The Windows operating systems include a number of performance and usability features. In this video, you’ll learn about User Account Control, BitLocker, Volume Shadow Copy, System Restore, and much more.
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The operating system that’s running on our personal computers is probably a 32-bit operating system or a 64-bit operating system. And you’ll want to look at the configuration of your operating system to see exactly what kind you are using.
This is usually determined by the type of processor that you have inside of your computer. If your CPU is a 32-bit CPU, then you’re running a 32-bit operating system. If you have a 64-bit CPU, then you have the choice of either running a 64-bit operating system or a 32-bit operating system.
The system type that you’re running will be especially important to the drivers that you’re installing. These hardware drivers will be 64-bit versions if you’re running a 64-bit operating system and 32-bit versions if you’re running a 32-bit operating system. You aren’t able to mix and match these differences. They have to match the operating system that you’re using.
You’ll sometimes see 32-bit processors described as x86. This goes back to the older Intel 8086 and the variance that came from that to describe 32-bit processors. If you see a 64-bit processor, we usually describe this as x64.
The applications that you’re going to run on these operating systems need to be written for the version that you’re using. If you’re using a 32-bit operating system, you need to run 32-bit applications. You cannot run an application that has been developed to run on a 64-bit operating system.
But if you have a 64-bit operating system, you have the choice of running a 64-bit application or a 32-bit application. If you’re running a 64-bit version of Microsoft Windows, you’ll notice that it will install 32-bit applications into one folder and 64-bit applications into another. The 32-bit applications are installed into Program Files x86, and the native 64-bit apps are installed into Program Files.
If you’re running Windows Vista or Windows 7, you have an enhanced graphics capability called Windows Aero. This is something that you won’t find inside of Windows 8 or Windows 8.1. These Aero graphics enhance the operating system user interface, and they make it easy to perform tasks like switching between certain applications. But inside the applications themselves, the graphics look the same whether you’re using Aero or whether you’re not.
In order to use these Aero graphics, your system needs to be running on a 1 gigahertz processor. You need at least 1 gigabyte of system memory, and your video card needs to support at least 128 megabytes of graphics memory.
Beginning with Windows Vista, Microsoft added a new feature into their Windows operating systems called UAC or User Account Control. In the past, operating systems would allow programs to perform all kinds of different functions inside of the operating system. But this, of course, became a problem if the software was malicious. So instead, with user account control, software is limited to what it can do. And when it tries to perform a particular elevated function, it asks you, the user, if the operating system should allow the software to perform that function.
There are many different things inside of your operating system that can allow malicious software access. So for a normal user, things like using parts of a network or changing your password might prompt UAC to present a message on the screen.
If you’re an administrator installing applications or configuring things like remote desktop, might also cause UAC to fire. If UAC is activated, your operating system stops working, it goes dark on the screen, and presents a dialog box for user account control, asking you if it’s OK for this software to perform this particular task on your computer.
By presenting you, the end user, with an opportunity to allow or disallow this function, the idea is that you can prevent some of this malicious software from gaining a foothold in your operating system.
Some editions of Microsoft Windows include a data encryption function called BitLocker. BitLocker is designed to protect an entire drive, not just a single file or a set of files on your system, but the entire drive, including the operating system.
This is especially useful for laptops and mobile devices that might leave the building and get lost or stolen. If somebody does come across that system, they won’t be able to access any of the sensitive information on your storage device.
This is encrypting all of the data on your system, and it’s encrypting it on the drive. Even if you were to remove that drive from one laptop and plug it into a completely different system, you would still not be able to access that data without the correct credentials.
If you’re running Windows Vista and Windows 7, you’ll find BitLocker in the Ultimate and Enterprise editions and on Windows 8 and 8.1, it’s included with the Pro and Enterprise editions.
One of the challenges with performing backups is traditionally you’ve needed access to the entire file to be able to back that up. If a file is in use or the file is opened by an application, you would not be able to provide any backup of that file.
Or these days, our applications may leave a file open constantly so it becomes more difficult to be able to perform backups. Because of that, Microsoft created a feature called Volume Shadow Copy. This allows Windows to backup entire volumes, even if the operating system is running and regardless of what files may be in use.
This Volume Shadow Copy is enabled, because there is a service that is allowing us to do this called the Volume Snapshot Service, or VSS. And if you look into your services on your Windows device, you’ll find the VSS service is always running by default.
This feature also allows us to go back in time to previous versions of a document that we might have saved. You can find this Previous Versions tab inside of the Properties of the file or the folder that you’re working with. You’ll find this previous version functionality available in Vista Business, Vista Enterprise, and Vista Ultimate, and in all editions of Windows 7 and Windows 8.
At a minimum, these previous versions are created once a day. They can also be created through a Windows backup process or by part of a restore point. So if you install an application, some previous versions may also be created by that. You’ll find the details of what’s created and how much room is used for these previous versions under your Control Panel inside of System, under System Protection.
Windows 8 and 8.1 include an additional feature called File History. You can find this by searching for File History from your Start screen. This is a similar feature to the previous versions, but now that we’re able to store these on a separate drive, we’re able to store much more information over a much longer period of time.
Another nice recovery feature of Windows is something called the System Restore. This allows you to take the configuration of your operating system and revert it back in time to a completely previous configuration.
That way if you install a new device driver or you install a new application, and it makes some changes to the operating system that you’re not happy with, you can click a button and go back in time to a previous configuration. This feature is available in all editions of Windows Vista, Windows 7, and Windows 8. And you can access this through All Programs, Accessories, System Tools, and System Restore.
Although the System Restore is great for resolving operating system problems and configuration errors, you should not use System Restore to resolve problems created by malware or viruses on your system. That’s because the malware knows about these System Restore points, and it not only infects your running operating system, but it very often infects your restore points as well. So restoring back to a previous version will simply install the malware along with that previous version as well.
One footnote in the evolution of Microsoft Windows was a feature in Windows Vista called the Sidebar, and in Windows 7 it was called Gadgets. In Windows Vista, the Sidebar was on the side of the screen, and you could add different applications and features onto the Side Bar.
In Windows 7 you could put these little applets anywhere on the screen. This included applications like showing the time. There was weather, other utilization features, and there were many different gadgets you could install. You could find this under Control Panel and Desktop Gadgets. But all of these gadgets have been completely discontinued from use inside of Microsoft Windows.
Unfortunately, malware authors and people who wanted to gain access to your system would use these gadgets as a way to circumvent the security of your operating system. So you’ll find that all of these gadgets have been discontinued, and none of them can be downloaded from Microsoft. In Windows 8, these capabilities were completely removed from the operating system and instead there are many built-in applications that can perform many of these same functions.
It’s very common for our operating systems to store different kinds of data into a cache in our storage device. That way if this data needs to be accessed more than once, we can retrieve it very quickly. Instead of storing this cached information onto a spinning hard drive, Windows has a feature called ReadyBoost that allows us to store this information on flash memory.
This ReadyBoost feature is something that’s available in all editions of Windows Vista, Windows 7, and Windows 8. And it takes advantage of USB flash drives, SD flash drives, or any other place where you may be able to use flash memory inside of your computer.
This is also very easy to use. When you plug in your flash memory, Windows will ask you if you’d like to use this for ReadyBoost. And if you look at the Properties of the drive, there will be a ReadyBoost tab, and you can choose whether you should use this device for ReadyBoost or not use this device.
Generally speaking, you can install and use an application in any version of Microsoft Windows. But sometimes you’ll run across an application that has certain features that have been specifically created for a particular version of Windows.
In those cases, it may be difficult to move that application to a newer version of Windows, because that particular application may stop working properly. In those cases, you may want to configure the application in your newer version of Windows to run in Compatibility Mode. This means that the application looks and works as if it’s running in an older version of Microsoft Windows. When you’re using Compatibility Mode, Windows pretends that it’s an older version but just for this particular application.
You would enable this Compatibility Mode in the Properties of the application. There’s a Compatibility tab, and you would enable Run This Program in Compatibility Mode. And then you would choose which version of the operating system you wanted this particular application to run as. This is a capability that’s available in all editions of Windows Vista, Windows 7, and Windows 8. So it doesn’t matter what version of Windows your application is compatible with, you’ll be able to run it on whatever you’re using.
In some rare cases, this Compatibility Mode may not be enough, and you may need to run a full-blown operating system to be able to use a particular application. In these cases, Windows 7 allowed a functionality called Windows XP Mode or XPM. This effectively was running Windows Virtual PC, so a completely virtualized operating system running on Windows 7.
It’s available on Windows 7 Professional, Enterprise, and Ultimate. This is not supported at all on Windows 8 or Windows 8.1. And because Windows XP is no longer supported by Microsoft, this functionality is no longer supported on any of these operating systems after April the 8th of 2014.
When this was supported, it ran Windows XP Service Pack 3, a fully licensed version of Windows XP inside of your Windows 7 operating system. This could be integrated in a couple of different ways into the Windows 7 operating system.
It might be a single application icon, and it looked and it ran as if it was a normal Windows 7 app. Or you could bring up the entire Windows XP Desktop and run the separate XP Desktop at the same time as your Windows 7 desktop.
When moving from one Windows operating system to another, you may not have a direct upgrade path. And in those cases, you may have to back up all of your personal files and then restore those personal files onto the newer operating system.
Microsoft has tried to make this a little bit easier by including an application of Windows called Windows Easy Transfer. This allows you to migrate your files and your configuration settings from Windows XP, Windows Vista, Windows 7, and Windows 8. So it makes it very easy to move from an older computer to a newer system. Windows Easy Transfer also gives you some flexibility on how you perform this migration.
You can either connect two systems next to each other or side by side, or you can back up all of your configuration files, completely wipe that system, install a new operating system, and then load those from the Windows Easy Transfer backup.
Transferring all of these different items– user accounts, documents, music, pictures, email, and more are enabled within Windows Vista, Windows 7, and Windows 8. But in Windows 8.1, Windows Easy Transfer was changed. In Windows 8.1, you can migrate your files, but it does not migrate any settings between these different operating systems.
Inside of every Windows Control Panel are a set of utilities called the Administrative Tools. These Administrative Tools are very useful for people like you and I who are administering the operating system. But your end users may not be interested in running Performance Manager or looking at the task scheduler.
These are utilities that can provide you with management of the computer, you can look at the services that are running, you can run memory diagnostics, and do much more, all from these Administrative Tools.
In an effort to maintain the security of your operating system, Microsoft includes a utility called Windows Defender. In Windows Vista and Windows 7, this is an anti-malware application. And in Windows 8 and 8.1, it also includes anti-virus capabilities.
If you wanted both anti-malware and anti-virus in Windows Vista and Windows 7, you would install Microsoft’s Free Security Essentials This effectively disabled Windows Defender but provided both anti-malware and anti-virus in that Security Essentials application.
If you’re running Windows 8, then obviously Windows Defender was already providing anti-malware and anti-virus, so there’s no Security Essentials for Windows 8. This is also a capability that integrates with Microsoft’s Internet Explorer browser. So if you’re downloading files or transferring information, this is also protecting everything that’s happening in your browser.
Microsoft also includes a software firewall inside of your operating system. Some people call this a personal firewall, and it’s called the Windows Firewall. This provides you with a way to allow or disallow certain types of traffic into or out of your computer. This will protect you certainly from attacks from the outside, and it will prevent malware from communicating outside of your personal computer.
This is something that’s also integrated into the operating system, so there’s nothing additional that you have to install. You can find the configurations for Windows Firewall in your Control Panel under Windows Firewall.
There are so many different tasks that are involved in administering your Windows system, and Microsoft has tried to centralize the viewing of all of those tasks in something called the Security Center in Windows Vista. If you’re running Windows 7 and Windows 8 or 8.1, this is called the Action Center. This is where you can get a central view of what’s going on with security inside of your operating system.
You can look at the status of your anti-virus, your anti-spyware, automatic updates, and any third-party products that might be providing some security features. This is a useful way to roll up and see everything at one time. This can also be a good portal to use for resolving problems as well.
There are a lot of things happening inside of your operating system that you never see, but if you wanted to get a view of all of the different events, you can start the Windows Event Viewer. This will show you everything happening with your applications, with security functions, with set up programs, and with the system in general. You’ll find that these are also categorized into different severities. So you can see informational, warning, error, critical, successful audit, and failure audit events.
To see what’s happening on your system, you can start the Event Viewer by going to your Control Panel under Administrative Tools and choosing Event Viewer.
If you start looking at the Control Panel on your Windows system, you may see that it looks a little bit different than some of the control panels that I’m using. That’s because you can view the Control Panel in two different ways.
One is with the Category View, where everything is separated into individual categories, and you can find things based on system and security, network and internet, hardware and sound, et cetera. Or you can change the view to something called the Classic View, which simply lists every single control panel applet in alphabetical order.