With the launch of Windows 7, there are really 3 different tales to tell. There’s Windows 7, the OS that replaces Vista. There’s Windows 7, the OS that needs to do what Vista failed to do and kill XP. And there’s Windows 7, the OS that needs to put a stop to Apple’s continuing growth. We’re going to look at all 3.

7 vs. Vista

I’ve never been entirely convinced that Microsoft was looking to significantly move away from Vista with Windows 7, and the final release version has not changed that. Win7 certainly has a number of new features, some of them such as the interface overhaul are even big enough to be classified as “major”, but none of them are important enough to be significant.

The analogy I’d like to use here to call Windows 7 Vista’s XP, but even there the change from 2000 to XP was more significant. There are a number of edge cases where this isn’t the case, but overall, in the general case, Windows 7 just isn’t a significant change from Windows Vista. The inclusion of more audio/video codecs is the only improvement that I think most users are going to encounter and benefit from.

Now as for the edge cases:

HTPC: If you’re using Windows Media Center to drive an HTPC, the changes to WMC are significant enough to justify an upgrade, particularly if you’re a cable TV user.

Low-End Hardware: We’ve seen this one ourselves – Win7 does much better here on marginal hardware. The only catch is that on such hardware the computer probably isn’t worth much more than the upgrade copy of Windows. Certainly Win7 is a better fit, but so is completely replacing such hardware.

Laptops: Windows 7 has better battery life than Vista, resumes from hibernation sooner, and given the lower performance of laptops often benefits from the better performance of Win7 on such hardware. If you need to squeeze out every minute of battery life or every point of performance, then it’s upgrade time. In fact laptops users are certainly going to be the easiest group to sell upgrades to, since Win7 consistently does so well.

Ultimately the issue with upgrading anything else is the price of a Windows 7 upgrade. It’s $110. So was Vista. And Vista was a much more profound change than Win7 is, bringing UAC, DirectX 10, Aero, and the other big features that are still prominent with Win7 today. Win7 isn’t a big enough upgrade for most Vista users given the price. If Microsoft did something similar to Apple and charged $30 or so for it, then it would become cheap enough to justify an upgrade even with the minor differences, but unless you’re eligible for a student upgrade ($30), then that isn’t going to happen. The closest Microsoft has come to that is the $50 pre-order sale, and the ship already sailed on that months ago.

In some degree of fairness, Microsoft is between a rock and a hard place here. XP is also a valid OS to upgrade from, and $30 to go from XP to Win7 would be ridiculously cheap. Not that we’d complain, but it’s not realistic. Microsoft’s other option would be to have different upgrade editions for XP and Vista, and while this is more reasonable the confusion it would cause would probably not be worth it.

With all of that said, this applies just to upgrades. The bottom line is that unlike the XP to Vista transition, I can’t fathom any good reason why anyone using a computer bigger than a netbook would want to stick to Vista. Win7 runs well and we haven’t encountered any software or hardware compatibility problems. Meanwhile it doesn’t bring with it any pitfalls like Vista did, so using Win7 on a new computer as opposed to Vista is the closest thing to a no-brainer that we’re going to see today. If you wanted Vista, you’re going to want Windows 7 instead.

7 vs. XP

If Windows 7 wasn’t meant to light a fire under Vista users, then it’s XP users that are the target. Microsoft couldn’t get them to move to Vista, so this is their second and possibly last real chance to move them before they become their own permanent faction of die-hard users. And to be frank, if Win7 succeeds here, it’s not going to be because of technical measures.

The vast majority of big improvements in Windows came with Vista, not with Win7. Microsoft did fix some edge cases for Win7 such as marginal performance and laptop battery life, but the dissent over Vista went far beyond those edge cases. If your hardware didn’t work under Vista, it still won’t under Win7. If you didn’t like UAC, you still won’t like it under Win7. If you found XP to be snappier than Vista even on a fast computer, then you’ll still find XP to be snappier than Win7. At best, if your software didn’t work under Vista, it might work under Win7 if you can put up with the Windows XP Mode virtual machine.

So if Win7 succeeds where Vista failed, it’s going to be because of marketing and word of mouth. It will be Microsoft convincing users that Win7 is great before anyone can convince them otherwise, because if that negative mindset were to set in, it can’t be erased no matter how good any of the service packs are. Vista had its problems, but what kept it down since SP1 was word of mouth much more than it was technical issues for edge cases.

The one exception to this is netbook users, and as we didn’t get a chance to test any netbooks, we’re not going to make any judgments. If Microsoft has Win7 to the point where it performs comfortably on the average netbook, then they’re going to be in a much better position than if it crawls like Vista. In which case the bigger problem will be weaning OEMs off of cheap XP licenses.

On a proper system, Vista has always been the better choice for Windows. So our recommendation isn’t really changing here. If you’re not on Windows Vista or Windows 7, you should be. XP has been outdated for quite some time.

7 vs. Snow Leopard

We’ll have a proper review of Snow Leopard in the near future, but for now we’ll talk about Snow Leopard as compared to Windows 7.

Snow Leopard (10.6) was a minor release as compared to Leopard (10.5), much like Win7 is compared to Vista. Apple was able to go ahead and charge $30 for it for an upgrade from Leopard while charging $130 for an upgrade from Tiger (10.4), which means that if nothing else, Apple has been able to avoid Microsoft’s pricing problems.

When comparing Windows and Mac OS X, Apple’s strength has been integration and the GUI. Microsoft can’t do anything about the former, but they have about the latter. Apple still has the better GUI, but the advantage is not quite as great as it used to be.

Without getting in to hardware, Snow Leopard has been even more stagnant than Windows has. Win7 brings some definite advantages over Snow Leopard: per-application volume controls, a wide audio/video codec selection (Apple’s the odd man out here; even Linux has them beat), SuperFetch, TRIM support, and of course all the applications Windows can run. Meanwhile Snow Leopard has its GUI, along with Apple’s gesture system, Exposé, and Time Machine.

Ultimately it’s either that the two aren’t different enough, or that they’re so different that they’re hard to compare. In either case Mac OS X doesn’t have the obvious advantage that it once had against Vista. Windows 7 has brought Windows to the point where it’s going to be Mac OS X’s peer in most cases, and right now it looks like it’s going to skip the teething issues that Snow Leopard is going through. For the time being, it’s going to be hardware that’s the real differentiator.

7 vs. Linux?

This late October timeframe also aligns with the 6-month cycle of Ubuntu Linux, and is close to several other Linux distributions. We haven’t had to a chance to see Ubuntu 9.10 yet, but it’s something to keep in mind. Win7 erodes the Linux advantage against Windows in the performance cases where Vista suffered, and Win7 is going to widen the GUI disparity some, but otherwise Win7 is much of the same. This can only be an advantage for Linux vendors, who get another 2-5 years to chase a very similar target to the one they’ve already been chasing for the last 3.

Upgrade or Clean Install?
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  • happymanz - Sunday, November 8, 2009 - link


    I am currently have w7 64bit installed on my comp, but I still prefer to use XP.


    Windows 7 64bit seems to think I have a LCD monitor, and when I go below 1600x1200 everything becomes blurry as if I was running 16x AA in 400x300 res in a non native res on lcd. (only heard of this happening in 64bit w7)

    Windows 7 Has no proper way to disable mouse accel (logitech drivers are an exception). In XP someone made a fix to completely disable it on kernel level. (Microsoft dont care about pc gamers?)

    Monitor hertz: People are having problems, both 32 and 64 bit w7.
    Some people on the ESR forums (quakenerd community site) said that they had to cut pins on their vga cable to be able to set HZ.

    USB hertz: Some people like setting a high HZ on their mice, and its kind of a pain doing this without using a driverpackage that came with your fancy samurai xtreme 8000dpi quadlaser mouse.

    Sound drivers: Why is it that sound is so much better on xp when gaming? In xp my 3d soundstage is excellent, but in vista\w7 it feels as if the soundstage is more limited. (I play using headphones)

    Windows update: confusing, and its much harder to keep track of what updates you want to download (I guess that's why they call it user friendly)

    UAC: big improvement over the old one, but I'd rather be behind the wheel than in the backseat giving directions.


    I didn't pay for my windows 7, since I got a free license (No, I did not pirate it). I'm still gonna stick with my trusty old XP install for now.
  • Cank - Saturday, November 7, 2009 - link

    Keep 'em coming...
  • HangFire - Tuesday, November 3, 2009 - link

    "So if Win7 succeeds where Vista failed, it’s going to be because of marketing and word of mouth."

    I disagree. The way Win7 will succeed where Vista failed is that Windows users will no longer put off new computer purchases or backdate to XP. Likewise, Win7 will succeed the same way Vista succeeded, through OEM sales. The primary difference is almost all those sales will continue to run the OEM O/S.

    This user behavior is not just a marketing and word of mouth victory. It is positive user response to good work done by Microsoft. Microsoft has done something earthshaking, for their culture and Operating Systems in general, they have released a new O/S that is not bigger (in disk image) or slower then the last version. Win7 boots up faster and is more user responsive than Vista (something your benchmarks truly don't measure). This is not marketing or word of mouth. This is empirical, even if you failed to benchmark it.

    I watched with bemusement the peculiar vengeance of friends and coworkers either a.) Buying new computers and backdating to XP and/or b.) putting off new computer buys and/or upgrading XP systems to avoid Vista. I'm not talking about Microsoft haters and Linux lovers, I'm talking about died-in-the-wool Windows users who saw nothing wrong with Windows XPSP3 (plenty wrong with older XP though).

    Vista backdating and postponed post-Vista sales may be "edge cases" but they are critical to Microsoft in a down economy. MS needs both OEM sales AND retail sales to maintain market share and profitability. Users maintaining XP licenses ad infinitum are a huge drain as MS has to continue to maintain security on this rather porous O/S without benefit of much new revenue coming in from it.

  • PR3ACH3R - Tuesday, November 3, 2009 - link

    The biggest queston, was answered if you read between the lines.

    After a failed OS release, This os makes sense for a new modern PC, but fails at being what we all Desktop users hoped for,a better workstation OS Then XP.

    Truly Disappointing, claiming a performance victory over a failed product (Vista), does not translate to a performacne victory over a decade old product.

    Micsosoft was truly caught offguard about how educated even joe average was, when he said I will not pay for a bloated gui pretending to be a better performing product.

    This is what users voted agains in Vista,
    & to these ears, it sounds like the lesson was not fully applied.

    If I am buying a new car, it can be nicer looking & shinier,
    but it better be better performing as well.

    Somehow microsoft banked against this logic,underestimating it's clients intelligence.

    Yes, we all want a new product.
    but marginally better, at considerable financial & resource expense .. will just not fly with many users
  • computerfarmer - Tuesday, November 3, 2009 - link

    I have notice some people are have a problem sharing there printer with windows 7.
    I found the real answer to the windows 7 additional printer driver problem for network sharing. It is in the name windows 7 names the printer. The INF file has it listed as a different name, there for it does not see it as a driver for your printer. You can change this in the INF file to match the windows 7 name.

    My printer is attached to the Windows 7(64) PC and I can now access it from my Laptop Vista x86.

    Example: Windows 7 calls my printer "Canon Inkjet iP4300"
    In the INF file the printer is called "Canon iP4300"
    The difference is the word "Inkjet"

    Open the INF file with notepad and edit it and save then go ahead and add additional drivers.

    My original INF
    "Canon iP4300" = CNM_0294XP, LPTENUM\CanoniP4300F404, USBPRINT\CanoniP4300F404, CanoniP4300F404, CanoniP4300

    "Canon iP4300" = CNM_0294XP, LPTENUM\CanoniP4300F404, CanoniP4300
    "Canon iP4300" = CNM_0294XP, USBPRINT\CanoniP4300F404, CanoniP4300

    My Modified INF file
    "Canon Inkjet iP4300" = CNM_0294XP, LPTENUM\CanoniP4300F404, USBPRINT\CanoniP4300F404, CanoniP4300F404, CanoniP4300

    "Canon Inkjet iP4300" = CNM_0294XP, LPTENUM\CanoniP4300F404, CanoniP4300
    "Canon Inkjet iP4300" = CNM_0294XP, USBPRINT\CanoniP4300F404, CanoniP4300
  • Looey - Saturday, October 31, 2009 - link

    There are a few people who visit forums with the idea to knock competitors products regardless of how good they are. When these people invade a forum they leave as much negative information about a product that hurts their own bottom line. I remember a forum that had some bad posts about AMD where the poster was traced back to Intel. It reminds me of TV advertisements from Apple and Microsoft.

    I read some of the comments in a forum with much skepticism. When someone says Windows or Macs blow, then I know their comment is not honest as both if these operating systems are very nice. If you're talking politics or religion, then anything goes.

    Windows 7 is a very nice OS. It works on many kinds of hardware and allows people to easily get a job done. 7 has many updates that make the various UIs easier to use. Ever try to delete several files and have one of them in use in XP? In 7 you will get the chance to skip the in use file and delete the rest with out the hassle in XP. There are many other nice improvements to make your PC session easier and more enjoyable in 7. The same goes for almost any of the systems commercially available. When they are updated there are usually improvements made to make your life easier and eliminate problems.
  • ghot - Friday, October 30, 2009 - link

    Windows XP Pro w/SP2
    AMD Phenom II X4 955 Black Edition 125W
    ASUS M4N82 Deluxe nVidia 980a SLI Motherboard
    ASUS AMI 0802 BIOS
    Realtek ALC888/1200 nVidia MCP72 HD Audio
    EVGA 01G-P3-1280-AR GeForce GTX 280 1GB 512-bit
    Corsair CM2X2048-8500C5D Dual Channel [5-5-5-15-22-2T-2.1v]
    SATA WD 300GB Velociraptor
    Seagate 7200.10 250GB
    LG GH22LS30 CD/DVD Burner
    PC Power & Cooling Silencer 750W Quad EPS12V
    ViewSonic G90FB Black 19" CRT Monitor
    Generic Altec Lansing (2)
    Logitech Optical M-BT96a

    Coolermaster ATCS 840 Full Tower Case
    3x230mm, 1x120mm, Optional: 3x Scythe S-Flex SFF21G 120mm
    ZALMAN CNPS 10X Extreme CPU Cooler

    OK..that's out of the way...i think we can all agree that this system OC'd to 3.7Ghz for 24/7 operation is NOT a piece of crap.

    I've run Win 7 from the alpha to the RTM on this same system.
    XP pro 32 bit is faster in every game or benchmark I run.

    Not only that, but my Win XP install is now, 7 years old and has been moved (via Ghost 2003) from an nForce 2 to an nForce 5 and now to my current motherboard....ONLY changes to my primary partition image, have been the chipset and display drivers.

    Sure, I've now got XP Pro tweaked for all it's worth....but here's some interesting news....

    I have not had one infection or BSOD (other than due to over clocking) for the past 7 years, running XP Pro. Simply put, if you aren't computer literate, don't blame the OS....any OS. The blame is on the user...period. I CAN get infected on XP, Vista or Win 7 without even trying hard. The Win 7 dock/taskbar is a joke and totally useless, as are the "libraries". As for driver/app compatibility...Win 7 is compatible NOW....but as devs roll out new apps and hardware, Win 7 will suffer just like all the other OS's.

    As for Win 7, I'm going to pass. I don't CARE if it can't run all my household media devices, which it could if I so chose.

    Ms is not in the business of creating GREAT OS's, they are in the business of making money. They screwed up when they made XP Pro, they did it RIGHT! Now they are paying for it.

    If you WANT to be sheep, led around with MS's ring through your nose.....go for it, I won't stop you.

    This comment if for those folks that don't have money to throw around and are being possibly swayed into purchasing yet another MS operating system, with the belief that they won't have problems with it down the road, or that it will be a better OS than XP.

    There's a REASON XP has been around for so works....well!

    Don't anyone waste time saying I don't know what I'm talking about or that I am spreading FUD :/ I know what I SEE when I run these OS's on the same system. No amount of graphs or suspect benchmarks will change what MY benchmarks show me. I've been in the computer business for almost 30 years (from mainframes to PCs to consoles).

    All I'm saying is before you rush out and buy a new OS, wait a year or so then Google: Windows 7 issues....for example. Because that's when the truth comes out. Microsoft can buy off ANY reviewer, and although I'm not saying this HAS happened here, I just want people to realize that it is easily done.

    I'm a long time fan of AnandTech...but these benchmarks are far from accurate. I attribute that more to the fact that this site is more attuned to hardware reviews, and one of the best in that endeavor.

    Again save your time responding to this...I won't be back here to even see them until I'm ready for new hardware again...then this will be the 1st place I go :)
  • rs1 - Thursday, October 29, 2009 - link

    I find it borderline ridiculous that in your entire article about Win 7, with its lukewarm conclusion and all, you never once mentioned Homegroups. Having installed Win 7 on several machines myself, I think that this is the coolest new feature in Windows 7, and easily enough to justify making the upgrade all by itself. In case you weren't paying attention, Homegroups let you easily share movies, music, printers, pictures, documents, and whatever else you want between all of your computers. And the great thing about it is that Homegroups just work. This is a major improvement, because although it was possible to get similar results in previous versions of Windows, doing so was a major pain in the ass, and required a fairly long and error-prone intial setup process, and several more manual steps on each machine to set up the shared media once the network was established. Homegroups bring an end to all that, as all you do is give each PC the password, and then they can all talk with each other instantly. Not only that, but the level of integration is superb. Homegroup libraries automatically show up in WMP, and can be easily browsed and searched in Explorer. Gone is the slow and clunky network browser interface of old.

    I love how easily the Homegroup allows me to stream music from my desktop to my laptop when I am working, and how it lets me download a movie onto my laptop, and then easily play it on my HDTV (which is hooked up to one of the desktops), without having to go to any crazy lengths to make it work, and how it finally took all the pain out of getting the networked printed to work. Homegroups take a bunch of features that were technically present in previous versions of Windows, give them a much tighter integration with the UI, and make them much easier to use, and the result is something so completely awesome that for anyone who has multiple PC's switching to Windows 7 from any previous version should be a no-brainer.

    And once again, I am quite disappointed that your article failed to even brush upon this topic. You give Win 7 such a lukewarm reception in your conclusion, but at the same time you've completely neglected to take into account one of its new features that can provide a significant reason to upgrade for anyone who has more than one PC at home.
  • yyrkoon - Thursday, October 29, 2009 - link

    I do agree, that it could be a pain in the butt once in a while to setup file sharing in Windows XP. But hardly worth the additional fee to upgrade. Because of this pain in the rear however, we have learned over time how to get things working.

    Since we always used professional HP products for printing, running the install wizard from HP was all that was required to get things working correctly. Sometimes this does require knowing a bit about networks( including your own network ). But if you know this( as you should ), I fail to see how it is a problem.

    Now if this is somehow related to the lack of permissions in XP home; Perhaps I could see your point. This is not what I am seeing you write however.

    Anyways, perhaps the writers of this article share my opinion on the matter ?
  • rs1 - Friday, October 30, 2009 - link

    Even if they share your opinion, they should have at least mentioned that the feature is present, and that they don't feel that it adds anything.

    And not everyone has the time or ambition to learn the ins and outs of Windows networking. For them, making it easier/seamless is probably a worthwhile feature.

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