them anyway.  This won't include diagnostic info but if you haven't read Sean's SSD optimization guide then let me know so I have an idea of what's been done so far.

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September 21, 2013 7:47:55 AM from Stardock Forums Stardock Forums

On a skin apply WB will have to load many images from the hard drive.  It also parses the skin file.  If the WB4/WB64 files do not exist it will make them.  These files are deleted on each skin edit.

You could reapply skins in a loop for years and it wouldn't do much to your SSD life.  Even if you zapped the WB4 files so they had to be remade each skin apply it would only result in a tiny amount of writes (<1MB) per apply.

Non SSD drives can make a lot of noise when you read many files rapidly like WB does on a skin apply if the disk is fragmented as the heads have to move all over the disk.  On a SSD skin applies are quite a lot faster due to the lack of seek time.

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September 21, 2013 7:59:35 AM from Stardock Forums Stardock Forums

Hello

@mabreedlove: Users folder was moved during install with oobe and none of my applications have problems to access users folder (about 2 years using this way). Also, if it was an access problem, the issue will occurs at each boot-logon wich is not the case.

I have a strange alert in my eventviewer "start session failed « Circular Kernel Context Logger » with error : 0xC0000035", but it appears even when wb & explorer are working fine.

Reapply the skin solves the problem yes (it's in my 1st post: "ok after asking WB to skin again")

If I kill the explorer process and restart it (when problem occurs) the problem is not solved. Only way is reapply skin or logout/login.

WB service is automatic. I tried in manual to avoid wb loading during logon but when starting wb it says that the app is not correctly installed.

About "per pixel": I know it because I'm using my skin and my UIS2 is used instead of per pixel. When explorer works ok, wb is using the per pixel frame of my skin. I'm sure of that and it's always the case. So I'm sure there is a link between explorer problem and WB.

About SSD: My pagefile is not on it, it's on the same hd than Users. I don't have problem with it, I just wonder if WB makes "writes" on SSD when a skin is applyed. I imagine it is the case.

 

@doortech1: yes, it's not skin problem.

 

I hope someone from Stardock will read that and give some advices ...

 

Thanks guys !

 

 

 

 

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September 21, 2013 8:04:01 AM from Stardock Forums Stardock Forums

Quoting Neil Banfield,

On a skin apply WB will have to load many images from the hard drive.  It also parses the skin file.  If the WB4/WB64 files do not exist it will make them.  These files are deleted on each skin edit.

You could reapply skins in a loop for years and it wouldn't do much to your SSD life.  Even if you zapped the WB4 files so they had to be remade each skin apply it would only result in a tiny amount of writes (<1MB) per apply.

Non SSD drives can make a lot of noise when you read many files rapidly like WB does on a skin apply if the disk is fragmented as the heads have to move all over the disk.  On a SSD skin applies are quite a lot faster due to the lack of seek time.

 

oh, ok then. These files are on a hdd and not on my ssd (entire users folder on hdd).

Thanks for your answer. Any idea about my random WB/explorer problem at logon ?

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September 21, 2013 11:21:59 AM from Stardock Forums Stardock Forums

some more informations:

-Logon takes a while when the 2 problems occurs. When it's done quicly there are no problems.

-After logon if I reapply the skin before doing anything, file explorer launch instantly ! So, again, my issue is linked with WB.

-If I uncheck in folder options the "Launch folder windows in a separate process" option, the behavior is different: explorer.exe hangs less time

 

nobody else see this stanges things ??

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September 21, 2013 11:56:52 AM from WinCustomize Forums WinCustomize Forums

Quoting sambastrakan,


About SSD: My pagefile is not on it, it's on the same hd than Users. I don't have problem with it, I just wonder if WB makes "writes" on SSD when a skin is applyed. I imagine it is the case.

 

Quoting sambastrakan,


oh, ok then. These files are on a hdd and not on my ssd (entire users folder on hdd).

 

This is contradictory what has been told by Neil. Since all of your image files/files are stored on HDD,then WB has nothing to do with SSD. Typically,majority of users don't allocate their settings in complexity as you did,I doubt you would see any improvement on WB's performance/experience.  

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September 21, 2013 11:58:18 AM from WinCustomize Forums WinCustomize Forums

Double posts..................

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September 21, 2013 1:47:20 PM from Stardock Forums Stardock Forums

Quoting Gaspershooters,


This is contradictory what has been told by Neil. Since all of your image files/files are stored on HDD,then WB has nothing to do with SSD. Typically,majority of users don't allocate their settings in complexity as you did,I doubt you would see any improvement on WB's performance/experience.  

 

I think there is a missunderstanding, probably due to my bad english

I was just thinking that to apply a skin some files had to be modified in windows system (ssd) ... but it seems to not be the case. This is good news for ssd life.

 

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September 21, 2013 5:35:49 PM from Stardock Forums Stardock Forums

Ok, solved. Well, half solved as I think WB needs an improvment:

1- I decided to move users\public\documents (on my hdd) to my ssd. I did that using the "move" function in the folder properties.

2- After restart, wb didn't follow the new link: only the default classic windows skin in the list. So I reinstalled WB and the skins list was back.

3- Applyed my skin ... reboot ... logon. The logon was fast, the skin was properly applyed, and file explorer starts like lightning ! Good !

Conclusion: WB doesn't like to have its skins on a non standard Users folder.

Doing that I also discovered that Stardock IconPackager installed the icons packages in C: (ssd) and not in the Users folder defined on my hdd. This app is not reading the Users folder place properly defined in Windows.

 

@Stardock: will you investigate this situation ?

 

thx.

 

 

 

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September 21, 2013 6:12:36 PM from Stardock Forums Stardock Forums

@sambastrakan

Since you went the OOBE route, then yeah all your links should be properly setup.  It's still possibly to have missing links if you did it manually and not notice program problems since most links are generated for program backward compatibility while you may not run any of them or often.  Obviously I'm not referring to WB in that instance.

You should be careful about disabling your pagefile entirely on your main SSD drive, though.  If you hit a bugcheck (bluescreen) and Windows tries to dump and you haven't enough free ram (since your system won't have freed it) to cover the writing of the coredump, you'll have issues since Windows will not use the non-system pagefile during its dump operation.  This depends on how much ram you have, obviously, and if you filled it up right before a crash.  Some people say disabling it is fine but its also pretty easy to have Windows lose the drive letter on its own either by the volume ID for the volume changing or the registry setting that stores it getting messed up.  Keeping like 1024gb on your drive will make very little difference and you still have the other drive's pagefile to use.  There's no downside to it.  One thing I never liked about how windows mounted its drives is that it stores some made up volume ID it comes up with on its own and stores it in the registry to identify that particular volume.  This is also why booting from something like a Windows setup CD has all the drive letters screwed up.  If you are truly that concerned about your drive, then make sure without a doubt that TRIM is enabled on your drive.  The link I gave before is your best source for all this info anyway.

The one you should consider moving if you haven't already is the search index file.  You can point it at the other drive in the control panel search indexing options very easily and this file can get quite large and has very frequent writes made to it so its got a better chance of killing the drive faster than WB based on what Neil said.  For your circular log file problem, follow this: technet forum  I imagine the constant log errors and whats generating them isn't helping your performance out much either.  On a side note, if your drive truly is getting thrashed then you can either download the full Microsoft SysInternals toolset or just "procmon" in particular.  This program will show you any processes that get started, files open, read, written, closed as well as any registry changes.  It has the great benefit of showing exactly which process made the change among other neat things.  SysInternals can be found at microsoft.com.  The other program I use that I referred to before is "Process Hacker 2" which is available from sourceforge.net  It's essentially the hacker or developer version of the windows task manager and significantly more informative and useful.  One of my favorite features is being able to start programs running under the built-in SYSTEM account.  Both sets are wonderful tools for any system.  SysInternals is made up of probably around 40-50 different tools for various purposes. A couple you might enjoy are "autoruns" and "loadord" which show information about everything that starts on boot and the order.

 

@Gaspershooters,

Its more common than you might think.  Not only is there a performance gain to be had even if its just a different volume on the same drive but it makes backing up parts of Windows more easy.  Most backups are either file-level ones which when restored don't keep all the permissions or volume-level or disk-level which keeps everything nice and neat.  This is generally the common practice for most servers and in businesses that take the time to create OOBE deployment scenarios.  The actual performance gain comes from the shorter amount of time to sift through the MFT for the volume to find particular files and their settings since there are fewer files on that volume.  It's the same for each volume done this way as well.  You see it much less in home setups since it requires some extra steps to implement.

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September 21, 2013 6:28:34 PM from Stardock Forums Stardock Forums

Actually, you always have to keep in mind the possibility that some programs don't use the environment variables or locations set in the registry properly and simply make assumptions.  More than likely its relying on the Documents library's inclusion ability (can right click on it and click Properties) to have public show up.  

 

Pull up regedit for the hell of it and goto this key:

HKEY_CURRENT_USER\Software\Stardock\WindowBlinds\WB5.ini\Installed\Path

 

You'll find whatever answer you need there.

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September 21, 2013 6:36:49 PM from WinCustomize Forums WinCustomize Forums

Quoting sambastrakan,
Conclusion: WB doesn't like to have its skins on a non standard Users folder.

It's a safe bet to say that it is Windows that doesn't like it.   It's far more sensible to leave User files where Windows itself expects to find them...and any file that needs frequent read and/or write should be on the 'fastest' drive...ie. the SSD, pagefile included.

Finite write life of a SSD is finite...but definitely over-hyped.  No-one ever said that a platter drive's life was 'finite' but they are... moving parts WILL wear out...the only thing about 'finite' is it's indefinite.

Write numbers for SSDs are definitely 'finite' but life expectancy is not really any different to the average life of a platter.....ie. by the time a typical SSD dies so too has the computer generally....either mechanically or modernity....

Example...my SSD has everything it's 'supposed' to have on it...has an uptime [24/7] of 1 year 20 days and 7 hours ...powered on 39 times....and is expected to last [T.E.C. date] to Feb 2, 2021.

I should be so lucky...to survive that long myself...

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September 21, 2013 6:52:20 PM from Stardock Forums Stardock Forums

Thank you guys for all these informations !

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September 22, 2013 2:34:08 AM from Stardock Forums Stardock Forums

Jafo,

That's actually the very reason why I asked how he did his installation  If it was a move within OOBE's installation process then it would've handled it perfectly assuming this wasn't some sort of upgrade and a fresh install instead.  Anything else would require the offline creation of a symlink between volumes which tends to be such a pain which I've found any reason I could to procrastinate doing it myself which has been about 3 months now.

Space gets eaten up so easily on Win8 and being a dev box makes it far worse.  Usually moving over the content that is most actively changed is best so I've wanted to try and keep my programs on the SSD and move the profiles although I realized it was impossible after I came across Nexpose's system requirements of somewhere around 30GB at the low-end.  I grabbed one of Samsung's SSHD hybrids for the additional disk so it wouldn't be a huge hit.

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September 22, 2013 8:06:36 PM from Stardock Forums Stardock Forums

I forgot an important detail ...

I also installed WB on my laptop (with an i5 2nd generation and a 7.2Krpm hdd). I have 2 partitions on it but the 2nd one is just for data storage, not for system files like Users folder.

If I logon without waiting for the end of activity disk (end of boot) then my skin is also not properly applyed (uis2 used instead of "per pixel") and file explorer is also very slow to start. If I wait the end of disk activity before logon then everything is ok.

So, there is definitely something that WB is missing when there is a high disk activity during its initialization ...

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September 22, 2013 8:34:19 PM from WinCustomize Forums WinCustomize Forums

You are still in persistence that WB has encumbered your whichever system you "rigged" ?? 

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September 22, 2013 8:49:14 PM from Stardock Forums Stardock Forums

Well, it's just to advize about a very possible bug. Possibly most of the skins have similar "per pixel" and uis2 frames, so it's not easy to detect the problem. But, there is the problem of explorer lag ... well I don't know why nobody saw this.

I can't believe I am the only one with 2 computers with the same wb/explorer symptoms

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September 22, 2013 10:10:05 PM from WinCustomize Forums WinCustomize Forums

Quoting sambastrakan,
But, there is the problem of explorer lag

The 'explorer lag' will be Windows trying to find the 'components' of the Explorer process where graphics [WB skins] have been located away from the 'required' User-file location convention insisted upon by MS for program developers to follow/adhere to.

Were you to put them on a 3.5" floppy and use any relocation/config 'method' you liked you'd see a REAL lag to Explorer.exe ....

I fail to see why people seem to think that Windowblinds [and other shell/explorer enhancements] is something you can just separate/isolate at whim from the actual OS it loads into [skins].  Shell 'modifiers' are NOT like games....or paint programs, etc. which are essentially 'independent' of the shell and thus have no bearing on function of the shell what-so-ever...

Go back to #13 .... you discovered there the solution.... locate the WB files WITH the OS .... on the same SSD.  The reason no-one [or few] people ever see an issue is they follow the default [mandated] install path as specified by Microsoft.  The fact that MS provides tools/ability to enable common User file relocation doesn't mean one SHOULD do so...

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September 23, 2013 6:12:10 AM from Stardock Forums Stardock Forums

my laptop does have a standard windows installation/configuration, just a usb mouse connected on it ...

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September 23, 2013 7:02:09 AM from Stardock Forums Stardock Forums

@Jafo,

I think he's actually following your instructions in this one instance.  To quote him:

"I also installed WB on my laptop (with an i5 2nd generation and a 7.2Krpm hdd). I have 2 partitions on it but the 2nd one is just for data storage, not for system files like Users folder."


That seems to be like he's just keeping movies and crap on it to separate the system relevant files and User profiles.  Regardless, I still agree that this is probably not an issue with WB but a possibly pre-existing condition considering WB makes it quite obvious something somewhere is wrong with its easy to see visual indicators of an issue that might have just been occurring silently or in the EventLog no one bothers to check before.

The reason I asked him to reapply the skin after the load was because I was curious to see if either something could be loading out of order or if WB was loading during a time when too much crap was being started at once.  If it was too much of a load at start-up then this would be somewhat of a valid test since the load would've been reduced by then.

That's also why I'd like to see loadord/autoruns output personally.  Windows 8 added a registry key that allows Windows to delay user-mode applications from launching immediately as well so everything doesn't try and load up all at once.  There's programs to do it in Win7 but meh.  I would at least go through BlackViper's Win7 list and set accordingly.  That helps performance out all around.  With no diagnostically relevant information, we can only make conjecture though.  The key in Win8 I was referring to can be found here: http://winaero.com/blog/how-to-reduce-the-startup-delay-for-desktop-apps-in-windows-8/  The article makes it sound like its some great performance benefit to disable but honestly, does anyone need access to a particular start-up app within 60 seconds of logging in and at such a high price?  The key was put there so that Windows could get you logged in faster without hanging on a ton of start-up applications so turning it off actually reduces performance.

What I think bother's me the most is that not any of us even thought to ask how much RAM the system had to begin with.  Considering he stated he had disabled the pagefile, the obvious question I should've asked was how much RAM was in the system anyway.  This makes me wonder if there was even a problem with his keeping his Users folder separately to begin with and that the move just merely sped things up that inadvertently fixed a performance issue.  

As for disabling the pagefile.sys to keep writes down as both Jafo and Neil stated, pretty much all manufacturer's came back saying that writing 25GB worth of data every day to a 100GB drive would still take the drive 5 years to have issues.  When you consider that the pagefile performs read operations something like 5-10x more often than writes, I'd say sacrificing stability is just not worth it and putting it on the SSD as MS suggests is even more of a benefit.  Reads on SSD's are its bread and butter after all.  I'd just set it to min/max equal to something like 1GB or so depending on your RAM.  Keep your "Launch folder windows in a separate process" on too.  Even if you ignore the benefit of reduced hang time, splitting the processes up increases general stability quite a bit unless looking for a file and somehow crashing as a result of some stupid Explorer extension and taking down the entire display sounds like a good idea

In either case, there's just not enough information yet.  If you want to spend what might take maybe 3 minutes at most then there's something you can do that would help:  run this http://technet.microsoft.com/en-us/sysinternals/bb963902 then goto file and click save and post the file.  There's just too many possibilities for what you're experiencing and like Jafo said, you can't even really say for sure if it's even the WB shell extension causing it since who knows what other ones have been injected into Explorer.  The output for this program would shed a lot of light on what's really going on behind the scenes as well as any shell extensions used.  It might not even have anything to do with Explorer at that and be a performance one.  Oh, and can you include your RAM in each of the systems?  There are some actual legitimate registry keys to tweak depending on your RAM.  Probably should've been one of the first questions.  One other thing overlooked was you said you tried it with ESET and Kaspersky both but did you ever try it with no anti-virus software active just as a test case?  I'm not say go browsing around on the web and all but booting without it once as a test won't hurt and would be interesting to see.

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September 23, 2013 8:21:39 AM from Stardock Forums Stardock Forums

Damn mabreedlove, you write a lot !

 

I was going to make some stuff you talk about on my laptop and then I boot/logon 6 times and impossible to reproduce the problem !!! ARRRRHHHH, I'm getting nuts. boot/logon is fast, something changed in the init sequence ... but I didn't touch my laptop since yesterday !!

Autorun of my laptop here: https://www.dropbox.com/s/dj05nyrp02lrsdk/AutoRuns-laptop.zip

I have 8gb on my desktop and 4 on my laptop. Pagefile on my desktop was moved to a hdd but I put it back to c: yesterday (after moving users/public to c: so pagefile is not the problem I think).

I agree it's probably not real "issue" of WB, perhaps just something WB should wait for which turns a problem in a "special?" init sequence. Kind of thing hard to solve ...

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