23 January 2010
Software and Operating Systems
Windows 7 is all the rage at present, and it is generally agreed that it is a serious improvement from the short-lived, much hated, Vista.
We were all warned that, when Vista came on the scene, support for XP was going to disappear quickly and everyone was urged to migrate across as soon as possible. The well-documented problems with Vista, and its general sluggishness, caused an outcry and XP was left alone, to potter along until Microsoft could release Windows 7.
For the portable market, where the numbers are increasing year on year, the choice is very limited. Most come now with Windows 7, Vista is sold mainly on older stock, and XP is scarcer than hens teeth.
Let's have a look at all 3 versions of Microsoft Windows, and consider some of the issues surrounding each:
- Definitely sleeker, much faster and generally better to use than Vista (some argue its faster than XP, but the most of the hardware it runs on is vastly superior, we have the slowness of Vista to thank for this shift in PC specifications).
- Still a few compatibility issues, particularly as regards legacy/old software applications. Some hardware doesn’t seem to work totally with Windows 7 as yet, but we’d have to assume the manufacturer will release drivers for W7 quite quickly now.
- Laptop manufacturers have all jumped on the bandwagon, and the vast majority of new laptops come only with Windows 7 as their Operating System (OS). This is less of a hassle to the domestic market, but can prove to be a headache for the business market, since they are more likely to have legacy applications/hardware to take into consideration.
- Layman customers, particularly domestic, are being mis-sold these new laptops and Windows 7, with little being told to them of the differences between 32-bit and 64-bit operation. Lots of the new laptops are being shipped with Windows 7 64-bit, which can cause some problems when running legacy applications, designed for 32-bit operation. Before installing 64-bit Windows 7 onto any existing hardware, ensure that ALL components are 64-bit compatible, and that you have no specific software applications which will not run on 64-bit.
- Microsoft has thrown everything at Windows 7, so it is here to stay. We will all have to get along with it one day, as new hardware comes with Windows 7 pre-installed. So maybe embracing Windows 7 earlier rather than later, might be the best way forward.
- Whilst Vista SP2 (Service Pack 2) definitely brought Vista and its operation forwards leaps and bounds, it is still considered slow and cumbersome, and riddled with spurious errors.
- Vista is not the Operating System of choice for new laptops, so sales of it should die out quickly. Most will prefer Windows 7 to anything Vista has to offer.
- From an IT support point of view, Vista still has way too many spurious errors, which can take some time to repair, than Windows 7 or XP.
- Those who managed to miss Vista altogether are the real ‘winners’, because they will eventually have to move to Windows 7, but have managed to avoid the nightmares Vista has caused some users.
- Support for Vista RTM (ie version before any Service Packs are installed, SP1 or SP2) is set to be withdrawn on 13 July 2010, so we would urge users to upgrade to SP2 as soon as possible. Sometimes these Vista SP’s can cause problems when attempting installation. A quick trip to your local computer repairs guy will cost little, but will allow the repair guy to upgrade machines to SP2 manually.
- We do not recommend that users spend the money migrating from Vista to Windows 7 on existing platforms, unless there are specific reasons. We do, however, recommend you ensure your existing copy of Vista has been upgraded to Service Pack 2 (Vista SP2).
- XP is still a very popular choice of Operating System and, even with its Blue Screen of Death (BSOD) errors, it is still a solid choice of OS.
- IT system builders have been threatened since the first release of Vista, that support for XP would disappear relatively quickly. The backlash, mainly due to the poor performance of Vista, meant any such ideas had to be shelved quickly.
- Some legacy applications still run best on XP, and will continue to do so, until developers come out with a new version of the application, designed specifically to run under Windows 7.
- Support for XP Service Pack 2 (and previous) will be withdrawn on 13 July 2010 (source: OEM System Builder Team on Twitter), so we would urge all users to ensure they have Service Pack 3 (SP3) installed as a matter of urgency.
We see no reason to run out and buy Windows 7 to replace an existing Operating System version, and maybe it is best your existing hardware remains on the OS it currently has.
You will have to consider Windows 7 at some stage, choices are particularly limited with new laptops, but you need to look very closely at your existing applications and whether or not they are fully compatible with Windows 7 before you take the plunge.
Windows 7 has a ‘Windows Program Compatibility Troubleshooter’ added, which allows you to run specific applications in a compatibility mode, or as older versions of OS. This will work in most cases, but some legacy applications will not even install properly, so this tool is useless in that event.
We have noticed some poor selling of Windows 7 machines, as 64-bit is becoming as widespread as 32-bit with some manufacturers in particular. The layman user is not aware of 64-bit and the fact that it has serious compatibility issues with some specific applications, which were designed primarily for 32-bit operation. Unfortunately, some unscrupulous retailers are simply forcing this onto the unsuspecting buyer, without checking to see if it will cause them problems. 64-bit is definitely faster than 32-bit, and will be the architecture of the future, but until all applications and hardware components are totally compatible, it cannot completely replace 32-bit just yet.
If you were lucky enough to avoid Vista, then ensure you have upgraded your XP to Service Pack 3 and run a while yet with it. As and when you purchase new hardware, look towards introducing Windows 7 and migrating your whole system across over a period of time.
Home users tend to have less legacy applications, than business users, so the jump to Windows 7 is not such a drastic move. Still, the Home user nowadays has loads of little applications, performing a multitude of specific tasks, and these would need to be looked at (Google them for known Windows 7 issues) prior to making the jump.
Don’t just dump XP yet. It has been supplied up until very lately on the new Netbook range of PC’s (mainly because Vista runs way too slowly on their cut-down hardware capabilities), and Vista scared a load of people away from jumping forwards from XP. We can still purchase it and sell it with new PC builds (though this might dry up sooner rather than later), and all in all it seems XP is going nowhere just yet. The removal of support for versions up to SP3 is a bit of a red herring, as the vast majority of XP users will already be using SP3, and can happily work away with their existing setup.
Our advice – only move to Windows 7 when considering new hardware, and we would still urge you to watch out for Service Pack 1 to be released (past experience has told us this is a necessity for new Microsoft Operating Systems).
If any of our customers has any specific issues with Windows 7, or would like to discuss a potential new hardware purchase before taking the plunge, please call us, advice costs nothing but saves a lot in some cases.