The Microsoft Windows 7 release is a major event for the computer world. Windows Vista has been a flop, to put it mildly, and while Windows XP has aged relatively well it is still an eight year old operating system. Eight years in the computer world is almost a geologic era, so many Windows users are anxiously awaiting the formal arrival of Windows 7.
This Windows 7 release post is broken down into two sections: the first section contains short answers to the most essential questions about the availability, different editions, pricing, upgrade paths, and potential installation processes for Windows 7. The second section focuses on the specifics of Windows 7 and provides links to a number of other useful articles on other sites that dig much deeper into the new operating system. These links will allow readers to learn more about specific aspects on Windows 7 with this post functioning as a starting point.
Windows 7 Release
There are many facets to the features, benefits and functionality in the new Windows 7. Below are a number of questions and relatively short answers which touch on the most common questions about Window 7.
1. What is Windows 7? – Windows 7 is the latest version of Microsoft’s Windows series of operating systems for personal computers. As with earlier versions of Windows there are a few different editions available including: Windows 7 Starter, Home Basic, Home Premium, Professional, Ultimate and Enterprise. For most practical purposes the Windows 7 editions most people will be considering are Windows 7 Home Premium, Professional, and Ultimate. The Enterprise version is focused strictly on site licenses for medium and large businesses.
Windows 7 Starter edition will only be available pre-installed on some netbook computers. Availability of Windows 7 Home Basic edition will be limited to areas that Microsoft identifies as “emerging markets” and not available in the U.S. and Canada, The European Union, Australia, New Zealand and a number of other countries.
2. When Will Windows 7 be available? – On October 22, 2009 Windows 7 will be released as both a retail product and as the operating system pre-installed on new computer systems. Some retail stores may have started to show computers with Windows 7 prior to the official release date, but no systems can be sold until October 22, 2009.
3. Who can upgrade to Windows 7? Upgrading depends on two main factors: 1) The version of Windows you are currently running – it must be either Windows XP or Windows Vista and; 2) Your current computer system hardware. Your computer must have sufficient hardware capabilities to run Windows 7. Older computers may not have the processing power, graphics display performance and memory necessary to run Windows 7.
For additional details on system requirements visit the Microsoft Windows 7 System Requirements page. Microsoft has also developed a Windows 7 Upgrade Advisor that can be downloaded to assist users in evaluating the feasibility of running Windows 7 on a specific computer.
4. How much will the Windows 7 Upgrade software cost? The upgrade cost is based on two factors: 1) The edition of Windows you are currently using (Home/Pro/Ultimate) and 2) The edition of Windows 7 you are upgrading to. The cost to upgrade from Windows XP and Windows Vista are the same.
- Upgrade license pricing is: Windows 7 Home Premium – $120, Professional – $200 and Ultimate – $220.
- Full new versions of Windows 7 will cost: Home Premium – $200, Professional – $300, and Ultimate – $320.
- There have also been rumours about Microsoft offering a Windows 7 Family Pack that would allow Windows 7 upgrades for three computers at a reduced rate per computer.
According to the Microsoft Windows 7 blog, “The Windows 7 Family Pack will be available starting on October 22nd until supplies last here in the US and other select markets. In the US, the price for the Windows 7 Family Pack will be $149.99 for 3 Windows 7 Home Premium licenses. That’s a savings of more than $200 for three licenses. This is a great value and we’re excited to be able to offer it to customers.” So far additional details have not been available from Microsoft. Stay tuned.
5. What type of upgrade processes will be required? The terminology being used by Microsoft to describe the actual Windows 7 upgrade processes are: “In-Place Upgrade” and “Custom Install.”
- In Place Upgrade: this is not an option if you are running Windows XP; it is only available if you are running Windows Vista. The In Place Upgrade keeps your files, settings, and programs intact from your current version of Windows Vista.
- Custom Install: a custom (clean) install gives you the option to either completely replace your current operating system or install Windows on a specific drive or partition that you select. You can also perform a custom installation if your computer does not have an operating system or if you want to set up a multiboot system on your computer.
Another factor that comes into play with the Vista-to-Windows 7 upgrade process is whether you are running the 32-bit or 64-bit version of Vista. There are several very informative upgrade process article links later in this post.
6. What is the 64-bit version of Windows 7 and how does it compare the 32-bit version? When Windows Vista originally began shipping most computers came with the 32-bit version installed. Over time many manufacturers switched to selling computers with the 64-bit version of Vista pre-installed. Windows 7 is also available in both 32-bit and 64-bit versions. Most new computers are equipped with 64-bit processors that are necessary for running 64-bit software.
The main advantages of the 64-bit version of Windows 7 over the 32-bit version are that the 64-bit version is able to handle larger chunks of data at one time (64-bits vs. 32-bits) and it is able to access much greater amounts of memory (RAM). 32-bit Windows 7 can only address a maximum of 4GB while 64-bit Windows 7 can address 16GB of RAM in the Home Premium version and 192GB of RAM in the Professional, Ultimate and Enterprise versions. All packaged retail editions of Windows 7 (except for Home Basic) include both 32- and 64-bit software.
7. Should you upgrade to Windows 7? Well, it mainly depends on whether you are currently running Windows Vista or Windows XP and on the hardware capabilities of the computer you want to upgrade. The Short Answer for upgrading is :
- On a new computer, yes, upgrade and go with Windows 7, 64-bit version
- For a computer currently running Vista, yes, upgrade at your earliest opportunity;
- With a computer currently running Windows XP it is not a simple answer. For many computers running Windows XP it may not be worth the effort and/or the cost to upgrade. Factors in the XP-to-Windows 7 decision include: age of the computer, processing power, amount of RAM installed, whether you will do the install yourself or pay someone to do it, the availability of hardware drivers for your components and of course, your budget.
Windows 7 – Features, Benefits, Performance and Stability
Microsoft Windows 7 contains a range of new features and enhancements. To Windows XP users many of these features will be completely new. To Windows Vista users some features will be new and some will be enhancements to existing features that were introduced in Vista.
A few of the benefits of Windows 7 include: better performance, better security, enhanced networking, much better handling of media files (audio, video, movies, and photos), useful utilities such as the snipping tool and sticky notes, and an improved user interface. There are more detailed explanations of features and benefits in the links included below.
On a personal level I have been running Windows 7 for several months and have been more than satisfied with the job that Microsoft has done. I have written about this in some earlier Win 7 posts including Windows 7 – Initial Installations and Impressions, Windows 7 Release Date Set, and Buying New Computers before Windows 7 Ships.
Microsoft Windows 7 How-to’s, Reviews, Links and Resources
The most informative review of Windows 7 that I have read so far is an article by Walt Mossberg from his AllThingsD blog at the Wall Street Journal entitled “A Windows to Help You Forget.” A key part of his review states:
“Windows 7 introduces real advances in organizing your programs and files, arranging your taskbar and desktop, and quickly viewing and launching the page or document you want, when you want it… It removes a lot of clutter. And it mostly banishes Vista’s main flaws—sluggishness; incompatibility with third-party software and hardware; heavy hardware requirements; and constant, annoying security warnings.”
“In recent years, I, like many other reviewers, have argued that Apple’s Mac OS X operating system is much better than Windows. That’s no longer true… Now, however, it’s much more of a toss-up between the two rivals. Windows 7 beats the Mac OS in some areas, such as better previews and navigation right from the taskbar, easier organization of open windows on the desktop and touch-screen capabilities. So Apple will have to scramble now that the gift of a flawed Vista has been replaced with a reliable, elegant version of Windows.”
- Another source of excellent Windows 7 information is Ed Bott at ZDNet. According to ZDNet, Ed is “an award-winning technology writer with more than two decades’ experience writing for mainstream media outlets and online publications.” Ed has a number of Windows 7 posts in his blog at ZDNet including “The single biggest reason why Windows 7 won’t be another Vista.”
- Wikipedia also has an entry for Windows 7 . This entry includes a substantial feature chart for all version of Windows 7 and how the different version’s features compare.
- For a very in-depth review be sure to check Paul Thurrott’s Windows 7 review on his Supersite for Windows. This is not for the technologically timid as it digs into many nuts-and-bolts aspects of Windows 7 and spans 10+ pages.
- Additional Windows 7 resources from Microsoft include the Microsoft Windows 7 Web site - and the Microsoft Windows 7, XP, Vista Comparison Page.
- Wired magazine also had a good Windows 7 piece entitled – Seven Good Reasons to Switch to Windows 7.
How to Upgrade to Windows 7 from XP & Vista
As mentioned earlier, upgrading to Windows 7 is not a simple, cut-and-dry process. The good news is that there are a wide range of resources to assist you in understanding what is involved. Below are a few useful links for charting your upgrade path and deciding on how to proceed.
- From the PC World Business Center — “How to Upgrade to Windows 7.” A solid article explaining many of the nuances of the upgrade process.
- From Walt Mossberg’s AllThingD blog – the Windows 7 Upgrade Chart. This is a substanital but well laid out matrix showing the upgrade options (Custom install or In-place upgrade) for moving from the different editions of Vista and XP to the different editions of Winfows 7.
- Ed Bott’s “The Windows 7 upgrade survival guide” - Good information to be aware of prior to jumping into the upgrade process.
- Microsoft Windows 7 site – “Upgrading from Windows XP to Windows 7” This is a step by step approach with video describing the process of upgrading from to Windows 7 from XP.
- PC Magazine’s “Can Your Laptop Run Windows 7?” – Focuses on performance and horsepower consideration when upgrading a laptop computer to Windows 7.
- ZDNet’s Ed Bott – “Can you upgrade an old XP PC to Windows 7? Should you?” - This article addresses not just what is physically feasible, but what is realistic in pursuing the upgrade process on a PC currently running Windows XP.
Much more Windows 7 Information to Come
There are a wide range of other articles and posts available. Hopefuly these links will provide some good starting points in finding the information you need. If you follow any of the above links you also will find many additional resources. Of course there will be a lot more press and more articles on Microsoft’s Windows 7 operating system as the actual product launch takes place and in the following months.
Have any thoughts on this new version of Windows? Will you be upgrading to Win7? What are the main factors in your decision? If upgrading to Win 7, how soon? Have you regained some confidence in Microsoft after Vista’s flop? Leave a comment and share your thoughts.