The Windows Thin PC Community Technical Preview (CTP) is free to trial, but is time-limited to 31st October 2011 .
The CTP download image is a 1.2Gb ISO which you can burn to DVD or put on a USB stick – so long as your test machine supports boot from USB. Ours has a motherboard so old it lacks USB stick boot but will boot from USB hard drives. Go figure…
You get a ‘full’ installation of Windows Thin PC, which actually identifies itself as Windows Embedded. Whilst this is based on Windows 7, it is not itself Windows 7 so you will find some compatibility issues with other Microsoft products. Microsoft encourages you to install your management and monitoring solutions to verify that they all perform as expected, equivalent to their operation on Windows 7 Professional, Enterprise or Ultimate.
There are supposed to be additional documents on the Windows Thin PC Connect site for step-by-step guidance of product functionality throughout the duration of the preview program. It’s early days and the ones I know about are linked further down this text.
For a product that is aimed at revitalising old hardware using new software, Thin PC is a mixed bag when it comes to compatibility. Be realistic in what you attempt to run it on. There are motherboard, graphics and add-on card quirks which may well stop you dead. Sometimes, rarity meets obsolescence and you can’t expect MS to pull rabbits out of the hat just for you.
Our test box is running remarkably well. Thin PC is light-weight (curse and strength) performing well for speed and features. Internet Explorer 8 and the Windows Explorer file manager are responsive beyond expectations (but perhaps I came to this with very low expectations). AJS
Windows Thin PC is based on Windows 7 Embedded rather than full desktop edition.
Using most (but not all) the security enhancements of Windows 7, Windows Thin PC is supposed to respond to companies needs to make systems more manageable to help combat the continually evolving “threat landscape”. There are a number of features that will help to better secure your devices, including
- Enhanced Auditing,
- and Streamlined User Account Control.
Microsoft Security Essentials will NOT run on Thin PC. Windows Defender also seems to have gone AWOL in this release, the .exe is completely absent despite the Action Center telling you to turn it on!
For additional information about the Security Enhancements, refer to http://technet.microsoft.com/en-us/library/dd548337(WS.10).aspx.
Since organizations are more focused on power management as a way of reducing costs, Windows 7 power-management features are included to reduce power consumption, helping lower energy costs. There’s a video introduction to some of the power management features available to Windows Thin PC: http://technet.microsoft.com/en-us/windows/ee524728 (seems to require Silverlight for it’s media player).
Windows Thin PC is intended to reduce the management complexity of large numbers of devices to reduce the total cost of ownership, by helping to increase automation and provide flexible administrative control to meet compliance requirements. There’s an overview of these features at http://technet.microsoft.com/en-us/library/dd443489(WS.10).aspx.
In addition to Windows 7 functionality, Windows Thin PC has incorporated a number of embedded specific enhancements to help lock down public facing devices, including Write Filters for creating stateless or semi-stateless environments, suppression of unwanted dialog message boxes and a keyboard filter for suppressing unwanted keystrokes such as CTRL+ALT+DEL, ALT+F4, Windows+L, as well as custom defined keystroke combinations.
Recommended Hardware Configuration:
- 1 GHz or faster 32-bit (x86) or 64-bit (x64) processor
- Windows Thin PC will work with today’s multi-core processors.
It supports up to 32 processor cores.
Windows Thin PC supports two physical processors, providing reasonable performance, but it is NOT a high-performance workstation or a server.
- 1 GB RAM, 16 GB available hard disk space
- DirectX 9 graphics device with WDDM 1.0 or later version driver
- Bootable DVD-ROM drive
Microsoft recommends that you install Windows Thin PC on a computer that has at least 16 GB of available disk space. Various features in Windows Thin PC can quickly increase disk usage. For optimal performance, you need at least 15 percent free space at all times and sufficient space for the paging file, which might be up to two times the size of the system’s RAM
Additional requirements to use certain features:
- Internet access for updates
- Depending on resolution, video playback may require additional memory and advanced graphics hardware
- BitLocker requires Trusted Platform Module (TPM) 1.2
- BitLocker To Go requires a USB flash drive
Product functionality and graphics may vary based on the system configuration. Some features may require advanced or additional hardware.