Six Windows 7 Features Admins Will Actually Care About (and Four They Won’t)

Here's a deeper look at the reasons Admins will want to bring Windows 7 to their users.

I am running the Windows 7 Beta and I can't help noticing that many of the new features or enhancements are items Admins couldn't care less about.  It takes a deeper look to find the reasons Admins will want to bring Windows 7 to their users. Of the "who-cares?" items, here's my top four:

  1. "Spectacular New Wallpapers". Alright, I'll give Microsoft kudos for the rotating wallpapers, which were done previously though very annoying and bandwidth-chewing third party tools. But that's yet another feature I'll be disabling through Group Policy, because the last thing I want to see while I troubleshoot anyone's PC is the 48 different pictures of you and your friends with your tongues out at the last neighborhood barbecue.
  2. "Improved Gadgets". They're movable and now you can "put them anywhere on the Desktop". Deep sarcastic breath in. Wow. Apparently there were enough people who didn't know you could already do this in Windows Vista that Microsoft could add it to their usual marketing onslaught.
  3. Yet Even More Ways to Open Programs (YEMWTOP - use that at your next party, I think it will sweep across the nation). Shortcut Keys galore, and some are given to you by default to open shortcuts. And now there are Jump Lists. . . . OK. Whatever.
  4. Aero Peek. Isn't that just the "Show Desktop" button?

I decided to come up with my list of features in Windows 7 that Administrators might find interesting. Here's what I've found, and these are in no way scientifically tested nor proven, and YMMV. Keep in mind that some of the following will require Windows Server 2008 R2 to implement. Most of what follows can be found here:

  1. It seems to be faster. I'm running mine virtualized (alright, fine, I'll admit it; I'm using Virtual PC 2007). And even through that, it seems to be very responsive. Installing applications seems to be faster and without as much "blue bar watching." Microsoft also touts a smaller memory footprint than in Windows Vista.
  2. Windows Powershell is now installed by default, and there are some new Powershell Cmdlets for Windows 7 and Server 2008 R2. Now, this is a big deal. I'm not sure you've found the wonderment that is Windows Powershell, but I believe this will eventually be a more preferred method for automation than Windows Script Host, but that's another blog post.
  3. Location-Aware Printing. Windows 7 remembers the printers you last printed at and essentially has multiple "profiles" of printer lists. It will additionally automatically switch your Default Printer according to the network you are currently on. FINALLY!
  4. DirectAccess. This is an alternative to Remote Access through a VPN. I can't vouch for sure on its overall security since I haven't tested it, but the beauty here is that Group Policy can be pushed out and manipulated more frequently, and as it would appear, the user doesn't even have to be logged into the network.
  5. AppLocker. OK, this is another feature that has been done by other vendors, but this gives Admins a less clunky and a more feature-rich way of limiting what the user can run on their desktop machine.
  6. Virtualization Improvements. I can't say for certain, but this may very well be the first Windows Operating System that has been designed with Virtualization in mind, meaning that Microsoft has stayed with the times in assuming that Windows 7 will be virtualized in many environments, albeit through Hyper-V. Will that translate into better virtualization though, say VMWare? Too early to tell.

So I am looking forward to Windows 7 and Windows Server 2008 R2 as well. Now, if Windows 7 can crash less often while pounding tanks into oblivion in Prototype, then I will really be excited.

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