Tech – for Everyone

Tech Tips and Tricks & Advice – written in plain English.

A Tech’s First Impression Of Windows 7

Part 3 – Improvements over Vista?

I have now been using Microsoft’s latest operating system, Windows 7, for a week. I configured it to my taste (aka “preferences”), and installed my primary applications (and a few games) and done lots of things to try to break it.

Yes, you read that last part correctly – I said “try to break it”. You see, there simply is no better way (many people feel) to test a thing than to fill it up with High-Octane, put the petal to the metal, use the gears to keep the RPM’s well into the red, and go! go! go! until a piston sails up and through the hood. Of course.. for this to really mean anything.. you must do this several times in a row.bell_x-1

Not only is this method fun, but this is how “limits” are discovered. Ask Chuck Yeager. (Geeks call this “benchmarking”.)

Some findings: I have found that it is fairly easy to get a fail on IE 8, the newest release of the venerable Internet Explorer web browser (which is still a beta also). Open too many tabs (6+), or a Microsoft.com page using Silverlight, and you’ll get a “Not responding” fairly quick. But, I have also found that it is extremely difficult to get Windows 7 itself to fail. Win 7 is fast and it’s stable.

In fact, despite my best efforts and determination, I have yet to have a lockup, or BSOD¹. Improved multi-processor/multi-threading ability is noticeable. No Windows Update fails either, as still befalls Vista SP1 (you know the ones.. you have to reboot 3 times and/or use Startup Repair to get to your Desktop?)

After my admittedly amateur and unscientifical-style testing, I would be willing to quite prematurely guestimate that Windows 7 is one-hundred and thirty two point six times (132.6x ) more stable than Vista was, and at least .. oh, um, let me say, one magnitude more stable than Vista w/SP1.

All jocularity aside, only time will tell how accurate my estimates and impressions are. But I’m impressed. Quite impressed. This is a beta, after all. (I’m willing to wager that this is a historic first — “beta” and “stable” are never used in the same sentence. I’ll come back to some of the reasons for this.)

Plus number 6.

Other differences: While retaining most of what we’ve come to know in Windows, (such as, by default, the Taskbar is on the bottom, Start button on the left, everything “interesting” is found in Control Panel, etc.) there are some changes.. changes that affected me in my daily usage. First up on that list is the Taskbar has changed in appearance and behavior.

The Taskbar (aka “Superbar”) is similar to Vista’s in that it has a “hover” feature, as shown below…

Windows 7 "Superbar"

Windows 7 "Superbar"

though it has been enhanced to show thumbnails of the program’s open windows (or tabs, as in this case) for easier selection, and direct-action “maximize”.

But look closer. Quick Launch and tabs are combined into “pinned” icons, and the System Tray (the icons down by the clock) are now an “up arrow”. To make a program a “Quick Launch”, or visa-versa, you simply drag-and-drop (and select “pin to taskbar”, no more “lock”/”unlock”), and open programs – “tabs” – ‘stack’ to the right.

It’s weird how much I miss the by-the-clock icons.. though they’ve never really served any truly practical purpose (except maybe as a source for context menu shortcuts). I find myself clicking the arrow, to make the System Tray visible, and reassure myself – yes, they’re still there.
I’ve been running (and troubleshooting) Microsoft operating systems since Windows 3.11, and I just expect those things to be there…

Speaking of things that are missing: menus have been consolidated and “pruned”. They seem to me less cluttered, more intuitive, and easier to navigate. This is most noticeable when trying to access system tools and the elements that make up the Control Panel. Long-time Windows users and über geeks may feel that Microsoft has unnecessarily moved a few things (and occasionally get annoyed, at first), but newbies and flexible-types will find things “friendlier”… IMHO.

Plus number 7.

And Defender is nowhere to be found in Programs or the Start menu: it’s in Control Panel.
(Don’t ask. Haven’t even a guess.)

And, when you first get started, “Network” is missing from the Start menu.
But that’s a topic for Part 4..

Link for Part 1 of this series, A Tech’s First Impression of Windows 7 Part 1 of a series
Link to Part 2, A Tech’s First Impression of Windows 7 Part 2 — Transferring Your User Account To Windows 7

¹ Blue Screen Of Death (see Troubleshooting the Blue Screen Of Death)

Today’s free link: What’s really new in Windows 7?

Copyright 2007-9 © Tech Paul. All rights reserved.jaanix post to jaanix

January 17, 2009 - Posted by | advice, computers, PC, performance, software, System Tray, tech, Vista, Windows, Windows 7 | , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , ,

5 Comments »

  1. TechPaul,

    I am closely reading (and posting links on my blog) regarding your assessments of Windows 7. I have to say, your reviews are the best I have seen; and I mean that…

    I’ve been debating; downloading and installing the beta in virtualbox; however, reading your reviews may be all that I need.

    Great, great job…

    Rick

    Like

    Comment by whatsonmypc | January 18, 2009 | Reply

    • Rick–
      I thank you, sir.

      Since the beta will expire in August, and because Microsoft says it will not allow “activating” betas after the trial period (in short, it will have to be uninstalled).. I do advise “playing with” Windows 7 in a virtual machine.. or on a partition which you can just delete when time expires.

      Like

      Comment by techpaul | January 19, 2009 | Reply

  2. MS may just gain back some credibility in my eyes if windows7 shapes up as well as I hope.. i may even go back to dual booting :)

    Like

    Comment by ShavenLunatic | January 23, 2009 | Reply

  3. I love Windows Vista, and I’ll be getting Windows 7 on release day.

    After using Vista, I’ve become pretty fanboyish with Microsoft..I’m in love with my Zune, and the way Vista just works is..disturbing and lovely, all at once.

    A few quirks are noticable in the 64-bit version. For me, the most noticable is actually disturbingly convenient. You see, Windows 64-bit basically seems to require two program files – one for 64-bit stuff, one for 32-bit. For purposes of reinstallation convenience, I split off the main HDD into a Vista partition (~50GB for Vista, 250GB for downloads, documents, music, etc).

    The other partition is for applications and basically everything I’d prefer not to lose during a reinstall. I set up a directory called ‘Applications’ for this purpose. Every program goes there, I force it too.

    Vista is a clever beast, however. It made some sort of mask, so that I wouldn’t be able to tell – applications is still an addressable directory, but it leads to Program Files(x86), which I didn’t make. I can install programs to Applications, and Vista will just nod and put it in (x86), or if the program’s 64-bit, to regular Program Files. It still goes to the seperate partition, it’s just that it masks the Applications directory and files stuff where it wants to.

    It’s bizarre, but sort of cool in a way.

    Like

    Comment by Cokehead | February 8, 2009 | Reply

    • Occasionally Export a copy of your Registry to the other drive, and you should come through a Recovery quite nicely.
      (support.microsoft.com/kb/322756)

      You are the 12th person this week (yes, I’ve been counting) who has told me (basically) “I want 7 now!” I trust you weren’t being facetious..

      Like

      Comment by techpaul | February 8, 2009 | Reply


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