By: Chris Filippi
You’ve heard about Windows 7. They say it’s got all the problems of Windows Vista fixed. You know you soon won’t be able to buy new systems with your beloved Windows XP preinstalled. They say 64-bit computing is the way of the future. You have users who reject change. They say Windows 7 is stronger, faster, better (cue “The Six Million Dollar Man” music)…
“I like things the way they are…Why do I have to change?”
Computers, unlike typewriters or microwave ovens, are not static entities. They live in a constantly changing world, despite your users or your current software. Security vulnerabilities are discovered, then patched or exploited. Web sites create new ways to experience their content, web browsers are updated to deliver that content. More and more of the people and companies you interact with adopt new file formats, more sophisticated documents, emails, and presentations. New malwares get introduced every day to bring your business to a screeching halt, forcing you to buy more advanced protection to secure your systems. Over time the net sum is: your computers get slower, your Internet bandwidth becomes inadequate, and everyone wants a new computer.
It’s inevitable…but not necessarily scary. The information below, typed by me personally (not copied and pasted from a Microsoft website) should help you drag your network kicking and screaming into the future.
“Why should I embrace Windows 7?”
- Friday, October 22nd, 2010 – The last day you’ll be able to get a new computer with Windows XP preinstalled. While you still may be able to install Windows XP on a new system after that, you’ll face the following:
- Drivers may not be available for your new system, limiting its capability and potential.
- OS support will not be available from the system manufacturer. If there’s an incompatibility with Windows XP and your new computer, the manufacturer can’t help you.
- It typically takes 2 days of computer time and 2 – 3 hours of billable time for us to replace a computer’s operating system, adding significantly to your new computer’s price tag.
- The simple fact that you’re installing an 8 year old operating system on a brand new computer.
- Windows 7 is actually faster – In our tests, across multiple system types, Windows 7 is consistently faster to load and more responsive than Windows XP and Windows Vista on identical hardware.
- Windows 7 is more secure – Despite all the wonders that are Windows XP, it is quite susceptible to modern malware (e.g. viruses, Trojans, spyware, etc.). Windows 7 has numerous features built-in (i.e. no user intervention required) to prevent infection.
- Windows 7 has useful new features – Windows 7 incorporates several new tools to make using a computer faster and more efficient. Here are just a few:
- Jump Lists allow you to quickly access your favorite files, folders, and programs.
- Snap makes organizing multiple windows on your screen a breeze.
- Search lets you find programs, emails, and documents right from the Start button.
- Taskbar Preview lets you see what’s going on in your open windows without having to switch out of your current window.
- New stuff works better on Windows 7 – With a new driver model and an improved API (aka Application Programming Interface), modern programs are less prone to crashing and stalling.
- Old stuff still runs – The vast majority of older programs run without a hitch on Windows 7, regardless of whether you’re running a 64-bit or 32-bit version. And for those few stubborn programs (such as QuickBooks 2005), every copy of Windows 7 Professional and higher comes with a free virtual Windows XP machine to run them.
- Tons of old hardware is supported – Unlike the dreaded switch from Windows 98 to XP, most of your old printers, scanners, and peripherals work fine under Windows 7. You should still check your hardware compatibility before migrating, but by in large most hardware made within the last 5 years will operate as normal. And yes, your trusty HP LaserJet 4 from 1993 will work fine as well.
- You don’t need to upgrade everybody – Windows 7 plays nicely with Windows XP and Vista, as well as Server 2000 and 2003 on the same network.
“How will my users react to Windows 7?”
- Novice users (e.g. people who never use the right mouse button) won’t have much trouble. As long as they have an icon on the desktop for their software, they’ll be fine.
- Intermediate users (e.g. those who know how to browse for files, install software, etc.) will likely need a little help. Fortunately, Microsoft has gone to great lengths to get users acquainted with Windows 7 quickly. Microsoft’s “What’s New” website has several 7-second videos illustrating how to use the new features (http://www.microsoft.com/windows/windows-7/what-is-windows-7.aspx).
- Experienced users are likely to be so excited about getting Windows 7, they’ll jump in with a huge smile and be more productive than ever.
“Okay I’m convinced. What edition of Windows 7 should I get?”
- Windows 7 Professional is the best choice for small business.
- Windows 7 Home Premium is good for home use or small peer-to-peer networks (e.g. 2 or 3 computers). Home Premium does not include XP mode nor fax software and cannot join a domain network.
- Windows 7 Ultimate is only recommended UNIX users, users requiring alternate languages, and laptops which require hard drive encryption not provided by the manufacturer.
“What’s up with 64-bit and 32-bit?”
The “bits” refer to how much information the computer can address at a time. Thus, more bits allow for bigger chunks of data to be manipulated more efficiently. In modern computing, large files (over 1 GB in size) are not uncommon: most Outlook data files we see are easily that big.
64-bit vs. 32-bit is the computer equivalent of having four hands instead of two. Certain tasks, such as giving your significant other a back scratch, are instantly more productive while others, such as dialing a phone, are not…yet. Software programmers are adapting to 64-bit architectures and the increased performance and capability that lie in wait. Unfortunately, most current desktop applications are not yet written for 64-bit platforms. To use the example above, until there’s a telephone that can accommodate four hands, you can’t dial a number any faster than you could with two. Therefore, while you will likely not see any improvement in performance with existing 32-bit programs on a 64-bit machine, you can still run the 32-bit programs and will be ready to reap the rewards if and when a 64-bit version is available.
Software development lagging aside, 64-bit operating systems do offer a significant benefit right now: the ability to use 4GB of memory or more (most 32-bit systems top out somewhere between 3.2GB and 3.8GB). While most systems currently run fine with 2GB of memory, it is inevitable that 4GB will be commonplace in a year or two, and an absolute must in 3 – 5 years.
So it would seem choosing 64-bit over 32-bit is a no brainer, right? Unfortunately, there are a few caveats.
For one, you need 64-bit drivers to run hardware on a 64-bit system. So, if you have an old scanner and the manufacturer doesn’t provide 64-bit drivers for it, the scanner won’t work. While most 32-bit programs run fine on 64-bit platforms (in fact, we have only discovered a handful of programs that simply refuse to work properly and must be run in “Windows XP Mode”), you should make sure that your core applications work in a 64-bit environment.
To summarize: if your software and hardware will work with a 64-bit version of Windows 7, go with 64-bit on your next new computer. If you depend on older software or hardware that you can’t afford to upgrade just yet, go with an inexpensive 32-bit system knowing that you will likely need to upgrade or replace it in 3 – 5 years.
“What if I can’t determine if one of my essential programs is Windows 7 and/or 64-bit compatible?”
CNC currently has a limited number of computers with Windows 7 32-bit and 64-bit installed, along with popular office applications such as Microsoft Office and WordPerfect. You may borrow one of these systems for a maximum of one week to try Windows 7 on your network. You will be charged a flat fee of $75 to cover the cost of re-imaging the system once you’re done with it. Any integration or customization on-site will be billed at the usual hourly rate.
“Where can I get more information?”
Microsoft has a very elaborate and user-friendly site to answer just about any Windows 7 question you may have:
Thank you for your attention. I sincerely hope the above has clarified The Great Windows 7 Dilemma allowing you to make informed decisions with your future computer purchases.