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Is a modular Windows 7 a good thing?

According to a new post on the Engineering Windows 7 blog, in future versions of Windows 7, you can turn off not just Internet Explorer, mind you, but nearly every major Windows feature, from Media Player to Windows Search.It's called Windows Features, and it's coming to a PC near you.
Written by Andrew Nusca, Contributor

According to a new post on the Engineering Windows 7 blog, in future versions of Windows 7, you can turn off not just Internet Explorer, mind you, but nearly every major Windows feature, from Media Player to Windows Search.

It's called Windows Features, and it's coming to a PC near you.

Of course, you'll be able to disable IE8 starting in build 7048, as our own Mary Jo Foley first reported. (MJ's got her own opinion on this new "Windows Features" menu, too.) When you turn something off, the feature is shut down across all users:

[Application] it is not available for use. This means the files (binaries and data) are not loaded by the operating system (for security-conscious customers) and not available to users on the computer.

Fortunately, you can turn features back on without needing your Windows installation disc.

First, a look at how this is accomplished:

A simple select/deselect list. Is it really this easy?

Here's the thinking behind the move, according to the engineering blog:

It should be no surprise, but when we develop new features in Windows we tend to use the underlying infrastructure and associated APIs rather than duplicate code which would create extra working set, slow performance, and increase the surface area that needs to be secured, etc. We all know code reuse is a good engineering practice. As a platform, Windows tends to emphasize the creation of APIs for many systems, even when those subsystems are viewed as part of a larger system. When we have APIs that are used, we faced the choice of breaking software that just expected those APIs to be there or to continue to support the API. When we continued to support the API our approach was to remove a feature by making sure that an end-user could not invoke the feature via traditional end-user mechanisms. These are often difficult decisions as we work to balance the expectations of developers, the shared desire to deliver a robust release of Windows 7, and to maintain the goals set out by the feature “Turn Windows Features On or Off”. Because there are so many combinations of dependencies just represented in this list, selecting some options might provide you with some explanation as to the challenges in selecting a combination (for example Windows Media Player and Windows Media Center share a lot of code so turning one off might introduce a pretty complex situation for the average end-user).

In my opinion, this is a long-needed feature for Windows, this modular way of going about things. Sure, Microsoft is under fire from the antitrust police, but I believe this marks real progress on both the security and customization fronts: the ability to enable and disable components independent of the whole will make stripping a system down to the things you, the user, need the most.

One of Windows' major problems is the complicated steps a user must take to accomplish a simple task. It's a versatile OS in many regards, but that versatility has always needed tweaking. This change makes it much easier to do that.

(For that matter, it's even better for users waiting to install Windows 7 on their limited-space Netbook.)

But are there any downsides to a modular Windows 7 with less interdependencies? What do you think: is a modular Windows 7 a good thing?

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