Monthly Archives: November 2009

Checking out Windows Virtual PC with XP Mode

Compatibility is always a sensitive issue when it comes to a new version of Windows. Microsoft takes it very seriously and considers it a hallmark of the Windows platform, making it easy for users to transition to a new release with little or no hiccups. With the release of Windows XP, Microsoft introduced Compatibility Mode, which let older applications run on the OS emulating supported versions of Windows with the ability to save settings so that your applications will start in the correct mode every time. Compatibility Mode worked in some cases and others it did not.

Windows Vista’s compatibility story was a tough one, simply because of the fundamental changes that were made to enhance the system’s security foundations. This ultimately affected how older applications would function, because many older applications were written with the intention of running under Administrative privileges. Meaning, some applications were designed to write to parts of the system that were considered vulnerable to attack and malicious activity. It is a beneficial change that has greatly helped the security initiative in Windows. Windows Vista’s kernel version change also affected how certain applications tried to install on the system, since applications were hard coded to check for a specific version of Windows. Microsoft’s solution to Vista’s compatibility woes included the Virtual PC 2007 utility which allowed Windows customers to run a virtualized copy of Windows XP or 2000 and still run their legacy applications in a suitable environment while transitioning to the latest version of Windows. Although it was a solution it required a costly overhead in resources while being a cumbersome experience of having to switch between the host operating system (Vista) and the guest operating system (XP or 2000).

I recently migrated from Windows 7 RC to Windows 7 RTM, I also moved to the final version of Microsoft’s virtualization solution for small businesses and power users running legacy applications; Windows XP Mode. Back in July I started using the first beta and found it a handy solution on Windows 7 64 bit since my GPRS modem is not compatible with Windows 7 64 bit, so I was able to use the Internet through XP Mode. I also benefited from XP mode for 3 key legacy applications: Microsoft PhotoDraw 2000 v2, Print Shop 5.0 and Hallmark Card Studio 1.0 This article takes a look at some of the improvements since the beta and RC were released. Prior to Windows Virtual PC with XP Mode, Microsoft’s most popular virtualization solution was (and in some way, still is) Virtual PC 2007 which supports systems that do not have a processor with hardware based virtualization technology. XP Mode is a more sophisticated solution, in addition to the ability to running Windows XP in a virtual environment, you can publish applications from within the Virtual Machine and use them along side Windows 7 applications without the need for the operating system layer.

What is Virtualization?

Virtualization is jargon that has caught on with many who are in the Information Technology realm. Virtualization involves using non-physical solutions that would often involve deploying physical hardware resources. In the world of Virtualization a Virtual Machine takes the place of a physical machine, providing similar resources, only non-tangible, this is done on a machine with appropriate resources such as a powerful CPU, lots of Memory and in some cases a GPU (graphical processing unit) depending on the desired capabilities to efficiently run one or more "virtual" instances of an operating system. For instance, I could own a computer with a 2 GHz processor, 3 GBs of memory and be able to run an additional operating system on top of the included operating system, whether it be Windows or Linux without the need to have another machine by sharing some of the resources of the computer with the virtual machine.

Setup

As I noted earlier, to use XP Mode, your computers processor (CPU) needs to support hardware based virtualization. This can be recognized by standards such as Intel-VT and AMD-V. Some computers might not have this capability built in, so I recommend you check Intel or AMD’s website to find out if your processor is supported. Some PC Manufacturers might have the technology disabled on certain models requiring that you enable it. Enabling Virtualization support might be a bit complex for novices which requires that you enter your computers BIOS, the experience can vary depending on the manufacturer of your computer.

  • For more information about the requirements and supported operating systems, see the Windows Virtual PC product page
  • x86 Virtualization – Wikipedia provides a page with information about which processors from Intel and AMD support virtualization here
  • Virtualization technologies from Intel
  • More information about Windows XP Mode for Windows 7

    Please follow these steps to enable hardware virtualization:
        – Restart the computer and enter BIOS setup (usually F2, F10 or F12 key on your keyboard, you need to do this before the computer loads the Windows operating system.

  • On my Computer, I had to hit the F10 key, select my language, select Security > System Security and enable the following:
    * Virtualization Technology (VTx)
    * Virtualization Technology Directed I/O (VTd)

        – Search virtualization setting in BIOS and enable the setting.
        – Save BIOS settings (usually F10).
        – Power off the computer, wait for a few seconds and start the computer.

  • The next step is to download Windows Virtual PC and Windows XP Mode software, go to the following link: http://www.windows.com/business/downloads

     

    There are two files you will need to download:
    1. Windows6.1-KB958559-x64 or x86 depending on the architecture (32 or 64 bit) you are running.

    Restart the system, then install:
    2. WindowsXPMode_en-us

     

  • After downloading and installing Windows6.1-KB958559-x64 you will have to restart your system, then install the WindowsXPMode_en-us file, installation is quick and easy.

     

    After Installation is complete, go ahead and launch Windows XP Mode from the Windows Virtual PC (Start Menu > All Programs group). The software will go through a quick configuration wizard while it details some of the benefits of the software users new to virtualization.

  • The three applications I will be using for this scenario are:

    • Microsoft PhotoDraw 2000 v2 – a business graphics solution that was released with the 2000 wave of Office products. PhotoDraw provides features for editing images, vector illustrations and creating web graphics. I love this product because of its easy to use interface and plethora of features for creating cards, certificates and stationery.
    • Hallmark Card Studio 1.0 – This is a very old 16-bit product that features a very fun interface with a collection of professional greeting cards for any occasion. I never had to go to a store when I was using this program – lets hope it works. 🙂
    • The Print Shop 5.0 Premier Edition – I remember back in high school my teacher used this program to create a wide variety of print projects, from programs to flyers. I like its easy to use interface, and wizard based approach to getting task done. Its not a replacement for Microsoft Publisher which I use for more complex projects, but compliments it very well.

    Configuring Windows XP Mode

     

    Before you begin installing applications and using XP Mode, it is recommended you configure the software depending on the scenarios it will be used for. If you are using a few applications, it is recommended you adjust the allotted amount of RAM (default 256 MBs) to something a bit more realistic. I have 4 GBs of RAM in my machine, so I decided to give my XP Mode setup at least 1024 MBs of RAM. To do this, click Start > All Programs > Windows Virtual PC > Windows Virtual XP Mode

     

    Select the Windows XP Virtual Machine, Click Settings on the Command Bar

    If you are familiar with Windows Virtual PC 2007, the Settings window presents options you are accustomed to seeing. All of the settings listed manages how the Virtual Machine performs and functions. The first setting we will adjust is the amount of RAM, select that option from the list. In the right pane, you will see a field that you can edit. Enter the desired amount, note that this will depend on how much memory is available to the Host operating system (which is your physical computer). Microsoft recommends 2 GBs of memory and an additional 15 GBs of hard disk space per virtual environment to run Windows XP Mode. You are not limited to using the pre-bundled Windows XP Mode, (although its recommended), you can use your own Windows XP installation media. The Virtual Windows XP option is faster than creating your own virtual machine though. All you need to do is download the package that applies to your Windows 7 platform (either 32-bit or 64-bit) and run through the quick setup wizard.

     

    Depending on how your virtual machine is configured when not in use, you might not be able to edit the settings. You must first ensure that it is shut down to make any changes to the Virtual Machines settings. To shutdown the Virtual Machine, click Start > All Programs > Windows Virtual PC > Windows Virtual XP Mode. The Explorer window will open displaying your Virtual Machine along with its current state, as you can see, my own is set to Hibernated. Click Settings on the Command Bar, select ‘Close’ in the settings window and select the ‘Prompt for action’ radio box. Each time you close the virtual machine, you can choose to hibernate, shutdown or turn off the virtual machine. This will give you the option to make changes to Virtual Machine when shutdown.

    Starting the Virtual Machine

     

  • Starting Windows XP Mode

  • Starting XP Mode is very simple, you can launch Windows XP Mode from the Start Menu > Windows Virtual PC programs group or from the "Command Bar > Open", if you are within the Virtual Machines Explorer.

    Installing applications and publishing

     

    Once you have Started Windows XP Mode, you will see a familiar Windows XP environment. Along the top of the screen is the Toolbar that controls your experience working between the host and Virtual Machine, Restarting or Ending your session, connecting USB devices, securing your session, minimizing, maximizing and closing the Virtual Machine.

  • Installing and using an application in Virtual XP Mode

    Installing applications is the same as installing in Windows, simply insert the application disk or connect to your Network resource of your choice, double click the setup file or the auto-run program will begin the installation. Once the installation is complete you can launch the application from the All Programs menu and use it from within Windows XP Mode normally.

    Using the application in Virtual Windows XP is very similar to working in Virtual PC, but the key differentiation happens when you virtualize your applications. My next step was to see how I could benefit from Integration Features without having to use the operating system layer. When you install an application, automatically it places a shortcut in the Windows Virtual PC programs group called Virtual Windows XP Applications in Windows 7. When you launch the application from there, Virtual Windows XP will request to close the Virtual Machine (if it is open) because a virtual application cannot run while the virtual machine is open. If you close the virtual machine, any unsaved data will be lost. After this is done, Virtual Windows XP starts the Virtual Application which runs outside of the guest operating system (Windows XP). And that’s it, you are able to use the application just as you would a native application installed in Windows 7. The only thing is, you will notice that the application continues to use the guest operating systems look and feel.

    If I want, I can use the application in the virtual machine itself

     

    …or I can simply use the program as a virtual app from within Windows 7

    So after installing PhotoDraw 2000, I decided to run Hallmark Card studio 1.0 and The Printshop 5.0 to see how that would function. Yup, installed and functioned just fine.

     

    Installing Legacy applications

    Understanding Integration Components

    Integration components make it easier to use a virtual machine by improving the interaction between physical resources and a virtual machine environment. These are installed automatically when you set up Windows XP mode. For other operating systems, you install them separately after you set up the operating system. Integration components provide access to the following resources:

    • Clipboard. You can cut, copy, and paste data between the host operating system and the guest operating system. For example, you can copy a URL from the browser in a guest operating system, and paste it to a browser in the host operating system.
    • Hard drives. This feature makes all the drives on the host available to the virtual machine. You can easily access all host data from within the virtual machine. Note

    NOTE: Host hard drives are listed in the guest by using the computer name of the host operating system. For example, on a host computer named WindowTest, the C drive would be listed in the guest operating system as ‘C on WindowsTest‘.

    • Printers. This feature makes it possible to use the same printers in a virtual machine that you can use on the host. To share printers, when Windows XP is the guest operating system, you must also install the printer drivers.
    • USB devices. Printers, storage devices and smart card readers are automatically shared with virtual machines. Other types of supported USB devices are supported by redirecting them to the virtual machine. For more information, see ―To use a USB device in a virtual machine.

    Integration components also make it possible for you to move the mouse seamlessly between the desktops of the host operating system and the guest operating system.

     

    There are some integration limitations with the host operating system

      

    …giving old applications new life

    Integration is also a bit different, instead of files saved to the host OS’s common directories such as Documents, Pictures, they are saved within the Virtual Machine installation. Some other things users will notice,  Virtual applications do not benefit from window management functionality in the host OS such as thumbnail and live previews. Apart from these minor limitations, the application continues to function just as normal. I can use the application without any problems while utilizing the benefits of Windows 7 which is probably the best thing about it. The other cool feature is not having to interact with the operating system layer, just being able to use the application is a great benefit. When you close a virtual machine, it can be hibernated, shut down, or turned off. When a virtual machine is opened from hibernation, it does not go through the boot sequence, so it is available for use faster than if it was turned off or shut down. You can even create shortcuts of your Virtual applications in Windows 7 and even pin them on the Taskbar for quick access.

      What about other versions of Windows?

    Windows Virtual PC is not limited to Windows XP, although the software is not licensed for other versions of Windows so you will have to provide yours. Windows 7 is known to work in addition to supporting Windows Aero Glass effects. For other operating systems such as MS-DOS or Windows 98 for instance, I suggest you continue running those through Windows Virtual PC 2007 SP1 or SUN Microsystems Virtual Box.

    Conclusion

    Windows Virtual PC with Windows XP Mode is probably the solution a lot of users have been looking for, the seamless experience it provides users running legacy applications along side Windows 7 makes the compatibility story a better one. There is a level of complexity involved and at the same time I am disappointed to know this is only an option for certain Windows 7 SKU’s. Also, the system requirements still exist, a machine with a minimum 2 GBs of RAM is required, more recommended. Knowing if your computers processor supports hardware based virtualization might make it a bit complex.  Users must also remember that they are running another computer even though its virtual, which require maintenance just as the physical machine, which includes installing an Antivirus and keeping it up to date along with keeping the OS updated too. I wish the coherence could be a bit more detailed where UI is concerned, such as making the windows of Virtual Applications adapt the Aero Glass window frames, just to match the look and feel of Windows 7. The ability to install legacy applications outside of the Virtual Machine would have been a nice. Its a minor complaint considering the boost it gives users to breath new life into old applications while moving forward with the benefits of Windows 7.

    In my next article, I will be discussing some tips for getting the most out of Windows XP Mode.

     

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    Making Windows 7 Your Own: Personalize and Themes

    There is more to owning a PC than just having one, whether its a laptop or desktop. With the many generic brands out there to choose from, its not unlikely for you to know someone who has an exact configuration and model as you do. Many PC OEM’s have tried to differentiate their models with different finishes and form factors that make them stand out. Its one of the key aspects of WINTEL machines, there is definitely choice to be found and opportunities to customize. Consumers also have the choice of carrying their computer to an after market customization expert and have them do a custom paint job to add a bit more personality/style to a computer that defines them. Some high-end boutique vendors such as Falcon Northwest bundle that option as a part of their computer models.

    What is a Theme?

    A theme in Windows combines photos, sounds, color along with wallpaper background, sound scheme, screen saver and special icons/mouse pointer.

    The personalization story gets much deeper when we enter the world of software and Windows 7 makes the experience even more interesting. Windows has for a long time included theming capabilities, probably as far back as the first version. Microsoft’s first major overhaul of making Windows more customizable was with the release of Windows 95 in 1995 and the companion pack, Microsoft Plus! for Windows 95. This allowed customers to customize their PC experience with additional window themes, icons and sound schemes. Eventually, this was incorporated into Windows 98 and future releases. Windows XP released in 2001 introduced a bold experience called Luna, which featured thicker title bars with three optional colors called Blue, Olive and Silver. Some of the qualities of this theme include, large self explainable icons, rich in color and depth, bright vibrant wallpapers and overall richer palette of colors. Subsequent themes were released outside of Windows XP by Microsoft, such as a ZUNE theme, Royale introduced with the release Windows XP Tablet PC/Media Center 2005. Microsoft also released a companion update to Microsoft Plus! for Windows XP. Consumers described that release as offering little to be worth $39.

    With Windows Vista, Microsoft took another bold step, redesigning the Windows user experience now called AERO. Windows Vista introduced real life effects such as translucent windows, life like icons and a cleaner design that made using Windows daily a pleasure. Microsoft added numerous effects and color schemes for changing the color depth of Glass along with high quality wallpaper backgrounds. Microsoft also used Windows Vista as an opportunity to update the Display Properties dialog creating a new Explorer shell called Personalization. In this new interface, in which elements were categorized into different sections explaining what each does, users clicked a different link which led to a shell or dialog for customizing the Windows interface, whether it was Window color, Desktop background, Glass color, Screen Saver, Sound scheme etc.

    Edition of Windows 7 Capabilities
    Starter Aero Basic
    Home Basic Aero Basic, Aero Standard
    Home Premium Aero Basic, Aero Glass
    Professional Aero Basic, Aero Glass
    Enterprise Aero Basic, Aero Glass
    Ultimate Aero Basic, Aero Glass

    Windows 7 improves on this, by enhancing the layout for quicker access to elements, but also adding more options for theming the Windows interface and making Windows connect better with locals. Themes are now bundled packages that feature a collection of high resolution wallpapers and an assigned glass color. Of course, there are some additional changes for users upgrading from versions of Windows such as XP or as far back as Windows 2000 Professional. Lets discuss some more about the different aspects of the Windows 7 Personalization Explorer shell. To access it, right click your desktop, click Personalize.

     

    Users should note, Windows 7 offers varied experiences depending on the capabilities of your hardware and the edition of Windows 7 you are using. Lets learn some more about these tier of capabilities:

    Windows Aero Standard – Combines some of the capabilities of Windows Aero Glass with some features of Aero Basic. Users will notice that window borders are more glass like in appearance, but do not have the option for translucency. The Taskbar is similar Aero Basic, except for the option of Thumbnail previews is now available.

    Windows Aero Glass – What some would call the crème de la crème, Aero Glass offers the ultimate user experience for Windows users. The Windows Aero Glass encompasses every aspect of the Windows desktop experience: Start menu, Desktop, Taskbar and Windows Explorer. The immediate differences users will note is the ability to have translucent glass windows and a Taskbar with powerful effects such as interactive thumbnail previews, ability to see running videos with the ability to hover them and see a full size preview. If you invoke the Alt+Tab command, you can also see a live preview of windows on the fly. Users can also customize the color of the windows with up 16 different colors to choose with the option of controlling the intensity of the window color itself.

    In addition to these themes, Microsoft also provides different that are grouped as Basic and High Contrast themes.

    Windows Aero Basic – For computers that cannot support the minimum graphics requirements of Windows Aero Glass. Aero Basic features the standard elements of the Windows 7 interface except for the translucent effects and animations. Instead, areas such as the Taskbar, window borders display a blue/grayish color scheme. Other unavailable features include the inability to choose a Window Color, see and interact with thumbnail previews, Alt-Tab Preview, Flip 3D and Aero Peek.

    Windows Classic – First introduced with Windows 95, this experience was the flagship theme for Windows for many years and was replaced by Windows XP’s Luna in 2001 but is still included in Windows for persons who are not quite ready for the changes in Windows 7. Microsoft has made some changes to Windows Classic in Windows 7 where menus are concerned. The standard look and feel still exist, but Microsoft has decided to remove the Standard Classic Menu that was available as an option in both Windows XP and Vista. Personally, I agree with this, since the new Start menu offers so many benefits such as Instant Search, easier access to programs, better control (no cascading/off screen sub menus), ability to search HomeGroups, Public directories and detailed results when presented. The new Start menu also introduces support for features unique to Windows 7 such as Jump List providing access to task and recently accessed files associated with a program.

    High Contrast themes – If you have difficulty reading or viewing your screen, Windows has for years included high-contrast color schemes that heightens the color contrast of some text and images on your computer, making those items more distinct and easier to identify.

    System Requirements – To run Windows Aero Glass, you need appropriate hardware. The capabilities will vary depending on what you have installed, here is a list of suggested requirements from Microsoft:

    • 1 GHz CPU (processor) 32 or 64 bit
    • 1 GB of RAM
    • 128 MB video card
    • DirectX 9 compliant video card that supports Windows Display Driver Model 1.0 or later, Pixel Shader 2.0 in hardware, and 32 bits per pixel. (To find out if your card is DirectX 9 compliant, open the Run command (Windows key + R), type dxdiag. Under System Information, DirectX Version: you should see the version of DirectX

    For best results, you might also want to follow these graphics processor recommendations:

    • 64 MB of graphics memory to support a single monitor with a resolution that is less than 1,310,720 pixels (for example, a 17-inch flat panel LCD monitor that has a 1280 x 1024 resolution)
    • 128 MB of graphics memory to support a single monitor with a resolution from 1,310,720 to 2,304,000 pixels (for example, a 21.1-inch flat panel LCD monitor that has up to a 1600 x 1200 resolution).
    • 256 MB of graphics memory to support a single monitor with a resolution greater than 2,304,000 pixels (for example, a 30-inch wide-screen flat panel LCD monitor that has up to a 2560 x 1600 resolution)

    How do I personalize Windows 7?

    Aero Background – You can easily turn your desktop into a slideshow of your favorite photos.

    From the Personalization window, click Desktop Background

    Choose the images you want to cycle and display on your screen. You have the option of choosing how long a picture is displayed on your screen.

    ——————————-

    Glass Color – You can make your windows look the way you like with your favorite color. Windows 7 Color and Appearance now includes a total of 16 different colors to choose from.

    From the Personalization window, click Windows Color

    Choose the color you want. You also have the option of controlling the intensity of the color by using the Color Intensity slider. The transparency effects can optionally be turned off.

    ——————————–

    Windows 7 bundles a set of 6 pre-packed themes for you to get started with, these include the default branded Windows 7 themes: Architecture, Characters, Landscapes, Nature and Scenes. The Windows Team went the extra mile with Windows 7 where themes and local cultures are related. Windows 7 offers themes tailored to different regions and languages, with special wallpapers, sounds and Aero Glass colors to provide a more locally relevant experience.

    The Sounds Area of Personalization includes a collection of 13 new sound schemes that are also related to the new Windows 7 bundled themes.

    Windows 7 does not stop at what comes bundled on the installation disk, users can create their own Slide show themes and download additional ones from Microsoft’s Windows 7 website here Simply click a theme to Download and it will install your chosen theme. If you want to create your own theme and save it, learn more in the following Notebooks.com article here 

    You can download additional themes and backgrounds from the Windows 7 website

    Themes are a great way to have fun with your PC and make it represent you and your experiences. Of course, you are not limited by what Microsoft provides, third party solutions are also available for you to customize the Windows interface to an even greater degree. StarDock Object Desktop which is partly responsible for the now defunct Windows Dreamscene once available to Windows Vista provides artistic themed interfaces for Windows, allowing you to change up your Windows experience as much as you like. You can learn more here So, don’t be afraid to have fun with Windows 7 and change it up the way you like, as Microsoft says After all, it’s yours.

    Resources

    Using the Windows 7 Desktop – Fun Time Savers
    Using the improved Taskbar and Start menu in Windows 7
    A Guided Tour of Windows 7 for new users

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    Windows 7 Ultimate Commemorative Edition

    Today I got a call from FedEx that a package from Microsoft is available for me to pickup. I wondered what it could be, so I hurried down to FedEx and hurried back home to unpack. Ah, there it was, my very own, special commemorative edition of Windows 7 Ultimate for participating in Microsoft’s Technical Beta Program since January 2009. The folks behind this special edition added a little something extra to the packaging to make it standout as a memento from the great experience we had testing this exceptional release of Windows upgrade. At the back of the box is a special note from Steve Ballmer thanking testers for their hard work:

     

    Thank You.

    On behalf of all the people who helped to create Windows 7, I want personally
    thank you for the interest, collaboration, and support you’ve extended to Microsoft
    over the years.

    Steve Ballmer

    Check out the slide show here

    This is certainly a lovely gesture and I would like to extend my thanks to Microsoft again and the Windows Team for allowing me to participate in such an excellent release. The experience I have had testing Windows 7 was one I will never forget. Also, I must extend congratulations to fellow testers for the great job they did testing Windows 7, the feature focuses, chats and filing of reports help to shape this release that millions will enjoy world wide on their PC at work and home.

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    Moving from Windows 7 RC to Windows 7 RTM

    Over 8 million people tested Windows 7 when it was in development and I am sure many of you are still running the Windows 7 Release Candidate which expires in March 2010. You might have be running the RC in a production setup because of how stable and impressive the software is, especially for a pre-release product. At the same time, you are contemplating, how do I move to the final version of the software with my accumulated data on it? Can I simply do an in place upgrade from the RC to the final release? What about all my installed applications?

    These are all good questions and its something I was curious about myself and decided to document. The first thing you should understand as a tester of pre-release software, means its pre-release and Microsoft is in no way responsible for anything that can happen running the software in a production environment. Yes, the software is very stable, especially since the first beta released back in January 2009, but there are a few things users must know before deploying it and what happens when the software is going to expire. Here is a bit of information from Microsoft about the Windows 7 Upgrade path policies:

    Upgrades to Windows 7 from the following operating systems are not supported:

    • Windows 95, Windows 98, Windows Millennium Edition, Windows XP, Windows Vista® RTM, Windows Vista Starter, Windows 7 M3, Windows 7 Beta, Windows 7 RC, or Windows 7 IDS
    • Windows NT® Server 4.0, Windows 2000 Server, Windows Server® 2003, Windows Server 2008, or Windows Server 2008 R2
    • Cross-architecture in-place upgrades (for example, x86 to x64) are not supported.
    • Cross-language in-place upgrades (for example, en-us to de-de) are not supported.
    • Cross-SKU upgrades (for example, Windows 7 N to Windows 7 K) are not supported.
    • Upgrades from Windows Vista to Windows N, Windows K, Windows KN, or Windows E are not supported. Cross-build type in-place upgrades (for example, fre to chk) are not supported.
    • Pre-release in-place upgrades across milestones (for example, Windows 7 RC to Windows 7 RTM) are not supported.
      For more details check out the link http://technet.microsoft.com/en-us/library/dd772579(WS.10).aspx

    Q: Can computers running Windows 7 Release Candidate upgrade directly to Windows 7 Release to Manufacturer build?
    A: Yes, but this is not a recommended or supported scenario. Microsoft recommends persons running the Release Candidate released in April 2009, reinstall Windows Vista and do upgrades from that release to Windows 7 RTM.

    Q: Didn’t previous development versions of Windows support build to build upgrades?
    A: True, but Microsoft has changed this policy for the Windows 7 release. They want users to test against real world scenarios. A build to build upgrade introduces unexpected complications that make it difficult to diagnose problems considering such scenarios do not exist in real world deployments.

    You can learn more about the Windows Teams decision:
    http://blogs.msdn.com/e7/archive/2009/04/07/delivering-a-quality-upgrade-experience.aspx

    Q: What is the difference between Windows 7 RC and RTM?

    Windows 7 RC software is a time limited build of the product that focuses on a phase of development. The Windows 7 RTM final release is a complete copy of the software that is designated as ready and fit for use in production environments. To reach Windows 7 RTM, a particular build has to go through a series of thorough regression test and optimizations to reach a level of quality satisfactory for production. Build 7600.16385 is that build and was completed on July 22nd 2009. Another major difference between Windows 7 RC and RTM (in particular Ultimate), with the RC it goes into Reduced Functional Mode on June 1st 2010, bi-hourly shutdowns will begin March 1st 2010. Windows 7 RTM does not expire, also the Windows 7 Ultimate RC are missing or won’t receive additional key updates and features such as Language Packs which was recently made available to RTM customers.

    Tools of the trade:

    So you want to move to the final product, but we now understand that in place upgrades are not supported and you must return to the prior installation of Windows and then upgrade to the final release. To make it easy, the first thing I recommend you do is have an external hard disk on hand, you are going to need this for Windows Easy Transfer, I am sure some of us have data that ranges in many gigabytes and a DVD disk is not gonna be enough or reliable for such a scenario. External hard disks are cheap and easy to use and make the migration process seamless.

    The the next thing you will need to do is have your Windows installation disk nearby, if your computer previously had Windows Vista or XP installed, you will need to reinstall it after backing up your personal files and settings using Windows Easy Transfer the External hard disk. Also keep any necessary application disk nearby just in case you will need to reinstall any of your favorite programs. My migration was a unique one particularly because I was using Windows Vista Ultimate 64 bit SP2 prior to Windows 7. So, I was able to take advantage of the Complete PC Backup feature which is unique to Windows Vista Business, Enterprise and Ultimate. Complete PC Backup allows you to create a backup replica of your Windows Vista installation, so in case something catastrophic happens, you can restore your system from a image of your installation when it was working. No need to reinstall applications or device drivers. It is exceptionally convenient and easy to use. With the release of Windows 7, Microsoft has made System Imaging capabilities available in all editions of Windows 7.

    If you are a tester who originally had Windows Vista Home Basic or Home Premium installed, prior to installing Windows 7 RC, you would have had to protect your files and settings using the Standard Backup and Restore tools or Windows Easy Transfer, since those editions do not include Complete PC Backup. This also means, if you reinstall Windows Vista Home Basic or Home Premium and restore personal files and settings using Windows Easy Transfer or Backup and Restore Center, your programs and device drivers must be reinstalled. Persons who used third party drive imaging tools such as Acronis Disk Director should not have to go through those steps since the capabilities available in that utility are identical in functionality where disk imaging is related.

    Lets begin

    Here I am I booted to my Windows 7 Release Candidate desktop, the first thing I did was turn on my external hard disk, since that is where we will backup our Windows Easy Transfer .mig file. To start Windows Easy Transfer,

     

    click Start, type: Windows Easy Transfer

     

    Hit Enter

    The Easy Transfer wizard will now begin, click next and follow the on screen wizard. Our particular choice for backup method will be done by saving the .mig file to a External hard disk.

    Windows Easy Transfer Wizard

    Select the method for assisting the transfer of your personal files

    Identify the computer you are backing, in this case, it would be the "old computer"

    Windows Easy Transfer scans your accounts for files to transferred, along with shared files

    Estimating how many files will be transferred

     

    You will now see the total size of the Easy Transfer File that will be created which includes all accounts, in addition to your personal settings. Please note, no programs are backed up.

    Next step involves securing your Windows Easy Transfer file (optional) and save it to the external hard disk.

    Windows Easy Transfer file is now being saved.

    Once we have safely stored our Windows Easy Transfer file on our external hard disk, the next step is to return to Windows Vista. Returning to Vista for some persons might involve, restoring your Complete PC Backup, if you are running Windows Vista Ultimate, Enterprise or Business. If you don’t have these capabilities in your edition of Windows Vista (Home Basic or Premium), you will instead have to reinstall the operating system from the DVD, then do the upgrade to Windows 7.

    Another thing I have noticed is depending on the edition of Windows 7 you upgrade to, the Windows Easy Transfer file we created might not be able to restore, because they are not corresponding editions. For example, a Windows Easy Transfer file created in Windows 7 Ultimate will not able to be restored in Windows 7 Home Premium or Professional. The only work around for this is to create a standard backup of your files using the Backup and Restore features of Windows 7 Ultimate RC or manually copy and paste files to backup medium.

    Restoring our Windows Vista Backup:

    As I had noted earlier, I had my Windows Vista Ultimate installation backed up as a Complete PC Backup. In the above I am restoring it back to my hard disk. To learn more about backing up your Windows Installation and Improved recovery options, check here and here

     

    So we are now back on Windows Vista and we have booted to the desktop. Our next step, will involve, doing an in place upgrade using the final version of Windows 7 (upgrade or full version). Of course, I am upgrading from Windows Vista Ultimate SP2 64 bit to Windows 7 Ultimate 64 bit because they are logical, corresponding editions. To start the installation, insert your Windows 7 DVD, click Install Now. To learn more about doing an in place upgrade, please check out the following article here

    Pre-requisite Upgrade Notes:

    1. Disable any security software before attempting to upgrade or do a clean install.
    2. Make sure your computer is updated (devices and applications)
    3. Disconnect any non-essential devices before installing.
    4. Check your hard disk for any errors:

    Click Start
    Type: CMD, from the results, right click CMD
    Click ‘Run as Administrator’
    At the Command Prompt, type: chkdsk /r
    When you restart your system, your computer will be scanned for errors and attempts will be made to correct them.

     

    So we have successfully upgraded to Windows 7, but there is one set of task left, restoring our personal data and updating the operating system. The next step now is to launch Windows Easy Transfer in Windows 7 RTM. Make sure the external hard disk where you backed up the Windows Easy Transfer (.mig) file is turned on.

    Click Start, type: Windows Easy

    Hit Enter

    Windows Easy Transfer Wizard begins

    Earlier, we had backed up our Windows Easy Transfer file to an external hard disk, so we will select that option from the three available methods.

     

    Select new computer, since we are now on the final version of Windows 7.

    Make sure the External hard disk is plugged in and turned on, click Yes

    We now browse to the external hard disk where the WET file is stored and click Open

    Opening the Windows Easy Transfer file

    Here you will see the list of accounts and folders that were backed, you can select which accounts you would like to transfer. Click the Transfer button to begin restoring your personal files and settings.

    Windows Easy Transfer is restoring your personal files and settings. Please avoid using your computer during the restoration.

    Once you have successfully transferred your personal files and settings, you can see a list of what was transferred along with a list of programs you might need to reinstall.

    The Windows Easy Transfer Report provides a detailed list of items that were transferred from your old computer, these include: Accounts, Documents, Program settings and System Settings.

    The Windows Easy Transfer Program report, list all the programs that you might need to reinstall. In my case, most of my programs needed are already installed because I did an in place upgrade from Windows Vista.

    Before we complete the transfer, we must restart the system to permanently apply the changes.

    And that’s it, we have successfully migrated from Windows 7 Ultimate Release Candidate to Windows 7 RTM. Now you can enjoy the benefits of the final product which includes key updates and support. Migration will vary depending on the final edition of Windows 7 you purchased and the edition you reinstall and upgrade from. To ensure a smooth upgrade, make sure you do a few things such as:

    Install the Windows 7 Upgrade AdvisorThis utility provided by Microsoft can help you assess your current hardware devices and software programs before upgrading and make appropriate recommendations before attempting an installation.

    Compatible Antivirus utilityA compatible antivirus for Windows 7 will ensure that you have stable, secure and always protected system.

    Some of my devices and applications are not working, what should I do?

    A: If your Internet connection is working in Windows 7, I suggest you try obtaining the drivers through Windows Update. Click Start > All Programs > Windows Update > Turn on Windows Update. A list of available updates will then be downloaded, you will have the option to view them, do so and check off the appropriate drivers or software patches you need and click Install. You can also check the manufacturer’s website for patches, updated drivers or to simply find out about Windows 7 support for the particular product.

    Additional Resources:

    Windows 7 System Requirements
    Windows 7 Editions

    Related

    Using Windows Easy Transfer in Windows 7
    How to migrate from Windows XP to Windows 7
    How to upgrade to Windows 7
    How to backup your installation of Windows 7

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