While getting ready to write today’s blog post, I stumbled onto something that I had written last month. Apparently a system glitch prevented it from being published. The following was supposed to have been a follow up to my post on a bare metal restore:
I wanted to take the opportunity to add some caveats to yesterday’s blog post. I originally said that the backup and restore process went flawlessly. For the most part that is true. After using the machine for a day though, there were a couple of quirks that I found that I didn’t mention yesterday.
One was that the restore process didn’t preserve my Outlook 2007 offline cache. This isn’t a huge deal, because the contents of my Exchange mailbox were automatically downloaded the first time that I opened Outlook. Being that my mailbox is over 2 GB in size though, the process took a little while to complete.
Another caveat that I forgot to mention yesterday was that although my new drives were larger than my old drives, Windows kept the partition sizes the same as what they had been before. Therefore, I had to enlarge the partitions before I could get any benefit out of the new drives. Again, it isn’t a huge deal, but I wanted to at least mention it.
Lately, I have been getting bombarded with calls from friends and family. Everybody keeps asking me why Internet Explorer has suddenly started locking up on them. I haven’t personally experienced this problem, but judging by all of the phone calls that I have been getting, it seems that the problem is wide spread. I can also tell you that the problem seems to be affecting Windows Vista users who are running Internet Explorer 7.
I haven’t been able to reproduce this problem, but if I had to guess, there was probably a buggy patch that was released somewhere along the way. I have been telling people to try downloading the Internet Explorer 8 beta. So far this seems to be correcting the issue.
Last night I was working on a project involving Windows Server 2008. I needed to request Computer certificate from an Enterprise Certificate Authority that was a member of the same domain as the server that I was working on. When I went to make the request though, the Certificates console told me that there were no available Certificate Templates. The problem was a matter of trust. The server had not been issued a root certificate, so it did not trust my certificate authority. This prevented the server from being able to issue certificate requests. Once I downloaded and installed the root certificate, the problem went away.
In my previous blog post, I promised to address the issue of why Windows Backup works the way that it does in Windows Vista. I’m not going to pretend to know all of the reasons, but I can tell you some of them.
One of the reasons was that NTBACKUP had remained virtually unchanged for many years. It had simply been ported from one version of Windows to the next, and retrofitted whenever necessary. Given the age of the base code, Microsoft had decided that it was time to rebuild the backup application from scratch.
Perhaps a more important reason for the Windows Backup application working the way that it does is that backups are hardware independent. As I’m sure you know, Windows Vista creates backups in .VHD (virtual hard drive) format. Although the virtual hard drives aren’t bootable, they are mountable, which makes it really easy to move data to another machine. It is also really easy to perform a restore to dissimilar hardware, because the backup does not include anything that is HAL specific. In fact, this is one of the reasons why the .VHD files are not bootable.
I’ve never made any secret of the fact that I like Vista a whole lot better than Windows XP. Even so, there are things about Vista that I don’t like. My loudest Vista gripe has always revolved around its pitiful excuse for a backup program. The lack of flexibility in the Windows Vista version of Windows Backup is appalling. Actually, there are some good reasons why Microsoft designed the backup program in this way. I will talk about some of those reasons in my next blog post. For now though, I want to give you some good news.
Microsoft has completely redesigned Windows Backup in Windows 7. It is once again going to be possible to backup individual files. Microsoft also no longer requires you to dedicate an entire hard drive to Vista backups. Instead, you have the option of writing the backup to direct attached storage, a network share, or to a USB hard drive.
I plan on spending a lot more time with the Windows 7 version of Windows Backup, but those were some of the things that really jumped out at me, so I wanted to share them with you.
Say what you want about Windows 7, but one of the things that has always annoyed me about Windows has finally been addressed. Windows 7 is going to be the first version of Windows to natively support burning ISO files. Don’t get me wrong, I’m not going to give up my favorite disk authoring software. At the same time though, half of the time when I need to burn a disk image, I am using someone else’s computer, and many times they don’t have an application for burning disk images.
Microsoft has made things really simple on us. If you want to burn a disk image, just double click on the ISO, and Windows will open a dialog box. Select the drive that you want to use, decide whether or not you want the image to be verified, and then click the Burn button. It’s just that easy.
Shortly after the Professional Developers conference, I bought a PC that I could use for the sole purpose of experimenting with Windows 7. Because of some logistical issues, I decided to just get a laptop rather than a desktop machine. I didn’t pick out anything fancy. It was just a mid priced HP laptop with 4 GB of RAM.
Shortly after getting this machine, I began to realize that I was going to need another desktop machine that I could use in developing some of the labs in a book that I am writing. At the time, I went ahead and blew Windows 7 off of the laptop and installed Windows Vista Ultimate.
Lately though, several of the editors have asked me to write about Windows 7. Since I’m not quite done with my book yet, blowing Vista off of the laptop wasn’t really an option. I decided to just install Virtual PC 2007 SP1 and then install Windows 7 within a virtual machine.
Although I have worked quite a bit with other virtualization products, I had never used Virtual PC 2007 before. Initially, Windows 7 ran fairly slowly in a virtual machine. I assumed that this was because I wasn’t using a high end machine, or perhaps because Windows 7 had a really inefficient code base.
Last night I was tinkering around with the machine’s BIOS, and realized that this particular laptop supported hardware based virtualization. I went ahead and enabled it, but didn’t really expect a lot since I wasn’t using Hyper-V or VMWare. Out of curiosity though, I decided to poke around in the Virtual Machine settings. Lo and behold, Virtual PC 2007 SP1 supports hardware based virtualization. As soon as I enabled it, Windows 7 began running much better.
I’m sure that anyone who uses Virtual PC with any sort of regularity probably already knew about its support for hardware assisted virtualization, but I wanted to take the opportunity to go ahead and share my little discovery just in case there is anyone else out there like me who could benefit from this setting.
Earlier this month Microsoft announced that they weren’t going to offer an in place upgrade from Windows XP to Windows 7. Since that time, I have seen numerous blog posts on the Internet criticizing Microsoft for their decision. Some have even made up ridiculous conspiracy theories saying that not allowing a direct upgrade from Windows XP to Windows 7 is Microsoft’s way of punishing people for not using Windows Vista. After reading so many of these posts, I had to throw my two cents worth in on the issue.
Before I give you my opinion, let me just say that I do not work for Microsoft, nor do I have any vested interest in the company. Yes, I write about Microsoft products for a living, but those of you who are familiar with my work know that I am not one to just blindly agree with everything that comes out of Redmond. I have always felt that it was my journalistic duty to let my readers know when I don’t personally agree with Microsoft’s stand on an issue.
Having said that, I have to say that the conspiracy theories simply do not hold water, for several reasons:
1. If someone really wanted to do an in place upgrade badly enough, they could. Windows Vista will operate for a couple of months without even requiring a product key. It would be simple to get a Vista CD, upgrade a machine to Vista, and then perform an in place upgrade to Windows 7. Keep in mind that I am not recommending that anyone do this, because I think that the end result would be less than optimal.
2. Many of the PCs that are running Windows XP simply do not have sufficient hardware to run Windows 7 efficiently. Preventing an in place upgrade is one way of discouraging people from installing Windows 7 on old hardware.
3. Any time that you upgrade from one operating system to another, there are always fragments of the old operating system that are left behind. These fragments can result in all sorts of performance and compatibility problems. That’s a big part of why I don’t recommend upgrading from Windows XP to Vista to Windows 7. Microsoft wants Windows 7 to make a good impression, so of course they are not going to support a type of upgrade that could cause problems with it.
4. In an enterprise environment, new operating systems are almost always deployed through imaging, not upgrades. Therefore, the fact that you can’t perform an in place upgrade shouldn’t even effect most large companies that are still running Windows XP.
5. Nobody is being forced to upgrade to Windows 7. Yes, there will come a day when Windows XP is considered to be dead by Microsoft, but so what. I know of companies who are still running Windows NT. If an operating system meets your needs, and you aren’t worried about long term support, then there is no reason why you absolutely have to upgrade. Personally, I think it’s a good idea to use a current operating system, but that’s beside the point.
After replacing the hard drives in my laptop, I thought that I would have some fun and replace my desktop machine’s hard drive. I don’t keep any real data on my desktop machine, but even so, I was starting to run a little low on space. The Outlook offline cache, and Dragon Naturally Speaking accumulate a lot of data, and can consume a considerable amount of disk space over time.
What made this particular machine interesting though, was that it had a single 300 GB hard drive that was divided into two volumes. One was the system volume, and the other was a volume that I use as a temporary repository for various projects that I work on.
As you may recall from my previous posts, if you perform a bare metal restore using Vista, Vista will partition your new hard drives the same way as the old ones were done. I replaced my 300 GB hard drive with a 750 GB drive. I wanted to continue to use two partitions, but I wanted to enlarge them both.
Initially, I performed the restore, and told Vista not to restore my D: drive. To my surprise though, Vista recreated the D: volume, formatted it, and just left it empty. I had hoped that by not restoring the volume, that the volume would not be created.
Fixing the problem was easy enough though. I simply used the Disk Management Console to delete the D: volume. I converted the drive to a dynamic disk and then enlarged my system partition. Then I created the D: volume, and formatted it.
As you might remember from my post two days ago, Vista won’t recognize the full computer backup if you try to access it from within Vista. Performing a full system restore wasn’t an option either, because Vista would have just resized my volumes to what they were before my hard drive upgrade.
To get the data back onto my D: drive, I simply plugged my old hard drive into the system, and did a direct copy from the old drive to the D: volume on the new drive.
First, let me apologize for not submitting any blog posts in the last two weeks. I have been extremely busy writing articles, putting the finishing touches on my next book, and preparing for The Experts Conference (www.tec2009), which I am scheduled to speak at next month. Sometimes there just are not enough hours in the day.
At any rate, I wanted to use today’s blog post to talk about the backup program that comes with Windows Vista. If you have read the various articles that I have written, then you know that I have been critical of the Windows Vista backup application, because it lacks the flexibility of the NTBackup program that came with previous versions of Windows. Even so, I had to use the Windows Vista backup application for the first time in a real life situation, and I wanted to share my experiences with you.
I tend to travel a lot, so I’ve got a ton of stuff on my laptop. My primary drive contains the Windows Vista Ultimate operating system, a bunch of applications, and four virtual server instances. My second hard drive contains an offline copy of all of the data from my primary file server.
Well, all of the work that I have been doing lately caused my data drive to run out of space. My system drive was also starting to get a little bit low on space too, so I ordered two 500 GB hard drives to replace the existing drives with.
I used Windows Backup to perform a full system backup to an external USB hard drive. When the backup completed, I replaced the drives, and installed Windows. I have to admit that I was used to the way that NTBackup worked in Windows Server 2003 and Windows XP. In those operating systems, you generally have to install Windows, install the latest service pack, and then restore your backup.
After I had Windows installed, I plugged in my external hard drive and tried to restore my backup. Although Windows could detect my external drive and read the data, Windows Backup refused to recognize the backup. Just as I was about to rip my hair out, I remembered that Windows Vista uses a different technique for performing a bare metal restore.
I booted the computer off of the Windows Vista installation disk, and then chose the Repair option, followed by the option to restore a backup. Windows Vista then asked me to specify the location of my backup, which it acknowledged with no problems. Finally, it warned me that the volumes that I was restoring would be formatted if I continued. I accepted, and away it went. I am happy to say that the restoration was flawless.