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Windows 7


Heather Cooper on December 7, 2011 in Advice for Business Owners

Have you upgraded to Windows 7 yet? If not, I’m asking why? I know change is sometimes hard, but this time it’s ok. In fact, it’s good!

Now, this is coming from someone who hated Vista. In fact, I hated Vista so much on my home laptop that I completely ignored it from a work perspective. I figured if I got so frustrated with it, then my users would surely rebel.

But now we have Windows 7. It’s been around since July of 2009 and I’ve been using it almost all of this time. Initially and begrudgingly, I tried it on a machine in the office. I expected much of the same frustration as Vista brought me, but within a day I was already relaxed and starting to love it. It didn’t take long for me to run out and buy an upgrade version for my home laptop. Goodbye Vista! Soon my “better half”, a non-techie, was also loving it.

As I’ve replaced computers in the office with Windows 7 machines, I haven’t had one rebellion. As you can imagine this was a great relief for me. I like to keep my users (aka: your accountants) happy and productive.

Many people and organizations are holding back, preferring to stick with tried-and-true XP. I recently read that Microsoft estimates more than 300,000 PCs still run XP. I also recently attended a web-based Windows 7 course where a poll was taken from the 40 attendees asking what Operating Systems we are all using. This course was attended by IT Techs from all over North America, in companies of all sizes, and the instructor was shocked to see that 55% of the class had yet to start deploying Windows 7.

Ok, it took some getting used to, more from an IT configuration standpoint, and sometimes I still can’t remember where certain settings are, but that’s the nature of change. From a user standpoint, I’m not going back.

By now you are probably wondering about specifics. Well specifically, I like the navigation changes, technically called Jump Lists. I like the preview windows from the Taskbar and previewing in general. I like that the Search feature is so improved. Wireless networking is much easier to deal with. My laptop knows where I am and which printer to use depending on my location. And I love how quickly a machine wakes up from Sleep Mode…..with no delay at all. Previously, I didn’t use Sleep Mode, but now that it wakes up perfectly I use it for saving power. I like that I don’t seem to have near as many lock-ups, hangs, and software failures. There are also better system recovery tools. If something does go wrong, almost always the system recovers itself. I like Pinning, and that Snipping Tool is my absolute favourite. For techies, the PSR (Problem Steps Recorder) is a dream come true.

Really there’s no huge change in the user interface to report. There are many subtle refinements but they add up, for me, to a better overall feel. I’m just comfortable using this.

Ok, some words of warning. Firstly, in most cases, especially for home or smaller businesses, you will want to turn off the “UAC” (User Access Control). This is a security feature that gives you a very dramatic, extra warning every time you install something. If you are in a larger environment, then this is a fantastic tool that you can use to limit users from installing unwanted, non-business essential software. If you use and control the UAC settings through “Group Policy”, all the power to you. If you don’t and don’t want to be questioned at every install, then go to the Control Panel, “User Accounts and Family Safety” or “User Accounts”, “User Accounts” (yes the same thing twice), and “Change User Account Control settings”. Move the slider to the bottom for “Never Notify”, click Ok and you will then be asked to reboot. If you can’t make this change, it’s because you’re not logged on as a machine Administrator.

Secondly, there is no built-in email program. For home use, I was very frustrated with this. I don’t like only having my email on a webmail system like Hotmail or Gmail. I want received mail downloaded to my computer and my Sent Items to stay with me. Yes, I’m old-fashioned that way. We get co-op students into the office who have never experienced Outlook and all its lovely features. They’ve never used anything but online email. But if you’re like me, you’re going to need to buy Outlook or another 3rd party email program. Be aware that if you are buying Microsoft Office, the “Home and Student” version does not have Outlook but the “Home and Office” version does. If you buy a new Windows 7 computer that comes with Office Starter, definitely go through this to buy the full version. I found it was less expensive than buying in-store. If you are in a larger company, then you likely have some kind of internal email system such as Exchange which necessitates Outlook and your IT people have the bases covered. By the way, even though I “download” my email I still am able to get it all on my Blackberry as well. No problem there.

Thirdly, don’t rush. Don’t start this upgrade unprepared. When you buy a new machine pre-loaded with Windows 7, it’s an easy process because you don’t have to erase your old machine before you begin. But if you are upgrading an existing machine, take a day or two to fully prepare (see next paragraph).

And finally, if you are going to upgrade a somewhat older machine, do a fresh install. Download and run the Upgrade Advisor (http://www.microsoft.com/download/en/details.aspx?displaylang=en&id=20) to make sure your hardware can support Windows 7 before you even buy it. In my case, I had a borderline amount of RAM, which was quite inexpensive to upgrade. Then save all your vital documents, email, and contacts to an external hard drive, or burn them to CD or DVD, make sure you have all the installer disks and/or files and license codes for any software you’ll want to reinstall (especially your virus scanner) and then do not upgrade – erase the hard drive and freshly load. Check out this tutorial from Windows that walks you through the upgrade: http://windows.microsoft.com/en-CA/windows7/help/upgrading-from-windows-xp-to-windows-7. Note that if you are installing on a machine running Windows XP, there is no direct upgrade option. If you choose to upgrade from Vista, sure you won’t have to reload software and drivers, but all the old garbage slowing your machine down or causing issues will come along for the ride. Any credible IT person will always tell you to do a fresh install. It may be more work, but it’s worth it in the end. Note that for printers you will likely need to go to the Support section of the manufacturer’s website and download the Windows 7 installer or driver.

If you’re still in no rush to make the transition, then keep this in mind: XP support is scheduled to end. On April 14, 2009, Windows XP came out of Mainstream Support and entered Extended Support. During the Extended Support phase, Microsoft continues to provide security updates every month for Windows XP; however, free technical support, warranty claims, and design changes are no longer being offered. On April 8, 2014, all Windows XP support, including security updates and security-related hot-fixes, will be terminated. Vista Mainstream support ends in 2012.

If you feel like reading more on the subject, here is a blog I enjoyed: http://windowsteamblog.com/windows/b/business/archive/2011/10/25/commemorating-windows.aspx