Windows 7 included drivers for a majority of my hardware, with the exception of some minor Intel chipset peripherals and an E-MU 0202 USB audio interface.

On a clean install, the Windows 7 beta hovers around 1 GB of memory consumption.

Strangely, my computer is a third of a point faster in Windows 7 than it was in Windows Vista.
I try Windows 7 and end up pleasantly surprised

Earlier today I downloaded the Windows 7 64-bit public beta and this evening I decided to give it a spin.

But first, let me admit something: I'm not terribly interested in Windows 7. I rather like Windows Vista and W7 doesn't seem to have much to add to the table. My interest was not piqued, in fact, until a friend told that me that W7 would run even better than Windows Vista -- something I had to see to believe, hence tonight's little experiment.

I'm not going to provide detailed thoughts -- again, that's covered elsewhere and there's little point in reinventing the wheel. What I will provide, however, are a couple of technical impressions and some thoughts on how the OS will run on a real-world PC -- hopefully providing you with some ammo to fuel your own decisionmaking.

Before we begin, however, I want to make a quick note of my computer's specifications. It's a year-old, frequently-upgraded gaming PC packed with a hodge-podge of hardware -- I built it by hand to play games, process audio, and get some work done. Its specifications reflect that goal:
  • Intel Core 2 Duo E6400 (2.13 ghz).
  • Intel D965WH Motherboard.
  • 8gb DDR2800 RAM.
  • Radeon 4850 PCIe graphics card.
  • Five hard drives, two DVD writers, and about a dozen misc. USB devices
  • An E-MU 0202 USB audio interface and a Novation USB MIDI keyboard.
  • a Microsoft Natural USB keyboard and Logitech G5 mouse
The Windows 7 installation proceeded extremely smoothly -- literally, you click maybe four or five times and then you can sit back and kick your feet up -- and only took about a half hour. This was surprising, as every attempt I've made to install Vista has taken me at least two hours! I thought I'd be able to finish writing another DailyTech article on my laptop while I waited -- but instead the installation finished far before I had even begun proofreading.

The OS itself boots up quickly; the amount of time seems to be about the same as my tweaked Vista install, though 7 seems to do a lot more stuff in the background -- as evidenced by random, lengthy spikes in CPU and disk drive usage. Despite this, however, physical memory usage sat at an astonishing 1 GB, climbing only slightly with a few running instances of Explorer and Paint. By comparison, I seem to recall (and don't quote me on this, I'm working from memory here) a clean install of Vista easily sitting at 1.5 GB and happily chomping up more.

On a side note: W7's explanation of memory consumption is now even more confusing, as it has added an additional "available memory" metric that presents an accurate assessment of available physical memory: "free" memory plus dynamic cache. In Vista, this tripped up users that were unaware that the dynamic cache was freed as needed; the new format, while seemingly written with good intentions, is not presented clearly and might be better conveyed as an equation with "available" memory as the sum.

Curiously, my system scores .3 points higher in the "Windows Experience Index" -- a 5.3 -- than my Vista install. After reviewing the two scores the difference stems entirely from its rating of my CPU: this difference may or may not be attributable to the CPU-cycle-hogging cruft, which comes naturally from a lived-in OS install, that dragged down my CPU score.

User Account Control appears improved, and users now have the option to disable UAC's warnings from either user-initiated or program-initiated system configuration changes, or both. Now, instead of an on/off checkbox, you can control UAC's paranoia level with a slider.

Much like Vista, W7 detected most of my hardware without problems, including the standards-compliant USB MIDI keyboard. Also like Vista, it did not detect the E-MU USB box or the handful of Intel-specific chipset peripherals; all problems easily fixed by installing factory drivers post-setup. Because W7 will use the same drivers as Vista, we shouldn't see all the compatibility pains that, surprisingly, still plague Vista users.

Finally, I wanted to note that Paint and Wordpad have both received a much-needed revamp. While the added ribbon toolbar looks kind of silly -- the concept is clearly designed for feature-laden behemoths like Word and Excel -- it's worth noting that it makes the applications ten times more intuitive. I normally like to do screenshot and article icon cropping in Paint.NET, but -- much to surprise -- this process is now even faster in regular good ol' Microsoft Paint. It's also worth noting that -- finally! -- Paint's default file format is PNG.

I haven't used the new taskbar and Start Menu much, so I can't give you my impressions on that. I will say that they appear to be nifty, although the new taskbar may take a bit more getting used to -- especially since I am a huge fan of the Quick Access bar. (It can fit so many more icons than the OSX dock.)

So there you have it: one geek's thoughts on the new Windows build. I encourage you to try it out on your own, so that you can form your own opinions. It's nice to see that Microsoft is finally listening to users' complaints.

One last tip: get your beta key from the Windows 7 CP web site, and then download the actual ISO from your BitTorrent tracker of choice -- it's much faster that way, and Microsoft's website seems to be experiencing some technical problems with the actual download page. The Windows 7 ISOs on The Pirate Bay (look for the pink icon when searching for "Windows 7") currently have over 1000 seeders a piece.

"Nowadays you can buy a CPU cheaper than the CPU fan." -- Unnamed AMD executive

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