While 2010 was the first full year of Microsoft Windows 7, the previous versions of that operating system still have an integral role to play in many enterprises. Consequently, many of 2010's most popular Windows Blog tips deal with Windows XP and Windows Vista.
The one topic that TechRepublic members never seem to tire of is the Windows product key. Of the top 10 or so Windows-related tips appearing on TechRepublic, regardless of year published, three deal with this topic.
In the 2003 article "A Workaround to XP Installs when the Product Key Is Missing," we explain how to discover the product key using an application known as ViewKeyXP. The amazing thing about the popularity of this article is that the ViewKeyXP application no longer works as of SP2.
An updated explanation was published in 2006, "Find a Lost Windows Product Key." In this article, Jason Hiner explains how to find a lost product key using several different methods. My preference is the Belarc Advisor utility.
In 2009, I wrote an updated Windows Blog post on this topic, "How Do I Change the Product Key in Windows XP? (Updated)." This post explained how to use a tool from Microsoft that allows you to change the product key associated with a Windows installation.
This should go without saying, but from the e-mails we get during the course of a year it apparently does need to be said in no uncertain terms. All these product key applications are for the legitimate and necessary maintenance of a VALID, AUTHENTICATED, and PAID FOR installation of Windows. TechRepublic does not condone the use of pirated software, so please don't send me an e-mail asking for a Windows product key.
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In 2008, Greg Shultz wrote a blog post with the title "Creating a Windows Vista Recovery CD." In it he explained how a website, NeoSmart Files, provides ISO images of Windows Recovery CDs. Greg's blog post concerned Windows Vista, but Neosmart has other ISO images available.
Bootable USB drives
Another perennial favorite topic, and one of the more popular Windows topics in 2010, was the bootable Windows XP USB flash memory drive. Two articles on this topic made the 10 most popular tips for the year, "Illustrated Walk-Through: Creating a Bootable USB Flash Drive for Windows XP" (2007) and "SolutionBase: Boot Windows XP from a USB Flash Drive" (2005).
When I first wrote this article in 2007, I did not expect it to generate much interest, but boy was I wrong. The title "How Do I Change File Extension Associations in Windows Vista?" seems very fundamental for Windows users, but apparently there is a continuous need for an explanation on how to perform this maintenance task.
Another surprising article was popular in 2010, "Launching Remote Desktop from the Command Line in Windows XP Pro." There is an extraordinary interest in how to script a remote desktop connection. Windows XP's remote desktop connection has an executable file that can accept command-line parameters and be run from a batch file.
The most popular Windows 7 tip of 2010 was "Put the Classic Start Menu in Windows 7 with Classic Shell." It appears that there are many TechRepublic members who prefer the old look and feel of Windows XP and not the default configuration of Windows 7. Change, especially with something as integral to our professional lives as the PC, can be traumatic. However, I greatly prefer Windows 7 to any previous version of Windows, and I have adapted to the new user interface without too much difficulty. I wonder if this tendency to look back at XP for a preferred interface is merely a passing phase.
Mark W. Kaelin has been writing and editing stories about the IT industry, gadgets, finance, accounting, and tech-life for more than 25 years. Most recently, he has been a regular contributor to BreakingModern.com, aNewDomain.net, and TechRepublic.