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)

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