system alert: Windows 7 coming soon to a
computer near you
Alan Zisman (c) 2009 First published in Business
2009: Issue 1036
High Tech Office column
fall promises to force nearly all computer users to face one of the
most dreaded of high-tech decisions: whether to upgrade their operating
systems, with new versions of Windows, Mac OS X and Ubuntu
popular desktop Linux) all coming right at you.
week: Windows 7.
Windows 7 is due on the shelves October 22, though organizations with
corporate licence agreements will have it earlier. In many respects,
Win 7 is the company’s response to the widespread disappointment with
2007’s Windows Vista. Win 7 offers performance improvements compared
with the often sluggish Vista (ZDNet Germany: “The change from Vista to
Windows 7 is like releasing a car’s handbrake”) and calms down Vista’s
hypersensitive user access control.
But it’s more
than just a
Vista service pack. Microsoft has also added a number of slick
interface improvements such as thumbnails of running programs from the
taskbar and jump-lists – pop-up menus with handy sets of options. On
low-powered netbooks, testers have generally been much happier running
Windows 7 than Vista.
Win 7 is slimmed down compared
partly as a result of Microsoft removing a number of accessories –
small programs bundled with Windows. Vista renamed the Outlook Express
e-mail program as Windows Mail. Win 7 removes it entirely, though users
can download a new Windows Live Mail, along with versions of the other
exiled accessories. (My favourite Vista feature – Windows Movie Maker –
is among the missing, and I’ve been disappointed with the new
Windows 7 Home Premium Upgrade from Amazon.com from US$119.99
various versions: home, professional and ultimate, each with 32- and
64-bit versions. In the past, although many users have had 64-bit
computers, most have opted for the less-powerful 32-bit Windows
versions, feeling (with some justification) that 64-bit Windows lacked
drivers for many popular hardware add-ons and was incompatible with
The 64-bit Windows 7 versions may
acceptable and will be required by anyone needing to access more than
four gigabytes of memory.
Canadian upgrade pricing:
$250 (professional) and $280 (ultimate). Many buyers of Vista’s
ultimate version were disappointed. Promised “ultimate” extras were few
and not particularly engaging. It’s not clear whether Microsoft will do
better by Win 7 ultimate buyers.
For the first time,
is offering a $200 home premium “family pack,” which allows
installation on up to three computers in a single household. (Apple has
for a long time offered five-user family pricing on its OS X.)
many users, price should not be the only consideration in upgrading to
this new Windows version.
is officially supporting what it calls “in-place” upgrades from Vista
to Windows 7. That means that if you’re running Vista, an upgrade to
Windows 7 promises to respect your data, settings and installed
applications – at least if you move from one 32-bit version of another.
(In-place upgrading from Vista home to Windows 7 professional requires
an additional (and additional cost) “anytime upgrade.”)|
more users are running the older Windows XP. While much of Windows 7
will seem familiar (but improved) for Vista users, XP users will have
more of a learning curve. Hardware and software that didn’t work
properly with Vista might have similar incompatibilities with Windows 7.
XP users will face real challenges moving to the new version. For those
users, Microsoft supports only a so-called “custom install.” That’s a
clean installation of a bare Win 7 operating system – either completely
replacing XP and wiping out your current settings, data and
applications or setting up your computer to dual-boot between XP (with
all your data, etc.) and the clean, new Windows 7.
recommendation: Vista users should strongly consider upgrading. XP
users, on the other hand, should probably wait until they get a new
computer with Windows 7 pre-installed. •