Monday, December 20, 2010

Will 2011 be the year of the Windows 7 tablet PC?

With the beginning of the New Year right around the corner, I am looking forward to another year of working with Windows 7. It is now running on every one of the main computers in my home. I am looking forward to the possibility of seeing a solid, consumer-oriented tablet PC running Windows 7 that will give the Apple iPad a real run for its money. So, I did a little poking around on the Internet to see what I could learn about the new, as well as existing, Windows 7 tablet PCs. Read more.

Wednesday, December 15, 2010

Customize Windows 7 HomeGroup with a new name and a new icon

In a recent blog post, “Remove HomeGroup from Windows Explorer in Windows 7,” I showed you how to remove HomeGroup from the navigation pane in Windows Explorer by disabling the HomeGroup services. Before I did so, I provided you with links to several articles that I wrote extolling the HomeGroup feature in the hopes that after reading them you might begin to see that the HomeGroup feature is a valuable asset to the operating system from both a security and efficiency standpoint. For those of you who decided to keep or to reactivate the Windows 7 HomeGroup as well as for those of you who have always appreciated this new feature, I’ve discovered a few ways that you can customize the HomeGroup networking tool with a couple of registry edits — you can rename it and you can change its icon. Read more.

Thursday, December 9, 2010

Remove Favorites from Windows Explorer in Windows 7

I recently showed you how to remove Libraries and HomeGroup from Windows 7’s Windows Explorer in the articles: “Remove Libraries from Windows Explorer in Windows 7” and “Remove HomeGroup from Windows Explorer in Windows 7.” Soon after those articles were published, I was asked if there was a way to remove Favorites from Windows Explorer. Now personally, I can’t think of one good reason for removing such a timesaving feature from Windows Explorer, but some of you are adamant that you want to remove this feature. Therefore, I will acquiesce. Read more.

Wednesday, December 1, 2010

Remove HomeGroup from Windows Explorer in Windows 7

After last week’s blog post, “Remove Libraries from Windows Explorer in Windows 7,” several readers asked if there was a way to remove HomeGroup from Windows Explorer in Windows 7. Read more.

Wednesday, November 24, 2010

Remove Libraries from Windows Explorer in Windows 7

In the past, I covered eight techniques that you can use to get more out of Windows Explorer in Windows 7. One of the techniques that I shared was how to expand the navigation pane. A reader told me that while reconfiguring the navigation pane so that Libraries were not as prominent was a good trick, but what he really wanted to be able to do was to remove Libraries altogether. After a bit of investigation, I discovered that it is possible to remove Libraries from Windows Explorer with a couple of Registry tweaks. Read more.

Thursday, November 18, 2010

Work around these Windows Live Messenger 2011 annoyances

If you are a Windows Live Messenger user, you know that Microsoft recently released the 2011 version of Messenger and that the product has been expanded beyond the Windows Live network to become a social networking portal. All these great new features aside, there are a couple of things that really annoy me about Windows Messenger in Windows 7. The first is that the Windows Live Messenger icon no longer appears in the Notification Area — instead it resides on the Taskbar, where it takes up valuable space even when you are not using it. The second is that by default Windows Live Messenger opens in an almost full-screen view. Read more.

Thursday, November 11, 2010

Identify and get detailed information about processes in Windows 7

In my October 5 blog post, “Investigate Memory Usage with Windows 7 Resource Monitor,” I showed you how to use the detailed information displayed in Microsoft Windows 7 Resource Monitor to investigate memory usage. I went into quite a bit of detail while describing the Processes table on the Memory tab. Since that blog was published, I have received numerous questions from readers wanting to know how to go about identifying those processes with executable file names that are not as easy to identify. Fortunately, there is a way to learn a great deal about any and all processes in Windows 7. However, you have to switch over to Windows Task Manager to make it happen. Read more.

Tuesday, November 2, 2010

New troubleshooting features in the Windows 7 System Configuration tool

After reading my recent blog post, “Use Windows 7 Event Viewer to Track Down Issues That Cause Slower Boot Times, a friend who just recently made the move to Microsoft Windows 7 from Windows XP asked me whether the System Configuration Utility was still a viable tool to use in Windows 7. After I assured him that it was still a useful troubleshooting tool and described the modifications in the new version, I thought that a lot of people moving from XP to Windows 7 might have the same question. Read more.

Tuesday, October 26, 2010

Use Robocopy's multi-threaded feature to quickly back up your data in Windows 7

Soon after Windows Vista came out, I discovered that Microsoft had updated the venerable Robocopy with a bunch of extra features and made it a regular part of the Windows operating system. Of course, when Windows 7 came out I immediately examined the newest version of Robocopy and discovered that Microsoft had again updated Robocopy with a single, but very powerful, new feature — the ability to perform a multi-threaded copy option. More specifically, with multi-threaded capabilities Robocopy can now simultaneously copy multiple files in parallel, which will result in very fast backup operations. Read more.

Thursday, October 21, 2010

Use Windows 7 Event Viewer to track down issues that cause slower boot times

In last week’s blog, “Better Troubleshooting Capabilities with Windows 7 Event Viewer,” I introduced you to some of the new features in Microsoft Windows 7’s Event Viewer and told you that these new features make the new tool far superior to its XP predecessor. As I mentioned, in addition to the new interface, Microsoft designed Windows 7’s Event Viewer to provide you with more meaningful, actionable, and well-documented events in order to provide better information for troubleshooting. Recently, I had an opportunity to put Windows 7’s Event Viewer to the test. Read more.

Thursday, October 14, 2010

Better troubleshooting capabilities with Windows 7 Event Viewer

If you had been holding on to Microsoft Windows XP and just recently made the move to Windows 7, you’ve begun to discover that a lot has changed in the operating system besides just the new user interface with all its new bells and whistles. For example, chances are that one of the first places that you probably turned to when troubleshooting problems in Windows XP was the Event Viewer. Well, when you get to Windows 7’s Event Viewer, you are in for a new experience. Read more.

Tuesday, October 5, 2010

Investigate memory usage with Windows 7 Resource Monitor

In last week’s blog post, “Learn How to Use the Windows 7 Resource Monitor for Effective Troubleshooting,” I introduced you to the Resource Monitor tool’s powerful features and explained how you can use it to get a better understanding of how system resources are used by processes and services. I also indicated that you can use Resource Monitor to delve into specific problems, such as investigating memory usage. Read more.

Wednesday, September 29, 2010

Learn how to use the Windows 7 Resource Monitor for effective troubleshooting

After last week’s blog “Track Stability in Windows 7 with the Reliability Monitor” was posted, I received an e-mail message from a reader who described their Reliability Monitor chart as being full of Windows and Miscellaneous failures that seemed to be occurring on a regular basis. The reader suspected that a malfunctioning process was the cause and wanted more detail on using Microsoft Windows 7’s Resource Monitor to keep tabs on system resources being used by running processes and services. While I was able to help the reader out, a comment they made about feeling overwhelmed by the amount of detailed information and the number of features packed into Windows 7’s Resource Monitor stuck with me for a few days. Read more.

Wednesday, September 22, 2010

Track stability in Windows 7 with the Reliability Monitor

Having the ability to track system stability over time is something that all Microsoft Windows users have wanted at one time or another. Of course, Windows Performance Monitor has been around for a long time but requires manual configuration and a deep understanding of all the cryptically named counters. Fortunately, Windows 7’s Reliability Monitor is a preconfigured tool that will allow you to track hardware and software problems and other changes to your computer. Read more.

Friday, September 17, 2010

Convert Windows XP into a Windows 7 Virtual Machine with Disk2vhd

Would you like to be able to still run Microsoft Windows XP while you get familiar with Windows 7? Well, moving your existing Windows XP system to a virtual machine that you can run in Windows 7 is a relatively easy procedure with the Disk2vhd tool from Microsoft’s Windows Sysinternals team: Mark Russinovich and Bryce Cogswell. Read more.

Sunday, September 5, 2010

Answers to some common questions about symbolic links

In last week’s blog, “Be More Efficient and Better Organized with the MKLink Symbolic Link Tool,” I provided a brief introduction to the concept of symbolic links and then jumped right into how to use the MKLink command in Microsoft Windows Vista and Windows 7 to create them. After the blog post was published, many folks sent me e-mail or posted questions in the discussion thread asking for a deeper understanding of how symbolic links work within the Windows Vista and 7 operating systems. Read more.

Wednesday, September 1, 2010

Be more efficient and better organized with the MKLink symbolic link tool

If you are like most folks who have been using Microsoft Windows for quite some time, chances are good that you create and use shortcuts quite regularly. As you know, shortcuts can save you time and effort when it comes to quickly accessing applications or folders. While creating and using these types of standard shortcuts is quite simple, Windows 7 and Vista come with a tool called MKLink for creating a more advanced type of shortcut called a symbolic link. Read more.

Thursday, August 26, 2010

Troubleshoot problem applications with Windows 7 Program Compatibility tools

As you know, Microsoft has put a great deal of effort into making sure that Windows 7 is extremely compatible with new and existing hardware and software. The most evident piece of this compatibility push was Microsoft’s establishment of the Windows Ecosystem Readiness Program. Another big piece of Microsoft’s compatibility push was the inclusion of Windows XP Mode in Windows 7.

However, there is another big feature built in to Microsoft Windows 7 that is designed to enhance compatibility but doesn’t seem to get as much of the fanfare as the others — the Program Compatibility Assistant. This tool is designed to automatically run when it detects an older program that is encountering compatibility problems. Read more.

Thursday, August 19, 2010

Take advantage of Windows 7's Disk Defragmenter to get detailed drive data

As you know by now, Microsoft Windows 7’s Disk Defragmenter is configured to run on a regular schedule right out of the box. And, when it runs, it is hidden in the background with no visible interface or icon. This means that Disk Defragmenter will always keep your hard disk in tip-top shape and you never even have to think about defragmenting your hard disk.

Even though the disk defragmenting operation is totally automated in Windows 7, such that you really never need manually run the utility, the user interface in Disk Defragmenter has been redesigned so that it can provide you with detailed defragmentation status information allowing you to monitor the progress of the operation if you wish to run it manually. Read more.

Thursday, August 12, 2010

Install the Aero Snap feature in almost any version of Windows

As you probably know, Snap is a new windows management feature in Microsoft Windows 7 that allows you to arrange open windows, including maximizing and resizing, just by dragging and dropping a window to different edges of the screen. When a window is dragged to the correct position, a ripple effect will emanate from the cursor and you’ll see an animated outline of the window instantly appear in its new position. As soon as you release the mouse button, the window will snap to that position.

Well, fortunately for all of us (XP, Vista and 7 users) the folks at Nurgo Software have developed a very cool piece of software called AquaSnap that brings the new Aero Snap and Shake features from Windows 7 to Windows XP and Windows Vista for free. You can even use it in Windows 2000. Read more.

Wednesday, August 4, 2010

Move your entire Windows XP installation into Windows 7 with Paragon Go Virtual

Would you like to be using Microsoft Windows 7, but are sticking with Windows XP because you have been using it for close to 10 years and have a lot invested in it? Well, what if I told you that you could easily move your existing Windows XP system to a virtual machine that you could then run in Windows 7? Well you can, with Paragon Go Virtual - and the best part is that it won’t cost you a penny.

Paragon Go Virtual is a conversion tool that creates virtual machines which can be run by VMware Workstation/Player or VMware Fusion on a Mac, Microsoft Virtual PC, or Oracle VirtualBox. The software comes in both 32-bit and 64-bit versions and in addition to converting Windows XP into a virtual machine, it can also convert Windows 2000, Windows Vista, and Windows 7. Read more.

Wednesday, July 28, 2010

Get better organized with the Maple flat-file database application

The other day one of my coworkers mentioned that he needed a flat-file database tool that was easy to use and ran in Microsoft Windows 7, and he asked me if I could make a recommendation. (I love being asked questions like this when I already have an answer.) I quickly responded Maple! To which he replied, what? Like the Tree? I said, yes, just like the tree. I then explained that was the name of the tool that combined the power of a word-processing application with the organization structure of Windows Explorer to make one of the best flat-file database tools that I have ever used. Read more.

Thursday, July 22, 2010

Customize folder backgrounds in Windows Vista and Windows 7

If you used Microsoft Windows 98, chances are good that you remember that operating system’s Customize This Folder wizard, which allowed you to customize your folders by setting different backgrounds and choosing a text color. A friend of mine was reminiscing about that capability the other day and asked me why this feature wasn’t one of the many bells and whistles in Microsoft Windows 7.

He really liked to be able to customize certain folders back then, as it helped him to organize content. I told him about Windows 7’s Content view, which makes keeping track of multimedia files easier. He quickly replied that Content view wasn’t the same as the Windows 98 feature, and I knew he was right. Since I had no quick comeback, I sulked off.

Later, while doing a bit of researching on the Internet, I encountered a nice little program called the Windows 7 Folder Background Changer, which was developed for The Windows Club website by Krishna Bagaria. This neat little program runs as a standalone application and works in both Windows Vista and Windows 7. Read more.

Thursday, July 15, 2010

Move your entire Windows XP installation into Windows 7 with Zinstall XP7

If you are still using Microsoft Windows XP but thinking of moving to Windows 7, you’re probably feeling a bit apprehensive about the project. What if I told you that you could convert your entire Windows XP installation (data files and applications) into a virtual machine that you could then run inside Windows 7? Well, you can do just exactly that by using a unique product called Zinstall XP7.

Zinstall XP7 is a product designed to make it possible for Windows XP users to migrate/upgrade their existing systems to Windows 7. With Zinstall XP7, you can move your Windows XP installation, intact, from an older computer to a newer computer already running Windows 7 as well as revive your Windows XP installation after performing a Windows XP to Windows 7 Custom installation procedure on your existing computer. Zinstall calls this latter method an in-place migration, and it employs a truly unique process, which I’ll describe in detail. Read more.

Wednesday, July 7, 2010

Manage network logon credentials in Microsoft Windows

As you may know, Microsoft Windows 7 provides a new and improved version of a tool that also appeared in Windows Vista and Windows XP and is designed for managing network-based logon credentials (i.e. user names and passwords) from sources that adhere to Microsoft credential management standards. The Windows 7 tool is called Credential Manager and is more advanced than the simplistic tool called Stored User Names and Passwords that came with Windows Vista and Windows XP.

With credentials stored in these tools, you will be able to automatically log on to a server/site without first being prompted to provide a user name and password. For example, Windows 7’s Credential Manager can store credentials and automatically log you in to Windows Live services such as Hotmail and SkyDrive, Microsoft Office services such as Outlook Web Access for Exchange Server as well as Windows servers and Remote Desktop connections. Read more.

Thursday, July 1, 2010

Quick Tip: Disable Snap in Windows 7

As you know, with the introduction of Snap in Microsoft Windows 7, we now have a completely new way of managing open windows. This feature allows you to arrange open windows, including maximizing and resizing, just by dragging and dropping a window to different edges of the screen. When a window is dragged to the correct position, a ripple effect will emanate from the cursor and you’ll see an animated outline of the window instantly appear in its new position. As soon as you release the mouse button, the window will snap to that position.

While many of us think that Snap is an awesome feature, many others think that it is annoying. For those in the latter category, I recently discovered that you can disable Snap. Read more.

Tuesday, June 29, 2010

Add Windows 7 themes and backgrounds for the July 4th holiday

As I prepare myself for the July 4th celebration, I’ve been working on customizing my Microsoft Windows 7 system and decided to share with the TechRepublic Community what I have done. I also explain how to create a guest account in Windows 7 so that if you have visitors this holiday you can allow them to use your PC without risking your configuration. Read more.

Wednesday, June 23, 2010

Official support is ending so why are you still running Windows XP SP2?

As you probably know, a lot of folks chose to continue running Microsoft Windows XP after Windows Vista came out because it was such a problematic operating system. As such, those folks simply refused to upgrade. Many people and organizations are still running Windows XP and waiting to see what happens as Windows 7 approaches its first Service Pack.

Reasons for continuing to use the SP2 version and purposefully avoiding SP3 range from perceived compatibility problems to the misconceptions that SP3 didn’t offer anything new to that fact that because SP2 was a very much hyped security packed version that it was somehow superior to its successor. Whatever the reason, those folks really must wake up and smell the coffee soon because in about two weeks official support for Windows XP SP2 will end. Read more.

Thursday, June 17, 2010

Move your Windows XP installation into Windows 7 with VMware

If you are still using Microsoft Windows XP but thinking of moving to Windows 7, you’re probably feeling a bit apprehensive about the project. What if I told you that you could have Windows XP and Windows 7 running on the same system? Of course, you might say that’s what Windows XP Mode is all about, and you’d be right.

But what if I told you that you could have your Windows XP installation and Windows 7 running on the same system? To that you might say that’s what dual booting is all about, and you’d be right again.

But what if I told you that you could use VMware Converter to turn your entire Windows XP installation (data files, applications as well as the operating system) into a virtual machine that you could then run inside Windows 7 with VMware Player without having to worry about configuring a dual-boot partition scheme and without having to reinstall all your applications in Windows XP Mode? Well, it’s true, and the best part is that it won’t cost you a penny! Read more.

Monday, June 14, 2010

Five tips for taking advantage of Windows 7 file management features

Microsoft made several basic file-management enhancements in Windows 7. Although some are fairly obvious, others can be a bit tricky to find and harness. Once you get used to using them, though, you’ll find them pretty handy. Read more.

Wednesday, June 9, 2010

How do I use a Windows 7 Virtual Hard Disk as a backup device?

As you know, using external hard disks as backup devices has become very popular recently due to the fact that they are now relatively inexpensive to purchase or build. I use several of them for backups on my home and test systems.

The other day I was experimenting with Windows XP Mode on my Microsoft Windows 7 test system and was backing up my Windows XP Mode virtual machine and the accompanying virtual hard disk (VHD), when it occurred to me that I could use a VHD as a backup device.

Once I began experimenting with this technique, I knew that it would be perfect complement to my overall backup strategy. I don’t trust a single backup device and like to have multiple backups just in case. Using VHDs, I can easily back up my data and then just copy the VHD file to another external device. Read more.

Thursday, June 3, 2010

Reap the benefits of Windows 7's Task Manager

When you access the Task Manager in Microsoft Windows 7, it’s very easy to overlook the new features and other changes until you take a closer look. If you’re coming from Windows XP, you’ll discover that there are many new and improved features. If you’re coming from Windows Vista, you’ll find a familiar user interface, which has been polished up a bit. Read more.

Wednesday, May 26, 2010

Five tips for getting the most out of Windows 7 Jump Lists

Windows 7’s new Jump Lists feature is designed to make it easier to find what you want and perform common tasks associated with an application. As with anything new, Jump Lists may take a little getting used to — but you’ll probably find they’re worth the effort. Here are some tips to help you put this handy feature to work. Read more.

Take advantage of Sticky Notes in Windows 7

While the Sticky Notes applet may not be the most exciting feature in Microsoft Windows 7, there are actually a number of situations where this little applet can come in handy. And, believe it or not, there’s a lot more to Sticky Notes than meets the eye.

I must admit that when I first looked at the Sticky Notes applet in Windows 7, I really wasn’t that impressed and promptly forgot about it. However, I recently reached for a real sticky note and discovered that somebody had absconded with the last pad of 3M Post-it Notes from my desk drawer. With no other option, I clicked the Start button, typed sticky in the Start Search box, and launched the Sticky Notes applet.

Ever since that day, I have been using the Sticky Notes applet here and there, discovering its features and its shortcomings, and of course learning about workarounds. Read more.

Wednesday, May 19, 2010

Move the Recycle Bin to the Taskbar in Windows 7

After writing last week’s blog, “Take Advantage of the Taskbar Features in Windows 7,” I found myself focusing on the taskbar to make sure that I was taking advantage of all the features it has to offer. While I was doing so, I began to think about the only icon that I had on the desktop — the Recycle Bin — and wonder if there was a way to put the Recycle Bin on the taskbar.

When the Recycle Bin first made its appearance in Windows 95, I really enjoyed dragging and dropping unneeded files on the trash can icon and watching them disappear. It was just so cool! (Keep in mind that was 15 years ago and the drag-and-drop capability was a new feature.)

However, more often than not, the desktop and the Recycle Bin icon were buried behind a bunch of open windows, and as time went by and the operating system evolved, I began using the other methods to delete files. Most often, I would select a file and click the red X Delete button on Windows Explorer’s toolbar. I also would right-click on a file and select the Delete command, or after selecting a file just press the [Delete] key on the keyboard. I still use these techniques today as I am sure that most of you do too.

However, there’s just something that is innately satisfying about dragging a file to the trash can icon and dropping it in there. My wife says that it must be a guy thing. And then she reminds me of how excited my buddies and I get throwing beer cans halfway across the room to the trash can in the corner on Poker Game nights. We raise our fists in the air and yell “Score!” when someone makes it in.

Anyway, I discovered a way to put a working copy of the Recycle Bin on the taskbar in the lower right corner adjacent to the notification area. That way it is always visible on the screen no matter how many open windows you have on the desktop.
Read more.

Thursday, May 13, 2010

Take advantage of the Taskbar features in Windows 7

As you may remember, back in the Windows 3.x days, Microsoft gave the operating system the ability to run multiple programs at the same time, which was a revolutionary change. Unfortunately, taking advantage of the new capability was rather difficult because the operating system didn’t provide us with a good method for keeping track of, or switching between, all the running programs.

Fortunately, in Windows 7, Microsoft has provided us with several very cool, very graphical methods for switching between open windows or tasks. Of course, Windows Flip 3D, which uses visual depth to give you a very interesting way of switching, immediately comes to mind when speaking of new task-switching features. However, the tried-and-true taskbar has received many new and improved features in Windows 7 that not only enhance task switching but add a host of other features designed to improve the overall usability of the operating system.

However, it is all too easy to simply focus on the basic aspects of the taskbar and overlook all the other neat features. Read more.

Thursday, May 6, 2010

Add the Copy To and Move To folder commands to the Windows Explorer context menu

After last week’s blog, Move and Copy files the old tried-and-true way in Windows 7, was published, several folks asked about adding the Copy To Folder and Move To Folder commands to the context menu and to Windows Explorer’s toolbar, just like back in the Windows XP days. Fortunately, adding the commands to the context menu in Windows 7 is possible with a pretty straightforward registry edit. However, adding the commands to the toolbar in Windows Explorer isn’t as easy as it was back then.

I’ll show you how to add the Copy To Folder and Move To Folder commands to Windows Explorer’s context menu. I’ll also take a closer look at the context sensitive features of the toolbar in Windows 7’s version of Windows Explorer. Read more.

Tuesday, April 27, 2010

Move and Copy files the old tried-and-true way in Windows 7

While I’ve become quite enamored with using Aero Snap and my simulated dual-pane file manager technique, when copying and moving files and folders from one location to another, there are times when I reach back and use one of the tried-and-true techniques from Windows days gone by. Of course, I’m talking about the good old Send To command and the Copy To Folder and Move To Folder commands.

I happened to mention these old commands to a friend of mine, and she looked at me with a surprised expression and exclaimed that she had all but forgotten about those commands. She then told me that she always uses the Copy/Cut and Paste commands when it comes to copying and moving files. I asked around and discovered that she isn’t the only one. Read more.

Thursday, April 22, 2010

Unlock missing screen saver configuration settings in Windows 7

Unfortunately, none of the Windows 7 screen savers provides any configuration settings with which you could customize the display. As such, I sat down over the weekend and dug out the three HTML applications (HTA) that I created in the Vista time frame and refreshed them to provide a simple user interface for configuring Windows 7’s screen savers. Read more.

Wednesday, April 14, 2010

Troubleshoot a wireless connection in Windows 7 with a firmware upgrade

Like many folks out there, my father has been a Microsoft Windows XP holdout. He’s upgraded to newer and more powerful machines several times over the years to keep pace with his computerized photography hobby, but each time, he has installed Windows XP. I don’t blame him for skipping Vista as it was notoriously out of whack with several of his favorite photography programs.

This past weekend, I finally succeeded in getting him to make the move to Windows 7 on the laptop, but only as long as we set it as a Windows XP/Windows 7 dual-boot system.

Setting up the dual-boot configuration was a breeze, and soon we were booting up Windows 7 Ultimate on his laptop. Everything was going smoothly, and I was extolling the benefits of Windows 7 with a big smile on my face until the laptop attempted to connect to his wireless network.

At that moment, the whole network came tumbling down, and I was soon embroiled in one of the trickiest troubleshooting expeditions I have been involved in for some time. Fortunately, the story has a happy ending, and everything is now working fine. But, because this type of situation could easily befall and befuddle others out there, I thought that I would chronicle my trials and tribulations in an effort to save others from this fate. Read more.

Wednesday, April 7, 2010

Check out the Windows 7 applet replacements in Windows Live Essentials

When Microsoft was designing Windows 7, they decided to strip out some of the applets that have been a part of the Windows operating system for quite some time. The four applets that are no longer part of the operating system are Windows Mail, Windows Calendar, Windows Photo Gallery, and Windows Movie Maker. Instead, Microsoft moved these applets to the cloud and rebranded them as Windows Live Essentials.

So, how well do the Windows 7 applet replacements work? Actually, very well! Read more.

Wednesday, March 31, 2010

Get management buy-in with the Windows 7 Upgrade Project Kit

Here’s a scenario that is surely being played out in many IT departments right now:

Back in the early 2000s you successively managed the upgrade of the client side of your IT infrastructure to Windows XP. Sure there were a few bumps in the road, but once you got through those, your company enjoyed increased efficiency due to the new features and vast improvements built in to the Windows XP operating system

Now, Windows 7 is on the scene, and Service Pack 1 is right around the corner. Over the past five months you’ve spent a lot of time investigating and testing Windows 7 in your test bed, and you’re confident that the new operating system is ready to take your IT infrastructure to the next level. However, you’re not sure how open upper management will be to the idea.

Recently, I discovered the Windows 7 Upgrade Project Kit from ToolkitCafe and found a complete set of tools for creating a comprehensive Windows 7 upgrade plan that will not only help you get buy-in from upper management but will also help you to orchestrate a very well-planned-out and successful Windows 7 upgrade. Read more.

Wednesday, March 24, 2010

Keep tabs on ReadyBoost with Windows 7's Performance Monitor

In my last blog post, “Take a Closer Look at ReadyBoost Features in Windows 7,” I showed you how to set up ReadyBoost and explained how it works. Once you understand how ReadyBoost works and have it configured on your system, you’re obviously going to be looking for the promised performance gain. Unfortunately, ReadyBoost isn’t like adding rocket fuel to your system, and it’s not going to dramatically speed up every task that you regularly perform.

There are some tasks where the performance gain will be evident, and there are others where it will not. In other words, it is very difficult to be plugging away at some task on your system and just feel it kick in and say to yourself “Wow, there goes ReadyBoost! What a rush!”

To see ReadyBoost in action, you’re going to have to keep tabs on it with Windows 7’s Performance Monitor. Read more.

Wednesday, March 17, 2010

Take a closer look at ReadyBoost features in Windows 7

The other day a friend and I were talking about the merits of Windows 7, and I was trying to convince him that it was time to let go of Windows XP and move up to the latest version. During our discussion he brought up Windows Vista and ReadyBoost and then asked me if ReadyBoost was even available in Windows 7. When I told him that it was indeed still a part of the Windows 7 operating system, he questioned whether it was really necessary anymore, considering the fact that 2GB-4GB of RAM was pretty common in new PCs these days.

That got me wondering. During the Vista buildup, ReadyBoost was a pretty common topic of discussion. Back then, memory was still pretty expensive and ReadyBoost was being touted as an inexpensive way to make the new and memory-intensive operating system a little snappier. During the Windows 7 buildup, I really don’t remember hearing much about ReadyBoost at all. Do you?

Even so, ReadyBoost is a still a part of the Windows 7 operating system, and as such, I thought that I would examine it in more detail. Read more.

Wednesday, March 10, 2010

Get access to Windows XP Mode via Windows Anytime Upgrade

In last week’s blog, “Get the Most Out of Windows XP Mode with These Tips,” I showed you several very cool tips that you can employ if you are using Windows XP Mode in Windows 7. That article drew some criticism about Windows XP Mode that I thought raised some very valid concerns. I have heard similar concerns from other folks as well. As such, I thought that I should address them in this week’s blog since they have equally valid solutions.

The main gist of these concerns refers to the fact that Windows XP Mode is touted as one of the major features in Windows 7, yet it is available only in the higher-end versions of Windows 7 — Professional, Enterprise, or Ultimate. Furthermore, most consumer computer outlets typically carry the lower-end versions of Windows 7 — mainly Home Premium. Therefore, it may be difficult for the average consumer to take advantage of this great feature.

It is also possible that a less-informed consumer could purchase a computer with Windows 7 Home Premium from a consumer outlet thinking that because they are getting Windows 7, they would have access to Windows XP Mode. To further complicate the matter, there is still a lot of concern about the various CPUs out there and the necessary built-in hardware-assisted virtualization technology. Read more.

Thursday, March 4, 2010

Get the most out of Windows XP Mode with these tips

While Windows 7 has several built-in compatibility features that are designed to allow you to run most Windows XP applications right from within Windows 7, there are other older Windows XP applications that will not run in Windows 7 even with those built-in compatibility features. For these types of applications, Microsoft designed Windows XP Mode for Windows 7.

Installing and using Windows XP Mode is a very straightforward operation. If you have Windows 7 Professional, Enterprise, or Ultimate and the CPU and if your PC has the necessary built-in hardware-based virtualization technology, then all you have to do is download and install Windows XP Mode and Windows Virtual PC.

Once you have Windows XP Mode up and running, you can install your XP applications in the Windows XP VM (Virtual Machine) just like you normally would. You’ll then be able to launch your XP applications right from the Windows 7 Start menu.

While using Windows XP Mode and Windows Virtual PC is pretty straightforward, there are some tips that you can employ to get the most out of this winning combination. Read more.

Tuesday, February 23, 2010

Change and customize Windows 7's Logon screen wallpaper

While experimenting with several Microsoft Windows 7 systems recently, I spent a lot of time staring at the Logon screen. During that time, I began to think about changing the Logon screen wallpaper. Now, I have changed the Logon screen wallpaper in just about every version of Windows I’ve used, so I knew that there had to be a way to do so.

However, when I began to investigate the procedure in Windows 7, I discovered that changing the Logon screen wallpaper in the newest version of the Windows operating system is easy, once you know the steps — and you don’t even need any third-party software to do it.

In order to make it easy for OEMs to customize Windows 7, Microsoft built the ability to change the Logon screen wallpaper right into the operating system. Read more.

Friday, February 19, 2010

The TaskList Gadget makes it easier to troubleshoot running processes

When you’re troubleshooting problems in Windows, one of the tools you’re likely to use is the Task Manager. It’s designed to provide you with detailed information about the programs and processes that are running on a system. However, Task Manager doesn’t really give you the full picture when it comes to the running processes. For instance, what if you suspect that a DLL is at the root of a problem and want to find out what DLL modules a particular process is using?

To get the information you need, you can shell out to a Command Prompt window and use the TaskList command-line utility, along with a couple of special parameters. But working from a Command Prompt can get fairly tedious. So I created the TaskList Gadget, which automates the TaskList command. Read more.

Thursday, February 18, 2010

Be a power user: Customize the file management features of Windows Explorer

While the new Libraries features is notably the biggest enhancement to Windows Explorer, Microsoft did indeed make many other standard file-management enhancements in Windows 7. Over the past couple of months I’ve uncovered and begun to use many of these to enhance my productivity. While some of them are obvious, many of them are a bit tricky to find and harness. Read more.

Wednesday, February 10, 2010

Take full advantage of the new font features in Windows 7

Microsoft made some pretty dramatic improvements in Windows 7’s graphics subsystem in order to improve performance for the entire spectrum of usage scenarios, from the day-to-day desktop displays to the extreme CAD and game graphics. However, what you may not know is that Microsoft has also made some pretty dramatic improvements in Windows 7’s font system. Read more.

Tuesday, February 2, 2010

Put the Classic Start menu in Windows 7 with Classic Shell

On more than one occasion, I’ve looked through the discussions for the Windows 7 blog posts that I have written here at TechRepublic and found messages from angry Windows users that go something along the lines of “Because Microsoft took away the Classic Start menu in Windows 7, I am not going to upgrade!”

When I see these types of messages, I imagine curmudgeonly folks sitting in front of an old Pentium II computer running Windows NT. Of course I know that is not a fair assessment, because many people I know who have either Windows XP or Windows Vista installed also use the Classic Start menu feature.

Still I have a hard time imagining anyone wanting to forego all the underlying advances in the Windows 7 operating system just because of a dislike of the Start menu and other user-interface features. However, everyone is entitled to his or her opinion.

In any case, those die-hard classic Start menu fans have a champion out there. At, which claims to be the world’s largest open source software development Web site, a fellow by the name of Ivo Beltchev has created a wonderful program called Classic Shell. In addition to bringing the Classic Start menu to the Windows 7 user interface, Classic Shell brings a number of other classic features to Windows 7, such as the Windows Explorer toolbar, complete with the Up button. Read more.

Tuesday, January 26, 2010

Investigate Internet TV in Windows 7 Media Center

Over the holidays, one of the old television sets in my home suffered a catastrophic failure. To maintain the entertainment equilibrium in our household, my wife and I decided to shuffle the remaining sets around and add a big screen HDTV to the mix. While configuring and setting up the new TV, I connected my laptop running Windows 7 to the TV set and began experimenting with Windows Media Center’s Internet TV component.

I discovered that it was a really neat feature and provided a very nice way to access all sorts of streaming media from the Internet. As I began espousing the features of Internet TV component to my friends and family, I also discovered that not many people were familiar with this feature of Windows Media Center. In fact, most folks that I talked to assumed that in order to take advantage of Windows Media Center you must have a TV tuner card installed in your system. However that’s not the case.

In the Windows 7 (Home Premium, Professional, Enterprise, or Ultimate) version of Windows Media Center, the enhanced Internet TV lets you watch videos from a variety of providers via the Internet right in Windows Media Center. This new version of Internet TV features enhancements to the UI and now provides more content from a variety of content providers, such as CBS, MSNBC, MSN, Zune, and more. Read more.

Wednesday, January 20, 2010

Peek behind the GodMode curtains to reveal useful canonical names and GUIDs

In last week’s blog post, “Exert Your Control with GodMode Folders in Windows 7,” I discussed a few of the so-called “GodMode” folders in Windows 7. As I mentioned in that post, Windows 7’s GodMode folders are simply special folders that are hidden until you enter a special, secret code.

Well, it turns out that the latter part of that sentence is only half true. The special folders are indeed hidden until you enter a special code, but the codes aren’t really secret.

Apparently all Windows 7 and Windows Vista Control Panel items have what is called a canonical name and an associated GUID (the infamous “special codes”). In this context, Microsoft describes a canonical name as being a nonlocalized string that the Control Panel item declares in the registry. A GUID, or Globally Unique Identifier, is a special type of identifier that is unique in any context, which Microsoft uses to provide an internal access point to Control Panel items.

In this edition of the Windows Vista and Windows 7 Report, I’ll discuss the Control Panel canonical names in more detail and show you how to use them to create shortcuts to your favorite Control Panel items. I’ll then present the text file and script and show you how to use them. That way you can instantly create these canonical name shortcuts on your Windows 7 system and be able to easily conduct your own investigation to discern which of these shortcuts will be helpful to you and delete those that won’t. What could be easier

Wednesday, January 13, 2010

Exert your control with GodMode folders in Windows 7

Over the past week or so, I have read a lot about the so-called “GodMode” folders in Windows 7. Chances are that you have too. While the term originated in video games, such as Doom from id Software, where entering a special code makes a player’s character invincible, it has been applied to certain special, undocumented folders in Windows 7.

When playing a video game in GodMode, you are guaranteed to win because no matter how powerful the nemesis, you cannot be killed. So, you might wonder, does that mean that when working in a “GodMode” folder in Windows 7 you can do whatever you want without fear of crashing or locking up the operating system? Unfortunately, no, it does not.

All kidding aside, Windows 7’s GodMode folders are simply special folders that are hidden until you enter a special, secret code. The fact that you have to enter a secret code is more likely the source of these folders being called “GodMode” folders. Read more.

Wednesday, January 6, 2010

Explore new desktop backgrounds and themes in Windows 7

No matter how serious of a Microsoft Windows user you consider yourself to be, you’ve got to admit that you’ve played around with wallpapering your desktop, In fact, it’s probably a safe bet to say that ever since Windows 95 came out and provided us with the ability to easily change and create desktop wallpaper, we’ve all been enamored with this feature. Chances are also good that when Microsoft Plus! came out for Windows 95 and provided us with an the Desktop Themes feature, most of us were happily entertained by the fact that not only could we change the desktop wallpaper, but now we could coordinate our entire user interface according to our favorite categorical themes.

My interest in Desktop Backgrounds and Themes has recently been rekindled by several posts on Microsoft’s The Windows Blog site that revolve around this topic. Read more..