The best things about Microsoft's latest Windows 7
Windows 7 has now been released to manufacturing, and the much-anticipated next version of Windows will be available for TechNet subscribers and enterprise Software Assurance customers to download within weeks. With this in mind, here is the list of the top 10 reasons for upgrading to Windows 7.
- 'Available networks' tool on taskbar
If you're a laptop user, it's almost worth installing Windows 7 for this feature alone. Like all great ideas, it's disarmingly simple: put a control on the taskbar, accessed via a single mouse click, that shows available Wi-Fi networks and lets you choose which one to connect to. It's a world away from the hoops Windows Vista makes you jump through to get a Wi-Fi connection
- Fewer annoying pop-ups
Vista users will be familiar with the constant barrage of pop-up messages the system subjects them with: 'Windows Defender needs your attention', 'Check Windows Firewall settings', 'Updates available for your computer', and so on. In Windows 7, most of these messages appear instead in a notification area on the taskbar, so you can deal with them at your leisure.
HomeGroup should make it much easier to share files and other content such as music and pictures among all computers connected to a home network. It lets each user control what they want to share from their own computer, and any new Windows 7 PC connecting to the network will automatically find the HomeGroup, but needs a password to join.
- Device Stage
Device Stage is a new user interface for working with peripherals like phones, cameras or printers in Windows 7. It not only shows all the information about your device, but brings together all the applications and services you can use with it in one place.
- BitLocker support for removable storage
The Bitlocker encryption tool was introduced in Vista, but only in some editions and only for the boot drive of a PC. In Windows 7, BitLocker to Go lets you encrypt and password-protect USB devices such as Flash memory sticks to secure files in case you misplace the drive.
- Speedier boot-up
With some PCs that we've seen running Vista, you could hit the on switch then go away and make a cup of tea before being able to actually use the system for anything. By contrast, Windows 7 boots up and is ready in about 30 seconds flat. In fact, Windows 7 seems more responsive than Vista all round, even on the same hardware.
Libraries are like folders, except they conveniently bring together content from multiple locations into one place. For example, the Pictures library lets you see all photos and images to which you have access, whether they are spread across several folders on your hard drive or even on a network share.
- User Account Control is less in-your-face
The User Account Control (UAC) feature was introduced in Vista to improve security but has proved extremely annoying, popping up and asking for confirmation whenever you want to open Device Manager, add drivers, or dozens of other tasks. In Windows 7, UAC has been reworked so that users can carry out a greater range of tasks without a UAC prompt asking them for confirmation or administrator credentials.
On systems with a compatible touch screen, Windows 7 supports gesture-based input and control, like you might see on Apple's iPhone, but it works with pretty much all applications, not just those created for Windows 7. This means you can tap on the screen to launch applications, use your finger to scroll up and down in Internet Explorer and Word documents, and doodle using your fingertip in Paint.
- It's not Windows Vista