Windows

Taking the plunge into Windows 7: A switchover story

Brad Bird is running Windows 7 on his laptop and has run into a few barriers. Here's what he has discovered so far.

What I've learned about Windows 7, so far

Devices

With Windows 7, I have only two devices for which I am trying to find drivers to make them work. One is a CanoScan LiDE 20 flatbed scanner, which I bought in 2003 on sale for $40, and I still love it because of the size and portability. The other device is my Microsoft Lifecam VX-3000. (Yes, a Microsoft device...)

Instead of my Canon scanner, I am using an HP OfficeJet All-in-one 6300, which has the ability to double as a feed or flatbed scanner and is connected to the network. I have not found a workaround for the Lifecam, but I have high hopes that Microsoft will release both a 64-bit driver for Windows Vista and Windows 7. That's it for hardware devices to date. The rest all work.

Memory

Memory management for Windows 7 is more or less the same as Windows Vista. Free memory gets cached for faster program loading.

Programs

I had one program that would not work -- that was Skype 3.8, which worked faithfully on Windows Vista 64-bit. I tried using the application-compatibility wizard to make Skype work but alas, no success. I did not spend hours tweaking the program since Windows 7 had a known issue posted with Skype. This was brought to light both during the upgrade process when my existing programs were analyzed and when I launched it afterward.

So off to the Skype Web site I went, and I downloaded beta release 4.0, which is said to work fine with Windows 7. It does!

One other issue that users may scratch their heads over is the 64-bit browser. Internet Explorer still has issues from what I see when running in 64-bit. Whether using IE8 RC2 loaded in Windows 7 or the "hybrid" version of Internet Explorer 64-bit loaded in Windows Vista, the most prominent problem that I could see was the prompt to load the Adobe Flash plugin from most Web sites. Flash is not currently available as a 64-bit browser extension.

Thankfully, there is a second link for Internet Explorer in the Start Menu. This one does not have 64-bit in the shortcut name, and if the properties are inspected, you will notice an (x86) in the path to the shortcut.

The 32-bit browser is still around. I find that for many sites that have miscellaneous issues ranging from crashing the browser window to not loading page graphics, starting the 32-bit browser instead of the 64-bit browser resolves the issue.

Features

I immediately noticed that one feature I used a lot was no longer present -- the Quick Launch Bar. Instead, you can now "pin" program shortcuts to the taskbar and start them from there.

Another change that I hope gets modified in the RTM release is that launched programs show up with no text, so they take less space on the taskbar. That is fine; however, the icons themselves are the large size by default, which immediately led me to believe that my screen resolution was smaller! Once I got that sorted out, I located the option in the taskbar properties to use small icons.

Another intuitive option in the taskbar properties is the positioning of the taskbar on the screen. You can now actually choose the positions -- top, bottom, left, or right. I am not sure why that option has not appeared until now since we have had the taskbar in all Windows flavors since Windows 95!

You can still use the mouse to drag the taskbar to a position, only now, it is slightly easier for users to configure and then lock into place, so as not to run into "the wandering taskbar" issue. This crops up if you depress the main mouse button for too long while on the taskbar, which results in moving it somewhere else on the screen.

Upon further inspection, I opened Computer and was pleasantly surprised to see a link under the menu bar to Uninstall or Change a Program or to view System Properties. No more digging to add/remove or change a program. It looks as if Microsoft has been listening to some user feedback after all.

Looking ahead

The beta release of Windows 7 will remain active until August 1, 2009. I expect that we'll see a refresh before that time. Sadly, the full-blown RTM release of Windows 7 will not be able to be installed as an upgrade to the beta. This is stated in the current release notes and documentation.

Have you tried Windows 7? How do you think it compares to Windows Vista? Share your impressions.

About

Brad Bird is a lead technical consultant and MCT certified trainer based in Ottawa, ON. He works with large organizations, helping them architect, implement, configure, and customize System Center technologies, integrating them into their business pr...

45 comments
john3347
john3347

Windows 7 beta does seem to do almost everything better than Vista, but look at what it is being compared to! It is still much too much like Vista warmed over. Windows Explorer is still a major train wreck. This wreck began with the transition from Windows 2000 and has been in a downward spiral since. 7 does not seem to have done much to fix that mess. The new taskbar, even though frowned on by many, is probably a real improvement. I am experiencing a significant number of drivers and applications that worked in 2000, XP and Vista that don't like 7. (HP C7280 printer driver, Nero 7 express to name a couple) Perhaps these problems will be corrected before RTC. I am personally quite disappointed that Windows Classic interface has been stripped and butchered. Hopefully, Microsoft will see fit to return that capability. I don't like the AERO stuff because it "fuzzes up" the writing across the top of the screen making it quite more difficult for old farts with less than perfect eyesight to read. I wasn't even hoping for this; but it would be nice to have the ability to simply not install AERO, Gadgets, multiuser capability, and a few other features that any given user would NEVER use. I guess modular is the word that would fit here. If one's circumstances changed during the life of the OS, they could simply stick the DVD in the drive and install whatever feature they want that was not installed originally. Think of harddrive space that could be saved; and the start up process would not require time to "look to see" if these items need to load or not because they would not even be installed. Certainly an improvement over Vista while still being too much like Vista.

eScoop
eScoop

"Another change that I hope gets modified in the RTM release is that launched programs show up with no text..." While the default is no text for taskbar buttons a simple change in the Taskbar Properties box will allow text on your labels. Under the taskbar tab in a selection labelled "Taskbar Buttons" - select "Combine when taskbar is full" or "Never Combine" and the buttons will apear with Text. The default is "always combine, hide labels" which seems to give folks the idea that no text is available. It is.

jarah.1111
jarah.1111

OMG windows 7 is the best faster better task bar all new features we all love it so much try it if u havnt aleady if u havnt ur misisng out much better than vista

codylynx
codylynx

Dude.. what are you talking about??? The Taskbar can be moved in vista... Just like every other version of windows. Make no mistakes.. This is Windows Vista!! Only real differences are... The full .NET framework 3.5 is in the base code... and lots and lots of features that were automatically turned ON by default.. such as UAC, Drive Indexing, have all been turned OFF by default. I do miss the quick launch :( and don't care for this new taskbar look and usability

gaitch32
gaitch32

It's still there but they don't have a toolbar built for it. Might be in the final release....don't know. Here is how it get it. Unlock the taskbar. Make a new toolbar and the browse to %userprofile%\AppData\Roaming\Microsoft\Internet Explorer\Quick Launch. When it shows up right-click the divider and disable Show Text and Show Title and the check use small icons. Adjust it to the size you want then lock the taskbar.

DNSB
DNSB

I've played with the beta build 7000 for a couple of weeks now. It's an improvement over Vista but then what isn't. Unfortunately, some corporate apps are still not happy campers despite all the tweaks I've applied. I'm not looking forward to virtualizing those apps to get them to run. Not that many issues with the 64 bit install, those I've seen are mostly due to IE not behaving. Hardware is going to be an issue unless the supply of 64 bit drivers for older (over 2 years) improves drastically before RTM. Being able to lock the taskbar to one side of the screen seems to be a big issue for some. Basically a non-issue to me. Now if they added the capability to lock an icon to a screen location a la OS/2. It's a minor feature but one I'd love to have back -- arrange icons by whatever criteria but leave the recycle in in the lower right corner for instance. My performance testing has been quite limited but no big changes from Vista SP1 so far. As usual, my opinion is worth exactly what you're paying for it. YMMV, etc.

james
james

"Another intuitive option in the taskbar properties is the positioning of the taskbar on the screen. You can now actually choose the positions ? top, bottom, left, or right. I am not sure why that option has not appeared until now since we have had the taskbar in all Windows flavors since Windows 95!" This has been avalable for ages, just unlock the task bar and drag it into place ?

stephenmexia
stephenmexia

A lot of us clients that like to keep up with changes dont want to keep buying expensive OS that doesnt work or goes downhill during service packs. We need an OS by possibly some one else in the future, something we can count on that doesnt empty our pockets at the prices were paying. Win-7 seems to be working so far. But be advised its not on its 3rd service pack which is where it all goes down hill when those sp's start.

gbhall
gbhall

Gave it a look. Installed easily, recognised all my hardware correctly. As for usage .... spare me, I'd NEVER want to use it. Sorry, but to me a PC is a tool, not a toy, and the way in which MS can just NEVER leave things alone is just heartbreaking. Have they any idea how much it would cost countless major businesses around the world to retrain people to find things they have known the whereabouts for years, but which have now just moved somewhere else, or worse, disappeared for good... Do they care? Of course, for big kids of all ages, it will be fun, but not for me.

SKDTech
SKDTech

I have been toying around with Win7 since the open beta release and have been using it exclusively on my laptop and I am rather impressed. Having been using Vista since market introduction, the transition to 7 has been relatively seamless for me. The new eyecandy is nice and the ability to glass open windows and see my status gadgets is particularly attractive to me. All in all I think MS has surpassed themselves with 7 and if they can keep it going this way and prevent any foulups in the release then they will definitely have gone a long way towards polishing some of the tarnish earned by Vista(rightfully or not).

PeterPac
PeterPac

You can disable Aero, gadgets, etc. This is one of 7's features for people not having video cards that do not support 3D.

mudpuppy1
mudpuppy1

Win 7 found all the hardware I use at home including my 6 year old HP scanner (if I recall one of the gripes about Vista was not finding such things). It didn't have the driver for my two HP printers (older LaserJet and DeskJet) but the XP drivers worked. Both printers are on my home network and both printed from Win 7. I don't use Vista.

phil
phil

My journeys through Windows 7 have left me very impressed indeed. The eye candy you can take or leave but the performance increases are surely impressive.

brad
brad

I may not have made my writing clear. I am aware you can move the taskbar. You have always been able to move the taskbar. I have supported MANY issues throughout the yeats as a result of being required to move it by drag and drop. I simply find the possibility to select a positioning option more intuitive. For the Quick Launch, see an earlier comment. I am going to out that little gem in my personal blog and credit the source.

brad
brad

Gaitch32, this is a good tip. I'd like to blog about it seperately to give it more exposure than just a comment. As soon as it is up. I'll ping you to see if you're ok with it.

jrnesbit
jrnesbit

I believe that was stated (indirectly)

brad
brad

Hey James, totally agree. After supporting all of those users since Windows 95 who have trouble moving it I just felt that being able to select the positioning as an option and lock the bar back into place is more specific.

jrnesbit
jrnesbit

I've loaded the 32bit version on a p4 with the min 1gb of memory. Using pata drive and a nvidia 5200 agp video. (yeah a bit older). I find it runs a bit sluggish to say the least. At some points i thought it locked up. My vista 64 actually runs faster on an athlon 64 machine. First thought that comes to mind is omg now I have to buy new hardware to have this os run efficiently. When looking at the performance index ala MS it says My system is in the 2.0 to 3.5 range out of 7.9 points. I do like some of the features, and as seen here you can't please everyone, we all have our likes and dislikes.

peter
peter

Am I wrong? I thought that MS great success story had a lot to do with the uniform human interface of (eg) the Office suite: A new program (to a user) was easy to learn because the interface was so familiar. NOT ANY MORE. Come on now - who actually thinks that the IE7 look and feel is better than IE6? And don't tell me everything can be customised - why should I have to do that every time a developer decides he knows better than me how to make me more productive with a new spin on a tried and tested product???

mmcshane
mmcshane

I have been using Windows 7 (build 7000 or as Bginfo calls it, Windows NT 6.1 - No Service Pack) since it came out and I have noticed a couple of things: 1. Thunderbird tends to freeze requiring a power off (since the task manager will not stop it.) 2. Gadgets no longer require the sidebar to run which is nice. 3. When you click on Start, the programs you were using do not appear. Only a odd selection of defaults. 4. On my 1.6 Ghz mobile Pentium notebook, Windows 7 boots in 22 seconds which is nice and shuts down in about the same time. 5. I had to upgrade McAfee 8.5i to 8.7.0i since 8.5 would not install. All in all, I think it's a positive step in the right direction.

bpoetz
bpoetz

I tend to agree that MS is making progress with Win7. When I installed the Beta, it seemed very seamless. I did a major deployment from XP to vista. We were plagued with software compatibly issues. Win 7 was able to see my WiFi network with no issues. You have to look at the RIO. Is a Vista roll-out worth the investment, when Win7 is going to be rolled out in 2011. Look at the life-cycle of windows XP. We need to move on..

gnhays
gnhays

I took a chance and did a clean install on my home PC. So far, I have NOT been disapointed. My system is actually running better and I have seen a increase of 30% in overall preformance. There are issues with older versions of software I tried to load, but all in all, I believe Microsoft has finally got it down. I intend to purchase this when it is available. I just hope Microsoft will do the right thing and give those who are testing a break on the outragious cost it will carry.

bob
bob

I liked Windows 7 a bit better than Vista, but it still has a major problem intoduced with Vistat and apparently much worse in Win7. I was finally able to make the Admin-Pac work in Vista and then RSAT. But I have not been able to get Users and Computers to work at all in Win7. As a network administrator, any operating system that doesn't allow me to use the tools I need to do my job is worthless. Anybody have any luck getting the admin pack to work, and if so please share how you did it.

blackepyon01
blackepyon01

How well does it disable Aero? Vista could disable it as well, but I found that all it did was get rid of the *pretties*. The Windows classic interface still hogged DirectX, often causing, for me anyways, DirectX related issues with Video, older games, etc.

DNSB
DNSB

Interesting. Where are you seeing those performance increases? And please compare apples to apples by using the same hardware. I've gotten tired of seeing those Vista/Win 7/whatever is so much faster on my new quad core, 4GB RAM, SATA II hard drive, new Nvidia/ATI video card computer than on my old computer comaprisons. BTW, been there, done that, got the numbers to show for it.

TNT
TNT

I didn't have trouble with Vista though, either. Yes it was slow in anything under 3Gig of RAM, and yes it didn't support olde hardware out of the box. That said, I didn't have any trouble exchanging my 32-bit XP-Pro for 64-bit Vista when I did so in October of 2007. Everything -- including my scanner, printer etc. worked right out of the box. I didn't even have to go online to download drivers. I've installed Win7 on an HP laptop and had the same experience -- it found and installed all the hardware; Device Manager is clean. Win7 also tones down some of the glitz of Vista, runs well in 1 Gig of RAM and the new taskbar is fantastic. If they released this today I'd buy it. As for the nay-sayers and those above who are still ranting about Office 2007 GUI (get over it already) all I can say is: I love it. I've been in IT for years, grew up using Office for school and now, even with the interface change, I'm more productive than ever. If you want the tired old interface try OpenOffice.

gaitch32
gaitch32

I've got it bookmarked now.

blackepyon01
blackepyon01

I personally have the problem of Microsoft going for the new "Mac" looks and all the foof, new arragements for task-bar, etc., and hardly giving some of us older school users the option to turn off the fancy interfaces in favor of the older ones which ran with less horse-power and were more practical. ** If I wanted it to look like a Mac, I'd buy a Mac **

mkoelsch
mkoelsch

I like IE 7 fine, and have really grown to like tabbed browsing. That being said, is there a reason to change the basic interface? I do not think so. Another great example of this occured a while ago with XP, and has grown worse with Vista/Win7. This is the basic interface. It is hard to find things. Give me the simple, basic interface of Windows 2000, thank you very much. Also, I have been using Office since it came out, and I hate Office 2007. Not for function, but for form.

DNSB
DNSB

What I look for in increased performance is not in the OS load time -- around here that is only done once per day. What I want is improved performance from working in applications which is where the users I support spend their time. What I want to see is a measurable performance increase in tasks such as search and replace in a large documents, printing complex documents, running rather massive database queries (I dislike calling it data mining). And when I said identical hardware, I meant exactly that. I've played with tests on the same model of computers (Lenovo/IBM and Dell) and found that I can can get measureable performance differences though all the hardware involved seems identical.

mudpuppy1
mudpuppy1

I don't have any numbers, but I tried 7 on several systems: HP 6510b laptop with 2 GB of RAM (32- and 64-bit), HP d510 PC (2.4GHz, 1 GB RAM and others in between. I have also run Vista (which I loathe) on those systems. Win 7 is much faster. Even the d510 runs acceptably fast where it c r a w l e d under Vista. Don't need numbers to notice that. It's like the difference between a bicycle and a Ferrari (slight exaggeration, but you get my point). If they would quit screwing with the interface so much, I would like it better.

TNT
TNT

I have multiple laptops, all identical, all used for signing out to new employees. Officially our OS of choice is 32-bit XP Pro, but I have a laptop running 32-bit Vista and another running 32-bit Windows 7 for testing purposes. All have the same processor, RAM, etc and all are the same model from HP. Win7 loads faster than Vista - in nearly half the time - and it loads apps much faster as well.

The Scummy One
The Scummy One

adding the new interface. However there should have been an option to use an older interface

jrnesbit
jrnesbit

When I first started using and teaching Office 2007 I pretty much felt the same way is most of the people here. But once I got used to it, I absolutely love it. It now seems much easier than searching through the menues for functions. And I love the live preview!

tiranda
tiranda

The part we hate here is that once you get past the first layer -- that is, once you locate where they -moved- what you want -- it's the same old Blue and Gray boxes. EXACTLY THE SAME. NO difference -- as in, no improvement, just a candy-colored shell. AND as blackepyon01 noted, you can't turn it off to go back to what works for you. I couldn't believe they had been that DUMB. If you know the Word 2003 menus you can just the ALT, CTRL keys and keep going, but 2007 will just keep track of the keys you hit (ALT, F....), no help in telling you what key is next. For some, typing is faster (you maintain eye contact with the screen) than finding where you left the mouse last time (a real problem with those wireless ones sometimes). No, Windows wants you to click on the "ribbon" (former menu bar) or the "Office Button". I guess that's what "real" Office users do. I'd better stop, I could go on all night about how absolutely silly this was.

dleippe
dleippe

IE7, XP, AND VISTA, aside from any useful improvements, seem more like an attempt to make the mass of Windows users think they are getting something new by "relocating" what was so easy to find in Windows 2000. The first thing I do when I build a new XP/Vista machine or work on someone else's computer is to change all the appearance features to the look and feel of W2K.

chip.ehlers
chip.ehlers

I agree some change is nice, but when things like the steering wheel change in name to Navigation device or the brakes change to forward progress dampers and then they move to different place it can become a bit of hurdle. Those of us that have been dealing with contoso boys and girls on a more technical level can intuitively get around but the general public will be lost even more than they were the firsting they hit the power button on a computer imo. Ex. anybody know how to hide or better yet redisplay the tabs on a 2007 spreadsheet?

mudpuppy1
mudpuppy1

but your car reference is different in right-hand drive models in countries where they drive on the left (at least in my experience in Asia). The signal is on the right side of the steering wheel. Makes sense especially with a manual shift car. You use your inner hand to shift and your outer hand to signal. Everything else is the same (gas on the right, brake in the middle, etc.), even the shift pattern is the same. A friend and I were driving around Bangkok in his Volvo. They just took the steering column from a left had drive car and moved it to the right and didn't switch the signal and wiper thingies (a technical term). He was always turning on the wipers when he meant to signal. You would think the Swedes would know that as they used to drive on the left. Good for a chuckle. :) I agree with the rest of your post. MS's useless interface changes can be infuriating sometimes.

ejakob
ejakob

To use your example. The 2009 car stil has the gas pedal right of the brake pedal, and the turn light switch is still on the left of the stearing wheel. Why can't this be the same in office? In Excel you can chose to use Lotus-style menus. Why can it not be possible to use office 2k3-style menus in office 2k7? Office 2k7 or Vista is great for someone who has never used a Windows PC before. But if you have used office since 1995, its hard to get used to the new interface.

The Scummy One
The Scummy One

to make an effective system. Yes, some change is good and actually improvements are welcome. Some changes made for no real good reason should be left alone. Having to relearn new features in an OS is already time consuming, however having to relearn Where everything is now buried is frustrating. Having little or no control over Office 07's new interface with no way to backup to a previous interface is just stupid. Yes, you can spend an hour customizing a SINGLE bar in Office 07, the rest has 2 choices -- in your face or hidden. Works well hidden doesnt it?

william.bondy
william.bondy

MS is a very innovative company, I am shock to hear I.T admin wanting things to stay the same, wow guys regardless if something is harder to find the first time, you should clue in the second time..I am all about changes, When you buy a 2008 car then trade it in for 2K9 car, things are not the same at all. I am all in, for MS changing things up, I am sure MS can spend millions on a custom packages that would allow users to change their inference however they want, but I would expect if users truly wanted something like that they should expect to pay for it. Give MS a couple more years on that one! MS BRING ON THE CHANGE, Heck if there was no change there wouldn?t be WINDOWS 7. The programmers that worked on XP or NT for that matter are not working on the same project any more, and that is a good thing!!! But thats my 2 cents

w2ktechman
w2ktechman

when things move around for no apparent reason, it gets frustrating. And Office 07, why??? Why force on this huge friggin toolbar that cannot even be edited?

brad
brad

Hey there, just my take on things. Windows Vista and Windows 7 leverage user account control (UAC) which has users and programs running in the user context as opposed to a system or a root context. This fact has reduced many problems caused by malware and spyware which users frequently get. Sadly, this security enhancement has resulted in the prompts that everyone makes fin of (MAC vs PC commercials) and has given Vista a bad rap. Windows 7 (or the beta at least...) has improved on that still more. I feel this to be a natural evolution and improvement.