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Why Windows 7 is Underwhelming

Why Windows 7 is Underwhelming

Troy Wolverton/San Jose Mercury News

October 20, 2009

According to the hype and early reviews, Windows 7 is the best revision of the PC operating system that Microsoft has released in years.

It probably is. But that says more about how little Microsoft has done to maintain and upgrade Windows over the years than it does about the true value of Windows 7, which will hit store shelves Thursday.

As for me, I’m a bit underwhelmed.

Admittedly, I’m not the prototypical Windows customer. I’ve been using a Mac at home for four years, having switched after getting fed up with virus problems and repeated system crashes. And many of the things I used to do on my home computer – surfing the Web, checking e-mail, playing games – I now do on my iPhone.

But I have a long history with Windows and still use it every day on my work computer. As much as I like my Mac, I don’t recoil at having to use Windows. In fact, I see the benefits of both and have been impressed with versions of the PC operating system over the years.

Windows 7 tries to address criticisms raised about its predecessor, Windows Vista. Since its release nearly three years ago, Vista has been the ugly stepchild of the Windows line. Users and reviewers have complained about its sluggishness, incompatibility with older software and peripherals, repeated security warnings and other issues.

Because I have a Mac at home and because the Mercury News, like many businesses, has stuck with XP instead of moving to

Vista, I was able to avoid many of its headaches until recently. This summer, I finally upgraded and experienced some of the pain firsthand.

Even though I was given a faster and more capable computer to run Vista, it ran considerably slower than my older XP machine. Worse, the machine crashed repeatedly, inexplicably and with no warning – it would just go black and stop working.

So I was eager to give Windows 7 a try.

Based on my short time using it, I can say the system does seem to have addressed some of the complaints about Vista. Knock on wood, but my computer hasn’t crashed since I upgraded to Windows 7, and so far it is much faster than it was with Vista.

I tend to run seven or more programs at one time, which would bog down my Vista machine, making it difficult to switch between programs. With Windows 7, I can switch through programs quickly and easily.

Another complaint about Vista is just how long it can take to boot up. Windows 7 won’t turn your computer into an instant-on machine, but it does seem to speed things up. With Vista, I had almost enough time to get a cup of coffee from our cafeteria between starting my computer and being able to launch any programs. And I had nearly enough time for another cup between starting to launch those programs and being able to use them.

As it seems to do with every new version of Windows, Microsoft has added some new eye candy to the software, some of which is welcome. The icons in the system tray are less jumbled and more identifiable at first glance.