As anyone would expect, we install a lot of software at Microsoft. Installing the Windows operating system on PCs are pretty much the norm for Microsoft around the world. Generally, anytime I need to do a clean install for my laptop, I plug my PC into the Ethernet port and boot to the network install location. A couple of clicks and I select the supported configuration I need and walk away. That was before Windows 7.
Very, very early this morning I finished making an installation DVD for Windows 7. The software bits on the DVD are preconfigured by Microsoft IT so that it does two things: 1) it gives me a supported version of Windows in case I need to call the service desk for assistance and 2) it allows me to do the installation remotely. Now, we have always been able to build ISO images for remote installation, but at some point in the process, you would need to physically take your PC into a Microsoft office to finish the installation and configuration. That was before Windows 7.
I inserted the DVD into the drive and told my laptop BIOS to boot from my DVD. While I didn’t time the installation, I know that it finished in less than an hour. Moreover, it installed everything that I usually need to add afterwards to the build during the installation. Microsoft Office 2007, Adobe Acrobat Reader, Adobe Flash, Silverlight, Antivirus, Windows Live Essentials and so many more necessary apps were added to the two DVD build. The Windows Live Essentials was a surprise and nice addition from MSIT because it included Windows Live Writer that I use exclusively for blogging to Higher Innovation, internal SharePoint sites, and Live Spaces. In the past, all of these additional applications with the exception Microsoft Office 2007 would take an additional 4 hours to download and install before I could start using the PC. That was before Windows 7.
The final piece to my Windows 7 installation experience was Windows Easy Transfer. Kevin Dean, an Account Technology Strategist, suggested to our team to use Windows Easy Transfer to move your personal settings from your old PC to your new PC. Windows Easy Transfer is also great for moving old settings from your current PC to a new a Windows installation on the same PC. I used Windows Easy Transfer to backup my entire Windows 7 RC settings to an external hard drive. The restoration process was more effective than I hoped. Generally, when you re-install Outlook, you will often lose your custom signatures for email and other custom settings. With Windows Easy Transfer you get everything back as you left it. The big shocker for me with Windows Easy Transfer was that all of my Windows Live Writer settings for the multiple blogs I support were re-installed as well. In the past, I would have to recreate all of my Outlook settings and reset all of my blog settings. It takes a lot of time. That was all before Windows 7.
The lessons learned from this installation point to a host of opportunities for academe. I will outline a just a few here:
- First, in this economy, schools can save a lot of money and deliver a more effective service by standardizing on the hardware for faculty and staff and in K12 for students. In Microsoft’s case, we have several different PC models from a variety of manufacturers that are supported by our internal helpdesk. The DVD disk that I used contained all of the Windows 7 drivers for all of the internal hardware for my laptop without the need to download them from the original equipment manufacturer’s website. If you have an older laptop or if you have ever searched for drivers from some websites, you know that can be a chore. Microsoft IT eliminated the need for me to spend finding drivers. It is all made possible with the way Windows 7 is designed for various types of deployment scenarios.
- The remote installation went like a charm. The need to drop off a laptop with the support desk or spend an evening in the office, away from family and friends, re-building a computer from scratch yourself is so last year. With custom and IT-support DVD builds, your support desk can simply give a DVD, multimedia card, or USB key to an authorized user to do their own installs remotely. It’s simple and fast. What’s more, there are no endless prompts that you have monitor and respond. It gives a whole new meaning to stick (the DVD in the drive) and move (on with your life.)
- Join the Domain from home. At Microsoft we have both VPN Services and Direct Access services for connecting to our corporate network remotely. Historically, one of the key aspects that made it favorable to do a clean install physically connected to the office network was the need to join the Active Directory Domain. Our Microsoft VPN client provided the proxy connection to the network and I was able to join my computer to our corporate domain remotely. While that by itself would usually do the trick, you still need to reboot the PC to bring those new computer credentials online. When the PC returns to the login prompt again, the computer is apart of the Active Directory Domain. Yet, your user account has not been created and cached locally on the computer to authenticate your login. Windows 7 outsmarts the status quo again by providing a VPN client login within the Windows Login. You can connect to the VPN and pass your credentials to Active Directory to cache locally all in one fell swoop.
These changes may seem novel, but their origins are found in the design pillars for Windows 7. Windows 7 was designed and optimized for mobility and laptop computers. Previously, the paradigm was to connect your computer to the network. Now the shift is connecting the network to you, wherever you are, with all of the services you would expect from a physical office.
While, we don’t expect everyday Windows 7 users to build new laptop machines routinely, it is great to know that the experience is painless. Moreover, your IT Group can lead higher levels of service delivery by creating custom Windows 7 builds that are optimized for their institutional users versus the network or the machine. The options for deployment are many.
It is because my Windows 7 installation experience was so uneventful that is has become noteworthy. I want you to have the same delight I had with installing Windows 7 on your PC. Contact your local Account Technology Strategist or your Technical Account Manager to get insights, patterns, and practices of how to make Windows 7 optimized for your users. If your learning organization is a Microsoft Volume Licensing subscriber with the Windows OS upgrade, you have access to Windows 7 today. When you are done, leave your comments of your installation experience below. I’m sure you will be impressed.