What you should know about: Windows 7. What s changed? Why does it matter to me? Do I have to upgrade? Tim Wakeling

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1 What you should know about: Windows 7 What s changed? Why does it matter to me? Do I have to upgrade? Tim Wakeling

2 Contents What s all the fuss about?...1 Different Editions...2 Features...4 Should you upgrade?...9 If you are buying a new PC How to upgrade...13 Legal bit: Tim Wakeling 2009, UK He hereby asserts his moral rights as author of this book. Published by The Helpful Book Company, proprietor Tim Wakeling Printed by Stramongate Press, Kendal Microsoft, Microsoft Windows, Windows 7, Windows Vista and Windows XP are registered trademarks of Microsoft Corporation. All other trademarks are the property of their respective owners. This book is not associated in any way with any product or vendor mentioned in this book. Visit our website to sign up for our free newsletter and read free articles: 1st Edition 0909

3 What s all the fuss about? You might have already heard about the new version of Windows. It s called Windows 7 (because it s the 8th version they ve brought out - hope they re better at programming than counting...). Now it might seem like it s not very long since Vista came out. But Vista hasn t sold as well as Microsoft hoped, so they ve brought forward the next version in the hope it ll do better. It s being made generally available on the 22nd October Then you ll be able to buy a new PC with it already on, or buy a copy on disk to upgrade your existing PC. What have they actually changed? To be honest, Windows 7 works a lot like Vista. You might even think it s basically Vista with a few extra bells and whistles... but Microsoft say that s not true. Here are some of the main improvements: 1) They ve made it look even nicer than before. Windows 7 really does look the bees knees. 2) It should be easier to use. Microsoft listened to what people said about Windows Vista and redesigned the bits people didn t like. They also added new features to make it easier to do common tasks (like find recent files or turn the PC off). 3) It should run more quickly. And from what I ve seen, it does run more smoothly than Vista and it s noticeably quicker to start up or shut down. There are a few other specific improvements, but those are the big ones. 3

4 Different Editions There are going to be three* different editions of Windows 7, each one building on the previous version. Windows 7 Home Premium This will be the standard edition that shops put on most new computers. It has the new fancy look, and all the extra features such as the new Windows 7 taskbar and improved start menu (see p4-5). It s also designed to connect to wireless networks easily and will be good for watching TV (it has Media Centre built in, which means it s easy to set your PC up with a remote control and big screen and use it instead of a TV). It ll also be good for sharing documents with other computers on a home network, but it s not as good as the professional edition for networking PCs or for backing up your work... though it ll be slightly cheaper than the professional edition. Windows 7 Professional This will have all the features of the Premium edition but with some extra features that are useful for businesses. The professional edition makes it easier to back up your work and make sure that if the computer breaks you don t lose anything you ve done. There are also some nifty features to make *Actually, there s also a Starter Edition, which is a very cutdown version for mini hand-held PCs, because some of these devices won t be powerful enough to run the better versions. But you wouldn t use it on a proper PC or laptop. 4

5 Different Editions connecting PCs easier if you re networking lots of computers in an office. It s also got a Windows XP mode, which is useful for businesses who need their new computers to be compatible with older software. This will usually be the best edition for a freelancer or someone who runs a small business, although it s a fair bit more expensive than Home Premium, so I d only recommend it if you re sure you want those features. Windows 7 Ultimate This is the top end edition of Windows. It has all the features from the Home Premium and the Professional editions, plus extra encryption security to protect files on your computer useful for people who use portable computers for business a lot. It s also got lots of different languages for you to choose between, which could be useful for some people. It will be a bit more expensive than Professional and really quite a lot more than Home Premium, so again, I d only recommend it if you re sure you want those features. 5

6 Features Here are the main new features. Brand new taskbar On the new taskbar, instead of each program that s running having a wide button at the bottom, with its name on, you get a little square pictorial icon. If you hover the mouse over it, you get a small picture of the screen of that program. Square icon And if you point the mouse at THAT, you get a full size version, on top of whatever is currently on your screen. It s useful if you often have several programs running - like I do. You can also have shortcuts for programs you use a lot in the taskbar, looking much the same as the buttons for programs that are running. I think this could lead to lots of confusion over whether a program is currently running or not, so I m not convinced it s a good idea, even though it looks pretty. Improved Start Menu 2 changes There s now a Shut Down button this is one change I m really glad to see. In the Start Menu you now have an actual button to Shut Down the computer. In Vista the button just put it into stand by - which means if you then turn it off at the mains, it d get all confused. This way is much better. 6

7 Features Recent Items instead of getting to all your recent items from Recent items in the Start Menu, Windows 7 organises them by the program you made them in. So if you want to look at a letter you typed in WordPad, you point your mouse at the Wordpad option in the Start Menu and a little list of your recent WordPad documents pops out the side. I can see how this is handy, but the downside is that it only works for the programs that are shown in the Start Menu if you have to go via the All Programs link to get to a program, you won t get a list of recent items. Taskbar icon jumplists (mini menus) If you right click on a taskbar icon for a program, you now get more options than you used to. You can sometimes even open a file that you recently made in that program directly from this menu. The Ribbon If you ve used the latest version of any Microsoft Office programs, you ll have used what they call the ribbon. It s a bar at the top of the program with the most common features on it and instead of the File, Edit, View... menus you have tabs which change which options are shown: I m not sure whether it s better or worse - just a different way of doing things. But Microsoft obviously like it because they ve introduced it into the free programs Paint and Wordpad. So if you re used to using them, you ll have to learn a few new things if you upgrade. 7

8 Features Libraries There s one more confusing new feature, called libraries. You know how in XP you have My Documents and in Vista it s called Documents? Well, Microsoft obviously decided that changing the name didn t confuse enough people. Now you still have your own My Documents folder (back to including the My again). But you also have a Documents library. Which displays all of the files in your my Documents folder and also ones in other places you ask it to include. Confused? I think everyone will be. Luckily you can just ignore this new feature. There s also a library for all the music on your PC, wherever it s stored, which does make a bit more sense. Control Panel Control Panel looks and feels no different from Control Panel in Vista, but there are a few differences in where certain settings are stored. I m sure the intention is to make it a bit more intuitive for people, although if you ve been used to how Control Panel used to be, you might need to hunt around a bit for some things. Internet Explorer and other Web Browsers In the past Microsoft have included Internet Explorer with Windows. But a ruling by the EU recently said that wasn t fair to people who made other web browsers. So Microsoft have come up with an alternative plan if you buy Windows 7 it ll come with the option to choose between several web browsers, including Internet Explorer, Firefox and Google Chrome. You choose the one you want and then it works as if that was the only one it came with in the first place. 8

9 Features Internet Explorer 8 Internet Explorer 8 is Microsoft s newest version, so that s the one you ll get if you buy Windows 7 and choose Internet Explorer rather than one of the other browsers. Version 8 isn t very different from the previous one, but it has one or two good features. On my PC it seems a bit faster and it s supposed to be more secure and less likely to crash. Plus it can remember what tabs you ve had open and if you close one by mistake, you can re-open it again. Another nifty feature is the improved right click menu with what they call accelerators (and I d just call more options). If you highlight some text in a foreign language on a webpage, you can right click on it and select to translate it. Or if you highlight a postcode, you can right click and select to get a map of that place. There s also a feature to recommend webpages you might like, based on what you ve looked at in the past. The sites it finds are fairly obvious, so you could have just searched for them in, say, Google. But it is a quicker way to do it. Actually IE 8 isn t only for Windows 7. If you have Windows Update you may have already had IE updated to give you the new one. But Windows 7 gives you IE8 from the start. When you get Windows 7, you ll notice that you don t have an program. Don t panic! You can download it free from the Microsoft website. Instead of Outlook Express or Windows Mail, it s now called Windows Live Mail, and the idea is that once you ve set it up you can check your s online from anywhere, rather than just on your home PC. It s not as complicated as it sounds you get taken through a fairly straightforward, if rather lengthy, set up process. And once it s done you can open Windows Live Mail straight 9

10 from your Start Menu or an icon on the desktop, just like in XP or Vista. Windows Mail Live works just like Outlook Express and Windows Mail, although it s laid out slightly differently. You can also set it up to check for from other addresses you have (eg Hotmail or Yahoo). Overall, I d say Windows 7 is an improvement. It s quicker and slightly easier to use than Windows Vista. I wouldn t say it s worth upgrading if you have Windows Vista already, although if you re still using XP, it might be worth it. If you re thinking of buying a new PC anyway, you don t need to wait until Windows 7 comes out you should be able to get buy a Vista PC with a free Windows 7 upgrade anyway (see page 11). 10

11 Should you upgrade? If you re wondering whether you should splash out on upgrading to the new version, there are a few questions to ask yourself first. Going through these will make it much easier to decide whether it s worth it for you. What specification PC do you have? To run Windows 7 you need at least: 1) A reasonably modern processor (at least 1 GHz*). 2) At least 1GB* of memory (RAM) 3) 16GB* of available hard drive space 4) A DirectX 9 graphics device with Windows Display Driver Model 1.0 or higher That ll run Windows 7 Home Premium. To run the more advanced features in Windows 7 Professional, you need to have at least 2GB of RAM and an extra 15GB of memory. To be sure your PC can run Windows 7, you should use Microsoft s Windows 7 Upgrade Advisor. Even if it says you can, I wouldn t recommend it unless your PC is a bit better than the absolute minimum I ve listed above. What do you use your PC for? If you only use your PC for sending s, browsing the Internet, and occasionally using a word processor or spreadsheet and if you re happy with Windows Vista (or XP or whatever version you have) then you may well be better off not changing. It would only mean learning all the bits that are different. If you often use your PC for things like watching TV and videos, or you use office programs a lot to work on, then if you re still on XP, there could be more point in upgrading either to Vista or Windows 7. * 1GHz is roughly 1000MHz 1GB is roughly 1000MB. 11

12 Should you upgrade? Do you work with other people who use it? If you work freelance and the people you work with will be upgrading then you might want to upgrade so you re using the same system. Are you likely to buy a new PC soon? If you are then there s probably not too much point in getting Windows 7 now. Instead you may as well wait until you re ready to buy a new PC and get one with Windows 7 already on it saves you the cost and effort of installing it yourself. Would you feel comfortable doing the installation? It s not especially hard to install Windows 7 but you do have to be careful to back up everything on your computer first, including s. If you re nervous about installing software then you might want to get someone else to do it for you. What programs do you use? Some older programs may not run properly on Windows 7 (see page 13 Before you upgrade ). You can check with the supplier whether it should work or if there s an updated version (and whether you have to pay extra for it). If you don t use the program much you may be able to get around it by using an alternative. But if it s crucial to what you do, you might want to wait until there s a Windows 7 compatible version. Are you nervous about bugs? Usually with any new big software like this there ll be bugs in it when it first comes out. After 6 months or so Microsoft will have ironed them out so I d generally advise you to wait a few months unless you really need to have it straight away. 12

13 If you are buying a new PC If you want to buy a new PC and you re reading this before Windows 7 is generally available then you need to decide whether you re happy to wait. If you are, watch out for the special offers when it s first launched there may well be price reductions to get people to buy it. If you decide you want to buy a PC now and don t want to wait then I d suggest you get a PC that can run it if you decide to upgrade in the future. (Although most PCs on sale now that can run Vista should be able to run Windows 7 anyway the requirements are very similar.) Shops should be able to tell you which of their ranges can run Windows 7, but I d still suggest you look back to the specifications on page 9 and check it out for yourself as well. A shop might tell you it ll run when the PC is only just up to the job and will struggle to keep up. Windows 7 Upgrade Most shops are already selling PCs with a Windows 7 Upgrade. This is something Microsoft introduced to make sure people aren t put off buying a PC until Windows 7 is released. You buy a PC that can run Windows 7. It has Windows Vista on it but when Windows 7 comes out you get a free upgrade*. It does sound great but one thing to remember is that you have to do the upgrade yourself. It shouldn t be too hard but if you re nervous about installing software you might want to get some help. * Though in the past when they ve done this kind of thing it could take a long time for them to get the upgrade disk to you months. 13

14 If you are buying a new PC Buying a PC after Windows 7 is released Even after Windows 7 is released it should still be possible to get Windows Vista computers for a while. Think carefully about whether you do want Windows 7 before you decide, and take into account the information on pages Although there may well be bugs in Windows 7 for a while, if you re on the Internet and have Windows Updates set up then as Microsoft fix these bugs, your computer will be updated. If you re not on the Internet, it s not so simple. My advice to most people would be to get Windows 7 if the PC you re buying can run it reasonably (ie isn t right at the bottom of the specifications of what can run it). If you re used to Windows Vista, you should find Windows 7 quite easy to adapt to. And it s worth it just to make sure that in the future you can run new programs. Besides, eventually Microsoft will stop providing security updates for Windows Vista, so it s best to be on the new version. Copying across files from your old PC Windows 7 has a built in tool called Windows Easy Transfer to make it easy to copy files and settings from your old PC to your new Windows 7 one. So you don t have to copy everything across the hard way (and I wouldn t suggest getting rid of your old PC until you ve got the new one fully set up). You ll need to copy across your s separately though, as the easy transfer tool doesn t pick them up. 14

15 How to upgrade Before you upgrade Microsoft have produced a nifty little program that checks out your PC for you. It then tells you whether your PC can run Windows 7, whether all your hardware (eg printers) will work with it and whether all your software will work. Then if there s anything that won t work you can get an updated version (for software there may be updates available to download from the web that will fix the problem). Then you can run the nifty little program again and keep going through it until all the problems are sorted and only then try installing Windows 7, safe in the knowledge that your PC is fully ready. You can get the program (and instructions) at: upgrade-advisor.aspx (If you don t want to type all that, just go to and search for Upgrade Advisor.) Upgrading Before you start to upgrade, make sure you back up any important work, including s, or you ll lose them. If you re upgrading from Windows Vista, you just put the Windows 7 disc into the computer and follow the instructions on the screen. Until it s out, I can t say for sure but they usually only take an hour or so. You shouldn t need to do much, so you can set it going and then go and do something else and check it every so often. While it s installing you may have blank screen for up to a couple of minutes. Don t panic it s normal! If you re upgrading from Windows XP you ll have to take XP off the computer before you install Windows 7. 15

16 Free Newsletter Twice a month I send out a free newsletter. It covers news, tips on how to get the most out of your computer, answers to readers questions and at least one recommended free software download. See a sample copy and add yourself to the mailing list at:

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