Whenever Microsoft releases a new OS, I try to at least install it in a VM and poke around with it. With Windows 7 however, I jumped, both feet in and installed it on my laptop and desktop. The installation was quick and easy, on my desktop all the devices were recognized and on my laptop, I only needed to download two or three things from Dell. I still need one or two more for the laptop, but it seems to be functioning very well so far, and I’ve yet to figure out what the few devices that it didn’t recognize are. Maybe my smartcard reader… ???
There are a few features that I want to touch on in this review that make this OS a significant step after the relative fiasco with Vista. I wasn’t a Vista hater by any means, but the OS was pretty slow compared to XP, and the features it added tended to slow it down more. I still think Vista is an OK operating system, but Windows 7 is kicking butt so far.
Keep reading. 🙂
Windows 7 adds a feature called libraries. Libraries are a way to organize files in multiple locations into a single, searchable, selectable location. I’ve created libraries for things that I have to navigate around for often, like ISO’s and virtual machines, since I have them stored in many locations. Some on local storage, some on external HDD’s, and some on NAS (network attached storage). You can add all of these locations into a single location without having to move any files around. This is by far, my favorite feature so far. You can’t add NAS storage to a library by default, but there is a workaround that I’ve also documented in this blog post: Add NAS folders to Windows 7 Libraries.
You can browse these libraries from all of the open and save dialog boxes, and choose a specific part of the library that is your default save area, which makes this feature really powerful for getting to the content you want to get to rapidly when working with a program, finding content when you need it, and staying organized as you create content on your machines.
Homegroup is a nice feature that seems to have finally been built correctly built. Microsoft has tried and failed many times with this feature, Workgroups, MS Home, etc, and it seems, at least so far, that the Homegroup actually allows you to connect relatively easily with other systems on your network. The setup involves typing in a password from one of the other Homegroup machines, and then content can be shared between both/all machines. Instead of having to manually create shares, you can have your default stuff, documents, pictures, music, and video saved in multiple locations but accessible from all.
It appears that overall, Microsoft has increased the ability of the OS to detect other network devices of all types. This brings me to the final feature that I wanted to review this time around.
Devices and Printers
This feature finds devices connected to your computer and network and allows you to view them and easily determine if there’s an issue. This may seem pretty simple in its substance, but if you’re experiencing an issue with a connected or network device in XP or Vista, you’d have to be at least somewhat savvy to even find out if the OS is recognizing it correctly. You can see that I have 2 yellow triangles on devices. One of them, on my laptop itself, is telling me that I need drivers for a few more of my devices. The other, on my NAS, that was found auto-magically by the way, is saying that though I am able to properly connect with and use the NAS, the properties panel even has a link to my NAS web administration interface, specific drivers for the NAS are not loaded. No big deal to me, though some of my more fastidious brethren will want to eliminate all of the yellow nasties. 😉
I’ll also say that the speed increase has thusfar been incredible. Booting, shutting down, and even general daily use, all seems to have more ‘get-up and go’ than Vista and even XP. That may be because my install is still fairly clean, but I’m pretty hard on an OS. Tons of data, lots of windows open, and lots of Windows open in VMs. I’m impressed.
Other features of note, that I won’t dive into, are the newly remodeled taskbar, built-in ISO disk burner, relaxed UAC, and improved Start menu. SO much better, and I have yet to feel like it is out of control, which happened on average every hour when using the previous OS’s just based on the taskbar presentation.
Don’t believe me? Try it for yourself. Run it in a VM and just test it out. It may not be Mac OS whatever, which I like too, but PC’s run a ton more software, are more highly used, and are more affordable. I also prefer to develop on PC’s. I think Microsoft has had Apple beat in the development environment (IDE) war since .NET.
Download Avast antivirus which is free, tool up the OS, and have some fun.