Fast first impressions of Windows 7

I’ve got to eat a little crow on this one. When Windows 7 RC1 came out, I began to detect a trend I’ve seen with many other Windows development cycles — the layering on of bloat. RC1 was noticeably slower to me on several machines. And let’s be honest, Windows 7 is going to be slower than XP on XP-era hardware. I began to suspect that come shipping time, Windows 7 Gold would be even slower than RC1.

Admittedly, I’ve been running Windows 7 Gold in the best-case scenario: I clean installed it on a late Vista-era 64-bit machine with plenty of processing power, 4GB of RAM, and very good video. I’ve been using it since a couple days after RTM. And here it is: Windows 7 Gold is pretty sweet. It’s fast, it’s well thought out, there are lots of nice touches. It’s too early to call this, but I think it’s going to be very reliable too, like XP has been.

Allow me a little digression that will get back to why I like Windows 7 in the end. My first and primary Win 7 test machine was set up as a dual-boot with 64-bit Vista Home Premium. I used Paragon Software’s Partition Manager 9 to repartition the drive to make space to dual-boot Windows 7 beta and RC1, wiping the prerelease code between each install. When Win7 RTMed, I went through the same process, but decided to give Win 7 a bit more partition space. Partition Manager 10 was out (with improved 64-bit support), so I ran that instead to change the partition size. I was able to install Windows 7 without issue, but within a couple days the Vista partition headed south. And nothing I did could resurrect it. And then when I went to reinstate my Acronis True Image Home backup of the Vista partition stored on an external USB drive, that too was corrupt.

My supposition: Even though Partition Manager 9 was supposed to support 64-bit, it could only do so from its boot disk. I think the problems dated back to the original partitioning. Partition Manager 10’s boot disk can’t do full-fledged partitioning any longer, either. And that was the last straw for me. I did some research and switched to Chengdu Yiwo’s Easeus Partition Master Professional edition, which set me back $31.96. Even though Easeus doesn’t technically support Windows 7, my Vista partition was gone by then. So I was forced to take a chance. The Easeus support forums showed that many people had used it successfully with Windows 7. I didn’t have much to lose. So I installed it in Windows 7 and it worked like a charm. I formatted the Vista partition just for grins and then deleted it and resized the Win 7 partition so that it took up all available space. (Side note: Partition Magic fans will be *very* familiar with Easeus Partition Master’s UI.)

The repartitioning effectively transformed Windows 7 from Drive F: to Drive C:. Plus there was no boot manager, since it had previously resided on the Vista partition. And this is what the whole exercise was for: I wanted to see how Windows 7 would handle this situation. It wouldn’t boot on its own, of course. But when I inserted the Windows 7 Gold disc and let it do its thing, the Repair facility is especially well crafted and understandable (not that Vista’s was vastly different). It fixed the problem without even a glitch.

Something like that gives you great confidence in your OS. In all regards, Windows 7 has left a favorable impression on me. If Vista had been Windows 7, who knows, I might not be typing this on a Mac right now. That’s how good Windows 7 is.

But I don’t want to leave a false impression about my personal choice in OSes. That horse really has left the barn. There’s no contest for me between Windows 7 and Snow Leopard. It’s Snow Leopard. But Windows 7 is the most impressive OS Microsoft has ever produced.

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