Windows 7 RC

This is an update to my earlier remarks about Windows 7 Beta.

There are several improvements in the release candidate. First, there is a default way of reaching the desktop. It is subtle, in the far right edge on the desktop, but eliminates the need for the hack in my review of W7B. W7RC1 fixes another complaint as well; whatever caused Cisco VPN to need a snake oil wave-a-bone-over-your-PC-while-burning-incense type installation is no longer needed; it installs normally. The taskbar remains terrific.

I had trouble with wireless when I resumed from hibernation on old (IBM Thinkpad X31) hardware using W& Beta; that problem seems to be fixed. (Specifically, sometimes I had to shut down and turn the wireless back on for it to connect to my home router.) What is weird is both before and after I'm using the same drivers, so it must have been a problem running the vista driver.

I installed W7RC on a Thinkpad X31 with a 15.2GB SSD. Because W7 is a 10GB install, I used vlite to strip down the install. I just followed these instructions. What is kind of cool is that with a 16GB USB key drive I do a fresh install of windows and recover all my files and settings in about an hour. The trick is to have all the needed programs and files on the drive too, and use easy transfer to copy the settings. Easy transfer really is easy, and it recovers not just Windows and Office settings but Firefox and Filezilla, too.

On the SSD, I keep my documents on a CF card. W7 prevents moving the My Documents folder officially to a card; only fixed disks are permitted. However, links cards are permitted for Favorites, and this is enough to make navigating to my moved My Documents folder straightforward.

Easy transfer and Vlite has improved my backup strategy somewhat. I used to require disks, in particular Windows's disk, to perform a backup. Now, however, I can put a full backup on a 4GB USB key and my regular 16GB USB key. I use my regular key to keep the My Documents folder of various computers in sync. This key lives on my keyring and is protected against loss with TrueCrypt. My second USB key contains Windows 7 (stripped to 1.3GB by Vlite), Office 2007, Mathematica, and an easy-transfer of settings but not documents (total size about 600MB, and 440MB of that is Office settings.) With this pair of USB drives, I can be up and running from scratch (on a new computer) in three hours.

I was a little more aggressive in stripping out components than Rick but nevertheless W7 turns into 7 GB. That is bettter than 9.07, which is what I got without VLite, but not going to run on a, say 8GB drive with Office 2007 and other programs. I turned on compression which saves a GB or so overall and reduced Windows to 6.6. I don't know how people are running W7 on 4GB drives, as is reported.

On one of my machines, W7 wants to check the disk every time it starts. Once diskchecking starts, it can't be stopped and finds no errors. I wound up disabling diskchecking by Start > Search > cmd, Right click Run as Administrator, then type

chkntfs /X c:

and enter. This procedure probably isn't optimal but given that I ran checkdisk and didn't find any errors, it is probably safe for a while. To undo the disabling, entering chkntfs /D into cmd does the trick.

Preston McAfee, May 2009.

Create a shortcut to Network Connections

To create a shortcut to Network Connections, navigate to C:\Windows\System32, and then right-click on ncpa.cpl and select "Create shortcut." You'll be told you can't create a shortcut here (then why'd you ask?) would you like one on the desktop instead? Agree, then navigate to the desktop and cut and past this shortcut wherever you like. Then right-click and rename to, say, "Network Connections". Then from that location (since you probably won't want it on the desktop) you can drag it over the start circle, where it will pin a copy to the start menu.

I also put my network connections shortcut in the start menu programs list. This was a little klugy compared to XP (you can't edit in the folder, but have to edit in the start menu list itself) but straightforward enough. (I'm not sure why editing the items in the start menu fails. The options are present -- e.g. rename folders -- but they "can't be completed because it is open in another program." This seems like a W7 glitch.)