March 8th - 2010

WIRED OFFICE: Should you upgrade to Windows 7?

By now, you’ve probably heard some mention of Microsoft’s new operating system known as Windows 7. Released in late October 2009, most new PCs now come with Windows 7 pre-loaded.

By now, you’ve probably heard some mention of Microsoft’s new operating system known as Windows 7. Released in late October 2009, most new PCs now come with Windows 7 pre-loaded. However, if you’re not in the market for a new machine, should you make the move to Windows 7? Here are some facts to consider if you’re thinking about taking the leap.

Windows 7 improvements
Improved interface: Windows 7 incorporates a new interactive taskbar, allowing you to align the objects on the taskbar according to your needs. The taskbar has bigger buttons and full-sized previews. Jump Lists take you directly to the documents, pictures, songs, or websites you use each day.

Improved media sharing and storage: Windows Media Player has been enhanced, and drag and drop features which were not previously available have been added.

Improved home networking: The interface for connecting machines to a home network is now easier to use. Improved network security helps make home networks less vulnerable to hackers.

Improvements to accessories: The calculator can now perform unit conversions, calculate fuel economy and auto lease payments. Wordpad looks similar to Microsoft Word, and has the word prediction feature (based on your writing style, can sometimes guess what your next word will be).

Thinking of upgrading?
Before you can upgrade, you’ll need to determine whether or not your computer hardware is compatible with Windows 7. To do this, download and run Microsoft’s Windows 7 Upgrade Advisor, which can be found by going to www.microsoft.com and searching for Windows 7 Upgrade Advisor. If you learn that your computer is not compatible with Windows 7, you will not be able to upgrade to Windows 7. If your machine is compatible, here are a couple of additional things to consider…

Are you satisfied with your current system? If so, save yourself some time and money. Skip the upgrade for now. Windows 7 may look refreshed and have some new features, but any time you upgrade, there’s an investment of time and the potential for unexpected problems.

Are you currently running Windows XP? Before you install Windows 7 you’ll first have to install Windows Vista, or do a full backup and then erase the contents of your hard drive.

Are you a frustrated Windows Vista user? If so, do yourself a favour and get the Windows 7 upgrade. Windows 7 is more stable and secure than Vista and has some enhancements that you’ll appreciate.

So many versions, so little time
If you’re currently running Windows XP or Windows Vista (any version), you are qualified to purchase the “upgrade” rather than the “full” version, which will save you some money.

Here’s a brief summary of the various versions of Windows 7:

Windows 7 Home Premium – makes it easy to create a home network and share all of your favorite photos, videos, and music.

Windows 7 Professional – you can run many Windows XP productivity programs in Windows XP Mode and recover data easily with automatic backups to your home or business network. Using Domain Join, you can easily and securely connect to company networks. The entertainment features of Windows Home Premium are also included.

Windows 7 Ultimate – is the high-end version of Windows 7. It combines ease-of-use with the entertainment features of Home Premium and the business capabilities of Windows 7 Professional. For added security, you can encrypt your data with BitLocker and BitLocker ToGo. And you can work in any of 35 languages.

Each package contains two disks: one with the 32-bit edition and one with the 64-bit edition of Windows 7. Make sure you know which edition to install on your PC.

Installation
You can hire an IT professional to install Windows 7 for you, or you can do it yourself. Be sure to set aside a few hours for the install.

To install Windows 7 on a computer currently running Windows XP, you’ll have to:

  • Backup all data
  • Boot to the Windows 7 installation disk
  • Select "Custom Installation" and re-create primary drive partition(s)
  • Re-configure the operating system and restore your backup

If upgrading to Windows 7 from Vista, the installation procedure involves:

  • Backup all data (to be on the safe side)
  • Insert the Windows 7 disc and click "upgrade"
  • Double-check that everything works

Should I or shouldn’t I?
Microsoft is currently looking into battery problems apparently affecting Windows 7 notebooks. They are searching for a common cause to the battery complaints, and are working to correct the problem. There will be a fix available once the problem has been resolved.

Overall, upgrading to Windows 7 is recommended if you are running Windows Vista. Performance, security and ease of use have been improved. If you’re running Windows XP, you’ll have to consider if the gains are worth the effort to upgrade.

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