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Steve -- Windows 7

With the public release of Microsoft's Windows 7, a number of my family and friends has been asking me about the wisdom of upgrading their computers from XP or Vista to Windows 7. Therefore, being somewhat lazy -- or should I say energy efficient -- here are a  few considerations.

The main question -- Do I like Windows 7? Short Answer: No!

To be fair, it's probably because I had spent a considerable amount of time upgrading my old Windows/XP  installation to Vista where I experienced the pain of incompatible device drivers and other such nonsense. And a considerable amount of time tweaking Windows/Vista to enhance my style of working and personal productivity. So, in keeping with the "they like what they know" pattern of human behavior, I do not like any new operating system that forces me out of my comfort zone and reduces, for a relatively small period of time, my personal productivity.

My fundamental objection -- Windows 7 appears to be, at least to me, a Windows/Vista upgrade.

Calling Windows 7 Windows/Vista Second Edition is not too far out of the ball park.

This is not to say Windows 7 does not have enhancements for those who are gamers or use their computer to coordinate their multi-media systems. My basic work suite is pure vanilla: the Microsoft Office Suite, Adobe's Acrobat Professional Suite, SmartDraw and function specific applications which are used to develop, document, test and implement software. I do not play games, do much in the way of multi-media presentations and have no secret wish to emulate Apple's computers. Transparent folders and foo-foo graphics are a waste of my time. I use Acronis backup software and Eset's Anti-virus suite.

Ease of installation?

My first comment is that all on-screen time estimates involving upgrades and clean installations are bogus. They run in Bill Gate's time: something akin to a New York minute.

Second, wherever possible, it is better to backup all of your data files and re-format your disk before doing a clean install of the operating system and your application programs. Transferring your data files, as necessary, to your new installation.

Third, if you are lazy, whoops -- I mean energy efficient -- and want to preserve your program settings, you can do an upgrade- in-place. With Windows 7, there is no easy upgrade-in-place from a Windows/XP installation. However, upgrading-in-place from a Windows/Vista Installation is not too bad.

Fourth, running the system Advisor tool from Microsoft does not appear to give you the truth, the whole truth and nothing but the truth, prior to install. After spending at least fifteen minutes in a live "upgrade-in-place," I found that the actual installation could not continue unless I removed an older driver. Upon investigation, I found that the drivers were associated with Sony's Vaio system. Luckily, the device manufacturer, not Sony, had a Windows 7-compatible driver. After replacing the driver, I was able to continue.

Fifth, some programs like Acronis Backup and Eset interact with Windows 7 in a strange manner. In my case, I implemented a hidden partition to contain Acronis recovery information. After re-partitioning the disk area, Eset's anti-virus would no longer detect my POP3 and HTTP protocols -- even though I still had Internet access and e-mail functionality. The solution was to remove Eset from the system and re-install the anti-virus program.

Suggestions ...

I would carefully consider the feature list before starting. In my case, the worst experience came from finding that I no longer had an e-mail client and needed to download and install Windows LiveMail. The functionality of which is somewhat different and will take sometime for acustomization. Hint: for those looking for the send/receive button in Windows LiveMail, it is now the "sync" button. Also, you want to make sure that this mail program is set as your default in the Windows Default Programs (Custom) so it shows in the right-click context menu in IE8 and other programs.

I often search through user forums to see if anyone else is encountering problems with the new operating system and, in particular, using a similar hardware configuration. 

Before anything else, I would determine whether or not it was worthwhile to upgrade my operating system. If all you want bragging rights for having the latest operating system, I suggest you do an ego-check.

If an upgrade advisor program or checklist exists, use it. In some cases it can greatly affect your decision-making process. In my case, it gave me the go-ahead to upgrade my operating system, but failed to highlight a single problematical driver. 

If you can afford it, and have older hardware, I would consider purchasing a new system with a pre-loaded operating system. This will insure hardware/operating system compatibility and give you a “warrantee service” fallback position.

I would consider a clean install of a new operating system rather than an upgrade-in-place.

I would insure that I had a valid backup of my existing system prior to doing anything. I, personally, do an image backup (to restore the entire disk) and a file backup so I can access each data file if necessary. Even though it takes additional time, I validate the backups and often do a test restore. I use Seagate/Maxtor external hard disks with USB connectivity ae storage devices. I am precluded by legal and federally-mandated confidentiality concerns from storing data on external network servers on which I have no control – even in encrypted form. 

I would run Belarc's Advisor ( http://www.belarc.com/free_download.html) to capture information about my hardware, software and important software keys. This is a great program and well worth the time and effort to install and document your system.

I would decide which programs are necessary for my daily functioning and which programs were trials or remain unused over a period of time. Anything else can be always re-loaded on a case-by-case basis. I try to remove all extraneous programs and temporary files prior to backup. Call me overly cautious, but I also do a disk defragmentation before backups and installs.

I would assemble all of my original program disks and insure that I have current versions supported by my new operating system. Sometimes this means that you will suffer during a long laborious process to download newer patches for your older disks. Other times you can obtain an updated set of disks for minimal cost. Assuming of course you have kept your original invoice and serial numbers/software keys.

If possible, I would have another working computer available in case I need another driver or piece of software to complete my upgrade or installation.

I would select a time and a place to schedule my upgrade knowing that I was not operating under "emergency" conditions and require a working system in a few hours or next day. Much of the stress comes from self-imposed deadlines or unrealistic expectations with regard to the upgrade. Personally, I always allocate at least two days for any upgrade. I also backup all of my working files on a flash drive so I can continue with my daily work if something goes wrong.

Bottom line ...

After using Windows 7 in a production environment, I see no reason to upgrade unless there was a more compelling reasons (productivity, security, etc.). Truth-be-told, most of my interaction is not with the operating system and O/S features but with my application programs. I know the upgrade to Microsoft's Office Suite is coming up and I sure hope that it is not as disruptive  as the change between Office 2003 and 2007 with its display ribbon paradigm.  I still do not use more than 80% of the features which look good on bulleted feature comparison charts, but are more trouble than the are worth.

As a technologist and data processing professional, all of the pain and problems are part of my personal learning curve and can be justified by doing this type of upgrade -- even multiple times. For ordinary users, avoidance of pain is a good plan.

-- steve

 


“Nullius in verba.”-- take nobody's word for it!

“Beware of false knowledge; it is more dangerous than ignorance.”-- George Bernard Shaw

“Progressive, liberal, Socialist, Marxist, Democratic Socialist -- they are all COMMUNISTS.”

“The key to fighting the craziness of the progressives is to hold them responsible for their actions, not their intentions.” – OCS

"The object in life is not to be on the side of the majority, but to escape finding oneself in the ranks of the insane." -- Marcus Aurelius

“A people that elect corrupt politicians, imposters, thieves, and traitors are not victims... but accomplices” -- George Orwell

“Fere libenter homines id quod volunt credunt." (The people gladly believe what they wish to.) ~Julius Caesar

“Describing the problem is quite different from knowing the solution. Except in politics." ~ OCS


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