I’ve been using Windows 7 on my home machines for a couple of weeks now. Let’s get things straight, whilst Microsoft’s latest and greatest is clearly an improvement over Windows Vista, it certainly hasn’t turned out to be the smoothest transition for me.
I pre-ordered two copies of Windows 7 Ultimate from Amazon. I still take issue with the multitude of editions from Microsoft and do wonder if they will ever offer a single edition of the Windows client. I can’t see myself buying any edition which doesn’t include everything so anything less than Ultimate is pointless in my eyes. I understand that the cheaper editions would become more expensive but it would mean that the feature set offered in the Ultimate edition would be cheaper which would be good for me.
Having two machines both of which are capable of running either the 32 or 64 bit version of the operating system, the contrast between the two versions was quite interesting.
First up was my Samsung Q45 notebook on which I decided to go for the 32 bit version. I chose 32 bit for this system because it will never be upgraded beyond the 2GB RAM it currently has installed. It ran Vista pretty much without a hitch so I was annoyed to have to spend so much time trying to get the screen brightness working correctly. It turns out that you need a specific combination of Intel display driver and Samsung Easy Display Manager software. The problem is to get it working I needed an older version of the display driver than comes with Windows 7. Once I managed to stop Windows Update automatically upgrading the display driver to the latest version it was fine. I don’t understand why brightness control is not a standard part of the operating system yet – it’s standard fare on every laptop out there. The built in web cam didn’t work properly at first but then seemed to start functioning perfectly once the Skype client was installed. Getting an appropriate collection of updates installed went by without any problems. Software installation on the laptop was problem free and the system is working like a dream.
For the desktop, which was already running Windows Vista Ultimate 64 bit, I elected to upgrade to Windows 7 Ultimate 64 bit. Despite being built on fairly standard parts I had more trouble with this one. Installation of the operating system itself didn’t cause any issues. For some reason, the computer wouldn’t sleep at first because of power management set-up of the network driver, which was easily resolved because I remembered suffering from the same issue with Vista. Installation of software was far more troublesome, especially Adobe’s CS3 Web Premium which struggled to install Acrobat. A bit of research suggested that this was a Vista 64 bit issue too, but one I don’t remember ever facing – I am guessing because I had Adobe Reader installed on my Vista installation before attempting to install Acrobat. Minor Adobe Acrobat installation problems aside, I had a real struggle with Windows Update with what seemed to be a condition where the system was trying to install updates it had not yet downloaded. This little exercise caused Windows Update to freeze to the extent that I could not kill it and gracefully shut down the machine, but instead had to hold down the power button to restart the computer. It turns out that there was a corrupt file in the Windows Update temporary files cache – not good for a brand new installation. Anyway, once resolved, the system is running beautifully.
So what do I think of Windows 7? I think that it seems quicker on both machines than Vista, which now wake up and go to sleep amazingly quickly and start up of applications is vastly improved. I don’t know how much of this can be attributed to the fact that I am comparing well over year old installations of Vista to fresh installations of Windows 7 but I don’t remember the Vista experience rotting very much – something that I hope is true of Windows 7 too.
I am also truly in love with the new Taskbar, Start Menu and System Tray configuration which I believe leads to a more productive user experience. I prefer the general look and feel over any version of Windows that came before it. Aero snap and the live previews certainly are welcome additions in my opinion.
Little things such as memory card reader devices that aren’t shown in the Computer view unless there is a memory card in the device are cool too.
I do also have a couple of gripes too. Firstly, I am a little miffed at the removal of the sidebar, which gave me a ‘closer to square’ screen when a window is maximised. Whilst working on two windows in a side-by-side configuration is actually quite nice on a widescreen, maximising a window on a widescreen gives what I believe is an unnatural aspect ratio to the window. To be quite honest, that is the extent of my gripes so far.