Posts Tagged Windows 7

Microsoft’s Virtualisation Announcement & XP Mode

After today’s Virtualisation Hour there was a lot of buzz surrounding the announcements Microsoft made about memory and naturally XP Mode.  I wanted to take a minute though and look more closely at the XP Mode story and hope to help you more clearly understand it.

xp mode

XP Mode…First off, what exactly is it?  Well, it’s virtualisation functionality that allows your Windows 7 machine to run legacy Windows XP applications.  Subjectively looking at it, what it does is allows you to migrate to Windows 7 while still having “backwards compatibility” with older, potentially legacy XP apps.  Maybe you’ve got an app that was developed a long time ago and the developer left…Maybe you’ve got an app that is being developed for Windows 7 but in the interim you need to support it on XP…Maybe you’ve got an app that is part of a merger or set of existing apps that needs deprecated.  XP Mode serves the needs of all of the aforementioned.

XP Mode, however, when it first came out, required what is known as HAV or Hardware Assisted Virtualisation.  In the Intel world it’s Intel VT, in the AMD world it’s called AMD-V.  Essentially it was a BIOS switch you needed to flip in order to ensure that your hardware could run the virtualisation stack more seamlessly.  If you’ve done any 64 bit virtualisation before, surely you’ll have seen this setting.  However, the draw back of this meant that the value sell proposition of Windows 7 was less attractive.  One of the main benefits of Windows 7 was that it didn’t require all of the resources previous operating systems did and hence you could easily upgrade your older hardware to Windows 7.

However, if you were to upgrade legacy hardware, what did this mean?  You guessed it, no Intel VT or AMD-V in most cases, which also now meant no XP mode.  With today’s announcement however, you can now virtualise XP without needing HAV.

This gives you a seamless experience and supportability for those legacy XP apps on any piece of hardware.  That’s the good news.  Here’s the IT spin on it though and where most people go wrong or don’t think of the consequences…

Windows XP mode is a STOP GAP.  It is not an enterprise solution.  Just because you know certain apps work fine on XP and they don’t pass the acidity test to run on Windows 7 DOES NOT mean simply roll out XP mode.  XP mode in a sense is a stand alone machine that is isolated from everything.  Now you ask, wait, it’s part of the domain surely?  Well, yes, however it only gets fired up by the end user when it is needed, therefore the manageability factor of this workstation is VERY difficult to handle.  Let us also not forget that XP SP2 is going End of Life on July 13, 2010.

Also, as an IT admin, ask yourself (if you know about .vhd technology), do you really want .vhd’s floating around in your environment with potentially lucrative company data and applications?  Also, each time you rebuild a workstation, now not only is it one rebuild, it’s two – per workstation!

Sure there are times in an enterprise when you need “XP Mode” but there are much nicer enterprise tools available…Take for example MED-V.  Alternatively, you could always try to run the app in App-V which would centralise it and make updating much easier and put less overhead and burden on your network.  There is further, the option of RDS, but that’s a lot of infrastructure to just support one app. 

My point is that while, yes, it is nice to see the XP Mode caveat of HAV taken away, take it with a grain of salt.  Play your legacy Flight Sim games at home in XP Mode…Use Microsoft BOB in XP Mode, but please don’t take this announcement to mean that now you have a get-out-of-jail-free card to go deploying XP Mode in your corporate environment.

So, without further adieu, here are the distributables you need to make this happen should you wish to remove the requirement for HAV, making XP Mode work in Windows 7.

32 bit MSU Package

64 bit MSU Package

and, should you want some more bedtime reading, here is the KB article which corresponds to the announcement and the MSU’s above.

Enjoy!

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Windows 7 Themes – Guernsey One

NOTE: This is the first in a series of Guernsey themes.

Everyone likes to personalise their background.  With Windows 7, this capability has been extended even further.  Windows 7 introduces “Themes”.  What a Theme lets you do is combine one or more backgrounds with your favourite sounds, colours, screen saver and any other personalisation settings.

With the kind help of the Guernsey Press Company Limited, I’ve been given some exclusive photos of the great Channel Island of Guernsey.  Their photographers take images all around the island and they’ve given me over 60 of their best which they feel showcases their island.  You can read more about the Guernsey Press’ stories (and see where they get the photos) from their website.

What I’ve done with the photos is create a Guernsey Theme for Windows 7 which I’d (and they’d) like to share with you.  This is Guernsey One:

theme1

The images are depicted by a URN (Unique Reference Number) and should you wish, you can use that URN to get a physical copy of the image (using the URN) here.

To install the theme (which rotates all of the above images, download it by clicking on the button below (it’s 38 MB). Once downloaded, simply double click the file and enjoy :)

download button

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Useful Windows 7 Links

From time to time we all amalgamate links for differing things.  Today I came across a post from the Windows Core Team which is a great resource of Windows 7 links.  Don’t forget one of your main resources is Springboard – http://www.microsoft.com/springboard/ but for the rest – here’s their post:

General Links

77 Windows 7 Tips – This is a good spot to learn what is new in Windows 7, and I want to mention one of the least talked about but one of the best features (Problem Steps Recorder) or PSR for short. This will allow you to reproduce what you are seeing and record screen shots, and even make comments when trying to show other users, or even technical support problems that you are having.

New Shortcut Keys in Windows 7 – Ever wonder how some people can work just as fast with a keyboard without even using a mouse? Well here are some that we added to the existing shortcut keys in Vista, to speed up your day to day work.

Existing Shortcut Keys from Vista – Just in case you didn’t have them all memorized, here is the Shortcut keys that we had from Windows Vista.

Deployment (Using MDT and also good Deployment Blog Sites to watch – Even set them up as RSS Feeds)

Windows 7 Deployment – Don’t know where to start with common questions like: Will my custom applications work with Windows 7? How do I upgrade? Can I upgrade? Etc… Here is a good starting point for you.

Windows Automated Installation Kit for Windows 7 – This is a MUST have when deploying Windows Vista and Later, creating Corporate Images, Doing Offline Servicing of hotfixes in your images? Etc…

Windows Automated Installation Kit for Windows 7 Direct Download Link – Be Prepared to download a 1+ gb ISO file that you will need to burn to a DVD.

MDT Solution Accelerator Home Page – Don’t think your environment is big enough to use System Center for deployment of Windows Machines, here is a Free Tool that will help you automate deployment of Custom Images from USB, WDS, DVD, Network Points. Not only will it help with deploying O/S’es it will help with deploying Applications as well. Note: This is considered a Lite Touch Environment, where user interaction will be needed, you can customize it to be very small.

MDT 2010 Direct Download Link – This does require that you have Windows Automated Installation Kit installed on the System.

Windows Deployment Services Getting Started Guide – We have made some changes in Windows 2008 R2 WDS Service, here is a link to how to get started using WDS for Network deployment of your Operating Systems.  Note: You can use a bootable image made from MDT to deploy using both MDT and WDS

Blog and Forum Sites to Keep an Eye On:

Microsoft Support Core Team Blog

The Deployment Guys Blog

Michael Niehaus Blog

Tim Mintner’s Blog

Microsoft Deployment Toolkit Technet Forum

System Center Useful Links

Operating System Deployment in Configuration Manager 2007 – Want to put SCCM 2007 in your environment, but don’t know what the Prerequisites, What all it does, How to configure it for your environment? If you answered yes to any of those questions, here is a good link for you.

System Center Configuration Manager 2007 OSD Comparision Matrix – Ever wonder how I can deploy Operating Systems? Well here is a chart from ADS 1.1 to ConfigMgr 2007 and the features/functionalities that they provide.

Operating System Deployment Task Sequence Variables – Variables, Variables, and More Variables… If you can’t keep track of every one of them, here is a cheat sheet for you.

The Configuration Manager Support Team Blog : A step by step for using … – “Although the steps required to deploy an OS using Configuration Manager 2007 are available in many places, I decided to create a simple, concise step by step procedure for OSD deployment using SCCM that will hopefully come in handy if you are trying to use the OSD feature in SCCM for the first time.”

Troubleshooting Operating System Deployment – Ever wonder, why your deployment is having problems? What logs do I look at ? Here are common logs for when you are deploying with ConfigMgr 2007, that might help you out.

Blog and Forum Sites to Keep an Eye On:

Configuration Manager Operating System Deployment Forum

The Configuration Manager Support Team Blog

USMT 4.0

User State Migration Tool 4.0 User’s Guide – What would a Useful links post be without at least 1 User Guide? This user guide is the go-to place for anything to do with USMT 4.0, and what you can do with it.

What Does USMT Migrate? – Without little user interaction, what does USMT Migrate? How can I modify this information? Here is the link for you. You will find the Default Migration Scripts along with Supported Applications and several other goodies at here.

USMT Best Practices – Microsoft’s Best Practices for general and security related uses of USMT 4.0.

How to Use Hard Links for User State Migration – What is Hard Link Migration you ask? Well, it’s a way that you can maintain the user state data on the computer, while the old O/S is being removed and upgraded. This drastically reduces deployment time.

Step-by-Step: Basic Windows Migration using USMT for IT Professionals – “This step-by-step guide to Windows migration for IT pros provides a basic example of how to migrate files and settings from Windows XP to Windows 7 using USMT 4.0. (You can also migrate files and settings from a computer running Windows Vista®.)”

Activation

Windows Volume Activation – “Learn about the concepts, capabilities, and recommended best practices that can help you manage the activation of Windows Vista, Windows 7, Windows Server 2008, and Windows Server 2008 R2 in an enterprise environment.”

Volume License Key Management Portal – Portal to manage your Volume Activation Keys

KMS 2008 R2 Update – KB968912 – Have an existing 2008 KMS Server in your environment and want to start using Windows 7 or Windows 2008 R2, make sure you have this installed on the KMS Servers, so that it will accept your new keys.

KMS 2003 1.2 Update – KB968915 – Have an existing 2003 KMS Server in your environment and want to start using Windows 7 or Windows 2008 R2, make sure you have this installed on the KMS Servers, so that it will accept your new keys.

Boot to VHD

Add Native-Boot Virtual Hard Disk to the Boot Menu – “The following procedures describe how to add a native-boot virtual hard disk (VHD) to the boot menu using the BCDedit tool. If you are adding the VHD to a computer that already has a Windows® 7 installation, you will need to add a boot entry to the menu. If you are adding the VHD to a computer running an older version of Windows, for example Windows Server® 2008, you will need to update the system partition using the BCDboot tool and then edit the boot menu using the BCDedit tool. “

Step-By-Step Guide (Tested with Windows 7 Enterprise, for a “Corp” image and a “Personal” image)

Open Diskpart on the Windows 7 Enterprise Machine, you can also do this from within Disk Management (diskmgmt.msc) but the steps below are 100% Diskpart and Command line driven for automation purposes.

***This cannot be done in Windows 7 (Any Home Version, Professional) or any previous operating systems, as they do not support Boot to VHD

CREATE VDISK FILE=C:\VHD\Win7Corp.vhd MAXIMUM=75000 TYPE=EXPANDABLE

***Note the 75000 will create a Dynamically Expanding 75gb VHD file, it is recommended if you do this to go ahead and create a FIXED Size instead of Dynamically expanding so that you don’t accidently over commit the Physical disk. If you remove the TYPE=EXPANDABLE, it will default to FIXED.

SELECT VDISK FILE=C:\VHD\Win7Corp.vhd

ATTACH VDISK

SELECT VDISK FILE=C:\VHD\Win7Corp.vhd

CREATE PARTITION PRIMARY

FORMAT FS=NTFS LABEL="Win 7 Corp VHD" QUICK

ASSIGN LETTER=Y:

*** Must Have Windows Automated Installation Toolkit Installed on the system

Open Deployment Tools Command Prompt – Elevated

IMAGEX /Apply z:\win7x64\sources\install.wim 1 Y:\

SELECT VDISK FILE=C:\VHD\Win7Corp.vhd

DETACH VDISK

Modify the BCD Database via Elevated Command Prompt

bcdedit /copy {default} /D "Win 7 Corp Load"

bcdedit /set <GUID> device vhd=[C:]\VHD\Win7Corp.vhd

*** You will get the <GUID> during the bcdedit /copy step

bcdedit /set <GUID> osdevice vhd=[C:]\VHD\Win7Corp.vhd

Reboot the System and you will see "Windows 7" and "Win 7 Corp Load" on the Boot Manager Window

Application Compatibility

Application Compatibility Toolkit 5.5 – “The Microsoft Application Compatibility Toolkit (ACT) version 5.5 contains the necessary tools and documentation to evaluate and mitigate application compatibility issues before deploying Windows 7, Windows Vista®, a Windows Update, or a new version of Windows® Internet Explorer® in your environment.”

Windows 7 Application Compatibility Demo Video – Great Video on how to use the Application Compatibility Toolkit and how to create a “Shim”

Stock Viewer / Application Compatibility – Tool that you can use to play around with the Application Compatibility Toolkit

Managing Shims in an Enterprise – How to deploy the Shims you create with the Application Compatibility Toolkit.

Assessment and Planning Toolkit – “The Microsoft Assessment and Planning Toolkit makes it easy to assess your current IT infrastructure for a variety of technology migration projects. This Solution Accelerator provides a powerful inventory, assessment, and reporting tool to simplify the migration planning process.”

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Using BitLocker To Go (and what to look out for)

As the world becomes overrun by USB keys and more and more people leave their data behind in black cabs, we need ways to protect this data.  Windows Vista introduced BitLocker drive encryption and with Windows 7, we’ve got BitLocker to Go, the ability to take drive encryption and encrypt our portable/USB devices.  Here’s how it works – and a few things to look out for along the way (if you’re comfortable as to how to encrypt devices with BitLocker to go, you can continue to the “what to look out for” area further down in the document)

  1. Insert your USB key and let it be recognised by Windows.
  2. Open explorer (either by going Start –> Computer or by pressing the windows key and E)
  3. Right click on the drive you’d like to encrypt and choose Turn on BitLocker…
    turn on bitlocker to go
  4. Choose how you’d like the drive encrypted:
    bitlocker to go encryption options
  5. Save the recovery key somewhere other than the USB drive 😉
    bitlocker to go recovery key
  6. Begin the encryption process
    begin encryption process
  7. Sit back and wait patiently as it encrypts the drive
    bitlocker to go encrption process
  8. When it’s all encrypted, you’ll now see a logo that shows it’s encrypted:
    bitlocker to go encrypted drive

Now, here are things to take in to account:

Q. Can I use BitLocker To Go to encrypt USB keys on all versions of Windows 7?

A. No, the full functionality of BitLocker To Go is only part of the Enterprise and Ultimate SKU’s.  You can read BitLocker To Go encrypted drives on Windows 7 Home Basic, Home Premium and Professional, but you cannot write to them.

 

Q. Once I’ve set up BitLocker To Go on a device, can I disable it?

A. Yes you can.  Click on Start and type “BitLocker Drive Encryption”.  Inside this control panel applet you can remove drive encryption.

 

Q. Can BitLocker To Go enabled devices be read on Windows XP and Vista (automatically)?

A. They can, but ONLY if the drive is formatted as FAT.  If it isn’t formatted FAT, the utility that allows the removable storage to be read will not be seen.

 

Q. Can I write to my BitLocker to Go enabled device on Windows XP and Vista?

A. No, you’re device, provided you can gain access to it, is Read-Only on XP and Vista.

 

Q. Can I download a utility in lieu of using the BitLocker to Go partition (again, provided my data is FAT)?

A. Yes, there is a utility you can download which will enable the partition to be read – again – providing it is formatted FAT:

http://www.microsoft.com/downloads/details.aspx?FamilyID=64851943-78c9-4cd4-8e8d-f551f06f6b3d&displaylang=en

 

Q. Windows 7 and Server 2008 R2 use the same codebase so can I use a BitLocker To Go encrypted device on Server 2008 R2?

A. Yes, you can, however, you MUST first install the BitLocker feature on Server 2008 R2 you’re wishing to read the BitLocker To Go encrypted device on

feature install

If you’re aware of any other “gotcha’s” with BitLocker To Go that aren’t listed above, please let me know and I’ll be happy to add them.

CREDITS:
Thanks to @xpworld for his inclusion on versions.

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Yet another reason why Hyper-V (or SCVMM) is better than VMware

Today I got called to a client’s site who recently moved from premises A to premises B.  This meant they turned off their VMware ESX 3.0 server for the first time in a while.  When they relocated they couldn’t authenticate nor could they get to their file/print server.  A quick analysis showed a few things:

  • New building = New IP scheme (ugh)
  • Upon logging in to the ESX web portal, the two servers were still off

Noting this, no worries, in the web portal, lets start them up.  Easy and straightforward.  Now, here’s the kicker.  I wanted to remote control the servers via the console or via the VI client (to look at potentially changing IP addresses or find out what the old scheme was and change it to match/overllap the new scheme)…Wrong move.

The server first told me I had a non-supported browser.  I was using IE 8 (as it is standard with Windows 7).  Ok, no problem, as an IT Pro, I’ve also got other options…Firefox 3.5.7…nope not supported either.  Opera?  Guess what, no go.  Ok, so let’s download the VI Client and do it that way.  Downloaded no problem but when starting it, the woes began again:

only on 32 bit

Thanks VMware.  Your client only works on 32 bit architectures.  So that means most IT professionals who have more than 3 GB of memory can’t use your client?  Oh, one other thing, nice UAC prompt:

contact your admin

Program name: Contact: Your local administrator

OK, so my rant now done, why does this upset me?  Well, Hyper-V can be managed:

  • locally on 32 or 64 bit with RSAT
  • remotely with RDP
  • in just about any browser using SCVMM

Yet another reason why I think I’m going to be sticking with Hyper-V.

NOTE: Yes, I know there are ways around installing the 32 bit client on a 64 bit OS, but I didn’t want to, nor did I have the time, to pull apart the installer with an MSI builder and have it bypass the OS checks.  That’s not my job and that’s not why customers pay VMware loads of money for their software – OH, payment…that’s right Hyper-V is FREE too and it has this functionality in built :)

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Technology in Schools…Be the big dog, don’t get chased off the porch…

ms_bett_polariod Anyone who knows technology in schools has heard of BETT.  It’s tagged as:

BETT is the world’s largest educational technology event. Use this site to find products and suppliers, and discover the latest ways to use technology for teaching and learning.

and this year, with all of the latest technology being released in October and other new stuff on it’s way in, should be no different.  Let’s have a look at some of the stuff that’s actually on offer there in London…

  • Kathryn Furness from Monkseaton will be talking about how they use OneNote to aid collaborative learning
  • Alex Pearce, who used to be ICT manager at Great Barr School, is going to show us some of things he’s found in the beta version of SharePoint 2010
  • Simon Brennand, from Philip Morant School in Essex, is going to talk about Windows 7 and share some of things he’s learnt while using it
  • Mike Herrity, from Twynham School in Dorset, is going tell stories too – about how they’ve created a Learning Gateway that’s doing everything from connecting parents to easing the KS4 Options process
  • Guy Shearer, Principal from Lodge Park Technology College, will be talking about their choice to use Live@edu for their students – to reduce the cost of their email service, as well as enhancing the collaboration options available to staff and students.

So, let’s look at that from a business perspective…Office 2010 on showcase, Windows 7 in action and schools taking it up, BPOS (live@edu) in practice….  That’s definitely a conference I wouldn’t mind visiting…More info can be found over on Microsoft’s UK School’s Learning blog:

http://blogs.msdn.com/ukschools/archive/2010/01/11/planning-your-days-at-bett-2010-the-microsoft-theatre-schedule.aspx

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Deploying Windows 7 from A to Z

Microsoft has released a new document written by Jeremy Chapman the delopyment specialist which covers Windows 7 from A to Z.  Here’s the table of contents:

Deploying Windows 7 from A to Z
Migrating User Files and Settings from Windows XP to Windows 7
Application Management and Preparing for a Windows 7 Deployment
Application Compatibility
Application Packaging
Choosing an Image Strategy and Building Windows 7 System Images
Quick History Lesson for System Imaging
Building Your Image
Getting to Thin Images
Automating the Migration from Windows XP to Windows 7 End-to-End
Automating the End-to-End Migration Process
Tricks for More Automation

so there’s definitely some information inside this document for you…What are you waiting for?  Go download it now!

http://www.microsoft.com/downloads/details.aspx?displaylang=en&FamilyID=dfafb346-97dd-4fca-947e-3d9149834da6

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BMW and Windows 7 – Two Top Performers

BMW_logo Last year BMW opted to be one of the “guinea pigs” of the new Windows Operating System – what we all now have come to know (and most love) – Windows 7.  However, when they began the pilot, they didn’t realise their users would liken to it as much as they did.  At first, there was kickback from those internal saying it was a bit childish and was more “playful” than useful however after using it more and more, they have found it “extremely friendly”, “quick”, and that it “just works”.

In their initial pilot BMW hoped to have over 500 implementations of Windows 7 in their environment by the end of this year, and they’ve well exceeded that.  So much so, they’re on target to having hopefully 5,000 deployed workstations by October 2010 and will be going full steam ahead with the remainder of the 85,000 by 2011.

Not only do the users now more thoroughly enjoy the experience but they’re finding their battery life lasts 20% longer than the previous OS and better than ever, the new technology – DirectAccess – is giving them back 5 minutes per user per day in no longer having to make VPN connections back to HQ.  That coupled with quicker network connectivity, means less burden on the IT staff and, well another reason why Windows 7 is as successful as it is.

Credit: CIO Magazine

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Direct Access and Schools

DirectAccess-Overview With the release of Windows 7 and Server 2008 R2, the “better together” scenario has many songs to be singing.  One of the biggest for schools is Direct Access.  How frequently do we see Instructors being given access remotely to the school network either via VPN or via Citrix.  This is all well and good, but as instructors commonly point out, they want it idiot proof, simple and easy and whilst Citrix and VPN are good technologies, they aren’t necessarily easy nor idiot proof (especially if you have to do two-factor authentication with VPN!).

Recently Microsoft UK Schools as well as Microsoft UK Higher Education have written – ok, they stole the articles from each other 😉 – blog postings on DirectAccess and it’s benefits to the school environment…

Here’s the UK Schools article (posted 24/12/09):

http://blogs.msdn.com/ukschools/archive/2009/12/24/using-windows-7-direct-access-to-connect-teachers-to-your-school-network-securely.aspx

Here’s the Higher Ed article (posted 05/01/10):

http://blogs.msdn.com/ukhe/archive/2010/01/05/using-windows-7-directaccess-to-connect-staff-to-your-university-network-securely.aspx

The point to get across though is definitely that DirectAccess is a useful technology and should you be in a school environment, it is something definitely to look in to, especially if you have upgrade rights – as it will get you big kudos with your boss, the teachers, and going forward possibly students – being able to do work from home!

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