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Microsoft Windows 7 Optimization for VDI list of resources

Here is a good overview from Microsoft of VDI Optimization for Windows 7. It's a common practice to optimize a Windows 7 virtual machine (VM) template (or image) specifically for VDI use. Usually such customizations include the following.

  • Minimize the footprint, e.g. disable some features and services that are not required when the OS is used in “stateless” or “non-persistent” fashion. This is especially true for disk-intensive workloads since disk I/O is a common bottleneck for VDI deployment. (Especially if there are multiple VMs with the same I/O patterns that are timely aligned).
  • Lock down user interface (e.g. optimize for specific task workers).

With that said the certain practices are quite debatable and vary between actual real-world deployments. Exact choices whether to disable this or that particular component depend on customer requirements and VDI usage patterns. E.g. in personalized virtual desktop scenario there's much less things to disable since the machine is not completely “stateless”. Some customers rely heavily on particular UI functions and other can relatively easily trade them off for the sake of performance or standardization (thus enhance supportability and potentially security). This is one of the primary reasons why Microsoft doesn't publish any “VDI Tuning” guide officially.

Though there are a number of such papers and even tools published either by the community or third parties. This Wiki page is aimed to serve as a consolidated and comprehensive list of such resources.

Microsoft Remote Desktop Services (Terminal Services) Team Microsoft Remote Desktop Services (Terminal Services) Team  Blog post Customize RDP settings for Virtual Desktops Customize RDP settings for Virtual Desktops  Basic information with detailed prescriptive steps.
Microsoft Remote Desktop Services teamMicrosoft Remote Desktop Services team Script Configure Guest OS for Microsoft VDI (VB Script) Configure Guest OS for Microsoft VDI (VB Script)  , Configure Guest OS for Microsoft VDI (Windows PowerShell Script) Configure Guest OS for Microsoft VDI (Windows PowerShell Script)  Configures Guest OS for use with Windows Server 2008 R2 VDI.
“The Deployment Guys” “The Deployment Guys”  (Microsoft Consulting Services, MCS) Utility VDI Optimizer VDI Optimizer  The tool called VDI Optimizer outputs a VBScript (based on the selections you make in the GUI interface), which can then be used to apply performance and configuration settings to images that will be deployed via VDI platforms – this is particularly useful if you are using MDT 2010 for your image engineering process as the VBScript can bolted into the task sequence using a Run Command Line task.
Citrix Systems, Inc. Citrix Systems, Inc.  Whitepaper Citrix XenDesktop—Windows 7 Optimization Guide for Desktop Virtualization Citrix XenDesktop—Windows 7 Optimization Guide for Desktop Virtualization  The Windows 7 optimizations identified within this document are intended to provide a more responsive desktop for the users.
These configurations typically add value by enhancing the user experience and increasing system performance. For example, some of the changes optimize the user experience by enabling faster logons, reducing unnecessary prompts, and quicker screen updates. Others optimize performance and increase scalability by reducing unnecessary processor, memory, disk and network usage.
VMware, Inc. VMware, Inc.  Whitepaper VMware View Optimization Guide for Windows 7 VMware View Optimization Guide for Windows 7  This guide provides administrators with the information necessary
to create a standard image of Windows 7 leveraging the Microsoft Deployment Toolkit or by utilizing a
script-based approach to optimize a traditionally installed Windows 7 virtual machine. The recommended
configuration settings optimize Windows 7 to help enhance the overall scalability and performance within a
VMware View Virtual Desktop Infrastructure.
The first section of the paper will discuss the overall process of optimization and the optimization aids provided.
In the next section, step-by-step procedural guidance is given for both methods of optimization. Afterward,
the Windows 7 Operating System Customizations section provides background information on the specific
optimizations and techniques used by the optimization aids.
Project Virtual Reality Check Project Virtual Reality Check  (Project VRC is a joint venture between Login Consultants and PQR) Whitepaper Project VRC Phase III Project VRC Phase III  (free sign-up requred) In this whitepaper Windows XP and Windows 7 are extensively compared. Specifically, the I/O behavior of Windows XP and Windows 7 is investigated in detail. By evaluating the different phases of a desktop workload, completely new insights are given. Many best practices are available to optimize Windows 7. Project VRC performed tests with the default optimizations configured by VSI (referred in this document as ‘VSI optimizations’) and additional optimization best practices that are specific to Windows 7 (referred as ‘VRC optimizations’). Both from an I/O and VSImax (maximum capacity) perspective, these ‘VRC optimizations’ proved to have a significant positive impact.


Windows 7 XP Mode no longer requires hardware virtualization

Microsoft announced that Windows 7 users who want to run XP Mode on the operating system can now do it with the help of a patch that eliminates the need for hardware virtualization technology.

"Windows XP Mode no longer requires hardware virtualization technology. This change simplifies the experience by making virtualization more accessible to many more PCs for small and midsize businesses wanting to migrate to Windows 7 Professional or higher editions, while still running Windows XP-based productivity applications," wrote Microsoft’s in-house Windows blogger, Brandon LeBlanc, in a Thursday’s post.

The updated version of the software is available on Microsoft’s Web site for Windows 7 32-bit and Windows 7 64-bit. Users who are already running the XP Mode do not require the new update.

However, Microsoft did not mention anything about how the new changes, to run XP mode without hardware virtualization, will affect the performance of the applications.

Changes to make Windows 7 popular
In the past Microsoft has been severely criticized for making things complicated by introducing XP Mode that worked only on PC’s that supported either Intel’s Virtualization Technology or AMD’s AMD-V.

Because of the complications in the adopting the software, customers stayed with Windows XP. Microsoft finally seems to have realized that it needs to uncomplicate the process to popularize Windows 7 adoption.

"This change makes it extremely easy for businesses to use Windows XP Mode to address any application incompatibility roadblocks they might have in migrating to Windows 7. Windows XP Mode will of course continue to use hardware virtualization technology if available," added LeBlanc in his official blog post.

The XP Mode virtualization is available only for Windows 7 Professional, Ultimate, and Enterprise editions.

Microsoft had introduced Windows 7 back in October 2009 and XP Mode is available only on Professional and Ultimate versions of the operating system.

Changes in Microsoft’s virtualization policy
Microsoft also made some changes in its virtualization policy to reduce obstacles in the way of adoption of Window’s 7 furthermore.

From July 1, Windows Client Software Assurance customers will not require a separate license to access Windows in a Virtual Desktop Infrastructure (VDI) environment but will be part of Software Assurance (SA).

Before this SA customers were required to pay additional fee of $23 per device annually by Microsoft for Windows Virtual Enterprise Centralized Desktop (VECD).

According to Dai Vu, director of Virtualization Solutions Marketing at Microsoft, this new development will reduce the confusion and complexity of virtual environment licensing issue where, "Customers feel that because they've already paid for SA, having to pay again [for VECD] doesn't make sense."


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