Wednesday, February 25, 2009

Be ready for new and improved applets in Windows 7

Back in March 2006, while evaluating the Microsoft Windows Vista February CTP (Community Technology Preview), build 5380, I wrote an article titled “Vista’s Recycled Applets Should Have Been Polished,” in which I admonished Microsoft for not putting any effort into improving or adding new features to the standard Windows applets: Notepad, WordPad, Paint, and Calculator.
While those applets never changed between the Windows Vista CTP and the RTM (Release to Manufacturing) versions, I was really happy to find that in the Beta 2 version of Windows 7, three of the four standard Windows applets have indeed been endowed with some new features and updated user-interface components.

In this issue of the Microsoft Windows Vista and Windows 7 Report, I’ll show you what’s new in these applets.

Be ready for new and improved applets in Windows 7

Wednesday, February 18, 2009

Use Bootsect to extract Vista or Windows 7 from a dual-boot configuration

I recently dug out one of the spare hard drives that I use on my test system to see what was on it. I discovered that it contained a dual-boot configuration consisting of Microsoft Windows XP and a late beta version of Windows Vista. The original boot partition of the drive contained XP, and Vista was installed on a second partition. Of course, this meant that Vista had installed its Windows Boot Manager and its Boot Configuration Data system on the boot partition.

I wanted to get rid of the Vista partition as well as its Windows Boot Manager system so that I could use XP and have access to the full hard disk. My first thought was to simply reformat the hard disk and then reinstall XP; however, the more I thought about that plan of action, the more it sounded like too much work. I was about to remove that particular hard disk and try another from the box when I remembered something about the Bootsect command.

After doing a bit of investigation, I found what I was looking for — the instructions listing the complete command line for using the Bootsect command to remove the Windows Boot Manager and its Boot Configuration Data system from the boot partition and replace it with XP’s NTLDR boot management system. Taking the next step, I discovered that the same command line will also work to remove Windows 7 Beta from a dual-boot configuration with XP.

In this Microsoft Windows Vista and Windows 7 Report, I’ll show you how to use the Bootsect command to extract Windows Vista or Windows 7 Beta from a dual-boot configuration.

Tuesday, February 10, 2009

Take advantage of tools to monitor memory usage in Windows 7

Ever since I discovered how to use the Windows 9x’s Resource Meter to keep track of system resources and prevent system crashes caused by depleting system resources when running more than one application at a time, I’ve made good use of Windows monitoring tools.

Over the years Microsoft has vastly improved the primitive Resource Meter and increasingly made it easier to see what is going on with the operating system’s use of memory. With Windows 7, I’ve discovered some slight, but notable, changes in the way that memory usage is reported on the Performance tab of the Task Manager. I have also noticed a very nice chart in the new Resource Monitor that provides very detailed information on physical memory usage at a glance.

In this issue of the Windows Vista and Windows 7 Report, I’ll take a closer look at the changes on Task Manager’s Performance tab and investigate the Physical Memory usage chart.

Tuesday, February 3, 2009

Get rid of old device drivers hidden in Vista

In a recent edition of the Microsoft Windows Vista and Windows 7 Report, “Troubleshoot Vista System Drivers More Efficiently with These Tools,” I told you that while many of the most common driver problems have been solved, you may still incur strange or erratic problems related to drivers in Vista. I then showed you a couple of tools (Driver Query and Driver View) that you can use to gather information on device drivers. However, I was reminded that Windows Vista retains old drivers even if you upgrade or change hardware.

For example, Vista knows that removable USB devices aren’t always connected, but it retains the drivers so that they will be ready the next time you connect the device. So what happens to that driver if you never connect that device to your computer again?

Over time these unused, but still installed, drivers can cause problems if they inadvertently become enabled. They can cause hardware conflicts or just cause the system to behave erratically. Fortunately, in addition to using the tools described in the previous article, when you’re troubleshooting a problem in Vista that you suspect is related to a driver, you can locate and remove any old and unused drivers by enabling a special feature in Device Manager that allows it to display non-present devices.

In this issue of the Windows Vista and Windows 7 Report, I’ll show you how to use this special feature in Device Manager.