Windows 7 - Installing a Local Printer

In most cases, Windows 7 will detect and set up a printer that’s directly attached to your computer with no help at all. In some cases, it won’t do this, and you might have to help. The procedures vary, depending on how the printer is connected to your computer:
• Parallel printer port
• Network, wireless, or Bluetooth
• Infrared
• Serial port

Here’s the basic game plan, which works with most printers. First, you must be logged on using a Computer Administrator account. Just follow these steps:

1. Read the printer’s installation instructions specific to Windows 7 or, if there are none, look for Windows Vista, XP, or 2000 instructions. You may be instructed to install software before connecting the printer to your computer for the first time. This is especially important if your printer connects via USB.

2. If the printer uses a cable, connect the printer to the appropriate port on your computer according to the printer manufacturer’s instructions.

3. Locate the type of connection that your printer uses in the following list as directed:
• Parallel port—Connect the printer to your computer’s parallel port. Windows should detect and install the printer. If it doesn’t, open the Devices and Printers window and select Add a Printer to start the wizard. Click Add a Local Printer. Select Use an Existing Port, and highlight the LPT port number that you used for the printer—this is usually LPT1.

• USB—Install any driver programs provided by your manufacturer, and then connect the printer’s USB cable to your computer. Windows will detect it and automatically start the Add A Device wizard. Because USB is hot pluggable, you don’t need to shut down or restart your computer. Simply follow the instructions onscreen to finish installing the printer.

• Network, wireless, or Bluetooth—If your printer can be directly attached to your network, connect it, and then click Add a Printer in the Devices and Printers window. Select Add a Network, Wireless, or Bluetooth Printer. If Windows finds the printer, select it and click Next. Otherwise, click The Printer That I Want Isn’t Listed, and click Next. Enter any required information as prompted.

If you are using a wireless network or Bluetooth, be sure that your computer’s wireless or Bluetooth adapter is turned on and enabled. On some laptops these are switched off by default to conserve power.

• Infrared—Be sure your printer is turned on and within range of your computer’s infrared eye. Also, make sure that your computer’s infrared (IrDA) interface is turned on and enabled in software. Windows should detect the printer automatically and create an icon for it.

• Serial port—Some antique laser and daisywheel printers use a serial data connection. (If you’re still using one of these, I like you already.)

If Windows can’t automatically detect the make and model of your printer, it will ask you to assist in selecting the appropriate type. If you can’t find your printer’s make and model in the list of choices.

Many new computers have no parallel port. If you have a printer that has only a parallel port connector, but no parallel port on your computer, you can purchase an add-on parallel port card for your computer. Alternatively, you can get a network parallel print server device, or USBtoparallel printer adapter, and connect to the printer through your network or a USB port.

Source of Information : QUE Microsoft Windows in Depth

Windows 7 - Installing and Configuring a Printer

If your printer is already installed and operational at this point, you can skip this section and skim ahead for others that may be of interest. However, if you need to install a new printer, modify or customize your current installation, or add additional printers to your setup, read on.

You might want to add a printer in a few different instances, not all of which are obvious:

• You’re connecting a new physical printer directly to your computer (obvious).

• You’re connecting a new physical printer to your network (obvious).

• You want to create a formatted print file, usually PostScript file, that can be sent to a print shop (not so obvious).

• You want to set up different printer preference schemes, such as “black and white only” or “photo quality,” for a single physical printer, so that you can simply select a printer icon instead of having to manually change your printer settings for each print job (obscure but useful time-saving idea).

The basic game plan for installing and configuring a printer is as follows:

• Read your printer’s installation manual and follow the instructions for Windows 7 or, if there are none, the instructions for Windows Vista, XP, or 2000.

• Plug in the printer. Many newer printers are detected when you plug them into the parallel or USB port. Your printer might be found and then configure itself automatically. If it does, you can skip on down to “Printing from Your Applications,”

• If the printer doesn’t configure itself, you can run the Add New Printer Wizard (or use a setup program, if one is supplied with your printer).

At this point, you should have a functioning printer. You might want to make alterations and customizations to the printer setup, though. For example, you can do the following:

• Right-click the icon for the printer you’ll be using most often and select the Default Printer option. This way, your printer will be preselected as the printer of choice when you use the Print function of Windows applications.

• Set job defaults pertaining to paper tray, two-sided printing, scaling, type of paper feed, halftone imaging, printer setup information (such as a PostScript “preamble”), ink color, and paper orientation. These will be the default print settings that every Windows application will start with when you select this printer.

• Check and possibly alter device-specific settings such as DPI (dots per inch) and font substitution.

• Share the printer and specify its share name so that other network users can use your printer.

• If you are on a network and want to control who gets to use your printer, set permissions on the Security tab of the Properties dialog box. (You must have Computer Administrator privileges to do this.)

Before you buy a new piece of hardware, it’s always a good idea to check the Windows Compatibility Center on the Web at Or, check the device’s box, manual, or manufacturer’s website to ensure that it’s compatible with Windows 7 or Vista. If the device is listed as compatible with XP but not Vista or Windows 7, you might be able to use the device’s XP software, but it’s not guaranteed. You should know, though, that Windows 7 comes with preinstalled drivers for more printers than are listed in the Windows Compatiblity Center. Before assuming that your old printer isn’t supported, go through the manual installation procedure to see if your printer make and model is listed as an installation choice. If it’s not, check the manufacturer’s website for a downloadable driver.

Some printer manufacturers ask you to install their driver software before you plug in and turn on the printer for the first time. Heed their advice! If you plug the printer in first, Windows may install incorrect drivers. If this happens to you, unplug the printer, delete the printer icon, run the manufacturer’s setup program, and follow their instructions from there.

You can select a network printer as your default printer even if you move from one network to another (as you might with a laptop that you use at work and at home). Windows 7 is supposed to remember which printer is the default printer on each network you use.

Source of Information : QUE Microsoft Windows in Depth

Windows 7 Printing Primer

In most cases, installing and using a printer in Windows 7 is nearly effortless. Just plugging the printer into your computer is usually enough. Installation and setup is automatic and silent. Add ink and paper, and within a few seconds you can start printing from whatever programs you use, without thinking any more about it. It doesn't always go quite this smoothly, though, so we've devoted this chapter to the ins and outs of installing and using a printer in Windows 7. Windows gives you control over the printing system through the Devices and Printers window. To get there, click Start, Devices and Printers.

• The HP LaserJet printer is shared by another computer on the network. The network cable icon above the letters HP indicates this.

• The Okidata printer is the default printer, as indicated by the check mark. It’s also shared to others on the network, as indicated by the tiny icon showing two people, next to the word State. (The default printer check mark supersedes the network or sharing indicators on the printer icon itself, but all the indicators appear next to the word State.)

• The Fax device and XPS Document Writer icons don’t represent actual printers, but are options for faxing and creating portable XPS documents directly from within your applications. I’ll discuss this more shortly.

Devices and Printers should appear in your Start menu, but if it doesn’t, right-click the Start button and select Properties. Click Customize. Scroll down through the list of available items, and check Devices and Printers.

Initially, the task ribbon shows just two tasks: Add a Device and Add a Printer. If you click one of the printer icons, additional items appear: See What’s Printing, Manage Default Printers, Print Server Properties, and Remove Device. You will probably find that the first time you log on to Windows 7, one or more printer icons are already present. These may include any or all of the following:

• Icons for any printer(s) you have attached to your computer, which were detected by Windows and set up automatically.

• Icons for any printer(s) shared by computers attached to your network. Windows might discover and add these automatically or, on a corporate network, they might be installed for you by your network administrator.

• An icon for Microsoft XPS Document Writer. This is not a printer in the physical sense. XPS is a type of electronic document format comparable to Adobe’s Acrobat (PDF) format. It lets any computer view and/or print the document without having to have the application that created it. If you select XPS Document Writer as the “printer” in any of your applications, the program’s print function will create an XPS document file that you can then send to other people.

• A Fax icon. If your computer has a modem with fax capability, or if your organization has a network fax server, the Fax printer lets you send faxes directly from your applications without having to first print a hard copy and then feed it through a fax machine or scanner. Instead, you simply select the Fax printer from inside your application and use the normal print function.

Source of Information : QUE Microsoft Windows in Depth

Windows 7 Network Locations

If you already have a wired or wireless home network (or, more typically, a home network that features both wired and wireless connection types) or you bring a Windows 7–based mobile computer to a new networking environment (such as an Internet cafe, coffee shop, airport, or similar location), you will run into one of Windows 7’s best features: the Set Network Location wizard. This wizard will appear during Setup if it detects a network connection. Or you will see it later, whenever you connect to a new network for the first time. (This is true for both wired and wireless networks.)

The Set Network Location wizard takes the guesswork out of connecting to a network by providing clear explanations of the different ways in which you can make the connection.
It offers three options:

• Home network: Used for your home network or other trusted network type. When connected to such a network, your computer will be discoverable, meaning other computers and devices on the network will be able to “see” your PC and, with the appropriate credentials, access any shared resources your PC may provide. Additionally, you will be able to discover other PCs and devices connected to the network.

• Work network: Used for your workplace or other trusted network type. As with the Home location, a network configured for the Work location provides discoverability of network-based PCs and devices.

• Public network: This is used for any public network connection, especially Wi-Fi connections you might run into at the aforementioned cafes, coffee shops, airports, and similar locations. With a Public network type, you’re assumed to need Internet access and little else: network discoverability is kept to a minimum and software on your system that might normally broadcast its availability—such as shared folders, printers, and media libraries—remains silent.

Given the apparent similarities between Home network and Work network, there must be some difference between the two, right? Microsoft wouldn’t create two different network locations that were, in fact, exactly the same, would it? Actually it would (and did): from a functional standpoint, Home and Work are in fact identical. The only difference between the two is the name and the icon used to denote each network location type: the Home network location features a friendly-looking home icon, whereas the Work network location is denoted by a more industrial-looking office building. Why have two different locations when a single “Home or Work” location would have achieved the same goal? Keep in mind that the point of the Set Network Location wizard is to make things easy. To the average consumer, Home and Work are obvious options, whereas a combined “Home or Work” might cause a bit of wasted time pondering what that was all about. Behind the scenes, the Set Network Location wizard is, in fact, working with just two location types, one of which covers both Home and Work and one that represents the Public location. So Home network and Work network are, in fact, really of type Private and Public network is really of type Public.

Setting the network location is generally a “set it and forget it” affair. Windows 7 will remember the unique setting you configure for each network you connect to and then reapply those settings when you reconnect. This is especially handy for mobile computers.
When you’re at home or work, Windows 7 ensures that your network location type is Private (Home network, typically); but when you connect to the Internet at a coffee shop you may frequent, the location type will be set to Public.

What’s the real difference between Private and Public network locations? (Or, if you like, Home/Work network locations and Public network locations?) In both location types Windows Firewall is on, but configured somewhat differently. Network discovery is on while connected to Private networks, but off for Public networks. Sharing of folders, printers, and media is on by default in Private networks, but off in Public networks.
When you’re connected to a network, you’ll see a Network icon appear in the taskbar notification area. (This icon was called a “connectoid” in previous Windows versions.) This icon can have different states, and while the states are identical between wired and wireless network types, the icons are different. The following states are available:

• with Internet access: In addition to being able to connect to resources on the local network, you are also connected to the Internet.

• Connected with local access only: You are connected to the local network but do not have Internet access.

• Disconnected: We noted previously that Windows 7, unlike XP, doesn’t leave stranded disconnected network icons littered around your taskbar notification area. Here is the exception: if you’re connected to a network and that connection is severed—perhaps because the gateway or switch sitting between your PC and the network has been disconnected—and there are no other networks to which you can connect, you will see the notification icon.

While Windows 7 does utilize workgroup-type networking by default, the notion of workgroups is now depreciated, especially with the onus of resource sharing largely resting on the shoulders of the HomeGroup technology we discuss later in the chapter. In Windows XP and previous versions of Windows, you could automatically connect to shared folders on other computers only when they were in the same workgroup—that is, on the same network (or IP subnet). But this is not true in Windows 7. In fact, you could configure every single PC in your home with a different workgroup name and you’d still have no issues sharing information between them (and this is true whether you use HomeGroup or not). The only time workgroups are relevant in Windows 7 is when your home network has both Windows 7–based PCs and PCs that are based on older Windows versions. In such a case, you should configure the workgroup name to be identical on all PCs. You do this in a similar manner to how it is done in Windows XP and Vista: from the Start menu, right-click Computer, choose Properties, and then click the Change settings link under the heading Computer name, domain, and workgroup settings.

Source of Information : Wiley Windows 7 Secrets

What’s New in Windows 7 Networking

Starting with the solid base established in Windows Vista, the focus for Windows 7 networking is to make things as simple as possible while keeping the system as secure and reliable as possible as well. At a low level, Microsoft rewrote the Windows networking stack from scratch for Windows Vista in order to make it more scalable, improve performance, and provide a better foundation for future improvements and additions. (And it has been fine-tuned further for Windows 7.) Understanding the underpinnings of Windows 7’s networking technologies is nearly as important (and interesting) as understanding how your car converts gasoline into energy. All you really need to know is that things have improved dramatically.

In addition to standard IP-based networking, the Windows 7 networking stack also supports the next-generation IPv6 (IP version 6) network layer. (The current version has been retroactively renamed to IPv4.) The big advantage of IPv6 is that it provides a much larger address space than IPv4. IPv6 provides 128-bit IP addresses, compared to 32-bit addresses in IPv4. The IPv6 address space isn’t four times as large as that of IPv4, as you might assume, however; it is, in fact, quite a bit bigger. Whereas IPv4 supports 232 IP addresses (approximately 4 billion IP numbers), IPv6 supports 2128 addresses, or about 340 quadrillion unique addresses.

That said, IPv6 is still a bit futuristic. There are no mainstream implementations of the technology anywhere yet; but when it happens—and invariably, the Internet itself will have to make the switch—Windows 7 will be ready.

Here are some of the major end-user networking interfaces available in Windows 7:
• HomeGroup sharing: This is big one. While Windows XP and Vista both supported traditional network-based resource sharing as well as a slightly simpler model, Windows 7 takes it to the next level with HomeGroup sharing. Rather than replace the sharing schemes in previous versions, HomeGroup sharing complements them; this also enables Windows 7 to easily share digital media content, documents, and printers with both Windows 7–based PCs and those based on previous Windows versions.

• Network and Sharing Center: This interface provides a single place to go to view, configure, and troubleshoot networking issues, and access new and improved tools that take the guesswork out of networking.

• Seamless network connections: In Windows XP, unconnected wired and wireless network connections would leave ugly red icons in your system tray, and creating new connections was confusing and painful. In Windows 7, secure networks connect automatically. Windows 7 will also automatically disable networking hardware that isn’t in use, a boon for mobile computer users on the go who want to preserve battery life.

• Network explorer: The old My Network Places explorer from previous versions of Windows has been replaced and upgraded significantly with the new Network explorer. This handy interface supports access to all of the computers, devices, and printers found on your connected networks, instead of just showing network shares, as Windows XP did. You can even access network-connected media players, video game consoles, and other connected device types from this interface.

• Network Map: If you are in an environment with multiple networks and network types, it can be confusing to know how your PC is connected to the Internet and other devices, an issue that is particularly important to understand when troubleshooting. Windows 7’s new Network Map details these connections in a friendly graphical way, eliminating guesswork.

The following sections cover these features and other new Windows 7 networking features. Note that we save HomeGroup sharing for the end of the chapter, as this is the most major change, and the one that seriously differentiates Windows 7 from both XP and Vista.

Source of Information : Wiley Windows 7 Secrets (2009)

Windows XP with SP2: A First Look at Today’s Networking Infrastructure

Windows XP is fondly remembered today, but in fact the initially shipped version of that operating system was probably the most insecure product Microsoft has ever shipped.
That wasn’t obvious at the time, of course, but during the first year of XP’s release, hackers launched an unprecedented number of electronic attacks on the system, causing Microsoft to halt new OS development for about nine months so that it could devise its Trustworthy Computing initiative and apply the security principles it learned during this process to its products. The first product to ship after this period was Windows XP Service Pack 2 (SP2), which included a number of security technologies that Microsoft had originally intended to ship first in its next OS, now called Windows 7.

Before moving on to what’s changed since then, we will look at the security technologies
Microsoft introduced in XP SP2 to see how they compare to their Windows 7 counterparts. When you think about it, many OS security features are directly related to networking because the most common way for hackers to attack a PC is electronically, over the network; and with pervasive broadband Internet connections becoming increasingly common, understanding these technologies is critical for anyone using a Windows PC today:

• Automatic Updating: Beginning with Windows XP with SP2, Windows users received a full-screen advertisement for Automatic Updating, the Windows Update–based service that automatically keeps your Windows PC up-to-date with the latest critical security updates. Microsoft also began using subfile patch-management technologies, keeping the download sizes to a minimum and speeding updates.

• Windows Firewall: While the originally shipped version of Windows XP did in fact ship with firewall software, it was disabled by default and most Windows software was written with the assumption that no firewall existed. Because firewalls are designed to control the network traffic coming into and going out of your PC, this type of software is key to preventing unwanted software—such as viruses and other malware—from performing dangerous actions and potentially enabling a hacker to remotely control the PC.

• Windows Security Center: In XP SP2, this dashboard monitors the state of the firewall, antivirus, and automatic updating functionality installed on the computer and ensures that they’re running and up-to-date. (The Windows Vista version was improved to monitor other security features, including antispyware, User Account Control, and Internet Explorer 7’s anti-phishing feature, among others.) In Windows 7, this functionality has been expanded yet again to include system maintenance and other monitoring. As a result, the feature has been renamed Action Center.

• Internet Explorer: IE6 was dramatically improved in SP2 with a new pop-up blocker, protection against so-called “drive-by” downloads, a new Manage Addons applet, and other security-oriented features. Manage Add-ons was significantly enhanced in IE7 and Windows Vista, and of course IE8 adds even more security controls.

• Attachment blocking: Both Outlook Express (e‑mail) and Windows Messenger (instant messaging) were upgraded with blocking functionality for unsafe attachments in XP SP2. Today, both products have been upgraded significantly and moved into the Windows Live initiative, with Windows Live Mail and Windows Live Messenger, respectively.

• Wireless networking: In the originally shipped version of Windows XP, wireless networking configuration was almost nonexistent. If there was a wireless network nearby, the system would simply connect to it, security be damned. Microsoft changed this behavior slightly in Service Pack 1, adding a block that prevented automatic connections to insecure networks. In SP2, Microsoft applied several changes that were later included in Vista as well, including a new Wireless Connection application and a simple Wireless Network Setup Wizard. Things are even simpler in Windows 7, as you’ll soon see.

Put simply, Windows XP Service Pack 2 was a tough upgrade because the security improvements broke a lot of existing applications, causing headaches for users, IT administrators, and application developers at the time. However, these security changes were necessary and have made the transition to Windows Vista and Windows 7 that much easier.

Source of Information : Wiley Windows 7 Secrets (2009)

Windows 7 UAC

When UAC is left at its default setting, Windows 7 automatically elevates a hand-picked list of applications, further reducing the UAC dialogs you see. These applications are referred to as being white-listed for auto-elevation. They include the following:


This list is representative of information available at time of publication. Be sure to check for the latest version.

Source of Information : Wiley Windows 7 Secrets (2009)

How UAC Has Changed in Windows 7

User Account Control debuted in Windows Vista to a resounding thud, for both users and reviewers. And that’s too bad, because as we’ve noted again and again, UAC is both effective and far less annoying than many realize. But Microsoft is a customer-centric company, and when people complain, they actually listen. And sometimes, when the stars align just right, they do something about it.

In the case of UAC, this action took a number of forms. At a general level, Microsoft has dramatically reduced the number of tasks that require UAC elevation prompts. So the overall experience should be less annoying, assuming you’re used to how UAC works in Windows Vista. And Microsoft has even given users a graphical interface, logically called User Account Control settings, for adjusting how UAC behaves.

You access User Account Control settings from the Action Center; there’s a link in the side pane titled User Account Control settings that will trigger the UI. Or, simply type user account control in Start Menu Search. User Account Control settings couldn’t be easier: there’s a simple slider control with four settings, which one might think of as “really annoying,” “annoying,” “less annoying,” and “Windows XP.” (Homeland security might consider a similar scale.)

This graphical interface is only available to those users with administrative privileges. This wasn’t always the case, however. During the Windows 7 beta, Rafael and another blogger discovered and reported that UAC did not require confirmation when changing its slider setting, leaving it vulnerable to malware attack. Stubbornly, Microsoft did not budge at first, claiming that UAC worked as designed. It was not until after the issue gained international attention that Microsoft reversed its decision and made several changes to UAC, requiring administrative privileges being one. You can read more about this event on Rafael’s blog, Within Windows (see

More formally, these settings are as follows:

• Always notify: At this most heightened level, UAC will prompt you anytime a software install or configuration change is detected, or whenever the user makes changes to Windows settings—just like Windows Vista.

• Notify me only when programs try to make changes to my computer: This is indeed the default setting. Here, UAC will prompt you anytime a software install or configuration change is detected. But it will not prompt when the user makes changes to Windows settings. Initial setup tasks like setting the clock, updating device drivers, and formatting partitions can now be performed speedily without having to confirm each time.

• Notify me only when programs try to make changes to my computer: This setting is almost identical to the previous setting, but with one important difference: UAC does not invoke the secure desktop during prompts. This has a few ramifications. First, UAC will be less annoying (though no less frequent) than with the default setting, because you won’t see that jarring flash that occurs when the secure desktop is invoked. The screen will not go dark, and the UAC prompt will not be modal, meaning you can do other things instead of addressing the prompt immediately. (On the flip side, you can also easily lose track of the UAC prompt because it will just be one of many potential windows on screen and won’t appear prominently or appear special in any way.) Finally, it will be slightly less secure: the secure desktop feature ensures that malicious software applications cannot spoof the UAC dialog.

• Never notify: In this least secure setting and least recommended setting, UAC will not warn you when software is installed or changed, or when the user makes changes to Windows settings.

So, with all these options, I know you’re eagerly awaiting our expert opinion on what it is you should do. And that’s maybe the easiest advice we’ve ever given: you should do nothing. In fact, you should never even visit this UI. Just leave UAC alone and let it do its thing. UAC is there for a reason and, as noted earlier, it gets less annoying over time anyway. There is absolutely no reason to change how UAC works.

Source of Information : Wiley Windows 7 Secrets (2009)

How UAC Works

Every user, whether configured as a standard user or an administrator, can perform any of the tasks in Windows 7 that do not require administrator privileges, just as they did in Windows XP. (The problem with XP, from a security standpoint, of course, is that all tasks were denoted as not requiring administrative privileges.) You can launch applications, change time zone and power-management settings, add a printer, run Windows Update, and perform other similar tasks. However, when you attempt to run a task that does require administrative privileges, the system will force you to provide appropriate credentials in order to continue. The experiences vary a bit depending on the account type. Predictably, those who log on with administrator-class accounts experience a less annoying interruption.

Standard users receive a User Account Control credentials dialog. This dialog requires you to enter the password for an administrator account that is already configured on the system. Consider why this is useful. If you have configured your children with standard user accounts (as, frankly, you should if you’re going to allow them to share your PC), then they can let you know when they run into this dialog, giving you the option to allow or deny the task they are attempting to complete.

Administrators receive a simpler dialog, called the User Account Control consent dialog. Because these users are already configured as administrators, they do not have to provide administrator credentials. Instead they can simply click Yes to keep going.

By default, administrators using Windows 7 are running in an execution mode called Admin Approval Mode. This is why you see consent dialogs appear from time to time even though you’re using an administrator-type account. You can actually disable this mode, making administrator accounts work more like they did in XP, without any annoying dialogs popping up (something that was not possible in Vista). However, understand that disabling Admin Approval Mode could open up your system to attack. If you’re still interested in disabling this feature, or disabling User Account Control, you will learn how at the end of this section.

Conversely, those running with administrative privileges who would like Windows 7 to be even more secure—and really, why aren’t there more people like you in the world?—can also configure the system to prompt with a User Account Control credentials dialog (which requires a complete password) every time they attempt an administrative task. This option is also discussed shortly.

The presentation of these User Account Control dialogs can be quite jarring if you’re not familiar with the feature or if you’ve just recently switched to Windows 7 from XP. (Vista users are very well accustomed to this effect.) If you attempt to complete an administrative task, the screen will flash, the background will darken, and the credentials or consent dialog will appear somewhere onscreen. Most important, the dialogs are modal: you can’t continue doing anything else until you have dealt with these dialogs one way or the other.

The screen darkening and modal nature of the UAC prompts indicate that Vista has moved into the so-called secure desktop, which is a special, more secure display mode that Microsoft also uses during logon and when you access the Ctrl+Alt+Delete screen. It’s possible to configure UAC to work without the secure desktop, but this is not recommended because UAC dialogs could be spoofed by malicious hackers if you do so. You’ll examine various UAC configuration options, including the removal of the secure desktop.

There’s also a third type of User Account Control dialog that sometimes appears regardless of which type of user account you have configured. This dialog appears whenever you attempt to install an application that has not been digitally signed or validated by its creator. These types of applications are quite common, so you’re likely to see the dialog fairly frequently, especially when you’re initially configuring a new PC. Over time, these prompts will occur less and less because you won’t be regularly installing applications anymore.

By design, this dialog is more colorful and “in your face” than the other User Account
Control dialogs. Microsoft wants to ensure that you really think about it before continuing. Rule of thumb: you’re going to see this one a lot, but if you just downloaded an installer from a place you trust, it’s probably okay to go ahead and install it.

The behavior of User Account Control has led some to describe this feature as needlessly annoying and a contributing factor to the (perceived) demise of Windows Vista. In reality, however, Windows Vista wasn’t the first operating system to use this type of security feature: Mac OS X and Linux, for example, have utilized a UAC-type user interface for years now. (You can see Mac OS X’s version of UAC—which debuted way back in 2001—) And unlike with other operating systems, User Account Control actually becomes less annoying over time. That’s because most UAC dialogs pop up when you first get Windows 7. This is when you’ll be futzing around with settings and installing applications the most; and these two actions, of course, are the very actions that most frequently trigger User Account Control. The moral here is simple: after your new PC is up and running, User Account Control will rear its ugly head less and less frequently. In fact, after a week or so, User Account Control will be mostly a thing of the past. You’ll forget it was ever there.

Source of Information : Wiley Windows 7 Secrets (2009)

User Account Control

No Windows feature has proven as controversial and misunderstood as User Account Control, or UAC. When it debuted in Windows Vista, tech pundits screamed far and wide about this reviled feature, spreading mistruths and misunderstandings and generally raising a lot of ruckus about nothing. If these pundits had just calmed down long enough to actually use User Account Control for longer than a single afternoon, they’d have discovered something very simple: it’s not really that annoying, and it does in fact increase the security of the system. Indeed, we would argue that User Account Control is one of the few features that really differentiate modern Windows versions from the increasingly crusty XP, because there’s no way to add this kind of functionality to XP, even through third-party add-on software. User Account Control is effective, and as ongoing security assessments have proven, it really does work.

Great, but what is it exactly? In order to make the operating system more secure, Microsoft has architected Windows so that all of the tasks you can perform in the system are divided into two groups, those that require administrative privileges and those that don’t. This required a lot of thought and a lot of engineering work, naturally, because the company had to weigh the ramifications of each potential action and then code the system accordingly.

The first iteration of UAC was implemented in Windows Vista with what Microsoft thought to be a decent technical compromise. In response to overwhelming user feedback surrounding the frequency of prompts, however, Microsoft modified UAC in Windows 7 to make it “less noisy” (that is, less annoying) by default. They did this by implementing a pair of “Notify me only when. . .” options, letting users perform common configuration tasks, prompting only when something out of the ordinary is done (for example, changing important configuration settings). The result is that UAC in Windows 7 is more configurable and less irritating than it was in Vista. But it’s even more controversial, because it’s not clear that it’s as secure as it used to be.

Source of Information : Wiley Windows 7 Secrets (2009)

Understanding User Accounts

Starting with Windows XP, Microsoft began to push PC-based user accounts to consumers. That’s because XP, unlike previous consumer-oriented Windows versions (such as Windows 95, 98, and Me), was based on the enterprise-class Windows NT code base. NT originally was developed in the early 1990s as a mission-critical competitor to business operating systems such as UNIX. Previously, consumer Windows products such as Windows 95 and Windows Me were based on legacy MS-DOS code and provided only the barest possible support for discrete and secure user accounts. That’s because those systems were originally designed for single users only.

Eventually, however, Microsoft began moving the two products together. Windows XP, released in 2001, was the first mainstream NT-based Windows version, and this product marked the end of the DOS-based Windows line. Windows Vista, like Windows XP, was based on the NT code base, which means that Microsoft marketed separate versions of Vista to both individuals and businesses. Additionally, Vista retained—and even enhanced—the paradigm of all users having their own user account for accessing the PC.

As an updated version of Windows Vista, Windows 7 offers an evolution of the user account capabilities from its predecessor. That said, some of the changes dramatically alter the experience of using and protecting user accounts. Therefore, it’s worth discussing how user accounts have changed in Windows 7 compared to both Windows XP and Vista.

First, however, a short review may be in order. When you installed or configured Windows XP for the first time, you were prompted to provide a password for the special administrator account and then create one or more user accounts. Administrator is what’s called a built-in account type. The administrator account is traditionally reserved for system housekeeping tasks and it has full control of the system. Theoretically, individual user accounts—that is, accounts used by actual people—are supposed to have less control over the system for security reasons. In Windows XP, that theory was literally a theory. Every user account you created during XP’s post-setup routine was an administrator-level account, and virtually every single Windows application ever written until fairly recently assumed that every user has administrative privileges. This resulted in an ugly chicken-or-egg situation that has caused several years of unrelenting security vulnerabilities because malicious code running on a Windows system runs using the privilege level of the logged-on user. If the user is an administrator, so is the malicious code.

In Windows Vista, everything changed. Yes, you can still create user accounts, and hopefully, you create accounts with strong and secure passwords. (Microsoft still doesn’t require this is in Windows 7, for some reason.) And you would still log on to the system to access applications, the Internet, and other services, just as you did in Windows XP. But in Windows Vista, user accounts—even those that were graced with administrative privileges— no longer had complete control over the system, at least not by default. Microsoft, finally, was starting to batten down the virtual hatches and make Windows more secure. Although there were (and still are) ways to counteract these preventive measures, the result was a more secure operating system than previous Windows versions, one that hackers have found and will continue to find more difficult to penetrate.

Microsoft’s approach to user account security in Windows Vista was hugely successful.
According to the software giant, Vista users experienced 60 percent fewer malware infections than did XP users. Windows 7 continues using the infrastructure Microsoft created for Vista while adding a few changes at the requests of its customers. The following sections look at what has changed.

Source of Information : Wiley Windows 7 Secrets (2009)

Internet Explorer 8 Security Features

Internet Explorer 8 comes with Windows 7 and includes a vast number of security improvements that make this the safest version of IE yet. This section examines the security features Microsoft added to Internet Explorer 8. These features were absolutely necessary: ever since Microsoft integrated Internet Explorer with the Windows shell beginning in the mid 1990s, Internet Explorer has been a major avenue of attack against Windows.

InPrivate Browsing
Internet Explorer 8 can optionally run in a new InPrivate Browsing mode, effectively hiding your tracks as you travel around to the more nefarious parts of the Web or, what the heck, secretly shop for a spouse’s birthday present online. More specifically, InPrivate Browsing turns off IE’s ability to locally store or retain browser history, temporary Internet files, form data, cookies and user names, and passwords. It does allow you to download files and add sites to your Favorites. By default, IE add-ons like toolbars are disabled in InPrivate Browsing mode, but you can change that from Internet Settings if desired.

A related feature, InPrivate Filtering, is a first step in addressing the way in which many Web sites share data with each other. Consider a mainstream Web site like, for The Wall Street Journal. This site is certainly reputable, but it utilizes advertising services that work across multiple non-WSJ Web sites. Once these services have collected information about you on, they can track you across other sites that utilize the same services. This is usually innocuous, but it’s possible that a malicious site could take advantage of this capability and deliver dangerous content via other sites.

InPrivate Filtering provides basic protection against this potential kind of attack by preventing, by default, more than 10 cross-site calls. It’s not enabled by default, however, but once you enable it you have decent control over how it works. For example, you could lower the threshold for cross-site content (down to a minimum of three), choose to allow or block specific sites, and so on. It’s interesting to look at just to see what the sites you visit are up to. You might be surprised.

SmartScreen Filter
IE8’s SmartScreen Filter is the new version of the anti-phishing filter that debuted in IE7.
It’s been renamed to reflect the fact that it now performs both anti-phishing and antimalware functions, protecting you and your PC from electronic attacks. So if you attempt to browse to a site that is known to deliver malware, or you attempt to download a known bad file, IE8 will prompt you with a warning.

You can manually check the current Web site if you’re unsure of something. When you do so, the SmartScreen Filter tells you what it knows about the site. You can also report a Web site that you think might be fraudulent. Microsoft says that almost 50 percent of the data in its SmartScreen database comes from users.

Address Bar Domain Name Highlighting
It seems like a small thing, but IE8 also highlights (bolds) the domain name in the URL, helping to ensure you’re visiting a legitimate Web site. Consider the following complex (but imaginary) URLs to see why this is important:

If you weren’t paying attention—and who is, really?—you might miss the fact that the second address points to a malicious Web site. But when you highlight the domain name as follows, the difference is a bit more apparent. It’s like the third brake light on automobiles:

Other Internet Explorer Security Features
The list of Internet Explorer security features is vast, although you won’t likely run into most of them unless you’re truly unlucky. IE8 integrates with Windows Defender to provide live scanning of Web downloads to ensure that you’re not infecting your system with spyware, and it integrates with Windows 7’s parental controls as well as Windows Live Family Safety to ensure that your children are accessing only those parts of the Web you deem safe. In addition, various low-level changes prevent increasingly common cross-domain or cross-window scripting attacks and blocks malicious malware installation attempts.

Should Internet Explorer 8 somehow be compromised, there’s a way out. An
Internet Explorer mode called Add-ons Disabled Mode loads IE with only a minimal set of add-ons so you can scrub the system of any malicious code. You can access this mode by navigating to All Programs -> Accessories -> System Tools -> Internet Explorer (No Add-ons) in the Start menu. Alternately, you can use Start Menu Search to find Internet Explorer (No Add-ons).

Source of Information : Wiley Windows 7 Secrets (2009)

Windows 7 - Action Center

When Microsoft shipped Windows XP Service Pack 2 (SP2) in the wake of its 2003 security-code review, one of the major and obvious new features it added to the operating system was the Security Center, a dashboard or front end of sorts to many of the system’s security features. In Windows XP SP2, the Security Center was designed to track the system’s firewall, virus protection, and Automatic Updates features to ensure that each was enabled and as current as possible. If any of these features were disabled or out ofdate, the Security Center would warn the user via a shield icon in the notification area near the system clock, or via pop-up warning balloons.

Security Center continued in Windows Vista and picked up even more security monitoring duties. But in Windows 7, the Security Center has been rebranded and dramatically updated to support new security features, house common tasks, and provide notifications in a less intrusive way. Windows 7’s Action Center is barely recognizable as the successor to the XP and Vista Security Center. There’s actually a lot more going on there once you begin examining its new functionality.

The core behavior of this tool hasn’t changed in Action Center. The Action Center still tracks certain security features and ensures that they’re enabled and up-to-date. If they’re not, the Action Center subtly notifies you by changing its notification area flag icon (using a small red “x” icon overlay), instead of irritating you with a pop-up balloon as before.

As noted previously, Action Center now tracks far more items. Here’s the list:

Security Features
• Network firewall: The Action Center ensures that Windows Firewall (or a third-party firewall) is enabled and protecting your PC against malicious software that might travel to your PC via a network or the Internet.

• Windows Update: Like Windows XP and Vista, Windows 7 includes an Automatic Updates feature that can automatically download and install critical security fixes from Microsoft the moment they are released. Action Center ensures that Automatic Updates is enabled.

• Virus protection: Although Windows 7 doesn’t ship with any antivirus protection, Action Center still checks to ensure that an antivirus service is installed and up-to-date. Modern antivirus solutions are designed to integrate with Windows Action Center so that the system can perform this monitoring function.

• Spyware and unwanted software (malware) protection: Windows 7, like Vista, ships with Windows Defender, the malware protection suite. Action Center will monitor Windows Defender (or your anti-spyware solution of choice) and ensure it’s running and using the latest definitions.

• Internet security settings: The Action Center ensures that Internet Explorer 8 is configured in a secure manner. If you change any IE security settings Action Center will warn you about this issue.

• User Account Control: The Action Center also ensures that the User Account Control (UAC) technology is active.

• Network Access Protection: Network Access Protection, first broadly provided with Windows Server 2008, enables IT administrators to protect the security of a network by ensuring that connected PCs (running Windows XP, Vista, or 7) pass software and settings checks, created by the administrator. These checks, for example, can reveal a required piece of corporate software or ensure that certain network authentication settings are configured properly. Any deviations from this configuration will be picked up and passed on to you by the Action Center.

Maintenance Features
• Windows Backup: The Action Center takes note of whether or not you’re performing backups of your crucial data.

• Windows Troubleshooting: The Windows Troubleshooting platform in
Windows 7 ties directly into the new Action Center. Action Center will alert you to any problems that should be sent to Microsoft for further analysis and any solutions that were found to solve existing issues.

• Problem reports: If you run into a software issue, Windows 7 can automatically report the problem to Microsoft and check whether a resolution is provided. Action Center monitors this feature to see whether it is enabled.

If all of the features that the Action Center is monitoring are enabled and up-to-date, you won’t ever see this feature unless you manually navigate to it. (You can find the Action Center in Control Panel -> System and Security -> Action Center, or by typing action center in Start Menu Search.) However, if one or more of these features are disabled, misconfigured, or out-of-date, the Action Center will provide the aforementioned alerts. It also displays its displeasure with red prefixed sections in the main Action Center window.

In such a case, you can usually resolve the issue by simply using the button provided. For example, if you don’t install antivirus software, in Action Center you’ll see a Virus protection alert along with a “Find a program online” button. After installation of the antivirus software, this alert will disappear.

If you install Windows 7 yourself, you will see a red Action Center icon in the notification area of the taskbar. This is because Windows 7 doesn’t ship with any antivirus solution: To make this warning disappear, install a third-party antivirus solution.

Source of Information : Wiley Windows 7 Secrets (2009)

Securing Windows 7 in Just Two Steps

Out of the box, Windows 7 includes antispyware functionality in the form of Windows Defender, a two-way firewall in Windows Firewall; a hardened Web browser (Internet Explorer 8); and automatic updating features that keep the system up-to-date, every day, with the latest security patches. Also included are changes to the User Account Control (UAC) feature, covered in the next chapter, making it less annoying and less likely to be turned off, thus reducing your exposure to malware. It would seem that Windows 7 comes with everything you need to be secure. Sadly, that’s not quite the case. First, Microsoft makes it too easy for users to opt out of one of the most important security features available in the system. In addition, one glaring security feature is missing from Windows 7. You’ll want to make sure you correct both of these issues before using Windows 7 online. Fortunately, doing so takes just two steps:

1. Enable automatic updating: If you set up Windows 7 yourself, one of the final Setup steps is configuration of Automatic Updates, the Windows Update feature that helps to ensure your system is always up-to-date. However, Automatic Updates can’t do its thing if you disable it, so make sure at the very least that you’ve configured this feature to install updates automatically. (Optionally, you can enable the installation of recommended updates as well, but these are rarely security oriented.) We can’t stress this enough: this feature needs to be enabled. If you’re not sure how it is configured, run Windows Update (Start Menu Search and then type windows update) and click Change Settings in the left side of the window. Make sure the option under Important updates Install updates automatically (recommended) is selected.

2. Install an antivirus solution: Many new PCs are preinstalled with security suites from companies such as McAfee and Symantec. While these suites are better than nothing, they’re also a bit bloated and perform poorly in our own tests. We prefer standalone antivirus solutions for this reason. There are many excellent options, including ESET NOD32 Antivirus, which in our own tests has proven to do an excellent job with minimal system impact. You can find out more about ESET NOD32 Antivirus from ESET directly ( Security in Windows 7 starts with this simple rule: leave all the security settings on, at their defaults, and install an antivirus solution. That said, a full understanding of what’s available in Windows 7 from a security standpoint is, of course, beneficial.

While commercial antivirus solutions are generally more effective, you might be surprised to discover that you can get a perfectly good antivirus solution free, which is perfect for budget-minded students and other individuals. The best free antivirus solution we’ve used is AVG Anti-Virus Free Edition. It’s not quite as lightweight as ESET NOD32 Antivirus, but it’s close. And it’s not as bloated as those unnecessary security suites. Best of all, did we mention that it is free? You can find out more about AVG Anti-Virus Free Edition on the Web (

Source of Information : Wiley Windows 7 Secrets (2009)

Windows Security

We want to expose one myth right now: while proponents of UNIX-based systems like Apple Mac OS X and Linux like to tout the supposed security benefits of their systems over Windows, the truth is that these competitors benefit primarily from security by obscurity. That is, so few people use these systems relative to Windows that hackers don’t bother targeting the minority operating systems. Consider this: in 2007, the installed base of Windows-based PCs exceeded 1 billion, but the maker of the number-two OS, Apple, claims just 25 million users. That’s right, only 2.5 percent of the Windows user base is using the number-two most frequently used OS on earth. Hackers may be evil but they’re not dummies: they know where the numbers are.

This isn’t a partisan attack on Mac OS X or Linux. Both are fine systems, with their own particular strengths; and as far as security by obscurity goes, it’s certainly a valid enough reason to consider using OS X or Linux instead of Windows. It’s one of the reasons we both use Mozilla Firefox instead of Internet Explorer: in addition to various features that Firefox offers, the browser is hacked a lot less often than IE simply because fewer people use it.

Source of Information : Wiley Windows 7 Secrets (2009)

Windows 7 - 32-bit vs 64-bit versions

Microsoft says that 32-bit versions of Windows support up to 4GB of RAM (while 64-bit versions support quite a bit more). While this is technically true, 32-bit versions of Windows are actually limited in their support of RAM because of its underlying architecture. Therefore, even on systems with a full 4GB of RAM, 32-bit versions of Windows can really access only about 3.12GB to 3.5GB of RAM, depending on your configuration. In the initially shipped version of Windows Vista, the System Information window would accurately portray how much RAM it could access, but this confused (and probably infuriated) those who paid for and installed 4GB of RAM, so with Windows Vista Service Pack 1 (SP1), Windows now reports that your PC has 4GB installed, even though it can’t use all of it. Windows 7 carries over this behavior unaltered.

The obvious question is whether you should even bother upgrading to 4GB of RAM when your 32-bit version of Windows 7 can’t actually address almost 1GB of that storage space anyway. The answer is an unqualified yes, for two reasons. First, you’d have to really go out of your way to upgrade a PC to 3GB of RAM instead of 4GB, and the cost differential would be minimal. Second, who says you’re always going to be using a 32-bit version of Windows? You may later decide to go the 64-bit route. When that happens, you’ll be happy you went for the full 4GB of RAM instead of saving a few pennies to no good end.

For the record, we max out the RAM on every single PC we purchase because the costs are so minimal and the effect is extremely positive. You just can’t overstate how important more RAM is to Windows. 8GB of RAM may have been a fantasy a few years ago, but for a modern, Windows 7–based PC, that’s just a starting point.

Source of Information : Wiley Windows 7 Secrets (2009)

Improving Windows 7’s Memory

A long time ago PCs of a bygone era had woefully inadequate amounts of RAM, and the versions of Windows used back then had to regularly swap large chunks of RAM back to slower, disk-based storage called virtual memory. Virtual memory was (and still is, really) an inexpensive way to overcome the limitations inherent in using a low-RAM PC; but as users ran more and more applications, the amount of swapping would reach a crescendo of sorts as an invisible line was crossed and performance suffered. Today, PCs with 4 to 8GB of RAM are commonplace, so manually managing Windows 7’s virtual memory settings is rarely needed. That said, you can still do so if you want. In older versions of Windows, you had to jump through quite a few hoops. With Windows 7’s Start Menu Search enhancements, finding and opening this dialog is much easier.

1. Open the classic Performance Options dialog by performing a Start Menu Search for adjust perf.

2. In the Performance Options dialog that appears, navigate to the Advanced tab and click the Change button. The Virtual Memory window will appear.

By default, like previous versions of Windows, Windows 7 is configured to automatically maintain and manage the paging file, which is the single disk-based file that represents your PC’s virtual memory. Windows 7 will grow and shrink this file based on its needs, and its behavior varies wildly depending on how much RAM is on your system: PCs with less RAM need virtual memory far more often than those with 4GB of RAM (or more with 64-bit versions of Windows 7).

While we don’t generally recommend screwing around with the swap file, Windows 7’s need to constantly resize the paging file on low-RAM systems is one exception. The problem with this behavior is that resizing the paging is a resource-intensive activity that slows performance. Therefore, if you have less than 2GB of RAM and can’t upgrade for some reason, you might want to manually manage virtual memory and set the paging file to be a fixed size—one that won’t grow and shrink over time.

To do this, uncheck the option titled Automatically manage paging file sizes for all drives and select Custom size. Then determine how much space to set aside by multiplying the system RAM (2GB or less) by 2 to 3 times. On a PC with 2GB of RAM, for example, you might specify a value of 5,120 (where 2GB of RAM is 2,048MB, times 2.5). This value should be added to both the Initial size and Maximum size text boxes to ensure that the page file does not grow and shrink over time.

Optionally, you can put the paging file on a faster, separate hard disk (a physical hard disk, not just a second partition) for better performance.

Using ReadyBoost
Another way to improve performance on systems with 2GB or less of RAM is to use a new Windows 7 feature called ReadyBoost. This technology uses spare storage space on USBbased memory devices such as memory sticks to increase your computer’s performance. It does this by caching the most frequently accessed information to the USB device, which is typically much faster than reading directly from the hard drive. (Information cached to the device is encrypted so it can’t be read on other systems.)

There are a number of caveats, of course. First, the USB device you choose to use must meet certain speed requirements or Windows will not allow it to be used in this fashion. Second, storage space that is set aside on a USB device for ReadyBoost cannot be used for other purposes until you reformat the device.

In our testing, ReadyBoost seems to have the most impact on systems with less than 1GB of RAM, and it clearly benefits netbooks and notebooks more than desktop PCs, as it’s often difficult or impossible to increase the RAM on older portable machines.

When you insert a compatible USB device into a Windows 7 machine, you will see a Speed Up My System option in the Auto Play dialog that appears. When you select this option, the ReadyBoost tab of the Properties dialog of the associated device will appear, enabling you to configure a portion of the device’s storage space. It recommends the ideal amount based on the capacity of the device and your system’s RAM (ensuring a RAM-to-cache minimum of 1:1 and a maximum of 2.5:1).

Obviously, ReadyBoost won’t work unless the USB memory key is plugged into your PC. This can be a bit of a hassle because you need to remember to keep plugging it in every time you break out your portable computer. Still, ReadyBoost is a great enhancement and a welcome feature, especially when a PC would otherwise run poorly with Windows 7.

In previous versions of Windows, you were limited to the use of only one USB device and a maximum ReadyBoost cache size of 4GB. Both of these limitations have been lifted in Windows 7.

If you’re using a PC containing a solid-state drive (SSD)—a drive similar to a flash stick vice a spindle of spinning platters—ReadyBoost will be turned off, because the disk is fast enough that ReadyBoost will unlikely provide any additional gain in performance.

Adding More RAM
This final tip may seem a bit obvious, but Windows 7 is a resource hog (albeit less so than Windows Vista), and it will steal whatever RAM you throw at it. Our advice here is simple: 2GB of RAM is the minimum for a happy Windows 7 PC; most PC users would be better off with more. If your PC can support 4GB or even 8GB of RAM, upgrade. Memory is inexpensive these days, so cost is rarely an issue.

Source of Information : Wiley Windows 7 Secrets (2009)

Windows 7 Appearance and Performance Tweaking

Windows 7 continues to use an advanced desktop composition engine and provides a number of subtle but pleasing UI animations by default. Some of this stuff, however, may be a bit much; and all of it takes its toll on the performance of your PC. Fortunately, the operating system includes a number of configurable performance options worth tweaking if you have an older PC and have noticed some slowdowns with Windows 7.

To open the classic Performance Options window (identical to the Adjust the appearance and performance of Windows tool in the previous section), type adjust perf into Start Menu Search. Here you can choose between three automated settings (Let Windows choose what’s best for my computer, Adjust for best appearance, and Adjust for best performance).

Alternately, you can click the Custom option and then enable and disable any of the 15 user-interface-related options that appear in the custom settings list. Most of these options should be self-explanatory, and many appeared in previous versions of Windows, but a couple of options are worth highlighting:

• Animations in the taskbar and Start menu (New to Windows 7): With the debut of the new taskbar, a number of new animations have been added (for example, the fading in and out of Jump Lists). If you’d rather these menus just appear, shortening menu display time, disable this feature.

• Use visual styles on windows and buttons: Disabling this feature causes Windows 7 to revert to the ancient-looking Windows Classic user interface. It will dramatically increase the performance of your PC at the expense of attractiveness and graphical reliability.

Source of Information : Wiley Windows 7 Secrets (2009)

Using Windows 7’s Performance Options

While all the performance tools are available individually throughout the system,
Windows 7 introduces a nice list of available tools, if you can find it. To unearth the listing, first type performance info into Start Menu Search and press Enter. In the Performance Information and Tools view, click Advanced Tools in the left-hand pane. You will now see a listing, of all available performance-related tools within Windows.

Windows 7 Performance Tools
Clear all Windows Experience Indexscores and re-rate the system
Re-assesses system performance and generates a new Windows Experience Index (WEI) score. You would typically run this after installing newer, faster hardware components (for example, a video card).

View performance details in Event Log
Provides insight into any performance-related warnings or errors. Unfortunately, clicking this link does not open the Event Viewer with Performance Information upfront. You need to navigate to Applications and Services Logs -> Microsoft -> Windows -> Diagnostics Performance, and then click Operational.

Open Performance Monitor
Enables you to view and gather performance data, either in real time or from a log file, and generate reports.

Open Resource Monitor
Enables you to view information about hardware (for example, CPU, memory, and so on) and software (for example, handles) resources in real time.

Open Task Manager
Infamous tool that enables you to display (and, more important, kill) running programs, processes, and services. It also provides network status and basic performance information.

View advanced system details in SystemInformation
Enables you to view details about your computer’s hardware configuration, computer components, and software, including drivers. Very handy and can even be run via the Command Prompt.

Adjust the appearance and performance of Windows
Enables you to tweak visual effects, processor and memory usage, and virtual memory settings. We’ll be using this tool in the next section.

Open Disk Defragmenter
Rearranges bits of files and folders on your disk (defragments) for faster, more efficient hard disk access. With solid-state drives on the rise, the usefulness of this tool is declining.

Generate a system health report
Analyzes your system from top to bottom and provides a very thorough report on various performance warnings and problems detected. If you suspect performance issues, run this tool first.

Source of Information : Wiley Windows 7 Secrets (2009)

Windows 7 - Fine-Tuning Data Execution Prevention

Data Execution Prevention (DEP) is a memory protection technology. Your computer uses DEP to mark all memory locations used by applications as nonexecutable unless the location explicitly contains executable code. If an application attempts to execute code from a memory page marked as nonexecutable, the processor can raise an exception and prevent it from executing. This behavior is designed to thwart a malicious program, such as a virus, from inserting itself into areas of memory. By allowing only specific areas of memory to run executable code, DEP protects your computer from many types of self-replicating viruses.

You can implement DEP via hardware or software. Hardware-based DEP is more robust because you can extend it to any program or service running on the computer. Softwarebased DEP is less robust because it typically works best when protecting Windows programs and services.

Windows 32-bit versions support DEP as implemented originally by Advanced Micro
Devices Inc. (AMD) processors that provide the no-execute page-protection (NX) processor feature. Such processors support the related instructions and must be running in Physical Address Extension (PAE) mode. Windows 64-bit versions also support the
NX processor feature but do not need to be running in PAE mode. And 64-bit computers natively support very large memory configurations.

You can determine whether your computer hardware supports DEP by completing the following steps:
1. In the Control Panel, click the System and Security category heading link.

2. Click System. In the left pane under See Also, click Performance Information and Tools.

3. Under Tasks, click “Adjust visual effects.” This opens the Performance Options dialog box.

4. Click the Data Execution Prevention tab. The lower portion of this tab lists the DEP support available.

Once you’ve accessed the Data Execution Prevention tab, you can configure the way DEP works using these options:

Turn on DEP for essential Windows programs and services only
Enables DEP only for the operating system services, programs, and components. This is the default and recommended option for computers that support execution protection and are configured appropriately.

Turn on DEP for all programs except those I select
Enables DEP for the operating system, as well as all programs and services you are running.

Because some programs won’t work with or will become unstable with software-based
DEP, you may find that you have to add exceptions when you enable DEP for all programs. Click Add to specify programs that should run without execution protection.
In this way, execution protection will work for all programs except those you have listed.

Source of Information : OReilly Windows 7 The Definitive Guide

Windows 7 - Improving Your Windows Experience Index Score

In the Performance Information and Tools console, you can view detailed performance and configuration information by clicking “View and print detailed performance and system information.” the configured details are provided for each hardware component being tracked—you can print this information for future reference by clicking “Print this page.” For many computers, gaming graphics will have the lowest subscore. By examining the details, you can see the key reason for this and typically, it is because the video card has a limited amount of dedicated graphics memory.

In the example, the computer is listed as having 2,302 MB of graphics memory available. However, 1,790 MB is coming from shared system memory and only 512 MB is dedicated. During graphics-intensive gaming, this means the computer may borrow up to 1,790 MB of RAM from the available physical memory, leaving less physical memory available for applications and the operating system. For a better gaming experience, you’d want to upgrade to a graphics card with 1 GB or higher of dedicated memory. Alternatively, you could purchase a second graphics card for your computer, but there are several caveats to ensure proper operation. You’d want to check the computer to ensure a card slot is available and you’d want to ensure your computer can support two graphics cards. You’d want to check with the graphics card manufacturer to determine the proper configuration required to use the existing graphics card with another graphics card.

If your computer has no or low dedicated graphics memory, installing a new graphics card with 512 MB or more of dedicated RAM on the computer would increase substantially the graphics and gaming graphics subscores. You could then have Windows 7 recalculate the performance scores by clicking “Re-run the assessment.” Windows 7 would then begin rating your computer by evaluating the performance of each tracked hardware component. When this process is completed, each component is listed with an appropriate subscore and the computer’s new base score is listed in the Performance Information and Tools console. The rating process can take several minutes to complete.

The scores are meant to be helpful guidelines, and you can squeeze extra performance out of your computer in a variety of ways, but typically, this extra performance comes at a direct sacrifice to the way Windows 7 looks and behaves. For example, if your computer’s base score is low because of graphics/gaming graphics, you can improve overall performance by turning off graphics-intensive features of the operating system, such as Aero Glass, visual effects, live previews, backgrounds, and themes.

The detailed information tells you whether the display adapter supports WDDM and DirectX. In the Component list under Graphics, you’ll see the display adapter type and the level of WDDM support. In the expanded list under Graphics, you’ll see additional details, including the DirectX version supported.

Source of Information : OReilly Windows 7 The Definitive Guide (10-2009) (ATTiCA)

Windows 7 - Understanding Your Windows Experience Index Score

Your computer’s base score is determined by the lowest subscore. The base score can help you determine the type of software programs you can run on the computer. The base score also determines the level of performance Windows 7 delivers. Certain operating system features will work only when your computer meets the minimum base score requirements, and the use of certain other features, such as high display resolutions with Aero Glass or themes on multiple displays, will have a severe impact on your computer’s performance.

Whether or not you use Aero is important. The Aero interface provides enhanced features including:
• Animated window closing and opening
• Live previews
• Smoother window dragging
• Transparent window frames

To use Aero, your computer’s graphics card must support the Windows Display Driver Model (WDDM) and DirectX 9.0 or later. WDDM 1.0 and DirectX 9.0 were both released around the same time as Windows Vista. Both have been updated for Windows 7. Windows 7 display drivers that support WDDM 1.1 or later offer improved performance while also reducing the per-window memory usage by up to 50 percent. WDDM 1.1 supports DirectX 11. DirectX 11 offers enhancements and performance improvements over earlier versions.

Most current computers will have a base score of between three and five. The Windows Experience Index is designed to scale as computer technology advances. Thus, current computers have top scores in the 6s and 7s, and tomorrow’s computers may have top scores in the 9s and 10s.

If you want to improve your computer’s base score, you can upgrade the hardware component responsible for the low score (most laptop computers cannot be upgraded in this way, however). For example, if gaming graphics is your lowest score, you could upgrade your graphics card to improve your rating. Don’t do this, however, without first consulting the performance details to determine exactly how the component is configured currently.

Understanding your computer’s Windows Experience Index score
1.0 to 1.9
Degraded user experience
You can use the computer for general computing, word processing, and music playback. The computer probably isn’t suited for more advanced tasks, such as gaming or multimedia. The user experience will be severely limited.

2.0 to 2.9
Reduced user experience
You can use the computer for general computing, business applications, basic gaming, and basic multimedia. The computer probably isn’t suited for more advanced tasks, such as multiplayer or 3D gaming and advanced multimedia. The user experience will be limited.

3.0 to 3.9
Basic user experience
You can use the computer for general computing, advanced business applications, expanded gaming, and expanded multimedia. The computer probably isn’t suited for advanced gaming, such as multiplayer 3D gaming, or advanced multimedia, such as recording HDTV and playing HD video.

4.0 to 4.9
Full user experience
You can use the computer for advanced computing, advanced business applications, advanced gaming, and advanced multimedia. The computer can use all the new features of Windows 7 with full functionality. Aero Glass will display higher resolutions while achieving good performance, and using themes on multiple monitors shouldn’t affect performance.

5.0 to 5.9
Superior user experience
You can use the computer for the most demanding tasks, including those that are both graphics-intensive and processor-intensive. The computer can use all the features of Windows 7 with full functionality. Aero Glass will display higher resolutions while achieving good performance, and using themes on multiple monitors shouldn’t impact performance.

6.0 to 6.9
Outstanding gaming and graphics experience
You can use the computer for 3D graphics and 3D applications, including those that are both graphics-intensive and processor-intensive. The computer should deliver an outstanding gaming experience and good frame rates for video playback at 1,280 × 1,024.

7.0 to 7.9
Excellent gaming and graphics experience
You can use the computer for 3D graphics and 3D applications, including those that are both highly graphics-intensive and highly processor-intensive. The computer should deliver an excellent gaming experience and excellent frame rates for video playback at high screen resolutions.

Source of Information : OReilly Windows 7 The Definitive Guide (10-2009) (ATTiCA)

Windows 7 - Getting Your Windows Experience Index Score

During installation, Windows 7 assigned your computer a Windows Experience Index.
This index is a relative rating of your computer’s capabilities with regard to its:
• Processor
• Physical memory (RAM)
• General graphics
• Gaming graphics
• Primary hard disk

To assign the Windows Experience Index, Windows 7 determines:
• The number of processors/processor cores installed on your computer and the processor type
• The number of calculations per second that your computer’s processor can perform
• The total amount of physical memory installed on your computer
• The number of memory operations per second that your computer’s memory can perform
• The total amount of graphics memory installed on your computer
• The relative performance of your computer’s graphics adapter
• The data transfer rate of your computer’s primary hard disk

These performance metrics help Windows 7 determine the relative performance of your computer. You can view your computer’s Windows Experience Index and the related subscores by completing the following steps:

1. Click Start and then click Control Panel.
2. In the Control Panel, select System and Security.
3. Under the System heading, click Check the Windows Experience Index.
4. Your computer’s performance scores are listed by component in the Performance Information and Tools console.

Source of Information : OReilly Windows 7 The Definitive Guide (10-2009) (ATTiCA)

Windows 7 - Advanced Printer Management

Windows 7 comes with a printer management tool that’s part of the Windows Management Console system. It’s intended primarily for network administrators who sometimes have to manage dozens of printers spread around an office. I won’t go into great detail on this tool here because it’s fairly self-explanatory, but I’ll show you how it works.

To run the tool, click Start, Control Panel, System and Security, Administrative Tools. Then, doubleclick Print Management. You might need to confirm the User Account Control prompt or enter an Administrator password, because this tool requires elevated privileges.

The left pane lets you choose views that include lists of all the printers installed on the local computer (or on a domain network), all printers that have documents pending, and so on. You can also create custom “filters” to select only printers with specific attributes.

Under the Print Servers section, the local computer is listed, and you can right-click the “Print Servers” title to add the names of other computers on your network (or named print server devices). You can use this feature to build a single panel that lists all your organization’s printers. Print servers that you add to this list will remain in the list the next time you run the printer management tool.

Source of Information : QUE Microsoft Windows in Depth

Windows 7 - Using the System Configuration Tool to Control Startup

One tool that has existed in multiple versions of Windows that lets you control program startup is the System Configuration program. That program is also available in Windows 7. To open System Configuration, open the Control Panel, click All Control Panel Items, and click Administrative Tools.

The General tab, offers three options for controlling startup:
• Normal Startup. Start Windows normally. All items that normally start automatically are started.

• Diagnostic Startup. Load only basic device drivers and operating system services but not other services or programs. Use this option to troubleshoot problems with Windows startup that might be caused by a third-party service, device driver, or program.

• Selective Startup. Choose which types of items will start automatically. Start Windows with basic devices and services, and optionally other system services and startup programs.

The Boot tab, lets you control how Windows boots. The large text box lists all the operating system boot selections. If Windows 7 is the only operating system on the computer, it will be the only one listed in the text box. If you have a dual-boot system (for example, with Windows XP and Windows 7 on the same computer in different partitions), those additional operating system instances will also be listed. Click an instance and then click Set As Default to make that operating system boot by default when the computer starts.

The other options under the Boot Options group let you configure options for a safe boot so that the next time you start Windows, it will boot with the specified safe boot option. You can also set other boot options. Because you likely will use these options rarely, if ever, I point you to the Help content rather than cover them here. Just click the Help button on the Boot tab to view an explanation of these options.

Use the option Make All Boot Settings Permanent to have the settings apply every time you boot the computer.

The Services tab gives you a means to disable services so that they do not start when Windows boots. This tab also shows the current state of the services on the computer. Selecting the check box beside a service indicates that the service is enabled. You can disable a service by deselecting its check box. If you want to view only third-party services, select the Hide All Microsoft Services check box. This helps you identify services that are not part of the Windows 7 operating system.

In general, you should avoid disabling services unless you know exactly what the service does and what the consequences of disabling it will be. Usually, you want to disable a service only if a tech support engineer or some troubleshooting documentation has directed you to do so.

The Startup tab shows programs that start through an entry in the Windows registry. Typically, these programs are listed in the registry key HKEY_LOCAL_MACHINE\
SOFTWARE\Microsoft\Windows\CurrentVersion\Run. You can disable a program from starting from its registry entry by deselecting the check box.

Often, program developers will design their programs to start from the registry instead of the Startup folder when they don’t want the user to be able to turn off the program without uninstalling it. This is typical for antivirus programs and other utility programs. If you are trying to turn off a program and you don’t find it in one of the Startup folders, there is probably an entry for the program in the registry that causes it to start automatically.

The Tools tab gathers a selection of useful tools for troubleshooting problems with your computer and getting more information about programs. Just click a tool and click Launch to open the tool.

After you make changes to configuration settings in the System Configuration tool, you need to click OK and then restart the computer to make the changes take effect.

The Windows registry is a group of files that store configuration information for Windows and applications. The Registry Editor program offers another means for viewing and changing the contents of the registry. However, you should never change registry settings unless you know exactly what you’re doing, because an\ incorrect change could potentially prevent Windows from booting or working properly.

Source of Information : Windows 7 Bible (2009)

Windows 7 - Printing Offline

If your printer is disconnected, you can still queue up documents for printing. You might want to do this while traveling, for instance, if you have a laptop and don’t want to drag a 50-pound laser printer along in your carry-on luggage. (It’s hard to get them through security.)

If you try this, however, you’ll quickly find that the Print Manager will beep, pop up messages to tell you about the missing printer, and otherwise make your life miserable. To silence it, Open the Devices and Printers window. Right-click the printer icon and select See What’s Printing. Then, in the queue window’s menu, click Printer, Use Printer Offline. The printer’s icon will turn a light-gray color to show that it’s been set for offline use, and Windows will now quietly and compliantly queue up anything you “print.”

Just don’t forget that you’ve done this or nothing will print even when you’ve reconnected your printer. You’ll end up yelling at your unresponsive printer, when it’s only doing what it was told. When you’ve reconnected the printer, repeat those steps and uncheck Use Printer Offline. This is a nifty feature, but available only for local printers, not printers shared by other computers.

Source of Information : QUE Microsoft Windows in Depth

Windows 7 - Starting Application Programs Automatically

If you always use a certain application program when you start your computer, you can configure Windows to start that program automatically. For example, maybe you use Microsoft Office Outlook all the time for your e-mail and want it to open as soon as you log in to the computer so that you don’t have to start it yourself.

You can also make folders open automatically. For example, you can have Windows automatically open the main folder for your user account at startup so that you can quickly get to other folders, such as Documents, Pictures, or Music.

You have a couple of ways to make programs start automatically when you log in. The first is to add a shortcut for the program to one of the two Startup folders provided by Windows. One Startup folder is for your user account; the other is for all users of the computer. Your Startup folder is located in the folder \Users\\AppData\Roaming\Microsoft\Windows\Start Menu\Programs, where is your username (such as jim). The Startup folder for everyone who uses the computer is located in the hidden folder \ProgramData\Microsoft\Windows\Start Menu\Programs. If you want a program to start automatically for you, put a shortcut for the program in your Startup folder. If you want a program to start automatically for everyone, you can instead put it in the Startup folder for all users.

Assuming that you’re already logged in to your user account, the steps to open your own Startup folder are easy:
1. Click the Start button and choose All Programs.
2. If necessary, scroll down until you see the Startup folder icon on the menu.
3. Right-click that Startup icon and choose Open. It opens as a folder on the desktop.

Optionally, to give yourself some elbow room, size and position the window. You don’t need the Navigation pane here, so you can close that if it’s open (click the Organize button and choose Organize -> Layout -> Navigation Pane).

To make an application program auto-start, right-drag (drag with the right mouse button) its icon from the All Programs menu into the main pane of the Startup folder and drop it there; then choose Create Shortcuts Here. Keep in mind that the more programs you add to the folder, the longer it will take for your computer to start. So don’t get carried away and put all your favorite programs in there. One or two should be sufficient.

If you accidentally moved a shortcut from the Start menu instead of copying it, right-click some empty space in the Startup folder and choose Undo Move. Or just drag it back to its old location on the Start menu. When you’ve finished, close the Startup folder. Windows Defender may show a message alerting you to the fact that your startup options have changed. No cause for alarm. In this case the message is superfluous because you intentionally changed your startup programs. Defender doesn’t know that, however. It’s just doing one of its many jobs, which in this situation is to keep you informed of changes to your Startup options.

To add a program’s shortcut to the Startup folder for all users so that it starts for everyone, use the same process as described previously except drag the icon to the all users Startup folder rather than your personal Startup folder.

Bypassing all Startup folder programs
Windows gives you a quick and easy way to bypass all programs that start automatically from either of the Startup folders. For example, if you are having problems with a particular program causing startup problems, or you have lots of programs and just want to get to your desktop quickly, you can bypass all Startup programs so that none of them start. To do so, click your user account in the login screen, type your password, and press Enter. Immediately press and hold the left Shift key. Keep pressing the Shift key until the Start menu, desktop icons, and taskbar all appear. If programs from the Startup folders still start automatically, you’re not holding the Shift key long enough.

Stopping auto-start applications
Should you ever change your mind about auto-start applications, you just need to reopen that Startup folder for your user account. Then delete the shortcut icon for any program you don’t want to auto-start. Or, if you moved it from another location, move it back (out of the Startup folder.) However, not all programs that auto-start will be in the Startup folder for your user account. Some may be in the Startup folder for all users.

To view, and optionally remove, programs that start automatically in all user accounts, you need to get to the all users Startup folder. You may need administrative privileges to make changes to that folder, so be prepared to enter an administrative password if you’re working from a standard account. The basic procedure is easy: Click the Start button and choose All Programs. Right-click the Startup folder again, but this time choose Open All Users.

The All Users Startup folder works just like the Startup folder for a single user account. If you want a program to auto-start in all user accounts, drag that program’s icon into the folder. If you want to stop a program from auto-starting in all user accounts, delete its icon from that Startup folder. But again, stick with programs you know. Removing programs from the All Users Startup folder at random could have unpleasant consequences that you weren’t expecting.

Source of Information : Windows 7 Bible (2009)

Windows 7 - Understanding Automatic Updates

Many people are afraid of Windows Update. They’re afraid that the changes to their system that the updates make will break something that they can’t fix. It’s certainly true that any change to your system could create a problem. But it’s unlikely that keeping up with updates will cause any significant problems — certainly nowhere near as many problems as you expose yourself to by not keeping up with updates. In addition, Windows Update creates restore points before installing many updates (but not for all updates), so you have the added security of being able to restore the system to a point prior to the update.

Others fear that Microsoft will somehow exploit them through automatic updates. That’s not the way it works. Microsoft has tens of millions of customers and tens of billions of dollars. It doesn’t need to exploit anybody to be successful. Desperate people (and companies) do desperate, exploitive things.

Microsoft is as far from desperate as you can get. Microsoft is also a publicly held company on the stock exchange, which means it is subject to constant scrutiny. Such companies are not the ones that distribute malware. Most malware comes from e-mail attachments and free programs from unknown sources. When it comes to knowing who to trust and not to trust, large publicly held companies are by far the most trustworthy, if for no other reason than that they can’t afford to be untrustworthy. A third common fear of automatic updates centers around the question ‘‘What’s this going to cost me?’’ The answer to that is simple: Absolutely nothing. This brings us to the difference between updates and upgrades.

Updates versus upgrades
People often assume that the terms update and upgrade are synonymous. We certainly use the terms interchangeably in common parlance. But in the computer world, there is a big difference. Upgrades usually cost money and involve a fair amount of work. For example, upgrading from Windows Vista to Windows 7 will cost you some money and take some time. You might even need to hire someone to verify that the upgrade will work, and do the upgrade for you. Updates are much different. Updates are small, simple, and free of charge. Some people turn off automatic updates because they’re afraid they’ll get some mysterious bill for something they downloaded automatically without realizing it. That will never happen. Turning on and using automatic updates will never cost you a penny.

Why updates are important
Automatic updates are an important part of your overall security. Many forms of malware, especially viruses and worms, operate by exploiting previously unnoticed flaws in programs. The term exploit, when used as a noun in computer science, refers to any piece of software that can take advantage of some vulnerability in a program in order to gain unauthorized access to a computer. Some hackers actually publish, on the Internet, exploits they discover, which is both a good thing and a bad thing. The bad thing is that other hackers can use the exploit to conjure up their own malware, causing a whole slew of new security threats. The good thing is that the good guys can quickly create security patches to prevent the exploits from doing their nefarious deeds. Automatic updates keep your system current with security patches that fix the flaws that malware programs attempt to exploit.

Source of Information : Windows 7 Bible (2009)

Cloud storage is for blocks too, not just files

One of the misconceptions about cloud storage is that it is only useful for storing files. This assumption comes from the popularity of file...