Windows optimize

Video: Five features that will make you love Windows 7

Bill Detwiler discusses five Windows 7 features, like the Problem Steps Recorder, that should make IT pros love the new OS more than Vista.

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. Frankly, I don't blame you. Deserved or not, Vista has achieved Edsel status.

Yet, 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. During this TR Dojo episode, I'll discuss the following Windows 7 tools that may make Windows 7 detractors reconsider:

  1. Problem Steps Recorder: A handy support tool that records keystrokes, mouse clicks, and screenshots
  2. Windows Disc Image Burner: A built-in ISO and IMG file burner
  3. System Repair Disc: Lets you create a system restore/recovery disc
  4. Backup Utility: A significant improvement over the Windows Vista version
  5. Windows PowerShell: Extremely powerful command-line shell and scripting tool

For those of you who prefer text to video, you can click the Transcript link that appears below the video player window or you can also read Debra Shinder's article, "10 cool tools in Windows 7," on which the episode is based.

You can also sign up to receive the latest TR Dojo lessons through one or more of the following methods:

· Follow Bill Detwiler on Twitter

About

Bill Detwiler is Managing Editor of TechRepublic and Tech Pro Research and the host of Cracking Open, CNET and TechRepublic's popular online show. Prior to joining TechRepublic in 2000, Bill was an IT manager, database administrator, and desktop supp...

175 comments
dfarrich
dfarrich

I would have druthered they refined XP. But I am an old fart and set in my ways regarding apps that worked.

stenman
stenman

Really dumb to think that knowing what sequence of key strokes results in a system crash is going to help IT support people to diagnose the problem much less resolve it. Detwiler has clearly not spent much time providing system support and has no idea of the added complexity of multi-tier applications in today's IT environment and what it takes to troubleshoot them effectively. Data should not be on a user's PC where it needs to be backed up but on a server which is backed up and has failover implemented. Imagine everyone deciding when they leave work to kick off a backup of their entire system. Disc image burner - who burns images to multiple DVD's instead of a central server to be downloaded onto a new drive? If these are the highlights it is easy to see why 90% of IT shops have no plans to migrate users from XP to Windows 7 in 2010. Microsoft under Gates and Ballmer has taken a truly Machiavellian approach in evolving their operating system over the decades which has been great for perpetuating the market dominance that was handed to them by IBM, but has hardly benefited end users and certainly has wasted a tremendous amount of company resources. With Windows 7 this trend is going to continue in those shops foolish enough to give control to the kids in Bellevue.

Deadly Ernest
Deadly Ernest

Nearly all of that has been possible in Unix since before Windows existed, took them long enough to steal the ideas.

paultucker
paultucker

Never had any problems with Vista, the only issue is the UAC. Annoying that Vista Ultimate and I should imagine windows 7 ultimate version will only contain an imaging tool for the whole hard disk. Good that can now burn image file to disk but would have expected this to be the case.

matt-the-cat
matt-the-cat

1.Problem Steps Recorder: A handy support tool that records keystrokes, mouse clicks, and screenshots Why would this be a feature I want to turn on. Obviously a big hole for hackers to get in. No thanks. 2.Windows Disc Image Burner: A built-in ISO and IMG file burner Like other "tools" that MS has ripped off from others. This is going to be crap and opensource tools will still be better than what MS will offer. 3.System Repair Disc: Lets you create a system restore/recovery disc I'll stick with my Ghost 11 disk. MS never gets it right so why would I depend on them to get this right? 4.Backup Utility: A significant improvement over the Windows Vista version Backup utilities in a MS product that isn't crap? Significant is a strong word here. Just how "significant"? Give me details... 5.Windows PowerShell: Extremely powerful command-line shell and scripting tool How many people even use the command-line (aka DOS window)? Get real!

TheKatman
TheKatman

Don't ya just love it when someone gives a video presentation on a Windows solution and there are AS/400 family servers in the background? Fight On Trojans!

scott.ager
scott.ager

It's going to take a lot more than 5 to make me give up on my lean, fast, and low-overhead XP OS. Leave it to M$ to selectively liposuction some key areas of Vista and pronounce the resulting morbid obesity as "New and Improved".

enquiries
enquiries

the problem steps recorder is nice in theory, but won't help much. in my experience very basic users get frustrated at having to do such techy procedures - they want to feel like the tech is doing the work in solving the problem. The most i can request is a 'ping' and 'ipconfig' command before the user says "just get here and fix it." And worse, this technology will be exploited by malware writers.

cbellur
cbellur

I have used PCs for 25 years and I just bought a Mac Pro a week ago. I'm just blown away by how amazing this is. I like to say it's the best distro of Linux around (ok, it's Unix)... But with OS X you get way more out of the hardware than with Windoze. There's a good Popular Mechanics article where they compare Windows machines to Macs, and you get more for your money with a Mac. Forgettabout "this PC has more RAM". Yes, Windows hogs resources. As far as Windows 7, you're going to need all of these fix-it utilities. I'm glad to see Microsoft finally acknowledging their problemmatic OS and putting in tools to make it easier to fix problems (instead of making the machines near bullet proof like Macs). I also find Windows 7 to copy a lot of Mac features -- the app doc and their clumsy implementation of Windows tiling, which is done so much better with the Expose feature on a Mac. They throw in a DVR and some pretty nice multimedia features to try to compete with Macs. Good luck! I got a Mac because I see more and more developer jobs where they give employees a Mac instead of a PC. I just wanted to learn how to use a Mac, and I got a Mac Pro so I could use it for home recording. Never thought they would win me over, but they did. When I uninstalled an app on the Mac, I had to google how to do it because I thought there must be an uninstaller. Nope. Just drag the app to the trash. That's it. No trail of files in far off directories to delete. Overall, that's how Macs are designed -- simple on the surface, but you can geek out on the Unix if you want (mine came with JBoss pre-installed, so it is actually for serious developers). Windows 7 seems like a pathetic attempt to keep up with Apple. They'll never do it.

CharlieSpencer
CharlieSpencer

Bill, I wish you had kept the poll and your first post consistent with the video content. The video has nothing to do with Vista-inspired dissatisfaction; why did you include that as the poll subject and the discussion opener? The discussion would have benefited from focusing solely on the video content, instead of suffering the distraction of another Vista rehash.

davephan
davephan

The five items are nothing to write home about! The image burning and Powershell software are already free - so those items should be dropped from your list. The macro device sounds like it is not very useful. There are relatively cheap macro software packages that are probably better. The system repair disk might or might not have any value. The backup software is probably still lousy compared to third party backup software packages. I have tried to recover before with Microsoft backups - the recoveries failed. If there isn't confidence that the recovery will be successful - there is no point in taking a backup in the first place. I have found third party imaging products to provide reliable system recoveries, if the image files are stored on hard drives, not optical media. davephan

saved2serve
saved2serve

Questions, most of which relate to options available via freeware): 1. Can you change the icon for file types (lost in Vista) 2. Can you list the size of folders in details view (ability via freeware lost in Vista) 3. Does it allow you to get the up arrow back (lost in Vista-helpful when using single pane view, as QTTabbar can, and more) 4. Does it remember the size of windows when using classic view (XP and Vista issue)? Will the clock display seconds (as TClockEx can)? 5. Can you rearrange taskbar buttons, or change their color (like in Firefox)? Can you save windows sessions, to open up previously open windows by date? 6. Can you create you own shortcut keys to singly or simultaneously launch applications (like AutoHotKey)? 7. Does Outlook express have a web browser (Tbird ext)? 8. Can it make an ISO file to be seen as a virtual (read-only) drive (Gizmo, etc.)? Does the home edition allow sending of faxes? 9. Is the defrag as good as freeware alternatives (like Obit SmartDefrag)? 10. When copying files, will it quit when it comes to a locked, in use file (versus like unstoppable copier, etc.)? 11. Can you expand Windows clipboard to remember more than one paste (like Ditto, etc.) 12. How good is Windows 7 folder synchronization?

CallMrStone
CallMrStone

So, a built-in ISO burner, just like OS X has had for several years; a powerful shell, just like Linux, OS X, and every other PC Unix derivative have had for years; a backup utility that sounds similar to, but not nearly as intuitive or reliable as Time Machine; and a system repair disk, something that ships with every Mac. The only thing I saw that was not already provided by superior OSs was the PSR (which can be done with free tools like Jing). However, considering how many Ps Windoze victims suffer, it's a great thing that they have an SR for them! (Just hope they don't get a BSOD while trying to record them.)

jzou
jzou

There are plenty of fine iso burners out there. I don't feel Microsoft needs to make one of their own. It could probably save them a couple lines of code, save some time that could be spent on other things and let windows boot faster.

rborkowskijr
rborkowskijr

Bill; I'm watching your 5 reasons to love Wind 7, I think what people really want is for Windows to run for days on end without rebooting. It's always nice to watch how smart the programmers can be with all these FEATURES that you don't get to use because the system is always BLUE SCREENING.. Tom B

MytonLopez
MytonLopez

I have been using Vista Business for a while and love it. I run it with only 1GB RAM and have no issues with it being slow. The only gripe I have is the battery life sucks on laptops. The 2 options I change right away in Vista is to change the power option to best performance and change the shutdown button to shut down. I did a fresh install on both my laptop and desktop and have no issues with it running slow or anything. I had recently did a fresh install of Windows 7 on my laptop and do not see much if any performace gains with the same hardware. Windows 7 looks just like Vista and to me it seems like they just changed a few things here and there but Windows 7 is still Vista underneath. They just fixed a few things so it would run right. I am not convinced. If you didn't like Vista your not going to jump up for joy for Windows 7.

jasondlnd
jasondlnd

Got to hand it to Microsoft for opening the gateway to potentially making it easier for hackers and spyware developers. Hackers will no longer need to write an app of their own...just use Microsoft's built in utility, find a way to have it run in the background without the user's consent, and voila...instant access to the user's E-Mail accounts, Bank Passwords, personal data, etc. Go Microsoft for including a spyware app!

tom_mullenaux
tom_mullenaux

What's up with the 9-track in the background circa 1992??? (I may have assembled it...)

jackie40d
jackie40d

You really got to be kiding me ! Linux has that and it has been there for while . .

oromo
oromo

Loved it. Thank you

tekkie?
tekkie?

..yes! That was informative! thanks bill!

bblackmoor
bblackmoor

So the big exciting changes in Windows 7 are ... five things that have been available on Windows XP, or provided by much better third-party utilities, for a decade? Thank you for confirming that Windows XP is the last version of Windows anyone will ever need.

Deefburger
Deefburger

Yawn. I have all of those "Features" in Linux by default. Show me something REAL that would make me love Windows. Like Total user control, oh wait, I got that too. Or cool desktop graphics, oh wait I got that too. Tight security, oh yeah, I got that too. I don't think Windows could possibly have anything that is such a cool feature that would pay for it and install it and use it.

pandu
pandu

... ImgBurn. It's free, and much more powerful. Although I have to admit it is not for novices.

zclayton3
zclayton3

Love it more than vista is low hanging fruit. Make me love it more than the last stable m$ system, XP, or a real stable system like Linux or OSX. then we can talk compelling reasons to love it.

3dBloke
3dBloke

Liked the video. Yes, I am very tired of the focus on cosmetic aspects of Windows7, particularly relative to Vista. I've stayed on WinXP and plan to move to Win7 within the first 6 months of release. I find it amaizing that Microsoft don't make more play on the technical enhancements of Win7. btw, I had to look up Edsel in Wikipedia... OK I understand now. May throw it into conversation myself, now, see if anyone knows what I'm on about. :-)

alliancemillsoft
alliancemillsoft

Maybe not in Windows, but tons of shareware/freeware already does all this stuff. Screen recording that you have to script to run? Retarded! An ISO burner? Old news .. we all already have had to use a third party program forever now and they are free too, and probably better done as well. Windows backup? Just who uses Windows backup to do anything? Get some real backup software. My God! You can make your own repair disc? Again very very old news. How pathetic it is that this stupid list is why you "should" use Win 7. MS is totally out of ideas.

buzzlair
buzzlair

vista hurts microsoft badly. they totally regretted it. vista was released in a hurry probably because microsoft is too excited with their design. making too much money not worth it when the company's image hurted .

reisen55
reisen55

Just because Microsoft builds things into an operating system does not mean they do it right. These are benefits, not killer features and merely make life a bit nicer. Which is not a compelling reason to consider this operating system at the present time.

charleswdavis6670
charleswdavis6670

Having used Win 7 64-Bit since the release date in October, I haven't found an app that didn't work. I haven't even found one that needed to be executed in compatibility mode. Of course, all of my apps were purchased after 32-bit architecture was adopted (prior to Win XP).

BlueCollarCritic
BlueCollarCritic

If you are intrested I have 2 'reg' files (found here at TechRepublic) that when clicked allow me to enable or disable UAC without any reboot or other action required. I use them to disable UAC whenever I am doing an install or update and then enable UAC while doing anything else. Thsi way not only do I catch an invisible background activity (like un-requested installs or updates when browsing the internet) but it alos alerts me to any login scripts and the like. With UAC I almost awlays know when something is going on. I pair that up with Firefox running the NoScript Add-on and I have yet to get nailed with anything since.

Bill Detwiler
Bill Detwiler

This TR Dojo episode was an effort to highlight Windows 7 features that IT pros and power users would find useful. As many individuals and organizations are also still developing their Windows upgrade plans, I hope that this information helps in their decision. Yet, Windows 7's launch is linked to Microsoft's botched launch of Windows Vista. It would be unrealistic and disingenuous for me to discuss one without the other.

mudpuppy1
mudpuppy1

I hated, despised and loathed Vista. Still do. It ran like a dog (a very sick dog) on anything I put it on. I don't know what you did to think it was acceptable with 1 GB of RAM, but in my experience, it sucks even with 3-4 GB. I put 7 on old hardware and it is running about the same as XP did (which, in my world, means acceptable). I have it on an old HP nw8000 with 1 GB of RAM and a 5400 RPM drive. It's running quite well. Vista was horrible on that machine. Yes, it looks like Vista but MS made enough changes that it just appeals to me much more than Vista. I can't quite put my finger on it but it's much better. Perhaps because I avoided Vista as much as I could. So, yes, I'm happy with 7. So much so that I installed it on six PC's at the house. Vista never saw the light of day at home (except for one test box). All that being said, I support people at work who love it. To each his own.

roy.evison
roy.evison

This was my first thought also, what are microsoft thinking of? roy.

johnmckay
johnmckay

Its no big deal. If you don't like it, don't implement it. Is this all you've got to worry about? Lets be positive. It's a tool like snagit and nobody is wandering about whining about it. It serves a useful purpose. And like anything it can be dangerous; in the same sense as a plastic knife in the wrong hands couyld be lethal. And we're not going to ban plastic cutlery, surely???

JCitizen
JCitizen

Two of the biggest threats to modern Windows PC security, and they thread it right into the OS!! On XP, at least I had Snoopfree to act as an input/output firewall. I was already paranoid enough without this on Vista, and now?!!? The larger threats aren't worms and viruses, it is spyware and screen capture. These can thwart almost any SSL, or end-point security you can come up with! If not - then this is what MS should be pointing out, not all the frivolous 3rd rate addons.

lwalke23
lwalke23

I'm glad I'm not the only one who thought this! What on earth are Microsoft thinking? It's hard enough ensuring your computer is secure - I have several anti-virus programs and adware/spyware scanners on my PC, and I try not to click on dubious links, websites, etc, and I still manage to get spyware on my computer. All the "spy" needs to know now is which file the Problem Steps Recorder saves the recorded data to. SCARY!!

wandersick
wandersick

So far everybody I've seen loves PSR a lot, it's good to hear an alternative opinion. But still that isn't a stop sign for this great function. If you need to worry, there's so much more to than this small bunch of codes. Anyway I don't think they wouldn't consider security at all nowadays. Look at PowerShell, it is a powerful scripting environment and its bundled in Win7, so Execution Policy is by default restricted to interactive access only to prevent the same mistake of VBScript from happening again.

msawyer91
msawyer91

I was very happy to see Disc Image Burner in Windows 7. When I do burn a disc, the vast majority of the time it's to burn an ISO or IMG file to disc. In that case, I find it unnecessary to install and run a third-party application. Obviously a third-party application is required if you want a richer feature set, or if you want more granular control. But if your goal is just to cook off an ISO to disc, Disc Image Burner is an excellent solution.

gstrickland
gstrickland

LOL! I loved the look of the Edsel just as much as I liked the look of Vista. Unfortunately in both cases neither lived up to their expectations. As for the Five features that will make you love Windows 7... Yawn

jackie40d
jackie40d

Well they are using things that have been on Linux for a while now for NEW Ideals ! So Who is copying WHO ? And TR has become a Windows pusher ? . . I Wonder if they get a PAY CHECK from MS for pushing this stuff ? I have read about Windows 8 already GEEZ wonder what is wrong with the version 7 ? I will stick with my NEWER Ubuntu 9.04 and use Virtual Box for windows and windows programs . . Works much better and does not crash . .

JCitizen
JCitizen

and some of my apps have gone x64 all the way. After updates/re-installations,the task-manager report no *.32 after the processes!

MytonLopez
MytonLopez

I really don't understand when people say they have so much problems with Vista. Are you not doing a fresh install or is the only experience with Vista is on a preloaded new machine that is configured for eveything to auto update and has all the crap ware on it? Try doing a fresh install, do all the updates, and install a decent virus software like Avast. It's free and works really good and have not had a virus in years and it doesn't bog down the system. Vista just like any other operating system including XP and Windows 7 can get bogged down by too much software loaded onto it and if let with default settings most programs do some sort or update or tries to place it in the startup folder or runs a service at startup even when not needed. I use to always install the same sort of software until I realized some software was making my computer slow and if re-imaged without certain software in ran perfect and was not slow. Would that be the OS's fault? With your job role of PC Support you should have gave Vista more of a chance.

MytonLopez
MytonLopez

I am glad you like Windows 7. I like it too only because I got it for free and would not pay for it unless I bought a computer that came with it. I am not going to defend Vista for what's the point anymore. Vista has got a bad rap and you even said yourself you only tested Vista for a whole week. I spend more time testing applications in our environment. For a new OS you have to use it daily for months and not be jumping back n forth to XP. You have to dedicate yourself to the new OS to truely test it out. I do my own tests and use it for months and use it daily before I can even form some sort of opinion. Right now I am testing encryption software both disk and media and have tested 2 different software companies for a couple months now and still have not got to the point to certify it with our environment. Like I said you have to use it daily for you will not know if you run into any sort of issues or problems. We have about 15 people in our group that test new software and I may not run into any issues but my co-workers might. They might use the product a different way and run into different issues and force the vendor to come up with an update to fix problems. It's all about Q&A.

mudpuppy1
mudpuppy1

Actually my role is more server support these days so I don't have as much opportunity to dabble in Vista (my desktop and laptop are still on XP). I had Vista on my laptop (an older one) and it was slow, not unbearable, but slow. Everything worked so that was not the problem. And yes, I did a clean install of the Enterprise version. It lasted a week before I re-imaged with XP. So I gave it a fair shake. And I've installed it quite a few times for people in my group on their brand new, high-end laptops. Even on the new machines, it's slower. Plus, the interface is ugly, even after tweaking. The point is moot now anyway as I have 7 available and I like it. I installed it on the same laptop that had Vista and it runs much faster. The interface is also better. Just for grins, I also installed 7 on an Omnibook 6000 (512MB RAM, 850MHz CPU, 20GB HDD). It installed with no complaints. It runs slow, but acceptable for that machine (similar to my Vista experience on the newer laptop, nw8000, 2GB RAM, 1.7GHz CPU). My one gripe (so far) with 7 is that I can't pretend to rename a file on a CD in order to copy it and paste it somewhere like I can in XP. I do that a lot and find the lack of it to be an annoyance. MS must have gotten a lot of calls along the line of "Why can't I rename a file on a CD?" So rather than educate, they chose to dumb down. But I do like how when you rename a file, it highlights just the name, not the extension.