If you have a television, I’m sure that you’ve been seeing a lot of commercials for the new Windows 7 operating system. Microsoft is really stepping up their advertising for this update to Windows, as they’ve been losing quite a bit of ground to Apple in the past couple of years. Combined with the debacle that was the Windows Vista, this new OS will be a chance to try and reclaim some of their territory as a computer operating system that users can trust. Since the release on October 22, 2009, I’ve been able to get some “hands-on” with the new operating system and I think that Microsoft has been able to right some of their past “wrongs”.
Before you start to consider upgrading your PC to Windows 7, you’ll want to run the Windows 7 Upgrade Advisor (https://windows.microsoft.com/upgradeadvisor), a small utility that will measure your computer’s performance, software, and peripherals for their compatibility with this new operating system. Windows 7 requires a 1GHz or faster 32-bit or 64-bit processor, 1GB of RAM (for 32-bit) or 2GB of RAM (for 64-bit), 16GB (for 32-bit) or 20GB (for 64-bit) of available hard drive space, and a DirectX 9 graphics processor. If your computer was purchased in the last 3 years, then most likely, you’ll be able to upgrade to Windows 7 with your existing configuration.
The first couple of installations I performed were PCs that were running the legacy OS, Windows XP. Windows 7 does not allow for an “in-place” upgrade from XP, so a fresh install is necessary. To ease this transition, Microsoft offers Windows Easy Transfer (https://windows.microsoft.com/windows-easy-transfer), a small program that allows XP users to easily backup their data and settings to another computer via an easy transfer cable, a network location, or an external hard drive. It takes about an hour to backup 35Gb to an external USB hard drive, and the process is very easy. It will backup program settings, but it should be noted that you’ll need to reinstall the programs, like Microsoft Office and your other utilities, after your Windows 7 installation is complete.
After I booted from the Windows 7 DVD, the setup process will allow you to install to your existing hard drive, but it will copy your old Windows files into a folder called “Windows.old”. The installation is very easy to complete and only takes about 40-60 minutes, depending on your computer. What really impressed me was the inclusion of drivers for most of the devices installed in your computer. In the days of XP and Vista, you’d need to go track down drivers from the manufacturers’ websites, but I had no problems with any of the installs I completed. Adding printers was just as easy, I just plugged in the USB cables and the printer installed; network printers worked just as well.
After reinstalling the programs I wanted, like Microsoft Office and a few others, I installed my Windows Updates, making sure I had the latest updates for all my Microsoft programs before I used the Windows Easy Transfer to restore my data and settings. I plugged in my external hard drive, and double-clicking the Easy Restore file that was created earlier started the restoration process. You can choose to restore everything or be selective about what goes onto your new Windows 7 installation, but it works great. I opened up Microsoft Outlook, and all the email accounts were there as was the email. Saved financial files from Quicken or QuickBooks were ready to run as well.
I found Windows 7 to be the most user-friendly experience Microsoft has offered in some time. I liked XP and trusted it, and I wrestled with Vista and got used to it. They both have needed updates and service packs to mature into operating systems that are reliable and can be used effectively, but from the starting gate, Windows 7 is doing a lot of things right. In my next column, I’ll explore the different versions of Windows 7 and some of the new features.