In-depth look at Windows 7

Summary:Given that I knew most of you would be virtually blasted out of your chairs by a "shock and awe" of Windows 7 reviews once the news embargo on the OS was lifted (combined with the fact that I only got my hands on a copy of Build 6801 a couple of days later), I decided to take my time to get to knows the OS before I shared with you my thoughts and feelings about Microsoft's latest OS.

Given that I knew most of you would be virtually blasted out of your chairs by a "shock and awe" of Windows 7 reviews once the news embargo on the OS was lifted (combined with the fact that I only got my hands on a copy of Build 6801 a couple of days later), I decided to take my time to get to knows the OS before I shared with you my thoughts and feelings about Microsoft's latest OS.

Check out the Windows 7 install/UI gallery here!

Windows 7 image gallery

Previous gallery here

UPDATE: Also check out Windows 7's troubleshooting tools post!

Installation

Installing Windows 7 is quick ... very quick! I managed to get Windows 7 installed and ready to go in under 15 minutes on one system - a time that makes Vista seem like a lumbering dinosaur.

 

 

Beyond the speed boost, the setup process for Windows 7 Build 6801 is pretty much the same as for Vista in that you interact with it at the beginning and the end of the process, but for the most part it gets on with the install by itself.

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OS Speed

Once I'd recovered from shock of the speed of the install (I'd set aside 45 minutes, and was done in 15!), I was next struck by how fast Windows 7 is. There's none of the sluggishness and lag that I remember with early builds of Vista and XP. Everything is snappy and responsive ... Start Menu, Control Panel applets, applications ... everything. About the only thing I've come across so far that was slow was the Magnifier tool ... this tool about 20 seconds to load. Side by side, Windows 7 is far snappier and more responsive than Windows Vista. That alone is promising for the future.

Also, bootup and shut down times are faster. Basic tests show that bootup is some 10% faster and shut down some 15%. Impressive.

UI

If there's one word to describe the Windows 7 UI it's this - Unfinished! In fact, using Windows 7 puts you in a wierd wonderland of Vista mixed in changes for Windows 7.

 

 

That said, there's a lot of new stuff to see - desktop tweaks, taskbar tweaks, Windows Explorer tweaks, Control Panel tweaks. Some long-time Windopws applications such as Paint, WordPad and Calculator have received a fresh lick of paint too, although I'm not sure how the Ribbon UI (which debuted in Office 2007) will go down with users who've not seen it before.

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UAC Tweaks

It seems that Microsoft has taken on board the constructive criticism it received over User Account Control (UAC) and provided users with setting to make it less annoying. Windows 7 provides four settings, ranging from "Always notify" to "Never notify." The default setting is "Only notify me when programs try to make changes to my computer," which seems to offer a happy middle ground. 

 

 

Windows Updates

Not many changes here yet, but Microsoft has made it easier to see what updates are being offered.

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Windows 7 in VMware 6

Does Windows 7 work inside a VMware virtual machine? Yes. I set my virtual machines up as "Windows Server 2008 (experimental)" and "Windows Server 2008 x64 Edition (experimental)" with 512MB or 1GB of RAM and a 24GB IDE disk and everything worked fine.

Overall

OK, enough messing about! Down to the real questions:

  • Is Windows 7 better than Vista?
  • Is Windows 7 better than XP?

I'm going to go out on a limb and say yes, but with conditions. It's too early to know whether the performance gains will translate into the RTM release, and there's still a lot of work to be done, but the OS that I'm seeing in Build 1601 has potential. It's also without a doubt easier to use (setting up a new theme, configuring a printer or finding out what's wrong with your network is a lot easier and takes fewer steps).

 

The UI is also cleaner, and little tweaks such as clicking in the bottom right hand corner of the taskbar to get to the desktop makes more sense than having a separate icon and so on. Little things like this make the UI cleaner and ultimately easier to use.

Looking forward to the next build!

UPDATE: Also check out Windows 7's troubleshooting tools post!

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Topics: Windows, Microsoft, Operating Systems, Software

About

Adrian Kingsley-Hughes is an internationally published technology author who has devoted over a decade to helping users get the most from technology -- whether that be by learning to program, building a PC from a pile of parts, or helping them get the most from their new MP3 player or digital camera.Adrian has authored/co-authored technic... Full Bio

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