2009-10-28

Windows 7 Impressions




I upgraded from Windows XP 64-bit to Windows 7 64-bit on October 22nd.  I purchased my license via the fantastic $30 offer Microsoft extended to university students.  For $30 I have been very pleased with the upgrade.

Windows 7 rated my machine a 5.9.  The Index Rating has been boosted from 5.9 (Vista's max rating) to 7.9.  My rating was pulled down by my hard drive, which was very surprising.  I use a Seagate Barracuda 7200.12 SATA drive.  This is not a slow drive, but it is 'only' 250GBs.  This leads me to believe Windows 7 rates your storage capacity and probably reserves the higher ratings for solid state drives or maybe RAID setups.  Everything else received a 7.3 or higher.  The rest of my hardware is as follows:

Intel Core 2 Quad 9550 2.83 GHz (7.3 index)
4GB (2x2GB) Mushkin DDR3 1333 RAM (7.3 index)
ATI Radeon 1GB HD4850 (7.5 index)

Installation:
Installing Windows 7 as a Custom install over XP went very well.  It took a while to unpack the files and install, but everything worked.  The whole process was probably about 30 minutes.

The first time the machine booted into Windows 7 I wasn't greeted with hardware driver prompts or complaints, but rather drivers for all my hardware were already present and installed.  I can't say if this is thanks to Microsoft or Asus' proactive approach to Windows 7 driver development (most of my hardware is manufactured by Asus).  Either way, everything took off without a hitch.  I was very impressed.

The Custom install created a Windows.Old file on my C: drive which included all of my previous XP user profiles and program files.  This is a pretty nice thing for anyone who installs Windows 7 and realizes Ooops I forgot to backup X file.  Just make sure to delete the folder when you're sure you done with it.  Mine was taking up 57GBs.

Desktop:

I was surprised how much I liked the changes to the desktop.  One thing to take notice of are the gadgets.  They are now completely free of any sidebar dock.  They do still lock to invisible grid-lines, but no more ugly black bars taking up space.  I still have mine lined up on the right side, but I can have them anywhere now without keeping the sidebar around.

The new taskbar was another change I really liked.  It now works in a very similar way to a Mac or Linux dock. All of those icons launch their respective programs as well as minimize and maximize the windows.  Multiple windows are grouped together under the same icon with thumbnail previews when you hover over the taskbar.

The wallpaper themes are nice touch.  The wallpaper I'm using in that screen shot is part of a Mexico theme package.  Every so often the wallpaper will change to another picture in the theme.  You can craft your own themes or download premade themes from the web.

Other Changes:
My favorite change is the change to how you eject storage devices in Windows 7.  In XP and Vista you have to double-click the USB icon on the taskbar, choose the device, click eject and then go through a second window before it ejects the device.  Finally, you get to close all the windows.  In Windows 7 you just click the icon and click "Eject DeviceX".  Done.  I love it.

Libraries are another great change.  All documents, pictures, music, and videos are grouped into libraries accessed via a single location.  Opening up a library shows you all of the files as well as how many locations are being grouped together and where they are.

Internet Explorer 8 tabs show up in the thumbnail previews on the task bar and clicking them will take you right to that tab. A very nifty feature for quickly switching from one application to a a specific IE tab or just from tab to tab.

The overall user interface experience is flashy to look at and easy to use.  There are a lot of neat features added for the sake of usability.  I haven't even tried some of them yet.  Check out this Gizmodo article to see a full list and explanation of all the little changes.


My Thoughts:
Windows 7 has yet to give me a single problem.  It's been a pleasantly surprising experience and I've enjoyed it.  It boots up quickly, responds well and has yet to freeze, crash or choke on anything I've asked it to do.  I do not regret ditching XP for Windows 7 at all and I actually look forward to the day I buy a new laptop to get Windows 7 when I'm mobile.

I would consider this new version just as good as Windows 2000 and superior to XP and Vista.  I really like it and I would recommend it.  I definitely urge anyone with a .edu e-mail address and $30 they wouldn't mind parting with to check out the win741.com deal.  $30 for all of this is a great deal.

Oh, yeah, I can now use my Zune software on my desktop as well.  It should have had support for XP 64-bit, but that's behind me now.  +1 Windows 7.

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