If you reinstall Windows 7 frequently, it is handy to keep an image of the installation DVD as a backup. So here’s the direct “official” download links below from Digital River servers. The files are bootable images that vary in languages and 32/64 bit option to choose:
Let’s see the most advanced ULTIMATE edition of Windows 7 Service Pack 1 Media Refresh edition – click the links for downloading directly:
English x86 http://msft.digitalrivercontent.net/win/X17-59463.iso
English x64 http://msft.digitalrivercontent.net/win/X17-59465.iso
French x86: http://msft.digitalrivercontent.net/win/X17-59477.iso
French x64: http://msft.digitalrivercontent.net/win/X17-59479.iso
Spanish x86: http://msft.digitalrivercontent.net/win/X17-58877.iso
Spanish x64: http://msft.digitalrivercontent.net/win/X17-58879.iso
Finally! Service Pack number One for Windows 7 is out! Good bye blue screens of death! Sigh and install Windows 7 now if have not done it yet. There are number of fixes and improvements included, I already mentioned in one of my last posts. Officially Microsoft has not provided Service Pack 1 to public yet, but its RTM version (released to manufacturing, the final one!) has leaked and available in torrents to download. Here’s some links below: Continue reading
Windows Firewall is a built-in security tool you would never regret to have, even if you do not know what it is and what for. It is designed to protect your computer from hackers attacks from outside, that is not always solely Internet — local network (LAN) could be also an area where you want to be alerted. Firewall can also protect, if some malware is already planted and trying to communicate out of your machine. The latter is very unlikely though, that is once your machine is infected, the virus would most probably find a way to break silently through the firewall. I once already explained how to configure Windows Vista firewall to filter outbound traffic [article link “Tweak Windows Firewall”]. Since then I expect Windows 7 firewall to be even more convenient and maybe more functional, let’s check.
Let’s see what we can learn from popular books. Let’s start with Windows 7. The missing manual. By David Pogue, Published by O’Reilly Media, 2010. At first it gives a nice definition of the firewall: “The firewall acts as a gatekeeper between you and the Internet. It examines all Internet traffic and lets through only communications that it knows are safe; all other traffic is turned away at the door.” But then on page 363 it describes the outbound versus inbound topic, where to my big surprise I see the following: “Windows Vista didn’t have an outbound-blocking firewall at all.” That’s wrong, Vista had almost the same firewall that Windows 7 has. Good suggestion for the errata, I think. But anyway, the author is right about the firewall: outbound-blocking feature is turned off by default. Why? “The theory is that if your PC is locked down tight enough with antivirus software, antispyware software, and an inbound firewall, you won’t get any infection that could send outbound signals in the first place.” That’s a fair explanation, but a bit too general for a book like that. Otherwise, there is a good guide in the book of how to tweak Windows firewall. One good point I would like to quote: “there’s no harm in having both a hardware and software firewall in place. In fact, having the Windows Firewall turned on protects you from viruses you catch from other people on your own network (even though you’re both “behind” the router’s firewall).” The book gives an interesting link to Microsoft TechNet library article Windows Firewall with Advanced Security Getting Started Guide, where you can learn a lot of interesting stuff. For example, I was wondering why my Avast Internet Security 5.0.677 did not disable the Windows Firewall once it has it’s own. As it turned out, that is a new feature in the Windows Firewall that it coexist with third party firewalls:
Here it is — the Windows 7 Service Pack 1 Release Candidate (KB976932), available for public here at Microsoft download center. As stated there: The RC is best suited for IT Pros, tech enthusiasts (for us people!), and developers who need to test the service pack in their organization or with the software they are developing. The final release of Service Pack 1 will be available through Windows Update for consumers when it is ready. RC is only released in English, French, German, Japanese, and Spanish. Everybody can try though, it is safe and easy to uninstall if something goes wrong. The RC will expire on November 30, 2011.
Here’s the question for the big underground part of computer world: will Windows 7 RC tackle DAZ loader and all similarly successful cracking stuff? I would bet any money it won’t. But I will test anyway and let you know. Sometimes Microsoft was known for making bad surprises for lovers of freeware at the very end of testing period and that can be an example.
If you can not install SP1 RC for Windows 7 having error code 80070017, try to disable antivirus and run again.
Here’s the TechNet Evaluation Center for W7 SP1 RC for further information.
Here you can download a list of Fixes and Security Updates included in Windows 7 SP1 (625 patches altogether!)
Changes specific to Windows 7:
I like comparing stuff, especially when it comes to software products. If you have a choice to pick one Windows 7 edition out of few (sometimes this choice is very limited, say, you are buying a laptop — because then Operating System is included and rarely dominates as a factor to consider), then it is important to make a right decision. Of course, you can always upgrade later, but who wants all this headache with reinstalling and backup.
This time Microsoft made it easier to choose (comparing to Windows Vista), let’s have a look. Traditionally I will start with the best and then going down the road, explaining what we strip along the way.
Let’s have a look what Microsoft has prepared to protect their consumer operating system — Windows 7. Here is link to Windows 7 consumer security software providers arranged by Microsoft. Let’s take a look what is considered adequate. First (order is random) goes Norton from Symantec with download links to Norton™ 360 Version 4.0 and Norton™ AntiVirus 2010. This is a good stuff, because you can run the full featured software for three months for free! Next two guys are strange: Korean company AhnLab (who’s chairman has MBA for Entrepreneurial Management and M.D. in Physiology — must be relevant to viruses) and Indian K7 Computing. K7 goes with hieroglyph symbols on their logo, not Hindi anyway. Surprisingly K7 identify the same price for Microsoft customers as for regular customers. Next one is ZoneAlarm with nice almost 70% discount. I thought they went broke — last time I used their suite, I had to reinstall the system. Norman is from Norway, nothing spectacular. This one is good: McAfee VirusScan Plus with 5$ discount — Special offer for Microsoft customers!, yet there is a 90 days trial available for download (of course, if Norton does that, McAfee should do that even better). Trend Micro (“PC-cillin”) Internet Security with 30% discount. BullGuard Internet Security 9.0 for Windows 7 and Rising Antivirus International Pty Ltd — God knows who they are. Then Czech ESET, of course, with their ESET Smart Security 4 and ESET NOD32 Antivirus 4. No discounts here, good stuff does not come for free. Next is (also Czech company) AVG with 20% on AVG Internet Security 9.0. Webroot® Antivirus with Spy Sweeper goes next. Being an American company, I guess they feel strong, so no discounts here. There is a good offer from CA with Internet Security Suite Plus 2010 and Anti-Virus Plus 2010 and also 90-days trials. Then KIS 2011 & KAV 2011 from Kaspersky — the only Russian company in the list — with no particular offer. Then VIPRE Antivirus from Sunbelt software (anyone knows?) with discounts. Next are German G Data , BitDefender from Romania (guys really don’t like to talk about their origin as I can see from the website),BullGuard with prices in British pounds, telling on the front page that they are better than Norton and McAfee. There goes Spyware Doctor with AntiVirus® 2011 from PCTools (no interesting offers), Spanish PANDA with 2011 lineup, Indian Quick Heal, and Finnish F-Secure.
The last two guys require special attention. Czech Avast! whose free anti-virus is almost as good as the professional version — I like it very much. And the last one is the antivirus you would expect to work seamlessly with Windows 7: Microsoft Security Essentials. Look at the reports from AV-Comparatives.org where MSE is clearly performing with flying colors, and it is free.
As I wrote many times, Windows 7 (and Windows Vista before) is incredibly popular software, which is the fact. But I think Microsoft deliberately makes it available for crackers in a very hidden way. By doing this, Microsoft can kill two birds with one shot: people who buy software and the ones who don’t — both run the latest superior operating system — Windows 7. My point — one population will never merge with another one completely, so if you really restrict the illegal use, you will loose the other half. You’re only interested when everybody is using your software, because then there will be no real alternative. Linux? It is a free headache in short. Apple? That is a good example of those who want to exclude the dark side. Pirated Leopard is a very rare animal. Result? Look at their market share. Microsoft makes it in a very wise way: they say they fight piracy and they do, but in reality they leave back door open. So, you could ask: Well, how about that activation stuff and genuine software program? That really works, however the workaround is very simple.
The idea has become possible due to specific OEM activation mechanism (SLP): If the OS can match three things together (OEM information in SLIC table from BIOS + digital certificate (file) + product number), then the activation happens automatically and instantly. The first part is the most tricky one, because it is hardware driven, i.e. depends on PC manufacturer, all the rest can be simply copied, given the System Locked Preinstallation keys are common for one OEM (ASUS could use one product key for many-many computers, for instance). So what hackers did, they introduced a program loader that puts appropriate OEM info into memory before Windows boots.
Here is a very good explanation of the method, ironically called The Official Windows 7 Repository. Let me quote: “Activators, also known as loaders, add a script on the boot partition (Linux Grub boot loader (GRLDR)) which will put OEM information (SLIC 2.1) into memory before Windows starts. This way Windows thinks that the SLIC 2.1 come from the BIOS (which is false). Activators also install a certificate and an OEM SLP key to activate Windows”.
Windows Loader by Daz is the most popular activator which is kept steadily updated (last version is 1.9.2)
Easy guide to tweak Windows Firewall (also applicable for Windows 7)
As Microsoft says: “The default behavior of the Windows [Vista] Firewall is to: Block all incoming traffic unless it is solicited or it matches a configured rule. Allow all outgoing traffic unless it matches a configured rule.”