Windows 7 Service Pack 1 coming soon

Windows 7 is, by far, the best Operating System Microsoft have produced but we all know it isn’t perfect…and so do Microsoft. They have announced that Service Pack 1 will be available as a public beta next month (July), not just for Windows 7 but also Windows Server 2008 R2.
For server it will bring RemoteFX (VDI multimedia performance) and Dynamic Memory Allocation; for the desktop it is really just a collection of fixes, many/most of which have already been delivered via Windows Update.
It’s real use is going be moving people off XP, something which many companies are still reluctant to do. The “accepted wisdom” is not to deploy a new MS OS until the first service pack has been released and, in times gone by, this was generally sound practice…as Vista proved 😉 However Windows 7 has always been stable…even as a beta, so a lot of people are missing out on the dozens of benefits it brings,for no real reason. Once this milestone has officially been reached I’ll be very interested to see its effect on corporate buying strategies.

Downgrade Rights

OEM licences (the ones that come pre installed on new pcs/laptops) can currently be downgraded to Vista or XP, and many people are still choosing to drop down to XP. However:

“Can I downgrade my OEM version of Windows 7 Professional to XP Professional?

For a limited time of 18 months after the general availability of Windows 7 or the release of a Windows 7 Service Pack, whichever is earlier , the OEM license of Windows 7 Professional and Windows 7 Ultimate will include downgrade rights to Windows XP Professional. After that period the OEM license will enable downgradeable to Windows Vista Business.”

That excerpt from the “Microsoft Downgrade Rights Chart” shows that, very soon; downgrading to Windows XP Pro will only be available to Volume Licensing customers.

I believe that this will be the push most people need to stop clinging to XP and make the move to the 21st century, so this will drive Windows 7 usage. If not, and there are people who insist on downgrading then it will drive adoption of Volume Licensing and all the extras and benefits that brings.

All in all, pretty big changes that will have a positive effect for customers, resellers & Microsoft.

Microsoft: The New Efficiency

At today’s “New Efficiency” launch event, Microsoft CEO Steve Ballmer spoke about Windows 7 deployments and how customers can save money with the latest OS. He particularly mentioned that Windows 7 “will bring $90-$160 saving per pc per year”.

He also discussed the “Consumerisation of IT”, where users bring/force change in Corporate IT via their expectations from using software at home. He said that it isn’t a new phenomenon (it just has a new name) and that it will continue to be a huge driving force in the way that software is designed and used-such as the extra social networking features being added into Office, Exchange & Sharepoint.

This all led to the launch of a new website:

which contains dozens of videos from MS execs covering topics such as:

  • Discover Windows Optimized Desktop
  • Learn about Optimized Server
  • Experience Unified Communications
  • Explore Business Ready Security

There are a bunch of videos on Exchange 2010 such as:

  • Upgrade & Deployment
  • High Availability
  • Mobility & Active Sync
  • Email Archiving

and more. These are a great source of information on Exchange 2010, some of which I’ve collected here.

The banner below is a great representation of the products & ideas behind the New Efficiency.


There are way too many sessions to list here but MS have put together some suggested sessions listings for:

  • Enterprises
  • Mid-Size
  • SMB’s

They contain links to the videos on the New Efficiency site and can be downloaded from my SkyDrive here.

Windows 7 Enterprise Trial

  • Windows 7 Enterprise is the most feature rich version of Windows 7 and offers much more than Windows 7 Pro including:
  • Direct Access
  • Branch Cache
  • App Locker
  • Bit Locker (To Go)
  • 4 Virtual licences

and more…

The only way to obtain the Enterprise version is to purchase Windows 7 Pro with Software Assurance.

Microsoft have released a 90 day trial of Windows 7 Enterprise which is generally available online, rather than restricted to Technet/MSDN, giving an even wider audience the chance to see what benefits Microsoft’s new OS will bring to them.

You can see more info and download the trial here. The trial is available in the following languages:

  • English
  • French
  • German
  • Spanish
  • Japanese

If you haven’t had the chance to play with Windows 7 and it’s Enterprise features, I implore you to download this trial 🙂 Move quickly as the trial is on a” first come first served basis” until March 31st 2010.

Windows 7 WILL have IE

The EU fuelled saga of IE8 in Windows 7 has taken another turn now-it seems Windows 7 WILL included Internet Explorer here in Europe. Microsoft have instead agreed with the EU’s idea of having a “ballot screen” allowing users to choose and download other competing browsers such as Firefox or (the instigators of this whole thing) Opera…This is a bit of an about-turn as MS were dead set against this idea initially.

The interesting thing is how this affects the availability of Windows 7 upgrades in Europe. The last minute creation of “Windows E” meant that an upgrade version wouldn’t be available in Europe so users would need to do a clean install-which wasn’t an ideal situation. However with this change, perhaps we will get the ability to upgrade after all?

It seems that Microsoft will continue with Windows 7 “E” until the EU formally accepts the Ballot proposal. Hopefully that won’t take too long (in the work of international law) to go through and Europe will be able to get it’s upgrade on! The RC installation of Windows 7 doesn’t expire until March 2010 so if they can get it wrapped up before then-that should suit everybody…expect those who’ve pre-ordered!

Thanks to Mary Jo for this and as she updates, I’ll update 🙂

*Update* It seems that Windows 7 E may well still be the plan!

*Update* There is now an official statement on the Microsoft PressPass site here. The most exciting bit is:

“Under our new proposal, among other things, European consumers who buy a new Windows PC with Internet Explorer set as their default browser would be shown a ‘ballot screen’ from which they could, if they wished, easily install competing browsers from the Web. If this proposal is ultimately accepted, Microsoft will ship Windows in Europe with the full functionality available in the rest of the world.” (Bold mine).

The EU should accept it as it was their/Opera’s idea in the first place so hopefully we’ll all be doing nice upgrade installs on our machines soon-whoo hoo!

Windows 7 e

Check out my sweet photo editing skills 😉

*Update* Opera now want the Ballot screen to be logo free (See techflash)! I’ve said it before that Opera are, and pardon my French, taking the piss…as formerly funny fellow Northerner Peter kay once said “Too far (Tony), too far”!

Windows 7 & Server 2008 R2

Windows 7 is excellent on it’s own, full of great new features, but when combined with Windows Server 2008 R2-it really comes in to it’s own. Things such as Direct Access, Branch Cache and Network Access Protection help make things easier, faster, more secure and better than ever before!

Win7 & R2

Direct Access:

Direct Access is Microsoft’s answer to the pain that is VPN’s. They are often tricky to set up, tricky to use with failed connections etc and can waste a lot of time and money in helpdesk calls and lost productivity; so this is where Direct Access comes in. Once PC’s have connected to the corporate network once, they’ll be able to do it anytime, from anywhere:

Direct AccessDirect Access

This means users will receive the latest updates wherever they log on…home, the airport, a hotel-anywhere! Making mobile working a more secure propostion for users and admins…

For more details, see my dedicated post here and there is a great Solution Design Technet article here.

Branch Cache:

This new feature is designed for remote office and works by caching information on local servers rather than retrieving it from HQ each time. I’ve just seen that the information can be cached on client computers and this is knows as “distributed cache mode”.This decreases network traffic and, at the same time, helps increase users productivity.

Branch Cache

Branch cache retention policies can be set by IT be it based on cache size, length of time cached etc. Technet has a great Early Adopters guide that’s full of information and can be found here.

To benefit from all these features, you need to run both Windows 7 AND Windows Server 2008 R2:


Windows 7 Presentation Mode

Windows 7 just keeps surprising me with it’s great new features; I’ve just seen Presentation Mode which I think is great. It really shows that MS have been listening to feedback and putting a lot of thought into how their OS is used.

Presentation Mode is found in the Mobility Centre (Windows Key + X) and lets you control your machine’s behaviour while you are giving presentations. You can:

  • Stop the Screensaver coming on
  • Set the volume level
  • Display a different wallpaper

A lot of us have wallpaper of our kids, wives/girlfriends/husbands/boyfriends etc but maybe don’t want to have everyone in the meeting/seminar room to see it for whatever reason, and this is a simple, easy way to do it.

Presentation mode - new

As I say, a great example of Microsoft listening to it’s users 🙂

*Update* As Frederic points out in the comments-this isn’t actually a new feature of Windows 7…it’s there in Vista too! I’ve been using Vista pretty much since it came out and I’ve never come across Presentation Mode and I’ve never heard anyone talk about it; and I think that is a result of the differences between the two Operating Systems. People are just more excited about Windows 7 and that is definitely helping get word of these features out and about 🙂

Windows 7 Kernel Feature Improves Security – Safe Unlinking

The Windows 7 kernel has a new feature called “Safe Unlinking”, to help increase security and prevent vulnerabilities known as pool overrun attacks. This will make the experience of using Windows 7 faster, more reliable and above all, safer by making it harder for people to launch these attacks.

It sits in the memory allocation section of the kernel and performs a series of checks to detect memory corruption, and potential pool overrun attacks. This is the latest in a succession of new security features that MS have been adding over the last few years including:

  • Stack protection (/GS)
  • Data Execution Prevention (DEP)
  • Heap Protection
  • Address Space Layout Randomization (ASLR)
  • Structured Exception Handler Overwrite Protection (SEHOP)

Peter Beck, from Microsoft’s Security Research & Defense team says:

“This simple check blocks the most common exploit technique for pool overruns. It doesn’t mean pool overruns are impossible to exploit, but it significantly increases the work for an attacker”.

What is an overrun attack?

Wikipedia explains it as:

“Memory (on the heap) is dynamically allocated by the application at run-time and typically contains program data. Exploitation is performed by corrupting this data in specific ways to cause the application to overwrite internal structures such as linked list pointers.”

Safe Unlinking will also help improve the reliability of Windows 7 by performing a Bug Check as soon as an overrun is detected, which will prevent further memory corruption, crashes and errors.

More detailed technical information can be found on the MS Security Research & Defense blog here.

Microsoft Windows 7 Touch Pack

To mark the “anniversary” of Windows 7 Multi-Touch, (AKA Windows Touch) being discussed at the D: All Things D conference in 2008, Microsoft have released the Windows 7 Touch Pack.  This is a set of 6 multi-touch enabled apps that will be available with Windows 7; it is comprised of 3 games and 3 MS Surface applications.

Microsoft Surface Globe: This is based on the Virtual Earth 3D engine and, using multi-touch, allows users to navigate different area of the globe as well as getting local info and “pinning” top locations. A demo video can be found here.


Microsoft Surface Collage: Users can arrange photos with their fingertips to create personalised desktop backgrounds.


Microsoft Surface Lagoon: A screensaver that supports multi-touch interaction. “Ripple” the water with your fingers or watch fish gather around as you press down.


Microsoft Blackboard: A game which may also educate! In this physics based teaser, users must arrange various gears, fans and levers to move objects towards the finish.


Microsoft Rebound: A touch based, electrified version of air hockey that can be played online.


Microsoft Garden Pond: A modern version of a Zen garden, this app allows you to guide your Origami creations around the peaceful ponds and pools with your fingers.

It will be up to the OEM’s whether they include some, all or none of these applications however, following general availability of Windows 7, Microsoft will look to expand this.

Some may see these a great features, some may see them as nothing but filler but if nothing else, they do a great job of showing how clean, easy and fresh multi-touch application can be on Windows 7.

You can see even more over at the Windows Team Blog.

Windows 7 XP Mode Pre-requisite

The inclusion of “XP Mode” in Windows 7 is great news, the ability to run legacy apps inside the Windows 7 desktop is going to allow so many more people to upgrade to Microsoft’s awesome new Desktop OS. There is however, one pre-requisite that might mean that not everyone can use this new feature-and that is the need for Hardware Assisted Virtualization (HAV) which is a property of the physical processor.

Intel call this Intel-VT(x) and AMD call it AMD-V and it is tricky because not all processors include this feature. Certainly most (if not all) processors older than 3-4 years won’t be HAV capable and it seems there are still some CPU’s available now that don’t have it. I have seen on blogs (Gizmodo/Engadget etc) and heard from co-workers and the like that finding which processors are compatible can be quite difficult so below is my attempt to clarify the situation. I would like to point out that I’m purely software so CPU’s aren’t my forte-thus if you see any errors/omissions in the below, please let me know 🙂

Intel Processors that support HAV:

Intel’s site is really rather good with great feature comparison charts for all their processors. I’ve made an Excel sheet (which I then had to convert in to a .ppt for WordPress) showing which do/don’t support Intel-VT which is here. Intel’s page is here.

AMD Processors that support HAV:

AMD’s site isn’t anywhere near as good and I had a tough time finding much useful info. The AMD-V page contained this:


and Wikipedia says:

“AMD-V operates on AMD Athlon 64and Athlon 64 X2 with family “F” or “G” on socket AM2 (not 939), Turion 64 X2, Opteron 2nd generation[1] and 3rd-generation,[2] Phenom, and all newer processors. Sempron processorsdo not include support for AMD-V.

On May 23, 2006, AMD released the Athlon 64 (“Orleans”), the Athlon 64 X2 (“Windsor”)and the Athlon 64 FX (“Windsor”)as the first AMD processors to support AMD-V. Prior processors do not have AMD-V.”

If anyone can shed any more definitive light on the AMD chips, please let me know.

**Update** I’ve got some more info and resources to help see if you can benefit from XP Mode.

I don’t know which Processor I have:

Not to worry, the document I put together above tells you which processors support Intel-VT and this link tells you if the CPU in your machine is one of those 🙂

Just download the small app and run it to find out if your Intel chip supports VT.

XP Mode still isn’t working:

Hardware Assisted Virtualization isn’t as straightforward as it perhaps could be, so there’s quite possibly one more step you need to take even if your CPU supports it. Often, HAV is turned off in the BIOS by default and so needs to be activated before you can start. This isn’t the same for every PC so Microsoft have put together some general instructions for Dell, HP & Lenovo here. (The AMD CPU Checker should also be available via that link but it’s not currently working for me).

As you can see, the vast majority of Intel chips that will be in use do support hardware assisted virtualization, and thus Windows 7 XP Mode, but it’s best to check to make sure.

If you find your processor doesn’t support HAV, I’d strongly recommend getting a new CPU/machine that does so you can fully take advantage of the new features of Windows 7.

I hope that helps 🙂

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