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A deep dive into Windows 7

In this gallery, I look carefully at the new and redesigned features in the pre-beta release of Windows 7 (build 6801). What's changed from XP and Vista, and will it make a difference in the way you use Windows?By Ed Bott
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The screens shown here trace the evolution of Windows personalization options over the course of nearly a decade. The vintage-2001 XP interface is a single dialog box with multiple tabs. Vista adds a slicker Control Panel pane, but most of the links just open tabs of the old XP-style dialog boxes. With Windows 7, virtually the entire UI is accessible from a single pane.
For more details, see the full companion post:
A deep dive into Windows 7 (build 6801)
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The most noteworthy change in the development of Windows Explorer is the de-emphasis of drive letters and folder trees. The Folder List dominates XP's Explorer, while the Folders List is forced to share the bottom half of the Navigation Pane in Vista's update.
For more details, see the full companion post:
A deep dive into Windows 7 (build 6801)
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With Windows 7, the tree-style view of drives and folders is de-emphasized even more. The dominant navigation element is, instead, the collection of Libraries shown here, which combine multiple physical locations into virtual views based on file types or projects. Note that I've added the Software folder from a Windows Home Server to the default Documents library and created a custom ZDNet library containing one local folder and one folder from the server.
For more details, see the full companion post:
A deep dive into Windows 7 (build 6801)
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As you can see from the Search box in the top right corner of this window, I've searched for document files that contain the word "number" in their title or contents. Note the new view, which shows title, location, file date and a portion of the file contents. I can also use the five buttons at the bottom of the results pane to expand the search.
For more details, see the full companion post:
A deep dive into Windows 7 (build 6801)
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The default Pictures library is especially suited for the preview pane on the right. In Windows Vista, it takes three clicks to get to the cascading menu that shows or hides this pane. In Windows 7, the button just above the preview pane toggles it on or off.
For more details, see the full companion post:
A deep dive into Windows 7 (build 6801)
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In Windows Vista (top), the Diagnose and Repair option is a black box that provides virtually no feedback. In Windows 7 (below), the same link leads to this panel full of troublehooting tools, each of which offers an optional advanced view that shows detailed feedback as it works.
For more details, see the full companion post:
A deep dive into Windows 7 (build 6801)
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Although it looks superficially similar to its Vista predecessor, the Network and Sharing Center in Windows 7 is significantly less cluttered. Compare the four options at the bottom of this dialog box with the long, long list of buttons and check boxes in the same position in Vista.
For more details, see the full companion post:
A deep dive into Windows 7 (build 6801)
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Windows 7 introduces a new networking concept called homegroups, which offer password-protected access to shared resources with a relatively simple setup. The result, at least in theory, is a middle ground between wide-open sharing and confusing user-based security.
For more details, see the full companion post:
A deep dive into Windows 7 (build 6801)
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With two or more computers joined to the same homegroup, any user can work with files and folders in shared libraries on other computers. In this screen, the owner of the remote computer has shared his Pictures and Videos libraries and I'm able to preview or play any clip in a supported format.
For more details, see the full companion post:
A deep dive into Windows 7 (build 6801)
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In Windows 7, connecting to a wireless network typically takes no more than two clicks. Click the network icon in the system tray to see a list of all available wireless networks, like the one shown here. Note the ScreenTip, which shows network settings for the selected access point.
For more details, see the full companion post:
A deep dive into Windows 7 (build 6801)
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Resource Monitor is significantly improved in Windows 7. Graphical displays sit on the right, instead of at the top of the window, and each detail pane can be expanded instead of bveing a fixed size.
For more details, see the full companion post:
A deep dive into Windows 7 (build 6801)
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New in the Windows 7 Resource Monitor are individual tabs that allow you to display additonal details about processes. In this case, you can see at a glance which processes are communicating over the network and which ports they're using.
For more details, see the full companion post:
A deep dive into Windows 7 (build 6801)
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In Vista, Task Manager (top) is the only source of concise information about memory usage. The Resource Monitor in Windows 7 (below) adds new options here that show summaries and detailed information in one customizable dashboard.
For more details, see the full companion post:
A deep dive into Windows 7 (build 6801)
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Windows 7 adds progress indicators to the Defragmenter utility, a clear response to complaints about the lack of feedback in the Vista version of this tool.
For more details, see the full companion post:
A deep dive into Windows 7 (build 6801)
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Troubleshooting resources in Vista (top) typically lead to explanations in the Help and Support section. Windows 7 provides a categorized list of troubleshooting utilities designed to resolve typical problems.
For more details, see the full companion post:
A deep dive into Windows 7 (build 6801)
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This ?Apply solutions automatically? and elevation options at the bottom of this dialog box are normally hidden and appear only if you click the Advanced option. Clearing this box allows you to step through the troubleshooting process manually.
For more details, see the full companion post:
A deep dive into Windows 7 (build 6801)
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You want feedback? Every Windows 7 troubleshooter provides the option to display a detailed report of what actions it performed on your behalf.
For more details, see the full companion post:
A deep dive into Windows 7 (build 6801)
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This Control Panel option, new in Windows 7, consolidates several options that are separate in Vista. From this dashboard, you can view and adjust security options, schedule backups, evaluate performance, and check for updates or solutions to problem reports.
For more details, see the full companion post:
A deep dive into Windows 7 (build 6801)
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Reliability Monitor gets a complete redesign in Windows 7. The new display de-emphasizes the numeric reliability rating and provides more ways to group and filter events over selected periods of time. Viewing reports from the last week or month helps zero in on possible causes of crashes or hangs.
For more details, see the full companion post:
A deep dive into Windows 7 (build 6801)
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Why is UAC less intrusive in Windows 7 than in Vista? Windows 7 adds two intermediate settings for UAC. Administrators (top) can make changes to Windows settings without seeing a UAC prompt. Standard users (below) have stricter defaults set.
For more details, see the full companion post:
A deep dive into Windows 7 (build 6801)
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To understand UAC changes, compare these settings from the Security Policy console. Vista (top) allows three choices for administrative users. Windows 7 (below) moves the Secure Desktop settings here and turns them off by default. It also adds a new option to show consent dialog boxes only for third-party programs.
For more details, see the full companion post:
A deep dive into Windows 7 (build 6801)
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The Windows Defender interface is simpler (and somewhat unfinished). This tabbed list of options offers cleaner access compared to the long scrolling list in the Vista version of this page.
For more details, see the full companion post:
A deep dive into Windows 7 (build 6801)
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These changes to the Control Panel interface for the built-in Windows Firewall are subtle but typical of changes throughout Windows. In Vista (top), you need to click the Change Settings link to make changes in a separate dialog box; in Windows 7 (below), many of these settings are available directly from the task pane on the left.
For more details, see the full companion post:
A deep dive into Windows 7 (build 6801)
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Finding compatible device drivers is simpler thanks to this revamped Windows Update interface. Note the details on the right, which include the notation that this update supports the new Windows Device Driver Model (WDDM) 1.1 spec.
For more details, see the full companion post:
A deep dive into Windows 7 (build 6801)
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The new Devices and Printers option in the Windows 7 Control Panel provides a filtered view of the devices you're most likely to interact with, such as printers, removable drives, and input devices. For more determined tweaking tasks, the traditional Device Manager is available.
For more details, see the full companion post:
A deep dive into Windows 7 (build 6801)
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Support for touchscreen features in Windows 7 Build 6801 is still a work in progress, but these configuration dialog boxes suggest that most of the features build on the well-established Tablet PC architecture.
For more details, see the full companion post:
A deep dive into Windows 7 (build 6801)
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If you've ever been plagued by a Windows PC that insists on waking up at odd intervals when you really want it to sleep, this new advanced power setting is for you. On desktop and notebook PCs, you can order Windows to ignore "wake timers" and continue sleeping instead of responding to scheduled tasks.
For more details, see the full companion post:
A deep dive into Windows 7 (build 6801)
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These common display settings are now organized in a Control Panel pane instead of sitting in an old-school dialog box as they have for more than a decade.
For more details, see the full companion post:
A deep dive into Windows 7 (build 6801)
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In Vista, the Backup and Restore Center (top) is a glorified program launcher; by contrast, the redesigned Windows 7 interface provides progress information and one-click access to common tasks.
For more details, see the full companion post:
A deep dive into Windows 7 (build 6801)
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A common complaint about Vista's backup tools is that they lack consistent support for saving backups to network locations. That omission is fixed in Windows 7, where you can define a shared network folder as a destination for image or file backups. After you define a location (top), it appears in the list of available backup locations (below).
For more details, see the full companion post:
A deep dive into Windows 7 (build 6801)
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To adjust System Restore options in Windows Vista, you have to tweak the registry or use a command-line tool. In Windows 7, Microsoft has added a Configure button that allows you to fine-tune System Restore and adjust the amount of hard disk space it consumes.
For more details, see the full companion post:
A deep dive into Windows 7 (build 6801)
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The Windows 7 implementation of Windows Easy Transfer is significantly simpler than its Vista version. But it's still only for transferring files and settings; there's no sign in this build of any capability to transfer installed programs to a new PC.
For more details, see the full companion post:
A deep dive into Windows 7 (build 6801)

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