On-again/Off-Again Win10 Settings Header

Here’s an interesting Windows 10 feature that sometimes comes and sometimes goes. I’ve heard it called various things.  But most often, it’s called the “Setttings Header” as shown in the lead-in graphic for this story (I deliberately obfuscated my MS account name email address).

Turns out this is something called an “A/B feature” in Windows 10. This means, it’s turned on in some Windows 10 images, and turned off in others. Right now, for example, it shows up on none of my 2004 PCs. OTOH, it’s just started showing up on my Insider Previews pretty much across the board. That is, it’s present on all of the Dev Channel, Beta Channel, and Insider Preview Channel instances I’ve got running (6 PCs in toto, 2 each for each Insider Preview channel).

Some Want the Feature, Others Do Not

Invariably, those who have this feature want it turned off. And those who don’t have this feature want it turned on. Right now, I can’t find a built-in Windows mechanism to do the job.

That said, two developers offer a workaround. Albacore aka thebookisclosed (who also developed the Managed Disk Cleanup utility I wrote about for Windows Enterprise Desktop back in April 2019), along with well-known Windows developer and Thurrott.com contributor Rafael Rivera, have created a Windows 10 OS tweaking tool called Vive. It can switch this still-in-test Windows 10 feature on and off.

Once downloaded and unpacked into a Windows 10 directory, you can enable the header by entering the following string from inside an administrative PowerShell session window:
.\vivetool.exe addconfig 18299130 2
Run the program from its home directory (that is, you must run the executable from where it lives).

A similar string disables the header instead, to wit:
.\vivetool.exe addconfig 18299130 1

Please also note that you must reboot Windows for the setting (or setting change) to take effect.

Warning:  After my first attempt to use the tool, Windows 10 ran a startup repair immediately after the reboot. Choosing the “Restart” option produced a working boot on the second try. I always have access to a recent backup on this particular machine so I wasn’t too concerned. But the tweak didn’t work on my desktop PC, though it did work on a couple of different Lenovo laptops (the X380 Yoga and the X390 Yoga were my guinea pigs). Thus, YMMV as far as this tweak goes. I also wouldn’t recommend messing with this unless you make an image backup in advance, and have boot/recovery media ready to go in case something untoward happens. This tweak seems to fit the same kinds of dire-seeming warnings that sometimes accompany registry edits — namely, that messing around can sometimes result in a non-functional Windows 10 installation. Plan and prepare accordingly!

Relax, It’s Only Temporary

While A/B testing like this is underway at MS, they don’t provide regular controls in Settings or through the Registry to control the presence/absence of the features they’re working on. Thus, this use of Vivetool is an out-and-out hack, pure and (perhaps not so) simple. Those inclined to mess around with their Windows installs will probably be game to try this. But if you’re not inclined to open the hood and start rearranging the wires on your Windows 10 install, you can skip this exercise. Sooner or later Microsoft will probably make this an official feature. Should that happen, they will also offer a more straightforward way to turn this on and off, too. Time will tell, and I’ll keep an eye on this and let you know when that happens. Stay tuned!

[Note: thanks to Viney Dhiman at GeekerMag.com, whose October 10 “Enable/Disable …” story divulged most of the necessary details.]

Author: Ed Tittel

Ed Tittel is a 30-plus-year computer industry veteran. He’s a Princeton and multiple University of Texas graduate who’s worked in IT since 1981 when he started his first programming job. Over the past three decades he’s also worked as a manager, technical evangelist, consultant, trainer, and an expert witness. See his professional bio for all the details.