Posts about computer repair and maintenance tasks.

The Windows 10 Mail program is hopelessly broken.

Windows 10 Mail Doesn’t Sync, Is Hopelessly Broken

Earlier this week I installed a brand new Windows 10 computer for a client. It was a simple job: setup the computer, transfer his files, and setup email.  Absolutely nothing complicated about it. Or so it seemed.

Windows 10 comes with Windows 10 Mail from the Microsoft Store installed, making it the obvious choice of email software for the home user. Unfortunately Windows 10 Mail doesn’t work. It’s broken badly in a number of ways that I’ll describe momentarily.

If you’re here for a solution, skip to the bottom of the article.  If you’d like the satisfaction of knowing you’re not alone, keep reading to learn more about the many problems I’ve found with the Windows 10 Mail app.

Windows 10 Mail Doesn’t Sync Reliably

Windows 10 Mail doesn’t sync reliably at regular intervals even after you configure it to do so. This problem is well document in numerous forums. There are a number of suggested solutions but every conversation I’ve ready about this problem ends in in failure for many users.

Windows 10 Mail tries to be smart and learn your email habits as you go. If you go to Settings > Accounts > [Your Email Account] > Change Mailbox Sync Settings you’ll see that the Download New Email setting is set to “based on my usage” by default.  If you choose to use this setting, Windows Mail is supposed to get smarter about how often it syncs based on your usage. The key words here are, “supposed to.”

With this setting in place my client waited an entire day and Windows 10 Mail never synced.  The easy solution appeared to be to simply choose another option, so we selected “every 15 minutes,” rebooted just to be safe, then opened his email program and I sent him a test message. The test message arrived, so we declared the problem solved.

The next day I got a call.  The client didn’t receive emails since I left.  So I sent another test, drove to his house, and sure enough the emails never synced. After a reboot emails came in again, but the problem kept recurring.

Windows 10 Mail Doesn’t Have Built-In Contact Management

I was able to recover my client’s contact list from their old computer’s hard drive.  Unfortunately Windows 10 Mail doesn’t have any sort of contact management built in: it uses another Store application called People to manage contacts.  People provides some functionality to import contacts, but it’s support for CSV text files is very limited.  Unless your CSV is in a very specific format, it’s not going to read it. Also, you need to login to your Microsoft account to import your contact, which seems is annoying and unnecessary.

Windows 10 Mail Sounds Don’t Work

The client asked me to setup Windows 10 Mail to make a sound when mail arrives, like most email clients do by default.  Windows 10 Mail does have a configuration option to do so. Unfortunately even after I enabled this setting and rebooted, the chime never sounded when mail arrived.

The Solution: Install Windows Live Mail

With no solution in site to fix all of our problems with Windows 10 Mail, we decided to use another mail client.  Since the client was used to using Live Mail on their last computer, I was pleased to discover that Windows Live Essentials is available for download for Windows 10 and it still includes Live Mail.  I think Windows Live Mail is a great solution for home users who don’t need the additional features you get when you shell out the money for Microsoft Outlook.

You can download Windows Live Essentials (which includes Windows Live Mail) here.


Fix Remote Desktop Black Screen

black-screen-of-deathEvery once in a while I’ll try to log into a server and get what I call the Remote Desktop Black Screen of Death.  No matter how many times I log out, log in, try to switch resolutions, etc. I could never defeat it.  Fortunately I just discovered a simple solution: hit the Remote Desktop equivalent of Control+Alt+Delete, which is Control+Alt+End.


6 Rules For Asking For Help With Your Computer

As the so-called computer guru in my circle I get a lot of calls for help. I can usually help with an open heart and an open mind, but sometimes it just gets to be too much. I find that when I help people for free they begin to depend on me, and what begins as a favor soon turns into an expectation and my generous heart turns bitter and resentful. Here are a couple of tips from the perspective of the computer guru to help keep the helper/helpee dynamic from damaging your relationships.

1. Don’t Call your Computer Guru Just Because He’s Free


For you, anyway.

Asking your computer guru for help will at first make him feel smart and important but frequent, unrewarded calls will leave him feeling unappreciated and used. Asking us to spend our time solving your problems before paying some else to do it sends a message that you don’t appreciate our time, skills, or education.

Saying “if you can’t figure it out I’ll take it to Geek Squad” is like stroking a cat’s fur backwards.  We like it better when you can say,  “Geek Squad couldn’t fix it… can you help me out?” We’re largely fueled by ego, so consider ways your words can gas us up.

2. Make an Effort to Solve Your Problem First

Tech support flow chart

This really is how we computer gurus solve problems. Really.

Calling someone with a certification in computer science or IT to solve a desktop computer problem is like swatting flies with a .50 caliber sniper rifle.  It’s probably overkill, so don’t be afraid to help yourself before calling in the “big guns.”  This means you should be willing to pay someone to look at it first, or at least try to fix the problem yourself.

Computers aren’t mystical black boxes: they do exactly what people tell them to do. Unfortunately sometimes we (or a virus, or a hacker) tell them to do something that we didn’t intend and that’s when problems start.  Dig in. Get your hands dirty.  If you’re willing to Google the problem you’ll more than likely find the answer. That’s probably what we’ll do anyway.

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3. Listen to your Guru, and Don’t Call  with the Same Problem Twice

The last time your computer guru helped you, he more than likely told you how the problem happened, how to avoid it in the future, and how to fix it if it happens again.  If you call your guru a second, third, or fourth time to fix the same problem, he’s probably going to be mad, albeit secretly. He may begrudgingly help you again, but in his heart he’s frustrated that you didn’t appreciate his expertise and his time enough to listen the first time around.

4. Don’t Inconvenience Your Guru More Than You Have To

Unless there is a good reason not to, you should be willing to bring your problem to the person willing to fix it.  Think about it: why should someone have to drive out of their way to fix your computer (for free) when your computer can just as easily come to them?  I can’t count the number of times I’ve found myself at someone’s house twiddling my thumbs for hours waiting for an antivirus scan to complete or a software update to download.

I can pretty much guarantee that my Internet connection is faster than yours.  If I fix your computer from my house there won’t be any waiting for downloads, and if I do have to wait for a virus scan or diagnostic test to complete I can do it in comfort (in my boxers, watching B-horror, gorging on a box of Bottlecaps or Nerds… don’t judge me).

5. Respect Your Guru’s Personal Life

There’s a good chance that you’re not the only one asking your computer guru for help. He or she has other friends and relatives calling, none of which are aware of the other’s cries for help. These small favors slowly erode your guru’s personal time until there’s no personal time left to speak of. Keep this in mind next time you think of making that call.

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6. Respect Your Guru’s Boundaries

The circle of handouts is ever expanding. There are certain people I’m happy to help: close relatives, close friends, and coworkers. But every once in a while those people who are “on the list” manage to weasel assistance out of me for their inner circle and I soon find myself fixing computers for total strangers. It’s one thing to give them my business card and say “he knows what he’s doing and he’s affordable.” It’s another thing to say “he’s my cousin, so he’ll hook you up.” Don’t volunteer your guru without his permission.


There is a mentality about computer professionals that needs to change: people often treat us differently than other skilled workers like mechanics or plumbers or engineers. Though most people wouldn’t think of calling their cousin the auto mechanic several times a week to do pro bono work on their car, it doesn’t seem to be a problem when their cousin is a programmer or a network administrator. People tend to assume that we love computers so much that the challenge of fixing their problem will in itself be our reward. But it just ain’t so.

So remember: treat your computer guru with the respect he deserves and the seriousness that he’s earned through his education and experience. Let him know that his help is appreciated and that the privilege of having it will not be abused. If you keep this in mind, you and your computer guru can have a long and healthy relationship.

How To Inject Text-Mode Drivers into a Lite-Touch Windows XP Installation

I’m sure someone else has run into this problem: while using Microsoft Deployment Toolkit (formerly known as Business Deployment Desktop) to deploy Windows XP, everything seems to be working just fine until Windows PE finishes it’s portion of the setup wherein it copies the Windows XP setup files to your hard drive; then when the XP text-mode setup begins, it fails to recognize the drive. This most commonly occurs on systems with SATA drives or a RAID configuration. The solution is to load the text-mode drivers for the device as you would during an individual install of the operating system. You might be thrown off by the fact that the text-mode setup started by the Deployment Toolkit never prompts for additional drivers. How do you get around this? Integrate the drivers directly into your operating system source using a tool called nLite.

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