Robert’s Ramblings

Robert Alonso’s Thoughts on Technology and More…

The clock is ticking towards the release of a faster and generally more robust operating system for PCs. As many of you know, Windows 7 will be released in two days. What does this release mean to you? The most immediate impact is that it will become increasingly difficult to find any machines with Windows XP. Vista was so unpopular that Microsoft allowed Dell and other PC makers to offer downgrades to XP. Most of my customers chose that path and paid an extra $100 for the privilege.

Once Windows 7 is released, Microsoft will try to never talk about Windows Vista again and will instead tout the great new improvements in Windows 7. This is not without precedent. The same thing happened with Windows Millennium Edition (Me). Most people have forgotten about Windows Me but it was the worst operating system that Microsoft has ever sold—far worse than Vista. It followed the successful Windows 95 and 98 and preceded Windows XP which was arguably the most hardy PC operating system produced by Microsoft so far. Maybe magic will strike twice and Windows 7 will be a huge success and, more importantly, be a solid replacement for Vista.

If you are a reader of this blog, then you know that I have been testing Windows 7 for some time. I have also been reporting about features that I find useful or interesting. I have found one that makes Windows 7 worthwhile to me. That is the “BitLocker To Go” feature. This is an extension of the BitLocker functionality that Microsoft released with Windows Vista Ultimate. BitLocker is still only available on the Ultimate version, but now comes with this additional feature that enables the complete encryption of external hard drives or USB thumb drives. I find this extremely useful because I am always worried about losing a USB drive with important documents or pictures that I would not want a stranger to have. With BitLocker To Go, I can live in peace knowing that my data is secured.

You enable it by inserting the removable device into the computer and then starting the BitLocker application. Once it is started, you tell it to encrypt the USB drive and give it a password. It takes care of the rest. The next time that you insert that USB drive into the computer it prompts you for the password before you can access the data on it. If you provide the password and check off an option on the screen, the PC will recognize that drive and make the files available each time that you plug it into that specific machine without you having to retype the password.

If you are wondering if that USB drive will then work on an XP machine, you are in luck. It does. When you insert the USB drive into the XP machine, it prompts you for the password and loads an application that lets you copy the data off the device and use it. However, one of these encrypted drives will not work on Apple Macintosh computers.

If you are like me and are worried about your laptop being stolen or lost, you can use BitLocker to encrypt the entire drive of your machine. The process is straightforward and works automatically. It takes a long time to process initially, but once completed, you have peace of mind. That hard drive’s data will be inaccessible without your password. This is the case even if the drive is removed and put into another machine.

To me, these two related data security features are enough of a justification for upgrading to Windows 7.

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