If you're planning to upgrade from Windows Vista to Windows 7, you're probably wondering, “How does Windows 7 differ from the Windows I'm running now?” There are plenty of ways to answer that question, but let's look right now at 10 ways that Windows 7 is, quite clearly, better than its predecessor.
#10: Better Notifications If Your System Has a Problem
In Windows 7, you no longer need to jump between the Security Center and other parts of the Control Panel to find out if you have security or maintenance problems that you need to deal with. The new Action Center (see Figure 1) makes it easy to find and fix problems, tweak User Account Control settings, troubleshoot your computer, and run System Restore if your system is seriously clobbered.
Figure 1 Windows 7's Action Center gives you quick access to troubleshooting, security, and maintenance tools.
#9: More Options for Onscreen Gadgets
While Windows Vista made onscreen gadgets for viewing current weather, RSS news feeds, and other helpful features a part of Windows, it confined them to one edge of the screen. Windows 7 has turned onscreen gadgets loose, enabling you to position them anywhere you like, and to "hover" them over program windows when necessary. In Figure 2, we're using the Clock gadget set to Pacific "eBay" time while we shop the eBay website.
Figure 2 "Floating" the Clock gadget over a website helps you know what time it is.
#8: More Control over the Aero Desktop
Windows Vista introduced the snazzy Aero desktop with its translucent window edges and cool 3D effects, but Windows 7 makes Aero work hard as well as look good. The Aero Snap keyboard controls let you move the current window to any edge of the screen and maximize it or minimize it. Aero Peek provides one-click hiding and one-click restoration of all program windows.
#7: Getting Started Is Easyand Unobtrusive
Windows 7 has replaced the overbearing "Welcome Center" with Getting Started (see Figure 3). You can launch it from the Start menu or from Control Panel, and choose what you'd like to do. It's the easiest way to download Windows Live Essentials, Microsoft's web-enabled suite of email, messaging, photo editing, and other utilities; transfer files from your old PC to your new PC; add users; and configure backup.
Figure 3 Use the Getting Started menu to choose what you want to do to get started with Windows 7.
#6: More Powerful Taskbar
Windows 7 has remodeled the Taskbar to make it easier, faster, and more versatile. Not only can you see live thumbnails of each program window (see Figure 4), but you can also open recently-used files direct from the Taskbar. You can pin programs you use frequently to the Taskbar and pin frequently-used files to the Taskbar. In Windows 7, the Taskbar works harderso you don't have to.
Figure 4 Using Windows 7's live thumbnail feature to see the pictures currently open in Windows Live Photo Gallery.
#5: Easy, Secure Networking with Homegroups
Until Windows 7, Windows networking has typically been a "choose easy or securechoose one only" proposition. Now, the new Homegroups feature (see Figure 5) enables Windows 7 computers to belong to a secure, yet easy to administer, home network. A single secure password protects homegroup computers, and computers in a homegroup can stream media between their PCs. However, computers in a homegroup can also connect to non-Windows 7 computers using standard workgroup networking at the same time.
Figure 5 Setting up a homegroup in Windows 7.
#4: Better Wireless Connections
Windows 7 makes connecting to different types of wireless networks much easier than in Windows Vista, thanks to its completely reworked wireless connection wizard. Whether you're connecting to an open cybercafe or hotel network or a secure network at the office, Windows 7 shows you which networks are insecure and which ones are secure and prompts you for the security key when needed (see Figure 6).
Figure 6 Connecting to an insecure wireless network.
#3: Better File and System Backup
Windows Vista finally kicked the old NTBackup program overboard, but wound up confusing a lot of users with its replacement, the Backup and Restore Center. Windows Vista Home Premium users could back up files, but not the system image, while Windows Vista Business, Enterprise, and Ultimate users could back up the system image and files, but needed to run two separate operations to do so.
Windows 7 makes backup a lot less confusing by using a single backup process for both system image and file backup (see Figure 7)and makes Home Premium users safer by providing image and file backup for them as well as for Professional, Enterprise, and Ultimate users. Users of those versions can also back up to network shares.
Figure 7 Windows Backup in operation.
#2: Better File Management with Libraries
Windows 7 is the first version of Windows to make viewing files on multiple locations as simple as viewing a single folder, thanks to its new Libraries feature. When you open Documents, Photos, Music, or Videos from the Start menu, Windows 7 opens the appropriate library. A library lists the contents of folders in multiple locations in a single view, and you can add locations such as external drives and network shares to a library whenever you wantand remove them from the library view just as easily (see Figure 8). If you're tired of clicking your way across your computer to view and manage photos, music, or other media in multiple locations, Libraries solves your problem. Windows 7's Backup program also backs up all library locations on local drives, so the contents of your libraries stay safe.
Figure 8 Three library locationsvisible in one folder.
#1: Better Performance on Systems from Netbooks to High-Performance Desktops and Laptops
Windows Vista can be a performance hog that slows down even newer PCs. While Windows 7 is available for both 64-bit as well as 32-bit processors, it can run on netbooks, desktops, and laptopssomething that Windows Vista cannot do. For organizations looking for a single operating system family to simplify training and security, Windows 7 is a great choice. And, because of throughput improvements and how it manages processes, Windows 7 helps systems boot faster and enable users to get to work (or play) more quickly than Vista.
Windows 7 provides a great combination of more power, easier access to your information, and better protection for your system and your information. It's better than Windows Vista, and you can upgrade directly from Vista to Windows 7. What's not to like?