Sunday, January 10, 2010

Should I upgrade my computer to Windows 7?

This is a question that a lot of folks who have been frustrated using Windows Vista have been asking since Microsoft announced the new operating system was shipping. While I had tested beta version on a couple of computers, I recently decided to upgrade my working laptop computer because we are planning some Windows 7 seminars in the near future and I wanted to have something to show off.

Prior to Windows 7, when folks would ask me “is it worth the time and money for me to upgrade my computer?” I would respond with “just wait until you need a new system and just get it preinstalled.” This advice has changed with my experience upgrading my laptop to Windows 7.

My laptop is a Dell Vostro 1400, purchased 2.5 years ago. It has an Intel Duo-core processor and 2GB of memory and a 60GB hard drive. It was shipped with and running Vista Business very s-l-o-w-l-y. To be honest, I had a 5-year old laptop running Windows XP that I preferred using because it was so much faster. My hopes were that after this revamping process, my Vostro laptop would be much faster and usable.

The first task was to research if the laptop was Windows 7 compatible. I researched Dell’s support site only to find it was not officially supported. For most folks, this should have been a deal breaker. For a tech geek such as myself, I considered this a challenge. I knew that if it did not work, I could just reload Vista Business and go on.

I never, ever recommend doing an upgrade to an operating system. Rather, I recommend a new install. This keeps the registry clean and can prevent incompatibilities with older drivers, etc. So I stuck in my Windows 7 Business 64-bit DVD and started the process of installing the operating system.

To my surprise, the installation recognized all of the hardware in the laptop and everything installed without a hitch. Even the Bluetooth capability which I use with my iPhone tethering was enabled and worked properly. I could not believe how much zippier the computer seemed to respond. When I did this same thing going from Windows XP to Vista, the computer was noticeably slower. This was the exact opposite. It was much faster. Maybe Microsoft got it right this time?

After installing Windows 7, I needed to install my applications. Instead of using Office 2007, I opted to install Office 2010 Beta instead. WOW!! I could not believe how fast Outlook ran. In fact, everything ran much faster except Internet Explorer 8.0 which seemed to run about the same speed.

Not content with having my Internet experience slow me down, I decided to try out Google Chrome as my browser to see if it made a difference. I had tried Google Chrome when it first came out and was disappointed. After installing it this time, I was pleasantly surprised. It was much faster than IE 8.0 and the only limitation is that it does not support ActiveX which is required for us to remote control servers we manage. Not a problem, as IE 8 is still available to use for that purpose.

The final step in my re-install process was to encrypt my laptop. I needed to test this for a client and thought this would be a good opportunity. Microsoft offers encryption out of the box with some of the Windows 7 versions but it requires that the computer have a special feature built in to the system board. After researching the other options, I settled with Trucrypt ( a free, open source on-the-fly disk encryption software. I installed it and configured it per the instructions and all worked perfectly.

Now, back to the question, “Should I upgrade my computer to Windows 7?” My answer is: if your hardware supports it and you have at least 2GB of RAM, I would definitely consider doing it. After going through this process, my laptop runs much faster and more reliably. I feel I have increased the usable life of my laptop (pending any hardware failures) by a couple of years. Of course, your mileage may vary (YMMV) as all computers are different.

If you are interested in finding out more, please try to attend one of our upcoming Windows 7 seminars. We are planning them in conjunction with Microsoft and local Chamber of Commerce organizations. To get on the seminar list, please send an email to and we will keep you posted to upcoming events.


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