Windows 7 Beta: Come and Get It… Just A Few Days Left!

windows7 Unless you’ve been hiding under a rock somewhere, you’ve probably heard about the beta of the upcoming version of Windows, Windows 7. No breaking news here (I hope).  However, now that I’ve been running 7 myself the past couple of weeks, I thought I should post some links & thoughts on it.  First off, if you haven’t gotten the beta yet and are interested in it, act now!  The public Windows 7 beta downloads will be closing on February 10th.

Last week, I appeared on Personal Computer Radio Show on 99.5 WBAI in New York to talk about Windows 7. I’d like to thank Joe King & Hank See for inviting me and my teammate Brian Johnson on their show last week to discuss 7!  As a major radio fan/geek, I was secretly excited/fascinated by being on the airwaves in the biggest radio market in the country!  The show was a lot of fun and I enjoyed being on it. 

If you didn’t get a chance to listen, the recording of the show is available on the show’s website here.

Windows 7 on Netbooks

On the show, Hank Kee gave his review of Windows 7 after trying it on an older machine. It was a mixed bag for Hank, who unfortunately had trouble getting a driver for his network card. But he did get it to work after a little spelunking for a driver online from a different machine. After Hank’s review, we discussed running Windows 7 on netbooks.  Netbooks are a growing segment of the PC market and having Windows 7 run on them is an important goal of the upcoming OS.  I mentioned that I don’t have a netbook to test it on, but Dmitry Lyalin has posted his experience running Windows 7 on a Dell Mini.

Windows 7 Taskbar

From there, we moved on to discuss the new user interface. Namely, the first thing folks will notice when they log in is the new taskbar. Much has been written about the new taskbar elsewhere, so I won’t get into details about it here.  However, I will say it does take some getting used to. After two weeks on the system, I can say that I’m settling into it just fine. My only feedback to the product team is that the difference between an icon for a non-running application and a running application is too subtle. It’s not easy to quickly glance and visually determine which applications are running.  Tweak that, and the rest is great!

Windows 7 and User Account Control

We discussed the new modifications to User Account Control (UAC) in Windows 7.  Hank & Joe were quite critical of UAC.  I went on the record stating that I LOVE UAC and think it was one of the BEST features added in Windows Vista!  I’ve written about this previously here and here. (I think that made Hank & Joe’s heads spin.)

In Windows 7, there are different levels you can set for the UAC prompt vs. just turning it on or off as in Vista.  You can read more details about UAC in Windows 7 here and here.  The short of it is that when you crank it down a notch (the default setting), you will still receive a UAC prompt when installing software.  However, you will not get a UAC prompt when changing system settings, including most of the things in the Control Panel. And that addresses my sole pet peeve as a tech guy about UAC in Vista. 

Windows Live Essentials

In Windows 7, many of the applications that handle the “fun” things you want to do with your PC have been separated from the OS itself.  Instant Messenger, Photo Gallery, Mail, Movie Maker, and more are now available as part of the free Windows Live Essentials download.  I use many of these applications every day, including Windows Live Writer to write blog posts like this one! 

There are two great things about having these applications separated from the OS itself.  First, all of these updated applications are available on Windows Vista and Windows XP today too!  Secondly, since they are not part of the OS, it is easier for them to be updated more frequently.

Listener Questions

Later in the show, we took questions from listeners calling in. One caller asked where he could find spyware protection for his machine. It was noted that both Windows Vista and Windows 7 come with the Microsoft anti-spyware tool, Windows Defender, built in and enabled by default.  Windows Defender is available as a free download for both Windows XP and Windows Server 2003.

Another caller was concerned that he could not search for files in a given date range on Windows Vista.  He claimed this feature was available in XP, but not in Vista. I checked to verify, and you can indeed search for files in a date range in Vista.  It isn’t as intuitive as one might like it to be, but the good news is, searching for a date range in Windows 7 is much easier!  I’ve put together details on how to search by date range in both Vista and 7 in a separate post here.

Windows 7 Links & Resources

Whether you’re playing around with the beta or just want to learn more about the upcoming version of Windows, these Microsoft sites have a ton of great information on Windows 7:

Site Description
Engineering Windows 7 Blog As an uber geek, this is where you can get the scoop on how things are being built behind the scenes from folks like Steve Sinofsky and others on the product team.
Windows 7 Blog This blog has all of the information you need to know on the status of Windows 7, its features, and general information about the OS itself.
Windows 7 This is the official Windows 7 product site on  It has all of the information your non-tech friends and family will want to know about the product.  It also contains the link to joining the public beta!  (<—Of course, this link will be not be available after February 10, 2009! So act now if you want in on the beta!)
Windows 7 Developer Guide Are you a developer?  Then you’ll want to visit this site to see what’s in 7 for you.
Tim Sneath’s Bumper List of Windows 7 Secrets Now this is a MUST read blog post!  On the PC Radio Show, I mentioned how Windows 7 is full of lots of little features that make things better and will cause you to miss 7 when you’re on Vista or XP.  Tim has put together a whole list of what I call “the little features” that make 7 rock!  While you’re there, check out the rest of Tim Sneath’s blog for cool Windows related tips & tricks.
Windows Live Essentials This is the site to get all of the extra applications for Windows 7 like IM, Mail, Photo Gallery, Writer, and more.

While all of the links above are great for Windows 7 information from Microsoft, there a couple of good sites I frequently read & listen to for information from the outside:

Paul Thurrott’s SuperSite for Windows If you want to learn more about Windows, visit Paul Thurrott’s SuperSite. On this site, Paul writes in-depth reviews on different features of Windows, blog posts with Windows tips & tricks, as well as information on other Microsoft products.
Windows Weekly Podcast Want to keep up on the latest goings-on in the world of Microsoft from a consumer & enthusiast perspective?  Listen to Paul Thurrott’s weekly podcast with Leo Laporte where they cover news and highlights about Microsoft each week.
Ed Bott’s Microsoft Report Ed Bott has been covering Microsoft for ZDNet for sometime now.  He writes frequently about Windows and is known for sorting out fact from fiction on various claims for and against Windows.

Internet Explorer 8

ie8_hero_1 One of the new features in Windows 7 is Internet Explorer 8 (IE8). However, IE8 will also be available for Windows Vista and Windows XP.  If you’re not brave enough to jump in and beta test a whole operating system, you can give just IE8 a try on your Vista or XP machine now too! The Release Candidate of IE8 was released recently on January 26th.

The IE8 final release is coming soon. Are you ready for it? If you're a developer, IE8 offers several new features to make your Web site come alive for its visitors. If you're just using the browser, features like web slices and accelerators will enhance your experience by making common tasks easier to accomplish.

You can download the IE8 Release Candidate from the Internet Explorer website at

For more information on what’s new in IE8 and in-depth technical discussion of its various features, visit the IE Team’s blog at: