Rolling With Windows 7

[Disclaimer: I worked for MSFT for years and I’m still a fan boy. I also, as an alumni, got my copies of Win7 for a discounted price. YMMV, etc.]


I built my current desktop PC “Lord Vader”  in March of 2007 (yes, I’m dork). Since then, I’ve upgraded the CPU, added more memory and added more hard drives. With those small investments I’ve still got a pretty decent hot rod on my hands, without having had to buy a new machine. Next year I’ll probably swap out the mobo and CPU.

I’ve run Vista on the box since before it was released. It took until at least SP1 before the box ran decently and SP2 before I was completely satisfied. And I was completely satisfied with Vista, even if that goes against the accepted wisdom that Vista was rubbish. At RTM, I had lots of problems with poor or even non-existent drivers. I also made the mistake of upgrading the box from XP to Vista which was a bad idea.

I had enough trouble with Nvidia drivers (I bought Nvidia products for both the motherboard and the video card) that I’ll never buy anything from them again. The soundcard I was using didn’t get a usable Vista driver until months after the release. I also had trouble with MSN Music (I’m embarrassed to admit that I actually bought music from them) and even from Windows Media Center.

By the time the second service pack came around my computer was working pretty much flawlessly. I did a clean install of Vista SP2 x64 and the experience was night and day from my original upgrade. Even the Nvidia drivers were finally up to par!

So, I didn’t really need to upgrade to Windows 7, but I’m a geek. I live for running the cutting edge of everything. Of course, I pre-ordered. On Friday, I ran downstairs to get the package from the UPS guy and tore it open like a little kid on Xmas morning. I backed up my data, formatted my drive and performed a clean install. Sixty one minutes later I was reading Facebook and listening to music again. Everything except for my external soundcard just worked out of the box without me having to visit vendor websites for drivers. All of my programs worked without fiddling with compatibility settings.

The next day I re-installed my recording software and had no problems. Even my Presonus Firebox just worked when I downloaded the driver, without having to perform the workarounds that I’d used with the Windows 7 RC that was installed on my laptop. The biggest headache I’ve run into is getting some of the more piracy paranoid companies to re-authorize my software, but even that only took a few hours.

So far, Windows 7 has lived up to the good things I’ve heard about it in reviews and on message boards. Things are much snappier and more responsive. The new libraries feature has finally moved me completely from the exhaustively organize my files camp to the put it wherever and let search find it later camp. That said, my favorite feature, the feature that’s already making me more productive, is Aero Snap. Using the Windows Key and the direction pad allows me to easily move windows between monitors, to align them side by side, to maximize them, etc. without ever having to take my hands off of the keyboard. The ten minutes I invested in getting comfortable with that feature have already paid off handsomely for me.

The ability to have Windows automatically shuffle your favorite photos as desktop wallpaper every 30 minutes is totally eye candy, but I have to say I really dig that too.

All in all, I’m happy with the upgrade in a way that I’ve never been with previous installations right after product release. I’m even a little tiny bit bummed that I didn’t have to get out my engineer hat and start searching for workarounds and fixes. Not much, just a bit.

Of course, you may not be a geek. If things are working for you in Vista, you should probably wait for your next PC purchase to enjoy Windows 7. Operating System upgrades are no joke and my flawless experience doesn’t mean that you won’t run into a problem with a device driver or legacy program.