Windows 7 may be Microsoft’s most anticipated product ever. It builds on Windows Vista’s positives, and eliminates many of that OS’s negatives. It adds new functionality, too—all in a package that is less resource-hungry than its predecessor.
And whether or not you're upgrading from Vista or skipping it altogether and moving up from Windows XP, you'll need to know how to make the most of it in your environment. Here are 77 tips and tricks to get you there.
1. Pick Your Edition. Most business users do not need the more expensive Ultimate Edition; stick with Professional unless you specifically need BitLocker.
2. Upgrading? Go 64-bit. As the second major Windows release to fully support 64-bit, the x64 architecture has definitely arrived on the desktop. Don't buy new 32-bit hardware unless it's a netbook.
3. Use Windows XP Mode. Yes, it's only an embedded Virtual PC with a full copy of WinXP—but it's an embedded Virtual PC with a full copy of Windows XP! This is the first profoundly intelligent use of desktop virtualization we've seen—and a great way to move to Windows 7 without giving up full Windows XP compatibility.
4. Use Windows PowerShell v2. More than just a shell, this is the administration tool you've always wanted: Parallel, distributed processing for administrative tasks! Manage 100 machines literally as easily as you manage one with the new Remoting feature. Windows PowerShell v2 ships for the first time in Windows 7, and within six months will be available for older versions of Windows.
5. Use AppLocker. We've been fans of Software Restriction Policies since Windows XP, and AppLocker finally makes application whitelisting possible. Use it to enhance or even replace your anti-virus software, ensuring that only the software you want to run will run.
6. Shift to and from Explorer and CommandPrompt. The classic Windows power toy Open Command Prompt Here is now an integral part of Windows 7 Explorer. Hold down the shift key then right-click a folder to add this option to the property menu. While you're in a command prompt, if you want to open an Explorer window with the focus of the window on the current directory, enter start.
7. Record Problems. The Problem Steps Recorder (PSR) is a great new feature that helps in troubleshooting a system (see Figure 1). At times, Remote Assistance may not be possible. However, if a person types psr in their Instant Search, it will launch the recorder. Now they can perform the actions needed to recreate the problem and each click will record the screen and the step. They can even add comments. Once complete, the PSR compiles the whole thing into an MHTML file and zips it up so that it can be e-mailed for analysis to the network admin (or family problem solver, depending on how it's being used).
8. Make Training Videos. Use a tool like Camtasia to record short, two to three minute video tutorials to help your users find relocated features, operate the new Taskbar and so forth. Get them excited about Windows 7—and prepared for it.
9. Start Thinking About Windows Server 2008 R2. Some of Windows 7's more compelling features, like BranchCache, work in conjunction with the new server OS. The R2 upgrade path is pretty straightforward, so there's little reason not to take advantage of the synergies if you can afford upgrade licenses.
10. Prepare Those XP Machines. There's no in-place upgrade from Windows XP to Windows 7, so start planning to migrate user data now, in advance of a Windows 7 upgrade deployment.
11. Consider Clean Installs. Even when upgrading Windows Vista machines, consider a clean install rather than an in-place upgrade. Yes, it's more hassle, but it'll produce a more trouble-free computer in the long run.
12. Consider Upgrade Assurance. Even if you've never bought it before, consider it for your new Windows 7 licenses. Access to the Microsoft Desktop Optimization Pack (MDOP), which includes App-V, MED-V and other cool technologies, is worth the premium.
13. Find New Tools. Within Control Panel is a single Troubleshooting link that leads you to all of your diagnostic tools on the system. There are additional tools, however, not installed by default. Selecting the "View all" link in the top left-hand corner will help you to see which troubleshooting packs are local and which ones are online. If you find a tool that you don't have, you can grab it from here.
14. Understand Virtual Desktop Infrastructure (VDI). Windows 7 plays an important role in Microsoft's VDI strategy, where virtualized Windows 7 machines are hosted on a central virtualization server using a special blanket "Enterprise Centralized Desktop" license. Read up and figure out if you can take advantage of this new strategy.
15. Prepare for DirectAccess. DirectAccess makes it easier for users to remotely access their office-based resources, without a VPN. DirectAccess also opens up remote computers more fully to Group Policy—but it requires Windows 7 and Windows 2008 R2.
16. Employ Deployment Image Servicing and Management (DISM). If you quickly want to list or manage Windows packages, features or drivers, use the command-line utility DISM. The "image" in the name may fool you into thinking that this is solely a deployment tool. An online command-line switch lets you manage the features in the currently loaded OS. To get a list of the loaded Windows features, enter dism /online /get-features /format:table. To enable a feature, enter dism /online /enable-feature /featurename: