Windows Features – CompTIA A+ 220-802: 1.1

| February 11, 2013


Windows includes a number of features that are very unique to the Windows operating system. In this video, you’ll learn about User Account Control, BitLocker, Readyboost, Windows Easy Transfer, and much more.
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Review Quiz: Windows Features

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If you’ve looked at comparing capabilities between computers, you may have noticed that some computers say that they are 32-bit devices and other computers say that they’re running a 64-bit processor. Well, there’s obviously differences between those two, and it’s really relating to the processor that’s being used in the computer. If you’re using an operating system then, ideally you would want your operating system to match the processor that’s inside of the computer so that you have the best possible computing experience. You could tell inside of your operating system if it is a 64-bit operating system that’s designed to run on a 64-bit processor or if it’s a 32-bit operating system that’s designed to run on a 32-bit processor.

The hardware drivers that you’re going to use in these operating systems will be written for the specific edition of the operating system. So if you’re using a 64-bit Windows version, you will need 64-bit drivers. And when you go to a manufacturer’s website and it asks you to download drivers, you have to choose whether you’re running 32-bit or whether you’re running 64-bit. And that’s why. The drivers are completely different between those different versions. That’s why it’s important if you’re planning to run a 64-bit operating system that you make sure all of your devices also have 64-bit drivers, otherwise you won’t be able to use that in your 64-bit operating system.

You’ll notice we use an interesting shortcut between 32-bit and 64-bit. The 64-bit shortcut is x64. That makes sense. But the 32-bit shortcut is x86. It should be x32, shouldn’t it? But this is really a callback to the very first 32-bit processors that Intel created which was the 80386 versions. And that x86 is referring back to those types of processors. And it’s a moniker that really stuck. And now where comparing 32-bit, we’ll use x86. And when we compare 64-bit, we talk about the x64.

If you’re needing to run an application that is a 64-bit application, you must have a 64-bit operating system. You cannot run 64-bit apps in a 32-bit operating system. It simply will not work. The other way around, however, works just fine. You can take 32-bit applications and run those in a 64-bit operating system without any problem.

You will find that Windows will put them in different areas of the hard drive. If you are installing 32-bit apps, you’ll find there’s a Program Files folder specifically for 32-bit apps called Program Files (x86) where your 64-bit applications will simply go into the Program Files folder.

Windows Vista and Windows 7 had and enhanced graphics functionality called Windows Aero. This functionality was removed in Windows 8. But if you’re running Windows Vista and Windows 7, it’s an option that’s available to you. It allows you to have a graphical front end that had some transparency to the windows. You were able to have this graphical view of the applications that were running. You could easily flip between applications in a more graphical way. And it simply improved the experience of using the operating system. But it came at a cost. You would need at least a 1 gigahertz processor in your computer, and it needed to have at least 1 gigabyte of RAM and a graphics card that had available on it at least 128 megabytes of graphics memory.

This allowed you enhancements to the operating system and the user interface itself, but it didn’t change how you used the applications. This was only associated with the UI and how you were able to move around and use different parts of the user interface. The applications remained exactly the same.

One of the security challenges with Windows XP is that every application had exactly the same access to the operating system as every other application. And this became a significant problem when the bad guys realized that they could get spyware and malware and viruses onto your computer much easier this way. Well, in Windows Vista and Windows 7 and Windows 8, there are new capabilities for protecting the operating system. One of those is called User Account Control. This limits what an application may be able to do to your operating system, and therefore it’s helping to protect your computer.

For standard users, you’re able to use the network or change your password, and when you try to do those things, a message will pop up on the screen saying that an application is trying to use the network, it’s trying to change the password. This could be a security problem. Is this really you? Are you really aware this is happening? And you have to then add yes or no to be able to say yes, this is exactly what I’d like to have happen on my computer.

From an administrator perspective, if you try to install an application or even configure remote access into the computer, again, these could be security concerns. This is another instance where User Account Control might pop up and be able to give you a prompt that something is happening that might be a security concern. The message that pops up is in something called Secure Desktop. It is something that does not allow an automated process to be able to fill out this form and press the buttons. You must have interactive access to the computer and be able to use your mouse and your keyboard to be able to fill out that User Account Control dialog box.

If you’re looking at some of the higher end versions of Windows Vista and Windows 7, you may see a feature called BitLocker. BitLocker allows you to encrypt entire volumes of data so that not just a single file is encrypted, the entire operating system and every single one of your files would be encrypted. It protects everything on the computer. That way, if you have a laptop and it’s stolen or lost, you can feel comfortable knowing that although the laptop is gone, the data that was on the laptop is completely safe.

This is something that you would not only want to make sure that you don’t lose the laptop, but make sure you don’t lose the password either. You can’t get this data back unless you have the proper credentials. And in Active Directory environment, there’s some backup functions that you could have associated with that, but you would have to have the right credentials to gain access to the data in a form that would not be in its encrypted format.

The data, therefore, is always protected. Even if you take that drive out of the laptop and you move it to another computer, it’s still encrypted. This is a great way to protect data, especially data that’s very mobile. You’ll find this in Windows Vista and Windows 7 if you’re running the Ultimate edition or the Enterprise edition.

There’s a feature inside of Windows that you may have used called Volume Shadow Copy, and you may not have even realized you’re taking advantage of it. This is a functionality that allows you to back up data on your system even though you’re using the programs and have the files open. With normal backup programs in the operating system, you can’t usually back up files that are in use. But the Volume Shadow Copy is a functionality within Windows that allows you to back those up whether they are in use or not. If you wanted to image your computer while you were using it, the Volume Shadow Copy Service, or VSS, is what allows you to do that.

There’s also a nice feature of Volume Shadow Copy that allows you to keep multiple versions of folders and of files on your hard drive. And you can go back to different versions. This is a capability that’s in Vista Business, Enterprise, and Ultimate, and all versions of Windows 7. These additional versions are created automatically for you once a day. If you install a new program or you start a backup process, the Volume Shadow Copy will also create new versions there as well. So if you ever needed to go back in time to a previous version of a document, you may be able to if you’ve taken advantage of the Volume Shadow Copy functionality.

Sometimes you don’t need to go back and look at a single file, you need to take your entire computer and take it back to a previous configuration. You use something called System Restore to be able to do this. System Restore is designed to create what’s called a restore point so that if you install a new program or you make a configuration change to your computer and everything goes wrong, you can still reboot your computer back to a previous version before there were any types of problems. In Windows XP, you can find this functionality in your Control Panel. Under the System option, there’s an option in there called System Restore. On Windows Vista and Windows 7, it’s under All Programs, Accessories, System Tools, and System Restore.

This is very good if you have a configuration error, but it’s not really designed to protect from a virus infection or a malware infection. Those viruses and malware writers, they know that you’re going to use this function, and they go into your backups and they infect those as well. So if you ever run into a security issue, you want to perform a completely different set of backup and restores than using System Restore, because you’re probably going to find that your restore points are just is infected as your computer that you’re running today.

Another important consideration when using System Restore is that only backs up the configuration of your computer. If you create a restore point and then you create new documents, new spreadsheets, you’re working on presentations, and then you decide to revert back to a previous configuration, System Restore will not touch your documents. It’s not backing up any of your private information. So you can still revert back to a previous configuration of your computer, but all of your documents will remain untouched.

Windows Vista introduced a lot of new graphical capabilities, and one of these is called the Sidebar. You were able to take these things called Gadgets that might be a clock or information about the weather and you could apply those to the side of your screen. In Windows 7, the sidebar went away. You could put those gadgets wherever you would like on your screen.

And usually, these were user-created gadgets. There were a number of stock gadgets that you could get that would show things like the time or the utilization of your network or your CPU. And you would be able to then apply those onto your desktop. You would find those under the Control Panel in an option called Desktop Gadgets. With Windows 8, however, there’s a completely new different group of applications that are used on the desktop, and the online functionality of those user-created gadgets are gone. So now, you can only use the built-in gadgets that come with Windows Vista or Windows 7.

Windows Vista changed a lot of the ways the operating system uses memory. It tries to use memory in a way that will speed up the operation of your computer. Normally, a lot of information is written to the hard drive. But Microsoft realized that a lot of us are walking around with these USB flash keys, so they created a new technology called ReadyBoost. ReadyBoost allows you to improve the speed of your computer, but you have to have some type of flash memory. And this can be a USB key, it can be an SD card, a CompactFlash, anything that’s flash memory that would be much faster than using a hard drive.

This is caching information to this USB key or to this flash memory instead of caching it to the much slower disk. This allows you to have, in some cases, a significant speed increase, especially when launching certain applications and using functions within the application. However, you have to be sure that you’re using the right kind of memory. Some flash memory is relatively slow. But newer types of flash memory are fast enough to be able to use with the ReadyBoost technology. When you plug in your USB key or your flash memory, Windows will recognize this and it will ask you if you would like to be able to use ReadyBoost with the memory that you’ve just plugged into your computer.

If you’re moving from one operating system version and upgrading to a brand new OS, one of the things that you naturally are concerned about is running your old applications in the new operating system. And unfortunately, there can be problems when you move from older operating systems to newer operating systems, especially if you’re running some very old applications. Fortunately, Windows enables something called a compatibility mode where you can assign a certain operating system functionality to an application.

So you could specify that this old application that I’m using should be run in the old Windows 95 mode, even though I’m running on Windows XP. It’s almost like your operating system is emulating the old style of doing it in the old version of Windows so that you can still run those outdated applications that have never been updated, but you could still be running it in your newer OS. This is not a functionality that you enable across the board. You would only enable it for the applications that require it. A lot of applications run fine in the newer operating system. But those that don’t, you can always go into the properties for that executable and specify exactly the operating system that you would like this particular application to run as.

Windows 7 took this idea of this compatibility mode and took it to the next level. With Windows 7 Professional, Enterprise, and Windows 7 Ultimate, you can run your Windows XP applications in a virtual system that is really running Windows XP. This is not an emulation or some type of compatibility mode. You really are running Windows XP on your system.

To do this, you would need your Windows 7 version and you would need to install this Windows XP mode. And it effectively installs for you a Windows XP Service Pack 3 that is completely fully licensed. You don’t have to pay extra to be able to have this functionality. And it is completely integrated into the operating system. We’re not just popping up a virtual box that’s running an entire version of Windows XP with the Windows XP desktop. You can do this on a per application basis.

This is a really good example of this in this graphic where I have Windows 7 applications running Aero with the transparency and the bar. But right next to it, I have an older Windows XP application that looks like it’s running separately. There’s no separate operating system. It’s just that single application running in the normal window. But it’s really running as a Windows XP app. This is a very simple way to take those really old applications that only worked in Windows XP and still be able to use them in your Windows 7 environment.

If you’ve ever upgraded from one Windows version to another, you may have found that the upgrade process was relatively seamless. But sometimes, you don’t have the luxury of doing a seamless upgrade. You have to completely migrate from one operating system to another. A good example of this is when you have to go from a 32-bit version of an operating system to a 64-bit version of an operating system, and there’s no easy way to upgrade. You must migrate your data to be able to do that.

In Windows, we migrate the data using an application called Windows Easy Transfer, and that allows you to migrate from Windows XP, Windows Vista, or Windows 7, or even within different editions of those operating systems. This is really useful if you’re moving to a brand new computer, but you’d like to bring along all of your user information, all of your documents, and everything that’s associated with your login.

There’s two different modes for using Windows Easy Transfer. One is a side by side where you connect the two computers directly and they simply transfer everything over. The other is a wipe and load, so that if you wanted to take all of your data and store it on a separate storage device, completely wipe the existing operating system and install a brand new operating system, you could then restore everything back to that new OS using Windows Easy Transfer.

If you’re someone who administers your Windows desktop on a Windows system, then you probably are using these Administrative Tools within Windows. You can find them in the Control Panel. And if you’ve never used them before, you’ll see there’s another option in your Control Panel called Administrative Tools. This is not something that just administrators might use. If you’re someone who’s a power user or you’re more interested in getting more information about your operating system, you can always go in and run these yourself, even though you’re not an administrator on the system.

There are some functions that are limited to administrators of the system. But most of these allow you at least an insight or read-only mode into those. So you can go in and do computer management, you can look at the services that are running on your computer, you can even run a memory diagnostics all inside of those Administrative Tools in your Control Panel.

When running any operating system, we’re certainly sensitive to the security and making sure that our data is protected. And there is a version of an anti-malware program called Windows Defender that comes absolutely free with Windows Vista and Windows 7, and you can download it and use it in Windows XP as well. If you’re running this in Windows 8, Windows Defender also includes antivirus capabilities as well.

If you’re running in Windows Vista and Windows 7, this anti-malware functionality is of course important, but you may also want antivirus capabilities as well. Microsoft has a completely separate program that will do both antivirus and anti-malware called Microsoft Security Essentials. And when you install Microsoft Security Essentials on Windows Vista or Windows 7, it will disable the Windows Defender functionality because they effectively do exactly the same thing from an anti-malware perspective.

Windows Defender can link in and provide real-time protection and watch for anything bad that might be coming by. But it also integrates into Internet Explorer. If you’re using that browser, it will identify when files are being downloaded and it will scan them and make sure that those files are safe to run on your system.

Another important security feature in Windows is the Windows Firewall. This is protecting you from attacks across the network. And if somebody wanted to get into your computer, that would be a very good place to go to try to gain access to your files and your information. This is something that is integrated into Windows. It comes with the operating system itself. And you can find it in your Control Panel. It’s located in the Windows Firewall Options.

Later versions of Windows XP and all versions of Windows Vista have a function inside the Control Panel called the Security Center. This is something that has been renamed in Windows 7. You’ll see referred to as the Action Center in Windows 7 and in Windows 8. This is a place you would go to get a complete overview of the security of your device. So you can see if the antivirus is installed and if it is up to the latest version of signatures. You can see if there are operating system patches waiting. And it will give you information right on the screen that tells you if there are any problems associated with that security. So this is a great place to go if you need that overview of everything going on with security in your operating system. Simply go into your Control Panel and choose Security Center, or in Windows 7 and 8, choose the Action Center.

When we’re sitting at the desktop of our Windows computer, there is still a lot of things that are happening behind the scenes. There a number of services that are running, we might have applications in our taskbar or applications that we’ve minimized. And all of these are performing processes. There’s one place you can go to get an overview of all of the events that may be happening in your computer, and that’s the Windows Event Viewer.

The Windows Event Viewer separates all of these events into different categories. You’ll see categories like Application, and System, and Security. And you’ll be able to look at different severities of these events. So you may see some that are informational, some that may be warning type events, and others might have critical severities associated with them. If you’re trying to determine why a particular application isn’t working properly or the startup of your Windows operating system isn’t working exactly the way you were expecting, you might want to look inside of your Event Viewer. You’ll find it in your Control Panel under your Administrative Tools.

If you look at the Control Panel of Windows XP, you’ll see a lot of icons inside of that Control Panel. And if you’re someone who’s not used to working with computers and you don’t administer a Windows machine, that can seem a little overwhelming. So in Windows Vista and Windows 7, the Control Panel moved to a different view that you could configure. One is the Category View that tried to categorize the different functions in two separate categorizations like System and Security, Network and Internet, Appearance and Personalization. And then of course, you could drill down inside of those to find the exact Control Panel features you were looking for.

But if you’re someone like me who understands the operating system, you’ve been working with it for a long time, and you prefer just going directly to the applet that you’d, like you can change that view to be the Classic View so that you can have an alphabetical list of every single control panel applet, and you can simply go to the Control Panel and immediately find what you’re looking for.

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Category: CompTIA A+ 220-802

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