Windows Thin PC

Recently I was logging into the MS VLSC and I noticed a MAK for Windows Thin PC. So naturally I wondered what this was and took a closer look. Windows Thin PC was put on general release on 1 July (five days ago) and it is essentially Windows Embedded Standard (2010) (i.e. Windows 7 SP1 embedded edition) made available to SA customers (which includes all NZ schools that are signed to the MOE Microsoft agreements). The installation onto my old home PC, which is six years old and pretty limited these days (for example it can’t run 64 bit), was as easy as it gets. You will need the minimum specs that have been around since Vista, the most important is 512 MB of RAM installed.
Although MS recommends a WDDM driver (i.e. Vista compatible), as is the case with Windows 7 generally, the drivers that come with it do a pretty good job with a lot of hardware. The motherboard in this case being an old Intel D915GAG – one of those infamous “Vista Ready” motherboards that didn’t have a native Vista driver and therefore can’t do Aero. For this type of application that doesn’t matter. However this MS driver doesn’t support widescreen resolutions so ensure your displays have the 4:3 aspect ratio or just put up with a slightly fuzzy picture. Drivers were installed by Windows for the other devices and everything works as expected.
Windows Thin PC on closer inspection turns out to be similar to other thin client editions of Windows I have used, with limited features and functionality. However the considerable advantage is that Microsoft supports it, so you aren’t limited to the functionality or support level of an OEM. I got my fingers burned when I bought a HP thin client box that had support for RD Gateway which I thought would let me log straight in from home on it. Only to discover that some of the components needed weren’t installed and HP didn’t make them available so that was a waste of time/money.
The main application I could see us using Thin PC for is a Remote Desktop client. I assume that all our Thin PC machines will be domain joined and have an automatic logon to a shared account. The desktop will be completely locked down and the only allowed application will be the Remote Desktop client which will automatically load and come up. The user is then logging in remotely using their own username and password, to a Remote Desktop server, which gives them the desktop they are normally using. We have done testing with Remote Desktop configurations with student accounts and also with hardware thin clients so it is a pretty standard lite computer configuration used in lots of educational settings.
Well, as it happened, the Remote Desktop experience was pretty much what I expected. It fully supports the functionality of RD Gateway and the like, and I have now got this Thin PC at home that I can log in to the school’s network on, although this is mainly just for demo purposes as my regular home PC can also do this of course. Thin PC is the replacement for Windows Fundamentals for Legacy PCs, which was based on XP Embedded rather than Windows 7 Embedded. WFLP is quite old having come out five years ago. It will be interesting to see if imaging can be used with WTP, although I doubt this is really necessary because the default installation does the job and nothing needs to be installed on it.