After the wait between XP and Vista, Win 7's arrival a year and a half after Vista's release seems a mite, well, soon. What motivated Microsoft to turn out another desktop OS so quickly — was it simply Vista's failure in the marketplace, or is Windows 7 more than just "Mohave.NET?" This section introduces Windows 7 and answers that question, as well as addressing what is probably the number one concern for anyone considering upgrading: "how compatible is Windows 7?"
Sometimes it seems that Microsoft shakes up the user interface every new version of Windows mainly to get media attention and in the hopes of luring away a few Mac users. If you're one of the ones who (like us) saw Vista's Aero Glass as "pretty but not so witty," then Windows 7's Aero changes may surprise you. In this section, we briefly review how Windows 7's GUI can improve productivity.
Even the most die-hard Vista detractors have to admit that Vista wasn't all bad, and some of the best of the new Vista-related technologies are the vastly improved deployment tools that Microsoft first delivered in November of 2006. This section quickly reviews the Vista-era tools and explains which deployment tools have changed with Windows 7.
Over the years, Microsoft has experimented with different ways of letting your users store and organize their data. Windows 7 introduces a new concept, a "library," which you can think of as a sort of "My Documents" done better. If you choose to adopt Windows 7, then you should understand how libraries work and how to get the most out of them.
In October 2001, XP introduced the idea of "Software Restrictions Policies" (SRPs), a set of group policies aimed at letting administrators block users from running unauthorized applications. It wasn't a bad first try, but the software environment at the time — one wherein very few applications could be identified by their digital signatures — limited SRP's usefulness. As time's gone on, however, far more applications are signed, and so SRPs deserve a second look even in XP shops. With Windows 7, however, Microsoft introduces a significantly improved update on SRPs that they've called "Applocker." This section explains the differences between SRP and Applocker and suggests how each can assist your organization in controlling the range of apps that you allow to run on your desktops.
Like all post-Vista versions of Windows, Win 7's more secure nature sometimes creates compatibility problems, and in some cases the only cure for an app that'll only run under XP is, well, to run it under XP. To that end, Microsoft offers an array of tools like their APP-V and MED-V virtualization products that let you run almost any XP app under Vista or Windows 7... but they cost money, and you're not coming to our class just to hear us tell you to spend more money. What Windows 7 does offer in the way of XP virtualization is an improved and built-in version of Microsoft's desktop virtualization manager dubbed "Windows Virtual PC" (WVPC), and a fully licensed pre-built XP SP3 virtual machine. In this section you'll see how to set up WVPC and XP Mode (XPM), how you can extend it and how to use it to solve application compatibility problems. You'll also learn in depth how to use WVPC to create and control additional VMs in this, the largest section in this audio course.
The big change in Windows management tools came with Vista with things like the all-new Event Viewer and the Reliability Monitor, but Windows 7's not entirely bereft of new tools. In this section, you'll meet a few all-new management and monitoring tools, and see that Win 7 now includes some old Resource Kit favorites "in the box."
Vista and Server 2008 brought BitLocker, a tool that let you encrypt any or all of your internal hard disks. It slowed your drives down a bit, but ensured that if you left your laptop on an airplane then no one could peek at your data. With Windows 7, Microsoft has extended Bitlocker's job to enable you to use it to encrypt USB sticks and other portable data devices. Why do this? USB sticks worry many folks, as they fear that users might copy important company data onto a USB stick and then accidentally leave it where someone could find it and read that data. With BitLocker To Go, you can instruct one of your computers to only permit a user to copy data onto a USB stick if that USB stick's encrypted. That way, if the user loses the USB stick, then whoever finds it won't be able to read its data. This section explains how to make BitLocker To Go work, and what limitations it presents.
We wrap up our first day with a look at how Windows 7 changes two important security technologies — biometrics and User Account Control (UAC). In this section, we'll see how Windows now supports the notion of using fingerprints to logon, and how Microsoft's trying to make User Account Control a bit less annoying.
Windows 7 desktop and server use your disk in ways we've not seen before, with new in-the-box support of the VHD (Virtual Hard Disk) format for storing data and the ability to "boot VHDs natively," a concept that we'll explain in depth in this section. As you'll see, Microsoft may have to change the name of VHDs to remove "virtual," as Win 7/R2 use VHDs in ways that have nothing to do with virtual machines.
In addition to the "big" networking-related things (BranchCache, DirectAccess and the like), Windows 7 includes a number of general networking changes.
Windows 6 (that is, Vista and Server 2008) saw Microsoft introduce a number of technologies aimed at making IT run more smoothly in branch offices. Windows 7 and Server R2 add to those with BranchCache, a tool that enables Windows 7 Enterprise/Ultimate desktops to cooperatively cache incoming SMB and HTTP traffic. The basic idea is that if a bunch of people in your branch office all want to access the same file from the central office, then only the first two actually need to retrieve (and cache) the file over the WAN link — the others get it from the local systems that have already cached the data. Sounds simple, but actually making it work and controlling it can be a bit tricky, until you know what you'll get from this very detailed bonus section.