Re-map the Calculator keyboard key to Play/Pause on Windows 10

Here’s how to re-map the default Calculator keyboard “shortcut key” to instead send the Play/Pause media command under Windows 10; alot more useful!

This guide is aimed at the Amazonbasics Wired Keyboard but applies to any keyboard making use of the standard Windows media/shortcut key codes. A requirement is that you are using a supported media player including iTunes, Spotify, Windows Media Player or VLC.

  1. Download Command Line Media Controller (it’s free) and copy it to the Program Files (x86) directory
  2. Open up the Registry Editor (regedit64.exe) by clicking the Start button and typing regedit into the search bar
  3. Expand Computer\HKEY_LOCAL_MACHINE\SOFTWARE\Microsoft\Windows\CurrentVersion\Explorer\AppKey\18
  4. Create a new String with the Value name: ShellExecute
  5. Set the String Value data to: “C:\Program Files (x86)\Command Line Media Controller\CLMControl.exe” Spotify -pp
  6. Click OK

That’s it! Hit the Calculator keyboard shortcut with Spotify open and it will toggle play/pause. Happy listening! 🙂

Recovering from a “dead” hard disk on the XPS 15 9550

I brought my XPS 15 9550’s hard disk back from the brink today. I hope this will help other affected XPS 15 9550 users or just Windows users in general.

The XPS 15 9550 was powered down as usual and on reboot would go directly from the Dell POST logo to the Dell diagnostic software (Enhanced Pre-Boot System Assessment). That’s not a good sign.

After running through common diagnostic steps with Dell Support a new hard drive was ordered and installation scheduled for the following day (unit was covered under a Next Business Day support contract). As Dell Support put it the hard disk was dead without any chance of recovery… or was there? 😉

Here’s how to recover your Windows instance in the case where the hard disk hardware is still being detected and simply has no UEFI boot entries:

  1. Open BIOS Setup by powering up the XPS 15 and tapping F12
  2. Open the Settings > General > Boot Sequence screen
  3. Ensure that UEFI is selected under Boot List Option
  4. Click Add Boot Option
  5. Provide a Boot Order Name (it can be anything, I used Bootx64)
  6. Select the available File System List
  7. Set the File Name to: \EFI\Boot\bootx64.efi or click the ‘…’ button and expand the EFI > Boot directory and select bootx64.efi before pressing OK
  8. Click OK to create the new EFI boot entry
  9. Select the new EFI boot entry
  10. Click Apply
  11. Click Exit

Fingers crossed! That’s it, I hope you’re back up and running again. 🙂

Fixing the loud CPU fan on the Dell XPS 15 9550 (2016)

I’ve had my XPS 15 9550 almost 18 months now, here’s my replacement history so far… all covered under Dell’s Premium Support NBD contract:

  • 5 motherboards
  • 1 battery
  • 2 CPU fan
  • 2 graphics card fan
  • 1 heatsink
  • 1 keyboard

I can put at least 3 of the above motherboard replacements down to me telling them “the CPU fan is too loud” which was blamed by Dell Support and on-site technicians on issues with the motherboard and promptly replaced.

The fix for the loud CPU fan – especially when a Thunderbolt device is connected – is to turn on passive cooling within Power Options and using Intel XTU undervolt the CPU 0.100 V dramatically lowering the thermal profile of the XPS 15 9550 followed by setting Dell Command Power Manager to Quiet.

Showing the thermal profile of the Dell XPS 15 9550 24 hours after applying the Core Voltage Offset change and enabling Passive system cooling.

Today I have a silent machine with no noticeable effect on daily usage or CS:GO gaming performance, that’s with 2 Dell U2414H monitors occupying the HDMI and Thunderbolt connectors. I have multiple Chrome tabs open (10+), Slack and other typical CPU hogs running without the CPU fan attempting to rise off the desk.


Here’s how to fix the loud CPU fan on the Dell XPS 15 9550:

Part 1: Turn on passive CPU cooling

  1. Right click the battery icon in the start taskbar
  2. Select Power Options
  3. Click Change plan settings beside the Balanced power plan
  4. Click Change advanced power settings
  5. Expand the Processor power management list
  6. Expand the System cooling policy list
  7. Set the On battery and Plugged in options to Passive
  8. Click OK to save changes
  9. Click Save Changes on the Edit Plan Settings window to save changes

Part 2: Undervolt the CPU 0.100V

Dropping the Core Voltage Offset -0.100 V significantly lowers the thermal profile of the Dell XPS 15 9550.
  1. Download the Intel Extreme Tuning Utility from the Intel website
  2. Install and open Intel Extreme Tuning Utility (ala Intel XTU)
  3. Open the Advanced Tuning > Core section
  4. Find the Core Voltage Offset slider
  5. To the right of the Core Voltage Offset slider hover over the 0.000 V value to show the decrease/increase toggles
  6. Click the decrease toggle until the Core Voltage Offset indicator shows -0.100 V
  7. Click Apply
  8. Close Intel XTU and restart the computer

Part 3: Dell Command | Power Manager

Dell Command | Power Manager is the holy grail of thermal management tools for Dell units.
  1. Download and install Dell Command | Power Manager from Dell’s website
  2. Open Dell Command Power Manager from the Start menu
  3. Switch to the Thermal Management tab
  4. Set the Thermal Setting to Quiet

That’s it! 😀

Fix for firmware upgrade on Dell XPS 15

Firmware update from 01.00.07 to 1.2.0 is not permitted. The system is configured to block firmware updates to previous revisions

Sound familiar? I couldn’t install any Dell firmware updates for my XPS 15 due to a rogue prefix ‘0’ in the default factory firmware version ‘01.00.07’ causing the Dell BIOS update tool to think it’s downgrading itself. 😐

Here’s how to fix it.

  1. Restart your computer
  2. From the DELL logo press the ESC key until the BIOS Settings prompt shows
  3. Open the Maintenance > Firmware Downgrade tab
  4. Remove the check on Do not allow firmware downgrade
  5. Click Apply and then exit BIOS
  6. Run the firmware upgrade

That’s it!

Resolve Bluetooth connection issues on Dell XPS 15

My Dell XPS 15 and Nexus 5 just don’t get along. Updating to the latest Bluetooth drivers for the Broadcom-enabled embedded chipset resolved this.

Here’s how to update your Broadcom-based Bluetooth drivers in Windows 10:

  1. Visit the Bluetooth section of the Broadcom website
  2. Expand the WIDCOMM® Bluetooth Windows® Software for Windows 10 & 8, 64-Bit section
  3. Click on the Download button to the left of the WIDCOMM® Bluetooth Windows® Software for Windows 10 & 8, 64-Bit header
  4. Open the downloaded ZIP archive (e.g. BTW_12.0.1.940_win8_10_x64.zip)
  5. Run Setup.exe within the Retail Package directory of the ZIP archive
  6. You may be prompted by Windows SmartScreen, click the More info link and the Run Anyway button within this dialog
  7. Click the Upgrade option within the WIDCOMM Bluetooth Software dialog
  8. Restart the computer when prompted

That’s it. 🙂

Hiding the Filezilla “Transfer Complete” notification in Windows 10

Here’s how to hide FileZilla’s pesky “Transfer complete” notification that appears after each file upload/download on Windows 10. I assumed you could toggle it off within FileZilla itself but it didn’t stick.

  1. Right click the Windows taskbar
  2. Select Properties to open the Taskbar and Start Menu Properties dialog 
  3. Beside Notification area click the Customise… button to open the Settings > System > Notifications  & actions panel
  4. Scroll down to application entries under the Show notifications from these apps
  5. Beside FileZilla hit the toggler

That’s it!

I put up with this way too long before I did anything about it!

Fix for stuttering, lag in Bluetooth mouse on Windows 10

Here’s how I fixed the stuttering and lag issue with my Logitech MX Master working with Windows 10 Home and Pro:

  1. Open up the System screen within the Control Panel (keyboard shortcut: Win+Pause/Break)
  2. Open Device Manager from the list of links on the left panel
  3. Expand the Network adapters section to list your network adapters (e.g. WiFi, Bluetooth, VPN, etc.)
  4. Double click your WiFi network adapter to open the Device Properties dialog (in my case this is a Dell Wireless 1830 802.11ac)
  5. Switch to the Advanced tab (if you cannot see an Advanced tab then close this dialog and double click the other Network Adapters until you find one that has it)
  6. Within the Property list select Bluetooth Collaboration
  7. Change the Value of the dropdown list from Auto to Disabled
  8. Click OK to save changes

That’s it!

The WiFi network adapter will restart the device so expect to lose network access for a moment before network access is restored. Happy days.

Update 1: Yeah the above helped but didn’t fix it entirely, somehow unticking the Enable pointer shadow option within the Mouse Properties dialog (open Start then type in Mouse) makes a big difference, I do still notice some stutter when copying files or using Google Photos.

Update 2: Uninstalling the Realtek AC’97 software from Add/Remove Software and restarting did wonders on-top of the above steps. No more stutter!

Pausing automatic Windows Updates in Windows

Today I noticed my internet speed running slower that usual when running an internet speed test over the wireless network, I isolated the network usage to automatic Windows Update downloads that were in progress yet frustratingly there was no way to stop the Windows Update session.

Here’s how to pause/suspend an in-progress Windows Update session in Windows 10 as a local Administrator (by default for personal computers):

  1. Click the Start menu
  2. Type cmd to open the Windows search dialog with Command Prompt appearing as the Best Match
  3. Right click Command Prompt and from the dropdown menu select Run as Administrator
  4. The Command Prompt window will appear
  5. Enter the following Windows command:

    net stop wuauserv

  6. If successful the following response will be given:

    The Windows Update service was stopped successfully.

  7. Close the Command Prompt window

That’s it! 🙂

To resume your Windows Update session either open Windows Update from Settings > Update & Security and click the Retry button, open another Command Prompt window using the above instructions and replace net stop wuauserv with net start wuauserv, or simply restart Windows from the Start > Power menu.