I have an account with Microsoft Developer’s Network through Mohawk College so I was able to get a license key for Windows 7. The official release date for Windows 7 was October 22, 2009 but I had a copy a few weeks early. Even though I’ve had access to Windows 7 all this time, I only installed it at the beginning of this week. So far, the test drive is pretty good.
The first thing most people will notice when their system boots up is that there’s no more progress bar. Windows XP and Vista has a progress bar that shows you that it’s loading. In Windows 7, they’ve changed it to the Windows logo and they made it pulsate. From an I.T. perspective, that’s much better because then people won’t know how long it actually takes to boot up. On the system that I tested Windows 7 on, it took anywhere from twenty to thirty seconds to load.
So here’s the machine that I’m working with. It’s an old Sun Microsystems machine with two single AMD Opteron processors clocking in at 2.6GHz each, 6GB of RAM, nVidia Quadro FX1100 128MB, two SCSI hard drive, one drive holds 70GB and the second holds 140GB. I got the system from work since they were going to toss it and it was still in working condition. All it cost me was the gas to get it home. It’s a fairly heavy machine because of the case. I think it’s made from steel or something.
I think the only thing wrong with this machine is the video card. Every now and then I would run into some issues where the display would be all messed up or things would be all yellow. I have the proper drivers installed so I think there’s something faulty about the hardware itself. It if wasn’t for that, I would have a higher Windows Experience Rating.
As you can see, you’ve got your standard Windows desktop with the taskbar, gadgets and icons. Like Vista, the Start menu placeholder is the orb that glows when you hover over it. The taskbar has been made a bit larger and the way things are organized is a bit better. The system bar is less cluttered this time. The gadgets are not restricted to just the right hand side of the display. You can move them around anywhere you want. The icons are a lot larger too. It’s almost as if you’ve set your resolution to 800×600.
The Start menu looks a lot nicer and is now even more useful than before. I found that the search actually responded fairly quickly no matter what you’re searching for. I think before, it would only search for software and system related stuff. Now, it pretty much searches the whole hard drive for anything.
Some software that is listed on the Start menu has the option of opening a sub menu. For example, for Paint, it would give you access to recently saved files but for Messenger, it allows you to change your status, check your email or even view your profile.
As I mentioned before, the taskbar has been given some organizational changes which helps makes it less cluttered. Any similar software that is running is grouped together and when you hover over it, you get a little preview of each individual window. This is very helpful when you have multiple Word documents opened and you want to see what in each of them without having to switch to them. When you hover over the preview, that window will be show and everything else will be transparent.
The icons on the taskbar as some interactivity to it as well. When you cover over an icon, there’s a little animation that takes place. There’s a little glow to each icon and they’re all difference. The colour of the glow depends on the colour that was used to create the icon. For example, the Firefox icon will have a red-orange-yellow glow to it while the Messenger icon will have a blue-white glow. It’s a nice little touch, I say.
They’ve also changed up the way you switch between windows as well. This is the feature that’s available in Vista where you hit the Windows key and Tab rather than Alt-Tab. This feature gives you a little preview of each window. It’s a nice feature but it doesn’t do much for me. I just like playing with it but the novelty fades after time.
In Windows XP, you would have to click on the “Show Desktop” shortcut to quickly minimize every window that was opened. In Windows 7, that shortcut has been replaced with a tab at the end of the taskbar. When you hover over that, everything turns to glass which in turn allows you to see what’s on your desktop. As soon as you move your mouse away from it, everything goes back to normal.
Overall, Windows 7 is a big change in the right direction for Microsoft. It’s not a resource hog like Vista and it’s a lot faster as well. Where Vista fail, Windows 7 has succeeded. If you’re lucky enough to be eligible for the free upgrade to Windows 7, I recommend that you upgrade. I don’t know the retail price of Windows 7 but it’s probably worth it to buy.