Adventures in Windows 7.0

Windows 7.0 LogoI know being the tech-guru and such that I should have went exploring (pun intended) around in Windows 7.0 long before now. Fact is, I have had a machine at the office with Windows 7.0 Professional 32-bit installed on it for just such a purpose. Only problem is, the office has been so busy since even back in the spring, I have only had the chance to do the most basic installs of Windows 7.0, as was required when older machines died. The death of the machine was not the real push, but the clearly written message on the wall about the eminent death of Windows XP finally and for real retiring prompted the choice.

So I brought home a machine that does have Windows 7.0 installed that needs some configuration and setup done on it for the office. I thought I would make an evening or afternoon out of it and really get down into the nuts and bolts of things. Also, given my current grudge against Ubuntu with my sound being messed up, I thought it would be a good break.

I know from the surface and the little bit that I have to do with Windows 7.0 up to this point actually had me reasonably impressed – unlike that Vista product that went the same path as ME a few years back. The system is nimble (of course running on an I3 doesn’t hurt that either), has a footprint that is not completely over-loaded, and unlike even XP, the system seems to come with decent out of the box settings for protecting your system and encourages you in the right direction on the prompts for keeping those in place instead of opening the door for every thing. After tooling around in the system for a while, it is clear that Microsoft learned some things from the disaster called Vista and applied those lessons to Windows 7.0.

As I got into things, I realized I still more than a few applications that my users need to run that are XP based and that based on the things I was trying, they were not going to work on 7.0 natively. I hate to admit it, but I was looking forward to this. It gave me a good excuse to go checking out the set of tools that is called Windows Virtual PC. For those technical folks, this is a virtual server in Windows 7.0 – but you only get it in the professional and above packages – sorry for those that have home editions. Reminds me, why so many different versions again?

For those less technical, the virtual software lets you basically install another system to run on top of the current system. This is handy when what you want to run will not run on the system you have. Of course at the server level it lets you swap things around without taking down physical systems and lets you easily build redundancy into your server room. In theory, it can also better utilize machine resources and in some cases, because of the that efficiency, reduce the back office cost.

Back to Virtual PC in Windows 7.0, as one would expect you can install it fairly quickly. And with minimum effort there is also a Windows XP install/upgrade (though I would think of it more as a plugin). The really cool thing, with the new licensing from Microsoft, no additional license needed to install the XP that I needed on this new machine. Really cool, after installing it, I can install my programs and have them available over in Windows 7.0. This means the end-user can just click on the graphic icon and launch the program. It will launch and run into XP mode automatically. And of course, even though it is a separate ‘virtual machine’, there is the ability to cut/copy/paste between the desktops and all the drives are available in both sessions – even USB is available in both locations.

Kudos to Microsoft for getting something right again. I don’t think I have been this happy with something they have done since they finally got plug-n-play right for the server branch of products that come from NT back in 2000.  Of course, I have still just touched the tip of the proverbial ice-berg at this point…

Don’t get me wrong. Things have changed from XP and it will take some getting use to where things are and the additional steps that will sometimes be required to a specific task when working as an admin. But then again, given the number of systems that we have had crash and burn lately, it is a good time to start making the transition. Now the only lingering question is if to upgrade one copy of XP on my laptop to 7.0 or not (it came licensed for it, but with XP installed.

** – Image credit to Microsoft and Windows 7.0.