Windows 7? Really? (A lackluster experience)

I like to stay loosely in touch with tech trends by following some of the headlines and articles on Tom’s Hardware, and for about the past two months on any given day a visit to the site would yield 2-3 headlines dealing with the forthcoming release from Microsoft, Windows 7. Naturally, I started browsing through the articles, and it wasn’t long before I was starting to get hyped up about the new operating system myself. Everyone loves to talk about how horrible Vista is and why it’s the biggest flop in recent history for MS and everything like that, but personally I’ve not had any problems with it. It runs fine on my year old laptop, and it does what I need it to do while looking pretty. (Granted, I still use XP for high-performance situations like my audio work, but that’s another story).

Anyway, everyone is talking about how much better the performance will be, how slick the interface is, and how finally something would give Mac OS a run for its money. Thinking that I really would like something like Vista only lighter and more customizable, I decided to give the release candidate a try as soon as it was available. The download via torrent was quick, the install was painless, and getting a beta key couldn’t have been any easier. Within 45 minutes I was up and running the Ultimate version of Windows 7 RC on my Toshiba laptop with 4GB and a 2.0 GHz AMD processor (well above the system requirements).

Of course the first order of business with any OS is to get your security software up and running and pull down all the apps you use on a regular basis. Seeing that IE8 was my only choice to hit the web at the outset, I fired it up to quickly get AVG installed and go about putting the new system through its paces. As soon as I launched IE, however, I got the spinner… and waited… and no sooner had the window appeared, then it was “Not Responding.” So the browser crashed on me within a minute of boot up (which was supposed to be a faster process, but wasn’t, by the way). No biggie. It’s still just the release candidate, and there are bound to be bugs. So I continued to get things set up the way I like them, turn off all the unnecessary services and other resource hogs, and look forward to running a 64-bit OS and actually utilizing my memory. I poked around a little and noted some very nominal differences such as being able to “pin” applications to the task bar for one-click launching (a la Mac), grouping of windows from the same application in the task bar, and a little more gloss here and there. The supposed performance gains and optimizations were nowhere to be found. If anything, the system ran slightly more sluggishly for me than Vista and way slower than XP.

A short time later while resizing a browser window (Firefox), I got a hard freeze, and I mean total-OS-crash-have-to-hold-the-power-button-to-reboot freeze. It has been years since I had a computer lock up on me like that. I would get the occasional Blue Screen when configuring new hardware in XP, but never did Vista cause me to do a hard reboot. Giving W7 the benefit of the doubt, I fired back up and continued working, browsing, chatting with friends and so on. I used it for a couple more days before I got another hard freeze, again with the system under virtually no load. I haven’t booted into it since.

I know it’s not a finished product, and believe me, I’m as excited as anyone else for someone to steal the spotlight from Mac, but I really was not impressed with Windows 7, and I don’t see what the hype is about. Furthermore, although I would have been willing to pay maybe $150 or so to upgrade if it lived up to my expectations, I really don’t see myself shelling it out for the product I experienced. Why pay more for an OS that freezes, boots just as slow, hogs system resources, will lack software support at the outset, and truthfully just doesn’t perform? Well… I guess you could pay a couple hundred dollars for some new icons and the ability to have instances of the same application grouped in the task bar, but personally, I will be holding off.

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