Run both Nox AND WSL2/Ubuntu on Windows 11 at the same time (almost)

I’ve been trying to run both Nox and Ubuntu via WSL2 (Windows Subsystem for Linux) for some time with no success. There are posts all over the Internet telling to you install Hyper-V, remove Hyper-V, install Windows Hypervisor Platform, remove Windows Hypervisor Platform, etc., etc. and none of them have provided me with a good solution.

So I played around on my own and have come to the conclusion/method below to be able to do this (I like Nox better than BlueStacks for reasons like speed, size, and some other reasons). First of all, WSL2 running Ubuntu, from all of my testing on Windows 11, does NOT require Hyper-V nor any part of it, does NOT require Windows Hypervisor Platform, and does NOT require Windows Sandbox. What it does require is the Windows Subsystem for Linux and the Virtual Machine Platform (which can be seen in the image below). What Nox doesn’t like is the latter.

Windows Features

So what I do is turn that feature on when I want to run Ubuntu via WSL2, and I turn it off when I want to run Nox. Yes, unfortunately it does require a reboot to turn it off or on and have WSL2 or Nox run, but it’s a small price to pay IMO to have them both (pretty much 😉 ) available when I need them. The commands below are what I use to turn the Virtual Machine Platform on and off in Windows 11. You could just check and uncheck the feature in the Windows Features list above if you like, but the commands below work from either a (I use an elevated) command prompt or from PowerShell (I run it as administrator). You’ll have to accept the reboot request as I mentioned above.

  • dism.exe /online /enable-feature /featurename:VirtualMachinePlatform
  • dism.exe /online /disable-feature /featurename:VirtualMachinePlatform

You can add the /norestart parameter to either/both of those commands, but the change won’t take full effect until you’ve rebooted your computer. So I just leave the option I use the most often in effect until I need to use the other. It’s not “pretty,” but it gets the job done! Of course, you can also put each those commands into separate batch files and create shortcuts for them and then just double-click the shortcut icon when you need to switch. My two cents on all of this … hopefully it’s helpful to someone else!

– Mark

P.S. If you ever mess up and fire up the wrong app, no worries. Nox will eventually pop-up a prompt to “Disable Hyper-V,” just make sure you cancel it, which will quit Nox. Then switch the feature to disabled and reboot. WSL2 will spit out some nasty lines in a Window, looking like it’s totally broke. However, once you switch the feature to enabled and reboot, voila, it’s working fine again. I have attached a text file which automatically switches the Virtual Machine Platform back and forth. Just download it, save it, and rename it to a .cmd file instead of .txt and then you can create a shortcut to it on your desktop. If you do, be sure to have the shortcut’s properties set to “Run as administrator.” You may also want to take the “REM ” off the first line in the file (WP barked if I took it out and tried to upload it).

Synaptics WBDI – SGX (Fingerprint Reader)

Well, I’ve got a Lenovo Yoga 730-15IKB Laptop (ideapad) – Type 81CU on Windows 10 Version 2004 (OS Build 19041.530). The issue is, almost every time I install an update either for Windows 10, or sometimes even something from Lenovo, it breaks my fingerprint reader driver (the title of this post). I spent a little bit of time looking for fixes when it first broke, to no avail, and I’d read enough articles online to realize there was not an easy fix. So I resolved myself to a useless fingerprint reader … for a while.

Then one day, I had some extra time on my hands and was fed up with having paid for a fingerprint reader and not being able to use it. After some in-depth research and not believing that a cable inside my laptop needed to be re-seated (some articles specify that this is the problem), I ran across an article that told me to go to here and search for “USB\VID_06CB&PID_0081” and grab the latest driver from that Microsoft site and install it. Well, voila! It worked … for a while, until the next Windows update came along. Then I was back to square one, where nothing worked. Then, I got an idea.

I downloaded the latest/last 3 driver sets from that Microsoft catalog site and systematically installed each of them one at a time following the steps described below. Nothing worked right away, but then I discovered that those drivers are directly related to Intel’s “Intel® SGX AESM” service (aesm_service.exe in Task Manager, Details view). Knowing that, these are the steps I take each time something breaks the driver:

  • Download the latest 3 drivers from the Microsoft catalog site linked above that are FOR YOUR SPECIFIC VERSION of Windows 10 if possible, or the closest match (e.g. if the most recent driver is for Windows 10 1809 and above, but the next most recent one is for Windows 10 1903 and above, and you are on Windows 2004 like me, you start with the latest 1903 and above version and find the next most recent one the same way)
  • Uncompress the .cab files for each of the three into their own separate folders
  • Fire up Device Manager (Windows key, then type “Device Manager”).
  • Locate “Biometric Devices” and click the arrow to the left of it to expand it
  • Alternate click (right-click for me) on “Synaptics WBDI – SGX” and click on “Update Driver”, then “Browse my computer for drivers”, then “Let me pick from a list…”, then the “Have Disk…” button, then the “Browse…” button and navigate to one of the folders (I always start with the most recent driver) where you uncompressed the .cab files and select the .inf file that is shown, and click the “Open” button and install it. Don’t reboot yet if it asks you to at any point.
  • Now, in Task Manager, Details view, find aesm_service.exe and alternate click on it and select “End task”
  • Wait for “aesm_service.exe” to reappear in Task Manager, it should. If it doesn’t after a minute to two, fire it up manually by hitting your Windows key and typing in “Services” and scrolling down to “Intel® SGX AESM”, clicking on it and then press the Play button on it (or alternate click on it and select “Start”.
  • Now go back to Device Manager and alternate click on “Synaptics WBDI – SGX” and select “Disable device” and wait a few seconds until it refreshes and shows the little down-pointing arrow indicating it is disabled.
  • Now repeat the previous step, this time selecting “Enable device”
  • After waiting a few seconds for the refresh again, the driver should either reappear as normal/working, or it will reappear with the Yellow triangle-enclosed exclamation mark, indicating it is still not working.
  • If this is the case, repeat this process with the next driver that you downloaded.

At this point, usually on the second or third driver/attempt, I have found one that works! You can reboot your computer now if you so desire, it should keep working. Sometimes I have found that it is not working after a reboot, but if I disable the “Synaptics WBDI – SGX” in device manager and enable it, it then starts working again, or sometimes I have to disable it, kill the “aesm_service.exe” process in task manager and wait for it to restart itself again and then enable”Synaptics WBDI – SGX” again.

Just as an FYI, what is currently working for me is the “5.5.2735.1050” version of the driver (which is the second most recent version when sorting by “Last Updated” on the Microsoft catalog site). I know it’s a bit of a chore, but at least I’ve got my fingerprint reader back again and it seems to keep working until the next major update! Hope this is helpful to someone else.

Convert Outlook PST files/messages to EML files/messages and import into Thunderbird … free and quickly!

OK, so I’ve been using Outlook for YEARS (many) and I have two HUGE PST archive files (I’m an email hoarder and I admit it).  One is 1GB and the other is 4GB.  They work fine in Outlook (2010) of course and I can peruse them at will.  I recently decided to ditch Outlook because our corp. switched to Google and as good of an idea as Google App Sync is, it stinks in keeping my Outlook email properly synced with my GMail (no matter what I try).  I hate Google’s web mail interface with a passion, so I wanted to look for an alternative email client.  Yes, I know that Outlook can do IMAP and that this would probably get rid of my syncing problem, but in this process I discovered just how proprietary Microsoft’s PST format is – and of course that set me off.

Enter Thunderbird … the awesome, open source email client with features and add-ons galore!  It works great for everything I needed except one thing … it can’t import an Outlook PST file.  After quite a bit of searching the Internet, and a lot of trial and error, I found that there are extremely few free and fast ways to convert an Outlook PST file into something “normal”.  Since I have over 100,000 emails (yes, you read that number correctly) in my PST archive files, it is no easy (or quick) task to convert them.  Everything I tried was either going to take literally hours to days or just plain was not going to be free.  Well, being the type of person that I am, I had to find a fast, free way to do this.  Here is the solution that is working (even as I type this) for me (it has already converted over 10,000 of my emails in a relatively short amount of time):

  • You (of course) have to have Outlook and Thunderbird installed
  • You need to download and install Outlook Freeware’s Export Messages to EML Format which also requires their runtime environment (Yes you have to register and no, it’s not a scam/adware/spyware or anything as far as I can tell)
  • Download and install the ImportExportTools add-on for Thunderbird
  • Fire up Outlook and Thunderbird
  • In Outlook, right-click on the folder where the messages are that you want to export and choose the “Outlook Freeware” menu and then “Run”
  • Click on the Outlook Freeware Export Messages to EML Format and work your way through the subsequent menus eventually selecting the Windows directory where you want it to put the EML files it will create.
  • Now in Thunderbird, create a new folder (a local folder if you want this to be fast, not an IMAPed folder) where you want these messages to reside.
  • Right click on the local folder you created in Thunderbird and select the ImportExportTools menu option and select “Import all messages from a directory” and navigate to the Windows directory where you placed all of the EML files that you exported above.
  • Voila!  You now have your PST file messages in Thunderbird!

This was the fastest method I could find to do this.  It exported and imported thousands of messages in minutes.  I’m not going to go into all of the other methods that I tried, but suffice it to say that literally hours into one method with only about 5000 messages imported, I hit Google’s relatively undocumented IMAP throughput wall, which intentionally killed my IMAP connection and thus the entire process (what a grand waste of my time)!  If you have thousands upon thousands of email messages in a PST that you want imported into a more “normal” email program like Thunderbird, this is the fastest, free way to do it in my humble opinion.

Still Waiting For Root Device (Virtualbox RAW drive) – Boot Camped Mac work-around

Well, I’ve searched high and low, on many different occasions, and over a long period of time with no good/working answer to this one.  I have a MacBook Pro (so real Apple hardware) with Boot Camp (Windows 7) installed on it, and I have been trying to basically do what VMWare Fusion does in reverse, but with VirtualBox (i.e. run my Mac in a VM from Windows 7).  It used to work just fine with Snow Leopard, but then Apple “updated” to Lion, and no more.  I have read so many people suggesting KEXT fixes, SATA fixes, USB fixes, etc., etc. and NONE of them have worked for me.  My understanding is that apparently the new OS X flavors now detect that the HD is “locked” somehow (by Windows I assume), and will not allow access to it, even though OS X is on a different partition.  So no matter what I try, I cannot access my RAW Mac disk partition with Virtualbox and OS X at the moment.

Out of sheer frustration with not being able to run my native Mac in a Windows window the way I used to, I finally decided to install Mountain Lion (no, I have not “upgraded” to Mavericks yet) to a USB drive and run that in a Windows window via Virtualbox (and if you have to ask why on Earth I would want to run my Mac in a Windows window in a VM, you either should not be reading this or should go and reboot your Mac 100 times in succession and report back as to how fun that was).  It installed and ran without a hitch … until today, when, for the first time, I re-fired up the Mac Virtual machine.  Guess what I was so privileged to see?  Yep!  That good ol’ “still waiting for root device” message again.  I just about burst a blood vessel!

Knowing what I had learned thus far, I thought, “hey, maybe because Windows had grabbed that drive (it had a drive letter), OS X can’t get at it, just like my internal HD”.  So I first ejected it from Windows, which was pretty stupid, because then Virtualbox could not see the drive either.  So I plugged it back in, and then simply told Virtualbox that it could have it exclusively via right-clicking on the USB devices icon and then clicking the checked line shown below in the photo (accessed via a right-click of the mouse on the icon, and then a left-click on the checked line (which will currently be unchecked)).  Voila!  My Mac VM booted!  I have not read of this being the solution anywhere online, so I thought I’d post about it.

Unfortunately I don’t believe there is a similar way in Virtualbox to tell it that the RAW device partition that I have assigned to my Mac Virtualbox VM, can be exclusively for Virtualbox, as I believe that would also solve my internal HD Mac booting woes.  So why/how did this work in Snow Leopard?  I have no idea.  Oh well, at least I have a work-around for the interim…

P.S.  In order to make my mouse work, since “VirtualBox does not provide Guest Additions for Mac OS X at this time“, I had to do the same thing with the mouse and allow VB to have it exclusively (which made it really fun trying to get the mouse back into Windows – host key + “home” key, and then use the keyboard and select it again from the menu).  Something else that was handy was increasing the Mac screen size in VB.

Update your WordPress blog from Microsoft Word

For those “not in the know” 😉

Did you know that you can easily create a blog post in Word 2010 and simply publish it to WordPress?  Read on if you’re interested.

We use a Word template to create our newsletters.  Once we have finished our “normal” newsletter in Word, I create a new “Blog Post” in Word 2010.  Then I simply highlight our entire “normal” newsletter and copy and paste it into the new, blank blog post in Word.  I can then simply hit the “Publish” button in Word (you’ll have to provide proper login credentials to your blog site the first time) and publish our latest newsletter to our WordPress blog!  It doesn’t get much easier than that.  Check out the screen shots below if you’re curious…

BootCamp Mac Disk Clone to a Larger HD

Below is my multi-day adventure into cloning my (BootCamped) Mac’s HD onto a larger HD.  I hope this is helpful to someone other than me, as nothing I tried that I found via online searching worked.  This apparently is not nearly as straight-forward as it probably should be, unfortunately.  Not TrueImage, DiskDirector, CopyCatX, VolumeWorks, CampTune, or GParted (or any combination of those that I tried) worked for this.  I’m going to outline the process that I did to get this to work (you’ll need both the Windows 7 and Mac OS X install DVDs, not to mention a couple of blank CDs to burn):

  • First of all, make sure to run a “chkdsk /f” from the command line in your (BootCamp) Windows partition.  It will have to reboot as it won’t be able to lock the drive while it’s in use.
  • Second, you’ll want to boot from the OS X install DVD and run DiskUtil and do a “Repair” (hold down the Option key, it changes the buttons at the top and “Repair” becomes available) on your OS X partition.  This is similar to a chkdsk /f on Windows.
  • Next, I download Clonezilla’s bootable ISO and burned it to a CD and booted it.  Clonezilla is the ONLY solution (and believe me, I tried many, including Paragon’s pay-for solution, CampTune, that proved useless) I have found that will accurately copy/clone and/or resize both the BootCamp/Windows AND the OS X partitions accurately (I know it runs partclone and some other stuff, but it’s got a “wizard” ;).
    • After you have burned Clonezilla, attach your new HD to your computer somehow (I used USB) and then fire up Clonezilla and run it taking all the default options until you get to the “Start_Clonezilla Start Clonezilla” menu option.  Go ahead and start Clonezilla and be sure to choose the source and target HDs properly and choose device-to-device and HD-to-HD for copying.  This will take a few hours to run depending on your HD size.
    • This creates an EXACT duplicate of your ENTIRE HD, the boot, OS X, and BootCamp/Windows partitions, and it worked flawlessly for me.  The issue is that it is indeed exact, my old HD was 500GB and my new 750GB HD was using only 500GB, but both Windows and BootCamp were bootable/working (a major feat in my book).
  • At this point, switch out your old and new HDs so that the new HD is inside the Mac (if you’re just cloning your Boot Camped HD to a new, same sized HD, apparently this should do ya and you’re done.  Read on if cloning to a bigger HD).
  • Now fire up OS X and download and install GPT Fdisk on the Mac side.  Fire up Terminal on your Mac and execute “sudo gdisk”.  Inside of gdisk, type “x” (for expert mode) and hit “Enter”.  Now type “e” (move backup GPT data structures to the end of the disk) and hit “Enter”.   Finally type “w” (Write table to disk and exit) and hit “Enter”.  Those commands just made your Mac’s GPT recognize the full size of your new HD instead of the 500GB (or whatever size your source disk was) size.  I would reboot Mac OS X at this point.
  • Now, inside OS X, fire up DiskUtil and delete your BootCamp partition (yes, it needs to be deleted as far as I can tell, and again, I tried a ton of other stuff).
  • Next, inside of DiskUtil, drag/resize your Mac partition to the full size of your new HD and apply it.
  • Now exit DiskUtil and fire up the BootCamp Assistant and create your BootCamp partition to whatever size you want.  Follow all of the instructions including inserting your Windows 7 installation disk and the click the “Install” button.
  • Follow all of the Windows prompts and do a full install of Windows 7.  Once this is finished, I verified that I could boot my Mac into either OS X or Windows 7 using the Option key at boot time.
  • Now restart the Mac from the Clonezilla CD, but this time take the defaults up through device-to-device and then choose partition-to-partition copy instead of HD-to-HD.  Again be sure to choose the correct source and target partitions.  You will be copying your source BootCamp partition to your new, target BootCamp partition.  The only way to identify which of these partitions is which, will be by the disk they are on, their size and their file system type. When copying your source to target partition, be SURE to select the “–m” (Do not clone the bootloader) option and the –r (Resize the filesystem of the target to fit the partition size) and deselect the “–j2” (Clone the hidden data between MBR and 1st partition) option.  This leaves (most of) the Windows/Mac boot stuff alone and only copies the data in the partition.  This will take a while again (hours for me).
  • At this point, you will still have the ability to boot either Mac OS X or Windows 7 by holding down the Option (Alt) key at boot time on the Mac, but the Windows partition will not boot (it gives a disk read error), which is OK.
  • Now boot from Windows 7 Install DVD and select “Repair” (on the second screen).  It will tell you right away that there is a startup issue that needs to be fixed.  DON’T let if fix it automatically! Just cancel or close this window.  Now from the repair choices, fire up a command prompt and execute each of these commands in order:
    • “Bootrec /fixmbr”
    • “Bootrec /fixboot”
    • “Bootrec /rebuildbcd”
    • “exit”
  • Now cancel out/exit without doing/installing anything else (red X) and do the same for the windows install screen.  This will reboot your computer at which point you can hold down the option key to select to boot into Windows.  Do this and allow Windows to run its chkdsk.
  • At this point you should have working Windows and OS X partitions at their new sizes!  On you Mac, if you don’t see the option in Startup Disk for BootCamp any longer, from what I’ve read online it is usually because you have either Paragon NTFS or NTFS3G installed.  Apparently they need to be removed for the BootCamp disk to reappear.  I have not found/read if you can then reinstall them and the disk stays, but either way, you can always switch OSes using the Option key at boot time method.