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Windows 7 is coming soon, and all reports are that it's a better, more reasonable Windows than Vista. Should you switch?

My computer is an Acer PC Model Aspire M3201; Processor AMD Phenom(tm) 9100e Quad-Core (x4) 1.80 GHz; 3.00 GB RAM; 32-bit Operating System. At the present time I run Windows Vista Home Premium with Internet Explorer 8, but it crashes quite a lot. I have been thinking of trying out Windows 7. Would you recommend this and how would i go about it?

Now that Windows 7 has been on the market for some time, this article has been replaced with an update:

Is it worth upgrading to windows 7?

Early reports on Windows 7 are very promising. Some have even gone so far as to call Windows 7 the best "service pack" for Windows Vista ever.

After having played with it some myself, I have to agree: Windows 7 looks very promising.

But as I write this, it has not yet been released. That means that there are serious issues using anything you might have downloaded.

Patience is required for Windows 7. I would not switch to it just yet.

The only copies of Windows 7 that are available for download as of this writing fall into three categories:

"I would not switch to it just yet."
  • Beta versions

  • Release Candidate (RC) versions

  • Pirated versions

Beta versions are technically not supposed to be available, though I expect they're out there. Install one and I believe one of the first things Windows Update will recommend you do us update to the RC build.

It's not that difficult to get a Windows 7 release candidate build, at least until some time next month. Check the Microsoft site and only download from there, so as to avoid any potential malware added by others.

A pirated version is, of course, quite illegal and I won't address it here further.

The most obvious problem with the test versions (Beta or RC) is that they will expire - quite literally sometime next year they will stop working (or at least severely cripple themselves) and require that you install the actual released version of Windows 7. In addition, once the final version is available officially the test versions won't be supported - not by Microsoft, and not by any software or hardware vendor you might need help from.

Finally, when the time comes that you must upgrade your test version, the recommend approach is, as I understand it, reformat and reinstall. (That's my recommendation for all paths to Windows 7, but that's a discussion for another day.)

Do not install the test versions as a way switch to Windows 7.

Wait for Windows 7 to be released and obtain it through official, legal, channels. Yes, that might be a couple of months from the time you read this.

What you can do is test.

For example, I've used Parallels Workstation to install a copy of the Windows 7 as a virtual machine on my Windows XP desktop. That's given me a great opportunity to test and play with it to see what it's all about without impacting anything else on my machine. If you have a spare machine, that's another great way to test it out.

If you truly want to try it on your machine - pretending it's your final upgrade to Windows 7 - then the process is actually pretty simple, if a little time consuming:

  • Take a full image backup of your machine. Make sure that you have whatever tools are required to be able to restore this image to an empty hard disk later.

  • Install Windows 7 (probably the RC version at this point) as either a clean install or an upgrade.

  • Play with Windows 7 RC as much as you like.

  • When you are done, restore your machine to that image you took in the first step.

This approach, and the only proper way to use Windows 7 before it's released, is to consider it, and everything you do with it, disposable.

If that's not a viable approach for you, then I strongly suggest you wait at least until the release version is available through official channels. (And even then I typically caution to wait for "a while" as others flush out any issues that might remain.)

The good news is that, particularly if you're running Vista, Windows 7 may be an appropriate upgrade when it is available.

Kind of like a service pack.

Article C3823 - July 30, 2009 « »

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Leo Leo A. Notenboom has been playing with computers since he was required to take a programming class in 1976. An 18 year career as a programmer at Microsoft soon followed. After "retiring" in 2001, Leo started Ask Leo! in 2003 as a place for answers to common computer and technical questions. More about Leo.

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20 Comments
Ken B
July 31, 2009 7:55 AM

I'm planning on taking one of my kids' computers, making a full backup (they're on XP), and "sacrificing" one for Windows 7 RC, to see if it's any good. (We'll play with it a bit, let the kids play with it, too, and then probably restore XP.)

Robert Pereda
August 4, 2009 8:27 AM

I wouldn't run and install Windows 7 yet or any NEW software release. New software has many bugs - especially software as complicated as Windows. Yes- as they come across the bugs they release updates- but until those updates and patches are released your computer may be dead in the water. Hold on on Windows 7 for a while until it has been tweaked!

[link removed]

Roger Andrews
August 4, 2009 9:14 AM

I've been using the RC Windows 7 for a few weeks. It's very good and an improvement to Vista, (though I actually liked Vista and found that many who criticised it did so through what they heard third hand and had never used it themselves). Windows & loads reasonably quickly, and I am trying both 32 and 64 bit versions. I've purchased advance pre-release copies which i will get in October. Both systems I'm using are extremely stable and the update, especially searching for drivers, etc, is really first class. 'All aboard' is my advice.

Neil H
August 4, 2009 10:17 AM

Looking at the comparison table for Windows 7, I see that the Home version does not have a Windows XP compatibility mode and won't support Windows Virtual PC. For most people who use a computer for more than e-mail and internet, this will mean buying the Professional version since there is a lot of software out there which won't have Win 7 versions by the release date. This must be Microsoft's biggest sting yet.

dgdg
August 4, 2009 11:22 AM

win 7 is supposed to be 100% compatible with vista, even drivers, and in almost all cases, it is.

anth11
August 4, 2009 12:02 PM

I've been using Windows7 since last year, and it is the best operating system I have ever seen. Everything just works! Not looking forward to paying for it in March, though.

Dave Markley
August 4, 2009 12:31 PM

I've been using Windows 7 RC for a while and can tell you it's night and day compared to Vista (which you couldn't pay me to own). Yes, it's based on Vista, but you are able to turn off the annoyances that people despise with Vista. Before paying for Windows 7, though, I would check with Microsoft and Acer because many newer computers can be upgraded to Windows 7 for free. Almost all manufacturers are offering this free upgrade, including Acer, Lenovo and HP. I'd check to see if this offer is retroactive. And yes, you can download the RC from Microsoft Download Center, which will work until 3/10 (then it will shut off every few hours. The only problem I've found so far is that my Sound Blaster Live! card is not compatible, but the graphics and Windows Media Player 12 are mind-blowing! The 'fix' for Vista doesn't work in Windows 7. Good Luck.

Chris Booth
August 4, 2009 2:26 PM

I have used Windows 7 RC on more than one PC and it is a delight to use. I have Vista HP running on two PCs and that is also a delight to use. The difference is not "night and day" as Dave Markley puts it. Windows 7 is not Vista done right, but Vista with a few changes (improvements?) Don't hang about - when it arrives go and get it!

John Servis
August 4, 2009 8:09 PM

I've been using Windows 7 ever since it went from Beta to RC. Going straight from XP Pro to W7, All I can say is WOW. Like anth11 says, it just works! If there's a problem, the Action Center notifies you, provides trouble shooting options,& with a click or two, practically fixes itself. I installed it on a extra HD & now it's all I use. Will definatly install on all my machines in Oct.

Pookey
August 4, 2009 11:57 PM

There is no point NOT getting software until a couple of months after it comes out simply to let the patches and fixes come out. The more people that use the software, the quicker things are fixed. Also, W7 is the first OS from Microsoft to have both public Beta and RC which means that it is alot more stable than previous Windows OS's.

Alan Masterman
August 5, 2009 5:10 AM

I'm impressed that a lot of the comments I've seen on this forum are rather more balanced than I've seen on some others.


Yes, Vista IS a good operating system (if you can just overlook its thirst for resources). It has annoying features, but it IS faster than XP in most of the things that you and I want to do every day, like web browsing and file handling.

I've tried Win7 a couple of times and for me, the magic hasn't worked yet... Win7 is being hyped in some quarters as the next Windows 95, but I can't see it.

For me the turnoff is the Start Menu, which works exactly like DOSShell. Every sub-menu occupies the entire window, and you have to click on the sub-menu title to open it (you can no longer hover, and menus don't scroll across the screen, so you no longer have a graphical representation of your menu tree). You can't customise it by dragging and dropping; you have to manually edit a system file.

Clearly MS have decided that Windows 95 represented a wrong turn, so they are going back to their DOS roots...

snickers
August 5, 2009 6:04 AM

I have to disagree with Alan's comment that Vista is "faster than XP in most of the things that you and I want to do every day". It's not. And has never been. Vista is criticised for good reason. It has it's moments, but overall it's not enough of an improvement over XP. The community at large has spoken, which is why we have Windows 7 (Vista 2.0).

Alan Masterman
August 5, 2009 8:19 AM

Come on, Snickers, you can't be ENTIRELY serious.


We don't have Windows 7 because "the community has spoken". We have it because of "technology pull" - also known as "innovate or die". In other words, in a competitive industry, MS and the rest HAVE to keep coming up with something (which appears to be) new. That's what modern capitalism is about.
As to Vista being faster: I accept that this can be platform-dependent, to a degree. For example, if you only have 1GB of RAM, XP will leave Vista for dead. On my Acer Extensa 5620, Vista is faster than XP, and that is evident even on an intuitive assessment, without benchmarking. This is probably due to Vista's superior dual-core management.


For me - and I agree that this IS subjective - Vista wins mainly because it supports Windows Classic format.


Do you remember how we queued in the streets to buy Win95 and Win98? Do you remember what a stunning revolution it was to edit the Start menu with drag-and-drop? To be able to scroll the entire Start menu across the screen? To open a menu just by hovering the cursor over it? All of these features have been jettisoned in Win7.


If you are into sport, you will be familiar with the adage: always change a losing game, never change a winning game. Windows Classic was a winning game. Problem is, it's no longer novel, it's no longer EXCITING. So you have to come up with something different. Different is BETTER! Different is EXCITING!

Geoff Walker
August 6, 2009 10:55 PM

I've been using Win7 for a total of about 40 hours of real work so far. I found that until I REALLY started using it, I didn't find any of the problems. There are some fairly big annoyances. For me one of the biggest is that the internet connectivity drops every so often (for me it's about once in 5 hours). This is a very well-documented problem; just look in any of the good Win7 Support forums. Another annoyance is that the "folders losing their settings" problem from XP is back, and the well-known XP registry fix (BagMRU size) doesn't work in Win7. These are the kind of problems that you don't find until you've spent some serious time with Win7. If you're willing to be a geek and find workarounds for the problems, then go for it. But I wouldn't really recommend it yet for non-geek users. Wait for the retail release. I'm hoping that some of these big annoyances are fixed in the final version -- although judging by the commentary on MS TechNet, it doesn't look good for that to happen...

snail
August 10, 2009 12:04 PM

I wonder if W7 is just a remarketed version of XP(with some Vista appearance options added)...
I'm sticking with XP and Linux for nonprofessional software.

SURAJ
August 12, 2009 5:13 AM

Yeah..!!! u should try to windows 7 for the free RC Test version from microsoft as the case that it would be expire near by future is not a loss for u if u just install it in a virtual machine which is also a free software from microsoft.com..so try it until March 2010.

Pookey
September 3, 2009 1:12 AM

@Alan

The main reason for innovation at Microsoft is to keep businesses happy NOT consumers. We consumers are little bugs, generating coins for Microsoft, not notes, where notes are $100 bills and coins are a couple of cents. Big business is what give MS their money, not consumers. Big business has said, "we don't like Vista's resource hogging and lack of integration for updates and service packs," so MS has gone and dealt with their problems.

Mark
October 18, 2009 2:50 PM

that's a lot to pay for a service pack. I might have one my kids in University a copy for me of Win 7 for $30.

vikash
November 4, 2009 6:37 AM

now it has been released so u should tell about it in detail.......as many want...

Raji
November 24, 2009 3:52 PM

Windows 7:
"But as I write this, it has not yet been released. That means that there are serious issues using anything you might have downloaded"
but it has been released for a while now!!!!

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