Monthly Archives: November 2009

More Must-Know Windows 7 Shortcuts

Start a new instance of an app. Changes made to the taskbar mean that clicking on a program icon placed there won’t automatically start up a new instance of it. Instead, clicking will just show you what windows of it you already have open. But if you Shift-click or click the middle mouse button on a program’s taskbar icon, you can start up another instance.

Start an elevated instance of an app. You can run a program with administrative credentials even if you’re not logged into an administrator-level account. Shift-Ctrl-click on a taskbar icon to open an elevated instance of that app.

Close a taskbar thumbnail. There’s a red X icon in the upper-right corner of each taskbar thumbnail window that you can use to close that window. Want an even quicker way? Click the middle mouse button on it.

Restore the last active window. New taskbar groupings make it easier than ever to organize the programs you have open in Windows 7. But there’s a way to speed up the process even more. Ctrl-click on a taskbar group to open the last active window in that group. Keep clicking to cycle through all the windows you have open.

Open a Jump List. One of the most helpful new features of Windows 7 are Jump Lists, which give you instant access to frequently used commands. There are two ways top open them: Either right-click on a taskbar icon, or left-click and drag it upward.

Arrange windows with Snap. Windows 7’s new Snap capability lets you arrange your windows in several cool ways, depending on where you drag them on the screen. But you need your mouse. With any open window, hold down the Windows key and then press an arrow key to cause the appropriate Snap behaviour. Use Windows key + Up Arrow to maximize the window; Windows key + Left Arrow or Right Arrow to make the window fill either the left or right half of the screen; or use Windows key + Down Arrow to minimize the window, or restore it to its original size if it’s been maximized.

Minimize all but the active window. Sometimes the best way to clear your head is by clearing your desktop of everything except what you’re looking at. This is easy to do in Windows 7: Hit Windows key+Home to minimize every window except the one that’s currently active.

Move a window to another display. Multiple-display setups can be a great convenience, but arranging your windows between them is sometimes challenging. Not in Windows 7. Hold down Shift and the Windows key with either the Left or Right Arrow key to send the window automatically to the display (or projector) in that position.

Use the magnifier. If you’re having trouble seeing portions of the screen, whether because of vision problems or because you’re running at too high a resolution for a specific task, pressing Windows key+Plus key will start up Windows’ magnifier option and let you zoom in on your display. To make everything look smaller again when you’re finished, hit Windows key+Minus key.

Set projection options. If you’re using your Windows 7 PC with a projector, you can easily change your display options by hitting Windows key+P. You’ll be given choices to display on just your computer or just the projector, show the same thing on both, or extend your projection.


Installing Devices in XP-Mode

When you activate the XP-Mode a virtual environment is created which runs the XP OS as a different machines sharing all resources with Windows 7. This is called the XP-Mode machine. The devices attached to the Windows 7 machine are managed by the integration services under the XP Mode to share them between the Windows 7 machine and XP-Mode machine.

The devices we are considering here are all those attached by USB ports. On my machine these are Microsoft VX-7000 Webcam, Z-10 Logitech Speakers, External Transcend Hard Disks, HP 1010 Laserjet Printer and HP Scanjet 3010. I will illustrate how external hard disk and printers are connected and shared.

Attaching External Hard disk StoreJet Transcend. The drivers required for this device are installed automatically in Windows 7 and XP-Mode when first recognised.

XP-01 When you connect an external hard disk like StoreJet Transcend to an USB Port it shows up as a “Shared” device on the list of USB attached devices in the XP-Mode machine.

My Computer list in Windows 7 will show this as a hard disk. In the XP-Mode My Computer list will not show this.

XP-02 When you click on the StoreJet Transcend name in the list it is attached to the XP-Mode machine and the label changes to “Release”.

My Computer list in Windows 7 will not show this as a hard disk now . The XP-Mode My Computer list will now show this as an attached hard disk .

When you finish using this device you click on its name in the list to return the device to Windows 7 machine.


Attaching HP 1010 Printer. There are no drivers for this device in Windows 7. I have installed this device as HP 1015 Printer which has drivers in Windows 7. The HP 1010 Printer Software Driver CD for XP OS is supplied with the printer.

XP-03 HP 1010 Printer is installed as a HP 1015 Printer in Windows 7 and it shows as a device in the Device Stage list.
XP-04 The first time the XP-Mode recognises the attached printer it requests for the HP 1010 Software disk and installs the required drivers. The Printer now appears as HP 1010 Printer in XP-Mode device list. Its status is shown as “Shared”.

At this time you can print on this printer from Windows 7 but not from X-Mode.

If you want to print on this printer from XP-Mode, you must click on the “Shared” label. The label now changes to “Release” and the printer is attached to the XP-Mode machine.

XP-05 At this time you can print on this printer from XP-Mode but not from Windows 7.

When the printer is attached to the XP-Mode machine it shows up in the list with a label “Release”. You can click on the device name to return the printer to the Windows 7 machine and the label changes to “Shared”.

The HP Scanjet 3010 is also treated the same way.

In summary:  Each attached device on the USB port can be used in one of the machines at a time, either Windows 7 or XP-Mode. The required software is automatically installed on first use. The devices are switched between machines by Attach/Release/Shared mechanism managed by the Integration services in the XP-MODE window.

The installed hard disk partitions in Windows 7 machine like C: D: E: etc are automatically shared between two machines. The XP-Mode has it’s own C: drive which is simulated in a VHD (Virtual Disk Drive) File on the C: drive of Windows 7.

Windows 7 XP-Mode

Windows 7 Virtual PC supports Windows 7 XP Mode that provides facilities to run Windows XP under Windows 7.

This copy of XP runs in a Virtual PC supported by Hardware Virtualization feature of the processor. You can run XP programs and use XP only devices like printers and scanners in this XP-Mode. This allows you to use your old peripherals that are not supported under  Windows 7.

The hard disks on the machine are shared between Windows 7 and the XP-Mode programs. Devices attached via USB ports can be used in either program one at a time.

You can read more about this mode

here >> Windows Virtual PC Home and here >> Install and use Windows XP Mode in Windows 7

I have installed this feature on my machine to mainly use my HP 1010 Laserjet printer and HP 3010 Scanjet scanner that are not supported by Windows 7.

Both are attached via a USB port and work very well in this mode.

Windows 7 Activation

Whenever you install a copy of Windows 7 on your desktop it must be activated. The activation process sends your product key that you have entered while installing to be checked against the records in Microsoft Servers. This is to ensure that the same product key is not used again. Whenever you make changes to your machine configuration the activation process in the OS makes sure that the changes are reasonable and you are running the copy of the OS on the same machine.

Recently I changed the motherboard of my desktop. This is considered to be a major change almost like installing your copy of Windows 7 on a different machine. Hence I was asked to Activate my copy of Windows 7 again. Of course the activation failed and I was asked to 1) Buy a new copy of the OS, 2) Enter the product Key Again or 3) Activate by calling Microsoft Activation number.

When you decide to activate by phone the Activation Application in Windows 7 comes up with a computed Installation ID for your system. This is a set of 9 six digit numbers that are presented to you as below.

W7 Activation 

These are India based BSNL toll free numbers that you can call. I called the 1 800 11 1100 number and was greeted by the Automated Voice Response. You choose the correct menu option of activation and are asked to enter these 9 set of numbers of the installation ID. After that your call is transferred to an operator, in my case from the Bangalore call centre. You have to explain the reasons why you are trying to activate. I explained my story of having to change the motherboard. He asked me to readout three sets of the installation ID just to verify my call. Then he read out another 8 sets of 6 digit alphanumeric confirmation ID that I entered as he called it out. Then one click on the NEXT Button and my copy of Windows 7 was activated.

The Desktop Motherboard Fails

I had my successful Windows 7 Launch Party on 24th Oct. The new OS had worked flawlessly till that time. However there was one yellow flagged little item in the Device Manager of a failed “PCI simple communications controller”. I traced it to the thermal sensing chip on the DG965RY Board. As my board was still under Intel’s three year warranty, I could a free replacement. Therefore, I decided to replace my desktop board. The actual replacement took about an hour. When I booted the machine it was taking forever to start. It seemed to be running 100 times slower. Even in Safe Mode it was the same story.

There was utter panic.

I checked the BIOS settings many times but could not figure out what was happening. Then I realised that the SATA settings on this board’s BIOS were different. My old board could set SATA as IDE, Native or AHCI mode. The new board had only IDE and AHCI. My existing Windows 7 installation was done with this setting at Native. Hence this OS installation would not work on the new board.

The only solution seemed to be to reinstall Windows 7. So bright and early next morning, I put the Signature Edition Disk of 64Bit Windows 7 Ultimate in DVD drive and booted the machine. Initial setup screens came up promptly and then there was an infinite pause. No messages just a frozen machine. Hmm! Now what? I thought the C: drive still had the old OS installation so may be the setup is getting confused. So got out my old DOS tools and Quick formatted the C: drive and tried installing Windows 7 again. No GO. The same situation.

Keep cool now! The problem seems to be that the new board and Windows 7 somehow don’t like each other. I knew it had to be something to do with the SATA setting on the new motherboard. A quick trip to the Intel site revealed a bigger truth. The DG965RY board no longer supports Windows 7.

As one last try I decided to install the BIOS from the old board on to the new board in the hope that it would again bring up the three SATA settings. Intel site has images of all old BIOS programs which you can download and burn the image into a bootable CD. You boot the CD and the flashing program gives you very understandable information and prompts for burning the BIOS on your motherboards.

Very sleek but unfortunately even this did not help solve the problem.

Final Solution. There was no alternative now but to replace the motherboard with a supported board. I chose the easily available DG41RQ mother board. I have a NVIDIA GFORCE 8400 GS video card so on board Video was not being used. I also use Logitech Z10 Speakers which have their own USB audio processing so onboard audio was also not going to be used. So all in all this seemed to be a very cost effective solution.

The new DG41RQ board is much smaller than my old DG965RY board and fitted in my old case very well. The new board does not have any setting for SATA which hopefully meant it worked in native SATA mode. There was only one way to test it, to load the Ghost Image of C: drive I had taken on 21st OCT before the Windows 7 Launch Party and hope for the best.

The Ghost Image backup process is really great; very convenient and efficient. It has saved my skin may times in the past and did not fail me now. Some twenty minutes of wait for the 091121W7.GHO 8GB file to be restored and Bingo the machine booted with Windows 7 back in time as of 21st OCT. Collective sigh of relief all around.

In hindsight it seems this two days effort was worth it. I got a machine which will be supported by Windows 7. It will run cooler. The Windows Experience Index has gone from 3.4 to 3.5 so there is some improvement in performance. Renewed my faith in Ghost Image backup.

Now that I had changed my motherboard  Windows Activation promptly detected it and asked me to reactivate.

Of course the Automatic Reactivation on internet failed and I had to reactivate Windows 7 by phone. How I finally managed it will be my next post on this blog.