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Q&A: Why does AlwaysUp run the 32-bit Version of PowerShell?

Why does AlwaysUp run the 32-bit Version of PowerShell?
  We have been trying to get a particular PowerShell script running as a service for some time now. I have been pulling my hair out but I think I finally found the issue and I don’t understand why it’s happening.

I am using a 64-bit PowerShell module (SqlServer). My script runs fine in the ISE, no issues. But, every time I run it from AlwaysUp it gets an error that it cannot find the module. What I finally found out is AlwaysUp is launching the 32-bit version of PowerShell and not the 64-bit version that I’m calling out. So, even though my script calls the 64-bit version of PowerShell, it’s launching the 32-bit version, which is not compatible with what I’m doing.

Here is what I have specified in AlwaysUp:

Application: C:\Windows\System32\WindowsPowerShell\v1.0\powershell.exe
Arguments: <The full path to my PowerShell script>
Start in: <The folder containing my PowerShell script>

How I’m confirming my suspicions:

I’m running the PS command [Environment]::Is64BitProcess and dumping the display to a text file. When running this command, it returns true if the instance is 64-bit, otherwise false. I confirmed this works as expected by opening both PowerShell ISEs (32/64) and the correct response was given. However, the command always returns false when running through AlwaysUp.

Any help would be greatly appreciated.

— Dustin

Hi Dustin, sorry to hear of the trouble! Thanks for doing the detective work to clearly illustrate the problem for our support team.

The issue is caused by a bit of magic that Windows performs to maintain compatibility between 32-bit and 64-bit applications. Let’s explore some special folders.

The System32, SysWOW64 and Sysnative folders

On your 64-bit system, 64-bit applications distributed with the operating system live in this folder:

C:\Windows\System32

Similarly, this folder holds the equivalent 32-bit versions of those Windows applications:

C:\Windows\SysWOW64

For example, we have the 64-bit version of powershell.exe in the System32 directory:

powershell.exe in the System32 directory

While the 32-bit version resides in exactly the same place under the SysWOW64 folder:

powershell.exe in the SysWOW64 folder

If you switch to the “Details” tab, you will see that both executables have exactly the same version number. In fact, they perform identically when run.

Now here is where the magic comes in…

When a 64-bit program launches an application under the System32 folder, Windows simply starts the application, as expected.

However, when a 32-bit program tries to run an application that lives under the System32 folder, Windows:

  1. Replaces C:\Windows\System32 with C:\Windows\SysWOW64 in the application’s path, and

  2. Runs the application from that SysWOW64 location.

For example, if a 32-bit program tries to start C:\Windows\System32\notepad.exe, Windows will run C:\Windows\SysWOW64\notepad.exe instead!

Windows performs this “remapping” to provide stability for 32-bit applications, which often have trouble working with 64-bit applications. Microsoft thinks it is best to ensure that legacy 32-bit programs work with a legacy “32-bit view” of the operating system. Indeed, that makes sense when maintaining backward compatibility is top-of-mind.

However, the price of that safety is that a 32-bit application can never directly invoke a 64-bit executable sitting in the System32 folder. If it tries, Windows simply rewrites the path to target the 32-bit executable instead (as mentioned in the example above).

But then how does a 32-bit program start a 64-bit system utility?

If a 32-bit program really needs to invoke a 64-bit system executable, it can do so by citing the Sysnative virtual folder.

For instance, if a 32-bit application wants to run the 64-bit version of notepad, it should invoke:

C:\Windows\Sysnative\notepad.exe

In that way, the Sysnative folder makes it possible for 32-bit programs to call 64-bit operating system utilities.

Why AlwaysUp launches the wrong version of PowerShell

AlwaysUp is a 32-bit application. As such, it is bound by the rules above.

So when AlwaysUp launches the application you provided:

C:\Windows\System32\WindowsPowerShell\v1.0\powershell.exe

Windows actually starts:

C:\Windows\SysWOW64\WindowsPowerShell\v1.0\powershell.exe

which is the 32-bit version of PowerShell.

How to make AlwaysUp launch the 64-bit PowerShell executable

To make AlwaysUp run the 64-bit version of PowerShell, specify this value in the “Application” field:

C:\Windows\Sysnative\WindowsPowerShell\v1.0\powershell.exe

Doing so will force Windows to invoke the version you want.

Fortunately AlwaysUp is perfectly fine working with 64-bit applications, so you won’t run into any compatibility issues there. Please make the change and let us know if you don’t get the desired result!

Even though we have a solution, there is one corollary we should mention…

Why can’t I see the Sysnative folder?

Curiously, if you open the File Explorer and navigate to C:\Windows\Sysnative, the operation will fail. That’s because the Sysnative folder is only accessible by 32-bit applications. 64-bit programs (like the File Explorer you started) simply cannot see that directory.

However, to prove for yourself that the folder exists for 32-bit applications, start a 32-bit command prompt by running this command:

C:\Windows\SysWoW64\cmd.exe

Magically, the Sysnative folder will be visible from there:

32-bit CMD accessing the Sysnative folder
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Service Protector 8 Maximizes Service Uptime with Advanced Sanity Checks

Service Protector 8: Maximize Uptime with Advanced Sanity Checks

Service Protector 8.0 was released on November 9 2021. Here are the most significant changes in this new version:

Easy to use Sanity Checks will help you keep your service running 24/7

Are you struggling with a Windows Service that says it’s running but is actually dead on its feet?

How about a network server that is supposed to accept incoming TCP/IP requests but is suddenly refusing all network connections?

Or a service that is hung and has stopped updating a log file?

Those nuanced situations — where the service is running but not actually working — can torment you and your customers who rely on the service!

Fortunately, Service Protector’s new sanity check feature is here to help.

What is a sanity check?

A sanity check is a “helper” utility that Service Protector runs to detect if a service is not functioning as expected. And whenever a sanity check detects a problem, Service Protector knows that it’s time to restart the service.

Service Protector version 8.0 supports four powerful sanity checks. They can:

  1. Test basic TCP/IP network connectivity;

  2. Check that a log file was recently updated;

  3. Confirm that a web server is responding properly;

  4. Run your own custom program to detect any kind of problem you like.

The user manual describes how to configure a sanity check. For now, let’s review a real-world scenario where a sanity check can improve reliability and uptime.

Protecting the Apache Windows Service with a sanity check

Apache is the world’s premier web server. It installs as a Windows Service, to start at boot and remain running all the time:

Apache Windows Service

This step-by-step guide show how to bulletproof the Apache Windows Service with Service Protector.

Even though Apache is very reliable, customers have reported situations where the service is running but the web server refuses to serve pages. In those cases, attempting to visit a URL fails with a timeout or protocol error.

With Service Protector 8, we can deploy a sanity check to watch out for that. Here’s how:

  1. Start by editing the Apache entry in Service Protector.

  2. Switch to the Monitor tab. Check the Whenever it fails a periodic sanity check box and click the Set button:

    Set the Sanity Check
  3. In the Add Sanity Check window, choose the Check that a web server is responding properly entry and click Next:

    Check web server sanity check
  4. Enter the web address you would like to monitor. If this URL is inaccessible, Service Protector will recycle Apache.

    Since Apache is running on your machine, the default localhost URL will likely work:

    Configure the web server sanity check: URL

    Note that you can click Check now to run an interactive test and ensure that you have entered the correct URL.

  5. At this point, specify how often Service Protector should fetch the URL. Every 5 minutes is enough for us:

    Configure the web server sanity check: Frequency

    Click Next to move on.

  6. Finally, review the summary and click Add to record your new sanity check:

    Add web server sanity check

And with that sanity check in place, Service Protector will attempt to fetch the URL every 5 minutes.

If the page comes back normally, nothing will happen.

But if there is a problem fetching the page, Service Protector will quickly stop and restart the Apache Windows Service to resume normal web services.

In effect, we’ve capped Apache’s downtime at five minutes!

Service Protector is fully compatible with Windows 11

Windows 11 Ready

Here at Core Technologies, we’ve been interrogating Windows 11 for the past few months — ever since preview builds became available via the Windows Insider program.

To date, Service Protector 8 has performed very well. We have detected zero incompatibilities. In fact, our testing services (including MySQL, Print Spooler and our home-grown simulators) have performed as well as they did under Windows 10.

Other fixes & improvements

  • We’ve improved internal logging. As a result, we’ll be able to diagnose problems and resolve thorny issues quicker.

  • “splwow64.exe” processes, which are spawned to aid in printing, are terminated when launched from a Windows Service.

As usual, please review the release notes for the full list of features, fixes and improvements included in Service Protector version 8.

Upgrading to Service Protector 8

If you purchased Service Protector version 7 (after January 2021), you can upgrade to version 8 for free. Simply download and install over your existing installation to preserve your existing services and all settings. For instance, your registration code will continue to work.

If you bought Service Protector version 6 or earlier (before January 2021), you will need to upgrade to use version 8. Please buy upgrades here — at a 50% discount.

See the complete upgrade policy for more details.

Enjoy!

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OneDrive Will Soon Stop Working on Windows 7, 8 and 8.1

OneDrive Will Soon Stop Working on Windows 7, 8 and 8.1

As announced in a succinct Tech Community blog article, Microsoft is ending support for the OneDrive desktop application on personal Windows 7, 8 and 8.1 devices in 2022. The move is all about focusing the company’s technical resources on new versions of Windows, which is an understandable goal.

However, Microsoft seems to be partially jumping the gun here. Windows 8.1 is still under extended support, until January 2023!

In any case, if you are managing an older version of Windows and rely on OneDrive to synchronize your important files, the end is nigh. You should develop an exit strategy, pronto.

When will OneDrive stop functioning?

Here are the key dates for computers running personal editions of Windows 7, 8, and 8.1:

  • January 1, 2022: Non-business OnDrive installations will stop receiving updates.

  • March 1, 2022: OneDrive will stop syncing with the cloud.

Running OneDrive as a Service will not help

Customers running OneDrive as a Windows Service, will not be shielded from those events. While AlwaysUp will continue to ensure that your OneDrive executable starts at boot and operates 24/7, that will do you no good after March 1 2022 because OneDrive will stop copying your files to and from the cloud. In essence, your OneDrive service will become a lifeless zombie. 😮

OneDrive for Business will remain viable through 2022

Have you installed OneDrive for Business (also known as OneDrive for work or school)? If so, then the deadlines above do not apply.

But the clock is still ticking.

Support for OneDrive for Business is now aligned with the Windows lifecycle, which means that OneDrive for Business may stop functioning as early as January 2023.

Upgrade to Windows 10 or 11 to continue using OneDrive

All editions of OneDrive will remain fully supported on Windows 10 and Windows 11 — at least through 2025. Upgrading is probably the easiest way out of this predicament.

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Q&A: How do I (Easily) Access MyFolders in Windows 11?

Q&A: How do I Easily Access MyFolders in Windows 11?
  Thank you for providing MyFolders for free. It’s made everything much faster.

I recently upgraded to Windows 11 and it took me a while to find MyFolders. It doesn’t show up in the right-click menu and I had to click “Show more options”. Is there a fix for this?

— Spiro A.

Hi Spiro.

Microsoft released Windows 11 in October 2021. The shiny new operating system introduced a basket of exciting goodies, including virtual desktops, improved integration with Microsoft teams, and more.

However, there is one well meaning “improvement” that we didn’t appreciate — the hasty reconstitution of the File Explorer’s useful right-click context menu.

Dude, where did my Context Menu go?

The new, abbreviated context menu — which comes up when you right-click on your desktop or in a File Explorer window — shows only a handful of entries:

Windows 11 Right-click Context Menu

To perform an operation that is available but not listed there, you must select the Show all options entry. Doing so reveals the “full” context menu — as shown on earlier versions of Windows:

Windows 11 Right-click Context Menu - Show all options

The argument Microsoft makes for changing the context menu is fairly compelling. Basically, they are concerned that the right-click menu has grown unwieldy and confusing. And as a result, Microsoft’s product designers have intervened — to protect overwhelmed users from poor organization. Commendable thinking indeed.

However, experienced users like you (us!) who are quite happy wielding the power available in the “traditional” context menu may be peeved to find out that there isn’t an obvious way to always see the full menu and avoid unnecessary clicks. That is, there is no Windows setting to say “restore the old context menu”.

But why is that a problem? Well, what you accomplished with two clicks in Windows 10 now requires three in Windows 11. And that small but annoying “tax” adds up if you use applications like MyFolders extensively.

How to re-enable the full/classic Context Menu in Windows 11 from MyFolders

MyFolders version 7.1 provides the missing setting and makes it easy for you to re-enable the “classic” context menu.

Simply:

  1. Summon MyFolders (by right-clicking on the desktop or in a File Explorer window)

  2. Select Show all options to show the full menu

  3. Click the MyFolders entry and choose Re-enable the full Explorer context menu:

    MyFolders: Re-enable the full Explorer context menu
  4. Click OK to complete the process. As noted, you may need to restart your machine for the change to take effect:

    MyFolders: Full Explorer context menu re-enabled

After you reboot, a right-click will bring up the full context menu.

Easily restore the default context menu

If you tire of the full context menu and want to return to the streamlined default, MyFolders will help there as well. Repeat the steps above, but in step 3 choose Restore the default Explorer context menu instead:

Restore the default Explorer context menu

Happy foldering!

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Q&A: How do I get AlwaysUp to Run the Latest Google Drive for desktop?

Q&A: How do I get AlwaysUp to Run the Latest Google Drive?
  We’re using your AlwaysUp to run Google Drive for desktop even when no one is logged on. But the install folder keeps changing on update (folder name is the current Google Drive version). After an automatic update, AlwaysUp (obviously) still starts the old version of Google Drive. Is there a solution or workaround for this problem?

— Panzo

Hi Panzo. This is an interesting problem!

Let’s start by outlining the issue.

Why Google Drive Auto-Updates cause trouble for AlwaysUp

Curiously, Google Drive for desktop installs itself to a path that includes the version number of the software.

For example, when we installed Drive for desktop version 51.0.9.0, the executable files were placed in:

C:\Program Files\Google\Drive File Stream\51.0.9.0

You can see the arrangement here:

Google Drive for desktop installation folder

While this is fine for Google Drive, it can lead to problems for AlwaysUp. Let’s explain with a real-life scenario:

  1. You install Google Drive for desktop version 51.0.9.0, as pictured above.

  2. Following our tutorial, you configure Google Drive File Stream to run as a service with AlwaysUp. In doing so, you provide the full path to the Google Drive executable to AlwaysUp:

    C:\Program Files\Google\Drive File Stream\51.0.9.0\GoogleDriveFS.exe

    You can see the path here in the “Application” field:

    Google Drive application path in AlwaysUp
  3. AlwaysUp starts Google Drive at boot and everything runs as expected. You celebrate with some chocolate and move on to one of life’s more pressing problems.

  4. A few weeks later, the Google Drive team issues an update. A new version 51.0.14.0 is available. Eventually, your Google Drive installation “phones home” and automatically updates itself.

    As part of that update process, Google Drive:

    1. Creates a folder to house the new version:

      C:\Program Files\Google\Drive File Stream\51.0.14.0

    2. Deposits the version 51.0.14.0 files into the new folder.

      You will now have two folders containing Google Drive executables:

      Google Drive folder after auto-update
  5. This is completely fine as far as Google Drive is concerned. However, AlwaysUp still points to the executable in the folder containing the old version. Therefore, whenever your computer reboots, AlwaysUp will launch the outdated version of Google Drive (51.0.9.0). And therein lies the problem.

How to ensure that AlwaysUp launches the latest version of Google Drive for desktop

It turns out that Google has provided an elegant solution that AlwaysUp can leverage too.

The solution starts to take shape when you examine the details of the desktop shortcut that launches Google Drive. Instead of directly targeting the “GoogleDriveFS.exe” binary as we expected, the shortcut runs this batch file in the top-level folder:

C:\Program Files\Google\Drive File Stream\launch.bat

You can see this in the shortcut’s properties:

Google Drive desktop shortcut: Properties

When we opened the launch.bat file, the comments at the top made us smile:

Launch.bat file

Indeed, the code finds and starts the latest version of GoogleDriveFS.exe, interrogating the registry and enumerating sub-folders as necessary. It’s exactly what we were looking for.

So with this script in hand, the solution is simple:

Instead of having AlwaysUp run “GoogleDriveFS.exe”, configure AlwaysUp to start “launch.bat”.

You will make that change in the “Application” field:

Update AlwaysUp to run Launch.bat

And with that change in place, the next time your computer boots:

  1. AlwaysUp will run “launch.bat”

  2. The batch file will start the latest version of Google Drive and exit

  3. AlwaysUp will continue to watch Google Drive and restart it if it fails, etc.

In fact, the sequence played out exactly as expected on our test server:

AlwaysUp running Google Drive as a Windows Service

You will be good to go — no matter how many updates the folks at Google throw at you! 😎

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