I’ve been using Windows 7, first in Beta and now in Release Candidate, since early March or so. And I am thorroughly impressed. I was never a Vista hater – and I think most Vista haters either never actually tried Vista or refused to accept that Vista and XP were not the same thing – but there were still a lot of things I didn’t like about the operating system. With Windows 7 on the other hand, I really don’t have any complaints at all and I can honestly say that when the masses get their hands on this operating system they will fall in love with it. Not because it’s shiny and new, not because it doesn’t crash (although Vista really doesn’t crash either, but that’s not what I’m talking about here) but because it makes life easier for the user.
So in the coming week I will publish ten articles outlining ten Windows 7 features that will make you fall in love with the application (and quite possibly reconsider your “Mac is better” stance):
1. It Just Works – Right Out of the Box!
The first thing that astounded me with Windows 7 is that it works properly out of the box. That may sound weird but if you’ve even tried to reinstall a Microsoft operating system on a computer, be it a branded unit, a custom built machine or a laptop, you know that the OS install is just step one of several. In the old days, simply installing the operating system would give you a computer with terrible screen resolution, no networking and generally sub-par performance. To get things running properly you needed to search for and install numerous drivers including screen drivers, motherboard drivers, networking drivers, audio drivers etc etc. All of this took time, effort and a lot of patience – three things people normally don’t have.
To try to curb this problem many PC manufacturers ship their computers with custom OS installs that revert the system back to store shelf operation. The problem with this is that the manufacturers have started selling space on these reset systems and filling that space with bloatware and garbage you don’t want and don’t need. And when you revert your system to shelf operation it means reinstalling all the trash – an operation that ruins performance and clutters your PC. All in all it’s a crap chute.
No more: Windows 7, out of the box with zero custom drivers and no setup, works properly on most if not all modern computers. Case in point: I just installed Windows 7 RC on my wife’s aging Toshiba Satellite M100. It took 15 minutes in total and once the OS was installed, everything except the audio and the scrolling function on the mouse pad worked perfectly (and in the Windows 7 team’s defense, there is a known problem with the M100 audio because the drivers from the audio manufacturer don’t work properly). I had wireless networking, full functionality including custom Fn keys, optimal screen resolution and performance and even card reader functionality. When I installed Vista Ultimate on the same computer a week earlier I had to download and install 12 drivers to get the same functionality.
The same can be said for my Sony Vaio SR140D only this time no drivers were needed to get the computer up to fully working status.
Why does it work so well now? With the release of Windows Vista, Microsoft ran into an unexpected problem: The 3rd party component manufacturers were unbelievably slow in rolling out drivers for the new OS and as a result users were stuck with computers that didn’t work properly. And even though the driver problems sorted themselves out over the first 6 months of Vista’s life, the damage was done and people wrongfully blamed Vista (and Microsoft) for the problems. The Windows 7 team took the experiences from the Vista launch to heart and devised a novel yet ingenious solution: Invite all the hardware manufacturers to work with the development team on the Microsoft campus to create generic drivers for all their hardware, and place those generic drivers either in the install itself or in an open repository for easy access.
As a result when you install Windows 7 on a computer with hardware from a known manufacturer, the installation disk more than likely already has a fully functional generic driver for that hardware that works to spec making the search for specialized drivers pretty much pointless.
But does it crash?
Much has been made of the Windows platform’s uncanny ability to crash at the most inopportune of times. But truth be told this really isn’t as big an issue as it is made out to be. In my experience (and for the record, I currently have 7 computers running in my house) computers crash for two reasons: Either you make them do something they really shouldn’t be doing or something inside the computer goes bump in the night. System crashes caused by “crappy” operating systems are incredibly rare and just as likely to happen on a Mac or a Linux based computer as a PC.
That said I have managed to crash Windows 7 RC once while trying to run a corrput .avi file in Windows Media Centre, Windows Media Player and VLC at the same time. Not surprisingly when all three applications encountered the same bad part of the clip at the same time things went horribly wrong and the famous blue screen of death appeared.
My point is this: If your Windows 7 computer is functioning properly hardware wise and you’re not trying to bring it to its knees, it won’t crash. Period.