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Microsoft gets serious about security

With the growth and increasing popularity of the Internet have come a variety of vulnerabilities. Because the Internet is essentially an open network, security risks are always a threat to its users. The most common threats, viruses or worms, pose the greatest danger to systems because they can spread so quickly and cause so much damage.

Like it or not, Microsoft has played a huge role in the popularity of the Internet. In the past, Microsoft has been blamed for distributing products that expose systems to common threats unnecessarily. Whether that criticism is accurate or not is up for debate. Since Microsoft produces so many popular products, hackers get more bang for their buck when they exploit security holes on a Windows system. On the other hand, some of these threats could have been avoided by giving more attention to security concerns during development.

As the Internet continues to grow, more emphasis must be placed on making it a secure environment. In this Daily Feature, I’ll give an overview of a new program Microsoft has put in place to ensure Internet security for its customers and examine a new tool kit it offers as a fix for certain security concerns.

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The Strategic Technology Protection Program
Because Microsoft’s investment in the Internet is so great (in fact, Bill has bet the company’s future on it), the company has decided to roll out a new program aimed at addressing security concerns. With the Strategic Technology Protection Program (STPP), Microsoft is promising a whole new strategy for combating security risks with its products.

The STPP is an effort to more effectively bring Microsoft’s resources to individuals and organizations affected by security threats. Instead of just offering security patches when the latest virus hits, this approach to security is expected to encompass an ongoing relationship among Microsoft, its vendors, its customers, and even its competitors. The program uses a two-pronged approach. The first step is designed to help customers already affected by a virus or other problem and the second is meant to keep them secure from future attacks.

A big part of this effort is the Microsoft Security Tool Kit. You can download this free, comprehensive security package, which encompasses all the latest security tools offered by Microsoft. Alternatively, you can order a CD through snail mail. TechNet subscribers can expect this kit in their November release sans the automatic installation feature. A stand-alone version will be distributed with the December TechNet CD.

A look inside the online Microsoft Security Tool Kit
The kit is broken down by operating system (either Windows 2000 or NT, with a further classification for Terminal Server Edition). It contains four main sections: Guides, Software Updates, Deployment and Management Tools, and Online Resources.

You can use the first section to ensure your systems have all the latest security updates. At the top of the list are the Guide To Baseline Security and Baseline Security Checklists (see Figure A). The checklists are advertised as a front line of defense for your systems that are vulnerable to security risks. The steps included in the checklists provide basic security procedures you’ll want to have in place before moving on with the rest of the kit.

Figure A
These checklists go over some of the steps you should take to secure your systems.

Though not as comprehensive as the baseline checklists, the remaining guides, Windows 2000 Service Pack and Hotfix Installation and Deployment Guide, Deploying Service Pack 6a with SMS, and the Internet Explorer Deployment Guides should appear familiar to you from working with previous upgrades.

Software Updates
Perhaps the most important section in the kit is Software Updates. Here, you’ll find everything from Windows 2000 Service Pack 2 to the latest version of Internet Explorer. The complete list consists of:

* Windows 2000 Service Pack 2
* Internet Information Server 4.0 Security Rollup Package
* Internet Information Server 5.0 Security Rollup Package
* Windows NT 4.0 Service Pack 6a
* Windows NT 4.0 Security Rollup Package
* Windows NT 4.0 Service Pack 6 For Terminal Server Edition
* Internet Explorer 5.01 Service Pack 2
* Internet Explorer 5.5 Service Pack 2
* Internet Explorer 6.0
* Security Bulletin MS01-008
* Security Bulletin MS00-095
* Security Bulletin MS00-070
* Security Bulletin MS00-052

In the Microsoft Security Tool Kit, the Windows 2000 and NT updates come with a brief description as well as a link for more details. The Internet Explorer updates just come with the download link. Each Security Bulletin contains a Technical Details link that will take you to the appropriate patch download page. Though you can get these updates separately on Microsoft’s Web site, I think the company made a wise decision by combining these selections given the significant impact each update makes to a system.

Deployment and Management Tools
The tools included here are useful for both server and client, but I’ll elaborate on the three significant tools that’ll be good for the client side. The first, Hfnetchk.exe, assesses the patch status of Windows clients from a remote location. Hfnetchk.exe will scan the patch status for the following Microsoft products:

* Windows NT 4.0
* Windows 2000
* All system services, including Internet Information Server 4.0 and 5.0
* SQL Server 7.0 and 2000 (including Microsoft Data Engine)
* Internet Explorer 5.01 and later

The next handy client tool is the Critical Update Notification Tool, which periodically checks for updates on the Windows Update Web site and sends a notification to the client machine. This link provides instructions on activating this product, which is already installed with Windows 98, 98SE, and 2000.

Qchain is the last utility in this section concerned with Windows clients. It allows you to chain multiple hotfixes together to eliminate rebooting for each installation. This tool keeps user downtime to a minimum when multiple hotfixes are necessary.

Online Resources
This section is a catchall for security issues not directly addressed by the tool kit. It lists links to popular Microsoft technical support sites you can use to protect your systems:

* Microsoft TechNet Security Web Site
* Sign up to receive security bulletins
* Security Bulletin Search site
* Microsoft Personal Security Advisor
* Other Security Tools and Checklists

Today’s computing environment is fraught with security concerns. New, more dangerous code is finding its way onto the Internet with alarming regularity. With so much at stake, it’s no wonder Microsoft is taking a more active role in securing the Internet. At first glance, the company appears positioned to take on the challenge of making the Internet a safe place to do business. However, that will not be easy. It faces a significant obstacle given the viciousness of today’s hackers. The Microsoft Security Tool Kit is definitely a step in the right direction, as it encompasses the latest security defenses Microsoft has to offer. With each new layer of security, your network is that much more unattractive to would-be intruders.

Get Trained and Get a Free Software Offer: Microsoft SQL Server 2008 Standard Edition

Take advantage of this great offer to receive training and acquire certification on Microsoft SQL Server technology, and get a free copy of the Microsoft SQL Server 2008 Standard Edition so you can gain hands-on experience.

Expert IT training and certification are more important than ever in a tough economy because they can help companies boost productivity and get the most from their technology investments.

A recent IDC Performance Impact Study* found that teams that met most or all of their business objectives typically had twice the amount of training as teams that achieved only partial success.

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Participate in this offer: in and attend any one of the following eight Microsoft SQL Server 2008 courses before December 31, 2009 (while supplies last), and you receive a fully licensed copy of SQL Server 2008 Standard Edition with one client access license (CAL).

Get best-in-class training and build outstanding skills when you train with Microsoft Certified Partners for Learning Solutions, the premier training providers for Microsoft.

Act now! This free software offer is available for a limited time—and only while supplies last—so today in training near you.

Course number and title (English)
Course 2778A: Writing Queries Using Microsoft SQL Server 2008 Transact—SQL
Course 6231A: Maintaining a Microsoft SQL Server 2008 Database
Course 6232A: Implementing a Microsoft SQL Server 2008 Database
Course 6234A: Implementing and Maintaining Microsoft SQL Server 2008 Analysis Services
Course 6235A: Implementing and Maintaining Microsoft SQL Server 2008 Integration Services
Course 6236A: Implementing and Maintaining Microsoft SQL Server 2008 Reporting Service
Course 6158C: Updating Your SQL 2005 Skills to SQL Server 2008
Course 6317: Upgrading Your SQL Server 2000 Skills to SQL Server 2008

Course and Exam Mapping

MCSE 70-297 Certification

It’s widely known that jobs regarding Information Technology (IT) are a popular choice both among college students and people looking to switch careers, because of the availability of jobs in this field and the technology hype of today’s age. However, many employers are looking for certain program certifications in the applicant’s resume become looking further for an interview. One such certification is the Microsoft Certified Professional (MCP), which includes six different types of specific certification like technology specialist, professional, IT professional, systems administrator, database administrator, and engineer. One who is interested in getting certified for any of them must go through IT training first and then take a vigorous qualification MCSE test.

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One of the most popular tests among the six is the Microsoft Certified Systems Engineer (MCSE) test. Some call it the best known and most useful test, and various preparations are needed if you’re interested in taking it. It’s so vigorous that the company created a MCSE boot camp a few years ago, and now many more companies have followed suit and have their own intensive MCSE boot camps as well. You can find many of them as both online and in-person training, and the fee is around $4000-$6000 for two week courses. Many employers will cover the cost of this class if you stay with the company for a while after you improve yourself. If you want a less structured and less expensive method preparing for the MCSE test, computer training videos are another great way to do it. They usually cost less than $1000 for a set of CDs and books and you can watch them whenever you have the time. This way is perfect for anyone who already has a job and can not afford to take time off that job to train for another career.

However, these two ways waste time and money! You also have another option. You can have your MCSE Exam taken by proxy. These companies have a special service for professionals that are interested to save some time or money and just want to get the certification process over with quickly and without any problems.

Regardless which method of preparing for the MCSE Exam you choose, they have proven to be successful if the participants pay attention and study hard. It’s important to choose by the amount you can afford to spend, how much free time you have to do it, and which method you generally prefer. After doing the research, better pick what the best way is for you and get started!

Parallels release Windows 7 desktop upgrade

Parallels have shipped their ‘Desktop Upgrade’ tool, which is geared toward PC users who are moving from Windows XP or Vista to the latest and greatest, Windows 7. The tool, available for online order now, allows users to upgrade keeping all their applications and settings intact – painlessly.

Supporting in-place upgrades on the same PC, or helps move everything across to a new system, the software will also be available in retail outlets from 31 May internationally.

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CEO of Parallels, Serguei Beloussov, announced that the Desktop Upgrade software for Windows 7 provides “a simple and safe solution for Windows XP and Vista customers who want to successfully move to Windows 7 but may be overwhelmed by the process.”

The software entirely automates the upgrade process, so that the user need only actually answer a few simple questions before leaving the Desktop Upgrade to work its magic. Following the upgrade, the user will be pleasantly surprised to find that their old applications remain installed – and even those with compatibility issues will run under a virtual machine, so as far as the user is concerned, everything that was available previously is still present.

Additionally, Parallels provide interactive video tutorials in order to train users to work in Windows 7! The software – “Parallels Desktop Upgrade to Windows 7” – is available at £39.95 (GBP) for the tool that upgrades on a single machine, and the price with the cable has yet to be announced.

For more information and a short product tour, visit the Parallel’s website !

Windows 7 Feature Focus: Problem Steps Recorder

Note: This article is adapted from Windows 7 Secrets Chapter 25, Troubleshooting and Recovering from Disaster. –Paul

The integrated Windows Troubleshooting tools works well in Windows 7, and they’re one of many reasons that this OS is superior to its predecessors. But sometimes you will run into an issue that isn’t covered by the built-in troubleshooters. When that happens, it’s time to escalate the issue, either with Microsoft Support or, if you’re a corporate customer, with your IT help desk. Either way, Windows 7 includes an excellent new tool that takes the guesswork out of explaining what happened when something went wrong. It’s called the Problem Steps Recorder, and it allows you to record the steps you took leading up to a problem so you can duplicate it and provide a record of what happened.

Secret: Problem Steps Recorder is hidden in Windows 7, so you have to know it exists before you can access it. To enable this tool, open the Start Menu and type problem steps in Start Menu Search. You’ll see an item called Record steps to reproduce a problem in the search results. Click that, and the minimalistic Problem Steps Recorder application appears.

Windows 7 Feature Focus: Problem Steps Recorder
Problem Steps Recorder is hidden in the Windows 7 UI and pretty subtle when it’s running too.

Here’s how it works. Click the Start Record button in Problem Steps Recorder. When you do, the application interface changes slightly, to indicate that it’s recording and provide a few additional options, including Pause Record, Stop Record, and Add Comment.

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Windows 7 Feature Focus: Problem Steps Recorder
You’re on candid camera: Duplicate that bug.

Now, you step through the things you did that caused the issue you’re trying to report. Along the way, as you click on things, you’ll see an orange circle appear below the mouse pointer, indicating that Problem Steps Recorder has taken note of that step. If you get to a particularly important part, you can take a manual screen, and provide a note: Just click Add Comment and you’ll see something like the following figure.

Windows 7 Feature Focus: Problem Steps Recorder
Take a picture and leave a note if you want to explain something further.

When you’re done, click Stop Record. Problem Steps Recorder will prompt you to save a ZIP file on your desktop. Give it a name and click Save. At this point, you’re supposed to email this to the entity that’s going to provide the help. But let’s take a look inside that ZIP file to see what’s going on.

Inside the ZIP file, surprisingly, you’ll find a single MHTML document, which can be viewed with Internet Explorer. The file, an example of which can be seen in Figure 25-15, is actually pretty impressive. It includes a complete walkthrough of all the steps you took.

Windows 7 Feature Focus: Problem Steps Recorder
The Recorded Problem Steps file documents want went wrong.

But it’s even more impressive than that. Each time you clicked anything, the Problem Steps Recorder took a screenshot and highlighted what was clicked. As you can see here, this can be very specific.

Windows 7 Feature Focus: Problem Steps Recorder
Each mouse click triggers a screenshot.

Secret: Problem Steps Recorder is so helpful, in fact, that it’s not hard imagining using it as a training tool or for other kinds of documentation. Hm…

But wait, there’s more…

There’s much more going on with Windows 7’s troubleshooting and recovery features, but you’ll have to check out Windows 7 Secrets for the rest, including Windows Troubleshooting, Troubleshooting Packs, Startup Repair, Windows Recovery Environment, and System Restore. The book is available now from and other booksellers. Click here to find out more about Windows 7 Secrets.

Windows 7 Feature Focus: Backup and Restore

Note: This article is adapted from Windows 7 Secrets Chapter 24, Keeping Your Data Safe. –Paul

With Windows 7, Microsoft expands on the pervasive and reliable backup and restore solutions for both data files and the entire computer that it introduced in Windows Vista. Key among this functionality is Backup and Restore, which can be ued to copy your important files and folders to a safe location or create a system image that can be used later to restore a broken PC. You may never need to turn to a third-party backup and restore utility again.

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Backup and Restore supports the following types of backups:

Data Backup If you think of your Documents library as the center of your data universe, and keep an elaborate series of folders and files there and in other libraries, then you?ll understand the necessity of backing up these crucial files on a regular basis. To this end, Windows 7 supports both automatic and manual data backup options, enabling you to choose which files to back up and when. You can then restore your backups at any time to recover previous versions of documents, or to replace a file you may have accidentally deleted.

System Image There?s nothing worse than discovering that you need to reinstall Windows for some reason. Not only do you have to take the time and make the effort to reinstall the operating system again, you also have to ensure that you have drivers for all your hardware, find and reinstall all the applications you use regularly, reload all your personal data, and reconfigure all of the system?s options so that it?s exactly the way you used to have it. Rather than go through this rigmarole, you can use a Windows 7 feature called System Image Backup to create what is called a system image or snapshot. This image?which is essentially a huge backup file?contains the entire contents of your PC as it existed the day you created the image. If you need to recover your entire PC, you can simply restore the system image and get right back to work.

In addition to these capabilities, Window 7 also offers a way to access previous versions of data files (called Previous Versions) and a way to return to a previous state in time, or restore point (called System Restore). These features are not part of Backup and Restore, but when you add it all up, what you have is the makings of a full-featured data recovery software suite. Amazingly, Microsoft provides all of that functionality in Windows 7, for free.

Secret: OK, there’s gotta be a catch, right? Actually, there is: Microsoft does not offer two kinds of backup that would be useful to have as part of Windows 7. The first is PC-to-PC data synchronization, or what we might called peer-to-peer (P2P) synchronization. With a such a solution you could, among other things, make sure that all of the files in your home PC’s Documents library were always duplicated, automatically, with the Documents library on your laptop; any time you made a change in either place, it would be replicated in the other. As it turns out, Microsoft does make such a tool, two in fact. They’re called Windows Live Sync and Live Mesh, respectively.

The second type of backup is online backup, where you backup files to the Internet cloud. Microsoft does have two online storage solutions, Windows Live SkyDrive, which is aimed at general online storage needs, and Office Live Workspace, which is really about document collaboration. However, neither offers any automated way, perhaps through Backup and Restore, to backup files or system images from your PC to the Internet. Maybe in Windows Live Wave 4. Or in Windows 8.

Available Backup Capabilities in Various Windows 7 Product Editions

The different product editions of Windows 7 include support for different features. These differences can be dramatic in some cases?digital media feature support is an obvious example?and subtle in others. In Windows Vista, lower-end versions lacked some of the systems?s best data and PC reliability features. Fortunately, this is no longer the case in Windows 7: Now, all Windows 7 product editions get Backup and Restore (with file and system image backup capabilities), Previous Versions, and System Restore. The only exception is network-based backups: Only Windows 7 Professional, Enterprise, and Ultimate support that capability.

As a reminder, the following table outlines the Backup and Restore technologies that are available in each mainstream Windows 7 product edition. You can find the complete list of Windows 7 features in my article, Windows 7 Product Editions: A Comparison.

Starter     Home Premium     Professional     Enterprise & Ultimate
Windows Backup     Yes     Yes     Yes     Yes
System image     Yes     Yes     Yes     Yes
Backup to network                 Yes     Yes

One Tool to Rule Them All: Using Backup and Restore

Although various data recovery tools are available scattered through the Windows 7 user interface, a single interface?Backup and Restore?provides a handy front end to most of them. Shown in the following figure, this application helps you backup and restore files on your PC, create and restore complete system image backups as well, and access the System Restore recovery utility.

Windows 7 Feature Focus: Backup and Restore
It?s a one-stop shop for all your data protection needs.

Tip: This interface was called Backup and Restore Center in Windows Vista.

Because Backup and Restore basically sits in front of most of the other data recovery functions included in Windows 7, we will use this as the obvious starting point for the data and system backup and restore features discussed here.

Tip: Backup and Restore can be found in the Start Menu under All Programs, Maintenance, but the easiest way to find this application, as always, is Start Menu Search: Type backup and press Enter.

Backing Up Documents, Pictures, and Other Data

If you want to create a data backup, you can use Windows Backup, which is available from Backup and Restore. To do so, launch Backup and Restore and click the Set up backup link. This launches Windows Backup’s Setup up backup wizard, as shown here:

Windows 7 Feature Focus: Backup and Restore
Windows Backup helps you manually create a backup of your important data files.

In the first step of the wizard, you must choose a location to store the backup. You can save a backup to an internal or external hard disk or other storage device, a recordable optical disk (typically a writeable CD or DVD), or a network share. (Network backup is not available in Windows 7 Starter, Home Basic, or Home Premium, however.) The amount of space you need, of course, depends on the amount of data you are backing up. The wizard autoselects the local storage offering the most free space, but you can change this selection, of course.

Tip: Microsoft does not allow you to back up to the disk or partition you are backing up. That is, if you are backing up data from the C: drive, you cannot save the backup to the C: drive.

In the second step, you have two choices: Let Windows choose (recommended) and Let me choose. If you choose the former, Windows Backup will automatically backup data files saved in libraries, on the desktop, and in any folders founder in your user folder. (Windows Backup will also create a system image if you choose this option, and then automatically make periodic backups on a schedule going forward.)

Windows 7 Feature Focus: Backup and Restore
Here, it really is best to let Windows choose.

If you choose Let me choose, Windows Backup will present an expandable view of your file system. From this interface, you can pick and choose exactly what to backup. You can also optionally cause a system image to be made with this type of backup.

Windows 7 Feature Focus: Backup and Restore
If you have specific backup needs, you can micro-manage Windows Backup as well.

In the next step, review what you’ve chosen. This step is important because you can change the schedule on which Windows Backup backs up your data going forward. Click the Change schedule link to change the default, which is to make a backup every Sunday night at 7:00 pm.

Windows 7 Feature Focus: Backup and Restore
This is your last chance to adjust settings before the first backup is created.

Click Save settings and run backup to start the backup and establish a backup schedule going forward. As the backup begins, Backup and Restore displays its progress.

Windows 7 Feature Focus: Backup and Restore
You can monitor the backup progress or get on with other work.

Tip: If you set up an automatic backup schedule now, Windows 7 will monitor your PC usage and prompt you to perform occasional full backups over time as well.

As the backup runs, the Action Center icon in the notification area of the taskbar changes, adding a small black clock. If you click this icon, you’ll see the message shown below: A backup is in progress. This message will occur in the future, when Windows Backup runs in the background.

Windows 7 Feature Focus: Backup and Restore
Backups trigger a change in the Action Center notification icon.

Tip: You can create multiple automatic data backup schedules if you want. For example, you may want to back up different drives or data file types at different times or with different regularity.

Managing Data Backups

Once you have created your first data backup, a few things change. First, Backup and Restore indicates that you?ve configured a backup location and notes when the last and next backups occur. You can also change the automatic backup settings and restore all of the files for the current user.

Windows 7 Feature Focus: Backup and Restore
Backup and Restore reflects the recent backup.

You can also manage the disk space used on your backup device. When you click the Manage space link in Backup and Restore, the Manage Windows Backup disk space window will occur, displaying information about the currently selected backup device. As you can see in the figure below, you can browse the file system of the backup location, view backups stored on that device, and change settings associated with system image backups.

Windows 7 Feature Focus: Backup and Restore
From this simple interface, you can manage details associated with your backup device and the backups stored on it.

If you do click View backups, you can’t actually navigate around inside of the backups you have made so far. Instead, you’re provided with the window shown below. From here, you can view the backups and delete them, but not get into them in any meaningful way.

Windows 7 Feature Focus: Backup and Restore
Only the simplest of backup management choices are available.

Tip: Want to see what’s in a backup? You can do it, but not from this interface. Instead, go back to the previous window and click Browse. This will open Windows Explorer, pointing at the location of your backup. At this location, you will see a special folder with a Windows Backup icon and the name of your PC. If you try to double-click this folder, a Windows Backup window will appear. Instead, right-click the folder and choose Open. Then, click Continue in the permission folder that appears. You’ll be presented with a folder structure representing your various backups. Inside of each of these folders? A number of standard ZIP files (shown below). Worse comes to worse and you lose everything, at least these files will always be accessible.

Windows 7 Feature Focus: Backup and Restore
Windows Backup uses regular ZIP files under the covers to backup your data.
Restoring Files

Backup and Restore can also be used to restore files you have previously backed up. There are three general file restore methods.

Restore my files. Restore your own files and folders.

Restore all users’ files. Restore your own files and folders as well as those of other users.

Select another backup to restore files from. Perform more advanced restoration tasks, such as restoring files from a different PC.

These all work similarly. You can follow these steps to trigger a restore of your own data:

1. Open Backup and Restore and click the Restore my files button.

2. The Restore Files window appears.

Windows 7 Feature Focus: Backup and Restore
Restore Files lets you find the files you’d like to restore.

From here, you have three options:

Search. If you know exactly what you’re looking for, and only need one or a handful of files, you can use the Search button to Search your existing backup sets.

Browse for files. If you’d like to manually browse around the backup set to find a file or any number of individual files, click Browse for files. You’ll be presented with a modified File Open dialog, from which you can browse the various backups you’ve created, diving into the full backup or just the files in your user account.

Windows 7 Feature Focus: Backup and Restore
With either Browse for files or Browser for folders, you can dig in and route around inside the backup set.

Browse for folders. To recover entire folders full of files (and other folders).

Whichever method you choose, you can mark files and folder for restoration as you go and then continue looking for more.

3. When you’re ready to go, click the Next button in the Restore Files window. Windows Backup will prompt you to decide where you want to restore the files to; either to their original locations or to a different location.

Windows 7 Feature Focus: Backup and Restore
While you will often want to simply restore to the original location, sometimes it’s a good idea to see what’s in the backup before overwriting your files.

Choose one and then click Restore. Windows Backup will begin restoring your files. If there any of the backup files will overwrite an existing file, you’ll see the normal File Copy window shown below, which offers you a chance to overwrite, copy but keep both files, or don’t copy.

Windows 7 Feature Focus: Backup and Restore
Make sure you don’t wipe out anything important while restoring files.

When the restore is complete, Windows Backup will let you know that the files have been restored and give you an opportunity to view a list of restored files.
Backing Up the Entire PC: System Image

Backing up and restoring data files is important and should occur on a regular basis; but over the past few years, a new type of backup utility that backs up entire PC systems using system images has become quite popular. These types of backups protect against a hardware disaster: If your hard drive completely fails, for example, you can purchase a new drive and use the system image to restore the PC to its previous state.

System imaging utilities aren?t actually all that new; corporations have been using them for years. But now that consumer-oriented system-imaging utilities have gained in popularity, Microsoft has created its own version, which it includes with Windows 7.

Secret: The system image utility was called Windows Complete PC Backup in Windows Vista.

Secret: System imaging utilities typically compress the data on your hard drives so that the image file takes up a lot less space than the original installation. Various solutions use different compression schemes, but you may be interested to know that Windows 7 uses the tried-and-true Virtual Hard Disk (VHD) format that Microsoft also uses in Windows Virtual PC and its server-based Hyper-V virtualization solutions. That means system images created with Windows 7 will be supported for a long time to come.

Caution: System images contain complete PC environments. You can?t arbitrarily restore only parts of a system image, as you can with data backups. Instead, when you restore a system image, it restores the entire PC and overwrites any existing operating system you may already have on there. That means you should be careful before restoring a system image: Any data you have on the disk will be overwritten. Of course, you?re using automatic backups, too, right?

To create a system image, launch Backup and Restore and click the Create a system image link on the left. This launches the Create a system image wizard, shown below, which walks you through the steps needed to completely back up your PC system. You can save system images to hard disks or optical storage (such as recordable CDs or DVDs), as well as network locations (Windows 7 Professional, Enterprise, or Ultimate only). However, network-based system images cannot be securely protected, as hard drive- and optical disc-based backups can.

Windows 7 Feature Focus: Backup and Restore
System image is one of the best features in Windows 7.

Secret: You can only write a system image to a hard disk that is formatted with the NTFS file system. That?s because system images often exceed the 4GB file size limit imposed by the older and less reliable FAT32 file system.

Click Next. The wizard will give you a chance to confirm the backup settings and remind you which partitions are being imaged. It will also provide an estimate of the amount of space needed to create a system image. The required storage space varies according to the size and usage of the hard disk on your PC.

Windows 7 Feature Focus: Backup and Restore
System image is ready to go.

Click Start backup to begin the system image process.

Secret: Two file system locations must be included in the system image?what Microsoft refers to as the boot partition and the system partition. The boot partition is always C:\, whereas the system partition is the drive with the Windows 7 Windows directory. This is typically C:, but if you installed Windows 7 in a dual-boot setup with a previous Windows version, the system partition might be in a different location. If you have other drives or partitions, you can optionally choose to include them in the system image as well.

As the image is created, Windows Backup will provide an ongoing progress indicator.

Windows 7 Feature Focus: Backup and Restore
Though complete PC backups are huge, they are compressed and therefore much smaller than the actual disk to which you are backing.

This process could take some time, especially on a heavily used PC. When it’s done, Windows Backup will prompt you to create a system repair disc. You should do so: While Windows 7 does install recovery files directly into the boot partition, in some cases, these files will not boot the PC. If that happens, you can use the system repair disc to boot your PC, a requirement for restoring the entire PC with the system image (as we’ll see in the next section).

Windows 7 Feature Focus: Backup and Restore
If you don’t have one already, be sure to create a system repair disc.

Secret: You can use any writeable CD or DVD for a system repair disc.

Secret: If you have both 32-bit and 64-bit versions of Windows 7 on different PCs, you cannot use the same system repair disc for each. Instead, you must create separate system repair discs for 32-bit and 64-bit systems.

Restoring the Entire PC

If a catastrophic hardware or software failure has rendered your computer untenable, and you simply want to return to a known-good system backup, you can use one of the system images you’ve previously created to do so. Note, however, that you will typically need to boot your PC into the Windows Recovery Environment to make this happen, either using the boot files on your PC or the system repair disc that you previously created. Note, too, that restoring your PC in this fashion will wipe out all of the data and settings changes you’ve made since the last system image. So this should not be undertaken lightly.

Follow these steps to restore your entire PC using a system image:

1. Reboot the computer.

2. If you are using a system repair disc, boot the PC with that. Otherwise, after your PC has finished its BIOS sequence, hold down the F8 key. Choose Repair Your Computer from the Advanced Boot Options screen (below) and tap Enter.

Windows 7 Feature Focus: Backup and Restore
Choose the top option to restore your entire PC.

3. After the loading files screen, choose the correct language and keyboard input method and then click Next.

4. If you booted from the hard drive, you will need to choose System Image Recovery from the System Recovery Options window that appears. Otherwise, System Recovery will examine the hard drives attached to your PC and look for Windows installs. When it’s done, it will list the install(s) it found and give you the opportunity to use Windows 7’s built-in recovery tools to fix problems with Windows (which we cover in Chapter 24) or you can restore your PC to an earlier time using a system image. Choose that latter option and click Next.

5. The Re-image your computer wizard begins. In the first phase of this wizard, you choose the latest image available (the default) or you can select a different system image. When you’ve chosen, click Next.

Windows 7 Feature Focus: Backup and Restore
This wizard will step you through the process of restoring your PC with a system image.

6. In the next step, you can choose to format the PC’s hard drive and repartition disks (as Windows 7 Setup would do) to match the layout of the system image. Generally speaking, you should enable this option. Click Next to continue.

7. In the final phase of the wizard, you can verify what you’re doing and click Finish to continue. Note that restoring an entire PC from a system image can be a time consuming process.
But wait, there’s more…

There’s much more going on with Windows 7’s data protection features, but you’ll have to check out Windows 7 Secrets for the rest, including the Windows Recovery Environment, Previous Versions, and System Restore. (We also cover Live Mesh and Windows Live SkyDrive, too.) The book is available now from and other booksellers. Click here to find out more about Windows 7 Secrets.

Internet Explorer Feature Focus Download Manager

While Internet Explorer’s rivals have had download managers for years, users of the Microsoft browser have had to suffer along with a more limited and less useful downloading capability. Until now, that is: With Internet Explorer 9, Microsoft is finally adding a download manager to the dominant web browser line. And while they may be late to the game, IE 9’s download manager is, as you might expect, quite a bit more capable than those of its rivals.

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On the surface, the IE 9 download manager works much like similar features in other browsers. When you trigger a download, the IE 9 notification bar appears, asking you if you’d like to run or save the file, much like previous IE versions. But while there are prominent Run and Save buttons (as well as Cancel), the Save button has an ancillary drop-down that lets you choose between Save, Save as, and Save and run.

If you do choose to download the file, a View downloads button will appear, giving you access to the download manager. (You can also trigger this view by clicking Tools and then Download manager or with the CTRL + J.)

The download manager window provides a handy central location for viewing and tracking your downloads. Each entry in the list provides a location link, so you can jump directly to the folder in question, a Run or Open/Open with button so you can access the individual files, and a Remove (“X”) button so you can remove that file from the list.

Secret: If you mouse over the an item that is still downloading you can find out the transfer speed:

You can also clear the entire list and access a very simple Options window that lets you set the default download location.

OK, so most of that is likely familiar to you, if you’ve used other browsers. Where the IE 9 download manager improves on that basic design is through its integration with the IE security features, the SmartScreen Filter and a new SmartScreen download reputation service.

The SmartScreen Filter debuted in IE 8, providing users of that browser with integrated protection against electronic threats. In IE 9, the SmartScreen Filter works with the download manager, and the new download reputation service, to provide similar protections against threats from downloaded files. It checks the reputation service, scans downloads for viruses, and verifies the source of the download.

“Downloads are attack vectors,” Microsoft general manager Dean Hachamovitch told me. “The question is, are you getting real stuff or are you getting malware? This is handled generically in other browsers , which leave answering these questions up to the user.”

According to Hachamovitch, he talked to the guys at Microsoft behind IE’s phishing filter and SmartScreen features and asked them about the best way to handle download manager security. “They told me we needed application reputation. Each time the browser goes to download a file, it should be able to query a database and ask, is this a commonly downloaded thing like iTunes? Is it signed? Who signed it? Are they OK?

“This is an early warning system for malware,” Hachamovitch said. “Of the stuff that people download that has no reputation data, about 30 to 40 percent is malware. You need an early warning system.”

Note: IE 9’s reputation checking is running in silent mode during the beta and will be enabled (during the beta) when Microsoft feels it has enough data to make accurate download decisions. This update will not require users to download any code or update the browser explicitly.
Final thoughts

The Internet Explorer download manager was a long time coming, but Microsoft’s decision to bolster this functionality with important security features was a good one. Worth the wait? Absolutely. And if you’ve been pining for a true download manager, IE 9 won’t force you to switch browsers or download and maintain a separate add-on.

Internet Explorer Feature Focus One Box

Like other browsers, Internet Explorer 9 dispenses with the traditionally separate address bar and search box, replacing both with a single control that Microsoft calls the One Box. The IE 9 One Box, shown below, provides a single place for getting started, whether that means navigating to a particular site or searching for a site, term, or phrase.

IE 9 One Box

While other browser makers may have beaten Microsoft to market with a single, all-in-one address bar, IE 9 goes further than the competition in many ways. Key among these is keystroke privacy, which is enabled by default. In other browsers, each keystroke you type is sent automatically to the configured search provider. But in IE 9, this is not the case: Keystrokes are not sent to the search provider unless you explicitly enable this functionality. (Doing so provides support for search suggestions, which are described below.)

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For the most part, navigation in the IE 9 One Box works as it did with the address bar in older IE versions. That is, you can select the control (ALT + D, or CTRL + L), type in a URL (with or without http://,www, or a site extension) and browse the web normally. According to Microsoft, One Box will evaluate single words to determine if they represent a valid URL (“apple” for, for example, or “microsoft” for If they do, it will load that site. (During the beta, this functionality does not appear to work correctly, however, loading instead the search provider’s results page.)

Inline autocomplete

As you type in the One Box, IE 9 provides inline autocomplete functionality so that you can quickly get to the sites you want after typing only a few letters. IE 9 anticipates your needs by autocompleting with popular web sites, and also with items from your Favorites and history. And if your search provider supports it, you can type in common terms like “news” or “music” to navigate quickly to the site you prefer.

IE 9 One Box Search

In previous versions of IE, you would need to select the dedicated Search box to search the web from the browser. But now you can do so from the One Box, by typing in a search term instead of a URL. For example, if you want to see a weather report, you could type “Seattle weather” (or whatever; no quotes) and tap ENTER, instead of manually navigating to or whatever site you might use.

IE 9 One Box Switch search providers

You can also switch search providers on the fly, and choose between Google, Yahoo!, Bing, and whatever other providers you like. So if you don’t see the results you want on one, you can easily try another. Search providers are accessed from the One Box drop down that appears as you type. Or, you can click and drag down on the One Box to display this drop down and select a new provider.

IE 9 One Box Use search suggestions
If you enable search suggestions, One Box will display search suggestions as you type directly in the drop down that appears. So as you type “Seattle weather” you’ll get the forecast inline, without having to display the search results page.

IE 9 One Box

These search suggestions are often very visual as well. So if you search for a product, place, or other thing, you will often see pictures inline in the drop down.

IE 9 One Box Corporate search
PCs that are connected to a corporate domain can use the IE 9 One Box to quickly find intranet sites using single words with a forward slash. So if you have an internal web site at http://vail, you can get there by typing vail/ in the IE 9 One Box. That’s because the single word vail, without the slash, would trigger a search.

Access browsing history and Favorites
To access your recent browsing history and Favorites directly from One Box, just click, hold, and drag down on the One Box control, or click the little down arrow at its far right.

IE 9 One Box Pin a web site

You can also pin a web site to the Windows 7 taskbar by dragging its web site icon from the One Box to the taskbar. This process is described in my Pinned Web Sites feature focus.

Windows 7 Product Editions: A Comparison

Back in February, I wrote an article, Windows 7 Product Editions, in which I discussed the various SKUs (stock keeping units, or product editions) that Microsoft would provide with its next operating system. Now, with nearly fully-functional versions of each product edition available to the public, I thought I’d provide a series of tables comparing each Windows 7 product editon, similar in scope to the work I did documenting Windows Vista.

I believe these tables will help you pick which Windows 7 product edition makes the most sense for you, based on your needs and wants. Let’s dive right in.

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Note: This set of tables has been updated for the final, shipping versions of Windows 7. Unlike similar comparisons, these tables were generated using not by simply observering each product edition, but also by using Microsoft’s internal reporting mechanisms to determine exactly which features are, in fact, available in each version. For this reason, I can reasonably state that this is the most complete and accurate list of Windows 7 features anywhere. That said, I’m still human and could have made mistakes transcribing the information. If you see anything wrong or missing, or would like to see a certain feature added, please contact me.
Finding what you need

Availability     User interface features
Security features     Performance features
Reliability features     Bundled applications
Digital media and devices     Networking features
Mobility features     Enterprise features


Home Basic     Starter     Home Premium     Professional     Enterprise & Ultimate
Retail packaging                 Yes     Yes     Ult. only
Can purchase electronically                 Yes     Yes     Ult. only
Pricing: Full version                 $199.99     $299.99     $319.99 (Ult)
Pricing: Upgrade version                 $119.99     $199.99     $219.99 (Ult.)
Bundled with new PCs in major markets           Yes     Yes     Yes     Ult. only
Windows Anytime Upgrade (WAU)     Yes     Yes     Yes     Yes
WAU pricing/To Home Premium     $79.99     $79.99
WAU pricing/To Professional           $114.99     $89.99
WAU pricing/To Ultimate     $164.99     $164.99     $139.99     $129.99
Virtualization rights (Can be installed in a virtual environment)                 Yes     Yes     Yes

User interface features

Home Basic     Starter     Home Premium     Professional     Enterprise & Ultimate
Windows Basic UI     Yes     Yes     Yes     Yes     Yes
Windows Standard UI     Yes           Yes     Yes     Yes
Windows Aero UI (“Glass”)                 Yes     Yes     Yes
Aero Peek                 Yes     Yes     Yes
Aero Snaps     Yes     Yes     Yes     Yes     Yes
Aero Shake                 Yes     Yes     Yes
Aero Background                 Yes     Yes     Yes
Libraries     Yes     Yes     Yes     Yes     Yes
Windows Flip     Yes     Yes     Yes     Yes     Yes
Windows Flip 3D                 Yes     Yes     Yes
Live Taskbar Previews     Yes           Yes     Yes     Yes
Live Preview (Explorer)                 Yes     Yes     Yes
Jump Lists     Yes     Yes     Yes     Yes     Yes
Windows Search     Yes     Yes     Yes     Yes     Yes

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Security features

Home Basic     Starter     Home Premium     Professional     Enterprise & Ultimate
More granular UAC     Yes     Yes     Yes     Yes     Yes
Action Center     Yes     Yes     Yes     Yes     Yes
Windows Defender     Yes     Yes     Yes     Yes     Yes
Windows Firewall     Yes     Yes     Yes     Yes     Yes
IE 8 Protected Mode and DEP support     Yes     Yes     Yes     Yes     Yes
Windows Update (can access Microsoft Update)     Yes     Yes     Yes     Yes     Yes
Fast User Switching     Yes           Yes     Yes     Yes
Parental Controls     Yes     Yes     Yes     Yes     Yes

Performance features

Home Basic     Starter     Home Premium     Professional     Enterprise & Ultimate
Windows ReadyDrive     Yes     Yes     Yes     Yes     Yes
Windows ReadyBoost     Yes     Yes     Yes     Yes     Yes
SuperFetch     Yes     Yes     Yes     Yes     Yes
64-bit processor support     No     No     Yes     Yes     Yes
Physical processor support     1     1     1     2     2
Processor core support     Unlimited     Unlimited     Unlimited     Unlimited     Unlimited
Max RAM (32-bit)     4 GB     4 GB     4 GB     4 GB     4 GB
Max RAM (64-bit)     n/a     n/a     16 GB     192 GB     192 GB

Reliability features

Home Basic     Starter     Home Premium     Professional     Enterprise & Ultimate
Windows Backup     Yes     Yes     Yes     Yes     Yes
System image     Yes     Yes     Yes     Yes     Yes
Problem Steps Recorder     Yes     Yes     Yes     Yes     Yes
Backup to network                       Yes     Yes
Encrypting File System (EFS)                       Yes     Yes
BitLocker                             Yes
BitLocker To Go                             Yes
Automatic hard disk defragmentation     Yes     Yes     Yes     Yes     Yes
Previous Versions     Yes     Yes     Yes     Yes     Yes
Create and attach (mount) VHD     Yes     Yes     Yes     Yes     Yes

Bundled applications

Home Basic     Starter     Home Premium     Professional     Enterprise & Ultimate
Internet Explorer 8     Yes     Yes     Yes     Yes     Yes
Windows Gadgets and Gallery     Yes     Yes     Yes     Yes     Yes
Games Explorer with basic games (FreeCell, Hearts, Minesweeper, Purble Palace, Solitaire, Spider Solitaire)     Yes     Yes     Yes     Yes     Yes
Premium games (Internet Backgammon, Internet Checkers, Internet Spades, Mahjong Titans)                 Yes     Yes     Yes
Calculator     Yes     Yes     Yes     Yes     Yes
Paint     Yes     Yes     Yes     Yes     Yes
Snipping Tool                 Yes     Yes     Yes
Sticky Notes                 Yes     Yes     Yes
Windows Journal                 Yes     Yes     Yes
Windows Fax and Scan     Yes     Yes     Yes     Yes     Yes
Windows PowerShell and ISE     Yes     Yes     Yes     Yes     Yes
WordPad     Yes     Yes     Yes     Yes     Yes
XPS Viewer     Yes     Yes     Yes     Yes     Yes

Digital media and devices

Home Basic     Starter     Home Premium     Professional     Enterprise & Ultimate
Windows Photo Viewer     Yes     Yes     Yes     Yes     Yes
Basic photo slide shows     Yes     Yes     Yes     Yes     Yes
Windows Media Player 12 with Play To     Yes     Yes     Yes     Yes     Yes
Windows Media Player Remote Media Experience                 Yes     Yes     Yes
MPEG-2 decoding                 Yes     Yes     Yes
Dolby Digital compatibility                 Yes     Yes     Yes
AAC and H.264 decoding     Yes     Yes     Yes     Yes     Yes
DVD playback                 Yes     Yes     Yes
Can install MPEG-2 (DVD playback) add-in     Yes     Yes     n/a     n/a     n/a
Windows Media Center                 Yes     Yes     Yes
Number of TV tuners supported                 4 of each type (analog, digital, etc.)     4 of each type (analog, digital, etc.)     4 of each type (analog, digital, etc.)
Windows DVD Maker                 Yes     Yes     Yes
Device Stage     Yes     Yes     Yes     Yes     Yes
Sync Center     Yes     Yes     Yes     Yes     Yes

Networking features

Home Basic     Starter     Home Premium     Professional     Enterprise & Ultimate
SMB connections     20     20     20     20     20
Network and Sharing Center     Yes     Yes     Yes     Yes     Yes
HomeGroup sharing     Join only     Join only     Yes     Yes     Yes
Ad-hoc network create and join     Yes     Yes, but accessible only via Start Menu Search     Yes     Yes     Yes
Improved power management     Yes     Yes     Yes     Yes     Yes
Connect to a Projector     Yes     Yes     Yes     Yes     Yes
Remote Desktop     Yes     Yes     Yes     Yes     Yes
Remote Desktop Host                       Yes     Yes
IIS Web Server                 Yes     Yes     Yes
RSS support     Yes     Yes     Yes     Yes     Yes
Internet Connection Sharing     Yes           Yes     Yes     Yes
Network Bridge     Yes           Yes     Yes     Yes
Offline files                       Yes     Yes

Mobility features

Home Basic     Starter     Home Premium     Professional     Enterprise & Ultimate
Windows Mobility Center     Yes (No presentation mode)           Yes (No presentation mode)     Yes     Yes
Windows Sideshow (Auxilliary display)                 Yes     Yes     Yes
Sync Center     Yes     Yes     Yes     Yes     Yes
Tablet PC functionality                 Yes     Yes     Yes
Multi-Touch support                 Yes     Yes     Yes

Enterprise features

Home Basic     Starter     Home Premium     Professional     Enterprise & Ultimate
Domain join (Windows Server)                       Yes     Yes
XP Mode licensed                       Yes     Yes
AppLocker                             Yes
Boot from VHD                             Yes
BranchCache                             Yes
DirectAccess                             Yes
Federated Search (Enterprise Search Scopes)                             Yes
Multilingual User Interface (MUI) Language Packs                             Yes
Location-aware printing                       Yes     Yes
Subsystem for UNIX-based Applications                             Yes

With MED-V, Microsoft Moves One Step Closer to the Future of App Compatibility

Last week, Microsoft announced the availability of the 1.0 version of its Microsoft Enterprise Desktop Virtualization (MED-V) product, part of the Microsoft Desktop Optimization Pack (MDOP) set of tools that the software giant makes available to its volume license customers. MED-V, along with associated tools like Virtual PC and App-V (Application Virtualization) is, I think, the future of Windows application compatibility, a theme we’ve discussed a few times here in the past. But now that MED-V has been finalized, what was once a theory can now be put to the test.

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MED-V removes one of the biggest barriers to adopting a new version of Windows because it eliminates the need for application compatibility testing. Until now, migrating to a new Windows version entails a lengthy compatibility testing process and, usually, investigations into what it will take to move critical custom applications, LOB (line of business) applications, and other client software over to the new OS. This delays the rollout of the new OS, and prevents users from taking advantage of that system’s enhanced security and functionality.

With MED-V, application compatibility is decoupled from the OS. Those applications that cannot run natively under the new Windows version can be deployed to desktops under a hidden Virtual PC-based virtual environment. To the end user, however, they’re simply running the applications that they need, and they don’t need to deal with separate virtual and physical desktops. Instead, MED-V allows virtualized applications to run side-by-side with native applications and interact properly with the underlying PC’s file system and other capabilities. The effect is nearly seamless.

With MED-V, you can run virtualized legacy applications alongside more modern local applications.

Of course, in its current incarnation, MED-V requires you to participate in Microsoft’s volume licensing program, which somewhat impacts its availability. Too, similar MDOP tools like App-V–which lets you essentially stream virtualized applications from a server to clients without requiring them to be installed locally–are similarly constrained from an availability perspective. But I have no doubt that Microsoft will make this technology more broadly available in the future, if only for the simple fact that it removes the need to saddle the core Windows OS with backwards-compatible APIs and components. Suddenly, the fetters are off.

Even Microsoft hints as much. On its MED-V web page, the software giant hints at future use-cases for MED-V beyond the 1.0 release: “In future releases, MED-V in conjunction with the new VECD [Vista Enterprise Centralized Desktop] licensing, may be used to deliver a corporate virtual image to ‘unmanaged’ PCs, and reduce the tension between IT control and user flexibility. [This will] increase productivity for on-site contractors, offshore outsourcing and branch offices, enable employees to work from home or with personal laptops, [and] drive business continuity and recovery plans with virtual desktops anywhere.”

I’m excited about what this technology portends. I think it’s safe to say you can expect to see a lot more about this topic in the coming months. And if you’re already licensing MDOP or can do so, be sure to check out MED-V. It may just forever alter how you view application compatibility on new versions of Windows.

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