Tuesday, June 1, 2010

Windows 7 - Review

I have installed Windows 7 some weeks ago on a separate disk but quickly abandoned it as it crashed on me with some very beautiful blue BSOD screens. As I got my last BSOD screen 3 years ago with Windows XP, I quickly returned to this lovely OS.
However, as my new laptop came with Windows 7 I have to stick with it so I had the change to work with Windows 7 for 4-5 days now.

My impression?

Installing Windows 7 on top of XP

The bad news is that you cannot install Windows 7 in top of Windows XP. However, I was really impressed to see that the guys from Microsoft decided to keep your old Windows XP files instead of deleting them during Win 7 installation. So, when the installation of Windows 7 is ready, you will find your old Windows (XP) in a folder in the root of your drive. You will find there also the "Documents and settings" and "Program files" folders. Great job Microsoft!

The installation of Windows 7 is way way way way way much easier that Windows XP. Basically you can put the original CD in, start the installation and leave for a coffee. Windows will install basically everything without asking you all those stupid questions about how to set the network or other stuff.


Windows 7 is definitively eye-candy, but the price you have to pay for this candyness is really high. I am a power user and I have many many windows open on screen. Switching between these windows is painfully slow and it is decreasing the productivity quite a bit.

Downgrades and other problems to expect

In Windows 7, Control + Alt + Del will not open the Task Manager. Instead you have to use Control + Shift + Esc. Not a big deal, but it will take a while until you will get used with it. You will definitively press Control+Alt+Del for a while until you will get used to use the other shortcut.

Some program such as "PowerMenu" will not work at all. Some other programs and old games (Stronghold Crusader Extreme) may encounter problems while accessing the disk because the new policy applied by Win 7 restricts access to some folders (for example Program File). Many of these problems can be "corrected" by running the program (if it is trusted) as administrator.

Some old hardware (my lovely A4Tech mouse) will not work as smooth as in Win XP because (of course) of drivers issues.

The Control Panel is a mess at a first glance. Everything is rearanged and over-simplified. However, there is a setting that allows you to switch the control panel to "classic" mode.
Anyway, some stuff are still difficult to use it, for example, you have to click a lot to change a simple setting such as "Hibernate after x hours".

Managing file association is the biggest mess. My (advanced) file manager has a nice and handy tool that lets you to change file type associations in just 3 seconds. However, Windows 7 does not like you to do this from any other point expect its own bulky and difficult to use interface.

New tools & other goodies

Under XP, Task Manager had less to offer so I had to use other (more advanced) tools to manage my system. I really enjoyed seeing that Task Manager is now a decent program. It now shows the full path of all running applications (oh yes!) and has a decent resource manager.

Windows Experience Index (keyboard shortcut Win + Break) is a nice tool to quickly compare the performance of two different computers (very useful when you are in a computer store to pick a laptop and you want to see/compare the performance of each one).

Windows will automatically search for drivers. Yes, Win XP could do that too, but in Windows 7 this feature really works!

Bad things to expect when upgrading from Windows XP

I never format my drives so when I upgraded, all my folders created under XP are still on the drive. The problem is that Windows 7 cannot access some folders because the permissions are a mess. So you might have to manually re-set the permissions for some folders. I will blog about this soon.

Overall performance 

Windows 7 is not much different than Windows XP as usability. 
Without running speed tests, and relying only on my 'feeling' I would say that Win 7 is a bit slower than Windows XP but not much and only in some areas. Probably if I will invest 600-700EU to upgrade my hardware it will work as nice as Windows XP. But remember: Win XP works already really nice already, without any additional investment). So if  you intend to purchase a license, be prepared to spend some extra money to upgrade your old video card and CPU, especially if you want that eye-candy Aero interface on.
Under Windows XP, while performing regular tasks (programming, music, browsing), the CPU utilization was 0%. In Win 7 the CPU is usually at 30% even more. So, 30% of your CPU will be wasted for doing nothing (well, not quite nothing, probably for displaying the eye-candy Windows interface). If you look in Task Manager, non application is taking CPU, so probably those 30% of CPU utilization goes to the kernel/GUI.

Under XP I used to defrag my disk while I was working. Under Windows 7, the computer cannot be used when you defrag your disk. Even if my disk has a nice Experience Rating of 7, while defragging, the whole computer runs like a slug.


When speaking about reliability and stability, it seems Windows 7 needs several SP releases until it gets to the point where Windows XP is. Installed from the CD, it seems to be unstable. However, I let Windows 7 to upgrade itself and I got no additional blue screens until now. Let's hope it will stay this way.


Switching to a new OS without waiting for the service packs to be released may a hasty act. But it is also nice the breath of fresh air that Win 7 offers. Think only to those poor guys that upgrade to Vista in its early days. They were used a Guinea pigs.

I will recommend you NOT to switch YET to Windows 7 definitively, but to install it as secondary OS, especially if your hardware is more than 9 months old! Then migrate slowly your non-critical software (multimedia players and so) and leave the productivity tool on the XP machine. When you think Windows 7 is stable and fast enough (after you have upgraded your hardware) you can move to Win 7 definitively.


My system:
AMD  64 X2 Dual Core 4600+ (index: 5.4)
4GB RAM DDR2 (index: 7)
GForce 7600GS (experience rating: 4)  :(
Seagate Barracuda (index: 5.9)

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