Polished Windows – My Windows 7 Experience

Windows 7 Professional

Though I would normally shun he (or she) who would buy an operating system on launch day, a week ago I bought, downloaded, and installed the newest version of Microsoft’s OS, Windows 7.  It’s nice to have a modern OS on my recently assembled machine, and though the transition from XP was a bit jarring in some respects, any unexpected problems have been minimal so far.  Overall, I’m glad I made the switch.

Of course, I went into this only after reading a lot about the upcoming OS, and playing around with the beta version for a while.  Despite its many criticisms, Vista represented a big leap forward in terms of the underlying systems of Windows, and a lot of growing pains for the platform were felt upon its release.  Most of the issues that plagued Vista in its early days have been resolved however, and this makes for a far more comfortable Windows 7 experience.

Here’s a quick run-down of how the (mostly painless) upgrade process went for me, from my old rig turning into a massive paper weight to the re-birth of Windows on my new machine.

If you completed the homework assignment, you’ve already read about my old computer breaking down, and my quest for parts to rebuild a new one.  Gold star for you.  If not, you can read about it here – there’s no use in going into that much detail about it again.

Once the new computer was built, I put a minimal amount of games on it, but held off on installing a massive amount of other software.  My reasoning for this was twofold – first, I would save myself a great deal of time backing up data for the WIndows 7 install, which was only a month away, as well, I would be avoiding any licensing problems that would arise from too many installations of protected software.  This happened anyway, but I’ll get into that later.

After a month of having only two major games on my computer, Team Fortress 2 and World of Warcraft, Windows 7 launch day finally came.  I failed to find a copy of Win 7 Professional in stores (Best Buy only had upgrade copies, and Office Max / Office Depot had nothing but Vista), so when I got home from work I jumped onto Microsoft’s online store and bought a digital copy directly.  Since Win 7 Pro comes with both 32-bit and 64-bit versions, I was given the option to download either.  I chose the 64-bit version, and started the 2.3Gb download.  It took about two and a half hours to finish.

I burned the ISO file to a DVD and dropped the stuff I wanted to save onto one of the other hard drives in the machine, and then I restarted the computer and began the install.

Having so recently done an XP install, I am happy to report that Windows 7’s install process is much more streamlined, and possibly even faster (I didn’t time it, but it seemed to take about 20-25 minutes).  Win 7’s disk partitioning and pre-install setup is now done in a much more modern environment, with mouse support and a slick GUI.  It asks only a minimal amount of questions, and lets you set up the details later on once the install is finished.  I was impressed by the speed and simplicity of the whole thing, especially compared to the old XP installer.  Ars Technica actually has a great 15-page review of Windows 7 up, including an good portion on the new installer.

Once 7 installed, the system restarted one last time, and before long I was staring at a shiny new OS, all ready for my antics and exploits.  Not too much had to be tweaked for the system to be the way I like it, either.  UAC is relaxed in Win 7, so the interruptions aren’t as annoying.  The OS also seemed to find drivers for just about everything in the system, save for the GPU.  That was really the only piece of system software I’ve had to install so far.

The only trouble I’ve really had with Windows 7 so far rests on the software side of things.  On the first install of my Adobe software, something happened (I think I left the system waiting for the next disc for too long at some point) and the installation failed.  All the programs seemed to install fine, but their licensing software was broken, so I had to re-install them.  Then I had to call up the Adobe licensing support line because I’d already used my alloted two installs, and wasn’t able to de-activate my old computer’s software before it died.

Aside from that, and a couple of times where a program crashed or froze, I’ve had no problems.  Some of these issues may stem from the fact that I am running mostly 32-bit applications / games on a 64-bit OS, so I’ve expected a few hiccups.

Overall however, things have been great.  I’m finally able to use more than 4gb of RAM (I’ve got 6gb of RAM in triple channel mode now), and most everything seems to run solid.  The improvements to the taskbar have taken me a lot less time to adjust to than I thought they would, and I actually feel like the new features, like Aero Peek, have helped me be more productive with my machine.

I’ll probably have more to report as my extensive collection of games and software trickles onto the new computer, and I start using it for other multimedia purposes – but for now you can consider me impressed.

And of course, glad that I don’t feel like a sap for being a day one adopter.

15 comments:

  1. T-Bird - Over a year ago

    I plan on waiting 6months-1year to upgrade. Unless of course I buy the laptop I’ve been eyeballing for some time, that will probably come with 7 standard.

    I’m glad to hear everything went so smoothly on the upgrade.

    I think vista will go down in history much like President Hoover did. Among his contemporaries he was hated and blamed for the great depression. However hind sight tells us that he actually was a good man in the wrong place at the wrong time. He didn’t cause the depression, and there wasn’t much he could have done to fix it.

    Likewise, Vista, while taking slag for being so problematic was a necessary step. It was what the hardware and software developers had been waiting for. It unleashed several boundaries that traditional OS’s had them tied to. Granted, it took some time for manufacturers and developers to catch up, but without Vista it never would have happened.

    Had there been no Vista, and had MS just released 7 (though i guess it would be 6 if there was no vista), then 7 would currently be plagued with all the problems Vista had at it’s inception.

    I think MS played their cards pretty well, putting out Vista to start allowing for the new hardware/software, knowing it wouldn’t be received extremely well, all to pave the road for Win 7.

    A big ugly steamroller has to go down the road and smooth it out before a Bentley can cruise on by.

    1. Martin - Over a year ago

      Yeah, I agree T-Bird. They actually addressed this issue very well in that review I referenced from Ars Technica.

      Windows Vista was one of those growing pains experienced whenever an old but important piece of software needs a major modern upgrade. A lot of the foundation of the platform had grown long in the tooth, and things needed to be changed significantly in order to make use of modern hardware, and modern programming techniques. Windows Vista ended up being that stepping stone from old to new. It will happen again someday, and it will happen with just about every major OS out there, if they are to survive going forward.

      It’s a shame that there was so much fanfare surrounding the launch of Windows Vista to begin with; people were excited, there were lines outside of stores, and many people were initially very happy about being the first to get the new OS. Even though it seems counter-productive, I think Microsoft should have down-played the significance of Vista from the start. As well, they should have created some sort of incentive program for manufacturers to port over their legacy drivers, or something to get them to jump on-board at the beginning.

      I’d probably be in the same boat with you, waiting 6-12 months for the upgrade, if I hadn’t just recently gotten all the new hardware. But then, I spent some time with the Windows 7 beta (on my old college computer, even), and it ran so well I figured it wouldn’t be as painful an upgrade as previous releases have been. And so far, so good.

    2. T-Bird - Over a year ago

      Actually, from a business standpoint, the fanfare around Vista was good.

      There are thousands of people “stuck” with Vista because they upgraded and are unable to go back to XP, or because they bought a new prebuilt machine and had no choice. So now windows had a nice hook.

      Though a little backhanded, it was well played.

      Put out an ugly OS that allows technology to advance, and get everyone into it. Then put out a nice smooth OS that everyone will clamor to upgrade to.

      Lots of money and an advance in technological limits. They win it all.

    3. Martin - Over a year ago

      That’s true, they did indeed come out looking pretty good on this so far. I wonder though, if they could have figured out a way to market it as the evolution of the platform, but without making a big deal about it at launch. I can’t see any real way they could have done this, but it might have saved them from some embarrassment at the hands of Apple’s marketing team.

      It’s funny how Apple keeps running the negative ads though, especially in the face of a mostly positive reception of Windows 7, something which Vista did not really have. The net result is that they end up looking petty, quibbling, and just flat-out wrong.

      But anyway, I agree, and as I said above, I think that Vista was definitely a necessary speed bump in the evolution of the Windows platform.

  2. Yourself - Over a year ago

    You need to get Borderlands.

    Now.

    1. Martin - Over a year ago

      Yeah, I know. I’ve been on the verge of buying it for a week or so now, but I keep changing my mind about which version I want to get (PC or 360).

      Normally I’m a zealot about getting good FPS games on PC, since nothing can beat a mouse / keyboard combo, but a friend of mine who has also been bugging me about getting it on PC recently told me the game is crashing all the time on the line of GPU’s we have (we’ve got the same GPU). After my horrible experience with Oblivion, I’m not sure if I’m ready to drop $50 on a PC game and then not be able to play it.

      I am confident that Gearbox will come through with a patch, though, so I might just have to ignore my 360 brethren and pick up the PC version. Everything I’ve heard about it has been positive, and being a loot whore myself, I have a hard time passing up games like this.

    2. Yourself - Over a year ago

      In the time I’ve been playing it I think it crashed once. Other than that it’s been perfectly fine. I’m running a GeForce 9600 GT or something. It’s in the 9x series, anyway.

      Anyway, just to give you some negatives, my main gripe about the game is the fact that it was made for a console shines through everything. The whole interface, the voice chat, everything is designed for use on a console and that can get cumbersome and annoying. Besides that, though, the game is great.

    3. Martin - Over a year ago

      Yeah, that’s one of the unfortunate side effects of such a strong console industry, with lots of cross-over between games – PC games end up getting clunky, too-large UI elements. Devs have gotten better at fixing this over the years, but I guess the problem still crops up now and then. It won’t stop me from enjoying a good game though.

      Also, Joystiq reported on the problems people with ATI GPU’s have been having with Borderlands today: http://www.joystiq.com/2009/11/03/borderlands-glitch-watch-2009-radeon-powered-pc-crashes/

      I’m kinda glad I didn’t snap the game up for 360 yet though, seeing as there is some sort of glitch in the game that wipes out your characters. Hopefully Gearbox can get this stuff straightened out soon!

  3. SunnyKatt - Over a year ago

    I really like 7 too. Like you, I stayed away from vista and stuck with XP, but I got the RC for 7 and fell in love with it – no problems at all. I plan on getting the full version later when I can spare more money. Glad to hear it went well for you!

    1. Martin - Over a year ago

      Well hopefully the upgrade goes as well for you too, when you get it. By that time, it’ll hopefully be an even better value once third party devs have gotten more support into their programs, for jump lists, taskbar progress indicators, etc.

  4. CoreyAre - Over a year ago

    Hmmm, I’ve seen this someplace before?

    Oh thats right, Mac OS X has been doing this for ages *sigh* At-least it’s good to see MS catching up what them apples and penguins have been doing for years already…Its just aggravating that MS has to live in apples shadow just for anything progressive to happen with their OS.

    But thats just me…

    Upon playing with it I was BLOWN AWAY, the installer has been modernized and no longer has that stupid blue screen text based thingus formatting took a split second, and installed the os much faster than XP. The taskbar, although a total rip of the dock, is much better and what should have been implemented in the first place. It SUCKS, as I couldn’t come across solitaire anywhere, but it was all good as a vista copy of it was handy. MS paint has been given a significant facelift. The ribbon interface on their applications drive me crazy. but once again vista copies are handy.

    Windows 7 really showcases how much Microsoft progressed in several years, but its still fundamentally Windows 95 covered in gloss and pretty colors. Once again thats just me…. So until someone turns the tables on our computer industry, im going to stick with Snow Leopard, while running Windows 7 on VMware.

    Hope the lucky seven experience is going smooth for you, and that all computing goes well.

    1. Martin - Over a year ago

      Can’t say that I agree with you Corey. Underneath the glossy UI of both operating systems, there’s really not much difference. I don’t think either company was ever playing catch-up; I think they both are constantly borrowing ideas from each other, and from other OS’s, like Ubuntu.

      Windows 7 is not Windows 95 with new drapes. Windows XP brought a lot of good changes to the platform’s foundation (changes that made the NT line so much more stable than 95 / 98), and Vista made the technology jump by changing a lot more stuff under the hood to better take advantage of newer technology (that’s why all the drivers needed a refresh). Vista also brought around a lot of changes to the way the system handles video, which helped pave the way for the more shiny and smooth UI.

      I us OS X at work every day, and for everything Apple has done to make their OS nice, there are only one or two things in OS X that I really wish Windows had. Other than that, I’ll take a Windows platform over OS X any day; I’ve had far fewer system crashes on my XP and Win 7 box over the years, I’ve got access to thousands more games and apps on Windows, and building my own computer has always been a far better deal than dropping $3-4,000 on an Apple machine.

  5. CoreyAre - Over a year ago

    I cant say I agree or disagree, as i am ignorant as to the underpinnings of these two operating systems and weather those underpinnings make them inferior, superior, or not much different. However, I disagree in the sense of borrowing ideas, since it would appear that MS borrowed quite a bit of ideas, like the dock, dashboard, expose, finder setup, spotlight, what ever Jump lists are called in Mac OS X, sticky notes, the fancy 3d chess game (although I never play it). Theres likely more, but also lets be fair in the sense that Apple has ripped off the trash bin, prop+tab, and the multiple desktops (spaces) from Windows and Linux. Once again theres likely more, but I these are the only ones I can think of right off the top of my head.

    Yes I agree that Microsoft has done some improvements under the hood, but what I mean is upon turning off all the fancy UI stuff and turning on classic mode, you would see nothing but mere re arrangements on the task bar and start menu. Wordpad has been included in windows since 1.0, it was originally called write, if I remember right lol. But in Windows 7 its been giving nothing more than a prettier paint job with the oh so useful ribbon interface. But like ive said thats just me griping.

    The reason why Vista was such a headache at first is because Microsoft had to compete with Apple on a feature to feature basis and was rushing to relase Vista as tiger was serving quite a feat in terms of features. This pissed many users off as it was choppy and slow, even unstable. Many users were found going back to XP, big businesses refused to upgrade. So this was a drastic blow to MS’s reputation, so they had to get off their rear ends (I dunno your rules on cursing) and release some service packs, to get it up to par with OS X. But once again another blow from apple with Leopard, so Microsoft was once again forced to develop a new OS called Windows 7, Apple jumped on this bandwagon with Snow Leopard. What im getting at is Microsoft is going to have to compete with Apple on a feature to feature basis, and historically speaking they were never too thrilled about spending a lot, as not much major progression occurred until XP, Vista and 7, this is sure going to cost them far more money, and time. Their hardware partners too! Mac fanboys would always boast about how their macs this and that, common boastings were backlight keyboards, chiclet keys (not sure the term), multi touch, and others, but notice how some of these pc laptops now come standard with these? Ditto with workstations, Im not sure which model it was, but HP designed a workstation similar to the mac pro, boasting cordless hard drive and ram bays. Hp also designed a laptop with similar build specifications to Apples unibody lineup of Macbook Pros. Only other series of computers I haven’t really seen much interest of other OEMS is All-in-ones and miniature computers like the Imac and Mac Mini.

    I would assume you would, as you’re a graphic designer (correct me if im wrong dearest apologies if I am), but so far I haven’t had a single system crash while using Mac OS X Leopard and Snow Leopard, whilst on the Windows side of things I have, given that it was using XP on 2004 custom PC. However my junky dell I dug out of the trash runs Windows 2000 pro with ease. In terms of software, the only applications that I still need Windows to use would be Game Maker, Anvil Studio, and 3ds Max. However I have my own dislikes about 3ds. Garageband covers it for me, and until someone can either find that resigned developer and paddle him for leaving, or find someone awesome to develop the Game Maker for mac development team, I still must use Windows just for that. In terms of games, crossover, VMware, and Boot Camp are the options available. Personally, i don’t play hard core games that much, and prefer cheaply old school games.

    Well Martin, yes building your own computer is lots of fun, and can save you money in areas where OEM machines cannot, however most computer users don’t have the time and patience to learn this, I did since I drowned in free time as a kid. But I was bombarded with instability, as my hardware was apparent junk even though I spent $1200 on this pig back in 04.

    Plus I spent about $1200 on this laptop, and the only gripe it has given me is corn chip bits in the fan…Compressed air does the trick.

    Phew, I ramble wayyyyy to much….I should write a story. theres likely mess ups in my text, but my wrists are on fire…

    Oh and always turn your screws counter clockwise until they click into the threads, several times I cross threaded my old floppy drives when i used to have a massive collection of puters.

    1. Martin - Over a year ago

      I actually don’t think it’s fair to say that Windows ripped off the Dock, because Windows’ Taskbar still operates mostly the same as it did before, just with larger shortcuts and less distinction between open and closed programs.

      The Dock is really one of the things I just don’t like from OS X anyway – it’s clunky, performs badly at times, and when you’ve got a lot of things open, it’s just as bad, or worse, than the Taskbar in terms of helping you find the document you want to look at. In Snow Leopard, this problem can cripple the Expose as well; when a lot of items are minimized, there is noticeable lag between invoking the Expose, and seeing it happen. The Expose is one of my favorite things from OS X, but this kills it for me.

      I think you’ve got the story for Vista and 7 wrong, though. When XP came out, it had the same major problems that Vista would have later – poor driver support and slow on older machines. It’s kind of par for the course as far as new versions of Windows are put out. Microsoft implements new features that take advantage of the evolving technology of computers, but since they have little control over the machines people put the OS on, a lot of people try to run it on older computers, and then they get lots of complaints about it.

      Businesses typically don’t install new versions of operating systems until a year or two after they’ve been out, in order to give the manufacturers time to fix bugs, and for drivers to be released. This wasn’t a fault of XP or Vista – it’s just standard business procedure. My work is the same way with OS X – we only recently upgraded to Snow Leopard on our work machines, and our server has yet to be upgraded.

      Vista was a bigger bump in the road for a few more reasons than that, however. The foundation that previous versions of Windows had been built upon needed a major overhaul in order to better take advantage of newer hardware. Vista was the version of Windows that introduced these big (and needed) changes, and predictably, people had problems. I’m not sure if they had many more problems with Vista than XP, but the internet had evolved into a viral media tool a lot since Xp’s debut, and companies like Apple took advantage of that (they ran a full page ad on CNet’s Windows Vista upgrade page, complete with the Mac and PC guy).

      The movement to Vista is similar to OS X’s move to Intel machines, or even the changes between OS 9 and OS X. Much of the old software wouldn’t work, and the transition ofr some users was rough.

      I don’t know if it’s fair to call Vista a complete failure at this point, because it did do its job and act as a stepping stone for a more modern Windows platform. I definitely wouldn’t say it was living in OS X’s shadow though, and I wouldn’t say that Microsoft felt much pressure from Apple with regards to either Vista or 7’s release (save for maybe price points on Windows 7 upgrades).

      Most Windows problems I’ve encountered over my years as the unofficial tech guy for my family’s and friends’ computers is that Windows usually doesn’t break by itself. When you get lots of crashes or freezes, it’s usually because you’ve put some bad software on the computer, intentionally or not. If more people practiced safe web browsing habits, and used browsers other than IE, the perception that Windows crashes a lot would be nonexistent.

      It’s a a pretty complicated thing, this Windows / Apple / everything else world. I won’t say that I completely dislike Apple’s computers, because I don’t – but I have to admit that even though I could afford one, the price scares me off, largely because I can build a computer for much less. And I know it’s trendy to say it, but I also just don’t like the air around Mac users. I don’t like the elitism. Not all Apple users are like that, but many of them are, and for that, I’m better off without them. I’d rather play around building a Hackintosh anyway, hehe.

  6. CoreyAre - Over a year ago

    Well since Windows 7 taskbar consists of pinning common applications much like the dock is my reason for claiming that its a rip.

    I dont see how its clunky, as I have never had performance issues before. The expose lag usually is only a split second as its rendering windows, and it doesnt lag after that.

    My reason for saying that is these features came about already in Mac OS X. Since Microsoft and Apple are competitors, and MS from my experience really didnt make any progress in terms of features, until vista and 7, they and their PC partners are going to have to compete with apple on a feature to feature basis.

    Well Boeing company still uses XP at leat here…are you sure about that?

    Ewwww, Dont get me started on those Mac ad’s, but once again with the features and competing like I said before.

    OS X sucked at first, as It wasnt until I think Panther or Puma when it started not to suck. Apple offered backwards compatibility with an emulator, and then dropped support, somewhat similar to the Win16 subsystem.

    I feel that MS is feelig the heat as they are apples competition and will have to keep up until apple throws a rod, or some crazy activist turns the tables on our computer industry. Someones brewing something up right now, and its in montebello California. but vista wasn’t entirely a failure.

    I agree but computer users are just plain ignorant, as I have a similar position in my social life. but I believe a user should be able to go clicky clicky with out worries, as I do this intentionally to try and obtain a virus on my mac. with no luck yet. but yes tossing IE aside and using firefox,while having AVG installed. But since users aren’t so smart, it should be up to the software makers to develop an OS thats robust enough so users don’t blow their computers up. should only have to worry about dust, hard drives, batteries, old useless files, oiling greasing, and dirt grease and grime buildup. I too would toss safari aside as its a bloated browser, but other browsers don’t recognize the three finger gesture to go back and forward.

    Well martin, elitism’s everywhere, next time some mactard gives you gripe about a PC laptop you’re using, and he’s using one of them unibody machines. Tell him/her “my buddy dented his by picking it up”

    Just keep your mouth shut bout your hackintosh. As we do have snitches in society too, hehe!

    Sorry for the choppy text, my response was lost thanks to my wonderful internet connection.

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