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What is Windows Embedded, and Why Does it Matter Now?

By ·Categories: Tech Explained·Published On: January 25th, 2020·3.9 min read·

Windows 7 Embedded Standard used to be the reliable choice for many embedded projects. In January 2020, Microsoft ended support for Windows 7. However, that same month, Microsoft announced an Extended Security Update program that will deliver critical and important updates to Windows 7 with options until October 2023. For more information, check out this information from Microsoft.

As we touched on in a previous blog, operating systems play a key role in the hardware decision making process. If you are looking to move beyond Windows Embedded Standard 7, now is the time to get started building your ideal OS. Our OS development specialists can walk you through the process of creating the embedded operating system image that best suits your unique device or installation. This blog will give you some great history.

What Happened to Windows 7 at the End of October 2014?

At the end of October, 2014, Microsoft stopped providing hardware partners with copies of Windows 7 Home (Basic or Premium) and Windows 7 Ultimate. Microsoft continued to offer support for these expiring systems until January, 2020. At the time, hardware buyers were left with a choice – to move to Windows 7 Professional (at a significantly higher cost than Windows Embedded), migrate to the much-maligned Windows 8, or take advantage of the continued availability of the Windows 7 Embedded Standard platform.

The various advantages and disadvantages of Microsoft’s Windows 8 offerings have been covered at length elsewhere, and there’s plenty of information available about Windows 7 Pro. Let’s take a closer look at Windows Embedded Standard 7, its functional differences, and why it was the optimal choice for users struggling with an OS decision in the face of Microsoft’s move.

What Is Windows Embedded?

Windows Embedded Standard 7 (WES7) was built on the same framework as Windows 7 Ultimate. This means that any software that’s compatible with a standard Windows 7 distribution also ran properly on WES7. Windows 7 Embedded Standard allows users to identify the specific components of the Windows OS that their system or device requires and includes only those features in the final image. In essence, Windows Embedded allows you to pick and choose the features you needed in your OS and forgo those that aren’t suitable for your unique installation or dedicated appliance.

Windows 7 vs Windows 7 Embedded Standard: The Key Differences

The most common question we hear about Windows 7 Embedded is how it differs from the other versions of the Windows 7 OS. The most appealing functional difference is the ability to customize Windows 7 Embedded Standard 7 with only the applicable modules for a given project. Features normally built into the standard operating system (graphical components, drivers, applications) that aren’t needed, can be discarded. By including only what is needed, the overall image size is reduced, leaving more space for application-specific programs and files. Users can also define their own custom-branded boot screens and have the ability to auto-run custom application on startup, creating a user interface and experience unique to that device.

In addition to its ease of customization, the final image is considerably easier to deploy. Here at OnLogic, we can upload a custom Windows Embedded image to our network and easily deploy that image on multiple systems before they’re shipped to clients. This creates a turn-key solution that’s ready to implement right out of the box.

Perhaps most importantly for embedded device development, WES7 also included additional Embedded Enabling Features (EEFs) that offered capabilities unique to the embedded variant of Windows 7. These additional features were designed to help integrators create a custom image that was perfectly suited to their unique application.

  •  Special write filters prevent direct access to the memory, prolonging flash storage life and preventing files from being modified.
  • The system can be set to boot directly from a saved hyberfil.sys file, reducing system boot times.
  • Windows 7 Embedded Standard allows users to assign Message Box Default Replies, which automatically logs and reacts to message boxes with “OK” or “Cancel” to ensure uninterrupted operation. Similar features can also be activated to respond to program dialog boxes.

How To Move Beyond Windows 7 Embedded Standard

If you are looking to move beyond Windows Embedded Standard 7, now is the time to get started building your ideal OS. Our OS development specialists can help walk you through the process of creating the embedded operating system image that best suits your unique device or installation. Contact us today at +1-802-861-2300 or fill out our simple online form to have one of our OS experts contact you for details about your project.

Note – this blog was originally posted October 1, 2014. Updated June 25, 2020. 

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About the Author: Justin Ballard

The Technical Sales Manager at OnLogic, Justin brought his passion for technology and education to the team in 2011. When he isn't coaching new members of the Sales team, Justin can be found on the golf course taking advantage of Vermont's short summers.

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