Thursday, November 26, 2009

Windows 7: Upgrade or not?

More on Windows 7 *** UPDATED 08/12/2009 ***

Due to people constantly asking me the same questions about Windows 7 I've decided to put all the answers in a single blog. Windows 7 is faster both in Windows starting up and running than either XP or Vista. (In various tests, Vista actually came in last on some of them). Windows 7 is easier to use than both XP and Vista and has a polished confident feel to it. It is without doubt Microsoft's best tested and prepared Windows to date. In my opinion, the usual advice to wait until Service Pack 1 in order to upgrade doesn’t apply here. (See further explanation below).

1. Will your computer run under Windows 7? As a general rule, if you bought your computer less than 3 years ago (new) and you have at least 1 Gb RAM (preferably 2 Gb RAM) then Windows 7 should run on it. Having said this, there might be older legacy PCI cards or other pieces of hardware connected to your computer that might not work. It's safe to say that if it worked under Vista then it will work under Windows 7. There is however no guarantee that anything that ran perfectly under Windows XP will work under Windows 7.

2. What about my installed applications and device drivers? Again anything that works on Vista will work on Windows 7. For XP users, every application will have to be checked for a new Windows 7 version. All the device drivers will almost definitely have to be changed during the upgrade. Note to XP users: If all this checking and changing drivers business scares you then stop worrying. Microsoft have produced an automatic checker that gives you a complete report on your hardware, applications and drivers. Microsoft Windows 7 Upgrade Adviser can be downloaded here:
Download, install and run this program. It tells you exactly what applications need to be upgraded and even links to where to find the new versions. It also tells you which of your devices have Windows 7 drivers available and which do not. This will give you the information you need to decide whether to do the upgrade. It's a good idea for Vista users to run the Microsoft Upgrade Adviser as well just to double check for any issues. Before running the adviser, connect all your devices such as cameras, printers scanners etc so that it can check these. If you have insufficient USB sockets to connect all your devices in one go then run the adviser more than once.

Backup all data beforehand.

Note that if you are upgrading from Windows XP then you will have to do a clean install. That is, your drive C will be wiped clean. This means that you must backup all your personal data and installation files onto another drive or partition beforehand. If you are doing a Windows 7 upgrade from Vista then all your data should be left in tact. I strongly advice you in any case to do a backup before the upgrade, just to be on the safe side. The best option is to keep your backup data off your computer entirely by purchasing an external hard drive. A 1 TB (that's 1,000 Gb) external USB 3.5" desktop hard drive by Seagate (around NIS 450) or Western Digital (around NIS 550) will be perfect for most users. Note that these devices need to be plugged in to an eclectic outlet and to your computer via a free USB socket. A more expensive option is a 2.5" portable USB drive. I highly recommend the Western Digital My Passport disk. This little beauty is small enough to slip into your pocket and only needs a single USB connection to your computer to operate. They come in 320 Gb (around NIS 400), 500 Gb (around NIS 500), or 750 Gb (around NIS 800). A 1 TB version is on the way. As I said, they are more expensive than the desktop equivalent but give you a lot more flexibility.
Windows recognises these USB drives and installs the drivers automatically. The drive apears in Windows Explorer (My Computer) as a new hard drive. It's very simple. Note: When removing the drive, please do not just pull the plug. Doing this may corrupt the data or even damage the drive. Please use the unmount option in the taskbar tray (by the clock) to unmount. Before doing this, close all Windows Explorer windows. Windows XP sometimes has problems dismounting these drives. That's one of the improvments with Windows 7.
Which Windows 7 edition should I purchase?

First off please ask the dealer for the English Edition. Living in Israel where the default language is Hebrew, if you do not specify you will receive the Hebrew language version. I was speaking to someone last night who was telling me that he bought Windows 7 Hebrew in error and when he went back to the shop to exchange it for the English Edition they told him that the English edition did not exist in Israel. This is total nonsense. It could be that THEY don't sell it but there are plenty of places in Israel that do. When I say Hebrew Edition, I am referring to the interface or display that will be entirely in Hebrew. Windows 7 English Edition will still be able to view and write documents in Hebrew and receive all Windows updates if you set the region to Israel/ Hebrew. (Please see my last post on Windows 7 for more details).
Which Edition? Starter, Basic, Home Premium, Professional, Enterprise or Ultimate?

(Pause for breath here) . Microsoft do not do themselves any favours by advertising so many different editions when 90% of people will actually only purchase one of two options. It just confuses people. Do not touch Starter or Basic editions with a barge poll. They are too limited for even the average user. (Only an option for tiny notepads with limited resources). As a home / small office user, you are talking about a choice between only two editions: Windows 7 Home Premium and Ultimate Edition. Generally speaking, if you are regular home user then Home Premium will be perfect for you. If you run a small office or are an IT professional or student then go for the Ultimate Edition. Also if you wish to run Windows 7 in English but have children who prefer the Hebrew interface then Windows 7 Ultimate Edition gives you the option of installing multiple language interfaces which can be defined (as far as I know) per account. (I've never actually tried it). If anybody offers you an Enterprise Edition on the cheap (nudge nudge wink wink, it fell off of the back of a lorry) please do not touch it. I'm not just talking about moral issues of software piracy. The Enterprise Edition is exactly the same as the Ultimate edition but with the home / Entertainment stuff disabled. It will also be registered to a specific organisation. Even if the installation passes the initial activation procedure, upon your next scheduled Windows updates, Microsoft will check your version and determine if it's conceivable that your computer is part of the organisation the product is registered to. If it has any doubts at all, Microsoft will then plague your screen with popup warning messages and block all further updates. YOU HAVE BEEN WARNED!

32 bit or 64 bit editions?

If your machine is less than two years old (new) then you probably have a 64 bit compatible CPU chip. In that case you should go for the 64bit option. The Windows 7 Upgrade Adviser will inform you whether your computer is suitable or not. Else, for older or cheaper machines, go for the 32 bit edition.

What's the difference between the OEM, VUP and Retail Editions?

OEM stands for "Original Equipment Manufacturer". In theory this means that you are only allowed to purchase this edition at a special reduced rate when buying a new computer. You should then receive your new computer with Windows preinstalled. Computer stores should not sell you this edition on its own. My experience however with Windows XP OEM was that stores were selling it as an individual product and it installed without any issues. I've seen Israeli online stores advertising Windows 7 OEM editions so I assume they will also install on your existing PC without a problem. I havn't tried this yet though.

VUP is the Version Upgrade Edition. This is also sold cheaper than the Retail Edition and is meant for those who have a previous version of Windows Vista or Windows XP. This means that one cannot do a fresh install with this product. (Actually I found a few Internet Sites where they manage to get round this but I assume this method is legally questionable).

Warning to XP users: As I've mentioned before, Windows XP cannot be upgraded and needs a fresh install of Windows 7. So how can this VUP Edition work with an XP machine?

Well what is supposed to happen is that you need to run the DVD within Windows XP and it will do a machine restart and begin a fresh install. Preseumably you cannot boot it from a blank harddisk which means that if you need to replace the harddisk for any reason you must first reinstall XP and and then Windows 7.

What a pain!

The problem is that I've read nightmare stories on various forums that this Microsoft trick doesn't always work. The machine restarts and at some stage gets stuck. then you are left with a corrupt harddisk with no legal way of doing a fresh install. My advise is to stay away from this if you you have Windows XP.
Retail Edition: This is the complete no nonsense edition which can be installed on any machine either by doing an upgrade or a fresh install either on a new harddisk or by overwriting an existing Windows version. That is, during the installation, Windows will format the drive.

Bottom Line: Should I upgrade?

Vista users I would recommend all Vista users who are not strapped for cash to upgrade to Windows 7. Windows 7 is actually, (once you remove the marketing hype), only Vista Service Pack 3. In other words, Windows 7 is actually what they promised Vista would be two years ago. It's only now that they have sorted out the technical problems. In my opinion they should have offered all Vista users the option to upgrade for free or for a nominal fee. Unfortunately Microsoft only listen to me when I report a bug in their applications. They don't listen to me when it comes to customer satisfaction or marketing ploys. Having said all that, Vista uses will not regret upgrading. Speaking to users who have upgraded, al of them report a feeling of greater freedom to do what they want. If on the other hand, money is tight and you find Vista perfectly usable then carry on using it.

Windows XP users As I said, you must take into account that you will have to do backups of all your personal data because upgrading to Windows 7 means a complete fresh install. First of all though, before you even ask this question, you should run the Windows 7 Upgrade Adviser and find out if you can run Windows 7 on your current computer at all. If not then the question is if it is worthwhile buying a new computer in order to run Windows 7? If your computer is more than eight years old then the answer is probably yes. You ought to be thinking about a new machine. The decision (at least at the moment) lies in what you actually use your computer for. If it is only to surf the web and write the occasional document then perhaps it's not worth it yet. I say "yet" because rumours in the industry say that Microsoft intends to discontinue Windows XP updates releases in the near future. This might happen in another six months or 6 years. Not many people know. However, officially, XP is dead and users are living on borrowed time. There is a lot of hype at the moment about Google's announced new operating system which is aimed at the average user and based around the Google Chrome browser interface. It could be worth waiting for this. Again until we see it it's impossible to tell.

Lastly, Please see my post on pricing here:


Anonymous said...

Great Job Mord! Not sure about all that product advertising though?

Reb Mordechai said...

Hmm. I'm trying to work out who you are. (Obviously someone who knows me). Regarding your comment. I only recommend products I think are good and that people ought to know about.

Bouncer said...

The Windows 7.0 cost NIS 550 if bought with a computer; otherwise it's NIS 990

Reb Mordechai said...

Bouncer, you are right. I have removed the prices from the post until I have checked with the shop.