After about three years as a full time macOS user, and with ~ four years of full time Linux before that, today I start down the road back into using Windows as a full time operating system…
It all started with a desire of mine to start doing some more “outside of work” work in various cybersecurity. Experimenting with new tools and platforms, but also to enable me the opportunity to do a little outside consulting or part time work. I knew I would need to get a new system to dedicate to that purpose, and my work MacBook Pro wasn’t going to be an option.
After almost a year of looking at different system options, and going back and forth on whether to move in this direction as a whole, I finally pulled the trigger on Black Friday and ordered myself a Dell XPS 15. It narrowly beat out the XPS 13 as a contender, but I decided that given the costs were the same as configured for each due to the discounts, it made a little more sense to stick to the 15” screen size I have gotten used it with my MacBook. Specifically, the system I picked is configured as:
- CPU: Intel i7-8750H (up to 4.1 GHz, 6 Cores)
- Memory: 16GB (2x 8GB) DDR4 at 2666MHz
- HDD: M.2 512GB 2280 PCIe Solid State Drive
- GPU: NVIDIA GeForce GTX 1050Ti with 4GB GDDR5
Getting The System Ready
I didn’t have a ton of time on the first night to work on getting the system set up too much, but I did do some initial work. My plan is to try to document the various actions I take throughout the process of setting up the system. Some were pretty quick fixes:
Fix Default Username
When I initially set up the system, I chose to link it to my Microsoft account, however that ended up setting my username to
ianle rather than my preferred
ianlee1521. Working to the resolution of this actually took e a couple of tries, and included a Windows System Reset (a nice feature in Windows!).
- Enable built-in
Administratoraccount, and switch to it
- Open up Explorer to
C:\users\and rename the user directory to the correct name (
- Open up the Windows registry (
regedit), and browse to the
HKEY_LOCAL_MACHINE\SOFTWARE\Microsoft\Windows NT\CurrentVersion\ProfileList\<User SID>\key. Then modify the
ProfileImagePathsub-key value from
- Open the User Accounts tool (
netplwiz), select my username and click “Properties”. From there, change the username to
- Restart Windows to make the changes take effect.
- Re-disable the built-in
Install and Configure OneDrive
After having updated the username for the default user, I needed to update several of my OneDrive folders to fix the paths. This was done by going into the directory properties, selecting the “Location” tab, and changing the path to reflect the above username change. Specifically, the following were the directories I needed to update:
There might be some others I’ll come across later, but those were the ones that I hit from the main Explorer window (
WIN + E).
As I’ve been working on this post, I have encountered a big issue that I am going to need to dig in to sooner rather than later, namely that the keyboard seems to be dropping keys as I type them, particularly when I am typing quickly. I did some digging around and found:
Which seemed to indicate this as being a firmware issue. Doing a search on the Dell website for available drivers for my system, I found Dell Dell XPS15 9570, 1.5.0 System BIOS. Specifically, one of the listed fixes is:
- Fixed the issue with missing characters while typing when system is in idle mode.
Currently, my system (according to
msinfo32) is running the 1.3.0 BIOS, so I am hopeful that the new BIOS will fix this issue!
Well, that is about all of the time that I have available tonight to work on the new toy. Some future things to explore include:
- Investigate disabling services that start up at boot time (via
- Scan system for, and install new drivers
- Windows Subsystem for Linux
- VMWare Workstation
That last is getting some crowd-sourcing help / feedback from:
Just got my first Win 10 laptop in a long time. Looking to use for pen testing / development. Curious what people prefer as an approach these days... dual / multi boot? VMs? Other?— Ian Lee (@IanLee1521) November 30, 2018
Cc/ @lelandneely @strandjs @_r00k_ @MalwareJake @konklone @edskoudis @jeffmcjunkin @MarkBaggett
And then there are some other tasks that I’m looking at putting my new XPS to work with:
Have any suggestions for other things to investigate? Leave a comment below!
It has been a little over a month using the new Windows 10 XPS 15 system, and I must say overall, I am quite happy with it.
The battery life in particular is fanastic, and it is very smooth and responsive. I haven’t gotten really into development with it yet, though I have started experimenting more with the WSL Ubuntu installation, for instance to write and publish this website.
Some specific issues have cropped up though, that I’ll discuss below.
I will say that initially I wasn’t a fan of the touchpad.
Having been using a MacBook Pro (mid-2015 model) for the past several years, I have gotten really used to the smoothness of that particular interface. In ways that I really can’t articulate, the Dell XPS 15 touchpad just doesn’t feel as good as the MacBook Pro.
One specific complaint that I has was with the right-click corner of the XPS touchpad. My memory is that this is common for Windows systems, but isn’t the way the MacBook works and it really drove me nuts whenever trying to use the touchpad. What I prefer is to have a single finger click (anywhere on the pad) be a “left click” and for a two finger click (again, ANYWHERE on the pad) to be a “right click”. The default configuration was to ALSO have the lower right corner of the touchpad respond as a “right click”.
Well, after several weeks of “making due” with the default configuration, I had the thought that maybe this was a configurable setting, and not something set in stone. Sure enough, I was right!
On Windows 10, if you go in to “Settings” > “Devices” > “Touchpad” it is possible to disable the “Press the lower right corner of the touhpad to right-click”. This was exactly what I was looking for, and so far (only been set this way for a couple days) it has made a huge improvement to my user experience.
Slack for Windows
I’ve been using the Slack for Windows client, and have been running into some issues that I never saw in the macOS, iPad, or iPhone versions. Namely, when I am scrolling through a few dozen messages (after being away a few days), the window will jump around. I will try to scroll down slowly from where the new messages begin, and find the window jumping down or up by 5 - 10 messages, making for a very jerky experience.
I haven’t been able to gather quite as much data as I would like to try to figure out why / how it works, but it would seem that the window is jumping to try to center where I am in the scrolling window, seemingly without trying to simply draw the additional messages at the bottom… Not sure what is going on there, but something to report up to Slack and see if they have heard of this from other users before.