Things haven’t been going too well in Microsoft’s OS department. The software giant has in recent years faced steep competition from Apple. And although Cupertino has failed to make a serious dent in Microsoft’s market dominance, they have been more then able to tarnish the crown of Redmond.
With the release of Windows 7 later this week, Microsoft hopes to dispel some of the doubts that have been placed on its OS. So how does it stack up? Is Windows 7 a memory hog like Vista, and more importantly can systems older then three years run the 7th installment of Windows?
Windows 7 has seen one of Microsoft’s more radical changes to the UI of its operating system. While it’s still easy to tell that this is 100% Windows, things have changed since Windows 3.0 and Microsoft has taken note of that. One of the best examples of this is the redesign of the start menu as well as task bar. In older versions of Windows (even Vista), grouping programs were a lot more complicated. For instance more then 5 windows had to be opened before similar windows were grouped. That has changed in 7. Not only does the taskbar group programs, but programs, documents, videos, music, pictures etc. can be pinned to the taskbar (kind of like the same way on the Mac OS). If you rather the past, this can always be reverted to the regular taskbar setup.
Another change in design has been the omission of the sidebar that was introduced three years ago in Vista. Widgets are back but the sidebar has been removed completely so widgets can be floated anywhere on the desktop.
Other additions to the UI include the ability to “peek” at the desktop by dragging the mouse to the far right of the taskbar. The whole UI has gotten a but more transparent and desktop backgrounds can be changed at user defined time intervals.
Overall the redesign of the UI is not one that is meant to reinvent the wheel but rather refine it. Has Microsoft succeeded at this task? Yes they have.
This is probably going to be the make or break for many people, especially those interested in upgrading older systems. While I have never had any major problems with Vista, I do have to confess that it was a memory hog and if you wanted anything to run decent, 2GB of RAM was the least that was needed. That said, many of those who upgraded were not aware of the memory or processor requirements and got burned by the “Vista Compatible” sticker.
Using Windows 7 for the past 7 months (ironic I know ), I have had enough time to test it out in many different environments. One of the major flaws of Vista was the fact that graphics rendering was (in simple terms) an overlay and not an entire redesign.
This caused the system to require more processing power (RAM and CPU) in order to deal with the extra graphical elements. Although Windows 7 is even more graphical intense then Vista, Microsoft has re written the code behind the OS to free up more memory. But even more importantly they have also taken note of the netbook crowd and built in a few features so that those in the Intel Atom arena can have a piece of the pie also.
Overall, load times have been decreased and processing power has been increased. Boot time is significantly faster on Windows 7 then Vista. On average I’ve been able to boot to the login screen in just under 15 seconds from a cold restart. More impressive is the fact that the system becomes fully functional in about 30-45 seconds.
Microsoft has also taken out the annoying warning messages that made their first appearances in Vista, namely the dreaded UAC. While the ones in Vista could be shut down at will, Microsoft has taken special attention to only warn users on important changes to their system such as the installation of new programs, downloads or requests to access registry files.
Another big improvement is the search function which, from my firsthand experience, has been greatly improved since Vista. Searching for anything on the computer is a lot faster thanks to better indexing algorithms implemented in Windows 7.
Support for older drivers and software has also been retained. I have been able to get drivers and software well over 5 years old to install without a hitch on Windows 7. Another great feature is that Windows 7 can automatically check for updated drivers to help the device run better on the new OS.
All in all, the changes in Windows 7 have been huge. Yes it might seem like a service pack to many, but playing around with the OS for a few minutes can easily dispel those thoughts, and its clear to see Microsoft has put a large amount of time and resources into the development of this, the latest version of Windows!
When it launches on October 22 to the mass public, it will be available in various versions including Home, Premium, Professional, Ultimate and Starter edition (licensed for netbooks and nettops only).
Is it worth the upgrade? Seeing that Vista has finally become a stable OS, it all depends. If you have the money to spend, there is no reason why you shouldn’t upgrade. You will not regret it. If you have an older system you might want to check before. While I have heard of people being able to run Windows 7 on Pentium 4 and 3 systems, I would not advise you to try it unless you’re prepared for whatever troubles arise later on. If you ask me though, I would recommend an update to Windows 7 if your system is capable of handling it.
Buying a new Windows laptop? It’s a no brainer, Windows 7 is one of the best OS to be released by Redmond and after a few hours with a Windows 7 machine, you’ll see what all the hype is about!Google+