Windows 7 Less Than a Week Away

October 17, 2009

Every few years a new version of Windows appears and we have to decide if there is a good reason to make the jump from the current version we are using. As I need to document software, I need to at least have one computer on the current version of Windows just in case things work a little differently.

I told you a little while back that I was building a new computer. The computer is now built and most all of my software and data has been transferred to the new machine. In fact, this is the first blog post I’ve created from this machine. Since I’ve installed Windows 7 Ultimate on this machine, I wanted to give you my thoughts on the Windows 7 experience so far and give you links to purchase the full/upgrade version of your choice if you were ready to make the jump.

There are numerous flavors of Windows 7, but only three of them will apply to most users. Home Premium is for users who may connect to a network, but don’t have the need to connect to a corporate network or domain. It has all of the fancy multimedia stuff. Professional is for users who are in a corporate setting and it adds the networking components needed in that environment. Of course it also includes everything from Home Premium. Ultimate includes everything in the other versions and adds even more features, though I can’t really name any feature that is particularly useful. At least not for me.

So why did I go with Ultimate if I can’t tell you any good features in it? Quite simply because we at Unleashed Productions, Inc. are in a Microsoft Partner Program that provided us with one license of Ultimate. There is also a decision whether you want to install a 32-bit or 64-bit version of Windows 7. In short, a 32-bit version can use no more than 3 GB of RAM but it provides the most compatibility with your existing hardware and software. The 64-bit version can use a lot more RAM (the limit far exceeds the amount you could install in a PC today), but you may not find drivers for all of your devices. I installed 12 GB of RAM on this machine so I went the 64-bit route. Before doing that, I researched online to make sure there were drivers for all of my devices.

The first question anyone asks is whether it is fast. Any operating system seems fast when newly installed, especially on a machine loaded with the latest hardware and lots of it. The one thing that has really impressed me so far is the boot time. I can do a complete reboot in less than a minute. On my old Windows XP computer, anything less than 10 minutes was pretty impressive. For that reason alone, the speed seems pretty good so far.

What about my software? So far I’ve had no problem installing any software. Even crusty old programs like Corel Ventura 10 have installed without a problem. Of course I did have to follow some specific steps to get Ventura installed. At this point I don’t foresee any problems at all with software compatibility.

The hardware has been a little bit tougher. All of the components in the new computer worked flawlessly. I did get an error from Windows Update that it was unable to update the driver for the nVidia video card. This was quickly solved by downloading the latest driver from the nVidia Web site. I also had a glitch with the Sound Blaster sound card, but it turned out to be a hardware problem and is in the process of being replaced. Other than the wait, the replacement process was quite easy. The biggest problem was getting my Xerox Phaser 8550DP printer to print correctly. The driver supplied with Windows would always print pages 2-up on a printed page. After a lengthy discussion with a Xerox support rep, it was suggested that I install the Windows Vista driver instead. I did that and everything works great now.

Once you get past the main software and hardware issues, then you have to adjust to any changes in the operating system itself. It is easy for me to list the things I don’t like and I’m guessing it will take longer to put together the list of things that I do like. When you jump in with both feet, the problems always get solved first and then you find the cool new stuff. Therefore I will mostly tell you about stuff I didn’t like. There is a feature called “Snap” where the Windows on your desktop will automatically snap to the edges of your screen. I liked that. Unfortunately if you tried to move a window, it always wanted to maximize it. I hated that. You can’t have it both ways so I turned it off. Being able to drag windows where I like was much more important.

In both Windows XP and Windows Vista, I set the Start menu to the “Classic” look. Old habits just die hard with me. With Windows 7, there is no classic look available so I’ll find have to change. I’ve already customized the Start menu to be much larger than the default of 10 items. I’ve changed it to 20 and will probably make it larger. Why? Because I install a lot of software and I don’t want to constantly scroll to find the program I want. A thumbs down for limiting the Start menu so much, but a big thumbs up that it is so customizable. This means I can get it to where I like it, though it will take a little time to get it just right.

Anyone who used Vista got sick of the pop-ups constantly asking for permission. They still exist, but there are not nearly as many as in Vista. Given that I have been installing a lot of software, I’ve seen quite a few. But they only seem to appear when I am installing things. Once the computer is set up, I really don’t think I’ll see them that often. For this, a huge thumbs up.

One of my favorite utilities is Yahoo Widgets. Since Windows Vista and Windows 7 have their own Windows Gadgets, I decided to see if I could find the gadgets I wanted so that I could migrate from Yahoo Widgets. So far, so good. The weather widget looks different, but I like all of the information it provides. The stock ticker orders stock by performance rather than alphabetically. It is an adjustment, but I kind of like it. The standard clock is boring, but I’m sure I can find a good replacement soon. I’ve even found a few gadgets for things that no longer were available with Yahoo Widgets. Overall, I’m pretty happy with the gadgets I’ve loaded so far and I don’t think I’ll need Yahoo Widgets in the future. Big thumbs up.

The part of the upgrade that isn’t readily seen are some of the performance and security tweaks. Given that Windows XP was released in 2002, it is about time that users at least think of moving to a newer operating system. The more times that passes, the more likely that XP support will slowly fade away. For those that really need it, the Professional and Ultimate flavors of Windows 7 include a Windows XP virtual machine. That way if you just gotta have it to run some software, you can easily do it.

Overall I’m pretty happy with Windows 7. Sure there are adjustments I’ll need to make to the way I work. In the short term it may take me a little bit longer to get things done. Yet there is no doubt in my mind that eventually I’ll be working faster once I adjust to the changes. If you are happily using XP on a computer now, I wouldn’t suggest updating that computer. Wait until you buy a new computer. While you can legally upgrade from XP to Windows 7, it requires you reinstall Windows and all of your software from scratch. Not a bad idea, but it is more complicated than a simple upgrade. Maybe it is time for you to start shopping for a new computer now. Users with Vista may want to seriously consider an upgrade. The things you probably dislike the most in Vista will undoubtedly be improved. Of course you probably want to know about how CorelDRAW works on Windows 7. I’ve installed both CorelDRAW X3 and X4 and both of them work quite well. I’ve yet to find any CorelDRAW problem that is caused by Windows 7.

Below are links to both the full and upgrade versions of Windows 7 at If you are going to purchase a copy, I sure would appreciate if you use the links provided as we’ll receive a small commission from each purchase. Don’t worry, you’ll still get the lowest price Amazon offers. Remember the official release date is October 22, 2009 so your order won’t ship until then.

If you are already using Windows 7, post a comment and tell everyone what you think about it so far!

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Foster D. Coburn III

Foster D. Coburn III is author of 13 best-selling books on CorelDRAW and has been a contributor to numerous technology and graphics-related magazines. Foster has taken many projects, including this Web site, from the early design stage through to a finished piece. He has been a featured speaker at many graphics conferences. His first Web site was built in 1995 and he has been working exclusively in WordPress since 2013.

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