Bill Detwiler: Windows 7 has received lots of attention from the tech press, but much of the focus has been on interface changes, such as the redesigned taskbar. And, I know what you re thinking. You re tired of hearing how much better Windows 7 is than Vista. And frankly, I don t blame you. Deserved or not, Vista has achieved Edsel status.
But, hear me out. Once you take a look at some of Windows 7 new or enhanced tools designed for power users and support pros, you might think of the new OS as a new sports car or at least a fuel efficient hybrid.
I m Bill Detwiler, and during this TR Dojo episode, I'll show you to five Windows 7 tools that may make all you Windows 7 detractors reconsider.
Our first tool is called the Problem Steps Recorder (or P-S-R), and if you support Windows, by choice or threat of force, it can be a real time saver.
Because no matter how hard they try, users often have problems accurately describing a problem or tracing the steps they took before or after experiencing it. While Remote Assistance can help, you can t always connect to the user s computer in real time. That s when the P-S-R comes in handy.
It s a type of screen capture software that records all actions, including keystrokes and mouse clicks, and then saves the sequence of events in an M-HTML page that documents the steps along with screenshots.
You start the P-S-R by entering psr.exe in the Start menu Search box or at the command prompt.
Once the P-S-R is running, have the user click the Start Record button and then try to replicate the error message or problem. At which point, they should click the Stop Record button and then send you the MHTML file generated by the tool. You can then view the recorded steps in IE by double-clicking the saved zipped MHTML file.
Hopefully this will give you a better picture of the problem than repeatedly asking the user, whether they were trying to download a file or actually install an application.
Second on our list is Windows 7 s built-in ISO Burner. Thank goodness. Finally, you no longer have to download and install a third-party program to burn an ISO file to disc.
Just download an .ISO image to your hard drive and then double-click it to launch the Burn Disc Image dialog box. Choose the appropriate drive, insert a blank disc, and click the Burn button. The tool even works with .IMG files.
The third I want to show you was actually included in the Windows Vista Service Pack 1 beta but it was removed in the final release of SP1. Go figure.
This tool allows you to create a System Repair Disc, and thankfully it's been included with Windows 7.
Just click Start, type System Repair in the Search box, and click on Create A System Repair Disc. Once the tool s window appears, chose the appropriate drive, insert a blank disc, and click Create Disc. What could be simpler?
To use the disc, put it in your drive and reboot the computer from the disc. (You may have to set the CD/DVD drive as the primary boot device in your BIOS if your computer doesn t do this automatically.) Once the machine boots, you ll get a list of system recovery options, which include:
* Startup repair
* System restore
* System image recovery
* Windows memory diagnostic
* Command prompt
The fourth tool on our list, existed in previous Windows versions, but has been significantly improved for Windows 7. It s the Backup Utility.
The latest version gives you more granular control over what you want to back up.
Now you can launch the utility by selecting Backup And Restore from the Control Panel or by typing Backup in the Search box on the Start menu.
Once the utility is open, you can set it to back up your files to a local hard disk, a removable disk, a DVD, or another computer on the network. Then, tell it what to backup and when.
You can choose to back up libraries or individual folders and even exclude specified folders.
The fifth and last tool I want to talk about is Windows PowerShell. PowerShell is a command-line shell interface and scripting tool that makes it easy for Windows administrators to automate tasks using cmdlets, which are commands that perform a single task, and scripts, which are made up of multiple cmdlets and allow you to perform more complex, multi-step tasks.
Now, previous versions of Windows included a command-line interpreter (command.com or cmd.exe), but PowerShell is much more powerful, providing a UNIX-like command environment that can automate almost every GUI functionality.
PowerShell can be downloaded to run on Windows XP or Vista, but Windows 7 is the first client operating system that comes with it built in. (It is also installed by default in Windows Server 2008 R2.)
PowerShell v2 adds about 240 new cmdlets, as well as new APIs and features, such as the ability to invoke PowerShell scripts and cmdlets on a remote computer. You can find out more about PowerShell on the Microsoft s PowerShell Web page, which I ll link to from the TR Dojo blog.
Well, that does it for my list cool Windows 7 power user and IT support tools. You can check out some of the other Windows 7 offerings in Debra Shinder's original list, "10 cool tools in Windows 7." I ll link to it from the TR Dojo blog.
And as always, for more teachings on your path to becoming an IT Ninja, visit trdojo.techrepublic.com. And please let us know if this tip was helpful.
You can also submit your favorite IT Ninja tips by e-mailing them to us at firstname.lastname@example.org. If we use them for an episode of TR Dojo, we ll send you a TechRepublic coffee mug and this cool laptop sticker.
I m Bill Detwiler. Thanks for visiting the TR Dojo.