Mitch Irsfeld

Ok, so this october promises to be a bit extraordinary. It kicks off the biggest launch wave—ever—for Microsoft. And as IT professionals, you are right in the heart of the action, with Windows Server 2008 R2 and Windows 7 leading the charge.

Chances are, you are already taking a close look at Windows 7. That's good. According to Bill Boswell, that's the first thing you need to do. In "Windows 7: The 10 Things You Must Do First," Boswell's first to-do item is getting to "know the operating system on a personal basis." Makes sense, given that's how your users will interact with it; but because Windows 7 expands what the OS can do, you also need to expand your planning. For example, it might make more sense to not put the operating system directly on the hard drive of each new machine. Windows 7 makes it possible to install the OS into a virtual hard drive (VHD) file on the hard drive. This makes the OS highly portable.

There's so much to get your arms around with Windows 7 that we asked our experts for some tips on getting the most out the new OS. For instance, BitLocker To Go enables you to encrypt data on removable storage devices. So if you misplace or lose a thumb drive that contains sensitive data, you're covered. Or maybe you became a User Account Control (UAC) hater with Windows Vista. UAC has been revamped and improved, allowing you to configure it to behave less obnoxiously while still providing the extra protection it offers. Check out all 77 of these helpful tips, and then really put Windows 7 through its paces.

Speaking of Windows 7 security, Steve Riley gets his groove on with his favorite new security features. Much of the lauded improvements in Windows 7 are geared for your users, but there are some really cool things for IT pros. In his "Groovy Security in Windows 7," Riley takes you on a tour of features like BitLocker; BitLocker To Go; AppLocker; and the nearest and dearest to my heart: DirectAccess.

And any discussion of Windows 7 security enhancements wouldn't be complete without a close look at the updated Group Policy features. Jeremy Moskowitz walks us through "What's New in Group Policy for Windows 7 and Windows Server 2008 R2," and he doesn't just focus on basic functionality, like the improvements in the Group Policy engine and new and updated features in the Group Policy editing system. He goes beyond those core features and explains new controls like the cost-saving ability to configure power settings. And the best news for you: even with more powerful controls, there are no major changes in the operational aspects of Group Policy, so your ramp-up is minimal.

This issue is packed with guidance and information to help you become Windows 7 experts and prepare for deployments. And it doesn't hurt to understand the features that delight your users and make them more productive. Have fun with it.

Mitch Irsfeld is managing editor of the TechNet Flash newsletter and TechNet Flash Feed, a daily news blog providing updates on the latest Microsoft engagements for IT pros.

—Mitch Irsfeld

Thanks to the following Microsoft technical experts: Sanjeev Nair and Kimberly L. Tripp.