Windows 7 Desktop Management Tips

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by James Gaskin - This insider tip comes from Jerry Honeycutt, Microsoft MVP and expert in the Windows Desktop Experience. He provided content and feedback to Microsoft during Windows 7 development.

One cool Windows 7 feature that Honeycutt says he uses constantly is Presentation Mode, which keeps Windows from suspending on laptops even when no keys are pressed or mouse movements registered. Honeycutt often moves large files around, and earlier Windows versions quit and hung the file transfer. Now users don't have to worry about once they find Presentation Mode in Windows Mobility Settings. Windows Key + X, then check the "I am currently giving a presentation" box.

[ Windows 7 migration: Don't rush the prep work ]

Other interesting little things abound. The Problem Recorder makes it much easier for everyone, especially small companies without an IT staff, to record and forward logs of technical issues. The Power Configuration Tool has been upgraded, a value mostly to laptops, and now helps diagnose power issues. Honeycutt gets 15 more minutes use out of his laptop battery.

Driver support and stability have been much better, mostly due to better coordination between Microsoft and vendors before the Windows 7 launch. Honeycutt runs nothing but 64-bit systems and has had no trouble with Win7, unlike the situation with Vista. While XP Mode is available, none of Honeycutt's clients have needed to resort to that in order to run important programs. He's found no critical applications unable to run on Windows 7 that has blocked any major deployments.

For admins supporting lots of desktops, Honeycutt believes the new Taskbar favorites, and the ability to pin documents shortcuts, will make users happier. Windows search has improved greatly, provides more depth, and includes Control Panel items now. Honeycutt hasn't seen the Control Panel box in months – he just uses Windows Search to find and kickstart the applets he needs.

[ Make the most of Windows 7's high-powered taskbar ]

Remote support has improved with DirectAccess for Windows 7, supported by Windows Server 2008 R2. No more do you need to setup a VPN, then explain to your users what a VPN is. If you have Internet access, you have DirectAccess and can connect. Group policy settings kick in before the user logs on, and the user can log on to Active Directory as well.

User Account Control has been tamed a little, although it's still not perfect out of the box. It's much easier to deploy with standard user accounts. If you want, you can configure it to demand the admin password before a user makes a system change, just like Unbuntu and other Linux flavors demand. Common user settings like the clock no longer trigger annoying UAC dialogs.

Sounds can actually be mixed by the volume control mixer. Honeycutt sets the volume far lower for Messenger than Media Player, so new IM sessions don't interrupt the music. The devil is in the details, and Honeycutt likes those details.

Like other Windows 7 experts, Honeycutt sings the praises of Microsoft's Deployment Toolkit (MDK). From small businesses to enterprises, MDK makes deployments easier than ever. Honeycutt has seen up to 20,000 desktops rolled out with MDK and the upgraded Systems Center, and says that's the only way to go.

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