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Windows ThinPC strips down Windows 7 for old PCs

Got old PCs? Want to run Windows 7? For Software Assurance subscribers, Microsoft Windows ThinPC could be in the cards.

IT shops that want an OS upgrade without investing in new hardware will have the option of using what is essentially a stripped down version of Windows 7.

WinTPC has been released to manufacturers and it will be generally available for download on July 1. Despite the “thin” name, WinTPC doesn’t run on thin client devices at all. Windows ThinPC (WinTPC) is a thin version of Windows 7 that runs on old Windows XP PCs that don’t have the memory or CPU resources to support a full version of Windows 7.

So, IT pros can repurpose PCs with 1 GB or 512 GB of RAM and low end CPUs with single or dual cores, said Michel Roth, a desktop virtualization specialist who publishes the ThinComputing.Net site. “These PCs make for a horrible PC but they make a [great] Thin Client from a performance perspective,” Roth said.

WinTPC also has the same write filter that Windows Embedded has. This means any changes to the system by users or even viruses is undone when the device is rebooted, Roth said.

Running Windows 7 on a yellowing Compaq machine may seem like a novelty, but Microsoft claims it’s ideal for companies that don’t want to invest in thin client hardware for VDI, particularly since WinTPC doesn’t require the Virtual Desktop Access (VDA) license that virtual desktops need to run on thin clients.

“The value here is that you no longer have a PC; you can run Windows ThinPC without replacing your hardware or buying a VDA license,” said Mark Margevicius, an analyst at Gartner Inc. “So, Microsoft can customers get the benefit of a locked down version of Windows that boots to the network directly.”

Microsoft offered a similar slim OS based on Windows XP embedded in 2006 called Windows Fundamentals for Legacy PCs. Like Fundamentals, WinTPC includes some management features of the full OS version, but end users can’t run services, business applications such as Microsoft Office, or store data locally.

The only apps that end users on WinTPC can run are security, management, terminal emulation, Remote Desktop and similar technologies, browsers, media players, instant messaging clients, document viewers, NET Framework and Java Virtual Machine.

Customers need Microsoft’s licensing maintenance agreement, Software Assurance (SA), to run WinTPC. If an organization wants to connect to VDI using thin client hardware, it needs to pay Microsoft $100 per year for each VDA license. If it buys a Windows 7 Pro PC and SA, which includes VDA, it only costs $40 per year.

The new features added to the RTM since the CTP include support for international keyboards and the ability to activate against a customer’s existing KMS server or use MAK keys for quick activation mechanisms that customers already use for their existing Windows desktops.

IT shops can manage WinTPC with System Center Configuration Manager. It also works with Citrix Receiver, so shops can access XenApp or XenDesktop through WinTPC.

Let us know what you think about the story; email  Bridget Botelho or follow @BridgetBotelho on Twitter.

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