Windows 7 - is it worth the upgrade?

This week, Microsoft is releasing Windows 7, a slick, much improved operating system that should go a long way toward erasing the bad impression left by its previous effort, Vista.

If you've been holding off on buying a new computer, Windows 7 will be a good excuse to get back into the game. And if you've been weighing a Mac versus a Windows PC, then you should know that "7" makes Windows more attractive, though not a clear-cut choice for everyone.



Windows is now easier to use and better looking than it was before, while maintaining its core advantage of cheaper, more diverse hardware.



However, most PC users should not take the release of Windows 7 as a call to action, or feel that they have to run out and buy the software for use on a computer they're planning on keeping.



The upgrade will most likely not be worth the time or money, much less the effort of hosting a Windows 7 "launch party" as Microsoft suggests.



Windows 7 will come in several versions. You can buy it as a download or on a disc, with slight discounts for upgrades from Vista or XP. Beginning on Oct. 22, it will come installed on new PCs.



Here are some of its highlights:



- The taskbar - the strip of icons usually found at the bottom of the screen - now does more than show which programs are running. You can also stick icons for your favourite programs on it, to launch them quickly. It's fast and convenient, combining the best features of the old Windows taskbar and Apple's Dock.



- File folders can now be organised into "libraries." You can have a photo library, for instance, that gives you quick access to pictures in folders spread out over your hard drive, or even several hard drives. This is great because many applications don't automatically put files into Microsoft's My Documents and My Photos folders, and tend to deposit content in their own folders. The new arrangement also makes for easy backups.



- Like Vista, Windows 7 will ask you twice if you really want to make changes to your settings or install programs, for the sake of security. But Windows 7 does it less often, and the prompts can be turned off.



- Windows 7 can sense if you use more than one finger on your touch pad or touch screen, allowing for neat tricks such as spreading your fingers to zoom into a picture, just like on the iPhone. This is isn't revolutionary per se - computer manufacturers have bolted multitouch sensing on previous versions of Windows. But it does make it easier for them to include advanced touch capabilities, and many of them are planning to do so. That is what could really revolutionise how we use computers. I've tried laptops and desktops with touch screens, and found it nice to be able to directly tap links and buttons, bypassing the touch pad and mouse.



- For a lot of users, the step up to Windows 7 will also mark a transition to a 64-bit operating system. That means computers will now be able to use a lot more Random Access Memory, or RAM, for better performance in demanding applications such as video editing. Vista and XP came in 64-bit versions in addition to the regular 32-bit versions, but the XP version was never popular, and the Vista version became mainstream only last year. But 64 bits will be standard on Windows 7, installed on nearly all new computers.



Windows XP users have a lot more to gain by going to Windows 7. Vista introduced some great features, such as fast searches of the entire hard drive, that of course are present in 7 as well. Unfortunately, upgrading an existing PC from XP to 7 is not easy.



After upgrading, users will have to reinstall all their programs and find their files in the folder where Windows 7 tucks them away.



They may also have hardware problems. I found an old HP laser printer no longer worked with Windows 7. This isn't really Microsoft's fault or, specifically, a problem with the new operating system - HP just doesn't provide a 64-bit driver for that printer. A driver is a program that tells a piece of hardware how to work with an operating system.



If you do upgrade, I would still recommend tackling that transition head-on by installing the 64-bit version of Windows 7, which doesn't cost more. Microsoft recommends a minimum of 2 gigabytes of RAM to run it.



If your computer runs Windows Vista, I think it's hard to justify spending on the upgrade. The new features are nice but hardly must-haves. For daily email and web surfing, they won't make much of a difference. Vista was much maligned when it arrived in early 2007 for being slow, buggy and annoying. Now, it really isn't that bad, because updates have fixed a lot of the problems.



However, if you bought a Vista-based computer after June 25, you should be eligible for a free upgrade to Windows 7 from the manufacturer, and I suggest taking advantage of it.



Your computer likely already is running 64-bit software, so there should be no problems with drivers, and the upgrade is much easier than one from XP. Windows 7 can keep your installed programs and your files in their old folders.

Life and Style
ebookNow available in paperback
ebooks
ebookA delicious collection of 50 meaty main courses
Latest stories from i100
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
SPONSORED FEATURES
Independent Dating
and  

By clicking 'Search' you
are agreeing to our
Terms of Use.

ES Rentals

    iJobs Job Widget
    iJobs Gadgets & Tech

    Recruitment Genius: Strategic Partnerships Coordinator

    £16000 - £22000 per annum: Recruitment Genius: Their research appears at the f...

    SThree: Trainee Recruitment Consultant - Manchester

    £18000 - £23000 per annum + Uncapped OTE: SThree: SThree Trainee Recruitment C...

    Recruitment Genius: Regional Support Manager

    £50000 - £60000 per annum: Recruitment Genius: This role's responsibility also...

    Ashdown Group: Online Marketing Executive - Central London - £30K

    £27000 - £30000 per annum + 25 days holidays & benefits: Ashdown Group: Digita...

    Day In a Page

    Turkey-Kurdish conflict: Obama's deal with Ankara is a betrayal of Syrian Kurds and may not even weaken Isis

    US betrayal of old ally brings limited reward

    Since the accord, the Turks have only waged war on Kurds while no US bomber has used Incirlik airbase, says Patrick Cockburn
    VIPs gather for opening of second Suez Canal - but doubts linger over security

    'A gift from Egypt to the rest of the world'

    VIPs gather for opening of second Suez Canal - but is it really needed?
    Jeremy Corbyn dresses abysmally. That's a great thing because it's genuine

    Jeremy Corbyn dresses abysmally. That's a great thing because it's genuine

    Fashion editor, Alexander Fury, applauds a man who clearly has more important things on his mind
    The male menopause and intimations of mortality

    Aches, pains and an inkling of mortality

    So the male menopause is real, they say, but what would the Victorians, 'old' at 30, think of that, asks DJ Taylor
    Man Booker Prize 2015: Anna Smaill - How can I possibly be on the list with these writers I have idolised?

    'How can I possibly be on the list with these writers I have idolised?'

    Man Booker Prize nominee Anna Smaill on the rise of Kiwi lit
    Bettany Hughes interview: The historian on how Socrates would have solved Greece's problems

    Bettany Hughes interview

    The historian on how Socrates would have solved Greece's problems
    Art of the state: Pyongyang propaganda posters to be exhibited in China

    Art of the state

    Pyongyang propaganda posters to be exhibited in China
    Mildreds and Vanilla Black have given vegetarian food a makeover in new cookbooks

    Vegetarian food gets a makeover

    Long-time vegetarian Holly Williams tries to recreate some of the inventive recipes in Mildreds and Vanilla Black's new cookbooks
    The haunting of Shirley Jackson: Was the gothic author's life really as bleak as her fiction?

    The haunting of Shirley Jackson

    Was the gothic author's life really as bleak as her fiction?
    Bill Granger recipes: Heading off on holiday? Try out our chef's seaside-inspired dishes...

    Bill Granger's seaside-inspired recipes

    These dishes are so easy to make, our chef is almost embarrassed to call them recipes
    Ashes 2015: Tourists are limp, leaderless and distinctly UnAustralian

    Tourists are limp, leaderless and distinctly UnAustralian

    A woefully out-of-form Michael Clarke embodies his team's fragile Ashes campaign, says Michael Calvin
    Blairites be warned, this could be the moment Labour turns into Syriza

    Andrew Grice: Inside Westminster

    Blairites be warned, this could be the moment Labour turns into Syriza
    HMS Victory: The mystery of Britain's worst naval disaster is finally solved - 271 years later

    The mystery of Britain's worst naval disaster is finally solved - 271 years later

    Exclusive: David Keys reveals the research that finally explains why HMS Victory went down with the loss of 1,100 lives
    Survivors of the Nagasaki atomic bomb attack: Japan must not abandon its post-war pacifism

    'I saw people so injured you couldn't tell if they were dead or alive'

    Nagasaki survivors on why Japan must not abandon its post-war pacifism
    Jon Stewart: The voice of Democrats who felt Obama had failed to deliver on his 'Yes We Can' slogan, and the voter he tried hardest to keep onside

    The voter Obama tried hardest to keep onside

    Outgoing The Daily Show host, Jon Stewart, became the voice of Democrats who felt the President had failed to deliver on his ‘Yes We Can’ slogan. Tim Walker charts the ups and downs of their 10-year relationship on screen