By the time you read this, Windows 7 will be shrink-wrapped and on store shelves complete with banners, t-shirts, giveaways and a lot of press. The key question is should you make the leap on day one? Although I gave Windows 7 "winner" status in my October 1 entry, "Is Windows 7 a Keeper, a Sleeper, a Loser or a Weeper?" you should wait. You should wait until Microsoft patches Windows 7 at least once with a major service pack. The one exception to this recommendation is if you have Windows Vista installed on your computers. An unpatched and inexperienced Windows 7 will fare better than a fixed Windows Vista.
I have nothing in particular against Microsoft or Windows 7, but I know Microsoft's history with operating system releases. If past behavior predicts future behavior (a major psychological tenet), then you're advised to wait a few months or even a year before rolling the dice on Windows 7. The first releases of Microsoft's major operating systems are always somewhat underwhelming. It's as if they release a final beta to the public to gather feedback that will then be used to create the first major service pack or, better yet, a major revision. It happened with Windows 95, Windows 98, Windows NT 4.0, Windows 2000 shall I continue?
Waiting Is the Hardest Part
Waiting on something as hyped as Windows 7 isn't easy, but why do I say 'wait' after declaring Windows 7 a winner? As I said earlier, it's a matter of history. Waiting for the first major service pack (SP1) or a new revision (called R2 these days) is worth your time and money time and money that's otherwise wasted on rebooting, troubleshooting and complaining about downtime. Don't buy the first releases of a Microsoft operating system ever. For example, do you bleeding edge types, who jump on every service pack and hotfix with great zeal, remember Windows NT 4.0 service pack 2 or Windows 95 'A'? I do, and it wasn't pretty. In Shakespearean times, as well as ours, the better part of valor is discretion.
Making the Switch
When you're ready to make the switch, do so with caution by going back and reading my aforementioned article on Windows 7. You'll gain some insight as to how to proceed based on which operating system you're currently using, and does it make a difference?
I think that the enhancements from Windows XP to Windows 7 offer an intelligent and overdue change. Windows 7 is an improvement over Windows XP, which is a difficult thing for me to write, but it's true. After experiencing Vista, I once stated that it would take my untimely demise to pull Windows XP from my cold, dead fingers. Dramatic, maybe; true, yes. And for Windows Vista, the upgrade to Windows 7 should be a requirement for anyone limping along with that monstrosity. Microsoft should, perhaps, offer a 50 percent off upgrade from Vista to Windows 7 and a public apology.
Looking Into Windows 7
If you believe Windows 7 is Vista R2, you're wrong; it isn't. It's a new operating system that delivers on its promise of better performance, lower hardware requirements and a lighter feel than Vista. Windows 7 is multicore and processor-aware, and it takes advantage of the performance enhancements for desktop applications. You'll likely also notice your system boots faster with Windows 7, so there's no need to stroll to that cup of coffee; you'll need to sprint. Windows 7 also recognizes virtual hard disks (VHD format only), which is a real geek treat for those of us who care to use them. If you purchase the Enterprise or Ultimate version, you also receive BitLocker disk encryption software, which allows you to encrypt all files on your disks to enhance security for your sensitive data files.
Yes, Windows 7 is a winner, and I think it rocks as a desktop operating system with one major caveat: I don't use it as my primary operating system, and thus I don't depend on it for productivity. Nor will I for some time to come. I'll continue to use it in a virtual machine until I've seen at least one service pack and perhaps one major revision. I'm happy about it, but I won't celebrate its release with a purchase just yet.
As far as Microsoft's suggestion to hold Windows 7 launch parties, sorry Microsoft, I may be a geek but I draw the line at the city limits to Loserville. Instead of a Windows 7 launch party, I'd rather throw a Nuke Windows Vista party and, though such a party reeks of Loser Fest 2009, it's far more palatable to me than a launch party for Windows 7. On the other hand, if Microsoft were sponsoring a Windows 7 launch party, I'd go.
Are you making the giant leap of faith into Windows-7-dom? Write back and let us know.
Ken Hess is a freelance writer who writes on a variety of open source topics including Linux, databases, and virtualization. He is also the coauthor of Practical Virtualization Solutions, which is scheduled for publication in October 2009. You may reach him through his web site at http://www.kenhess.com.