Windows 7 Support Has Ended

You will have to be hiding under an “IT rock” to not know this: today, on January 14th, Microsoft is releasing their very last updates for Windows 7 to the public. Yes, after over 10 years of support, Windows 7 is now end-of-life.

Disclaimer: businesses can extend security fix availability for Windows 7 in one of two ways:

  • Run Windows 7 in Azure with appropriate RDS licensing for a VDI solution, with security fix availability for 3 years from today.
  • Subscribe to a year-by-year (maximum three years from today) security fix program, where the price will probably double each year.

It’s hard to believe that Windows 7 became generally available 10 years and 3 months ago. It was still early in my active-in-the-community days. This was a time when Microsoft used to run public events, and technical people would promote their products. I was asked by the DPE/partner teams in Dublin to work with them on their Windows 7 “community launch” roadshow in 4 cities around Ireland: Belfast, Galway, Cork, and Dublin. Each event featured 1 or 2 business-focused shows during the day, and 1 consumer-focused show in the evening. I honestly don’t remember what Windows 7 stuff I talked about back then – it could have been MDT, I don’t recall. But I remember each event had a huge attendance – the free copy of Windows 7 Ultimate (it should have been a Home version but accidentally was announced and supplied as Ultimate at great cost to MS Ireland!) helped. But despite the big freebie, the interest was genuine and there was lots of interaction.

Windows 7 was a great OS. From the first time I used it, either Beta or Release Candidate, it was stable. I logged a bug with the wi-fi config assuming you were in the USA, which was acknowledged and resulted in a free copy of Windows 7 for me (along with one from the roadshow!). Uptake with businesses was slow – the eventual end-of-life for Windows XP resulted in lots of rushed deployments. Then along came the deeply unpopular Windows 8/8.1 and that meant that people stuck with Windows 7. Even today, businesses have held on tight, fearing the forever-frequently-upgrading model and different management of Windows 10.

I’m actually feeling a little weird. It doesn’t feel like 10 years. On one hand, it feels like yesterday that I was hanging with the Windows 7 & Windows Server 2008 R2 launch team at a hotel in Galway, Belfast, or Cork. That’s us in the blue/black rugby jersey’s above, which had a 7 on the back. Dave moved into an enterprise role in Microsoft and has since left in recent years – he’s the one that got me involved in community stuff after I had been blogging for a while. Enda left Microsoft and emigrated with his family to live a great life in Norway. Wilbour moved to Microsoft in his native Canada and has since left the company. There’s me … And Patrick has since passed on. We literally presented that show on the seat of our pants. The demo lab build stated the night before in a hotel room in Galway, and I remember Patrick finishing his build behind the curtain while Dave was presenting! And that curry in the Indian Princess in Cork … Wilbour and I dared each other to eat the Chicken Phal. I think I needed 3-4 pints of beer to down it, and maybe some loo roll in the fridge. On the other hand, it feels like life has moved at lightspeed and so much has happened since then.


How could I forget … actually my work in Azure has me rarely signing into a customer’s OS anymore … but today is also the end of support for Windows Server 2008 and Windows Server 2008 R2. Wow! My first community involvement with Microsoft was the launch of W2008. Dave (above) ran a series of events during the beta/RC time period to bring IT pros up to speed on the new server OS. I was working with a “large” Irish hosting company as the senior Microsoft engineer, maintaining what was there and building a new VMware hosting platform – yeah, you read that right. I was invited to attend the sessions. Towards the end, Dave asked if anyone was interested in doing some community work. I volunteered and next thing I know, I was standing on the main stage with Dave and Mark (who now runs the Microsoft data centre tours in Dublin) for the launch of W2008. That was a mad day in the Pod nightclub in Dublin. There were three launch events in 1 day. Each had 3 session slots – a keynote presented by an Irish guy working in Redmond in Server marketing, and then two slots where you could attend different sessions. We were in the main hall and presented W2008 in slots 2 and 3, 3 times that day. I remember we had to time it perfectly … music would literally drown us out after 25 minutes so we had to be quick. That, and the fear of the crashes that plagued the local Vista launch, meant that all demos were recorded and editing was done to make the videos quicker. I think I talked about Server Core. I remember the install demo and saying how quick it was, and getting some laughs when I explained that it wasn’t as quick as the obviously edited video. And the following night was the first time that I hosted/presented at a user group community event in Dublin.

My big memory of the W2008 R2 launch was the roadshow we did in Dublin while it was still beta/RC to build up interest. By now, I was working for a different hosting company and was building a new hosting platform that would be based on W2008 R2 Hyper-V and System Center. It as another roadshow in Belfast, Galway, Cork, and Dublin, with the same gang as the previous Windows 7 one. I remember Dave build a Hyper-V lab using a couple of laptops and a 1 Gbps switch. He was so proud that he had a demo lab that didn’t rely on dodgy hotel wi-fi or phone signals. It worked fine in rehearsals, but Live Migration failed in every live demo, which Dave insisted on fixing in front of each audience. I was co-presenting with him. The Dublin event, in the Hilton by the Grand Canal, was crazy. Dave put his head down, waved at the audience and said “I’ll fix this”. Time was passing, so I decided to do “a dance” to entertain the crowd. When I say “dance” imagine the Umpalumpas dancing in Charlie & The Chocolate Factory.

Yes, time has moved on … 10+ years of it! And now Windows 7 is breathing its last hours as a fully supported OS. I sure hope that your desktop OS has moved on too.

Windows 10 Being Pushed Out To Domain-Joined PCs

Brad Sams (my boss at published a story last night about how Microsoft has started to push out Windows 10 upgrades to domain-joined PCs.

Note that the PC doesn’t upgrade via Windows Update; the user will be prompted if they want to update, and then a deliberately confusing screen “encourages” the user to upgrade.

Brad notes that the environment must meet certain requirements:

  • The machine must be running and licensed for Windows 7 Pro or Windows 8.1 Pro (Enterprise doesn’t do this stuff).
  • There is no WSUS, ConfigMgr, etc – the machine gets updates directly from MSFT – this means smaller businesses for the most part.
  • The machine must be a domain member.

As you can see, this affects SMEs with a domain (no WSUS, etc). But I’d be surprised if larger businesses weren’t targeted at a later point in order to help MSFT hit their 1 billion PCs goal.

In my opinion, this decision to push upgrades to business is exactly the sort of action that gives Microsoft such a bad name with customers. Most SMEs won’t know this is coming. A lot of SMEs run systems that need to be tested, upgraded, or won’t support or work on newer operating systems. So Microsoft opting to force change and uncertainty on those businesses that are least ready is down right dumb. Brad reports that Microsoft claims that people asked for this upgrade. Right – fine – let those businesses opt into an upgrade via GPO instead of the other way around. Speaking of which …

There is a blocker process. I work in a small business and I’ve deployed the blocker. Windows Update added new GPO options to our domain controllers, and I enabled the GPO to block Windows upgrades via Windows Update:


As you can see – I’ve deployed this at work. We will upgrade to Windows 10 (it’s already started) but we will continue to do it at our own pace because we cannot afford people to be offline for 2 hours during the work day while Windows upgrades.

Driver Updates By Windows Update Are Ruining Windows 10 For Me

In previous posts I talked about how Windows Update was breaking the Intel HD graphics adapters in my Lenovo Yoga and Toshiba KIRAbook Ultrabooks, and I also posted a solution that should prevent Windows Update from downloading drivers. Well … nothing has worked, and I regularly face broken graphics drivers on my Ultrabooks.

The only solution that I have to solve the issue is:

  • Uninstall the device in Device Manager
  • Refresh
  • Manually install a driver that I downloaded from Intel – I keep this driver for regularly carrying out this process.

I’ve found that Windows Update can silently install the updated fault driver during the middle of a presentation, and suddenly I am no longer sharing my display with the projector/screen – that’s an interesting problem, that requires 5-10 minutes of fixing.

Some folks have suggested that I use the solution in KB3073930, How to temporarily prevent a Windows or driver update from reinstalling in Windows 10. I did, and that worked for 5 days, until Microsoft shipped replacement versions of the driver, the block rule lapsed, and I was back to Square One.

This is the only issue I’m having with Windows 10 … but it is absolutely driving me nuts.

It’s no wonder that Samsung felt like they had to block all Microsoft updates to give customers a stable Windows experience. Please Microsoft, stop shipping frakked up drivers, or give me actual control over these updates on Windows 10, not just the illusion of it!!!

Let me be very clear: the only source of driver updates should be from the PC manufacturer. Microsoft has always sucked at this, and their new “we know best” model with Windows 10 shows how out of touch they are with this subject.

Prevent Windows From Downloading Broken Drivers From Windows Update

Edit: the solution here does not work. The Windows Update Blocker offers a solution that works until Microsoft releases a new broken version of the broken driver. Frustrated much?

The release of Windows 10 has reminded many of us that Windows Update is usually the worst place to get a driver for your device, be it an Intel HD graphics adapter in your tablet or laptop, or a NIC in a Hyper-V host. The best driver always comes from the maker of your computer (HP, Dell, Lenovo, etc) because they distribute drivers for your specific and,  usually, customised chipset.

Recently I upgraded my 2 ultrabooks, a Lenovo Yoga S1 and a Toshiba KIRAbook, from Windows 8.1 to Windows 10. A trip to Device Manager found that the Intel HD graphics cards were broken and I was unable to share my display – projectors are a big part of my job!

I found a fix – but then a day or two later Windows Update decided to reapply Microsoft’s distribution of the driver and I was stuck once again with broken Ultrabooks. I took to Twitter and then I got a response from a Microsoft employee with a solution that should work.

Method 1 – Manual Change

Open up System > Advanced System Settings > Hardware > Device Installation Settings.  Set it to No, Let Me Choose What To Do and set Never Install Driver Software From Windows Update.


Method 2 – The Registry

Open REGEDIT and set both of these REG_DWORD values to 0:

  • HKLM\SOFTWARE\MICROSOFT\Windows\CurrentVersion\DriverSearching\SearchOrderConfig
  • HKLM\SOFTWARE\MICROSOFT\Windows\CurrentVersion\Device Metadata\PreventDeviceMetadataFromNetwork

Method 3 – Group Policy

The above are fine if you have one or two machines to modify, but what if you have dozens or hundreds of machines to update? Hopefully these machines are domain members; if so then you can deploy a GPO to them to make the required changes.

Look for a setting called Specify Search Order For Device Driver Locations in Computer Configuration > Administrative Templates > System > Device Installation. Enable the policy and set Select Search Order to Do Not Search Windows Update.


You should also enable Prevent Device Metadata Retrieval From The Internet at the same location in GPO.


Updating Drivers

Yes, you do need to update drivers – drivers and firmware are the cause of many issues on PCs, Hyper-V hosts, etc. On my PCs/laptops I install the OEM’s updating tool and regularly run a check/update. So where can you get drivers from in a larger environment. Well; always form the OEM. How do you distribute them?

  • Manually
  • A shared folder
  • Cluster Aware Updating – see what Dell has done
  • System Center, possibly even with OEM additions

Intel HD Graphics Family Disabled By Windows 10

I upgraded a couple of Ultrabooks to Windows 10 in the last week and both displayed (sorry!) the same issue; the graphics driver was not working correctly. My Toshiba KIRAbook couldn’t share to an external display. My Lenovo Yoga S1 had the same problem.

I opened Device Manager and saw the above issue –  a yellow exclamation on the Intel HD Graphics device. Opening the properties revealed that:

Windows has stopped this device because it has reported problems.

Ah, so it appears that Microsoft shipped an untested driver for the most common graphics adapter in laptops and tablets. Is it any wonder that the likes of Samsung prevents Microsoft from updating their drivers?

FYI, Microsoft ships a lot of bad drivers and you should always get the device-specific drivers from the manufacturer of your device.

I checked for software updates from Toshiba and Lenovo and had none, so I went to the source. Intel has a set of drivers shared online. I downloaded “Intel® HD Graphics Driver for Windows® 10 64bit (3rd Gen & BYT)”, published on 7th August (hard to tell with you Americans and your non-standard date formats). I:

  1. Downloaded the zip file
  2. Extracted it to a temporary location
  3. Ran the setup executable from there.

Trying to update the driver from Device Manager didn’t do anything – Windows claimed that the Microsoft driver was more up to date. It might be, but it’s sh1te. Running the setup program fixed the problem.


Please read this follow up post on how to prevent installations of Microsoft-supplied drivers from Windows Update.

Note: I later did a clean installation on my Yoga after installing an SSD. The default driver from Microsoft actually worked out of the box. So there appears to be different behaviour on upgraded machines than on cleanly installed machines.

There’s no need to tell us if you saw no problems at all.

Technorati Tags: ,

Approaching Windows 10 Availability

This is an exciting time in time in a Windows version’s life cycle. We’re just 2 weeks away from initial availability and things are starting to appear or shake up. The Verge (and everyone else) is reporting that Microsoft has selected Build 10240 (divisible by 16, which is important, oddly) as the RTM build. That doesn’t mean it’s the RTM build. Microsoft has released this build to Windows Insiders for testing, and I guess that RTM will happen soon.

When? I suspect that Microsoft will very quietly (via a blog or a tweet by Gabe Aul) announce RTM tomorrow (Friday 16 July) or on Monday, letting the noise of WPC subside.

But that leaves manufacturer just 2 weeks (availability starts on July 29th) to get hardware ready!?!?! Don’t stress. There’s two approached that OEMs are taking. When I say that it doesn’t mean that an OEM is going down just one road; they might have different approaches for product lines.

Approach 1: Up to Date

We’ve heard that HP has hardware coming out for Windows 10 before Windows 10. The machines have been tested and developed with the preview builds and when a user gets the machine home, if they have Windows 8.1 they will get the free update to Windows 10.

Approach 2: Wait and See

This is how most OEMs are taking it from what I hear. They’re not going to get stressed – let’s face it, Windows 8.1 hardware will work better with Windows 10. These OEMs will not release hardware with Windows 10 on it for a while.

In fact, you won’t see hardware with Windows 10 on the shelves (except for Surface, possibly) for quite a while. This is because it takes quite a while to:

  • Ramp up manufacturing
  • Physically move stock by ship from China (or nearby) to the rest of the world
  • Pass the stock through the warehouses of manufacturers and distributors and then into resellers hands

And for some stupid reason, some OEMs launch new stuff via exclusive contracts so even the channels can be very restricted.

But the excitement builds. Soon we’ll see MDT, Windows Update for Business, SCCM updates, documentation updates, group policy stuff … … ah then fun!

Technorati Tags:

When Will Cortana Come To Ireland and Other Countries?

Every presentation I’ve seen on Windows 10 has spent half of the time talking about and demonstrating Cortana, Microsoft’s latest “The Curse of Zune” feature. Cortana, first introduced in Windows Phone, only works in a few countries. On Windows 10, as far as I know, it only works in the USA, and we can bet that won’t go beyond the “big market” countries any time soon.

How is Microsoft faring with voice control? This might give us a clue as to when to expect Cortana in other countries:

  • Windows Phone 8.1 Cortana was released in April 2, 2014, and is still restricted to Australia, Canada, China, France, Germany, India, Italy, Spain, United Kingdom, United States (10 countries). Microsoft has had 14 months to increase the number of countries, and failed.
  • Xbox One was released in November 2013. Voice commands are limited to USA, Canada, Mexico, Brazil, UK, France, Germany, Spain, Italy, Australia (10 countries). and  That was a whopping 20 months ago.

So, my bet is that Windows 10 Cortana won’t make it to Ireland and other similar countries in 2015, 2016, and probably not 2017. So here’s my advice: if you work for Microsoft, and you are going to demonstrate Windows 10 in Zune-cursed countries such as Ireland, don’t become guilty of “switch and bait” by demonstrating a feature that we cannot use here without screwing up our regional settings.

FYI, we have had Siri in Ireland since 2011 – just sayin’.

Technorati Tags:

Windows 10 Technical Preview (Build 9926 January) is Released

Microsoft made the latest Technical Preview release available to the public on Friday evening. Note that this is the edition for PCs/laptops/hybrid devices, and not the phone/small tablet build which will be coming in February.

A blog post by Microsoft goes into more details on this preview release. Highlights include:

  • Updated start menu
  • Cortana (US and English only – aka The Curse of Zune)
  • Continuum adaptive UI for different form factors
  • New Settings app
  • New experience for connecting to audio/video streaming devices, e.g. Miracast
  • New Photos and Maps apps
  • Windows Store beta
  • Xbox app

There are issues with Build 9926:

  • A boot selection menu always appears
  • Xbox Live games that require sign-in won’t start
  • Battery icon always shows on the lock screen, even on non-battery devices
  • Remote desktop is a bit rough
  • Connected Standby enabled machines will have shorter battery life
  • Cortana reminders cannot be edited
  • The Music app will close if minimized within first 16 seconds of launch
  • Sometimes the start menu will fail to launch

Remember that this is a PREVIEW release and not the finished product. Microsoft reminds you that:

    • Remember, trying out an early build like this can be risky. That’s why we recommend that you don’t install the preview on your primary home or business PC. Unexpected PC crashes could damage or even delete your files, so you should back up everything.
    • After you install Windows 10 Technical Preview, you won’t be able to use the recovery partition on your PC to go back to your previous version of Windows.

There is also an ISO that you can download (the Windows 10 preview product key is also on this page).

If you’re limited in hardware and are scared about wiping your existing production install, then you can still try out Windows 10 by installing it in a VHD file via Native VHD.

And for those of you folks who want to deploy using the Microsoft Deployment Toolkit, here’s a post on Deploying Windows 10 Build 9926 using MDT 2013 Lite Touch.

And no, there is no new release of Windows Server yet. No; I do not have any further information that I can share.

Technorati Tags:

What is Windows-as-a-Service? FAQ

I heard “Windows as a Service” or WaaS being mentioned twice at an event on Wednesday. Straight away, as a blogger/speaker, I knew what questions people would ask. Here’s what this means:

Windows as a Service is a mindset from Microsoft. You don’t use an OS; your use apps and content. The OS should be a transparent enabler. However, the OS should be kept up to date with fixes, etc, and functionality can be added. Microsoft intends to offer free upgrades to the OS via updates once you are on Windows 10.

The Free Upgrade Offer

For one year, anyone running Windows 7, Windows 8, or Windows 8.1 can avail of a free upgrade to Windows 10. After that point, it is likely that you will have to pay to upgrade to Windows 10.

Is Windows Moving to a Subscription Model?

No*. Once you are on Windows 10 you will get the continuous improvement updates for free. You will not be charged a monthly/yearly fee.

* Note that some business licensing (OVS and ESA) are actually already subscriptions.

What about Businesses?

Here’s what is explicitly stated (in a mail I received):

The upgrade offer does not apply to Windows 7 Enterprise, Windows 8.1 Enterprise and Windows RT; it also does not it cover XP and Vista. Active SA customers may of course upgrade as part of their SA benefits.

Note that Enterprise customers have SA (Ent is an SA benefit) so they have a free upgrade even without this one-year offer.

I suspect that the other SKUs in businesses (without SA) will have upgrade entitlements in that first year but that has not been explicitly stated. To be honest, there would be no way to enforce it because lots of consumer machines actually do have Windows 8 or Windows 8.1 Pro. And let’s face it, Microsoft wants businesses to upgrade.

When Does the First Year Start?

When Windows 10 is “commercially available”. That is probably the Generally Available (GA) date, which can be several months after the Release To Manufacturing (RTM) date. In other words, when Windows 10 appears in stores either as boxed product or pre-installed machines.

How Long Will You get Windows 10 for Free For?

If your machine was legitimately licensed for Windows 7 or later, you get Windows 10 for free until:

  • The device the OS is installed on stops working
  • Microsoft stops supporting Windows 10

What about Windows RT?

It sounds like there is an “update” for Windows RT, but it might not be an upgrade to Windows 10. Sorry!

What About [Something Else]?

I don’t know yet.

Technorati Tags: ,