The release of Windows 7 on Thursday marks an end to the purgatory of Vista and Windows XP suffered by users of the previous versions of Microsoft’s operating system.
For Vista users, it represents deliverance from poor performance and irritating security features. For Windows XP owners, it means they can finally feel safe in upgrading to a system that should run their devices and programs just as they expect, in a reliable and faster environment.
Many businesses held on to XP and skipped Vista when incompatibilities with programs and hardware and slow performance were highlighted.
Windows 7 allows users to tweak the operating system to run older programs and even run them in a “virtual” XP in the Professional version of the product.
Many will do this on new PCs, capable of the more demanding requirements of 7, even taking advantage of its 64-bit support, which means more system memory can be brought into play to process tasks even faster.
Migration from XP to 7 on an older machine is not a simple process though, requiring a “clean install” that deletes existing files on a hard drive, thereby requiring back-ups of personal data and reinstallation of existing programs.
In contrast, when I upgraded in May from Vista to the Windows 7 Release Candidate – a late pre-release version of the operating system – I found this to be the simplest of processes.
Not only was it a quick installation, but my Vista laptop was also booting and running noticeably faster once it restarted, while my files and programs were just as they were – Windows 7 is very like a service pack upgrade to Vista, with nothing really disturbed.
Some of Microsoft’s critics argue this is what it should have been all along – a free fix for Vista’s shortcomings rather than a costly upgrade to what is just a rebadged operating system.
After a few months, my Windows 7 seems a little slower, as I continue to add programs. To me, this suggests an increasing number of dual-boot options will come with new laptops and PCs in order to satisfy users who crave the same instant access to them as they enjoy with their phones.
Google’s Android operating system, Intel-led Moblin, Splashtop from DeviceVM and Hyperspace from Phoenix can be expected to feature alongside Windows 7.
Once the Windows 7 desktop does finally appear, new users will be entertained by a series of stunning wallpaper images. The Task Bar along the bottom is enlarged, with icons that expand the options for viewing and accessing programs and files.
The Windows Explorer organiser is much improved and includes Libraries, which gathers together documents, music, pictures and videos in different places. A search box is also comprehensive in finding programs and files.
Many features will remain hidden to users until they discover them on new devices, or look into media processing and networking. I found it easy in Windows 7 to set up my PC as a home media server, sending photos, video and music to my games consoles. There is transcoding of video into different formats for different devices, location-based support for mobile devices, less battery drain on laptops and multi-touch for the new screens arriving on tablet and all-in-one PCs.
Some basic programs have been improved and others removed. E-mail, Movie Maker and Photo Gallery are gone, but can be added back through Windows Live, as Microsoft emphasises the growing online element of its business.