Adventures with Windows 7

Have you heard? There is a new Windows OS! If you somehow missed the flurry of cutesy TV ads by Microsoft or the sniping back-attack ads by Apple, please be advised that Windows 7 launched on October 22, 2009. And what are you going to do about it? Upgrade in place? Buy a new hunk of silicon? Just keep your Mac and avoid the dark side?

The move to Windows 7 has been bubbling in my head for a while now. It was spurred by realization this summer  (as we re-arranged the now empty nest) that the old Gateway Windows XP  computer used by the rest of the flock had become woefully out of date as I was happily curled up with my laptop in the TV room.  It seemed to make sense to wait for the the roll out of Windows 7 to upgrade, and when the new version was launched I was ready! Let me share a few things I have learned in the last week with my new Windows 7 box.

First, let me give you some context.  I love listening to Leo Laporte and Paul Thurott’s Windows Weekly Podcast on the TWIT network. I paid close attention through the last year as Paul and Leo led listeners through the steps Microsoft was taking to introduce beta versions for public review and the outstanding questions that became resolved through the beta release process. I would recommend following the podcast in the near future for more news and checking in with  Paul’s SuperSite for Windows as great Windows 7 resources.

Second, because of the podcast I was able to grab a beta copy of Windows 7 last spring and get it on a netbook in school just to play with .  Not everything in the beta worked. We could not find drivers for everything, but it was a fine, functional copy. I had a good idea of what things looked like and what to expect in the final release version.

The launch was a week ago last Tuesday and I scoured the ads and offers on the web the following  Wednesday, Thursday, and Friday. By Saturday I was ready to pull the trigger.  I ended up at a big box store with a low end Dell machine as the store price pretty much matched anything I saw online. Why wait for a UPS delivery when you could just drive to the store and get instant gratification?

The first thing I noticed was that the installed Home Premium version was the 64 bit flavor (and in my research it looked like anything new was coming as 64 bit). Red flag? What about all my 32 bit stuff? It has not been a problem, so far.  Anything I have installed that needed to be run as 32 bit has been placed in a special Programs x86 folder and runs just fine.

I  did go by the book on this new machine. I did all the proper things you should do. I backed up everything on the old machine to an external hard drive. I checked my Carbonite  cloud backup to be sure everything had been backed up there as well . I burned the recovery DVD’s on the new machine as Dell asked. I then started the Easy File Transfer process using my large external USB hard drive as the transfer media.

The directions say to put in your new Win 7 DVD into the old machine and launch the transfer.  Ok, Dell, where is my Win 7 DVD? Like most major manufacturers these days no Win 7 DVD from Dell, just a restore partition. I did have the restore DVDs I created, but they are just a copy of the Dell restore partition, no East Transfer file there. Looks like I don’t have a Win 7 DVD. How am I going to launch my Easy File Transfer on my old Win XP machine? It took a little digging but I did find the correct version of Easy File Transfer for Windows XP 32 bit on Microsoft Support. Here is the link – http://www.microsoft.com/downloads/details.aspx?familyid=734917D8-0663-4C26-89D0-2D00B632EBDB&displaylang=en.

With that installed on the old XP machine (and several hours of whirring and blinking) an archive of all the users and documents and settings was created. On new machine it was a few less hours of whirring and blinking but a similar process and we were back in business. The old family Gateway computer emerged from its cocoon on the new Dell, transformed with new Windows 7 wings. Next up, working through all the old apps and reinstalling what needs to come over as Easy Transfer just moves files and users.

One of the things that is recommended (thanks again, Paul Thurott) was to make a trip to  http://download.live.com/ to download the new version of Windows Movie Maker which does not come with Windows 7. There are other things there to download if you choose, such as Windows Photo Galley and a Family Safety add on. I also found some interesting Windows 7 themes (some with a distinct Macintosh flavor) at ithinkdifferenthttp://www.ithinkdiff.com/windows-7-themes/

That is about as far as I have gotten. It is a hard choice this warm Halloween Saturday morning between getting to the leaves that need to be raked before UCONN vs Rutgers football and playing with Windows 7.

The most important piece of new learning? I can report that from Windows 7, I have logged into my Discovery Streaming School account, and as you would expect, everything works flawlessly.

More when I know it.

Steve Sokoloski
( Follow me on Twitter – stevesoko)

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