64-Bit Windows 7 Pros & Cons

Q: 64-bit Windows (7) is a must for me as I bought a quad core PC for its power, only to discover that this power is limited by having a 32 bit OS. Do I need to buy the full version, or can I buy the upgrade version since I have Vista 32 bit? — Jesse

A: Before you get too hyped up on the 64-bit revolution, let’s make sure you aren’t “buying a car based on the tachometer.”

Without question, the future of personal computing is in the 64-bit realm. 64-bit processors and operating systems have been out for quite a long time, but primarily only useful to very knowledgeable techies that had specific tasks they needed to address (such as video editing, computer aided design, graphic design or gaming).

Windows 7 is poised to change all of that for even casual users, but in my opinion, if you commit to it right now, you are on the back end of the ‘leading edge’ (which is often translates to the ‘bleeding edge’ because of the problems that come with new technologies).

Here is why I view 64-bit computing in the late stages of the leading edge:

  • 64-bit operating systems require 64-bit processors (which you have, but most older computers don’t)
  • In order to take full advantage of the 64-bit platform, you must also have 64-bit applications, which are few and far between for the casual computer user
  • You must have 64-bit drivers for all of your hardware and peripherals (forget about support for really old components, printers, scanners, etc.)
  • You must have 64-bit anti-virus software & other vital security software
  • You’re wasting your time if you don’t have more than 3 GB of RAM (and actually 4-8 GB to really make it worthwhile)
  • You must be willing to put up with companies that are still trying to get their drivers and software compatible with 64-bit operating systems (which, thanks to Vista, is becoming much less of an issue)

While having a 64-bit operating system can be viewed as ‘future-proofing,’ the question you have to ask yourself is: are you willing to take the chance of compatibility problems in order to be ready for the future? (iTunes seems to be a common configuration issue for many 64-bit converts on Internet forums.)

For most folks, seeing any appreciable difference between a 32-bit & 64-bit system while surfing the Internet, checking e-mail & writing letters is likely to be slim to none. Power users, hardcore gamers and vertical application business users are a different story, but that’s not who reads my column.

None of the ‘average user’ tasks really stress a properly configured 32-bit system. With all the 64-bit hype, too many users are improperly blaming the ’32-bit limitation’ as the reason why their computers are running so slow.

The reality is that most folks don’t properly maintain their computers and are inundated with unnecessary programs, hidden malware and cheap hardware (that wouldn’t have a prayer of running a 64-bit OS anyway!)

For those buying a new computer with lots of 64-bit friendly hardware and lots of RAM, you’re in a much better position to make the transition than those with older systems that have just barely enough hardware to run a 64-bit OS.

As to your upgrade question, you can purchase the upgrade version of Windows 7 64-bit, but you will have to do a ‘clean install’ (wipe everything out and start from scratch) as you cannot perform an ‘in-place’ upgrade going from Vista 32-bit to Win 7 64-bit.

In review, 64-bit is absolutely the way to go if you can verify your hardware, peripherals, drivers and programs are all compatible with a 64-bit environment.

If you are technically incapable of determining these things, too lazy to do the homework or don’t want to have to wipe out your existing Windows Vista installation, stick to the 32-bit version (or consult a knowledgeable professional).

If you are somewhere in-between, wait a little while so that more of the issues can be discovered and you can benefit from the learning curve forged by others.

Ken Colburn
Data Doctors Computer Services
Data Doctors Data Recovery Labs
Data Doctors Franchise Systems, Inc.
Weekly video tech contributor to CNN.com
Host of the award-winning “Computer Corner” radio show

Ubuntu 9.10 And Windows 7 – Both Are Pretty Good

For the first time in a very long time, I feel as good about a Windows release as I do about my current desktop, Ubuntu. Having done plenty of testing with both Windows 7 RCs and the beta for the upcoming Ubuntu 9.10, I can honestly say I can use either and not find myself cringing. For me, a former Windows enthusiast, that is saying a LOT.

This article from the BBC points out some thoughts on the upcoming release of 9.10. And as stated in the article, it is certainly true that the next release will be overshadowed with the new release of Windows 7. No problem here; I think just having the option of choosing either from various OEMs is fantastic. My favorite OEM is System76.com as it not only has the best support from ANY vendor (including Apple) that I have ever dealt with, it provides ongoing hardware support in case Ubuntu drops the ball with upcoming releases. So this has always met with my needs well. Not to mention the provided hardware is not crap, either. Brand name components at a price that works for me based on what I am getting — I could not be happier.

So what about Windows 7? Honestly, just for the sake of staying in tune with things, I have an older AMD Athlon 64 system that would do very well with components provided. I have given some thought to looking into installing in onto my secondary machine. But even coming in at the low-end, that is $200! Seriously, I am totally willing to spend that if I felt like I was gaining something significant. But with XP running great as a VirtualBox guest on my main system, I cannot justify spending $200 on a disc and a box. I’d rather put that into hardware myself, but that is just me. No, for that price I might as well buy a cheap Dell or a Netbook running Windows 7. At least then, the cost is going to hardware rather than the OS.

As for my older AMD machine, it is going to likely continuing running Ubuntu 9.04 and Hulu Desktop. See, my TV has a VGA port along with an audio cable that works great with my laptop. I figure, why not simply use my older PC as a Hulu box? That might be pretty cool.

So what about you? As great as Windows 7 is, will you justify the upgrade cost? Obviously those of you in the IT field will take this as a cost of doing business. But do you deem this worthwhile for those just using this casually? Are you finding the value there over Vista or XP? Hit the comments, let me know.

[awsbullet:ubuntu linux]

Vista Wi-Fi Frustration

Today, Richard asks:

I have a Vaio laptop VGN-NR21Z/T with Vista Home Premium, which has been very well behaved for 18 months.

I have 3 users set up: Admin, User A (standard user), User B (standard user). I generally use User A. I use wireless and the connection has been fine, until last week.

Now, if I boot up and log in to Admin account, everything works as normal, but if I log in/change User to A or B the wireless connection switches itself off in all accounts (the light goes off and the connection is broken) and it won’t come back on. Anything I do to check gives a “Try switching the wireless on” message. Wireless will only reappear if I boot and log in to Admin all over again.

There aren’t any system messages/warning messages or anything: it just switches off. I haven’t done any upgrades recently except for Adobe Flash 10 Active X and Microsoft Visual C++ 2005. Both of these were installed via normal system update about a week before it started playing up.

Help! Any suggestions please?

My first gut reaction is that you might look into a driver upgrade. Also, test a separate wireless device to see if it does the same thing. For my money, I am leaning with poorly written drivers for the wireless device. I simply don’t think this is a Vista specific issue, rather poorly created wireless drivers for the Wi-Fi device on your Vista machine.

Considering that in each case we are not talking about limited users of any sort, rather standard users running with admin privileges, I cannot see any reason why permissions or anything like that might come up. Then again, I never subjected myself to Vista. XP or Win 7, great. But I do know that early on, Vista had a number of buggy wireless issues, though it’s not a problem any longer.

Perhaps the readers here have some other thoughts? Maybe there is indeed a bug still out there affecting Vista SP1 users I am unaware of. If you have relevant data to share, please hit the comments.

Do you have an IT-related question? Perhaps you are just burnt out on writing on the walls with crayons? Whatever the comments may be, drop me a line, and you too can “Just Ask Matt!” Please address comments to the comments section above, my email address is for questions – thanks!

[awsbullet:wireless microsoft windows vista]

Windows 7 – Almost Here

For those of you out there who are anxiously waiting for Windows 7, your wait is nearly over. And I know a few people out there who have claimed to already have their Windows 7 copies on pre-order — understandably so. Unlike the dog-slow speed of Vista, Windows 7 will run great on any PC that championed XP with a Gig of RAM. Microsoft really did well there. But despite all of this, the nagging question remains for many: Should you purchase it?

If you are a geek, a Windows user and someone not currently happy with Vista, YES. Clearly this is a resounding yes if you fall into that category. If you are buying a new PC tomorrow onward, then obviously you will not need to worry yourself about this. Your biggest decision will be deciding which release of the new OS to select.

So what about those of you currently running XP, quite happy with it and do not have any desire to drop the cash on the upgrade? On an existing PC, I can see little reason to bother, then. In my home for instance, we have no need to bother as Ubuntu is my primary OS and OS X is my wife’s. Yes, I do have an XP machine despite this, but it is used about three times a year at best. Nothing wrong with it or the OS; it just does not provide me with anything I need on a daily basis.

For everyone else though, I think that going with Windows 7 looks like fun. Tried some of the pre-release versions — definitely vastly better than Vista… which is currently serving me as a coaster at the moment.

[awsbullet:windows 7 upgrade]

Windows 7 – Oh, No! My First Blue Screen Of Death!

Last evening I started up my Microsoft Windows 7 Ultimate edition computer and bang! Up popped the infamous Blue Screen Of Death. You know the screen. The one with the cryptic codes that flash on the screen before you can even read it and the computer reboots. What was odd was that this same box ran Vista without even a whimper. In fact my Vista laptop runs great without even a hiccup.

So when Windows 7 crashed I was kind of taken back. I thought this was the new super-duper operating system that Microsoft finally got right. The new and improved Vista. Kind of a son or daughter of Vista with all of the bugs finally worked out.  Or is it?

I’m still kind of surprised and a little ticked off that this has happened. I need my computers working correctly and can not afford to have them acting up. I have a 8 year old computer running Windows XP that has never crashed. Not even once in 8 years ! Enough said.

It will be interesting to see how well Windows 7 functions once it arrives next week. I am almost tempted to order a Vista laptop but feel kind of stupid since I have been recommending to family, friends and clients to wait for Windows 7.

I am hoping this was just a fluke.

Comments welcome.

Reader Wants To Know – Fix NTLDR For Dual Boot Vista/Windows 7

Reader Winston asked a question in regards to a post I made back in December 12, 2006 [see here] concerning the repair of the infamous ‘NTLDR is missing’ message most of us have encountered.  Most of the current repair procedures are for a combo of XP/Vista repair procedures. But Winston has a different situation which he describes as:

ntldr is missing on Vista/Windows7 dual-boot system. I posted this over on lockergnome.com, but thought that more eyeballs would help. What do I have to specifically do to recover and still preserve dual-boot?


I personally have not dual booted Vista and Windows 7, having chosen the Windows 7 and XP mode instead. I did a Google and was unable to find the answer.

Can anyone help?

Comments welcome.

Customize Your Mouse Pointer In Vista

As you probably know, you can customize many different aspects of Vista (and previous versions of Windows) to meet your own preferences. One such customizable aspect is the mouse pointer.

Vista has a default style for the mouse pointer. Now you may find this default style rather dry and boring. If so, you can change it to something more exciting.

To customize the mouse pointer in Vista:

  1. Open the Control Panel and click Personalization.
  2. Click Mouse Pointers
  3. From the Mouse properties window, select the Pointers tab shown in the following figure.
  4. Under the section labeled Scheme, use the drop-down arrow to select a different pointer scheme from the list.
  5. Click OK and the new pointer settings will take effect.

Disable Taskbar Grouping In Vista

Vista tries to make the task bar less cluttered by grouping together icons of a similar type. For example, all your open Word documents will be grouped under a single button and all your open web sites will be grouped under a separate button. I personally like this feature since I tend to have numerous things open at once.

If you don’t like the way that Vista groups icons of the same type together, you can configure it to behave the way that previous version of Windows did. In other words, you can easily disable this feature.

Right click an area of empty space on your taskbar and click Properties. This brings up the Taskbar and Start Menu Properties window. Remove the check beside the Group similar taskbar buttons and click OK. With this option disabled, Vista will no longer groups similar icons.

Windows 7 – Behind The Talk

I must admit that as a fellow full time Linux user myself, I find myself in a similar position as the individual behind this column.This being said, I do disagree with him in a couple of areas. First, while it is true that Vista started off as what I like to call Windows Me part 2, after a while people began warming up to it. The sales numbers reflect some limited success, even if it is nothing to write home about. Another area I disagree with is the notion that “desktop Linux” is collectively easy for most people. That is absurd, unless they have nothing to “unlearn.”

So what about Windows 7, then? Is it the cure to Vista/XP and so on that we have been waiting for? From a speed perspective and with resource usage, oh, my, yes — no question in contrast to the floating steaming pile of slow that is Vista. But for most people, I am not sure it will stack up that well against XP in this area. Bundled with new PCs, I see Windows 7 doing great. Same for tech-types that like to stay with the latest stuff. But for Joe Average, I promise you they don’t care.

The biggest challenge that Microsoft is facing right now is this: people do not run operating systems. Rather, they run programs. And for some individuals, there are legacy apps that bind them to the OS that best supports them. XP, in contrast to Windows 7, does not really show me anything commonly used running so much better that people are going to drop heavy coin to upgrade. In this economy, I just don’t see it happening. Until XP is locked up without an alternative, I see scores of people continuing with XP happy as clams.


Disable Error Reporting In Vista

When Windows Vista generates an error message, a dialog box appears asking whether or not you want to send an error report. If you have already sent in a report for a reoccurring problem or if you find this to be an annoyance, you can disable error reporting all together. To accomplish this you have to open the System Configuration Utility.

  1. Click Start and type in msconfig in the Search field.
  2. Press Enter. The System Configuration Dialog box appears.
  3. Click the Services tab.
  4. Clear the check box beside the Error Reporting Service.
  5. Click OK.

5 Important Things You Should Know Before Upgrading From Windows XP To Windows 7

Over at TechRepublic they had a list of 10 things, which I narrowed to 5, you should know before upgrading from Windows XP to Windows 7. There is nothing magical about any upgrade and the basics have been the same with every new operating system. So I have taken what I feel are the absolute basics of performing an upgrade, which some of you may agree or disagree with. Since most of you who read my posts regularly may wish to comment, please feel free to add anything else you may feel is important.

1. You do not upgrade one operating system to another. You do a clean install. But before you even consider changing from Windows XP to Windows 7, you should use Microsoft’s tool for determining if your hardware will work with the new operating system. Windows 7 Upgrade Advisor. The advisor will check your hardware, software and peripherals and give you a detailed report of what works and what doesn’t work.

What brought this to mind was an email I received from my buddy Denny, wanting to know if his software that wouldn’t work in Vista would work in Windows 7? The answer is no, with an exception. If you install Windows 7 Professional or Ultimate you can use what is called Windows XP Mode. This is basically a full copy of Windows XP SP3 running virtually from within Windows 7. It is free for the downloading and supports both 32 and 64 bit.

2. Back up your stuff. All of your stuff.  When you install Windows 7 over an XP install, all of your old Documents And Settings plus all of your old Program Files will be saved and accessible to you. This data is saved in a folder called windows.old. But for any of us who have installed Windows, updates, or other upgrades know, anything can go wrong. So having a safe backup is highly recommended.

If I remember correctly this was also done when I upgraded from Windows 7 RC to Windows 7 RTM.

3. Dual boot? I’ve done the dual boot thing many times in the past. I personally found it to be a PITA … pain in the ass! So I was surprised when TechRepublic recommended it. Here is my personal take on dual booting which may differ from others who may respond to this article.

Instead of dual booting I took advantage of XP Mode which is available as I have mentioned above. You get the best of both worlds. You can play with Windows 7 as you go, but have the advantage of using your old apps in XP Mode. I did this on my personal test system and it works fine. Just remember one thing. You will need a anti-virus program for each operating system. I am currently using Windows Security Essentials on Windows 7 install and AVG 8.5 free edition on the Windows XP Mode side.

4. Gather up all of your CDs and DVDs to reinstall your programs. Don’t wait until after you’ve done the upgrade to find your old programs. I had one program in particular that I wanted to use in XP Mode that required I contact the company and obtain a new license to install it, making sure I had uninstalled it from my old hard drive which I had replaced with a new drive when I was using Windows 7 RTM.

Having all of your ducks in order before the big change will make you a lot happier.

5. System Builder Editions. When was the last time you called Microsoft for help? I personally never have. But that is just me and may vary depending on your situation. I have depended on my wits, the Internet, and online forums to muddle through every version of Windows including Windows 7.

Though pricing for the System Builder Editions have not been officially released yet, you may wish to consider buying one of these versions. What is the difference between retail and SBE? You don’t get a pretty retail box, nor any instructions and lastly you provide your own support.

These are my recommendations. What are yours?

Comments welcome.

Here are all 10 recommendations from TechRepublic.

Windows 7 Not Vulnerable To SMB Flaw

Microsoft was quick to issue an advisory after first reports suggested that a Windows flaw could attack both Windows Vista and Windows 7. After the flaw was discovered, Microsoft was quick to note that Windows 7 was NOT one of the operating systems that could be attacked. In an advisory the company stated the following information:

General Information

Executive Summary

Microsoft is investigating new public reports of a possible vulnerability in Microsoft Server Message Block (SMB) implementation. We are not aware of attacks that try to use the reported vulnerabilities or of customer impact at this time.

We are actively working with partners in our Microsoft Active Protections Program (MAPP) to provide information that they can use to provide broader protections to customers.

Upon completion of this investigation, Microsoft will take the appropriate action to help protect our customers. This may include providing a security update through our monthly release process or providing an out-of-cycle security update, depending on customer needs.

Microsoft is concerned that this new report of a vulnerability was not responsibly disclosed, potentially putting computer users at risk. We continue to encourage responsible disclosure of vulnerabilities. We believe the commonly accepted practice of reporting vulnerabilities directly to a vendor serves everyone’s best interests. This practice helps to ensure that customers receive comprehensive, high-quality updates for security vulnerabilities without exposure to malicious attackers while the update is being developed.

The article goes on to state that neither Windows 7 nor Windows XP have any issues with the SMB problem.

Comments welcome.


Windows Internals: Including Windows Server 2008 And Windows Vista, Fifth Edition

See how the core components of the Windows operating system work behind the scenes guided by a team of internationally renowned internals experts.

There should be an image here!Fully updated for Windows Server 2008 and Windows Vista, Windows Internals: Including Windows Server 2008 and Windows Vista, Fifth Edition delivers key architectural insights on system design, debugging, performance, and support along with hands-on experiments to experience Windows internal behavior firsthand. Delve inside Windows architecture and internals: Understand how the core system and management mechanisms work from the object manager to services to the registry Explore internal system data structures using tools like the kernel debugger.

Grasp the scheduler’s priority and CPU placement algorithms. Go inside the Windows security model to see how it authorizes access to data. Understand how Windows manages physical and virtual memory. Tour the Windows networking stack from top to bottom including APIs, protocol drivers, and network adapter drivers. Troubleshoot file-system access problems and system boot problems. Learn how to analyze crashes.

Control User Account Control Through The Local Computer Policy

User Account Control (UAC) is the feature that lets Vista run more reliably without giving the user local admin rights to the system. This does result in some additional dialog boxes and warnings that pop up for users but in the end reduces the damage that malware can do to a computer.

User Account Control is enabled by default in Vista. Microsoft recommends leaving it enabled to protect against the installation of malicious software. The Security Center will indicate whether UAC is turned on.

Further to enabling/disabling this feature, you can control the behavior of UAC through the local computer policy. Open the Local Computer Policy and navigate to the following locations: Local Computer Policy Computer Configuration Windows Settings Security Settings Local Policies Security Options.

The following policy settings are available:

  • User Account Control: Admin Approval Mode for the Built-in Administrator Account – The default value for the UAC policy setting is Disabled for new installations and upgrades when the built-in Administrator is not the only active local administrator account on the computer. 
  • User Account Control: Behavior of the elevation prompt for administrators in Admin Approval Mode – This security setting determines the type of prompt an admin-level user will receive when they attempt to perform an admin-level task. The default value is Prompt for Consent. You can increase security by setting the value to Prompt for Credentials. Doing so means the admin-level user will need to enter their admin-level username and password.
  • User Account Control: Behavior of the elevation prompt for standard users – This security setting determines the type of prompt a standard user will receive when they attempt to perform an admin-level task. The default value is Prompt for Credentials. You can increase security by setting the value to Automatically deny elevation requests. Standard users will then have to perform admin-level tasks using the Run command or by logging in with an admin-level account.