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Let’s face it; Windows 7 is to Windows Vista, what Windows XP was to Windows Millennium, a replacement for a very bad operating system. Windows Vista was such an annoyance to use, that almost anything (even switching to Mac OS or Linux) would have been better.
After 3 years of hearing people complain about Windows Vista, Microsoft was well aware that people absolutely hated Vista. In fact, I disliked Vista so much that I eventually switched back to using Windows XP. But now it is Windows 7 to the rescue.
What’s New with Windows 7
It Looks Better
Okay enough with the Windows Vista venting, what makes Windows 7 different or even better? Well the most obvious difference is its looks. Although it’s not dramatically different from Windows Vista, Microsoft has made a few tweaks and changes to Windows 7 desktop, which give it an improved, look over Vista.
Some of the changes and enhancements are listed below:
Desktop Icons: In previous versions of Windows operating systems you were pretty much stuck with the look of the desktop icons, unless you installed a third-party set. In Windows 7, you can easily add or change them.
Themes and Wallpaper: Themes are just desktop wallpaper, sounds, colors and screensavers grouped together to give them a coordinated look. In Windows 7, you can make tons of changes.
New Aero desktop: Aero Look (or transparent glass effect) was first added to Windows Vista. It is a feature that lets you get a look at any programs that may be opened, but sitting behind the program window you are actively working with. It is simply a transparent view; a Peek feature, so to speak.
It’s Easier to Use
This is the area that Microsoft really got right; where they took the time to really listen to the customer about the changes that would make Windows a more user friendly operating system.
Windows 7 comes with a multitude of changes that make it easier to use, such as:
Task Bar: This is by far the biggest change over previous versions of Windows. The Quick Launch bar is gone, replaced with a new, Mac-style task bar. While it is still located at the bottom of the screen like the old quick launch bar, you now have the ability to “Pin” (attach) any program (i.e. favorite programs) to it.
In addition you can launch (run) those programs with just a single click. Another cool feature is that you can get a look at what program or file is running by just hovering (holding) your mouse over any icon on the Task Bar.
Jump Lists: This new feature gives you greater file control. The Jump list provides easy access to your most common used files with just a click. All you do is right click on any icon shown on your Tasks Bar and you’ll see a list of shortcuts of your most recent programs, files, or folders.
The Jump List also, allows you to organize them into sections that fit your needs. The default is just 10 items displayed, but Windows 7 allows you to customize the list.
Windows Touch: Windows Touch introduces touch-screen technology to Windows 7. This feature allows a user to work (requires a touch screen monitor) by just pressing buttons shown on the screen instead of using your mouse.
These are just a few of the improvement and additions that have been made. Another very clever change is the addition of “Libraries”. Microsoft has expanded your ability to view documents into a way to easily view Documents, Music, Pictures and Videos.
Windows 7 has gotten rid of a few things also. Gone is the Side bar, replaced with the ability to add gadgets directly to the desktop. Also, Microsoft has toned down the annoying User Account Control prompts that were such a headache in Windows Vista.
In Vista, the UAC would constantly prompt the user for approval for virtually every change that was made. This is toned down in Windows 7, allowing you to adjust how annoyed you would like to be.
It Works Better
Windows 7 is much improved over previous versions of Windows. Microsoft has done a great job of developing Windows 7 so that it installs faster and with less human involvement.
Improved Installation: The Windows installation process continues to get better. You just insert the Windows 7 DVD, answer a few questions about preferences and click the “Install Now” button.
This process takes about 30 to 45 minutes; this is usually for clean install, not upgrades. For upgrades the total time will be a little longer. I heard a rumor where the upgrade process for one user took more than 3 hours.
Also, Upgrading to Windows 7 in most case does not require you to buy a new computer. If your computer is already running Windows Vista, it can easily run Windows 7. However, I highly would encourage you to download Microsoft Windows 7 Upgrade Advisor and run it before you attempt to upgrade.
The Windows 7 System requirements (If you want to run Windows 7 on your PC, this is what you need):
- * 1 Gigahertz (GHz) or faster 32-bit (x86) or 64-bit (x64) processor (CPU)
- * 1 Gigabyte (GB) RAM (32-bit) or 2 GB RAM (64-bit) – RAM stands for Random Access Memory
- * 16 GB available hard disk (hard drive) space (32-bit) or 20 GB (64-bit)
- * DirectX 9 graphics device (video Card) with WDDM 1.0 or higher driver
Device Stage – Hardware Devices Install Easier: Device Stage allows you view your device status and run common tasks from a customized window for each device type. Device types are commonly cell phones, media players, digital cameras, and printers attached to a Windows 7 computer. Connecting a device causes a photo-like picture of the device to pop up right on the taskbar. You can also access various tasks for each device by right clicking the mouse.
Also, using the basic features for your portable devices such as synchronizing contacts on a smart phone, downloading or capturing photos from a digital camera, or downloading ringtones for your cell phone, etc. can be done with ease.
Home Group – Connect to Home or Business Networks Easier: HomeGroup makes networking your Windows 7 PCs and printers easy. Networking your computers allows you to share your document and media (music, pictures or videos files) easy.
HomeGroup allows any PC running Windows 7 to automatically identify and connect with each other. HomeGroup also, lets you password-protect your files. You decide what gets shared and what does not.
Windows Live Essentials: Windows Live Essentials lets you access your data offline (when you’re not on the Internet or a network), making it easier for you to create or change photos or videos and then share it with others. It also keeps everything in-synch so that you can work on your files virtually anywhere by using the Internet (requires using the Windows Live website).
Windows 7 is more secure. It uses BitLocker, a new file encryption system. Encryption is a way of protecting your data from being tampered with.
BitLocker: BitLocker drive encryption in Windows 7 makes it safer for you to use your computer, including the ability to right-click on your drives to enable BitLocker protection.
There is also a “BitLocker To Go” feature in Windows 7. “BitLocker To Go” provides file protection for your removable storage devices such as hard drives and USB flash drives.
Improved Parental Controls: Helps you control (and monitor) the time your children spend on the computer. In addition, you can control which programs and games they can use as well as when they can use them.
Another cool feature to help protect your kids while they are on the Internet is Windows Live Family Safety. This program can be downloaded from the Microsoft website.
My Final thoughts on Windows 7
While I think Windows 7 is an improvement over previous versions of Windows it is far from perfect. For the first 3 months of use, I thought Windows 7 might possibly be the perfect operating system. But I’m sure Apple computer and Linux users would strongly disagree. One of my kids has a Mac book Pro running Leopard and on those occasions when I have used it, I liked it a lot. I have also been using Linux Mint on another computer the past 3 months and I liked it as well, plus it’s free.
It is clear however, that Microsoft put a lot of thought into Windows 7 and for a change; it appears that they were really listening to their customers.
What I like about Windows 7:
- The Installation process was great
- The Easy Transfer feature made moving my data to a new Windows 7 PC simple
- I love the new desktop themes. I especially like the setting where I can pick the wallpaper I like and set it to change at different intervals
- The Enhanced search feature
- The new Task bar
- How Internet Explorer 8 is an improvement over 7
- My old programs run on Windows 7 without any problems
As I mentioned, Windows 7 is great, but certainly not perfect. Here’s what I don’t like and why:
- Windows 7 Initially booted up within 30 seconds of turning on my PC, but now it takes twice the amount of time
- This despite the fact that I have no programs in the startup folder and periodically run CCleaner to fix the registry and remove temp files
- Lately I have been having problems with my PV freezing up and I have to re boot
- A services file appears to be running in the back ground every 30 seconds (possibly the UAC)
- I am still having problems sharing files on my Windows 7 PC with my Windows XP and Linux Mint desktop
- The $320 Windows Ultimate price tag for the non-upgrade version
I keep asking myself why Microsoft couldn’t get it right with Vista. I don’t know but I will take Windows 7 now that it is here and I do recommend that you buy a version that fits your needs and budget.