So a few days ago I landed for some reason in the Groupy page and since I used some software from StarDock in the past, mostly Fences (one of the first versions) and I think the other one was called ObjectDock (seems a retired product now), I decided to go give it a go. Fences worked very well for me in the past and I think even a few years before I used the software that changes Windows GUI for a year or more in a Win7 or Vista PC (can't remember if it was WindowBlinds or named something else).
So I downloaded a trial and my first impression is an error while getting a trial activation key. I searched the forums, but it seems related to their servers being deactivated for trials. No way to test the software. 😒
A day later I decided that maybe some of the other applications might be useful so I just decide to buy Object Desktop that includes several of them for a nice price.
A day later I install the app and I already get errors on some of them. I could not find the reason for the error but some apps just failed to install. Eventually I figured out the size of those apps don't match in MB, so the download was probably partial, reason why Object Desktop is failing to install them. Fixed the issue by removing those apps from the download folder and once Object Desktop downloaded them completely they worked. And here comes my world of troubles. 👿
First, why are some softwares included together when they are clearly not compatible with each other? Some overlap in features and this just makes no sense. I activated a neon color on ShadowFX to highlight better the active windows but this is disabled afterwards by Windows Blinds. Except there is no similar setting in that software as opposed to ShadowFX. Same for Start10, the icon and options are overwritten by Windows Blinds as well...
First, SpaceMonger does not show as installed on Object Desktop. I tried this multiple times.
Launch. This only appears when using the default Windows 10 Start menu, so it does not work with Start 10. Uninstalled!
One of my concern of installing some of those apps is resources. I seriously don't want a background app running that makes my PC slower all the time even when the app is on idle not doing anything. I usually never use software like this that modifies Windows but my experience with Fences in the past was good. Never had bugs and it was invisible in terms of CPU, RAM, I/O even on old systems.
I noticed that after installing some of the apps, my computer now is running at 30% on idle all the time . I decided to research further.
Tiles? Gosh. Its constantly using 1-2% CPU. Uninstalled!
DeskScapes. Howly cow, this was eating huge amounts of CPU. Uninstalled!
Surprisingly, I expected Windows Blind to be the biggest infractor, but its not. In some older reviews from other sites, they even said they noticed zero impact using the software on benchmarks which is rather surprising.
Groupy seems to be only offender I have left but its around 0.5% CPU and since its new and was the top list I wanted and made my initial purchase decision, I decided to eat that cost. The other apps are mostly at 0% in resources all the time, both in CPU and disk I/O. And RAM is also decent. But now comes by other problems.
Start10, actually has a big problem. I can only select the default Windows 10 look. If I select Modern or the other Windows 7 one, then the second I search something on the Start Menu, Explorer.exe will start to eat 25% of CPU. I'm not sure if this is related to the indexing or another issue but sadly I cannot use Start 10 this way. What is the point if I have to use it with the default Windows 10 menu look only that has no options except change the icon?
I tested this multiple times, restarting, uninstalling, it will trigger Explorer.exe hitting the CPU the second you search something which you need in order to open apps.
At this point you can see where this is going.
Fences. What the hell is wrong with this? Does it has malware? It tries to connect to a dropbox account every 20 minutes. I blocked this with the firewall but it creates a new process and then closes itself in the computer every 15-20 minutes. There is no auto update setting, I checked, I seriously want to know why this is calling a Dropbox account all the time.
WindowsFX. I didn't bother a lot with this since it makes all the windows and software lag the second you turn anything one. This is probably more gimmick but the performance penalty is not acceptable for me at all just to have a visual effect. Uninstalled!
Windows Blind. Ah gosh. This created some serious issues on my PC. I had to white list it with ESET following the StarDock instructions and after I applied a theme, it seems it caused some serious issue with Windows Application Defender Guard on a new reboot, I'm not sure what happen but it seems it messed the registry or something else up because Windows said my computer was not activated anymore.
For my surprise when I tried to reactivate the system, it told me I had Windows Home edition and it does not match my Windows Pro license key (note, I have Windows PRO). This seems to be caused because after I played with themes I applied the default Windows one back. What the hell is this? Did Windows Blind just changed my windows license to home edition when I applied the Windows theme?
At this point I was seriously concerned. Removed the software, tried a restore point on Windows. I don't blame the StarDock software at this point by my restore points didn't work after waiting for 5+ hours. I had to cancel them, ended destroying my Windows boot system.
I tried to restore Window on the advanced recovery screen and nothing worked. I checked recovery points here and none listed. I was already going to commit suicide because my drives are encrypted with bitlocker and it complained my key was incorrect 😭. I do have backups, but they also encrypted and only my important files are in another online service. I was seriously concerned here about having lost my work data for years. Its not only about the files but all the apps I customized and the settings on each of them. My last full image backup was 60 days old and I made huge changes in the past month in terms of folder organization and other settings I automate with apps...
I was 30 hours without sleep at this point trying to recover my computer. Then I found my key and I could see restore points on the recovery screen for this drive 😍. I tried to recover back before installing all StarDock softwares and it worked! Ah Gosh, I was so luck at this point just to get my system back. Decided to go to bed and try the next morning one more time but now, I would a make a full clone of my drive before installing any StarDock software, in particular Window Blinds.
I installed the ones (minus those above I mentioned with problems) one by one and made sure to reboot the PC every time afterwards and checking my windows license and all other settings every time as I was curious which one caused the mess. They all worked and no problems.
So a few hours later I decided to start playing around with some and hell takes me. Virtual Desktops don't work anymore! What? When I hit the short cut Win+Tab, basically all apps freezes and I cannot click anywhere. I tried this multiple times, with escape and eventually I see the supposed Virtual Desktop options on Windows 10 and the other apps unfreezes. This just does not work. So I start to uninstall all apps one by one until the issue is gone.
Hint: The software is Windows Blinds. This is unacceptable for me, not having the option to use Virtual Desktops on Windows 10 anymore. Even if you don't use this, you can hit that key combination by mistake and have everything not responding.
So, Goodbye WindowBlinds.
At this point I didn't bother to install anything else. It seems only Groupy works (besides its CPU consumption), Fences (tries to call Dropbox), and ShadowFX (no problems with this one surprisingly), and Start10, this only works for 2 things on my system. Change the start button and remove the Start button on other taskbars for other monitors. I'm actually considering uninstalling this as I see no purpose using it. I cannot select anything else except the default Windows 10 look because it will go crazy on CPU with explorer.exe.
My advise to StarDock:
Don't bundle software that does not play nice together or has overlapping features. Makes no sense. And also, my experience about their software I used in the past which was EXCELLENT now is degraded to crappy software, buggy or don't bother to test or develop anymore. If some of those apps are EOL, and will not work properly with Windows 10 anymore. I suggest the company to remove them from the website and not sell them. The softwares, are clearly not compatible with Windows 10 or have serious issues. Sad, because if they all worked together in a proper way they could increase productivity as long as the features are useful and not just gimmick.
I still think the value is great. I paid like $30 bucks and I think maybe Multiplicity (assuming it works) could be useful. And at least for me, Fences and Groupy and ShadowFX works.
Maybe some of the apps will be fixed in the future, maybe not. Either way, a new major Windows 10 update is coming this month and I suppose it will break some softwares again. At least, StarDock should try to clarify what that Dropbox connection on Fences is.
Sorry you had to read this long boring story but I wanted to share my experience after all my frustrations. I'm not mad or angered but trust me. Another person would. Someone that is not a computer person would have trashed the system at this point and its not nice to waste a whole day of your time making something to work that you paid for.
And the reason I posted this here is because I read other people said that they don't provide support for their software except in the forums. That is surprisingly shocking for me. I understand that for free trials or open source software but if you are paying something, you are a customer at this point and they should officially support them if they ask money in exchange for them.