A Brief Layman’s Review/Overview of Windows 7 x64 (RC 1)

I confess that I jumped on the Windows 7 bandwagon early on. I had resisted upgrading to Vista for really no other reason than not having a computer that I deemed acceptable to run the heavier (compared XP) OS. I know Vista had some problems early on, but at this point on the OS’s life cycle, those bugs are largely worked out. That said, while early versions of Windows 7 were making the rounds at some of the technology expos that it would run on a netbook. There are two netbooks in my household, an Acer Aspire One and a Samsung NC10. I was very curious to see if this was just marketing hype or if it was really true. I knew there was no way I would try to run Vista on either netbook, so I waited until Windows 7 to give it a go.

When the Beta of 7 was released I promptly installed it on a partition of the NC10’s HDD. To my pleasant surprise, the whisperings had not just been hype. The beta installed painlessly on the little, under powered netbook. When I installed the OS, I did not disable any of the graphical features and was able to run the Aero feature and other graphical window dressing without a hitch. The OS also booted more quickly and generally felt more responsive than the XP partition on the same computer.

My good experiences with the beta left me waiting anxiously for the next version. I was not quite ready to commit to installing the OS on my main computer. The RC was the version I was waiting for. I offloaded all my important data to an external drive and reformatted my HDD for a clean install of the Windows 7 RC.  The install was very painless and, unlike previous versions of Windows, the install can be left pretty much unmonitored while it does its thing.

The biggest and most welcome surprise came when I booted up Windows 7 for the first time. The usually arduous task of hunting down and reinstalling drivers that I had gone through numerous times with various reinstalls of XP and Vista was completely unnecessary. This shaved a good chunk of time out of my typical Windows installation experience. The real kicker came after I had reinstalled Office and went to print something off. I realized that I had not downloaded the drivers for my two printers. My printers are 4 and 6 year old models from Canon and HP respectively. Hunting down drivers for the Canon had been getting increasingly difficult as Canon no longer had them available on the Canon website and I had to look elsewhere. Imagine my surprise when I went to print the file and both of my printers showed up as available for the task! Windows 7 had automatically, in the background, installed all the necessary drivers for both of my old printers to work.

Thus far, I have not installed a single driver for Windows 7 and have instead been able to focus on simply reinstalling my software. Not having to hunt down drivers has cut a good hour or two out of my typical Windows intall routine. As for the software, so far I have not experienced a single hitch. All my software installations have been quick and painless and I have not encountered a single compatibility issue. Eventually I will try and install some of my (very) old computer games (i.e. Windows 95 era) and see if they work on the OS, but I suspect that for most people running software that old will be a non-issue.

Windows 7 will look and feel familiar to anyone who has used Vista. The menu structure is similar and layout of the OS is similar. I like the clean look of the OS. The transparent taskbar and Window borders work well together. I also really like the pop-up previews for open programs on the taskbar. For example, if you have three Firefox windows open, instead of showing up three times on the taskbar, there is one Firefox icon that when you hover the pointer over shows three mini pop-ups of the three Firefox windows. This helps keep the taskbar from getting cluttered for those people who always have multiple programs and windows open.

Performance wise, Windows 7 is faster and smoother than either XP or Vista on my desktop. One of the nicest things I have noticed about the OS is that HDD activity is noticeably less than with XP or Vista. If I am simply surfing the net or typing up a paper, the HDD is almost  unnoticeable in the background. Who knew that a new OS would actually make my computer quieter?

I’m no expert, but I’ve spent enough time fiddling with computers that I know my way around one fairly well. I can tell you this, Windows 7 is the best operating system I have used. I know the Mac users will take issue with that and be quick to sing the praises of OSX, and well they should as that OS is a fine piece of software, but I’m a Windows user and have no plans of switching. I have fiddled with Macs enough to know that I prefer Windows, and now I believe that Microsoft has put out an OS that Apple will have a much harder time poking fun at. Windows 7 will be able to run on everything from netbooks to powerhouse gaming rigs smoothly. If my experience is any guide, upgrading should be a fairly simple process and will not have the hang ups that Vista had early on.

In conclusion, I am very pleased with Windows 7. The ease of use, lightness, and painless install process have all made for an enjoyable experience with the OS. Windows 7 is what an OS should be: simple (on the surface), light, and good looking enough that you want to leave your computer on all the time just to show your friends.

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