Engineering Windows 7

Welcome to our blog dedicated to the engineering of Microsoft Windows 7

Our Next Engineering Milestone

Our Next Engineering Milestone

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Back in January we released the Beta and updated you on our overall engineering process that will get us from Beta to the Release Candidate.  Today, downloading of the Release Candidate started and we’re already seeing a lot of installations and a lot of excitement.  On behalf of the team, I want to extend a thank you for all of the millions of people who have been running and testing the Beta who have helped to make the Release Candidate possible.  The feedback we have received, through all the mechanisms we have blogged about, has been an incredibly valuable part of Engineering Windows 7.  We continue to be humbled by the response to Windows 7.  Thank you!

This post is about the path from RC to what we call RTM, release to manufacturing.  RTM is not one point in time but a “process” as from RTM we enable the PC manufacturers to begin their processes of building Windows 7 images for new PCs, readying downloads for existing machines, and preparing the full supply chain to deliver Windows 7 to customers.  Thus RTM is the final stage in our engineering of Windows 7, but the engineering continues from RTM until you can purchase Windows 7 and Windows 7 PCs in stores at General Availability, or GA.

The path to RTM starts with downloads of the RC.  The RC is “done” and what we are doing is validating this against the breadth of the ecosystem and with partners.  It means, from our perspective, we have run many tests many times and are working to understand the quality of the release in a breadth sense.  We’re all familiar with this as we have done this same thing as we went from pre-Beta to Beta and from Beta to RC.  The primary difference with the RC is that we will not be changing the functionality or features of the product at this point—that’s the sort of thing we’ll save for a future release.   We’ve gotten tons of feedback on design and features and shown how we have digested and acted on this feedback throughout many posts on this blog.   We know we did not do everything that was asked, and we have also seen that we’ve been asked to do things that are tricky to reconcile.  We hoped through the dialog on this blog that we’ve shown our commitment to listening and balancing a wide variety of inputs, and how we have thought about the evolution of Windows.  

What sort of feedback are we looking for in the RC?  We are primarily focused on monitoring the behavior of the product through the telemetry, and of course making sure we did not introduce any regressions in any dimension from Beta quality.  One of the things we have done since Beta has continued to beef up telemetry—we’ve put in additional monitoring points in many systems.  We’re particularly interested in seeing what devices are installed, drivers that are required, and overall system performance.  We have telemetry points that monitor the UI responsiveness of the Start Menu, Internet Explorer (recently posted), Boot, Shutdown, Resume, and across all subsystems.  Of course in the final product, this telemetry is optional and opt-in, and it is always private. 

There are a series of specific types of reports that we are keeping an eye out for that would constitute changes we would make to the code between now and RTM.  Some of these might include:

  • Installation – We have significant telemetry in the setup process and also significant logging.  Of course if you can’t set up at all that is something we are interested in and the same holds for upgrades from Windows Vista.  For the “enrolled” beta programs we have a mechanism to enlist a connection to Microsoft for these issues and for the broad community the public support groups are monitored. 
  • Security issues – Obviously any vulnerability is a potential for something we would fix.  We will use the same criteria to address these issues as we would for any in-market product. 
  • Crashes and Hangs – We are monitoring the “crash” reports for issues that arise that impact broad sets of people.  These could be Windows code, drivers, or third party software.  This information streams “real time” to Microsoft and we watch it very carefully.
  • Device installation and compatibility – When you download a driver from Windows Update or install a driver via a manufacturer’s setup program this is a data point we collect.  We’ve had millions of unique PnP IDs through the Beta.  We also receive the IDs for devices that failed to locate drivers.  We are constantly updating this web service with pointers to information about the device (driver availability, instructions, etc.)
  • Software installation – Similar to devices, we are also monitoring the installation process of software and noting programs that do not complete successfully.  Again we have the mechanism to help move that foreword and/or introduce compatibility work in the RTM milestone.
  • Servicing – We will continue to test the servicing of Windows 7 so everyone should expect updates to be made available via Windows Update.  This includes new drivers and will also include patches to Windows 7.  Test Updates will be labeled as such.  We might also fix any significant issue with new code as well.  All of this in an effort to validate the servicing pipeline and to maintain the quality of the RC.
  • New Hardware – Perhaps the most important category is making sure that we work with all the new hardware being made as we all use 7100.  Our PC Manufacturing partners and Hardware partners are engineering new PCs and these are combinations new to the market and new to the OS.  We’re working together to make sure Windows 7 has great support for these PCs and hardware.

All of the feedback will be evaluated and whether the issue is with Windows itself or with hardware, software, or OEM partner code we will work closely across the entire ecosystem to do what is necessary to deliver excellent fully integrated PCs.  This goal is more important than anything else at this point.  The depth of this work is new for the team in terms of spending engineer to engineer time across a broad range of partners to make sure everyone is ready together to deliver a great PC experience.

Overall, while many have said that the quality of the Beta was on par with past RCs (remember how some even suggested we release it as final!), we are working to do an even better job with Windows 7.  We think we have the tools in place to do that. 

While the RC itself was compiled about 2 weeks ago, it takes a bit of time to go through the mechanics of validating all the ISOs and images that are released.  In the meantime we continue doing daily builds of the product.  The daily builds are incorporating code changes to address the above types of issues that impact enough customers that on balance the code change is more valuable than the potential of a regression.  Throughout this process, every change to the code is looked at by many people across development and test, and across many different teams.  We have a lot of engineers changing a very little bit of code.  We often say that shipping a major product means “slowing everything down”.  Right now we’re being very deliberate with every change we make.

The RTM milestone is not a date, but a process.  As that process concludes, we are done changing the code and are officially “servicing” Windows 7.  That means any subsequent changes are delivered as fixes (KB articles) or banked for the first service pack.  Obviously our ability to deliver fixes via Windows Update has substantially changed the way we RTM and so it is not unreasonable to expect updates soon after the product is complete as we have done for both Windows XP and Windows Vista. 

Between now and the RTM milestone we will make changes to the code in response the above inputs.  We are decelerating and will do so “gracefully” and not abruptly.  We do not have a “deadline” we are aiming to meet and the quality (in all dimensions) of the product and a smooth finish are the most important criteria for Windows 7.  In addition, we have a lot of work going on behind the scenes to build Windows 7 in nearly 100 languages around the world and to make sure all the supporting materials such as our Windows web site, SDK, resource kits, and so on are ready and available in a timely manner.

Once we have entered the RTM phase, our partners will begin to make their final images and manufacture PCs, and hardware and software vendors will ready their Windows 7 support and new products.  We will also begin to manufacture retail boxes for shipment around the world.  We will continue to work with our enterprise customers as well and based on the RTM process the volume license products will be available as well.

Delivering the highest quality Windows 7 is the most important criteria for us at this point—quality in every dimension.  The RTM process is designed to be deliberate and maintain the overall engineering integrity of the system.  Many are pushing us to release the product sooner rather than later, but our focus remains on a high quality release.

Ultimately our partners will determine when their PCs are available in market.  If the feedback and telemetry on Windows 7 match our expectations then we will enter the final phases of the RTM process in about 3 months.  If we are successful in that, then we tracking to our shared goal of having PCs with Windows 7 available this Holiday season. 

--Steven and Jon

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  • The firsth thing I disliked about the RC was the background image of the Welcome screen/Login screen. (the one with the flower and the bird).  The Beta background was much better and had a professional style.

    Please change it back.

  • @Steven and team,

    First off, job well done!  The beta process was fun and I, along with many others, provided feedback that was treated pretty fairly as the beta went along. It was apparent you guys were listening to us and responding through this blog.  Were some requests deferred to never never land and some closed with easy answers like "by design"?  Sure, but they were really just wish list stuff and I understand the reasons based on your explanations in this blog.

    The testing I have done on the RC thus far is going great and it just feels "rock solid" to me.  I have loaded it (clean) on three computers and have not found any major issues. Every single hardware device and application I normally run on a daily basis continue to work as they did on Vista or they work better.  Performance overall is very good (both x86 and x64).  Confidence is high.  I am looking forward, with eager anticipation, for the RTM availability.

    The folks on your team deserve a nice big bonus when this product gets out the door.  I plan to purchase my copy at GA for sure, because if ever a program product deserved a high ROI, it's definitely Windows 7.

    Walt Guimbellot (Windows enthusiast since Windows 3.11)

  • I forgot to ask my main question.  You stated that changes to RC will be reflected and made available to RC evaluators via Windows Update service.  I have seen one of those come down already. Does that mean we should be less interested in acquiring a "leak" of the RTM builds, since important stuff will come via WU or Microsoft Update?  I know hundreds of thousands of the die hard testers were getting the pre-RC builds via leaks.  Not that I condon leaks per se, but they were very irresistible at the time and provided you guys some extra telemetry data. :)

  • Steven and Jon,

    First of all, congrats to the entire Windows 7 team on the RC. I have taken the liberty of doing a clean installation on my main destop's second hard drive. I will use the Windows 7 RC as my primary operating system until I have a copy of Windows 7 Ultimate RTM in my hands. The clean look, the speed, the responsiveness, and overall performance is very impressive.

    I was so impressed with the working version of the Release Candidate, I took the liberty of applying the Release Candidate to my notebook. I was having instabilities with Vista after the installation of I.E. 8. After uninstalls and reinstalls, it didn't resolve those situations. So I elected to backup and save all materials, and try Windows 7 RC. To my delight, it worked like a charm. The sheer speed and responsiveness is nothing like I ever had with Vista or its default OS, Windows XP Home Edition.

    Needless to say, I'm overjoyed at the quality. I had to ask myself using the Windows 7 RC, "This is a Microsoft product?" While I don't mean to offend, the quality level here is higher than any Microsoft product I've ever used. You guys have definitely set the bar higher and I hope all of Microsoft strives for this new level.

    I know that at the RC point, the Windows 7 team is looking for showstopper bugs. However, will there be any effort to make any last minute performance improvements? Less memory, less cpu demand, faster OS speed, faster GUI speed, better network copying, etc?

    A final improvement in these areas that could be quantifiable would definitely be a nice selling point.

    P.S. If Steven, Jon or somebody could clarify this. Paul Thurrott has published some pictures concerned with the packaging. Can someone clarify if these are genuine or fake boxes? Thanks.

  • Please please release separate editions (separate x86, x84 and IA64) of WAIK, Windows SDK and the Windows Driver Kit. Downloading IA64 bits over a slow connection when it is absolutely of no use to me is a PITA. Please at least separate IA64 since that is a niche platform.

  • @wguimb

    Thanks for the very nice words.  

    We aren't going to make all the change we make available over Windows Update.  We are just testing things out and of course any changes that would be deemed critical in a released product will be distributed (i.e. security issues).

    As we always say, please do not use what are reported to be "leaked" builds.  So far many of them have contained risky payloads.


  • I am not sure that your testers whether told about 'automatically cleaning System Restore points' or not, and also I am not that in Windows 7 RC, it still have this feature or not because I did not test storing data up to near maximum of harddisk. But if it still have, I think you should remove this feature from Windows 7 RTM because, for example, many users want to use System Restore to roll back computer back to good state, but they may found that their System Restore points were removed automatically!! Thanks

  • I really, really hope that your marketing people are getting the message LOUD AND CLEAR that they need to give something substantial back to those of us who purchased Vista. Microsoft will seriously alienate us if it follows the usual practice of having a single upgrade price regardless of current version.

    There must be a good case, given Vista's troubled history, for a "handling charge only" upgrade from Vista to 7, but failing that, there must be Vista-only upgrade pricing which is substantially lower than upgrading from XP or earlier.

    Windows 7 is shaping up great in engineering terms, but there is still an opportunity for your marketing people to "snatch defeat from the jaws of victory" if they are just running on autopilot here!

  • Please fix the sort order for Explorer before RTM. By default, it should sort in Ascending order. Currently, even if it's Ascending order, sorting by any criteria such as size, date modified or type makes it sort by that criteria as well as reverse the order (becomes descending) when in fact the user just expected the sort criteria to change. This is a major annoyance and I request the team to fix it before RTM. There is already a Sort by Ascending/Descending menu item, why should then the sort order change by changing sort criteria? Please don't say this behavior is by design, it's an oversight/bug that needs to be fixed. Anyone listening?

    I wonder how this product will compete headon with Windows XP which is still sitting strong at 60%+ market share.

  • Please, bring back the folder.jpg trick. I have thousands of folders tagged with folder.jpg's inside so I can have a custom thumbnail.

    folder.jpg is supposed to be used for creating a cover thumbnail for a folder *without* needing to go to the folder's customize tab. This functionality has been present since Windows XP and worked correctly in build 7000 (Beta). So, it's clearly a regression.

    So far I've been really enjoying Windows 7 RC. Great, GREAT work team! =]

  • Great job on W7 so far, I am a lot more positive and much more inclined to recomend this than vista when that was in beta.

    The only real problem that I have had installing the RC was that it did not include the Ralink RT2500 Wireless LAN drivers, this is obviously a real pain as I can manage without most drivers as long as I can get onto the inet to download them.

    I know that RT2500 is old tech now but it was very popular when released so I feel that it would be worth the extra few kb to include it.

  • Steven and Jon,

    Windows 7 is almost perfect for me. You are doing a really good job with this system.

    But, before the RTM, can you please, just tweak a few points in Windows Explorer?

    1) In windows xp, the status bar showed the left space of the current drive/partition, and the size of the files in the current folder. Now, it doesn´t show anymore, and I (among others) miss this feature a lot.

    2) If we select more than 15 files in Windows Explorer, the Details Pane stop showing the sizes and info. We have to click the "Show more details" to it be visible. Please, remove this behaviour, or give us a option (even if registry option) to disable it. XP used to give me this information in less than a millisecond, and with a decade ago hardware.

    If this is tweaked, using Explorer will be much better for me.

    Thanks a lot!

  • Oh! And I almost forgot!

    3) Please, let us disable the Autoarrange feature, it is really annoyng sometimes!

    And thanks for the feedback! Keep the good work!

  • im liking window 7 a lot, its my main os :D

    one thing that bugs me are the graphical Inconsistencies throughout the gui

    like this one

    it really gets to me :P

    hope you guy iron out issues like this before window 7 is release

    good job guys.

  • I'd love to submit this as a formal bug, but I'm not sure where to do that anymore.

    In RC1 on my laptop, switching to S-Video out was a bit tricksy, but managed to work. However, on return back to my normal display, my taskbar icons were missing, though the orb/outlines were still intact. Clicking on the taskbar restores the icons, but they sometimes disappear again. A reboot, I anticipate, will solve the issue, but I tend to sleep instead of rebooting.

    Otherwise, everything looks and runs fantastically.

    My remaining issue:

    Please, please, PLEASE allow me to view details/column headers in NON-details mode. This is something that was introduced in Vista and its disappearance is absolutely tragic. I use it everyday, specifically to quickly sort thumbnail-view folders by date modified--making those columns display only in details mode is a disservice, and I'm not sure why we've regressed here.

    Finally, Chrome & other similar multi-threaded, similarly-titled processes tend to freak out the taskbar merging--multiple Chrome windows, including those spawned originally as "web application shortcuts" tend to group randomly to one of the three Chrome pinned items I have.

    Other than that, fantastic all around.

    --Chris Cardinal

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