Sunday, November 1, 2009

Windows 7

Unless you’ve been living in a cave, you’re probably aware that Microsoft has released a new version of their operating system, Windows 7. According to early reports it’s a vast improvement over their Vista experiment, and it’s generating quite the buzz. Before you run out and buy a copy though, you should read this very comprehensive article on CNNTech, after you've read this one, of course.

The long and short of it is, it’s a cakewalk to upgrade from Windows Vista to Windows 7, but a bit more difficult to upgrade from XP.

With XP you'll need to back up all of your files, wipe the system, and then reload with 7. Microsoft has an Easy-Transfer Tool to help you, but before you make the move you need to download and run Microsoft’s Upgrade Advisor. It will check out your system and peripherals to see if they’re compatible with the new operating system. Be sure to have ALL of your peripherals plugged in and powered up before you scan your system (flash drives and memory cards included), as the software will query the devices and advise you of their compatibility. This is very important, as it’s good to know if you’ll still be able to use your printers, etc., before you drop any coin on 7.

My take is this; if you’ve got a new system that came with Vista, then it’s worth upgrading. If you’ve just bought a new system with a legacy copy of XP on it, it’s probably worth upgrading, providing the system and peripherals pass the upgrade tool’s sniff test. If you’re running XP on an older system, don’t even think about it. Wait until your next system swap out and get a machine that has it preloaded.

Remember, there are no magic bullets in life, or computing. A new operating system will not fix what’s wrong with your computer if it’s old, tired and slow. From the perspective of changing technologies, the average lifespan of a desktop is 3 to 5 years. I’m not saying you need to throw your PC away every 3 to 5 years, but I would not recommend tricking out a system of that vintage with the latest and greatest OS. Wipe it, add some memory and load a fresh copy of whatever OS came with it, and you’ll have a very serviceable PC that will last you until you have some sort of catastrophic hardware failure.

Getting back to Windows 7, there’s also the question of what version to buy. I found a very good article on the differences between the versions here on the digital inspiration site. As with both XP and Vista before it, you’ll probably want to go with the Windows 7 Professional edition if you use your PC for anything more than email and browsing. Professional also has an XP mode, that will allow you to run a virtual copy of XP for apps you have that won’t run on 7. The good thing is, with 7 you’re able to upgrade any version, for a small fee, if you find out later you need more functionality.

And speaking of fees, if you’re buying a copy of 7 for a computer you already have, you’re eligible for the upgrade pricing as long as you already own a genuine version of Windows 2000, XP or Vista. You’ll save a c-note over the full version price, and that ain’t bad.

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