1: Action Center
Centralized management is the name of the game today, and Windows 7 gives you a one-stop shopping location where you can go to deal with security issues, troubleshooting, and recovery, instead of searching out separate applets for each. It’s all combined in an easy-to-use Control Panel applet, where you get maintenance and security messages and can view performance information, change UAC settings, and more, as shown in Figure A.
The Windows 7 Action Center provides a centralized location for dealing with security and system problems.
This is an outgrowth of the Security Center in Windows Vista. It made sense to combine security settings and actions with system maintenance and recovery issues. The Action Center also shows up as an icon in the system tray, which displays a red X if there are problems you need to address, as shown in Figure B.
The Action Center is represented by an icon in the System Tray to alert you when a message needs your attention.
A nice touch is that Microsoft makes it easy for you to turn the various types of notifications on or off, as shown in Figure C. Thus, if you have an antivirus program installed that Windows doesn’t recognize, you don’t have to deal with constant messages urging you to install one — just turn off virus protection messages.
You can turn the various types of notifications on or off as you wish.
2: Problem Steps Recorder
One of the coolest new tools in Windows 7 is the Problem Steps Recorder (PSR) — especially for those of us who provide tech support to Windows users. No matter how hard they try, users often have problems accurately describing the problem they’re experiencing or the steps they took before or after experiencing it. Sure, Remote Assistance can be a godsend in those situations. But you can’t always connect to the user’s computer in real time. That’s when the PSR comes in handy.
It’s really a type of screen capture software that records all actions — keystrokes, mouse clicks, etc. — and saves the sequence of events in an MHTML page that documents every step the user took, along with screenshots. You start the PSR by entering psr.exe in the Start menu Search box or at the command prompt. The interface is shown in Figure D.
The Problem Steps Recorder provides an accurate record of a user’s actions, along with screenshots.
You can view the recorded steps in IE by double-clicking the saved zipped MHTML file, as shown in Figure E.
You can view the recorded steps in Internet Explorer.
3: ISO burner
An ISO image is a type of archive file that is often used to distribute software. In Windows 7, Microsoft addressed something that’s been on the wish list of many users for a long time: Now you don’t have to download and install a third-party program to burn an ISO file to disc.
It’s a simple process: After you download an .ISO to your hard drive, just double-click it and Windows 7 will open the Burn Disc Image dialog box, shown in Figure F.
Now you can burn an ISO image to disc easily without installing third-party software.
This also works for images with the .IMG file extension.
4: Biometric device management
In earlier versions of Windows, biometric authentication and management of biometric devices (fingerprint sensors) required third-party software that might or might not integrate well with the OS. Now it’s built in. Windows 7 includes the Windows Biometric Framework, which gives developers an API they can use to build biometrics into applications. Makers of fingerprint sensor hardware, such as UPEK and AuthenTec, worked with Microsoft on the development of the Framework. Biometric devices are managed through a Control Panel applet, shown in Figure G.
You can change biometric settings and manage devices through a Control Panel applet.
5: Credential Manager
The Credential Manager is another new feature in Windows 7. It is similar in some ways to the password management feature in Vista’s User Accounts applet but is more sophisticated. You can manage Windows credentials for various computers that you sign onto, certificate-based credentials, and other generic credentials (for e-mail accounts, Web accounts, etc.). These are all stored, by default, in the Windows Vault, as shown in Figure H.
Windows 7’s Credential Manager can store passwords and certificates in a central location.
Perhaps the best new feature in Credential Manager is the ability to back up and restore the Vault. Microsoft recommends that you back up your credentials to a removable drive, such as a flash drive, to make it easier to restore them if you have a hardware failure.