Windows 7

April 23, 2014

I’ve been using Windows 7 on my main PC for a little over a year now, and despite my earlier (bad) experiences and some hiccups along the way, I’m very happy with it.

With support for Windows XP now officially ended, and the possibility of future Windows XP patches extremely doubtful, it’s time for other holdouts like me to finally upgrade. If you’re sick of Windows, you can try alternatives like Zorin OS or Chrome OS. Masochists among you might want to try Windows 8, but I really can’t recommend that. Your best bet in terms of making an easy transition is definitely Windows 7.

In the remainder of this article, I’ll provide helpful warnings and suggestions for easing the transition from Windows XP to Windows 7. This is a ‘living’ document; I will add to it as I learn more.

Availability

The first problem with upgrading to Windows 7 is availability. Search for Windows 7 in the Microsoft Store, and you’ll be redirected to Windows 8 resources. Stores no longer have retail Windows 7 packages on their shelves. Microsoft has officially stated that Windows 7 OEM packages will no longer be available after February 2015. Until then, you can still buy Windows 7 from online retailers like NewEgg. Unfortunately, it ain’t cheap. Expect to pay up to $200 for OEM Windows 7 Professional. Don’t buy any of the Home versions, since they are missing important features. The Ultimate version is probably overkill for most users.

To upgrade or not to upgrade?

If you will be installing from OEM media, then you don’t have the option to upgrade from Windows XP. Which is just as well, since the upgrade approach inevitably leads to problems.

Keep your existing Windows XP installation

Beyond the obvious need to back up your data before wiping your hard drive and installing Windows 7, there is a very real possibility that without a complete copy of your hard drive, you’ll lose something in the transition. Hard drives are relatively inexpensive now, so I suggest one of the following approaches:

Mount your old drive externally

Buy yourself an external USB hard drive enclosure. Make sure it supports your hard drive: since you’re upgrading from Windows XP, your computer may have an older IDE drive. Newer computers use SATA drives. There’s a useful comparison over at diffen.com.

Remove your old hard drive (the one with Windows XP) and mount it in the external enclosure. Buy a new hard drive (again, making sure it’s the right type) and install it in your PC. Install Windows 7 on the new hard drive. With this setup, you’ll have a new installation of Windows 7 but will still have access to all your files, folders and even settings (with some work) from your old Windows XP install.

Image your old drive

Another approach is to make an image of your old drive, copying it to another hard drive. You can save space by creating a compressed image file of your old drive, but that makes accessing your old files more difficult, so I recommend copying the drive as-is.

Making Windows 7 more comfortable to use

Anyone upgrading from Windows XP to Windows 7 will notice a few changes. Some of these changes are good, and some of them are annoying. There are ways around most of the latter.

More to follow…


Original article (posted July 2, 2012) is below.

Windows 7 is almost a good operating system.  There’s a ton of new stuff for power users, which is usually enough to get me to switch.  But my many attempts to switch from XP to 7 have always ended up with me switching back to XP.

Sure, some of the early problems with Windows 7 have been resolved.  And there are workarounds for most of the rest.  But there are still some issues that I just can’t get past.

One thing that bothers me about Windows 7 is the increased height of the taskbar.  Why is it taller than in XP?  And why can’t I change it?  Who decides these things, and what was the rationale? Update: I found the setting for this with help from a friendly redditor.

A more serious concern is the networking in Windows 7, which causes many applications to run noticeably slower than XP across networks. Mysterious and intermittent problems with getting Windows 7 and XP to talk across networks are also common.

I’ll post links to Windows 7 issues here, along with solutions and workarounds.  When a particular issue needs more than a few words of explanation, I’ll write up a post about it and link to the post here.

I’ll almost certainly be switching some of my machines from XP to 7 in the near future, but I’m going to hold off until I can find ways around all these issues.  By then maybe Windows 8 will be available, but then again, Windows 8 looks even worse…

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