Windows 7 on the way: What should you do?

Jul 29, 2009 By Brier Dudley
Windows 7

Now that Microsoft has finished Windows 7, computer users may be wondering what to do next.

Especially people frustrated with Windows Vista machines or nursing along older systems, waiting for something better.

Windows 7 is indeed better, but that doesn't mean everyone should rush out and install it when the becomes generally available Oct. 22.

Here are a few questions and answers, for those wondering what they should do about Windows 7.

WHY SHOULD I UPGRADE TO WINDOWS 7?

If you're perfectly happy with your PC, don't bother.

You can run the system until the hardware wears out or Microsoft and other software makers stop supporting the programs you are using. But computers don't run forever. Hard drives eventually fail and support for XP-era software will dwindle soon.

IS WINDOWS 7 BETTER?

Yes, it is faster, apparently more stable and presumably more secure than Microsoft's previous operating systems.

Every computer pro I've talked to loves the software. Most upgraded their personal computers to Windows 7 months ago, using test versions.

"I have never been more comfortable with an than I have been with this one," said Jon Bach, president of Puget Systems, an Auburn PC maker that specializes in high-performance game systems.

Bach said his only significant problem so far was an early test version conflicting with an anti-virus program, but it was resolved quickly.

Windows 7 has lots of new features. One makes it easier to connect and use devices such as cameras and printers. Another helps find and share files stored on multiple PCs on a network, creating handy shared "libraries."

It's also smarter about power usage, automatically stopping unused processes to extend , for instance.

Windows 7 starts faster than Vista, requires less memory and has handy new controls, including shortcuts for navigating multiple windows open on a desktop.

HOW MUCH WILL IT COST?

Windows 7 Home Premium -- the standard version for consumers -- will cost $199 or $119 to upgrade from Vista. A "Professional" business version will cost $299 or $199 for upgrades.

The best deal for consumers with multiple computers to upgrade is a "family pack" with three upgrade copies. Microsoft hasn't disclosed its price yet, but some online stores offered it early for about $140.

WHAT DO I DO IF I HAVE A VISTA PC?

Some people don't mind Vista; others hate it and can't wait to upgrade.

If Vista annoys you enough to spend $119 on the upgrade or you want the latest and best software on your PC, it won't be too hard to upgrade.

Microsoft says most computers that run Vista will run Windows 7 just fine.

Upgrade disks will give you two options -- a simple "upgrade" that keeps files, settings and programs, and a "custom" installation that erases the hard drive. Either way you should back up your files first.

Microsoft and PC makers are putting extra effort into the upgrade process this time around. Hewlett-Packard, for instance, built an "upgrade assistant" to identify and preinstall most needed drivers. That said, it's still an intimidating project for technophobes.

WHAT IF I'M USING WINDOWS XP?

It's a bit more complicated to upgrade to Windows 7, because you'll have to first erase the hard drive, load Windows 7, then reload your programs and files.

WHAT IF I NEED A NEW COMPUTER BEFORE WINDOWS 7 IS AVAILABLE OCT. 22?

Most Vista PCs sold today include a coupon for a free upgrade to Windows 7.

The coupons do not come with PCs running XP, including most bargain "netbook" mini-laptops.

There are a few downsides to buying a PC now vs. waiting for one preloaded with Windows 7. PC makers are fine-tuning their upcoming machines for Windows 7. Some will also put new Windows 7 applications onto machines they sell after Oct. 22, especially PCs with touchscreens.

New PC models will surface around the time Windows 7 launches. That also means there may be some deals on today's systems for those who can't wait and don't care about the latest hardware.

CAN MY COMPUTER HANDLE WINDOWS 7?

You can download a free tool from Microsoft that checks to see if your computer can handle Windows 7. Search for "windows 7 upgrade advisor" at microsoft.com.

The minimum hardware requirements are 1-gigahertz or faster processor, 1 gigabyte of RAM (2 gigs for a 64-bit system), 16 gigabytes of hard-disk space (or 20 gigs for 64-bit) and a graphics system that supports DirectX 9 and WDDM 1.0 or higher driver.

But that's just the minimum. Puget Systems' Bach said that if he were building a Windows 7 system for, say, his parents, he'd use a low-end quad core processor, such as Intel's Q8200, "and I'd go ahead and put 4 gigs of memory in there because it's so cheap."

Before shoehorning Windows 7 onto an older PC, I'd check prices of low-end PCs.

WHAT ABOUT MY OLDER PROGRAMS?

Microsoft says most programs designed for Vista will work with Windows 7. It gets trickier with programs designed for XP.

To accommodate XP users with big investments in older programs -- namely businesses -- is offering a free add-on for that runs a virtual version of XP supporting older programs. But check the "Windows XP Mode" system requirements; it takes extra memory and doesn't work with all current processors.

SHOULD I DO ANYTHING NOW TO PREPARE?

You don't have to, but all PC users should regularly back up their files somehow.

One way to do this is to buy an external hard drive for about $70 to $100. You can use it to back up files now, and again before any future system upgrades.
___

(c) 2009, The Seattle Times.
Visit The Seattle Times Extra on the World Wide Web at www.seattletimes.com
Distributed by McClatchy-Tribune Information Services.

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User comments : 17

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superhuman
5 / 5 (2) Jul 29, 2009
The golden rule is to always wait at least until service pack 1 is released as the new OS is guaranteed to be full of bugs, incompatibilities and security holes.

In general it's best to stay with XP unless there is something in the new OS you really must have, you are buying a new comp or you have vista and hate it.
hooloovoo
4.5 / 5 (2) Jul 29, 2009
Superhuman, that's generally true, but in this case it's a little different. Consider that Windows 7 is, in essense, Windows Vista SP2.

I have been using it for a few months already and have never been happier with an operating system. It has the reliability that has always drawn me toward Linux, as well as the compatability that always ended up dragging me back to XP. It has run all software I've tried on it, including all games, and performs far better than the Vista install I previously had on the same machine.

Bottom line, I think it's safe to disregard the SP1 rule on this occasion.
la7dfa
5 / 5 (1) Jul 29, 2009
Actually, MS has used a period for beta testing this time. I feel we have been alpha testing all previous versions of Windows while paying full price :(

Windows 7 is a very nice and stable OS IMO.

Using Vista drivers for Win 7 has saved a lot of frustration compared with the release year of Vista.
Bob_Kob
5 / 5 (1) Jul 30, 2009
You actually don't require a dx9 card. Win 7 will run fine without it, you just won't be able to use aero.
ET3D
5 / 5 (1) Jul 30, 2009
Bob's right. I ran the RC on a subnotebook with 512MB of RAM and without a WDDM driver and it worked fine. With ReadyBoost it even worked considerably better than XP on that machine for some things.
EvgenijM
not rated yet Jul 30, 2009
Why should XP user want to switch to this? It uses a VirtualMachine for running unmanaged code, meaning that all XP apps will run slower, than they did on XP.

If it's just because of shiny graphics - there are some themes, that makes XP look just like Vista.
RayCherry
5 / 5 (2) Jul 30, 2009
Would the Microsoft Staff, Partners, Investors, Contractors and Suppliers please raise their hands.

;-)

As for the Clients with no other association other than having bought XP or Vista in the past two years, put you hand up if you consider that:
support from Microsoft for XP should last as long as support for Vista;
the price (previously paid) of upgrading from XP to Vista should be discounted from the Upgrade to Windows 7 (a point of sale discount could be arranged for clients who return the Vista upgrade package when purchasing the Windows 7 upgrade);
all Microsoft Software built (and sold) to run on Windows Vista should be optimised/updated for Windows 7 free of charge, and Microsoft should consider carefully the end-user costs of updating third-party software from Vista to Windows 7;
those end-users who bought XP while Vista was available, but were under the popular opinion that Vista was 'not quite ready to replace XP' which appeared to be confirmed by Microsoft themselves extending the shelflife of XP, should not pay more for Windows 7 Upgrades than the Vista Upgraders.

XP users ... like me ... sorry, but it is yet another non-linear (expensive) upgrade process such as we suffered from Windows 97/98/ME (and Windows for Workgroups 3.11) to Windows NT/2000/XP. In both processes, the cautious investors and responsible systems managers end up being penalised for waiting for the megalithic releases to become 'stable', as they have to purchase new 'native' versions of the existing software (or run some of the existing software in emulation mode that results in slower performance than running the same software on the previous OS on the same hardware).

Perhaps the licensing/activation mechanism can extend to XP Upgraders to possibility of running the existing instance of XP and the new Windows 7 Upgrade in a separate instance for an overlapping/transition period (one year?) that would allow the clientes to test their existing software and decide what stays, what gets upgraded and what dies with XP?

This is not a message bashing Microsoft. They have delivered, and continue to deliver, very innovative and popular operating systems and software. I don't want to see Microsoft in trouble, they are a cornerstone of (and in) modern computer society.

But ... marketing and stockholder alike needs to take a long hard look at what Vista has cost the end-users in testing, fixing, hardware upgrading, and finally replacing with what looks like Vista-as-it-should-have-been and/or the XP-Upgrade-you-should-have-had-before-today.

Loyalty should not be so painful.
CreepyD
not rated yet Jul 30, 2009
I've seen it in action, and recently pre-ordered for a bargain at £45 (about $74) from amazon.
I'm due a reinstall soon anyway and this is going to be it. The fact that even games run faster on the RC than they do on XP makes this a no brainer for me.
jimbo92107
not rated yet Jul 30, 2009
The beta of w7 worked great on my cheapo Acer laptop, but after I tried to load RC1, none of would install correctly anymore. I guess that's progress for Microsoft...

I will say this: w7 makes cheap AMD dual cpu systems operate at respectable speed (runs AMD 64-bit efficiently), which will be good for consumers at the low end.
jimbo92107
not rated yet Jul 30, 2009
BTW, before I pay for w7, I'll try the latest Ubuntu. But that's probably several months hence.
Izzmo
not rated yet Jul 30, 2009
The golden rule is to always wait at least until service pack 1 is released as the new OS is guaranteed to be full of bugs, incompatibilities and security holes.

In general it's best to stay with XP unless there is something in the new OS you really must have, you are buying a new comp or you have vista and hate it.

SP1? Vista was completely fine for me upon release.
Sauvignon
not rated yet Jul 30, 2009
It's about time Microsoft felt a bit of pain for the way they have abused their customers and competitors for so long. OS X and Linux are workable options for many people, in fact, for most day to day usage they are actually better than Windows. Now MS starts to feel what it's like to be steamrollered by a behemoth, in this case Google, and oddly they don't seem to be enjoying the sensation.

29% drop in fourth quarter profit. http://www.ibtime...ults.htm Finally the market responds.
farahikia_1983
not rated yet Aug 02, 2009
Windows XP was what I really expected when I first installed it on my computer. Still, after about 7 years, I don't mind to have XP on my laptop and ignore Vista. Yes, XP has got disadvantages and it's undeniable, but in comparison to the previous versions, it was a great step forward. The proof is its survival after years and that Vista didn't succeed to be an accepted replacement. I hope Windows 7 won't face the same hurdles Vista did, and the best escape from Vista's failure is that Windows 7 Virtual XP Mode works perfectly for us.
canuckit
5 / 5 (2) Aug 02, 2009
Windows 7 will become obsolete long before my hardware running XP.
Paradox
not rated yet Aug 02, 2009
Yes, I'll stick to what I have until service pack 6 of Windows24 comes out.

Oh, did I say that I have a Mac?



Just kidding, I own several PC's too.
austux
3 / 5 (1) Aug 03, 2009
Windows 7 was obsolete long before I installed Kubuntu.

This laptop runs Mandriva 2009.1 without crashes or viruses or licence nags or spyware or any of those marvellous Microsoft-centric features. It always has.
austux
not rated yet Aug 03, 2009
OS X and Linux are workable options for many people, in fact, for most day to day usage they are actually better than Windows.

In a case I faced today, Linux became the _only_ option. XP would not reinstall after the hard drive was replaced, the hardware will not support Vista, Kubuntu 9.04 works jess fahrn.

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