Business-like, isn't he?



Business in Vancouver logo

    Operating system alert: Windows 7 coming soon to a computer near you

    by  Alan Zisman (c) 2009 First published in Business in Vancouver September 1-7, 2009: Issue 1036
    High Tech Office column

    This 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 (the most popular desktop Linux) all coming right at you.

    This week: Windows 7.

    Microsoft’s 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 with Vista, 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 downloadable replacement.)

    Win7Home Upgrade
    Buy Windows 7 Home Premium Upgrade from from US$119.99
    Like Vista, Windows 7 comes in 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 some applications.

    The 64-bit Windows 7 versions may prove more acceptable and will be required by anyone needing to access more than four gigabytes of memory.

    Canadian upgrade pricing: $130 (home), $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, Microsoft 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.)

    For many users, price should not be the only consideration in upgrading to this new Windows version.
    Windows 7 Professiona
    Microsoft 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.”)

    But far 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.

    Moreover, 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.


    My 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. •

Alan Zisman is a Vancouver educator, writer, and computer specialist. He can be reached at E-mail Alan
Search WWW Search