Last Friday, I went and upgraded by Windows Vista x64 Ultimate installation with Windows 7 x64 Ultimate. Windows 7 became available to MSDN Subscribers the day before (I think) and I didn’t hesitate much to perform the installation.
I was optimistic about the upgrade, even though I had never performed an OS upgrade before. Like most geeks, I usually do a clean wipe. This time I didn’t want to do that. I knew from what I read that the Vista to Windows 7 upgrade was supported and logical thing to do… so I went for it. It helped that I organize my system well enough that should the upgrade have failed catastrophically, all of my data is safe on my D: partition.
My workstation is starting to age, but it’s a server-grade workstation based on Intel’s initial Core2 microarchitecture (Woodcrest). I have a pair of dual-core 3.0Ghz 5160 processors and 6GB of memory (hence my motivation to stick with the x64 kernel). For graphics, I’m sporting an Nvidia Quadro FX 3450 with 256MB of RAM, which is easily good enough for Aero. For audio, I have a Creative SB X-Fi card. Finally, I have a pair of disks about 150GB in size, in a fast RAID 0 (striped) configuration. My overall experience index is 5 of 7.9.
I clean-installed Vista x64 a while back… must have been two years ago. Many people laughed at me, but I found the performance pretty good. This was likely due to the 6GBof RAM and the RAID0 disks. Like most others, I hated the typical Vista ugliness like Explorer “pauses” and the sidebar (which I stopped using after 3 days). Still, I used it.
I tried to install one of the release candidates on my machine, a clean install, and it failed. The RC installation could not recognize my disk system. This was odd. So, when I chose to install Windows 7 on Friday, I chose the installation option that runs while Vista was running. This would copy all of the files necessary while I worked and then ask me to reboot when the more invasive actual upgrade was to happen. This all worked perfectly, though it did take upwards of two hours to complete. When I rebooted 2-3 times, viola, I had Windows 7 installed and all of my applications seemed to work.
Here is a list of quick initial impressions
- All of my Quick Launch items were gone. Likely because the Quick Launch menu itself is gone.
- All of my Start Menu items were gone, not sure why that happened
- The new taskbar behaves much like the OS X dock. You can launch programs and use the same icons to bring an already-launched app to the foreground. Hovering over this icon will show a preview thumbnail of the app (and multiple previews if the app has multiple instances). This UI is very slick and efficient. seems actually useful.
- Alt-Tab works like it did before, but if you hold down the Alt key and let go of the Tab button, app windows are hidden your desktop is shown. This is cool.
- Dragging a window to the top of your screen flashes a hint that you can let go and the window will be maximized. This is neat when you have multiple monitors.
- Windows 7 comes with a very easy to use theme interface. They have lots of preset visual styles to choose from. They ship with lots of high-resolution wallpapers. Best of all, they finally have a truckload of high-quality sound schemes that you can apply.
- Like Vista, Windows 7 has an advanced sound mixer that allows you to control volume on any app. Thus, I can have my system sounds subtle and low, while the rest of my audio at normal volume. This is essential since I share an office and the constant boing-snap-click of the interface tends to get very annoying to people close who are not interacting with the UI.
- The OS seems fast and speedy. Hard to say how much faster. However, the mysterious explorer pauses are completely gone.
- MS Paint got a ribbon and a bunch of new features. There are more brushes, more shapes, more controls on resizing and rotating areas. They added rulers and gridlines.
- Like Vista, the Snip Tool is a very good screen capture utility. I map this to Alt+Shift+4, similar to the Mac, and use it all of the time. The snip tool can grab an area, a window, or the full screen.You can even draw on the snip or highlight each using multiple colors. I use this all of the time.
- Wordpad also got ribbon. It can save in Office 2007 XML format. There is right integration with MSpaint so you can insert a drawing, draw it, and go back to Wordpad.
- The Calculator got an upgrade. Secondary results are shown and the scientific and programmer modes have more features. They also have this flyout “Worksheet” view that provides a few preset forms that allow you to calculate things like lease payments, mortgage, and fuel economy. I’m sure to use that a lot, NOT. What I do wonder is whether you can create your own? Still better off just using the Power Calculator.
- Like Vista, the resource monitor is far more capable that the one you’ll find in XP. The ability to see all open handles for any process is neat. Too many features to list here. Perfmon also got a significant upgrade in Vista and likewise Windows 7 sports the same UI.
- UAT was turned off in Vista, but got turned back on during the upgrade. I can measure in seconds the time it took me to realize this and turn it back off.
Overall, the UI is more complex than XP but simpler than Vista. if you’re a Vista user, run (don’t walk) to Windows 7. If you’re an XP user, be cautious. There is probably a reason while you’re on a 8-year old OS and Windows 7 is different enough to annoy people who upgrade as slowly as you do. Still, once you get used to it… it’s a far better place to be.
Kudos to Microsoft for finally coming out with an OS that doesn’t suck.