Microsoft released Windows 7 last month to much fanfare. This latest iteration in the company from Redmound's family of computer operating systems promises to deliver where Windows Vista could not.
Having downloaded and tested the public beta of Windows 7, I too was anxious to get my hands on the final product. A few days ago my copy of Windows 7 Professional arrived and I installed it under Parallels Desktop 4 on my iMac.
First of all, virtualization is the way to go if you have ever wanted to play with or test other operating systems such as Linux or other versions of Windows. Of the commercial virtualization offerings, I prefer Parallels Desktop to VMWare. They are both good products and offer both Mac and Windows versions. Other virtual-computing options are Microsoft's VirtualPC, which is now free, and Sun Microsystem's VirtualBox, which is open source and freely available.
As should be evident by now from earlier blog posts, I prefer the stability, efficiency and superior computing experience of using Apple's Mac OS X operating system both at work and at home, but occasionally you need to run a Windows program or, in my case, provide tech support. Enter virtualization. Instead of having an additional computer, monitor, keyboard, etc. sitting on my desk, I can have as many virtual computers as I want in Parallels Desktop. Right now I have a virtualization for Windows XP, Windows Vista the new Windows 7 and a handful of Linux distributions.
But I digress. This blog is about Windows 7 and not virtualization, so I'll get to the install.
Installing Windows 7 is very straight-forward. The process will be somewhat different depending on which copy of Windows 7 you purchase as a retail disc, OEM disc and upgrade disc have different limitations. I opted for the OEM version of Windows 7 Pro for my purposes. With an OEM install disc you cannot "upgrade" a previously-installed copy of Windows. It is for performing a clean install only. According to Microsoft's website, a Windows 7 upgrade disc can only upgrade Windows Vista, not Windows XP. So, if you want to upgrade from XP to 7, you will have to back up your personal data, do a clean install of Windows 7, ideally formatting the hard drive, and then reinstalling any programs, peripherals and data. A retail install disc, while the most expensive option, gives you the most freedom to do upgrades, clean installs and the like.
- Check hardware compatibility to ensure your PC is capable of running Windows 7.
- Back up your data and verify that you have all discs to reinstall any needed software and devices.
- To install Windows 7, configure your computer's BIOS to boot first from the DVD drive.
- Insert the Windows 7 install DVD and press any key to begin the install. The Windows 7 installer loads.
- Select the appropriate language and click Install Now.
- Read and accept the terms of the license agreement.
- Select Custom for the type of installation unless you bought an Upgrade DVD.
- Select a partition to install Windows 7. You may choose to format this partition to erase it completely. If you do not format the partition all of your old files will be moved into a folder called "Windows old" on the hard drive.
- The installation process ensues and your computer will restart once the installation procedure is complete.
On my 2 GHz Intel Core2 Duo iMac, under virtualization, the installation took 15-20 minutes.
My initial impression of Windows 7 is that it is still very Vista-like and borrows much from Apple's Mac OS X graphical user interface. I like the new taskbar and how you manage open folkders and programs from icons. Networking is also much improved from Vista. My main gripe this far is that it seems Microsoft does not include Windows Mail, what used to be Outlook Express, in Windows 7. I understand the benefits and prevalence of web-based email. Gmail, Yahoo, Hotmail and the like make it easy to access your email from anywhere, but it is not time to pull the plug on POP-based email clients yet. Not everyone feels the need to cough up several hundred dollars for a copy of Microsoft Office just so they can get Microsoft Outlook.
So, I am still evaluating Windows 7 and will post an updated entry soon. So far I like the fit and finish. It is less irritating than Vista, but I can't speak yet about practical daily computability until I use it more.
Like Windows Vista, Windows 7 has stiffer system requirements than Windows XP. the minimum requirements are a 1 GHz processor, 1 GB of RAM, 16 GB of hard drive space and a DirectX 9 graphics processor. Find out if your PC can run Windows 7 using Microsoft's Upgrade Advisor.
More information on Windows 7 is available at Windows7.com.
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