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READ ME: Windows 7 Tips and Guides...

by John.Wilkinson / January 12, 2009 10:56 AM PST

Welcome current and potential Windows 7 users!

If you are new to this forum, grab your favorite drink, pull up a chair, put your feet up, and take the time to read on. This thread was designed for you to make your life easier, and we aim to please. Happy

Step 1: Have a look-see at the tips and tricks posted below. You may just get lucky and find a ready-made answer to your question.

Step 2: Use CNET's Forum Search featureyour question may have already been asked, making for an easy answer.

Step 3: Don't overlook the power of the Windows 7 product page. There you'll find version comparisons, summaries of the new features, special downloads, and more. Be sure to check out this too: Windows 7: top solutions

Step 4: If you havent seen the answer youre looking for, click here to post your question as a new thread. Be sure to include as much information as possible, including the version of Windows 7. (Home Premium, Ultimate, etc.)

Well, thats it! Get out there, play by the rules, and have fun! Cool


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by John.Wilkinson / January 12, 2009 11:24 AM PST

In Windows XP you have two sources of memory:

1.) Physical RAM: It's the sticks of memory you insert into your computer.

2.) Virtual Memory: Also known as a swap file or paging file, it's a file on your computer's hard drive that acts like RAM. It can pick up the slack when there is a lack of RAM, usually holding data that is accessed less often. The downside is that it's incredibly slow compared to RAM, resulting in a drop in performance the more it must be used. In addition, Windows and various software may refuse to install or run if you do not have enough physical RAM.

Now, with the new ReadyBoost technology in Windows Vista and Windows 7 you have a third option...flash memory. (Including USB 2.0 flash drives and memory cards such as SD, CF, etc.) It's considered the middle of the road option because it is still slower than physical RAM but at the same time usually much faster than reading from and writing to the hard drive. It cannot be used as a complete substitute to physical RAM, but it can be used to give you a boost in speed over relying heavily on the paging file alone.

1.) Regardless of whether you use ReadyBoost or not, you still need at least 512MB RAM to run Windows 7 decently.
2.) ReadyBoost is an option on the AutoPlay menu whenever you insert a compatible device.
3.) ReadyBoost requires a freshly-formatted device with between 256MB and 4GB of space available.
4.) If ReadyBoost returns an error message stating that you cannot use it on that drive it typically means that either the drive or your computer does not support the transfer rates required by ReadyBoost.


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OEM and Pre-installed Copies...
by John.Wilkinson / January 12, 2009 11:29 AM PST

While the following is certainly not unique to Windows 7, this should help shed some light on the topic for those unfamiliar.

For the Purchaser/Installer:

1.) A recent change in the Windows OEM System Builder licensing agreement stipulates that you may only purchase/install an OEM Windows license on a computer you are building yourself for sale to an unrelated third party. Purchase/installation for yourself, a friend, or a family member is prohibited.

2.) OEM licenses cannot be transferred to another computer and all motherboard replacements must be for both the same make and model.

3.) You are obligated to provide all support to the end user. Microsoft does not provide support to end users for OEM licenses, with few exceptions.

4.) OEM licenses may only be purchased for a new system build, not to upgrade an operating system on an existing system.

You should consider your role in the computer development process, your provision of technical support, and the end user?s intended length of ownership of the computer in the decision-making process. The lower cost of OEM licenses may not be worth it.


For the End User:

1.) The system builder/manufacturer, not Microsoft, is responsible for providing all technical support. Only a few exceptions apply, such as when troubleshooting a Windows Update issue.

2.) You cannot install that copy of Windows, or use that license/product key on any other computer, even if the original computer is no longer in use/existence. In addition, you may only replace the motherboard with one of the exact same model.

3.) It is strongly advised that you burn a set of ?system recovery? CDs/DVDs as soon as possible if the system builder/manufacturer did not provide a set with the computer. (Most have not for a few years now.) You should find the option to burn them in the Start Menu, usually under the Accessories or a ?manufacturer?s tools? section.

4.) If you did not burn a set of recovery CDs/DVDs, you can usually order them from the system builder/manufacturer for a nominal fee. However, they are only kept in stock for the computer?s lifecycle, so none may be available more than a year after purchase.

5.) You cannot use a friend?s recovery CDs/DVDs or retail Windows DVD to repair or reinstall Windows on your computer unless the discs are for the same system builder/manufacturer and make/model of computer.


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Where has my disk space gone?
by John.Wilkinson / January 12, 2009 11:34 AM PST

Here are the top consumers of disk space and what you can do about it:

1.) After extraction, Windows 7 itself can take over 5GB for a clean installation, and upwards of 10GB if it is a pre-installed copy from the manufacturer. This is normal.

2.) If you are upgrading from a previous version or installing another copy of Windows on the same partition, look for a WINDOWS.OLD folder in the local drive. (Usually C:\) That will contain previously-installed programs, documents, etc. that had to be moved for the installation. Copy out what you need/want and delete the rest.

3.) System Restore can reserve a considerable amount of space (up to 15% of the drive?s capacity) for saving restore points, particularly if your copy of Windows 7 supports Shadow Copies. Unlike with XP, there is no easy slider option to adjust the maximum space used, but you can still do so using the command line. To do so, press Windows + R and type in cmd followed by pressing Enter.) When the command prompt appears, type in the following, entering the correct drive letters and intended size: vssadmin resize shadowstorage /for=C: /on=C: /maxsize=5GB (This is just an example - be sure you enter the desired drive letter and maximum size you desire.)

4.) IBM and Lenovo include a feature called Rescue and Recovery, which automatically backs up key files similarly to System Restore. While this is designed to protect you from data loss it can take up considerable space on your hard drive, in excess of 50GB in some cases. If this proves to be problematic you can disable the feature by accessing the ThinkVantage Rescue and Recovery utility and unchecking the "Schedule Your Backups" box under Set Schedule and Preferences. You can then recover the lost space by going into the Advanced preferences and using the "Delete Backups" option. A special thanks to Cnet member rimb1172 for bringing this issue to our attention.

5.) The Recycle Bin can take up space as well, so right-click it, select Properties, and adjust the permitted capacity as needed.

6.) The system paging file (also known as Virtual Memory or the ?swap? file) also takes up space on the hard disk, though it is recommended that you let Windows continue to manage it as it sees fit. Restricting it can reduce system performance and cause ?virtual memory? error messages.

7.) A lesser-known fact is that there are two different definitions of the terms megabyte, gigabyte, etc. In short, hard drive manufacturers say 1GB is equal to 10^9 bytes, whereas Windows is based on the idea that 1GB equals 2^30 bytes (technically a gibibyte, not a gigabyte). Thus, a 100GB hard drive will be reported as being 93GB by Windows. You were not cheated, it?s simply a difference in definition.

8.) Last, but certainly not least, personal files, downloads, etc. can take up hundreds of GBs. To identify the areas in which most of the space is being used I suggest the free program TreeSize. With a few clicks you should be able to find the source, and delete it if you desire.


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Outlook Express and Windows Mail...
by John.Wilkinson / January 12, 2009 11:39 AM PST

Windows 95 through Windows XP included Outlook Express and a built-in, default e-mail client. This stalwart was then replaced by Windows Mail in Windows Vista, offering a refreshed interface but fewer features, including the lack of support for Hotmail accounts and multiple profiles per Windows account. Windows 7 introduces one final change: The complete absence of an e-mail client. It was Microsoft's plan fro the launch of Windows Vista to ultimately replace both Outlook Express and Windows Mail with Windows Live Mail and, beginning with Windows 7, this transition is complete. Therefore, in order to access your e-mail you will need to download and install either Windows Live Mail or another e-mail client of your choice.


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Performing regular maintenance?
by John.Wilkinson / January 12, 2009 11:48 AM PST

1.) Uninstall any unnecessary programs using Add/Remove Programs in the Control Panel.

2.) Delete any unnecessary files. CCleaner provides an easy, free way of quickly finding and deleting most of the unnecessary temporary and junk files on your computer, recovering disk space for future use.

3.) Run Disk Cleanup (press Windows + R and type in cleanmgr.exe) to remove additional files that are no longer necessary. This includes memory dumps and old System Restore points.

4.) Defragment the hard drive. Some may dispute the value of defragmentation, but I strongly recommend performing an analysis weekly and defragmenting if it is suggested. Doing so, as needed, will decrease the time needed to search for and open files on the slowest component of your computer.

5.) Perform a virus and spyware scan. Real-time protection is great, but a weekly scan of your hard drive is more or less necessary in a time when destruction of another person?s data is considered ?recreation? for some gifted, but misdirected, individuals.

6.) Backup your important files. I cannot stress this enough. The Windows Backup and Restore Center, available through the Control Panel, makes protecting your files easy, and the free Microsoft ?powertoy? SyncToy gives those looking to backup just selected directories no excuse. Accidental deletions, malware, hardware failure, and theft demand such precautionary measures.


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32-bit vs 64-bit Overview...
by John.Wilkinson / January 12, 2009 11:57 AM PST

As this question has been raised numerous times, the following is a brief overview of Windows 7 32-bit (x86) editions and Windows Vista 64-bit (x64) editions.

1.) System Requirements: In order to use a 64-bit operating system you must have a 64-bit processor. (Note: Most processors sold since 2007 are 64-bit.) However, if you do have a 64-bit processor you are not required to have a 64-bit operating system?you may choose to install/use a 32-bit operating system if you wish. Edge: 32-bit

2.) RAM Limitation: 32-bit operating systems are limited to 4GB of physical RAM, with only 3.2GB to 3.7GB being available for use depending on your exact hardware configuration. This is not a Windows- or Windows 7-specific limitation, but rather the 32-bit architecture. With a 64-bit edition this limit is greatly increased, to 8GB for Windows 7 Home Basic users, 16GB for Windows 7 Home Premium users, and 192GB for Windows 7 Professional/Enterprise/Ultimate users Edge: 64-bit

3.) Software Compatibility: Not all software that ran under Windows XP will work with Windows 7, so be sure to consult the program?s developer to ensure compatibility. However, 98% of all software which works with Windows 7 x86 will also work with Windows 7 x64 with no decrease in performance or reliability. The exceptions are applications which tightly integrate themselves with the operating system, such as antivirus/firewall software and Windows customization utilities. You will need to check the compatibility of these select applications individually with the applications? developers. Edge: 32-bit

4.) Driver Compatibility: Unlike with software compatibility, driver compatibility remains a significant issue. Many device manufacturers have not released 64-bit drivers for their devices, meaning many older (2006 and before) printers, scanners, cameras, MP3 players, etc, as well as some new ones, may not work correctly or at all under Windows 7 x64 when they may work perfectly under Windows 7 x86. Please check the manufacturer?s website for 64-bit drivers, and Windows 7 compatibility in general, before purchasing the device or upgrading to Windows 7 x64. Edge: 32-bit

5.) Performance: 64-bit computing is designed to offer an increase in performance, generally considered to be between 10% and 20%, for tasks which involve large amounts of computation, such as graphics editing, gaming, video encoding, etc. However, there is little to no benefit from using a 64-bit processor and 64-bit operating system unless the program is specifically optimized for 64-bit use. Thus, AutoCAD x64 would show a performance increase while Microsoft Office or Firefox would not. Edge: 64-bit

6.) License/Media: A retail copy of Windows 7 generally includes both an x86 DVD and an x64 DVD, whereas Vista only included an x64 DVD for Ultimate edition purchasers. Further, note that a retail Windows 7 license works for both x86 and x64 editions, provided you're only using the product key to activate one installation at any given time. However, note that this does not apply to pre-installed OEM copies of Windows 7 from HP, Dell, Sony, etc, which are governed by a different set of licensing restrictions. Edge: None

7.) Upgrading: Note that it is not possible to upgrade from a 32-bit operating system to a 64-bit operating system, or to go in the reverse direction. Any change between the two would require you to backup all of your personal files, erase your hard drive?s partition, install your operating system and programs from scratch, and restore your files from that backup. You should consider this before the initial installation to avoid a tumultuous transition. Edge: None

Hope this helps,

Message was edited by: admin. Item #6 updated

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Reverting to a Previous Version...
by John.Wilkinson / January 12, 2009 12:02 PM PST

Given that some people may be looking to remove Windows 7 from their systems I would like to offer a few notes:

1.) Microsoft does not support ?downgrading? Windows, so if you wish to revert to Windows XP/Vista you must format the drive, which means you will lose all personal files and settings. Please back everything up before reverting.

2.) Most manufacturers are no longer shipping recovery system CDs/DVDs with new computers, so if Windows 7 was preinstalled I would strongly recommend burning the CDs/DVDs yourself from the hidden partition the manufacturer created on your hard drive. To do this you should find an option in the Start Menu along the lines of ?burning system restore discs.? Without these discs you will be unable to reinstall Windows 7 at a later date, if you so choose.

3.) Many people have reported being unable to install a previous version of Windows on the same drive/partition as the current installation. If you find yourself unable to reformat or delete the partition using the Windows CD/DVD, you can use the free utility DBAN to wipe your hard drive and give you a clean start. If creating a bootable floppy or flash drive, please note that you need to run the executable you download in order to create the bootable disk?you cannot simply copy the .EXE onto the disk. On the other hand, if you are creating a bootable CD/DVD please note that you must burn the ISO as an image file, not just as a data file.

4.) If Windows 7 was preinstalled, understand that the computer manufacturer most likely will not support your installation of XP/Vista, meaning they will neither provide full technical support nor provide all of the required drivers. Make sure such drivers are available from the third-party manufacturers (ATI, Nvidia, Realtek, C-Media, Lucent, etc) before reverting to XP/Vista.

5.) Please note that if you have an OEM copy of Windows XP/Vista from another computer you may not install it on your new computer. OEM and otherwise preinstalled copies of Windows are tied to the specific computer and cannot be legally moved. You can only transfer the license to the new computer if it was a full retail copy.

6.) You may also consider dual-booting Windows 7 with another operating system, such as Windows XP or Windows Vista, letting you switch back and forth between the two at will. Have a look at the other tips in this thread to get started.

If you have any additional questions concerning reverting to a previous version of Windows feel free to ask.

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Edition Comparison...
by John.Wilkinson / December 22, 2009 1:18 AM PST

Windows 7 was officially released in 6 editions, closely resembling those found for Windows Vista.
NOTE: Each edition contains all features/capabilities of editions listed above it!

Audience: Preinstalled on qualifying Netbooks only
-> Netbooks must not exceed a single 2GHz processor, 1GB RAM, 250GB HDD or 64GB SSD, and 10.2 inch display.
-> Cannot be customized with backgrounds, sounds, themes, et cetera.
-> Excludes DVD playback, multimedia streaming, et cetera.
-> Does not support Fast User Switching (multiple users logged in simultaneously).
-> Does not support the use of multiple monitors.
-> Does not include Aero Glass or any advanced interface features.
-> Only available in 32-bit (x86), not 64-bit (x64).

Home Basic:
Audience: Emerging Markets Only
-> Removes netbook-only restriction.
-> Can be customized with backgrounds, sounds, themes, et cetera.
-> Supports Fast User Switching (multiple users logged in simultaneously).
-> Does not include Aero Glass or any advanced interface features.
-> Excludes DVD playback, multimedia streaming, et cetera.

Home Premium:
Audience: Average home users
-> Includes Aero Glass & advanced interface features.
-> Features easy network management.
-> Includes Windows Media Center & multimedia support.
-> Includes multi-touch support & handwriting recognition.
-> Includes premium games & DVD playback/creation.

Audience: Business and professional users
-> Features enhanced domain networking capabilities.
-> Includes system backup over a network capabilities.
-> Includes Encrypting File System (EFS).
-> Features Location Aware Printing.
-> Features Presentation Mode.
-> Features Windows XP Mode (integrated Windows XP virtual machine) for application compatibility.

Audience: Enterprise volume subscribers only
-> Supports Multilingual User Interface (MUI) packages.
-> Features Bitlocker (provides full hard drive encryption).
-> Features DirectAccess (provides corporate network access).
-> Features BranchCache (decreases network access time).
-> Features AppLocker (prevents running of unauthorized programs).
-> Offers ability to boot from virtual hard drives (VHD files only).

Audience: All users
-> Same as Windows 7 Enterprise, except available via retail & OEM licensing.

Key Notes:
1.) Starter edition can now run unlimited applications simultaneously and is available worldwide, but is only found on netbooks.
2.) Home Basic edition is now available only in emerging markets rather than on low-end computers in primary markets.
3.) Windows 7 restores the Professional edition, replacing the short-lived Business edition introduced in Windows Vista.
4.) Ultimate Extras, introduced but quite limited in Windows Vista, have been eliminated from the Ultimate edition.
5.) Windows 7 is available in N and KR editions in accordance with European and South Korean legislation.
6.) Most users only have three editions to consider: Home Premium, Professional, and Ultimate. All others are limited market only!


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by John.Wilkinson / December 22, 2009 2:13 AM PST

Any application and any peripheral which worked with Windows Vista should work with Windows 7 as Microsoft strove to prevent another compatibility disaster like the one associated with Windows Vista. In addition, some applications and devices which did not work with Windows Vista may work with Windows 7 due to expanded compatibility.

Aside from that, keep in mind that some software that fails to install or run on Windows 7 can be dealt with in one of three ways:

1.) Make sure you check back to the author's website for updated versions, patches, and drivers that enable Windows 7 compatibility. Not all software will be made compatible, but in the months after Windows 7's release you should see a dramatic increase in support by third-party vendors. Microsoft also offers a partital compatibility list for pre-purchase consultation.

2.) Use Compatibility Mode. Windows 7 is designed to enter Compatibility Mode automatically for programs it detects are designed for a previous version of Windows, but, like in Windows XP and Vista, it can be enabled manually. To manually enable Compatibility Mode, right-click the program, select Properties, and select the Compatibility tab. You can then enable Compatibility Mode for that program and select a previous version of Windows from the drop-down menu, among other options.

3.) Use XP Mode. Available to users of Windows 7 Professional and Ultimate editions, XP Mode is a feature that lets you install and run software in a downloadable Windows XP virtual machine. It enables you to continue to use older applications within Windows XP without resorting to purchasing an XP license and dual-booting XP along side Windows 7. Note, however, that XP Mode requires CPU support and increases RAM requirements, so it may not be an option for all users.

If you have a specific question about hardware or software compatibility feel free to start a new thread, but please check the above lists first.


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Pricing and Upgrade Information...
by John.Wilkinson / December 22, 2009 2:22 AM PST
What are Windows 7's recommended system requirements?
The recommended requirements for Windows 7 have more or less remained the same as those for Windows Vista:
-> 1GHz single-core processor
-> 1GB RAM (32-bit) or 2GB RAM (64-bit)
-> 16GB hard drive (32-bit) or 20GB hard drive (64-bit)
-> Graphics card with 128MB of memory (for Aero Glass)

However, Windows 7 has been tweaked to maximize system performance, meaning Windows 7 will perform better on a computer than Windows Vista and, in some tests, even Windows XP. This enables users of netbooks and older computers to run Windows 7 where it may have been difficult or impossible with Windows Vista. It also means that you can run Windows 7 on a system with lower specifications than above, although it is not recommended in order to take full advantage of the operating system.

Can I upgrade to Windows 7 from a previous version of Windows?
-> From Windows XP or below, no; a clean installation will be required.
-> From Windows Vista, yes; most files, applications, and settings will remain intact.
-> From Windows 7 Beta/RC, possibly. (Consult the answer to "Can I upgrade from the Beta/RC to the RTM version?")

Can I downgrade from Windows 7 to a previous version?
-> No. It is not possible to downgrade from one version of Windows to another, necessitating a clean installation.
-> Windows 7 Professional, Enterprise, and Ultimate users, however, will be permitted to exchange the Windows 7 license for a corresponding Windows XP or Windows Vista license.

Can I upgrade from the Beta/RC to the RTM version?
-> Possibly. There is a process by which it is technically possible, but it is for advanced users only and is not advisable or supported by Microsoft due to potential malfunctions that may occur as a result. Therefore, a clean installation is strongly encouraged.

How much does Windows 7 cost (USA)?
-> Home Premium: $119.99
-> Professional: $199.99
-> Ultimate: $219.99

Full Retail:
-> Home Premium: $199.99
-> Professional: $299.99
-> Ultimate: $319.99

NOTE: That means Windows 7 Home Premium costs $40 less at launch than Windows Vista did while Windows 7 Ultimate costs $40 less to upgrade and $80 less to buy outright!

Can I receive a discount on Windows 7 RTM?
-> Most beta testers will not receive free or discounted copies of Windows 7.
-> Students with a valid .edu email address eligible for drastically-reduced cost licenses (and sometimes even free!) directly from Microsoft.
-> Licensed users of Windows XP and/or Windows Vista may purchase a Windows 7 upgrade license, which is offered globally at reduced prices.

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