Swapping your existing Microsoft operating system for Windows 7 can be a life-changing experience. After having used Windows XP for nearly a decade, I am forcing myself to live with a new interface and a new system.
If you want to do the same, there are a few questions that you will need to ask yourself before taking the big jump and adopting the latest operating system from the software giant.
(1) Have needs changed?
Now that Windows 7 has emerged, you might need to reassess your computing experience and that can be mind blowing given the fact that computers can achieve so much than what they are supposed to do. For example, do you want to stream video content to a 50-inch plasma screen? Are you considering sticking to your current screen resolution? Do you want to share your content even more? Each individual Windows 7 user has his or her own needs and wishes and it is important to evaluate them before proceeding further as it will impact the following...
(2) Upgrade the hardware or not?
Windows 7 is very good at recycling older hardware. The rule of thumb is anything that ran Windows XP should be able to run Windows 7, albeit without the bells and whistles. Microsoft recommends a 1GHz processor, 1GB RAM, Direct X9.0, 16GB of free hard disk space and 128MB of video RAM if you intend to run the Aero Interface. If your system is only a couple of years old, then you shouldn't feel the need to upgrade, however, anything older would possibly warrant some serious component swapping if possible.
Upgrading the memory and the hard disk drive are likely to have the biggest impact. That said, if you plan to do serious work, you will possibly need to get a new computer altogether and there's the thing.
The cheapest Windows 7 OS costs around £65 while there are scores of powerful PCs that cost under £400, which means that in effect, you are only paying £335 or less for a well balanced computer that comes with at least one year warranty and doesn't require you to pry open any computers.
(3) Which Windows 7 Version To Buy?
Good question. There are only three versions which are readily available for the UK market; Home Premium, Professional and Ultimate. Ignore Home Basic, Starter and Enterprise for the sake of this article as they can't be obtained off the shelf.
Out of the three, one can discard Ultimate unless you need BitLocker or the ability to boot from a Virtual Hard Drive or VHD. Since Vista, Microsoft has judiciously decided to integrate features of the cheaper versions in the more expensive ones.
Hence, the feature sets of Professional and Ultimate are super sets of Home Premium. Individuals are likely to choose Windows Home Premium while Corporate or businesses will go either for Ultimate or Enterprise. But that's only part of the issue solved. You will also need to find out WHERE to buy Windows 7.
Again, if you go for Windows Home Premium, you might want to know that you can buy 3 licenses for around £130, that you can get a deep discount for being a public servant and that students and teachers can get it for absurdly cheap.
(4) Software/hardware Compatibility
Windows 7 boosts some impressive compatibility records as far as we are concerned. We've tried it on well over 20 peripherals and dozens of applications and had only problems with one item.
An old Microtek scanner that Windows 7 refused to recognise. The vast majority of peripherals that work with Windows Vista (and certainly Windows XP) will work on Windows 7.
Yet there will be instances where things will go wrong. Ditto for software and applications as well. Watch out also for weird behaviours.
For example, I've noticed that Windows 7 had a negative impact on my laptop's battery life but most reviewers point out to the fact that Windows 7 actually increases it. Which brings us to the fifth point to consider.
(5) Why not "try" it first?
Officially, you won't be able to try Windows 7 because the trial period ended with its official launch. However, there's a place called Microsoft where you can find a trial version of Windows 7 Enterprise, which is essentially Windows 7 Ultimate, for zilch.
You only need to determine which language you want to download it and whether you want the 32-bit or the 64-bit version. We'd stick to the first one for a foreseeable future. Installing Windows 7 and test-driving with it for three months will give you ample food for thought and may or may not sway you towards buying the OS.