Microsoft continues to offer free copies of its Windows operating systems, a “tradition” that the company started back in 2006 after the release of Internet Explorer 7. The software giant is attempting to compensate for the shortcomings of the Windows design in older releases of its platforms, in which a single version of Internet Explorer can be installed at a time. This limitation makes it difficult for developers building websites to test their code in different IE versions on Windows Vista and Windows XP.

This is where the Internet Explorer Application Compatibility VPC Image comes in. This download offers free, virtualized copies of XP and Vista, each with different versions of Internet Explorer. There are no less than five downloads available, all free of charge.

The VPC Hard Disk Images are time bombed, and only allow usage for a limited period of time. However, for the past few years, Microsoft has updated the Internet Explorer Application Compatibility VPC Image downloads without fault, just ahead of their expiration date. More »

An online resource from Microsoft is designed to diagnose and repair Windows operating systems, including Windows Vista SP2 and Windows XP SP3. The Microsoft Automated Troubleshooting Services are set up to perform what the Redmond company refers to as common system maintenance tasks. Specifically, the Automated Troubleshooting Services will not only detect a range of maintenance problems, including broken desktop shortcuts, unused icons, disk volume errors, and incorrect system time display, but will also correct them automatically, requiring very little effort on behalf of the end users, beyond running the solution.

Microsoft enumerated some of the issues that the services deal with, including: “problems with desktop shortcuts and icons (shortcuts on the desktop don’t work or are broken; desktop icons are broken or have not been used in 3 months; startup items don’t work or are broken); System maintenance tasks (free up disk space by repairing disk volume errors such as bad sectors, lost clusters, cross-linked files and directory errors; free up disk space by removing error reports and troubleshooting history older than 1 month; set the correct system time and synchronize system clock with the time server) and the following errors: Windows update error 0x80072F8F and the item that this shortcut refers to has been deleted.” More »

With the advent of the public Beta of Windows 7 Build 7000, Microsoft also made available for download a Beta release of the Windows Automated Installation Kit. The Windows AIK, or WAIK, is a collection of resources set up to streamline the process of configuring and deploying Windows platforms, in this case Windows 7. The WAIK contains ImageX, essentially a command-line tool designed to capture Windows images. GimageX, available in Beta, is a tool designed to enhance the WAIK by providing what is essentially a graphical version of the ImageX. Jonathan Bennett, a senior consultant with Microsoft Services, UK, emphasized that GImageX was not a Microsoft release, but a third-party tool.

“With the release of the Windows 7 beta and also the beta of the Windows Automated Installation Kit I’ve updated GImageX to work with these new beta versions. I’ve also tidied up parts of the documentation around installation and tweaked the “mount” functionality to provide better feedback during the operation,” Bennett explained. “Please note that GImageX is a third-party tool so please remember that you won’t be able to ring up Microsoft PSS to get support with it! However, it uses the official Microsoft published WIMGAPI SDK which is a supported way of working with WIM files.” More »