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Designing a Client Life Cycle for Windows 7 Desktop Administrators

Lesson 2: Designing a Client Hardware Platform

You must ensure that Windows 7 is deployed on hardware that meets the minimum hardware requirements. Although it is unusual today to find new hardware that would not meet the Windows 7 requirements, you might encounter problems when you attempt to install Windows 7 on older computers that had previous operating systems installed, such as Windows XP.

Windows 7 Hardware Requirements

Make sure you deploy Windows 7 only to hardware platforms that meet the minimum requirements. Windows 7 has the following minimum hardware requirements:

  • 1 GHz or faster 32-bit (x86) or 64-bit (x64) processor

  • 1 gigabyte (GB) of RAM (x86) or 2 GB of RAM (x64)

  • 16 GB of hard disk space (x86) or 20 GB (x64)

  • DirectX 9 graphics card with WDDM 1.0 or higher graphics adapter driver

The primary limitation of the x86 versions of Windows 7 is that they do not support more than 4 GB of RAM. You can install the x86 version of Windows 7 on a computer that has more than this amount of RAM, but only 4 GB is usable by the operating system. Some editions support more RAM than other editions.

The Starter edition of Windows 7 supports a maximum of 2 GB of RAM. The x64 version of Windows 7 Home Basic x64 supports a maximum of 8 GB of RAM. The x64 Home Premium edition supports a maximum of 16 GB of RAM. The x64 Professional, Enterprise, and Ultimate editions support up to 192 GB of RAM.

Although the x86 version of Windows 7 can be installed on computers that have x64 compatible processors, you cannot install an x64 version of Windows 7 on a computer with an x86 processor. Different editions of Windows 7 support different numbers of physical processors, and x86 versions support up to 32 cores, while x64 versions support up to 256 cores per physical processor. For example, all editions of Windows 7 support quad-core CPUs. Windows 7 supports either one or two physical processors. The editions and the number of processors that they support are as follows:

  • 1 Physical Processor The Starter, Home Basic, and Home Premium editions.

  • 2 Physical Processors The Professional, Ultimate, and Enterprise editions of Windows 7 support a maximum of two physical processors.

Windows 7 Editions

Because the 70-686 exam is primarily concerned with issues related to the deployment and management of Windows 7 in enterprise environments, the exam concentrates on those editions of Windows 7 that are most likely to be present in those environments. Only three editions of Windows 7 can be joined to an Active Directory Domain Services domain and are likely to be managed by enterprise administrators on an organizational network. These are the Professional, Ultimate, and Enterprise editions of Windows 7. Although these editions all share the same basic features, such as the ability to join domains and be subject to Group Policy, these editions differ from one another in the following ways:

  • Windows 7 Professional This edition of Windows 7 supports Encrypting File System and Remote Desktop Host. You can use either a retail product key or an enterprise licensing key with this edition of Windows 7.

  • Windows 7 Ultimate This edition of Windows 7 supports enterprise features such as Domain Join, EFS, Remote Desktop Host, AppLocker, DirectAccess, BitLocker Drive Encryption, BranchCache, and Boot from VHD. You can use Windows 7 Ultimate only with a retail product key.

  • Windows 7 Enterprise This edition of Windows 7 has support for identical features to the Ultimate edition. The difference between Enterprise and Ultimate is that Enterprise supports only volume licensing and cannot be used with a retail key. The Enterprise edition also includes four licenses for virtualized clients.

Windows 7 Virtualization

Only certain editions of Windows 7 can be installed as virtual guests. For example, you can install the Professional, Ultimate, and Enterprise editions of Windows 7 as virtual guests on servers running Hyper-V, you cannot deploy the Starter and Home Premium editions in this manner. The x86 and x64 versions of Windows 7 can be run as virtual clients, although the x64 versions of Windows 7 can be run only as virtual clients in virtualization solutions that support this processor architecture. You learn more about virtualization solutions later in this chapter.

Running Windows 7 Professional or Ultimate virtually consumes a license activation. Windows 7 Enterprise edition works differently from the other two editions in that this edition includes four virtual licenses as a part of its licensing terms. This means that if you deploy a computer running Windows 7 Enterprise and you install virtualization software, you are licensed to run four virtual instances of Windows 7 on that computer. This can be very useful for developers whose testing practices might compromise the operating system environment in a way that requires a clean install. The extra virtual licenses included in the Enterprise edition means that you can provision a virtual machine that you run tests on without consuming an extra operating system license.

Virtualization Hosts

Microsoft ships several products that can host virtual guests running the Windows 7 operating system. Software that hosts virtual guests can run on both client and server operating systems. You can also deploy the Windows 7 operating system as a virtual client on virtualization host products that are available from third-party vendors. These are the virtualization host products available from Microsoft:

  • Virtual PC 2007 Runs on previous Windows client operating systems. Virtual PC 2007 supports only x86 versions of Windows 7.

  • Windows Virtual PC Can be installed on Windows 7. Windows Virtual PC is limited to running x86 versions of Windows 7.

  • Virtual Server 2005 R2 Can host x86 and x64 versions of Windows 7. Virtual Server 2005 R2 can be run on Windows Server 2003, Windows Server 2008, and the Windows XP operating systems.

  • Hyper-V A role service that you can run only on x64 versions of Windows Server 2008. Hyper-V is the platform most commonly used to host virtual machines on networks in which third-party virtualization host solutions have not been deployed.

Because Hyper-V functions only on x64 versions of Windows Server 2008 and Windows Server 2008 R2, Hyper-V can be reliably used to deploy all versions of the Windows 7 operating system. On Windows Server 2008 R2, you can install the Remote Desktop Virtualization Host role service. This service allows users to connect to a Remote Desktop Server that also holds the Hyper-V role, allowing users to connect to virtual machines hosted on the Hyper-V server.

Boot from VHD

The Enterprise and Ultimate editions of Windows 7, as well as all editions of Windows Server 2008 R2, can be configured to boot from a virtual hard disk file (VHD). The VHD file is stored on the hard disk as a normal file, and the deployed operating system is contained within this file. In essence, the VHD file serves as a container located on the hard disk. The benefit of deploying an operating system to a container is that the container can be moved to another platform if you need to move it. For example, to transfer a fully deployed computer from one host to another, boot using the Windows PE environment and copy the VHD file to a new location. The only step required to prepare the new location is to edit the boot configuration file to point to the operating system on the VHD. You perform the task of boot environment configuration in the practice exercise at the end of this lesson.

Another benefit of deploying to VHD rather than consuming an entire disk partition with an installation of Windows 7 is that it simplifies the process of deploying Windows 7 in a multiple operating system boot configuration. For example, you could configure two VHD files, one of which is configured and optimized to run one set of applications, and another that you have configured and optimized to run a separate set of applications.

You can create VHD files using the Diskpart.exe utility and through the Create And Attach Virtual Hard Disk dialog box available from the Disk Management Console. This dialog box is shown in Figure 2-2. When you create a VHD on a hard disk that you intend to use as the host for an operating system, you choose between dynamically expanding and fixed-size disk types. A dynamically expanding virtual hard disk increases size as needed until it consumes the volume that hosts it. Dynamically expanding virtual hard disks become increasingly fragmented over time. Fixed-size disks use a fixed amount of space and are less likely to become fragmented, which increases overall performance. The drawback to fixed-size disks is that you cannot expand them if the need arises. It is also possible to use Diskpart.exe to configure a boot from VHD on differencing disks. Differencing disks allow you to discard changes to the operating system at a later time.

Figure 2-2

Figure 2-2 Creating and attaching VHD

You can deploy an operating system to an existing VHD file using the traditional installation method or by mounting the VHD file and using the ImageX.exe utility to apply an image to the VHD file. You use this second method in the practice exercise at the end of this lesson. You can also obtain a utility that converts files in Windows Imaging Format (WIM) directly to VHD files, although Microsoft does not directly support this method.

You can deploy fully prepared VHD files from Windows Deployment Services running on computers with the Windows Server 2008 R2 operating system. This allows VHD files to be deployed directly to hard disk drives through a multicast transmission.

A native VHD boot has the following limitations:

  • Can be used only for Enterprise and Ultimate editions of Windows 7 and Windows Server 2008 R2.

  • A maximum of 512 VHD files can be attached concurrently.

  • Operating system hibernation is not supported, although sleep mode is supported.

  • VHD files cannot be nested.

  • BitLocker cannot be used to encrypt the host volume used for native VHD boot. BitLocker cannot be used on volumes hosted inside a VHD.

  • The parent volume of the VHD cannot be configured as a dynamic disk.

  • The attached VHD volume cannot be configured as a dynamic disk.

Practice: Preparing Boot from VHD

You can install the Windows 7 operating system so that it boots from a VHD file that is installed on physical hardware. This method has a benefit of making the operating system more portable.

EXERCISE 1 Preparing for and Installing a VHD Boot

In this exercise, you prepare a computer for a VHD installation of Windows 7. Only the Enterprise and Ultimate editions of Windows 7 allow you to perform an installation to a VHD file on physical hardware. To perform this practice, ensure that your computer running Windows 7 has at least 20 GB of free hard disk space. You need to have access to ImageX.exe, which is part of the Windows AIK tools, to complete this practice.

  1. Log on to computer WKSTN1.

  2. Open an elevated command prompt and copy the file Install.wim, which is located in the sources directory of the Windows 7 installation media to the directory c:\wim-store. Also, copy the ImageX.exe utility from the Windows AIK directory to the c:\wim-store folder.

  3. Start diskpart by entering the command diskpart.

  4. At the diskpart prompt, type list disk to list the current disks on the computer.

  5. At the diskpart prompt, type create vdisk file=c:\win7vhd.vhd maximum=20000 type=fixed.

  6. At the diskpart prompt, type select vdisk file=c:\win7vhd.vhd.

  7. At the diskpart prompt, type attach vdisk, which attaches the selected disk.

  8. At the diskpart prompt, type list disk to verify that the disk has been created. On your screen, you should see something like the text shown in Figure 2-3.

    Figure 2-3

    Figure 2-3 Verifying VHD

  9. Select the disk that you created using the select disk X command where X is the identifier of the newly created virtual hard disk.

  10. Issue the create partition primary command to create a partition on the selected virtual hard disk.

  11. Issue the select partition 1 command to select the partition, and then issue the active command to mark the partition as active.

  12. Issue the command format fs=ntfs quick. When this command completes execution, issue the command assign. A pop-up window that details the drive letter assigned to the VHD file is displayed. Close this dialog box, and then in the command prompt, type exit to leave the diskpart utility.

  13. Use the command dism.exe /get-wiminfo /wimfile:c:\wim-store\install.wim to determine the index assigned to the Windows 7 Ultimate or Windows 7 Enterprise operating system file image.

  14. Use the command c:\wim-store\imagex.exe /apply c:\wim-store\install.wim /check X e:\ where e:\ is the volume address label that was assigned to the VHD file when you used diskpart in step 12, and X is the index number of the operating system you discovered in step 13, as shown in Figure 2-4.

    Figure 2-4

    Figure 2-4 Applying the image to the VHD

  15. Enter the command diskpart to start the diskpart utility.

  16. Enter the command select vdisk file=c:\win7vhd.vhd, and when this command completes, enter the command detach vdisk. This detaches the virtual disk from the drive where you applied it. Type exit to leave the diskpart utility.

  17. Create a copy of the current boot loader entry by entering the command bcdedit /copy {current} /d “VHD Boot”. Make a note of the GUID that is generated, as highlighted in Figure 2-5. You should use the command prompt’s ability to mark and copy text to copy this to the buffer.

    Figure 2-5

    Figure 2-5 GUID of the new boot entry

  18. Enter the command bcdedit /set {6f159079-ab06-11de-84cb-d945bc04a2b7} device vhd=[c:]\win7vhd.vhd where {6f159079-ab06-11de-84cb-d945bc04a2b7} is the unique GUID assigned on your computer.

  19. Enter the command bcdedit /set {6f159079-ab06-11de-84cb-d945bc04a2b7} osdevice vhd=[c:]\win7vhd.vhd where {6f159079-ab06-11de-84cb-d945bc04a2b7} is the unique GUID assigned on your computer. This command differs from the one in step 18 in that you use the osdevice parameter instead of the device parameter.

  20. Enter the command bcdedit /set {6f159079-ab06-11de-84cb-d945bc04a2b7} detecthal on.

  21. Type bcdedit /set {6f159079-ab06-11de-84cb-d945bc04a2b7} description “Boot from VHD”.

  22. You can now reboot into the operating system deployed to the VHD file.

Lesson Summary

  • Windows 7 Professional supports domain join and volume licensing, but does not support the boot from VHD, BranchCache, AppLocker, or DirectAccess features.

  • X86 versions of Windows 7 can be installed on x64 hardware, but x64 versions of Windows 7 cannot be installed on x86 hardware.

  • X86 versions of Windows 7 can address a maximum of 4 GB of RAM.

  • Only the Enterprise and Ultimate editions of Windows 7 support the boot from VHD.

Lesson Review

You can use the following questions to test your knowledge of the information in Lesson 2, “Designing a Client Hardware Platform”. The questions are also available on the companion CD if you prefer to review them in electronic form.

  1. Which of the following editions allow you to use KMS activation and can be installed to a VHD file during a physical deployment?

    1. Windows 7 Home Premium

    2. Windows 7 Enterprise

    3. Windows 7 Ultimate

    4. Windows 7 Professional

  2. What is the maximum number of instances of Windows 7 Enterprise that you can host virtually on a computer running Windows 7 Enterprise without having to purchase additional operating system licenses?

    1. 2

    2. 3

    3. 4

    4. 5

  3. Your organization has recently purchased 15 computers that have 16 GB of RAM. You want to deploy these computers to a branch office location. Because they are located in a branch office, you want to take advantage of the DirectAccess feature. Which of the following versions and editions of Windows 7 should you acquire for these computers while also attempting to minimize licensing costs?

    1. The x64 version of Windows 7 Enterprise

    2. The x86 version of Windows 7 Enterprise

    3. The x64 version of Windows 7 Professional

    4. The x86 version of Windows 7 Professional

  4. You want to allocate 8 GB of memory to a virtual instance of Windows 7 Enterprise edition. Which of the following virtualization hosts support this configuration? (Choose all that apply; each answer forms a complete solution.)

    1. Hyper-V

    2. Virtual PC 2007

    3. Virtual Server 2005 R2

    4. Windows Virtual PC