Should You Upgrade to Windows 7? 7 Pros and 7 Cons

Now that Windows 7, the much-heralded upgrade to Microsoft’s Windows Vista operating system, is here, should you make the switch? We can think of as many reasons to do it as not. With an apologetic nod to Letterman, here are our top seven reasons, pro and con.

Why You Should Upgrade to Windows 7

7. Easier Troubleshooting 

With the Pro edition and higher, Windows 7 includes the Problem Steps Recorder. It lets you create a kind of animated movie illustrating a problem. Turn on the recorder and perform the steps that produced the error. Annotate the resulting animation if necessary, and then e-mail the zipped file to a technical support person. That means reduced time on the phone with tech support people and no techie language barrier.

6. Longer Battery Life 

Laptops will run significantly longer on battery power than they did under Vista thanks to a bunch of changes. When the computer goes into low power modes (sleep, hibernate), Windows 7 cuts power to components that were not always powered down under Vista: USB ports, cameras, etc. Microsoft has also found ways to reduce power draw during normal operation, reportedly by as much as 15 percent.

5. Find Stuff Faster

The new Libraries feature lets you see files from multiple folders in one meta-folder — all documents in the Documents Library, for example, whether they’re physically stored in My Documents or in an archive folder.

And the improved desktop search engine uses fewer computing resources, returns results faster and adds useful features such as results grouped by type and location, the capability to search meta data (e.g. author field in a Word document’s Properties) and context-specific search fields in Windows Explorer, Control Panel and other locations.

4. Better Data Security 

Microsoft improved the integrated backup and restore tool, giving you more control. You can now choose a custom backup destination (including network drives), create system images separately from file backups and choose which folders and files and/or file types to back up.

New functionality also makes it easy to restore previous versions of files and folders preserved by Windows Backup and Restore Point. Finally, BitLocker-to-Go lets you encrypt and password-protect files copied to a flash drive.

3. Improved Interface 

The new Aero interface makes it easier to work with active applications and open files. Mousing over an icon in the task bar displays large thumbnails of all open windows in that program or tool. Mousing over a thumbnail temporarily displays the window in normal mode. Left-clicking brings it to the top and makes it active.

Right-clicking an icon in the bar displays a list of recently opened files. Selecting one opens it and puts it on top. The “snap” feature lets you neatly line up two documents to compare by simply dragging them to opposite sides of the desktop. These small refinements make a significant difference in day-to-day use.

2. Enhanced Compatibility

One big complaint about Vista when it launched was that many applications and device drivers designed to work with XP wouldn’t work with the new operating system. Microsoft claims — and work with pre-release versions confirms — that this is much less a problem with Windows 7.

With XP Mode for Windows 7, even older applications will run — right from the desktop, without launching a separate shell. Also, Windows 7 makes installing new hardware easier by automatically searching on the Web for and installing device drivers.

And our number one reason to upgrade to Windows 7 (drum roll, please)…

1. Faster and More Efficient

Vista was a bloated code monster that needed constant patching and supercomputer resources to run efficiently. Windows 7 by all accounts is a much slimmed-down and optimized piece of code. It takes up less disk space and runs more nimbly on lower-powered computers. Based on our testing, it uses less processing capacity and is less prone than Vista to crashing, hanging and freezing. It also boots more quickly. Hallelujah.

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