Windows optimize

Microsoft cries uncle when it comes to bundled Windows 7 features

With the recent Release Candidate for Windows 7, Microsoft has finally given us more control over what Windows features we can turn off. Greg Shultz tells you what features are gone and shows you what features you can now turn off.

In my recent TechRepublic Microsoft Windows blog, "Be Ready for New and Improved Applets in Windows 7," I told you that three of the four standard Windows applets have been endowed with some new features and updated user-interface components. In the ensuing discussion, many of you grumbled about having to put up with Windows default applets.

Well, for those of you who grumbled and for those of you who over the years have opted not to use, but still had to contend with, the Windows operating system's default applets and features, have I got news for you! With the recent Release Candidate for Windows 7, Microsoft has finally given us more control over what Windows features we can turn off. They have also completely removed some features from the operating system.

As such, I think it is safe to say that Microsoft has finally given in to the demands of those Windows users who really want to be able to choose which features they want to use. (Antitrust lawsuits may have been a factor too.)

In this issue of the Microsoft Windows Vista and Windows 7 Report, I'll tell you what features are gone and show you what features you can now turn off.

Note: Keep in mind that this is a prerelease version and that the look and features of Windows 7 that I will discuss here may very well change between now and the time the operating system is actually released.

This blog post is also available in PDF format in a TechRepublic download.

Gone with the wind

Let's begin with what features are no longer a part of the operating system. Movie Maker, Windows Calendar, Windows Mail, and Windows Photo Gallery are gone. However, they can be installed or run from Windows Live. As you know, Mail, Photos, and Calendar are already an active part of Windows Live and have been for a while. Movie Maker is the new addition, and it is now available as a beta on the Windows Live site (http://download.live.com/moviemaker).

Turning off Windows features

As you know, the ability to disable certain features in Windows has been a part of the operating system for a long time. For example, the Windows XP Add/Remove Programs utility contained the Windows Components Wizard, which gave you the ability to remove a very limited number of components from the operating system.

In Windows Vista, the utility was renamed Windows Features and the user interface was streamlined with a single tree structure. And while it allowed you to disable more than XP (mainly because it had more optional features) it still did not allow you to remove features that Microsoft considered main features of the operating system.

In Windows 7, the Windows Features does allow you to remove several of those main features. And, as you can see in Figure A, the real stunner here is that you can now turn off Internet Explorer.

Figure A

You can now disable a multitude of standard features in Windows 7.

If you would rather use Firefox or Chrome as your main Web browser, you can just clear the Internet Explorer 8 check box to turn it off. And that's just the beginning!

If you would rather use Nero to burn your DVDs, you can clear the Windows DVD Maker check box. If you don't have a need for Windows Media Center, you can turn it off. If you prefer iTunes, disable Windows Media Player.

Hate Gadgets? Just clear the Windows Gadget Platform check box and never see them again. Want Google Desktop Search instead? Remove Windows Search. Standardized on the PDF format? Clear the XPS check boxes.

Wow! You really now have a choice!

What does turning off really mean?

As you can imagine, turning off is not the same as uninstalling. And, since the feature must be installed in order for you to be able to turn it off, this is not the same as picking and choosing during Setup. According to Microsoft's Engineering Windows 7 Blog:

"If a feature is deselected, it is not available for use. This means the files (binaries and data) are not loaded by the operating system (for security-conscious customers) and not available to users on the computer."

They further back up the advantage of turning off an installed feature as opposed to uninstalling it with:

"These same files are staged so that the features can easily be added back to the running OS without additional media."

Some applets remain

Oh, I almost forgot... While you can turn off more than you would have imagined in Windows 7, Notepad, WordPad, Calculator, and Paint are not among the features you can turn off and will stay where they are. At least three of the four have new features and new interface designs.

What's your take?

Do you regularly use third-party replacements for Windows' built-in features? Does the capability to turn off main features in the operating system make Windows 7 more enticing? As always, if you have comments or information to share about this topic, please take a moment to drop by the TechRepublic Community Forums and let us hear from you.

TechRepublic's Windows Vista and Windows 7 Report newsletter, delivered every Friday, offers tips, news, and scuttlebutt on Vista and Windows 7, including a look at new features in the latest version of the Windows OS. Automatically sign up today!

About

Greg Shultz is a freelance Technical Writer. Previously, he has worked as Documentation Specialist in the software industry, a Technical Support Specialist in educational industry, and a Technical Journalist in the computer publishing industry.

60 comments
sonnystarks
sonnystarks

As a professional Windows user I do not have time for silly games and timewasters. Can I finally get rid, once and for all, of that trite Windows Messenger in Outlook Express?

mahlon
mahlon

Really, it's not hard to set default programs for all those things. Unless you're running a machine that's really struggling or are obsessively tidy and can't abide a cluttered program list, there's no real advantage in turning off the windows options for those functions.

Mr. Tinker
Mr. Tinker

What I want to know is "Why does MS insist on obfuscating the ability to ADD / REMOVE PROGRAMS?" In 2K/XP it was straight forward and a pleasure. Vista claimed to streamline it-BULLFEATHERS! Removing overhead and reducing the amount of "click this then that, then.." would be stream-lining. Being able to 'turn off / on' features is great- burying that tool under other features would not be. I'll be trying the W7 release. Yes I want the ability to control my environment and features thereof; Yes I want decent and controllable security; and I want it to be NOT BURIED! (Remember the "undocumented features" of O/S's past? We can't control what we don't know about, and that is why there are still so many exploits.)

asdf234
asdf234

This isn't true. Because i can turn of many services that deal with those features and the feature goes away. For example windows search. Turn off the service and watch the feature go away. Even though your article has a good point you can by pass all of the above by turning off services related to the windows features in programs and features, also I did uncheck all the features located in programs and features after unchecking I pressed ok and asked me to reboot I checked it and everything was still unchecked. mmmm... somebody at TechRepublic doesn't know what they are talking about, sry.

etruss
etruss

I really dislike the "new" Windows MovieMaker. When I discovered it was missing from Windows 7 I was finally forced to download it from Windows Live and try it out. It's pretty much useless. There is no timeline option and I could not publish a movie to disk as an MPEG2. The only real reason I needed it in the past was to crop recorded TV shows in the ms-dvr format used by Media Center and save them as MPEG2 files. Now that option and the timeline are gone I'd rather keep Vista than to use the "new" MovieMaker. If there is a way around the MPEG2 issue, I'd like to hear about it.

compuwysepc
compuwysepc

Although disabling certain features is appealing, it still does not entirely eliminate any potential vulnerabilities that may be associated with those features. For example; since the files to turn the features on are still on the computer, and do not require additional media to re-enable them, should a hacker gain access to the system through some other avenue, and then elevate their priviledges, all they would have to do is enable the features again and the vulnerabilities are available to exploit.

daniel.gingras
daniel.gingras

MS Should concentrate on making Windows7 a "Solid Shell" and let the system installer choose upon the level of skill of the intended user which apps will or will not be there

john3347
john3347

First maybe, just maybe, this is the first step toward a modular OS from which one selects the features they wish to install at initial installation time. What does Microsoft care whether a user actually uses any given feature as long as they have bought the right to use it with the purchase? I am hoping to live long enough to see the multiuser features become optional. An option for someone who is the sole user of their computer would simplify the lives of millions of users.

bkoelrich
bkoelrich

What are the REAL, total system requirements to run Windows 7, with all of its installed components, whether the user de-selects them or not (especially not), to run as it is supposed to, so there are no memory, processor usage, or any other system resource problems?

toyotadyna
toyotadyna

Huh! If I could turn off most of the annoying "security" restrictions, I might buy it. It's certainly a lot better than Vista, if the beta was anything to judge.

buck007
buck007

I have used the beta for a few weeks. I would like it if we could turn off the other extras as well or just not install them.

crisdiascv
crisdiascv

Internet Explorer is my main browser and I just download IE8. I download Safari and Google Chrome a few days ago and I like them. One thing I know is that they are all free which is great. Almost everything I know about programs is because of Microsoft ? MSDN is one example. Google arrived in the market a few years ago and what they want is just market share regardless of the user. What did EU did with the money they received from Microsoft? They don?t use it for creating technology canters, that?s for sure because the Europeans engineers still choosing American companies to progress and show their skills. Last year I spent one week in Miami and what amazed me is that you have free Wi-Fi everywhere you go ? the hotel, caf??s, restaurants, train station, airports (Atlanta & West Miami), etc. I live in Spain and I have to travel to UK every 3 weeks for work and at all my airport connections I have to pay for Wi-Fi (Alicante, Madrid, London, and Aberdeen) and is not cheap - 6 Euros per hour (US$ 8). I am sure that EU is aware of this but they don?t do anything about it. Anti-trust works only one way I guess. They don?t look at the European companies that set and cook the prices users don?t have much choices.

comp974
comp974

I think it is an excellent idea, not only because of the third party issues, but also reducing overhead on resources and limiting users on what they can screw up... I would have loved the ability to shut off gadgets from vista and limit the users who work off of the workstation from being able to put it back in. Being able to disable IE would allow parents the ability to ensure that their "little dumpling" is studying diligently instead of scanning the internet for fun games, of course that also means that that computer is designed for computer studying, and the kid isn't setup as administrator...

The Scummy One
The Scummy One

I have to agree that turning off is not the same as uninstalling. And along hose lines, all that was stated is that the OS doesnt load and they are unavailable to users. However, unless MS pulled IE from a main part of the OS, some parts must still load with the OS, so it is not fully 'off', just the main browser function parts are likely turned off. to me it looks like just a little stunt, a few tweaks to try to please the masses enough to give it a try and not demand a 'downgrade' option.

Mark W. Kaelin
Mark W. Kaelin

Do you regularly use third-party replacements for Windows' built in features? Does the capability to turn off main features in the operating system make Windows 7 more enticing?

s31064
s31064

If a hacker already has access to your machine, they probably don't need the vulnerabilities you avoided by shutting off these programs, don't you think? Sounds like you've got bigger problems than that.

The 'G-Man.'
The 'G-Man.'

You can choose not to install them in the first place. The install & disable may be a good method to all IT admins to roll out a base image and then turn off features a user does do not need via a group policy (perhaps).

SObaldrick
SObaldrick

I assume that you need admin privileges to access the hardware. But then you'll still have to hide all OS installation discs. Les.

jmbrasfield
jmbrasfield

The ability to turn an unwanted feature off is a step in the right direction, but WHY does the unwanted feature have to be installed in the first place. What lunatic at M$ thought it was such a great idea to so integrate these "features" into the core. "Features" are optional add-ons, not system requirements. We should have the ability to NOT INSTALL them at all, or at the very least have the choice of uninstalling them.

Slayer_
Slayer_

If you turn off IE8, then type a web address into a folder address bar, will the folder explorer magically turn into an IE window like in previous Windows versions?

cwhistler
cwhistler

Hi, I'd like a peanut butter and jelly sandwich please. But could you hold the peanut butter, oh and the jelly too! I'd like to add my own ham and mayonaise!! thanks

Nsaf
Nsaf

This is a solid OS...cannot wait for the official release.

manuel_roman
manuel_roman

obviously you people have a lot of time on your hands.. I like all the free stuff that come with windows.. i think microsoft should bundle more free stuff.. I like internet explorer.. i like a free email program, movie maker and burner software installed.. it makes my job easier. i think they should buy adobe, java and trend micro and make my job even easier.. lol.. i cant even believe people are complaining about getting more with a product instead of less..

theguru1995
theguru1995

Hello, happy to be around to see Microsoft giving US the choice of what to USE and what not to USE... the other thing, which is more important to me at least is IF I DO NOT WANT TO USE SOMETHING, I delete it... Why keep more stuff on an ever increasing amount of stuff on my hard drive??? Delete, and yes I use other ADD-ON programs. Armando Sun Sys Admin, who likes Microsoft!

lmenningen
lmenningen

For most people the ability to turn features off is meaningless. The third party stuff is usually "me, too!" stuff or sometimes even junk, and the built-in features make life so much easier. Those hobbyists who prefer, or those who get a kick from downloading stuff, will appreciate having the option of using their favorite whatever. But how far should the ability to tailor and customize a product be taken? That is the question.

chrisbedford
chrisbedford

If you are a support professional you can't realistically go replacing all those M$ applets on every computer you work on, so it's more or less commonplace to get used to the built-in features. We all know there are lots of better apps to do many of the things we have to do every day, and in an ideal world every computer we support would have all the cool free utilities installed; but out here in the real world the time saved and extra functionality is not justifiable vs the extra effort involved in doing the "upgrades" to all the PCs. One thing I have to point out is that IE (ver 7, haven't seen 8 yet), while it may not have quite as much in the way of cool features or slick look-and-feel as some of the alternatives, is still the only browser that *never* has an issue with *any* website I visit. And it loads an order of magnitude faster than Firefox.

feeds
feeds

Who cares if features are added or if you can or can?t remove them?it?s a melodramatic, dull point ? I only really see this as a concern for the upper percent of power users and as long as you control processes...you?re fine. I think it?s a bit persnickety frankly to consider this a point at all. I strip down to 34 processes and run lean and mean all day long rendering HD video and hi-res images?this is a joke it is even a post. And if you want a different default browser configure it in settings?it?s not that difficult. The gripes sound like its amateur hour.

DrToddK
DrToddK

Slipstream it, i use nLite easiest way to remove windows garbage thats not needed nor wanted, i have slipstreamed every WinOS including 7 beta, no muss no fuss, no blowing it up, however there might be a testy situation your technically modifying the OS and Father Gates hates that

wtedmartin
wtedmartin

I see in the list of items that can be turned off is Windows Photo Gallery. What I did not see in the list is the most useful Microsoft Photo Editor. Has it been removed altogether? If so can Photo Editor be obtain seperatly from MS? I have found Photo Editor great for quick edits to photos. If I need more elaborate actions I use DIMAGE VIEWER from Konica Minolta. There are others, but this one came free with my Minolta camera and the applications is "not" a reduced version. The features I will miss most from Photo Editor are the crop function (put a selections around the area you want and click Crop & OK) and zoom to 1600%. With the 1600% zoom I can manually fix red eye or other blemishes using adjacent pixels or pixels from else where in the picture. Anyone else use Microsoft Photo Editor? Back to the original question, yes it will be usefull as long as the replacement application(s) do(es) not run into a problem with a now hidden component. With the now universe size drives, leaving something in place but hidding it is not a problem with the exception of interfering. If we still had what we now considered small drives, I would say do no hid but remove totally.

jck
jck

I can't turn off the little warning icons in XP Pro for "security warnings" easily. I can't disable some features of Vista I'd like to just turn off. I use Firefox as a standard on all my home PCs. Being about to just turn-off IE and Windows Defender will be nice.

don
don

So will Microsoft updates be fixed to work with any browser, or will I be forced to "turn IE on" to do updates. Personally, I don't install what I don't use, so "turning it off", though a step in the right direction, is still bloat that doesn't need to be there. It's like buying office pro just to check e-mail with outlook. MAKES NO SENSE! And to the later comment about hard drive sizes today make it a non-issue, sorry, but I keep my hds as clutter free as possible because backups don't know what files are needed vs. extra bloat.

Jyeshta58
Jyeshta58

Well, let's say someone does have a bigger problem with unauthorized users gaining control over the computer. What are the remedies for that? I did turn off all the services (XP Pro) that could allow them remote access with VNS, which might have been the problem, except they apparently had planted a camera in my room, and sometimes remove it, then put it back. I detected one in here with a camera detector I bought from a spy store just yesterday, whereas a few days before, they'd removed the camera, then put it back, obviously. Thanks. (Still seems the computer is acting strangely despite constant virus/trojan/keylogger/malware scans, but less computer problems than I had when I was trying to get evidence with web cam surveillance since I stopped even trying to do that, and began turning off the lights in order to type in my password - these are incessant harassment "prank" intrusions into my apartment - police won't do a thing.)

dacentaur
dacentaur

I'm pretty sure that one can still use another person's OS disk(s) as long as the OS is the same, of course.

s31064
s31064

One of the things people complained about (which I always thought was way overblown, because you should only have to do it once), was that setup took too much interaction. Dumb users don't want to answer questions, because they're afraid they'll get it wrong. With Vista, Microsoft made the install simple enough for just about anybody; set the time, the computer name, the user name, the language, and off you go. If they were going to not install programs right from the start, they would have to change all this again. Personally, I think this is not only a great idea, it's really the only avenue open to them to accomplish it.

w2ktechman
w2ktechman

the more cr@p on the system just leads to more bugs/holes, lost space, etc..

louspag
louspag

I like the direction that MS is taking. While turning features off is not the same as not installing them in the first place I would rather this. I can't count the number of times I've had to install something from office and the cd is nowhere to be found. In the corporate world this might not be as much of a problem but in the private sector users always loss disks so having the ability to simply turn things on is a big advantage. Plus with the size of hard drives today I don't see it much of a problem. My only concern is that when turned off it stays off.

SObaldrick
SObaldrick

.. noticed that before, but if I enter a web URL into explorer, it creates a tab in my default browser (Firefox). I'm running Windows XP64. Be interesting to know what happens if I uninstall all my browsers, as to what happens when a web URL is entered into explorer. No, I am not going to try it today, Les.

mudpuppy1
mudpuppy1

Whoever came up with that one should be shot, dug up and shot again just to make sure. :)

comp974
comp974

yeah, hopefully not, but I wonder if you will be able to browse internet via the help system. That would be hillarious... "We disabled our IE8 from your computer, but you still can browse the internet via the help system."

asdf234
asdf234

This isn't true. Because i can turn of many services that deal with those features and the feature goes away. For example windows search. Turn off the service and watch the feature go away. Even though your article has a good point you can by pass all of the above by turning off services related to the windows features in programs and features, also I did uncheck all the features located in programs and features after unchecking I pressed ok and asked me to reboot I checked it and everything was still unchecked. mmmm... somebody at TechRepublic doesn't know what they are talking about, sry.

sonnystarks
sonnystarks

"But how far should the ability to tailor and customize a product be taken? That is the question." As a professional IT responsible for a server and network, I should not have to stop what I am doing to go find out why the Windows Media player on Johnny Doe's computer isn't working when all he needs is Powerpoint. Unfortunately, to justify their budgets, many companies opt for Windows instead of the free Linux programs. "But how far should the ability to tailor and customize a product be taken?" To the ABSOLUTE MINIMAL to get the CPU working!, I say.

Slvrknght
Slvrknght

If this functionality was available at the server/active directory level. If you could actually go in and turn off all the ones that you know your end users don't need.

feeds
feeds

7 is so solid. I love it. 8.0 the same - had beta...coding was rendering a bit weird on some pages but now with newest release seems solid to me. You have to check out inPrivate browsing in 8.0 - terrific!.. supper clean on dump.

Izzmo
Izzmo

Microsoft has to cater to all the unsecure people around here who think just because they install an app or some piece of software, there computer automatically gets slower (which may be true in some cases..) but for most, it's not.

bruceslog
bruceslog

I believe that MS Photo Editor comes with Microsoft OFFICE installations.. not with a typical Windows install.

Mr. Tinker
Mr. Tinker

1) Control Panel: Updates, you can control Auto, Download, and "do nothing at all" (NOT RECOMMENDED!) 2) Microsoft Outlook can be purchased separately from Office; same for Word, etc... 3) Backups are only as smart as the idiot-behind-the-keyboard; IE.. your backups are only as good as the ability to restore them. Using Microsoft's backup program and a little scripting knowledge (available on MS's web site) you can backup what you want, when you want and to where-ever you want. Backup is a TOOL- and NO TOOL is really ever "smart", it depends on the user's abilities. That's where RTFM comes into play. (if you want to know what RTFM means, go ask a Marine!)

Astabi
Astabi

some people will complain about anything and everything.

The 'G-Man.'
The 'G-Man.'

As with VISTA there is no need to use IE to get any updates. It has it's own app. Perhaps you should reserach before you vent?

SObaldrick
SObaldrick

Not if you can't find them. Les.

SObaldrick
SObaldrick

The problem is that the customer range of experience is so broad. Why cannot the installation be customized to match the user's experience? They do it with Office. You can have a standard set of features installed by default, select all or select each feature individually. Why not the OS? You can with Linux. Les.

w2ktechman
w2ktechman

maybe it will go to the default browser. But what if the default browser was IE8 -- disabled??? LOL

yen2
yen2

I particularly find the transparency feature of PhotoEd useful. PhotoEd comes with Office until Office 2003. When I loaded Office2003 on my new PC, PhotEd was missing. Seems that you could use an older version of Office (in my case, I still has my Office2000) to re-install it, but personally, I was concerned that this could screw up Office2003. Decided to simply copy all PhotoEd directories from my older PC to my new PC instead. Seems to work fine, except that the program starts with an error message that PhotoEd "Registration/Unregistration failed". Other than that it works fine.

asdf234
asdf234

This isn't true. Because i can turn of many services that deal with those features and the feature goes away. For example windows search. Turn off the service and watch the feature go away. Even though your article has a good point you can by pass all of the above by turning off services related to the windows features in programs and features.

chrisbedford
chrisbedford

Last time I tried to access Windows updates with a non-IE browser, the website told me in no uncertain terms that "thanks for your interest in Windows updates BUT..." etc. Of course that was a WinXP machine. Whenever I access windows updates from any machine where IE is the default browser (i.e. all of them) the first thing it does is open IE. Forgive me for concluding what I wrote in my post - we can't all be perfect and I have seen many a mistaken statement posted before. (And uh, yeah - I have "tried" Vista - ran it on my main production machine for about a month [ditched it because it was so irritating], and still have to support it on a handful of clients - but haven't gone into windows updates via that route. So shoot me.) Yeah I should have done some research. Support is a pressure environment, I tend to to most jobs the way I know & can do the fastest, and shooting my mouth off without checking a Vista machine was quicker! PS your post, now that I go back and re-read, is ambiguous - perhaps I misunderstood what you were trying to say: [quote]As with VISTA[/quote] should that have been as OF or as FROM Vista? [quote]there is no need to use IE to get any updates. It has it's [/quote] its [quote]own app. Perhaps you should reserach [/quote] reserach ? [quote]before you vent? [/quote] Perhaps you should proof-read before you vent, that way people understand you first time, every time, and don't (at least, pedants like me don't) focus on your bad grammar / typing / spelling, wondering if you are us uneducated as you seem, or just careless. Just a thought, use it / don't use it.

The 'G-Man.'
The 'G-Man.'

Doubt we will be seeing him in this thread again.

Izzmo
Izzmo

Optional updates come with it. G-Man is correct. Just as a bigger "you are wrong", if you even try to go to Windows Update with Vista or Win7 beta/RC, it will redirect you to the windows update applet. So, either you don't know what you are talking about, or just have never tried Vista like a bunch of other ignorant people out there. I'm bettering on #2.

The 'G-Man.'
The 'G-Man.'

Uses Windows Explorer - explorer.exe not IE which is iexplore.exe You are WRONG. Edit: Forgot to LOL :-)

chrisbedford
chrisbedford

Perhaps *you* should do some research, G-Man! Automatic updates work directly, without a browser, yes. But you can't get optional or hardware driver updates without IE, nor can you set up options (like for instance setting Microsoft Update as opposed to Windows Update).