You've quietly rocked along with Windows XP for a few years and now you feel compelled to upgrade to Vista or the upcoming Windows 7. You've heard bad things about Vista or experienced them first-hand, and you've heard that Windows 7 is a promising replacement for XP. Which is it? Do you trade in your trusty friend for a known troublemaker or do you go with the shiny new operating system that's just over the horizon?
Microsoft wants to drop support for XP* but users don't want to give it up. Hardware vendors salivate awaiting your decision to move to hardware-hungry Vista. Should you face the situation and spend the money to upgrade, replace your computer entirely to Vista quality or should you wait for the stingier Windows 7? What to do? What to do, indeed.
Vista receives accolades from a discreet minority, and even those few who give it that shaky thumbs-up tell you to shell out the extra bucks for the latest hardware and maximum amount of RAM. Poor Vista weathers the slings and arrows of outrageous commentary from an array of bloggers, techies, journalists and stay-at-home moms from every part of the globe. Unfortunately, Vista lives up to most of the insults thrown its way.
Alternatively, Windows 7 has promise for those who want to wait for it. It's what we wished Vista would have been when released its smaller footprint and more efficient use of resources make it a more palatable choice than Vista for those of you anticipating its arrival. Reviews of Windows 7 are mostly positive very early reviews were not. Its performance receives the highest accolades and compares favorably to Windows XP in that area.
A definite Windows 7 release date isn't known, but its beta-release versions will stop working on August 1, 2009, so expect it on store shelves soon thereafter.
It might surprise you to know that Windows 7 has the same advertised hardware requirements as Vista. Microsoft also states that "It might also be possible to run the Windows 7 Beta on a less powerful system than the one we recommend, although we can't guarantee the results. **"
- 1 GHz+ Processor
- 1 GB Memory
- 16GB Disk Space
- DirectX 9 Capable Graphics Card
- DVD Drive
- Internet Access
Although the hardware requirements are equivalent, you would have a hard time finding someone who's happy with their Vista-based computer running a mere 1 GB of memory. I have to believe that these requirements for Windows 7 are accurate since some new Netbooks will arrive preinstalled with Windows 7. Netbooks are a new class of laptop computer that feature light weight (~2 lbs), a small footprint (~9" screen size), inexpensive (less than $400) and long battery life (9 hours+). Some also sport limited resources such as 1GB (or less) memory and very small internal disks (4GB up to 160GB).
Whether or not you believe Windows 7 is "Vista with a makeover," one thing's for sure; Microsoft learned its lesson between the wholesome goodness of Windows XP and the sheer hell of Vista. Windows 7 is a frugal choice because your happy Windows XP-based desktop will be just as happy with Windows 7. Do you still feel like the choice between Vista and Windows 7 is a legitimate one?
Remember, if neither of those choices appeals to you, point your favorite browser to http://www.ubuntu.com and ponder a third choice.
* Mainstream support ends for Windows XP on 04/14/2009.
** Windows 7 Beta FAQ
Ken Hess is a freelance writer who writes on a variety of open source topics including Linux, databases, and virtualization. You may reach him through his web site at http://www.kenhess.com.