22 October 2009

The Scoop on Seven

Today Microsoft released Windows 7, their newest version of their operating system. I've worked with Windows and various Microsoft OS development teams over the years, especially with some of the Server OS's (NT 5.0/Windows 2000, and 2003 server in particular, when I spent a lot of time in Redmond), so I've had a fairly intimate view of the evolution of the system.  I've been on the beta, and I have a fairly positive view of the release, especially compared to Vista. When my disk comes, I'll definitely upgrade my home machine to the release version. Yeah, I'm not the average Windows user.

So what does Windows 7 mean for the average user then?

If you buy a new PC, it will probably come with Windows 7. That's good. If your dealer gives you an alternative choice of XP or Vista, choose 7. It will work with your hardware and it will have all the latest code.  

If you just bought a new PC with Vista, then you qualify for a free Windows 7 upgrade. Do it. Get the upgrade from whoever you bought the PC from. The upgrade will definitely be worth it since it's free and better.

If you have an older PC running Vista, you can pay for an upgrade. It's a hundred or so bux, depending on your edition. This choice is tougher. The jury is still out on whether it's worth paying to upgrade from Vista to 7, especially since it's so new. I'd hold off for a while and see; if 7 has a much better security track record then I'd recommend the upgrade. Until then, I can't recommend paying for it.

If you have an older PC running XP, don't upgrade to Windows 7. It's really not worth it yet. First, you have to make sure 7 will even run on your machine. Then you have to buy the upgrade to 7 (see above). Wait, but it's not really an upgrade! It's a complete system reinstall where you have to back up your data. When you finally do all this, all your XP apps might not even run (unless you buy a more expensive version of 7). After all this, you do get an OS that's somewhat better than XP, and with a significantly updated interface. Microsoft has a few other reasons they think you should upgrade from XP to 7, but to be honest the reasons don't seem compelling to me.  Given the potential hardware incompatibilities, the cost, the hassle of a complete reinstall, all for minimal benefit I'd recommend holding off until there is a very very compelling reason to upgrade: like, you need a new PC. 

So in short:
  • New PC? Get it with Windows 7.
  • Recent PC with Vista? Upgrade to Windows 7 for free,
  • Older PC with Vista? Wait a bit to see how it pans out, since it costs money to upgrade.
  • Older PC with XP? Stay on XP.

[ Trivia: did you know that the code name for XP was Cairo? Cairo = Chi Rho = χρ = XP ! ]