Is it time to put a shiny new Windows 7-based computer on your holiday shopping list? Yes, it is. Redmond has finally made it official - Windows 7 is coming out this year. In an interview with Cnet's Ina Fried, Microsoft Senior VP Bill Veghte confirmed that "We [Microsoft] are tracking well to a Windows 7 holiday."
So, what makes it possible to roll out Windows 7 early? Veghte points to a couple of factors:
Excellent early feedback from Windows 7 RC
Higher level of partner support for Windows 7, notably from graphics chip vendors as well as those already receiving Windows 7 logo certification
To learn more, keep an eye on the Microsoft Tech-Ed 2009 conference opening today in Los Angeles. If you're using Windows 7 RC as your primary OS, how close do you think it is to being "ready to roll?" Join us after the jump and tell us.
One of the best-kept secrets about Windows 7, its support for a Virtual Windows XP mode, has become a potential headache for a lot of computer users who want to keep running fussy legacy apps under Windows 7. To maintain high system performance, Virtual Windows XP Mode requires the processor to support hardware virtualization (and the system BIOS must enable the feature).
As ZDNet's Ed Bott reports, trying to figure out which Intel processors have hardware virtualization (known in IntelLand as VT support) requires a lot of time with the Intel Hardware Spec Finder. Ed spent the time, so you don't have to wonder about Intel desktop or mobile CPUs (but check the update on page 1 for news about some CPUs that are getting updated to add VT support).
What about AMD CPUs? That's a bit easier to figure out, thanks to a statement from an AMD spokesperson quoted by Cnet:
All CPUs AMD is currently shipping, except Sempron, include AMD-V and therefore support XP mode.With the exceptions of Sempron-branded processors and Turion K8 Rev E processors, all notebook processors shipped by AMD include AMD-V and therefore support Windows 7 XP mode. With the exceptions of Sempron-branded processors and pre-Rev F Athlon branded processors, all of the desktop processors shipped by AMD include AMD-V and therefore support Windows 7 in XP mode. Also, all AMD Opteron processors shipped by AMD from Rev F forward include AMD-V.
Want an even easier way to get the virtualization scoop on your systems? PCWorld recommends the SecureAble test page at the Gibson Research Corporation website. Run SecurAble to determine if your processor supports hardware virtualization, hardware data execution protection (DEP) and to learn if it's a 32-bit or 64-bit CPU. Give SecurAble a try and let us know if you found any surprises about your system.
Microsoft's latest Windows version, Windows 7, has already proven to be too popular for the Internet's own good. Back in January, Microsoft planned to offer the Windows 7 beta to only 2.5 million lucky downloaders over a two-week period, but that didn't last long. As servers crashed under the weight of digital "gold rush" fever, Redmond extended the date to February 10th while lifting the download cap.
This time, with early demand for Windows 7 RC from TechNet and MSDN members crashing servers at the end of April, Microsoft is telling the public to relax:
You don't need to rush to get the RC. The RC will be available at least through July 2009 and we're not limiting the number of product keys, so you have plenty of time.
Wondering how to get more product keys the easy way? Having problems restoring a file backup you made with Windows 7 Beta to Windows 7 RC? Join us after the jump.
Should you be worried about the July 1, 2010 "drop dead" date for the Windows 7 RC released today? Not according to Acer. In an interview with Pocket-Lint's Chris Hall, Bobby Watkins, Acer UK's Marketing Director, says that October 23, 2009 will be the day that Windows 7 will be available.
Believable? One comment from a US-based reader points out that October 23
...comes at the end of the major U.S. back-to-school selling season and could postpone buying by thousands of people in order to get into the 30-day free upgrade cycle [Acer says that purchases 30 days or less before the Windows 7 release qualify for a free upgrade]. The Microsoft OEM's will absolutely hate this date because it will cost them money.
On the other hand, the date falls comfortably before the holiday season (Microsoft missed the 2006 holiday season with Windows Vista).
For your chance to sound off about how close Windows 7 RC is to being ready to roll, join us after the jump.
AutoRun and AutoPlay, Microsoft's "dangerous duo" for launching programs from CD/DVD and other removable media types, have become among malware authors' favorite infection vectors - and Microsoft has finally said, "enough already!"
A research study by Forefront Client Securitycited by the Engineering Windows 7 blog determined that infections that can be started with AutoRun amounted to 17.7% of detected infections in the second half of 2008.
Although AutoRun was originally designed strictly for optical media, it can be used for other types of media. For example, you can create an autorun.inf file that adds the program on the media to the AutoPlay menu Windows displays, and change the default icon to make the malware program mimic a legitimate program. Conficker used this method to spread, as illustrated here.
Starting in Windows 7 RC, Microsoft has changed how both AutoRun and AutoPlay work:
AutoPlay no longer supports AutoRun on non-optical removable media. An autorun.inf file on a USB or other type of non-optical removable media will be disregarded. Only AutoPlay options that pertain to the types of files on the media will be listed.
When AutoPlay displays programs present on the media, the dialog now states that those programs will be run from the media.
To learn more about these changes, and to find out what other Microsoft operating systems will eventually get similar protection, join us after the jump.
Softpedia reports that pirated copies of Windows 7 will be provided with security updates, update rollups, and even service packs. What is Microsoft thinking? Is Redmond promoting piracy?
The idea of providing security and other updates to pirated copies as well as legit copies of Windows might seem crazy, but here's the reasoning, straight from Paul Cooke, director of Windows Client Enterprise Security:
Keeping a machine up to date is one of the first steps in helping ensure that they remain reliable, compatible, and safe from threats when they are online. Some of the most famous incidents of malicious software infection have come after security updates were publicly available from Microsoft - Blaster, Zotob, Conficker and Sasser, just to name a few. Rest assured that we at Microsoft are committed to making sure that security updates are available to all of our users to help ensure a safe online experience for everyone.
Note that Cooke is laying the blame for many recent security problems where it belongs: on users and companies who will not upgrade their software to block such threats. By continuing the recent policy of allowing users of non-genuine Windows to receive security updates, Microsoft is saying, in effect, 'don't blame us if unpatched systems are compromised.'
However, don't think that Redmond's turning a patched eye to either casual piracy or software counterfeiting. Pirated copies of Windows 7 won't be eligible for some of Microsoft's goodies, and Softpedia points out that counterfeit copies of Windows often come with a "free" bonus: malware.
For your chance to sound off on security for software pirates, join us after the jump.
Tuesday, Microsoft clarified exactly what Windows 7 users will need if they want to run XP Mode (officially known as XP Virtual Machine). Although it appeared initially that XP Mode would include Windows XP SP3, Cnet's Ina Fried reports that users will need to supply their own licensed copies of Windows XP SP3 to go along with the free XP Mode download for Windows 7 Professional, Enterprise, or Ultimate editions.
As we reported Monday, XP Mode will indeed require hardware virtualization support in the processor, meaning that low-end processors as well as some older mid-range and high-end processors from Intel and AMD won't support XP Mode. Microsoft also states that computers will need at least 2GB of memory to run XP Mode. Thankfully, potential XP Mode users won't need to wait until after Windows 7 ships to see if XP Mode works for them: Fried states that Microsoft will roll out a beta of XP Mode at the same time as Windows 7 RC - May 5th for most of us.
To find out who will be happiest with XP Mode, and how to manage it, join us after the jump.
This week, Seagate announced its latest backup devices, the Replica backup appliance family. Replica is available in two versions: a single-computer 250GB model ("Single PC") and a 500GB version ("Multi-PC") that also includes a dock.
Replica's 'plug it in and forget it design' is intended to make it a close hardware equivalent to online backup services in terms of ease of use, but it's not designed to be as flexible - or as fast - as a traditional USB hard disk. Seagate refers to Replica as a "backup applicance" for good reason: the included software makes a backup copy of your entire system, and you get a bootable recovery disc that helps you restore your system in case it dies.
While you have the option of restoring the entire PC, or just dragging individual files from Replica back to your PC in case you deleted your latest draft of the Great American Screenplay, Replica won't do drag and drop copying from your PC to Replica. Seagate's reasoning: if you want an external hard disk, get yourself a Seagate FreeAgent or FreeAgent Go, or a Maxtor OneTouch or OneTouch mini. By contrast, Replica is designed for users who don't want to think about anything after installing the software and plugging the drive into a free USB port.
So, how much will Replica cost? To find out, and for your chance to sound off, join us after the jump.
Once Windows 7 ships, Windows 7 Professional, Enterprise, and Ultimate edition users will be able to download a free Windows XP Mode upgrade from Microsoft, WinSuperSite's Paul Thurrott reports. What Thurrott calls XP Mode will enable these versions of Windows 7 to be almost perfectly compatible with Windows XP applications. Essentially, Windows 7 will have "Windows XP inside" when XP Mode is installed.
What is XP Mode? Officially known as Virtual Windows XP, it combines a hardware-accelerated host virtualizer based on Virtual PC with a fully licensed copy of Windows XP Professional SP3 which the user must supply [updated 4-29-09]. While, at first glance, this might sound like little more than a more convenient replacement for downloading a copy of Virtual PC 2007 and scrounging up a Windows XP Pro disc and license from a dead PC, there's a lot more to Virtual Windows XP.
As the WinSuperSite screenshow reveals, Virtual Windows XP will be able to share your system's USB drives, and when you install apps to Virtual Windows XP, your Windows 7 menu will automatically be updated with shortcuts, enabling you to run Windows XP programs in separate virtualized windows on your desktop. Although the virtualizer used by Virtual Windows XP is a host-based virtualizer, these features put it miles ahead in usability compared to Virtual PC 2007 plus Windows XP. And, because Virtual Windows XP's virtualizer requires hardware virtualization support, it won't bog down your system the way an unaccelerated virtualization host will do.
Are there any downsides? For a couple of potential gotchas, and for your chance to sound off, join us after the jump.
Trying to describe Microsoft's Windows Live family of web-enabled tools for Windows has been a bit like the parable of the blind men describing the elephant.
Is Windows Live a photo sharing service? A file sharing service? An email service? An IM service? With the news that Windows Live is adding connections next week to many other popular Web 2.0 social networks, it's easier now to say, as ArsTechnica puts it, that Microsoft wants to:
[T]urn Windows Live into the average netcitizen's main hub for his or her social life, or at the very least to turn Windows Live into a social network.
Microsoft's teaming up with lots of social-networking partners around the world. US-based companies becoming BFFs with Windows Live include MSN, Digg, Facebook, SmugMug, and MySpace (see the full list of 31 current and new partners here).