Posted by: oatmealbear | October 28, 2009

Windows 7: Initial Impressions

This is more an informal grab bag of immediate impressions than a full-fledged review.

Installation: Relatively painless.  So far I’ve completed two installations, both upgrades from Vista Home Premium 64-bit to Windows 7 Home Premium 64-bit. People have reported random issues, but the machines I was upgrading were pretty well maintained so problems were minimal.  As always, I would recommend backing up essential files just to be safe.  If you’re upgrading from XP, then a reformat is mandatory.  Upgrade time was fairly lengthy, ranging from 2-3 hours.  Machines with older hardware or a large amount of data will probably take even longer.  If you’re the type of person that can’t go that long without your computer, letting the installation run during the night would probably be the best option.

Troubleshooting: Microsoft has included an upgrade adviser that lets you know what drivers and programs are deemed incompatible.  For the most part, this was pretty accurate and again remarkably painless.  The first machine needed new monitor and audio drivers, which were quickly accessible through Windows Update, and a new version of VLC.  The second machine had an old version of ATI’s Catalyst Control Center that was taken out to pasture and I had to tweak the audio output settings to get WTV files to play correctly.  Overall, a lot less hassle than I anticipated.  I’m a bit of stickler for having the most current drivers, so as an added precaution I manually downloaded new drivers for peripherals (Logitech keyboard, mouse, etc.) and the video card just to be safe.  Most users won’t need to go through those extra steps.

UI: For longtime Windows users, this might take a little time for adjustment.  I’m still getting used to the dock that has replaced the quick launch toolbar, but I like the ability to preview stacked instances just by hovering with the mouse.  If you’re on older hardware, you’ll notice a performance boost in general responsiveness.  In short, it’s a fresh coat of paint and tuneup on the Vista framework.

Media Center: Nothing groundbreaking here, but almost all the changes are welcome.  Text and icons are larger, which is nice if you’re using this for a dedicated HTPC.  Fast forwarding has thankfully been added for most video formats, and the guide has been streamlined.  The interface in general is faster and more responsive; switching TV channels, for example, was much improved.

Should I upgrade?: That depends.  If your clinging to a P4 XP machine dedicated for office use, then you might not really see the benefits.  Additionally, you can’t upgrade directly from XP.  If you’re chugging along on Vista, however, you will probably appreciate the boost in overall performance and general accessibility.  The upgrade versions are pretty cheap, so it’s a worthy investment.  New computers will come with Windows 7 so that’s really a non-issue.  There’s no need to “downgrade” like people were doing with XP and Vista.

Overall, a solid release that tempers the lackluster reception of Vista.  Most, if not all, aspects of the OS have been fine-tuned.  If you can find an affordable upgrade copy, it’s pretty much a no-brainer.

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