PRODUCT REVIEW

Windows 7 Is a Snooze

Windows 7 is on my wish list.

I wish Microsoft didn’t raise theequipment ante required to run its new operating system. I wishMicrosoft built in an easy upgrade path from Windows XP. I wishMicrosoft provided Windows 7 with some kind of Wow Factor that gave me acompelling reason to change my computing strategy.

Instead, all I got in my experience with Microsoft’s latest OS release is ayawn.

OK, Microsoft seems to have gotten it right this timearound. I expected as much. With nearly a full year of intense userfeedback through seemingly countless beta and RC releases, the Microsoft Windows 7development team prevented the massive market embarrassment that would haveresulted from a Vista II debacle.

Still, the lack of a single killer app built into Windows 7 or amust-have new feature left me unconvinced about migrating to the newOS.

Windows 7 Outcasts

My first hands-on experience with Windows 7 came in February. Backthen, I was an avid Windows XP user. Much like mom and pop shops — andeven larger company operations today — my work as a technologyjournalist accumulated a hardware inventory that is slowly aging. Now,if I decide to adopt Windows 7 as my workhorse OS, I’ll face countless hoursof work manually reinstalling and testing dozens of peripherals andapplications that may or may not work in Windows 7, with or withoutits XP Mode feature.

If the Microsoft Windows 7 Upgrade Advisor software is accurate, mostof my computer inventory, though not really all that old, would requirecomponent upgrades just to play nice with the Windows 7 Ultimateedition Microsoft sent me as the basis for this review.

My two main work computers — a desktop and a 17-inch wide-screenlaptop — have RAM or video card issues. A second desktop’s integratedmotherboard components make adapting it for a Windows 7 installationan impossibility. My newest laptop addition, bought last year withVista installed, is the only one of my computers that will run Windows7.

Parted Company

Having worked in the new OS for the last week, nearly around the clock,I am sure that die-hard Windows XP users will hate Windows 7. I amalso certain that frustrated Windows Vista users will love Windows 7,once they adjust to its nuances.

One reason for this is the radical change in the GUI (graphical user interface) between WindowsXP and Windows 7. Vista started to break away from legacy compatibilityand user procedures. Windows 7 continues those usability breaks.

Actually, I have a little of both of those computing personalities. I have alove/hate relationship with Windows 7. If installing this new OS on mynewest laptop were the only hardware issue, as a consumer, I wouldseriously consider migrating to the new OS. However, sometime aftermy experience with the Windows 7 beta, I migrated to Linux ratherthan replace my aging home office hardware.

I still have Windows XP running on my workhorse laptop and one desktopusing a dual boot with a Linux OS. Open source Linuxdistributions are free, and they work perfectly with my legacy hardware. Ihave them configured to duplicate much of the look and feel of theWindows environment. They provide some impressive bells and whistles,along with some features not available in Windows.

The Good

Now that my confession is public about my Linux leanings, I should note that I like muchof what I experienced with Windows 7. It installed on a virginpartition on my Vista laptop in under 20 minutes. The installationroutine automatically configured a dual boot so I could access bothVista and Windows 7 on the same computer.

I downloaded the OpenOffice suite, free AVG virus protection, the FirefoxWeb browser, and several other open source apps in minutes. Windows 7performed surprising fast, given that Microsoft Vista imitatesmolasses running uphill on the same computer.

Bootup and shutdown both take about 40 seconds. Programs I use all thetime such as a Web browser, word processing, and image file manipulationwork fast and reliably.

I encountered something of a learning curve, though, in adjusting to the newfile management system Windows 7 uses. The library folders allowdifferent types of files to be saved by the category of content in them, so relatedtypes of files wind up in the same place.

It also took some time getting used to new features that do not existin Windows XP or worked differently than in Vista. Essentially, though, I wasable to start several working tasks as I would in Windows XP and Vistaand then get familiar with the changes.

The Bad

My biggest dislike in Windows 7 is the Homegroups file-sharingfeature. I erred in responding to a prompt during installation thatasked if I wanted to have Windows 7 share files with other users. Iselected no, but I later figured out I should have selected yes. I still have not found how to undo that transgression.

Even using the menu options in Control Panel, Windows 7 blocked myaccess to existing files and folders on the Vista partition housed onDrive C. Windows 7 resides on Drive D.

An annoyance occurs each time I install a program. By default, theinstallation routine wants to put the folder entry in “C:/Program Files”even though Windows 7 is installed on drive D. I have to remember tochange this default setting or take extra time to uninstall andreinstall the applications.

The In-Between

Despite what other reviewers have professed, Windows 7 is very muchthe look and feel of Windows Vista. Granted, the glitches are largelyfixed. Still, having an interface that strongly resembles its clunkierpredecessor does little to build my trust and confidence in upgrading.

The User Account Control (UAC) is still a bother in Windows 7, butMicrosoft now makes it possible to lessen the annoyance wheninstalling new programs or changing user settings. However, the file searchfeature is now fully integrated into the OS and actually providesuseful, speedy results.

Perhaps the task bar in Windows 7 is one of the most noticeableimprovements over both Windows XP and Windows Vista. Its new designmight even be an improvement over the system Macs use. Users candistinguish quick launch icons from icons of minimized programsalready running, for example. Much more launch functionality isbuilt into the task bar as well, such as full-screen previews ofthumbnails.

Lost Enthusiasm

Generally, I tired of trying to relearn what Microsoft fixed orchanged in its latest OS release. When something didn’t work the same way it didin XP or Vista, it took too much time to figure out.

Microsoft added too many new things for me to learn. For instance, howdo I find and use all of the new tools? How can I use wizards anddialog boxes more effectively?

Is the Windows firewall any better, or do I still need to use athird-party firewall app? What about Windows 7’s new Problem StepsRecorder (PSR)?

No Hurt Feelings?

I could dump Linux along with Windows XP and my one installation ofVista and start all over again with Windows 7. After all, Microsoftgave me two program keys, so I can activate Windows 7 and continue touse it on two computers. So thanks for the free revamped OS.

Please do not be offended, Mr. Microsoft, if I slide that installationDVD on the shelf over my test bench and remove the D: drive partitionwhen the 30-day trail period expires. No, I didn’t use the activationkeys.

Canonical’s Ubuntu is debuting a new version of that open source OS on Thursday, and the Puppy Linux distro I use is also readying an upgrade.

Windows 7, I’ll get back to you when I’m done checking out the reallyfree alternatives.

Maybe!

17 Comments

  • After using Windows 7 for a bit, I’ve noticed that it’s the same thing underneath. Especially compared to Vista. I agree with the author, it’s not worth the migration from Vista to 7 if you are already using Vista. However if you are using Windows XP, your days are numbered and you will be forced to upgrade to something soon. Windows 7 will be a time consuming migration. Migrating to Fedora Linux would be time consuming as well. I migrated to Linux a year and a half ago, and now I can upgrade from distribution to distribution without going through a migration ever again.

    http://members.apex-internet.com/sa/windowslinux

  • I agree with you. The company I worked for just purchased 300 new computers that came with Windows 7 installed (Home Premium no less).

    We have contacted Microsoft regarding rolling back to XP for compatibility with very important software and hardware that apparently cannot be upgraded and told no.

    For the first time Linux is looking like a viable solution due to wine being able to run the software and the hardware we have. It is a very strange scenerio when Linux is more compatible with our needs right now.

    Personally I have a brand new computer as well. Some of my hardware such as scanners and a poster printer will not work under Vista nor Win 7 so I have a Win 7 upgrade disc sitting around without any excitement. I have Vista X64 on it and dual boot with XP Pro. I’ve found that just working under XP Pro instead of jumping back and forth to be much easier.

    The compelling reason so far that I’ve heard for using this new OS is that the old version is expiring and desktop fluff. Sad thing is that XP will be replaced by Linux when it does expire because I can wrap those drivers and run under Wine.

    If it doesn’t run the hardware or software an OS is useless.

  • I started working with Vista when it was still beta. When it went RTM, we were required to install on our systems. After 2 months I couldn’t take it anymore and quietly put XP back on my system. I never used Vista at home – could NOT stand it. Advised everyone I knew to not use it. wait for Windows 7 (which was already in the works).

    I now have Windows 7 on my home system. It is great! The help files are so good that I recommend this upgrade to anyone who asks about it. It installed in 20 minutes and the only piece of hardware that did not work is my Kensington trackball mouse – it didn’t work with Vista either. But you can install software for your hardware using older versions – in this case XP. Works fine.

    So.. EVERYTHING works!.

    While I was actively boycotting Microsoft because of the Vista POS, I still couldn’t afford a MAC :(.

    Please – no one be afraid of this OS. It is really easy to install and use – especially since it has great help files.

  • The commenters have a healthy attitude towards their operating system. Better to enjoy the challenge.

    To a potential buyer of Windows 7, it’s apparent that much of their enjoyment is in proving their ability to master it. If a tech writer can’t figure it out in a week, then perhaps it takes a genius to use and enjoy Windows 7.

    Defensively, the author mentions that he’s able to run Linux, a typically more difficult OS.

    I wish the Windows programmers would accept that very intelligent people may not have the time or inclination to become experts in the idiosyncracies of their system software. There are good cooks, teachers, card-sharks, and all kinds of people who deserve a more sustained effort to get the OS out of the way.

    As an AM ateur, I know it’s dramatically easier to make a system which requires a genius to use.

    The Windows ads seem to understand this, as they focus on people who have interesting lives, and want a computer to enable, rather than constrain, their work.

  • Mr. Germain,

    I have been using windows 7 since the 7000 beta build. Perhaps some information will solve two of your "cons" listed.

    Homegroup:

    In your taskbar, you should have an icon representing your internet connection. Right-click that icon and then left click on "Open Network and Sharing Center". The window that comes up will have diagram showing your internet connection, then the network you are connected to underneath and basic information to the right of it. You will see "homegroup" with either Create, Available, or Joined as a link to the right of that. I would suggest clicking on Create to get started. Also, you are able to customize your homegroup key so if remembering random letters and numbers doesn’t sit well, there’s relief.

    Accessing data on Vista partition:

    I AM assuming that you got the error saying that you don’t have permission to access the folder when you try to get to your files on the Vista partition. First reccomendation I would make is for you to have frequently accessed data on a non-os, or storage, partition. I have all my personal files on a storage partition, and only installed programs go on the root partition. Besides that, when you get the permissions error message, you can click on "get permission" if you are logged in using the administrator account. It will add your info to the security on the folder so that both your account in vista and your account in 7 has access.

    About installing to D:Program Files:

    Using both Vista and 7, Each install I have done thinks the partition it was installed on was the C: drive, with the other OS being the D: drive. So if you are logged into Vista, it would think it’s drve is C, and when logged into 7 it would think it’s drive is C. I AM unsure what would have changed the circumstances to affect that, perhaps the linux partition being seen during setup.

    I hope the above information helps you and any others that may come across it. Feel free to send me a message or reply to this post if you have any questions or comments.

    Regards,

    Matt D.

  • From the article it is very clear: if you get Windows 7 OEM on a new PC, it’s going to be worth "jumping through hoops" for a little while to get used to it. Otherwise, I can see no conceivable reason for the owner of an existing computer to buy Windows 7.

    The pro-Linux bias is a bit much. I’ve tried Linux installations every couple of years. Unless you are using a "vanilla" installation or are a student on a budget with time on your hands, there are many more "hoops" to jump through with Linux. While there is a lot of free support for Linux, the signal-to-noise ratio of the Linux support forums is low and required more time and patience than I could afford.

    I speak as a "power user", someone who ran his own tech support company for five years and with a background as an electronics engineer. Linux is not for the faint of heart.

  • I AM always AM azed at how the linux Fanboys always manage to get their propaganda buried into a "legitimate" article or review. Linux has THE SAME retarded learning curve, if not more of one over Windows.

    One of the idiotic things you said was that MS added too many things for you to LEARN. Ooh..pity. Must be a Mac Fanboy then. (Hi, I’m a Mac…excuse me while my mommy feeds me some pudding).

    Another stupid comment was about the FIREWALL. Do you even KNOW anything about the Vista or Win7 firewall? Microsoft went to GREAT pains to make a firewall that is Enterprise-class…along with the kernel refinements in 7, it should make for quite the secure PC. (For that fact, I have never had any issues with the XP SP2/3 firewall, either…but rumors from the ignorant eventually are believed as truth (kinda like Barrack Obama NOT being a citizen?)

    Hey Jack…why don’t your review your favorite restaurant, or how you like Oreos over Hydrox? As a Tech Reviewer, you SUCK.

  • though its true that Win 7 won’t change your life much of what mr. germain says in his recent review is hooey and he should be ashamed.

    I moved to Win7 day before yesterday. aside from the fact that my cheeseball HP scanner won’t work with it (which I knew from running the MSoft Win7 upgrade advisor, which took about two minutes) every single thing in my rather extensive computer hardware worked fine. outside of cross copying my data to the new install for safeties sake (which I would do with any new OS) the install went flawlessly. every single piece of software I normally run, ran. (including favorites that are old enough to vote)

    that he does not seem to understand the possibilities of a 64 bit data path or the ability to address a ton of RAM seems to me to indicate that he missed the whole point of the exercise while looking for glitz.

  • This is such an opinionated article by the "free alternatives".. The facts are just wrong.

    "I tired of trying to relearn" — you are just old. Things change, the world changes, and believe it or not, for the better. The moment you stop learning, you become obsolete.

    "slightly old equipment, forget about it" — Windows 7 runs fine on older hardware, better than XP.

    "die-hard Windows XP users will hate Windows 7" — I was one of them, I liked Vista, and I love 7. So, there you go

  • I largely agree with your take on Windows 7. While it’s by far the best version of Windows to date, there was nothing about this release that truly wowed me. I was expecting more after reading so many positive reviews across the industry. But it seems we now have to judge Windows releases by how bad they aren’t, instead of how good they are. By how many problems were fixed, rather than killer features added.

    If you have the right hardware or are buying a new computer, then no doubt Windows 7 is the way to go. But if it’s just to upgrade, you might be looking hard for a compelling reason.

  • I agree to the average user windows 7 can seem a bore. For xp users its scary cause its new, for vista users its similar UI but fixes 99% of their issues. The OS offers a standard user really nothing flashy, YET. Now for the real gritty. Win7 offers a mega ton of networking and corporation options. Having the powershell part of the OS allows IT to do anything and everything they want to a machine through group policy, and I mean anything. Once the next Service pack for server 2008 comes out, virutalizing desktops on the server with a minimal install on desktops. Key piece to Win7 is at its core you can install it in approximately 1gig of space which includes just enough of the OS to get a connection to a virtalized desktop. Welcome the return of pizzabox computing, where your users run a lightweight minimal machine that connects to an virtual instance of their desktop running on a server, which fronts a "company" based cloud that houses Office 2010’s web based office tools, that can be connected to through your virtual desktop via the new remote desktop software from within your cell phone. So to recap you turn you phone on run your win7 OS app, connect to your virtual desktop at work and bam constant access to your desktop from any device. Then there is the homegroup you trashed on and yes there is a setting for it in control panel. Can link up numerous friends and homegroup them. I have 3 home groups setup. 1 for well computers at home, that share all files and devices, a 2nd one that has my friends / family on it that share my pictures / misc. 1 for my business that shares my business related files to people who are not around me. All pretty easy to setup and all pretty secure. Would I pop my SSN in a homegroup eh probably not right now, want to test it more.

    Win 7 breaks backwards compatibility thus the xp mode option, cause at its root win 7 would not run anything XP. This is a move forward at some point you have to stop preventing innovation cause people don’t want to give up hardware that is 10 years old. I mean we buy a stove every 10 years, we buy cars every 10 years, we buy lots of expensive things cause they wear out after 10 years. Just cause a computer hangs in there for 10+ doesn’t mean it should still compete. I have a 6 year old single core with 3 gig of ram and an old geforce 6600 card and it runs windows faster than it does XP. largely cause it is 64 bit mode I AM running.

    Anyways, Win 7 is not about the average home user, beyond trying to prepare people for Microsoft’s next moves, but for businesses it will quickly dominate the market.

  • There are so many false statements in this its un-believable

    "I wish Microsoft (Nasdaq: MSFT) didn’t raise the equipment ante required to run its new operating system."

    This OS runs on older equipment that Vista could not run on and is alot more performant overall. Drivers are what you are having problems with and the operating system is what, a week old?

    "I wish Microsoft built in an easy upgrade path from Windows XP."

    Most users are finding the upgrade path is not as difficult as alot of people are making it out

    "With nearly a full year of intense user feedback through seemingly countless beta and RC releases"

    There was 1 beta and 1 rc, how is this countless?

    "Still, the lack of a single killer app built into Windows 7 or a must-have new feature left me unconvinced about migrating to the new OS."

    *Cough* New Taskbar and Video rendering Features /*Cough*

    But it all makes sense now. You favor Linux. Its the age old battle between Linux users and Windows users. I have a friend of mine who prefers Linux over Windows and he will even admit that Linux users tend to me more holed in and biased than open to things other than Linux.

    I AM glad you were able to get your Linux install to provide most of the features plus some of Windows 7. Now back to real world where "most" of the worlds population will not be able to reproduce the same results with Linux.

    Go Windows!

  • …not sure what you did, but there’s a specified order you have to install OS’s in to succesfully dual-boot them to avoid the C:/D: issue you’ve raised. I can hardly think you can blame an OS for this mixup. Also, I did sign up for the Home Group feature during install, and was able to pretty easily disable it once it all got up and running. I was then able to activate traditional file/printer sharing without too much trouble. Sorry I don’t agree with your frustrations.

    One HUGE positive I noticed is that for the first time ever, i did not need my motherboard driver disk. It found and installed ALL of my hardware and integrated peripherals. It’s about time!

    I do however agree with your overall snooze comment. There are some flashy new details, such as the aero shake and the start bar is definitely a change (mostly for the positive), but where are the rewards for putting up with a year of beta testing. It feels pretty much like Vista. There are no new gadgets. There are no new screen savers (actually fewer). It seems like there should have been more eye-candy. The desktop backgrounds that act as a slide show is a pretty good feature.

    Overall, though, it does feel snapier. I feel it’s an improvement on Vista. Concerning hardcore XP fans, it wouldn’t matter what M$ put out at this point, they would still whine and moan. It’s kind of like the people that faulted George Lucas for the new Star Wars movies. They are his movies! He can do whatever he wants with them! Get over it!

    Sorry for the tangent. Good article.

  • Obviously you are some kind or MAC of Linux Fanboy. If you are running hardware that is not Vista or Windows 7 compatible at this point then you are not and should not be a technology writer. Take your 386sx and load Red Hat on it and see how much fun you have. If you insist on running Windows XP perhaps you may want to think about some of your other technology choices. Perhaps a horse and carriage would suit you. Better yet try writing your next article on a stone table so we don’t have to read this trash.

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