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1/6/2011
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What Windows 7 Is Still Missing

Microsoft's latest operating system has been well received, but a lot of important features, including system restore and automatic updating of third-party software and drivers, didn't make the cut.

Top Features Absent From Windows 7
(click image for larger view)
Slideshow: Top Features Absent From Windows 7

Worse, one of the biggest and most crucial functions -- disk protection -- isn't provided except through workarounds like System Restore. These don't work in remotely the same fashion as SteadyState's own disk protection, which required little or no intervention or downtime.

What's doubly ironic is that while Windows 7 was still in its public beta test phase, word surfaced of a feature called Guest Mode (alternately, PC Safeguard) that did in fact directly replicate much of the missing SteadyState functionality. Paul Thurrott of WinSupersite.com wrote about it in detail back in 2009, back when it still appeared in Windows 7's beta builds.

It's still not clear why Guest Mode was removed, although one possibility is that it introduced bugs which couldn't be resolved properly before 7 was due to ship, and so it was eliminated as a way to get Windows 7 to meet its street date. But in the long run, Microsoft owes it to their users to put SteadyState -- or something like it -- back in.

Seamless Third-Party Hardware Support

Most of us are all too familiar with this scenario. You install a copy of Windows on a newly-minted PC, or perhaps reinstall a clean copy on an existing one. Unfortunately, a great many things simply don't work -- your Bluetooth module, for instance, or your memory card reader. Or the whole system just seems weirdly sluggish for a fresh install.

It's only after some searching and pounding your head against the wall that you discover a number of key drivers for your system are only available through your manufacturer's Web site. Depending on the manufacturer, it might be pretty easy to find them... or not. Or, you can download a utility that'll download and apply the system-appropriate software for you -- at the cost of having yet another program running on top of everything else.

Why, when Windows has long had the mechanisms for detecting and installing hardware drivers on its own, is any of this ferreting around and installing by hand needed? Much of it has to do with the way original equipment manufacturers (OEMs) choose to provide updates to components in their systems. Since they have to do their own integration testing, it's often just faster to provide them directly to the end user -- especially if they're only being provided for a small subset of the total user population that's running Windows.

Jake Whitman of Dell global communications put it this way: "Dell tests/validates drivers to provide a higher level of granularity, and providing fully qualified drivers via Dell Support offers customers a stable computing experience. Recently, customers of a particular notebook experienced an issue and if that component driver was installed directly from the vendor, it would have resulted in an impact on OS performance. However, if the same driver was used from Dell, everything would function correctly."

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