It’s no surprise that Windows Vista has few fans; it didn’t exactly deliver the goods on the operating system front. In fact, Windows Vista could easily be described as the Redmond software giant’s biggest failure — surpassing the debacle that was Windows Millennium.
Perhaps the company should stick with numerical or letter monikers, because it’s readily apparent that Windows 7 could succeed in wiping away the bitter taste left by Vista, much the way XP succeeded. More to the point, Windows 7 seems like it actually builds more on what made XP such a good OS, while still drawing from those aspects of Vista that actually worked.
Out of the box, or rather out of the sleeve (kudos to Microsoft for not using wasteful packaging), Windows 7 installs rather seamlessly. This is notable compared to Windows 95, which arrived 14 years ago and required you to basically sit in front of your computer for the multi-hour install. With Windows 7, after entering a few bits of information this reporter was able to get it going and walk away.
Now in all fairness, this was for an upgrade rather than a full install with reformat, but Windows 7 installed without too much stress or worry. The only notable red flags were that Windows 7 notified me during the initialization that iTunes would not be compatible post upgrade and should be removed. After that it was on autopilot.
Once the installation was complete, the computer restarted and was good to go. Every program that was already installed continued to run without issue and the only remaining concern was that the virus protection software needed to be upgraded to be Windows 7-enabled. But other than that, even third-party software including Mozilla Firefox and Thunderbird ran without problems. It’s also worth noting that Windows 7 booted far faster than Windows Vista, and many of the programs also started up faster.
The interface is of course familiar; it has the uncluttered look of Vista but offers the usual enhancements such as desktop clock and calendar. Programs can be launched from the taskbar at the bottom of the screen and anything running can be pinned to the taskbar for future use. This is handy and reduces desktop shortcuts. Likewise, the taskbar for hidden icons has been slightly improved, making it easy to see and hide those applications that run in the background. This includes new warning options for security features and one-button access to troubleshooting issues such as Internet and LAN connectivity.
One bit of technology that users may have to sacrifice is any sort of factory reset, since this would bring the machine back to its original Vista days — whether this would even work is debatable. My test subject is a year-old Alienware Area-51 system, an incredibly fast machine that has run quite well over the past year, which did need what the company calls an Alienware Respawn. I don’t know if this will still work, or if I’ve essentially voided my test support for upgrading, but given how easy it was to upgrade I don’t see any problems.
Over all, having spent the last week playing with Windows 7, I can say it’s easily worth the upgrade. There are dozens of features I still have to explore, including the virtual XP option. But so far, so good — and more important, so far, so much better than Windows Vista.