In this edition of the mailbag: Clean installing Windows 7 with Upgrade media, buying a Windows 8 tablet today, visual voicemail and tethering on Windows Phone, upgrading to Windows Phone 8, whether Windows 8 and Windows Phone 8 synergy will change the upgrade methodology, and the future of Windows Home Server.

If you have questions, please email me.

Clean install Windows 7 with Upgrade media?

Justin S. asks:

I am trying to re-install windows 7 using the upgrade disk on a new new hard drive after the other crashed. What are the steps?

The top two articles I've ever written are probably those that involve slipstreaming Windows XP with SP2/SP3 and how you can clean install Windows 7 using Upgrade media. And not coincidentally, these topics are among my top questions via email as well. So I like to throw this one out there from time to time.

I've got everything you need to know in Clean Install Windows 7 with Upgrade Media.

Buying a tablet for Windows 8 today?

Robert J. asks:

If I wanted to buy a tablet today so that I can build and test windows 8 apps, which one do you recommend?

I get this question a lot these days ,which is interesting, though most come from enthusiasts who simply want to experience Windows 8 on a pure tablet before the general release of the OS. Unfortunately, none of the currently available tablets are any good. The closest, probably, is the Samsung Series 7 Slate. But it's expensive.

The issue here is that developers interested in building and testing Metro-style apps will need a device with a resolution of at least 1366 x 768, so they can utilize Windows 8's side-by-side multitasking capabilities. This is a must for development since Metro-style apps will typically offer a modified UI for this mode. But most Windows tablets today do not meet this minimum; many are 1280 x 800 for example. I would never buy such a machine now.

Visual voicemail and tethering on Windows Phone?

Richard C. asks:

Have you been able to activate visual voicemail on your Samsung Focus with Mango? T-mobile seem to turn this on by default, but I’ve not got it yet on ATT, is it an option we need to pay for? And have you had any success with tethering yet?

Visual voicemail and tethering are both carrier features, so for those to work, your carrier would need to support and enable that on your particular device. AT&T has not enabled visual voice mail on any Windows Phone handset. But it has enabled tethering. I have it on the Samsung Focus S and Flash, but I don't believe it's been backported to any previous gen devices. (I could be wrong about that.)

Will current Windows Phone handsets be upgradeable to Windows Phone 8?

Amit V. and many, many others ask:

Is there any information available on the upgradability of various phone models to Windows Phone 8? With Microsoft on such a frequent WP OS upgrade spree, would it not be good to tell customers upfront what models would get upgraded to next version

This is probably the most frequent question I've received in the past 30 days or so, since the Windows Phone 8 revelations. Put simply, I don' t know.

Looked at logically, you could make a case for either direction. Technically, there's probably no reason that existing phones couldn't run Windows Phone 8, though it may not be an optimal experience, given that Windows Phone 8-era handsets will offer dual core processors and other more advanced hardware. On the other hand, I could imagine wireless carriers not supporting the upgrade, even if Microsoft makes it available.

How will the synergy between Windows 8 and Windows Phone 8 impact software updating going forward?

Peter M. raises an interesting issue:

With the unification of Windows and Windows Phone – what will be the timing of major updates on the common code base? Does that mean we’ll get a new version of Windows once a year – or a new version of Windows Phone once every three years? Would be interesting to know.

I wonder about this as well. I'd like to see desktop Windows become less monolithic and perhaps take the IE approach where it's not about version numbers but rather about features/functionality, which are added over time, and more frequently. Microsoft hasn't said one way or the other though.

Future of Windows Home Server?

Kris A. asks:

I’m curious with the rumors of Windows Home Server 2011 being no longer continued what are you planning on doing for file storage needs?

I was going to build a WHS 2011 but then I’m like do I go with a Linux alternative? Cloud service (probably too many GB to upload to be honest).

I get a lot of questions about this. I'm not sure that Microsoft is killing off Windows Home Server, frankly, and certainly the Windows 8 Storage Spaces feature would make for a great WHS 2013 or whatever. That said, I'll continue using WHS 2011. It's not like it stops working, even if Microsoft does discontinue it. It works well for what I need, and with CrashPlan, everything is backed up to the cloud, inexpensively.