To Upgrade or Not to Upgrade…That is the Windows 7 Question

The decision whether or not (or when) to upgrade is complex and dependent on many factors. Upgrading operating systems can create a competitive advantage, increase productivity and reduce administrative overhead. Alternatively, upgrading can cause compatibility issues with core applications, reduce productivity and significantly impact budgets and the bottom line. Due to mixed reviews of Vista, many businesses have chosen to delay upgrading to the controversial operating system and are waiting for Microsoft to either fix it or produce something better. The immediate positive reviews of the recently released Windows 7 beta are encouraging, but should you bet your business on it?


Windows 7 is looming on the horizon. It’s hard to believe, but Windows XP first arrived in 2001. XP is a good OS and a significant improvement over Windows 2000 in many business-relevant ways. This was especially evident with the release of service pack 2 and its improved networking and security capabilities.

Businesses have been riding the XP train for eight years, despite Vista being available for some time now. Hesitation exists because upgrading can be a headache, and there’s the often-stated mindset that you should never opt for the first release of a Microsoft OS. Whatever the reason, many businesses wait until Microsoft has “worked the bugs out.” I‘ve often heard the belief that the best way to adopt new OS releases from Microsoft is to let someone else do its beta testing.

Like it or not, the XP train is reaching the end of the track. Support officially ended for XP in April 2009, with extended support until 2014. That means no more updates and no more free support from Microsoft for the duration. It also means you cannot buy a new PC installed with XP, and the legal ability to downgrade from Vista to XP will no longer be an option. So one way or another, decision makers are going to face a choice of operating systems that will not include XP.

It is not all bad news though.

I’ve been using Windows 7 both in beta and release candidate for several months on both my home PC and my corporate laptop. I use my laptop as both a desktop replacement at the office and as a mobile workstation for multiple client-site use.

How 7 Works and Plays in the Enterprise and in Multi-Client and Remote Use

1. Simpler and faster networking – Network browsing is fast and efficient, unlike Vista where long lags can occur when clicking on a network drive. Wireless configuration and reconnecting to existing networks is more streamlined and easier to achieve.

2. User account control – In Vista, UAC was unmanageable, whereas 7 is unobtrusive. I eventually ended up turning it off in Vista, which did nothing for security.

3. Faster boot times – In all but a few cases where a user was using a stripped-down version of XP on a fast computer, 7 still boots faster. Unlike XP, which seems to get slower over time, my laptop still boots as fast as it did the day I installed 7. I’ve experienced this on platforms ranging from an older Pentium M 1.6 and a more current Centrino Dual Core.

4. Faster and easier install – I’ve smoothly installed 7 on eight different devices. No muss, no fuss, no drama. My greatest fear of driver availability on my production laptop has been laid to rest. When Microsoft released Vista, it introduced new driver architecture primarily for the graphics and sound subsystems. The difficulty of finding drivers early in an OS release is legendary. With 7, I’ve only encountered a handful of devices, mostly older printers, for which I have failed or had to search to find drivers. Where 7 drivers were not available, typically Vista drivers worked. Only one device has failed to work properly – an older Tektronix Phaser printer. Windows 7 included drivers are extensive. What’s more impressive about the availability of drivers is that I installed the 64-bit version instead of the more common 32-bit.

5. Blue Screens – Lots of blues with Vista, not one in 7. Your results may vary, but consider I currently have three different VPN clients and a host of diagnostic applications on my machine that do interesting things to the IP stack of my laptop.

Points in Favor of Windows 7 for the Enterprise

• Ability to remove Internet Explorer 8 and use other browsers exclusively
• Improved network browsing and searching speed and capabilities
• Improved troubleshooting and remote support capabilities
• Improved file browser over both XP and especially over Vista

Included apps (Paint, Notepad, Calculator) are greatly improved in both function and look and feel. Windows 7 is vastly better than Vista and has proven itself robust and usable for both home and business. If you have the opportunity thru purchasing new equipment or reloading an existing machine, pick up a copy of 7 when it hits the market (October 22, 2009) and give it a try.

If you’ve had a chance to work with Windows 7 beta..what are your thoughts?

8 thoughts on “To Upgrade or Not to Upgrade…That is the Windows 7 Question

  1. Thanks for the great insight, Greg. My only gripe about Windows 7 so far is that I miss my default Quick Launch toolbar and I don’t like not having the “Show Desktop” button readily available on my taskbar.

  2. Amrou, my show desktop button is on the far right of the taskbar, to the right of the system tray. I don’t find it obtrusive. Is yours somewhere more obtrusive?

    Greg, great post. I’m enjoying my Windows 7 install. Much much better than my wife’s Vista. Much faster than my old XP install and this is on a 5 year old laptop. I am particularly impressed with the system performance and boot times. Most of my gripes relate to Office 2007 and the changed keyboard shortcuts in Excel. I’m still trying to find old commands on the new menu ribbons. Productivity has definitely slowed for me in that department. And your glasses are certainly sharp. Stick with that look!

  3. I can’t wait to get it on my work laptop – unfortunately our VPN client is a bit behind in that because we’d have to uprade the equipment to get the new client to work. Good post Greg! Love you!

  4. I have been thinking of upgrading to 7, but have been reluctant to since my XP seems to be working fine. My son who is more technically oriented than I says I should upgrade from 32 bit to 64 bit what is your take on this.

  5. Martin,

    There is a performance benefit for 64 bit computing. Moving to 64 bit will ensure the best compatability in the long term, but there may be challenges in the short term. Windows 7 provides ways to work around those challenges, but you just need to be aware that from time to time you may – for example – need to open certain Web sites in the 32 bit version of IE and not the 64 bit version.

    Windows 7 also has a compatability mode that can be applied to applications that either do not work and play well with windows 7 or with a 64 bit OS. To stack the deck in favor of a positive experience, I would do some due diligence:

    -Make sure you do indeed have a 64 bit processor
    -Make sure all your applications will function under windows 7, or that updates are available
    -Make sure your hardware (printers, etc.) offers windows 7 or Vista 64 bit drivers.
    -Make sure you have access to the installation media for all your applications.

    You should also be aware that there is not an official direct upgrade path and that installing either version of windows 7 will require a reinstall of all applications. And as always make sure you get a good backup before pulling the trigger.

  6. Greg, I heard (from an IT dude) that Win 7 was really Vista with some enhanced display modifications that slightly improve performance over Vista. This was somewhat contrary to the reports I had been hearing about its great performance over Vista. Most of your comparitive comments have been toward Win 7 vs XP. Is it faster significantly than Vista? Is it as much of a memory hog as Vista? If I wanted to upgrade, are you saying that you can’t upgrade and you have to start from scratch with a new install of Win 7?

  7. Hello Bruce!
    7 uses the same kernel as Vista, which is completely rewritten from XP. That being said, I am comfortable saying that 7 is what Vista should have been. The kernel is solid but it’s implementation in Vista was not ideal. Microsoft clearly did significant work to improve performance and usability and has produced a product that is a worthy successor to XP. My experience is that 7 is hands down faster and more usable and reliable than Vista despite sharing Vista’s DNA. Memory utilization is improved and the core components have been streamlined to load faster and require fewer system resources. As to upgrading from Vista, it depends on your version. Check this link for more information
    And at the risk of opening a can of worms, I will clarify my earlier statement about upgrades to this: There is currently no supported method of upgrading from XP to 7 that retains setting and applications.

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