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Windows 7 in the real world

Take nine PCs and one Mac. Add Windows 7. Shake well for three months. What do you get? A well-seasoned sampler of how Windows 7 will fare when it reaches the consumer market next week.
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For a desktop PC that was built nearly two years ago, this Dell XPS 420 desktop PC earns impressive scores on the new Windows Experience Index, which maxes out at 7.9.
For the full story, read my companion post: Windows 7 in the real world: 10 PCs under the microscope
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The Reliability Monitor, shown here, captures even the most minor flaws and incorporates them into an overall reliability score. In this case, each "critical event" was a momentary glitch in a browser tab or in the video driver that repaired itself in less than a second. The big drop in the stability index doesn't reflect its real-world performance.
For the full story, read my companion post: Windows 7 in the real world: 10 PCs under the microscope
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Every one of these problem reports gets delivered (with your consent) to Microsoft, which forwards aggregated reports back to hardware makers and software developers to help them improve their products.
For the full story, read my companion post: Windows 7 in the real world: 10 PCs under the microscope
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Sorting this list of problem reports by source makes it possible to zero in on apps or devices that are particularly troublesome. Note the button at the bottom of the window, where you can clear all reports and start with a clean slate.
For the full story, read my companion post: Windows 7 in the real world: 10 PCs under the microscope
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If you right-click a problem report and choose Technical Details, you can see a display of additional information like this one. Mostly, this level of debugging detail is of use to developers only, but in some cases it might pinpoint a browser add-in or a plug-in that is the source of problems.
For the full story, read my companion post: Windows 7 in the real world: 10 PCs under the microscope
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This small-form-factor Dell Studio Hybrid desktop takes up very little space, and with some well-placed cord ties and wireless keyboard/mouse combo it makes for a neat package.
For the full story, read my companion post: Windows 7 in the real world: 10 PCs under the microscope
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7 of 44 Ed Bott/ZDNet
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The original plan for this machine was to use it as a living room Media Center box, complete with built-in Blu-ray drive. But the underpowered Intel graphics made that plan a non-starter. As a desktop PC driving a single flat-screen monitor, its performance is more than adequate.
For the full story, read my companion post: Windows 7 in the real world: 10 PCs under the microscope
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8 of 44 Ed Bott/ZDNet
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This system was upgraded from Windows Vista to Windows 7 (note the January 2009 installation dates on the Dell system software). The upgrade process worked with no problems.
For the full story, read my companion post: Windows 7 in the real world: 10 PCs under the microscope
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If you try to play a Blu-ray disk on this machine, this error message is what you get. The problem is the generic Microsoft-supplied video driver, which doesn't support HDCP. Updating the video driver to the latest Intel release solves this problem.
For the full story, read my companion post: Windows 7 in the real world: 10 PCs under the microscope
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That string of red X's on the left represents performance problems tied to a bad storage driver. Replacing that driver made those problems vanish almost completely. (The "critical event" shown here was a regional power failure.)
For the full story, read my companion post: Windows 7 in the real world: 10 PCs under the microscope
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This event in the Action Center documents a successful driver update. Monitoring events after this replacement can help determine whether changing the driver made the system more stable.
For the full story, read my companion post: Windows 7 in the real world: 10 PCs under the microscope
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The daily reports in this view make it clear that the updated SATA driver made a big difference in overall system stability. Over more than two weeks, only a single incident marred this system's otherwise perfect record.
For the full story, read my companion post: Windows 7 in the real world: 10 PCs under the microscope
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This Lenovo notebook, supplied as a loaner by Microsoft at last year's PDC, comes complete with a Vista Basic sticker. It has since been returned to Microsoft.
For the full story, read my companion post: Windows 7 in the real world: 10 PCs under the microscope
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The high hard disk score indicates that this notebook includes a very fast, quiet solid-state drive. The low, low graphics scores reflect its last-generation Intel onboard graphics.
For the full story, read my companion post: Windows 7 in the real world: 10 PCs under the microscope
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This detailed report from the Windows System Assessment Tool explains why the graphics scores are so low for this machine: the onboard graphics has no memory of its own and has to share system memory instead.
For the full story, read my companion post: Windows 7 in the real world: 10 PCs under the microscope
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If you were making decisions based solely on numbers, you wouldn't choose this Sony VAIO. But in the real world, its performance is more than acceptable. At just over two pounds with typical battery life in the 8-hour range, it's a great traveling companion.
For the full story, read my companion post: Windows 7 in the real world: 10 PCs under the microscope
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This tiny business-class Sony notebook incorporates a Trusted Platform Module (TPM) chip; used with Windows 7 Ultimate, I've turned on BitLocker encryption. If it's stolen, any sensitive data is completely inaccessible to a thief.
For the full story, read my companion post: Windows 7 in the real world: 10 PCs under the microscope
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While setting this machine up, I mistakenly installed the wrong driver for the built-in touchpad. That caused a slew of ugly crashes (including some blue-screen errors) that stopped after I replaced the faulty driver with the right one.
For the full story, read my companion post: Windows 7 in the real world: 10 PCs under the microscope
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Here's the system information and Windows Experience scores for a Dell Latitude XT. Although it uses the same CPU as the Sony VAIO, it includes a dedicated ATI Radeon processor. That makes its performance on graphics tests much better, and the numbers are borne out by real-world experience.
For the full story, read my companion post: Windows 7 in the real world: 10 PCs under the microscope
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The Dell Latitude XT is one only a handful of current devices that support multi-touch input. The drivers on this system are supplied by N-Trig and haven't yet been updated for the final release of Windows 7.
For the full story, read my companion post: Windows 7 in the real world: 10 PCs under the microscope
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21 of 44 Ed Bott/ZDNet
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Windows Update supplies drivers for the UPEK fingerprint readers that are included on three of the four notebooks I tested. The basic software allows you to map login credentials to fingerprint scans.
For the full story, read my companion post: Windows 7 in the real world: 10 PCs under the microscope
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This graph from the Reliability Monitor suggests that the system in question had a bad few days. But that precipitous three-day period at the beginning of the month reflected only a few random web pages that failed to load.
For the full story, read my companion post: Windows 7 in the real world: 10 PCs under the microscope
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This Dell notebook is less than a month old and has a full complement of up-to-date components. The homogeneous ratings suggest a system whose parts are all well matched.
For the full story, read my companion post: Windows 7 in the real world: 10 PCs under the microscope
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See that message under the Critical Events heading? That's a Stop error (Blue Screen of Death). Conveniently, Dell released a BIOS update and a full slate of Windows 7 drivers for this system the same day. Problem solved.
For the full story, read my companion post: Windows 7 in the real world: 10 PCs under the microscope
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Expanding the display of details from this error reveals the full story. A 0x0000009F code means a driver failed during a sleep or resume operation.
For the full story, read my companion post: Windows 7 in the real world: 10 PCs under the microscope
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Sorting the list of installed programs by date allows those most recently installed to percolate to the top of the list .
For the full story, read my companion post: Windows 7 in the real world: 10 PCs under the microscope
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The hybrid graphics subsystem in this system offers the best of both worlds: power-sipping integrated graphics for running on battery power, a discrete GPU for high performance when running on AC power.
For the full story, read my companion post: Windows 7 in the real world: 10 PCs under the microscope
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This HP Pavilion Elite m9300t ran Windows Vista for more than a year before being upgraded to Windows 7. Note that this system is running a 32-bit edition of Windows 7.
For the full story, read my companion post: Windows 7 in the real world: 10 PCs under the microscope
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The top two entries on this chart tell a complete story. The critical error is a stop error tied to the disk subsystem. The driver I installed less than a half-hour later was specifically prescribed to resolve this issue.
For the full story, read my companion post: Windows 7 in the real world: 10 PCs under the microscope
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The trouble report in Action Center (top) provides crucial details that previously were only available by scrolling through thousands of entries in Event Viewer.
For the full story, read my companion post: Windows 7 in the real world: 10 PCs under the microscope
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The original storage driver installed on this system was dated November 2008, days after the first Windows 7 beta was released. The most recent version is only a few months old.
For the full story, read my companion post: Windows 7 in the real world: 10 PCs under the microscope
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This Media Center PC includes multiple TV tuners: two CableCARD devices (under the network heading), a hybrid device (under display adapters) and high-definition digital tuners (under the sound, video, and game controllers heading).
For the full story, read my companion post: Windows 7 in the real world: 10 PCs under the microscope
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This is the oldest of my 10 Windows 7 systems, purchased the same month as Windows Vista was released. Its test results are surprisingly robust, given its age.
For the full story, read my companion post: Windows 7 in the real world: 10 PCs under the microscope
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This backup Media Center, with a CableCARD tuner and two digital tuners, has been a rock-solid performer.
For the full story, read my companion post: Windows 7 in the real world: 10 PCs under the microscope
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This Media Center setup has two drives: a small, fast system drive and a large (1.5TB) drive devoted to storing recorded TV programs.
For the full story, read my companion post: Windows 7 in the real world: 10 PCs under the microscope
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This music library, consisting of nearly 200 GB of files, is actually stored on a Windows Home Server machine.
For the full story, read my companion post: Windows 7 in the real world: 10 PCs under the microscope
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HP doesn't normally make machines that are easy to upgrade. This small-form-factor machine is
For the full story, read my companion post: Windows 7 in the real world: 10 PCs under the microscope
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Despite its small form factor, this machine has as much hardware as a full size system. That includes a quad-core CPU, a full-strength GPU, and 4 GB of RAM. This system was upgraded from a 32-bit Windows Vista system.
For the full story, read my companion post: Windows 7 in the real world: 10 PCs under the microscope
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This system is connected to a large-screen HDTV, which means it's difficult to read some items from the sofa. To make things easier, I've bumped the font sizes up to 150% of normal size.
For the full story, read my companion post: Windows 7 in the real world: 10 PCs under the microscope
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By default, the Windows desktop expands beyond the edges of an HDTV screen. To make it usable, use this utility, included with the Nvidia video driver.
For the full story, read my companion post: Windows 7 in the real world: 10 PCs under the microscope
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This is a 2009 Mac Mini, powered by a dual-core Intel CPU and fully capable of running Windows 7 alongside Snow Leopard. Consider this the obligatory unboxing shot.
For the full story, read my companion post: Windows 7 in the real world: 10 PCs under the microscope
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The lineup of components in this system earns respectable scores from the Windows System Assessment Tool. The biggest change over the previous edition of this machine is its much-improved graphics scores (up from a pair of 3.3s), courtesy of an Nvidia 9400 GPU.
For the full story, read my companion post: Windows 7 in the real world: 10 PCs under the microscope
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Installing Windows 7 alongside OS X requires setting up Boot Camp first. It took longer than I expected, including one false step. But after completing setup, everything in Windows worked perfectly.
For the full story, read my companion post: Windows 7 in the real world: 10 PCs under the microscope
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Here's a sight you don't see every day. On a Mac with Boot Camp installed, the Macintosh volume appears in Windows Explorer, where you can open, edit, and save data files. Tampering with system files, however, is not recommended.
For the full story, read my companion post: Windows 7 in the real world: 10 PCs under the microscope

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