Installing and Using Windows 7

1/15/2011 9:21:07 AM
Whether you are running the Starter, Home, Professional, Enterprise, or Ultimate edition of Windows 7, the core features of the operating system are the same. This means that on a home computer, an office workstation, or a mobile computer, you’ll have the same standard set of features and you’ll work with Windows 7 in the same way.

When you first start using Windows 7, you should do the following:

I discuss these tasks in the following sections.

1. Logging On and Finalizing the Installation

When you start Windows 7, you’ll know it’s a different kind of operating system from Windows XP and earlier versions of Windows. During installation, you are prompted to create a local machine account. This account is created as a computer administrator account. When the operating system starts, you can log on using this account.

After you install Windows 7 (or if you purchased a new computer with Windows 7 already installed), you’ll have to complete a mini-setup the first time you start your computer. As part of the mini-setup, you’ll need to finalize the operating system installation. The procedure you’ll need to perform will be similar to the following:

  1. When prompted, choose your country or region, your time and currency format, and your keyboard layout. Click Next.

  2. Create a local machine account, which will be a computer administrator account. Enter a username. Click Next.

  3. Type a computer name. Click Next.

  4. Type and then confirm a password. Enter a password hint and then click Next.

  5. Select a Windows Update option for the computer. Usually, you’ll want to use the recommended settings to allow Windows 7 to automatically install all available updates and security tools as they become available. Choose Ask Me Later only if you want to disable Windows Update.

  6. Setup displays the date and time settings. Make changes as necessary and then click Next.

  7. If a network card was detected during setup, networking components were installed automatically. If you have a Wi-Fi card, you’ll have to choose the wireless network to connect to. You’ll also need to specify the location type for each detected network connection:

    1. Depending on the type of location and connection, click Home for a home network, Work for a network in a workplace, or Public Location for a public network. Windows 7 will then configure the sharing settings as appropriate for this location.

    2. If there are multiple networks, you’ll see a prompt for each network. You can configure each detected network in a different way.

  8. Once you’ve configured all of your network adapters, Windows 7 will then prepare your desktop. When the operating system starts, you’ll be able to log on.

Before you throw out or put aside the packaging that came with your computer, make a note of any special keys, such as Alt-F10, that you must press to reinstall the computer using the recovery image included on the computer’s hard disk. Write this information down and put it someplace where you’ll know to look for it in a year or two (or three or five). If your computer fails to start and normal recovery techniques don’t work, you’ll often be able to reinstall the computer using the manufacturer’s recovery environment.

Normally, when you recover a computer using the manufacturer’s recovery environment, the computer will be restored to the state it was in when the manufacturer shipped the computer to you. Therefore, if you choose to recover a computer in this way, you would lose all updates and changes you’ve made to your computer, including applications, documents, and system updates. Some computer manufacturers, like HP, include a backup and recovery tool that allows you to write updated system images to the custom recovery environment. If you make periodic updates to the stored system image using this tool, you may be able to recover the computer to a later state.

2. Performing Essential Configuration Tasks

Some aspects of Windows 7 are different depending on whether a computer is a member of a homegroup, workgroup, or domain. On a home network, your computer will operate in a homegroup or a workgroup configuration. On a business network, your computer will operate in a workgroup or a domain configuration.

Homegroups are loose associations of computers on home networks. When your computer is in a homegroup, you can share data with other computers on the home network using a password common to the all users in the homegroup. You set the homegroup password when you set up the homegroup and can modify the password as necessary at any time.

Workgroups are loose associations of computers where each computer is managed separately. Domains are collections of computers that you can manage collectively by means of domain controllers. Domain controllers are servers running Windows that manage access to the network and its resources.

Homegroups are available only when a computer running Windows 7 is connected to a home network. Workgroups and domains are available only when a computer running Windows 7 is connected to a work network.

2.1. Changing your network location type

You can change the network location type for the network to which your computer currently is connected by following these steps:

  1. Click Start→Control Panel. In Control Panel, click Network and Internet→Network and Sharing Center.

  2. As shown in Figure 1, Network and Sharing Center shows the current networking configuration of your computer.

  3. Under “View your active networks,” locate the network you want to change, and click the link under it (it will be labeled Work Network, Home Network, or Public Network).

  4. In the Set Network Location dialog box, choose Work Network, Home Network, or Public Network as appropriate and then click Close.

Figure 1. Review the network configuration

2.2. Connecting to the Internet

The Network and Sharing Center provides options for changing networking settings. Connecting your computer to the Internet is one of the essential tasks you may need to perform to finalize the initial setup of your computer. If your Internet connection wasn’t set up automatically or you want to modify the default set up, click the “Set up a new connection or network option” in the Network and Sharing Center. Then click Connect to the Internet→Next. As Figure 2 shows, the Connect to the Internet option can help walk you through the configuration of an Internet connection in three specific scenarios.

Figure 2. Connecting to the Internet

  • If your computer has a wireless adapter and you need to connect to a wireless router or a wireless network, you can use the Wireless option to configure your connection. After you click an available wireless network, click Connect, then provide any required security and configuration information.

  • If you are using DSL or a cable modem that requires a username and password, you can use the Broadband (PPPoE)—which stands for Point-to-Point Protocol over Ethernet—option to configure your connection. After you provide the required username and password, select the “Remember this password” checkbox and then click Connect. Keep in mind that you should rarely, if ever, connect your computer directly to your DSL or cable modem. Instead, purchase an inexpensive router with a hardware firewall, connect your computer to the router, and connect the router to your modem.

  • If you are using a dial-up modem or ISDN, you can use the Dial-up option to configure your connection. Enter the dial-up phone number, provide the required username and password, and then select the “Remember this password” checkbox. Click Connect.

Keep in mind that if your computer is configured as part of a home or business network that is already connected to the Internet, you don’t need to use the Connect to the Internet option—simply make sure that your computer has the proper configuration for its network adapter.

Most home networks and business networks use dynamically assigned network configurations. As this is the default configuration for Windows 7, you typically do not need to change your network settings as long as your computer’s network adapter is connected properly to the network.


If you use a wired network and your computer’s network adapter isn’t connected to the network via a network cable, connect the network cable now. Your computer will then configure its networking settings and should also detect that it is on a network. You’ll then be prompted for the type of network. Once you’ve specified whether you are using a home, work, or public network, your computer will update its configuration for this network location.

2.3. Responding to Action Center notifications

When you log on to your computer, Windows normally displays an Action Center summary icon in the notification area. This icon has a flag with a red circle that has an X in it. Action Center is a program that monitors that status of important security and maintenance areas. If the status of a monitored item changes, Action Center updates the notification icon as appropriate for the severity of the alert. If you move the mouse pointer over this icon, you see a summary of all alerts. If you click this icon, Windows displays a popup dialog box with a summary listing of each alert or action item that needs your attention. Click an alert or action item link to open Internet Explorer and display a possible solution. Click the Open Action Center link to display the Action Center.

As Figure 3 shows, Action Center provides an overview of the computer’s status and lists any issues that need to be resolved. You can view available solutions by clicking the View Problem Response button provided. For example, if a computer is experiencing a problem with its sound card and this problem can be resolved by installing a newer driver, clicking View Problem Response displays a More Information page. Here, this page provides more information about the problem and a link to download and install the latest driver, as shown in Figure 4. When you’ve resolved a problem, you can elect to archive the message for future reference by selecting the “Archive this message” checkbox before you click OK to close the More Information dialog box.

Figure 3. Review alerts and action items for your computer

Figure 4. Get more information on a problem

While you are working with the Action Center, you may want to choose the “View performance information” option (see Figure 1-3). Choosing this option displays the computer’s performance rating and notifies you of whether there are any issues causing performance problems. The computer’s base score is determined according to the worst performing component. For example, if the computer has little graphics memory, the computer will have a low score in this area and the base score will reflect this as well. To improve performance, upgrade the computer’s graphics card (however, in some cases, obtaining updated drivers from your hardware vendor can provide a significant performance boost, especially if Windows has decided to use the built-in SVGA graphics driver for your system). To have Windows recheck the computer’s performance, click “Re-Run the assessment” in the Performance Information and Tools window.

After checking the computer’s performance rating, you may want to modify the User Account Control settings. To do this, click the “Change User Account Control settings” option in Action Center. Use the slider provided to specify the desired setting for User Account Control and then click OK. You can:

  • Select Always Notify to always notify the current user when programs try to install software or make changes to the computer and when the user changes Windows settings.

  • Select Default to notify the current user only when programs try to make changes to the computer and not when the user changes Windows Settings.

  • Select Notify Me Only When...(Do Not Dim My Desktop) to prevent User Account Control from switching to the secure desktop. Otherwise, this option works the same as Default.

  • Select Never Notify to turn off all User Account Control notification prompts.


Switching to the secure desktop enhances security, because the secure desktop restricts the programs and processes that have access to the desktop. This reduces the possibility that a malicious program or user could gain access to a process being elevated.

While working with Action Center, you may also want to reduce the number of alert window displays. You do this by turning alert messages on or off. Alert messages are divided into two categories:


Security alerts that you can turn on or off include those related to Windows Update, Internet security settings, network firewall, spyware and related programs, User Account Control, and Virus programs.


Maintenance alerts you can turn on or off include those related to Windows Backup, checking for updates, and Windows troubleshooting. Quick links are provided to allow you to configure settings for the Customer Experience Improvement Program, problem reporting, and Windows Update.

To change the notification settings, click Change Action Center settings. Clear checkboxes for messages you don’t want to see and select checkboxes for messages you do want to see. Save your settings by clicking OK.

2.4. Other setup tasks

Other essential tasks you may want to perform to initially set up your computer may include:

Transferring files and settings

You can use Windows Easy Transfer to transfer settings from one computer to another. Windows Easy Transfer transfers user accounts, files and folders, program settings, Internet settings, and email settings. For the transfer, you can use CDs, DVDs, USB flash drives, external hard drives, network folders, or a Windows Easy Transfer cable (which must be purchased separately). To start a transfer, click Start→All Programs→Accessories→Windows Easy Transfer.

Adding new users

You can configure user accounts for each person that will log on locally to the computer.  For homegroup and workgroup computers, you can add users by clicking the “Add or remove user accounts option” in the Control Panel under User Accounts and Family Safety. For domain computers, you will manage user accounts in a slightly different way.

3. Reviewing and Activating Your Computer

As Figure 5 shows, the System page in Control Panel (Start→Control Panel→System and Security→System) provides links for performing common tasks and a system overview in four basic areas.

Figure 5. Viewing the computer’s basic information

Windows edition

Lists the operating system edition and service packs. To protect your computer and optimize performance, you’ll want to ensure that your computer is running the latest service pack. With Windows 7, you can install service packs and other product updates automatically as part of Windows Update.


Lists the processor, total memory, and performance rating of your computer. Your computer’s performance rating (the Windows Experience Index) was computed automatically during finalization of the installation. The Windows Experience Index is calculated based on the processor speed, total memory, graphics processor, and hard disk transfer rate.

Computer name, domain, and workgroup settings

Lists the computer name, description, domain, and workgroup details. All computers are members of either a workgroup or a domain, and this membership affects how you can configure the computer and the available options.

Windows activation

Lists the computer’s product ID and activation status. If your computer is using a retail version of Windows 7, it must have a product key and you must activate the operating system using this product key. In Windows 7, the product key provided during installation is what determines the operating system version and features that are installed. When you upgrade your Windows 7 edition, you are essentially buying a new product key and telling Windows 7 to unlock and install the additional features of this edition.

Retail editions of Windows 7 use product keys. Windows 7 requires activation over the Internet. In the System console, activate the operating system by clicking “Activate Windows now” under “Windows activation” and then clicking “Activate Windows online now” in the Windows Activation dialog box. Your computer then checks your Internet connection and attempts to activate the operating system. If this process fails, you’ll need to resolve any issues that are preventing your computer from connecting to the Internet and then click “Activate Windows online now” again.

Unlike with Windows XP, you can easily change your computer’s product key with Windows 7. You may need to change your product key to comply with your license agreement. For example, you may already have a computer running on your network with the same single-computer product key you used when installing the copy you’re trying to activate. In the System console, click “Change product key” under Windows Activation. In the Windows Activation window, shown in Figure 6, enter the product key. You do not need to enter the dashes in the product key. When you click Next, the product key will be validated. You’ll then need to reactivate Windows 7 over the Internet.

Figure 6. Changing your product key

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