Landing in stores October, Windows 7 is sparking a surprisingly heated debate (in our forums, at least) on whether or not upgrading from XP is a good idea. If youâ€™re in the â€œnayâ€ camp, weâ€™re going to lay out seven reasons why you should consider switching your stance to â€œyay.â€
When scanning our list, we politely encourage you to ask yourself, â€œDo I really want to continue using an eight-year-old operating system?â€ Followed by â€œDonâ€™t I deserve better?â€ Because no matter how comfortable you are with XP, you do deserve an OS thatâ€™s both newer and better, and Windows 7 will deliver. Not convinced? Then read on.
You Asked for This
Remember Vista? We know most of you donâ€™t want to, and thatâ€™s because the OS fell short of many consumersâ€™ expectations. As a result, many â€” especially power users â€” elected to skip Vista entirely, and have continued running Windows XP. Hence Microsoftâ€™s attempt at a redo with Windows 7. This time around, the software giant made an effort to crowdsource feedback from Microsoft enthusiasts by distributing a free beta version of Windows 7 in January.
You complained, you demanded, and in response Microsoft slapped something together to ship October 22. The result? The overall presentation of Windows 7 is familiar enough to welcome XP users, but fundamentally itâ€™s different enough to make you change the way you think of Microsoft. (I can vouch for that, being a long-time Mac user and ex-Windows fan).
Upgrading Wonâ€™t Screw You Over
Microsoft has its loyal fans in mind, including those clinging for dear life to XP. The tech giant promises that Windows 7 has been coded to support almost every piece of software that runs on your XP system. If, in the rare case one of your XP programs doesnâ€™t work on Windows 7, you can still run it in a virtual environment called XP Mode. Whatâ€™s especially cool about this mode is you wonâ€™t have to toggle between an XP emulator and Windows 7. The apps running in XP Mode appear like ordinary windows that are part of Windows 7.
Also, the Windows 7 upgrade chart may appear intimidating and confusing, but prior to release Microsoft plans to release a compatibility checker that will automatically scan your system to tell you which version of Windows 7 is for you.
Automatically Installed Device Drivers
This is only a minor improvement, but it addresses a major pain in the ass in earlier versions of Windows. Who has time to scour the internet for a device driver to work with hardware such as a video card or an external hard drive? Life is too short for that garbage work, and fortunately Windows 7 does this chore for you. Plug in a new piece of hardware, and the OS will find and install the driver for you. XP has this feature, sort of, but it works better in Vista and much better in Windows 7. No more of those annoying yellow question marks. Good riddance.
Yarr! We know there are plenty of you out there downloading pirated digital booty, especially in Windows land. But itâ€™s never been convenient to be a pirate compared with being a paying customer. For example, if youâ€™re a legitimate buyer purchasing movies off iTunes, you can easily stream your media to your legitimately purchased Apple TV. If youâ€™re a pirate, youâ€™d have to go through roundabout programs and hardware to re-create the experience.
Windows 7 is an OS practically made for pirates. Want to display your movies, photos or music on your TV? Bam! Windows Media Player will do that out of the box if you have a Wi-Fi enabled TV, or an Xbox. No extra programs to install: Windows Media Player seamlessly communicates with your Wi-Fi device to display your illegal content in all its glory on your fancy HD TV.
And sharing media is easy, too. Want to download all of your brotherâ€™s music? Bam! HomeGroup, an easy networking feature included in Windows 7, will make that super easy between computers running the OS. Immediately upon plugging in to your network with Ethernet or Wi-Fi, HomeGroup will ask if you wish to join the group on the network, allowing you to set up easy file sharing in minutes.
A Better Interface
The new Aero features, which we covered in our Windows 7 first look, will change the way you interact with your computer. Aero Peek will prove the most useful: The feature displays outlines of all your open windows behind your active window. Each outlined box contains a thumbnail previewing its corresponding window to help you choose.
Gizmodoâ€™s Matt Buchanan, who has been using AeroPeek for six months, provides an excellent perspective on Aero: â€œIt breaks the instinct to maximize windows as youâ€™re using them; instead, you simply let windows hang out, since itâ€™s much easier to juggle them.â€ Makes sense, doesnâ€™t it, for a generation of multitaskers? Arenâ€™t you tired of Alt-Tabbing over and over and over?
Another feature, Aero Snap, makes it easier to resize and tile windows to fit the available space. (Read more about Aero Snap and Aero Peek.)
Words arenâ€™t enough. You really have to try the OS to understand why these UI enhancements are a big deal. We get the idea that the people dismissing Windows 7 havenâ€™t yet tinkered with it, and we highly encourage you to download the release candidate and give it a test drive. But do it now: The download is only available until August 20.
More Advanced Hardware Support
Technology evolves faster than living organisms, and Windows 7 is also designed to work well with upcoming hardware. Touchscreens are getting more popular in the mainstream (thanks largely to the iPhone), and sure enough Windows 7 includes multitouch support. (Check out a video demoing how it works.) If 2010 is indeed the year of the tablet, as we predict, then Windows 7 just might be the winning OS in that new landscape.
If youâ€™re not interested in touchscreens, think multiple processor cores. At some point when multicore computers are more widely available, affordable and energy efficient, an eight-year-old OS like Windows XP isnâ€™t going to know what to do with all that extra processing power. Microsoft has already hinted that Windows 7 will scale to 256 processors. Thatâ€™s more than enough, but you get the picture: This is a new operating system designed for newer systems. Youâ€™re going to need to upgrade eventually, so why not do it now, so you can get a good feel for the OS, rather than later?
The 64-bit version of Windows 7 can handle bigger system memory, too, scaling up to 192 GB of RAM, compared to the 4-GB limit for the 32-bit versions of Windows XP and Windows 7, and 128 GB for the less common 64-bit edition of Windows XP.
Oh, yeah, speaking of new devices â€” Windows 7 is tweaked to better suit those trendy netbooks, too. These puny devices are low-powered and thus limited in performance, and Windows 7 will run better on them thanks to its improved memory management. For example, Windows XP allocated video memory for unseen windows, but Windows 7 does not. It uses video memory only for visible windows. That equates to a more responsive netbook with longer battery life.
It Looks Sexier
A superficial reason, we know, but weâ€™ve become so intimate with our gadgets that their looks are important, too. Windows 7 will make your new PC look new, unlike the boring-as-vanilla UI of Windows XP. Extra detail, polish, gradients and a UI that will clear your desktop of clutter should all make Windows 7 a more attractive choice.