Everything you need to know about Windows 7

What are the benefits of Windows 7 over Windows Vista?

In short, Windows 7 is a tuned up version of Windows Vista. The hardware requirements for Windows 7 are officially only slightly higher than Windows Vista.

[Windows 7 Screenshot]
Click on the screenshots to expand them

Should I upgrade?

If you can afford it, then yes. The core of Windows Vista was very different than the core of Windows XP. Not so with Windows 7. If the software and driver is compatible with Windows Vista, than it is compatible with Windows 7. Usually it is best to wait for the first Service Pack of a new operating system to fix bugs that were not found before release. However, since Windows 7 is really a tuned up version of Windows Vista than it already is stable and problem free. Yes, Windows 7 still bothers you when you wish to perform certain tasks. But Microsoft has learned and Windows 7 is much less annoying in this regard.

Windows 7 Professional and Windows 7 Ultimate versions will include a feature called Windows XP mode. What this does is allow the computer to run programs that are fully compatible with Windows XP but may not be fully compatible with either Windows Vista or Windows 7. A computer must support virtualization, which all of the mainstream computers do.

One thing to remember is that when you upgrade, it is always best to install a fresh copy. Re-installing all your programs and drivers will take a lot of time. Upgrading to Windows 7 shouldn't be a last minute decision because of time factor.

What are the disadvantages of Windows 7 over Windows Vista?

There are not many. One disadvantage is that the look and feel of the taskbar at the bottom has changed. It will require an adjustment period and even then you may not like it. Some things that were included by default in Windows Vista now have to be downloaded from Microsoft. That is not a problem in of itself. However, the installation of these once standard features secretly installs a toolbar on your browsers in an attempt to get you to use Microsoft Live search instead of Google or Yahoo or another search engine. Finally, Microsoft is making you opt-out of using Live search instead of opt-in with the new Internet Explorer 8 instead with Windows 7.

What has changed?

One of the most obvious changes is the taskbar. It is now twice as tall as all other previous taskbars. The clock now has the date below the time. Beside the clock is a little black bar. Click it to show the desktop. Click it again to return all windows back the way they were. Or, if you just hover the mouse over the bar, you will get a preview of the desktop. Next, the hidden icons by the clock no long expand left (or toward the start/windows button if the taskbar is not at the bottom). Instead, they expand up.

Moving over to what used to be the start button. It was replaced in Windows Vista with a Windows icon. However, in Windows Vista the taskbar was not big enough to fit the entire icon. Since the taskbar's height is double, the entire icon now fits. The start menu has been improved. It still has the same layout as Windows Vista. However, notice that some icons have an arrow beside them. Windows 7 is smart enough to know what programs have a recent files memory. In the example picture, the last 3 documents edited in DreamWeaver came up. Furthermore, you can pin certain recent documents to that list so that they are always in the list. Just like you can pin items to your start menu. You could pin your most commonly used documents and always have them handy. A very useful feature. Some programs can specify what goes in that list. For example, Internet Explorer will list the recently visited webpages, which of course can also be pinned to the list, and a feature to enable private browsing. That is a feature in Internet Explorer 8 which does not store any information about your browsing while that feature is activated.

Beside the start menu are icons for the programs currently running or programs pinned to the taskbar. Notice that the program names are no longer given by default beside the icons. That is because the same program is now grouped together and the program name is put there instead. In this example, there are 4 windows open related to browsing files on the computer. Notice the folder icon has a stacked look about it. If you hover the mouse over each icon, you get a preview of the program. If more than one related window is there, such as the windows used in browsing in our example, you can a preview of all the programs. You cannot see it in the example, but when files are being copied, a green ribbon appears behind the folder icon indicating progress made in copying the files. If you move your mouse and hover over one of the preview windows, all other windows will be hidden and only that window will be left on the screen. A little red X will also appear at the corner of each preview window when the mouse is hovering over it. Click it to quickly close that window.

You may have already noticed that the background images have changed in the pictures from above. This is because of a new feature called themes. Each themes has its own sounds and set of pictures. You can, of course, specify which pictures are used and how long each picture stays on the screen by clicking Desktop Background at the bottom.

The sidebar is gone. However, the elements that were in the sidebar remain. They are called gadgets. In Windows Vista, the sidebar was used as a placeholder for the gadgets. Still, they could be placed anywhere you wanted them at. In Windows 7 you can still place the gadgets anywhere you want to. And like the sidebar in Windows Vista, the gadgets do snap to the edge of the screen. Instead of snapping to one edge, they snap to all edges. In reality, nothing much has changed. Gadgets work almost exactly the same except now there is no pre-set bar on the side to serve as a placeholder.

In addition the changes above, Windows 7 also has many under the hood enhancements. Windows 7 has a new and better calculator. Many new keyboard shortcuts have been added. Windows 7 now supports new video formats, specifically the H.264 format (also known as MPEG-4 and AVC) which ws made popular because of its use on Blu-Ray discs. And there are many others.

Windows 7 also refined the User Account Control, or UAC. These are the prompts introduced in Windows Vista that asked if you were sure you wished to allow a certain program to have access to important system resources. For more information on this, please see our blog entry: More Information About Windows 7 User Account Control.

What are the requirements of Windows 7?

If your computer runs fine with Windows Vista, it will run even better with Windows 7. However, if your computer came with Windows XP chances are it is not enough for Windows 7. Officially, the minimum requirements are 1 GHz CPU, 1 GB of memory, a DVD drive, and a 30 GB hard drive with at least 16 GB free. These requirements are slightly higher than Windows Vista; however, Microsoft had to dumb-down the requirements for Windows Vista to satisfy Intel. Still, you will hate Windows 7 unless you use Techs-on-Call recommend minimum requirements which are a dual-core CPU, 2 GB of memory, a DVD drive, 100 GB hard drive, and an upgraded 3D graphics card. Of course, to fully enjoy Windows 7, you will want at least 4 GB of memory because with that amount of memory, Windows 7 really shines.

I want to upgrade or downgrade, which version is right for me?

On older computers, you always want the 32-bit version of Windows 7. Unless your computer was made after February 2007, you should get the 32-bit version. If your computer has 3 GB or less of computer memory, than the 32-bit version is probably better. If your computer more than 3 GB of memory, then you must get the 64-bit version.

Now you need to know if Starter, Home Basic, Home Premium, Professional, or Ultimate (called Enterprise for large businesses) is right for you. Unless your computer is old you should never get Starter or Home Basic editions. This page explains some of the differences between the editions. If you are unfamiliar with anything in the article, just use Google to get an explanation. Or call us at 252-452-1874.

If you are downgrading from Windows 8, your only choice is Windows 7 professional.

For most customers, Techs-on-Call recommends Windows 7 Home Premium. Most people will not need the extras found of the other versions.

I don't have time to upgrade, how much do you charge to do it?

Please see our Windows upgrade pricing chart.