In-depth look at Windows 7

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.

SHARE:

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.

Next -->

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.

Next -->

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.

Next -->

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!

<< Home >>

Topics: Windows, Microsoft, Operating Systems, Software

Kick off your day with ZDNet's daily email newsletter. It's the freshest tech news and opinion, served hot. Get it.

Talkback

182 comments
Log in or register to join the discussion
  • How much ?

    That will be the question with W7, especially for home users. If M$ think that they can stiff me for 4 x licences (4 PCs at home) then they need to go away and have a serious rethink on pricing. Say $129 for up to 5 PCs at home then that is not unreasonable, otherwise they are seriously taking the piss out of this customer and it will be opensuse or ubuntu all the way. I'm not having my pockets raped so some overweight CEO can have a yacht the size of the Titanic !
    Alan Smithie
    • Good point ...

      ... Apple make it cheap for home users, Microsoft needs to gdo the same.
      Adrian Kingsley-Hughes
      • No argument from me on this thought. NT

        NT
        CrashPad
      • ummm....

        is this a toung-n-cheek response?

        Apple is anything but cheap.
        mikefarinha
        • If you already have the HW...

          ...it's cheap(er) as you get 5 uses per license when you upgrade. I have no idea who has 5 Mac products though...must be rich Catholics...
          justthinking
          • Although Apple charges for upgrades far more frequently

            [i]it's cheap(er) as you get 5 uses per license when you upgrade[/i]

            Apple charges for each service pack, MS doesn't. To keep up with the latest security patches and OS improvements, you would have had to pay for 4 OS X upgrades in the same amount of time that Windows users paid for 1.
            NonZealot
          • MS does charge for SP's actually

            98SE, Millenium, XP, Vista, now 7.
            fr0thy2
          • Um, what?

            Windows 7 isn't a service pack. A service pack is a collection of updates. Windows 7 is an entirely new OS...
            The one and only, Cylon Centurion
          • Ha Ha. Not

            Loony talk.
            Cayble
          • It would appear

            that you don't learn much living under a rock. So why not move on out from under it, get a life of some sort?

            Just throwing you an idea. We'll give you more from time to time as we should all help the disadvantaged. ;)
            AllKnowingAllSeeing
          • Versions and SP....

            "98SE, Millenium, XP, Vista, now 7. "

            While I see your point in where your going with this... I feel inclinde to point out that SP's are upgrades to an existing version codebase.

            Win 3.1 - Win 3.11 would be the same codebase.
            Win NT is on a separete codebase.
            Win 95 stems from the Win 3.1 code, but is versioned as 4.0
            Win 98 could be called a major SP if you wanted to, but 98SE and XP share very little codebase as XP is built from the NT tree. it is also versioned as 5.1 making it more of a SP to 2000 which is 5.0

            Confused yet? It's not that hard really. 98SE and XP are both from different code and different major versions.

            Versions work like this:
            Major.Minor.Build
            Win 98 = 4.10.1998
            Win 98SE = 4.10.2222
            Win Vista = 6.0.6000
            Win Vista SP1 = 6.0.6001

            SP only increase the build number. If it changes the minor it is an R2. If it changes the major it is considered a new OS as enough has changed to make it different enough to be a new product.

            OSX.... 10.1.1 to 10.5.5 are all the same OS, just multiple SP and re-releases.

            The point that Apple does technically charge for its SP does stand. The confusion comes in how they label it. Mac doesn't use the term service pack. Instead it chooses to call it a build which is correct, however misleading to some users in making them believe it is more then it really is.

            Most users don't upgrade until they have passed a few builds anyway, but at least MS gives you the option to increase your build for free for the lifetime of the minor release.

            Win 95 was a major release as it increased from 3.1 to 4.0. Win 98 was a minor release because it was version 4.1. 2000 was major at 5.0 and XP minor at 5.1. Vista major at 6.0 and Win 7 minor at 6.1.
            ShadowGIATL
          • Clueless as usual...

            Once again, you're ignorance is showing... Buy a clue before you open your yap and insert your foot. Have something intelligent and maybe <gasp!> factual to contribute before you start babbling incoherently...

            98 (and SE), ME are part of the MS DOS flavored codebase. They can trace their origin back to Windows 3.0, 3.1x and 95. 2000, XP, Vista and 7 are based on NT. Different critter entirely.
            Wolfie2K3
          • Not this again!

            An SP is whatever the company producing the software calls an SP. Everyone needs to stop applying their definition.

            Microsoft has clearly defined what an SP is: Software they release that is called a "Service Pack". There's no ambiguity about it.

            Apple has essentially done the same thing (except they don't specifically call them service packs). It is that software which increments the third digit of the version number. While not formally defined they have been very consistent with this method since the release of OS X.

            So please, let this argument die.
            ye
          • LOL - the lights on but nobody's home - nt

            nt
            TheBottomLineIsAllThatMatters
          • Guys, guys...

            why do you waste your time arguing with him?

            He obviously knows it all.
            tikigawd
          • @ye. wasted words.

            He must be good to have pulled you into the chain of replies. He's nothing more than an imp trying to stir up trouble purposely. <br><br>
            xuniL_z
          • Hey fr0thy2

            They [b]all[/b] fell for it. They nearly all broke their necks trying to be the first to tell you how wrong and stupid you are and just look at who the stupid ones are.

            They kind of remind me of the Cheech and Chong bit about the look, smell and taste of excrement. They actually tasted it.

            Congrats!
            sackbut
          • Apple does NOT charge for service packs

            Just because its numbering system uses
            points doesn't make them minor service
            packs. XP was only a single point up
            from 2000 (NT 5.0 and 5.1).

            OS X 10.5 Leopard was a major OS
            release compared to 10.4 Tiger, just as
            Vista was a major step from XP. 10.6
            Snow Leopard promises massive speed
            and efficiency gains from older systems
            when run on Intel hardware, and
            represents a major shift in the platform
            just as Windows 7 moves beyond Vista.

            Even XP wasn't a front-line OS for 7
            years, and its service packs did nothing
            to change the core system features or
            functions.

            Apple does do service packs, but like
            Microsoft, it gives them away for free on
            its update service. Currently we are on
            10.5.5, the fifth service pack for 10.5.
            Asiafish
          • Doesn't matter what you call it

            Windows users have gotten free updates for the last 5 years and yes, some were changes to core functionality like performance improvements (you know, what you'll have to pay for with Snow Leopard), Windows Search 4, Security Center, and DirectX. Others have to be downloaded but are made available for free on the Microsoft Download site.

            OS X users don't get anything for free and have had to pay for 4 updates in the same time frame that Windows users only had to pay for 1.

            Quite frankly, I don't care if you call it a point release, service pack, or Hello Kitty, the end result is that Windows users end up having to pay for OS upgrades far less frequently than OS X users. Apple's $25 [b]billion[/b] didn't just magically appear you know, it had to come from your pocket! :)
            NonZealot
          • Actually...

            "Just because its numbering system uses
            points doesn't make them minor service
            packs. XP was only a single point up
            from 2000 (NT 5.0 and 5.1)."

            It may seem like a single point to you... but if you had programming experience you'd know how much code has to change just to increase the build number, let alone the minor number.

            Version = Major.Minor.Build
            Technically they could call it anything they want, but they usually stay pretty close to what is universally excepted. 2000 was a major release and XP was a minor release. 10.1.1 to 10.5.5 is still the same major release.

            "Even XP wasn't a front-line OS for 7
            years, and its service packs did nothing
            to change the core system features or
            functions."

            SP2 changed alot under the hood and added new features and changed some applets and gui features. Alot of people think SP was closer to an R2, but MS choose not to charge or re-release and instead offered it as a SP. Part of this was probably to make up for the horrible failure that WinMe was, and the troubles it caused. Alot of feature sometimes get back ported into the older OS's after the new ones get released in the form of downloadable updates. This helps further the thought that MS tends to be more forgiving in charging then a lot of people think they are. If they wanted to, they could charge for every build increase. Instead they know if you give them pieces then later they will buy the whole thing.

            Nothing against Apple, but I feel they would fair better if they let you upgrade minor releases for free considering they control the hardware you use. Just my opinion.
            ShadowGIATL