Windows 7 beta: We like it

Windows 7 beta: We like it

Summary: Windows 7 will be one of Microsoft's greatest operating systems, if it fulfils the promise shown by the unofficial beta version we have been testing for the past couple of days.

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commentary Windows 7 will be one of Microsoft's greatest operating systems, if it fulfils the promise shown by the unofficial beta version (build 7000) we have been testing for the past couple of days.

(Credit: Renai LeMay/ZDNet.com.au)

Let me preface these quick impressions of Redmond's latest opus by saying that I came to Windows 7 after having happily run the much-maligned Windows Vista on my Intel Core 2 Duo-based PC for the past 18 months (alongside Ubuntu).

I found Vista to be a worthy upgrade from Windows XP SP2. Despite its obvious flaws (can you say "resource hog"?) and acknowledging that some of its features need to be disabled by default, Vista at heart is a much more stable and usable operating system than XP, which was first released back in 2001.

The release of Service Pack 1 and gradual driver improvements have built on Microsoft's somewhat shaky Vista beginning.

Coming from this background, I have been pleased to discover over the past several days that Microsoft appears to have built on Vista's strengths and addressed most of its weaknesses with the beta release of Windows 7.

Windows 7 beta was a painless install. Out of the box driver support on our test machine was perfect, and it only took half an hour and two quick reboots to begin running a stable desktop environment, although we wondered why Windows 7 created a 200MB partition in addition to its main partition. The 33MB of updates quickly came down the pipe upon loading the desktop.

Basic desktop performance was strong; the reports that Windows 7 is simply faster than Vista appear to be true. Certainly Windows 7 had no problem simultaneously installing and launching applications, downloading files, web browsing and carrying out other tasks on our modest 2.8GHz Pentium 4, which only has an 80GB IDE hard disk and 512MB of RAM.

Vista's most visible annoyance, User Account Control, has been pared right back on its default setting, and we only encountered it a couple of times throughout a whole morning of installing applications. However, if you feel nostalgic for UAC's old behaviour, you can easily change it back via Windows 7's new Action Center, which now centralises all of the security, update and warning alerts that Windows throws your way.

Windows 7 recommended we install a third-party antivirus package (it suggested Kaspersky and AVG), but its anti-spyware package Defender comes pre-installed. Microsoft appears to have an antivirus package installed under the hood; when downloading new software with Firefox we were told that our downloads were being scanned for viruses.

(Credit: Renai LeMay/ZDNet.com.au)

I particularly like the new photo-realistic device icons, and the overhaul of the way Windows handles and ejects USB storage devices. Microsoft appears to have wiped out a lot of the Windows XP-era interface quirks of Vista; the result is a much more simplistic, unified experience for common tasks.

I also enjoyed the overhaul of the Windows taskbar, especially the slick graphics, but a bug prevented us from being able to use the preview function (it showed a black rectangle instead), and you'll want to play with the taskbar settings to get this piece of the Windows 7 puzzle just right. It's easy to get minimised windows mixed up with launcher buttons, for example.

I want to stress that we didn't test Windows 7 beta exhaustively, and business users will need to closely examine deployment software and how the operating system integrates into their existing environments, as well as its ability to work well with third-party software. For example, we couldn't get Adobe CS3 to install on Windows 7 beta; the installer told us we needed to quit Internet Explorer first.

But perhaps the most important thing to note about the software is that at first glance it has much more of that nebulous "Windows XP feel" than Vista ever did. Even on our modest machine, Windows 7 didn't thrash the hard disk or feel unresponsive, except when we were installing Apple's iTunes, a notorious pain on Windows systems.

In general, this signals that Microsoft has spent a lot of effort with Windows 7 on delivering a solid operating system that won't "wow" anyone, but will satisfy them on a much deeper level. In other words, just what the doctor, and the customers, ordered.

You can find a lot of further Windows 7 analysis on the ZDNet.com blog of Adrian Kingsley-Hughes, as well as our own photo gallery here.

What do you think about Windows 7 so far? Love it or hate it? Are you still using Windows XP, or have you switched to a Mac or Linux?

Topics: Windows, Microsoft, Software

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31 comments
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  • DRM?

    Renai, Is Windows 7 Beta faster because the DRM is not yet fitted?
    anonymous
  • Virtual Machine

    I think a key problem that windows 7 will solve is the issue that windows vista runs extremely slow under a virtual machine.
    anonymous
  • Wait

    Renai, Vista a solid operating system? The design and execution is just woeful (and this is best reflected by the market reaction).
    As for Windows 7, wait until it is released before saying this thing works well....Microsoft always has disappointments, caveats, restrictions and calamities ready to roll just to keep things interesting!
    anonymous
  • Windows 7 is great

    I setup Windows 7 beta on my laptop 3 days ago, replacing Vista Ultimate, im using 10 hours a day for my job, using multi monitors, citrix, web browsing.

    Overall, Its so impressive for a beta windows, the user experience is fantasic, moving around the OS is very fluid, with the new taskbar interface.
    anonymous
  • DRM

    I don't know ... but with Apple dumping it maybe Microsoft will follow!

    Cheers,

    Renai LeMay
    News Editor
    ZDNet.com.au
    anonymous
  • VM

    Interesting issue ... Windows 7 seems to run quite nicely in the VMWare installation I have on my Core 2 Duo here... but that could just be the speed of my CPU as Vista also runs nicely on it ;)

    Cheers,

    Renai

    News Editor
    ZDNet.com.au
    anonymous
  • Vista

    hey there,

    Actually, most CIOs and IT managers I have talked to about Vista say that it is quite a good operating system ... but there has just been no real solid advantage to upgrading, when you consider that XP works fine for most people, and migration costs at any company for a desktop SOE are astronomical.

    However I agree with you -- it will be interesting to see how Windows 7 actually stacks up at launch. A beta is only a beta.

    Cheers,

    Renai

    News Editor
    ZDNet.com.au
    anonymous
  • Cool

    Glad to hear it! Did you have any problems with any third-party apps? This is usually where MS has a few problems ...

    Cheers,

    Renai LeMay

    News Editor
    ZDNet.com.au
    anonymous
  • Applications run surprisingly well

    Here's a list of apps that are running well for me:
    Citrix XenApp Client
    Cisco VPN Client
    Windows Live messenger
    Office 2007 SP1
    Sophos AV
    VMWare Workstation 6.5
    Adobe Reader 9
    Acronis True Image Echo Workstation
    Steam
    Nero 7 Express
    Built in TV tuner works with media centre

    Issue's:
    built in audio drivers, terrible audio quality and problems with microphone.
    Webex Client dosen't work

    Besides the webex client, I'm able to perform all my work without any issue's so far!

    It's almost as if Vista was the beta for Windows 7
    anonymous
  • Vista

    Hi Renai,

    Arn't they diplomatic!
    anonymous
  • Apps

    I am very glad that Steam is working for my own selfish reasons :) Have to keep up with my Crysis, Bioshock etc.

    The fact that VPN and VMWare stuff is working would seem to indicate a very high degree of compatibility with Vista apps.

    Renai
    News Editor
    ZDNet.com.au
    anonymous
  • Anon - DRM?

    DRM support is already in Win7. DRM is REQUIRED by American LAW.

    Microsoft, Apple, et all MUST LEGALLY support DRM.

    There are no if's or but's to this or they would be in court with the RIAA suing them for all the money they have.

    DRM does NOTHING to slow down the OS. If you believe otherwise you have obviously have a very weak mind that is swayed by simple anti-DRM marketing.

    READ and COMPREHEND about DRM yourself before just believing everything you read.
    anonymous
  • This explains it...

    Renai, were your Win7 'tests' run within VMWare? If yes, this explains your 'black boxes' for the preview windows.

    VMWare doesn't support the required graphics level to support full Aero.
    anonymous
  • and aren't you out of touch with the real world!

    Believe it or not... with over 15 million Vista licenses being sold PER MONTH, Vista is actually a good selling product for Microsoft.

    WinXP was selling approximately 20 million per month at this point in time of its release as well.
    anonymous
  • Compatibility...

    This "level" of compatibility is mainly due to Microsoft using a version number of 6.1

    Which is just like they did with WinXP which had a version number of 5.1 while Win2k had a version number of 5.0.

    We are also two years into Vista's life, so the hardware manufacturers had finally caught up with the required driver model changes.
    anonymous
  • OBTW...

    The reason Win7 is faster than Vista (and WinXP) on the same hardware is due to a HEAP of work that Microsoft has been doing on all the entirely new sub-systems that were introduced with Vista.

    These updates were REQUIRED to move on from the utterly useless systems in WinXP.

    We've lived with these useless graphics and audio sub-systems, no process security and no protection systems (just to name three) for a horrible nine years... allowing for worms, trojans and viruses to take hold thus requiring anti-virus software that slows everything down.

    Before anyone says anything... NONE of these systems could have been jury-rigged into WinXP. They required major rewriting of numerous areas of the code to support... thus resulting in a new OS... called Vista.
    anonymous
  • VMWare

    I ran Windows 7 both within VMWare and on dedicated Pentium 4 hardware. It had an AGP graphics card.

    Cheers,

    Renai
    News Editor
    ZDNet.com.au
    anonymous
  • VPN client?

    Which version are you running of the Cisco VPN Client? I've been running the Windows 7 beta for a few days, but might have to revert to Vista since I can't get my Cisco client 5.0.03.0560 to work. Whenever I try to connect it gives a reason 440, driver failure error message. Any ideas on how to fix? I need the VPN for work. I can still use my laptop obviously, but prefer to have my desktop.
    anonymous
  • VPN Client

    I am also intrested in the client you are runing. I am unable to to get the client working with build 7000.
    anonymous
  • VPN client

    Does anybody know how to get VPN clcient to work on windows 7 beta?
    Unable to boot to windows 7 (beta) after installing Cisco VPN client.
    anonymous