What should I know before installing Windows 7?

I’ve recently come into possession of a Windows 7 install disc and cd key (a legal one no less!). Before I go about installing this, what should I know? Is it fairly straightforward like the times I’ve installed win98, win2k, and winXP?

One of my main concerns is compatibility. I finally have all my programs working how I want them. Are my games and programs going to work for the most part, or am I going to have to fritter with everything? When Win7 came out all I saw on technology blogs was how there weren’t drivers for many common pieces of hardware, nor support for quite a bit of older software. Has this gotten better?

And I suppose the million dollar question: if I’m pretty content with what I have now, would I be better off not installing windows 7? What can it do that winXP can’t that I just can’t live without?

If this is your line of thinking, I don’t know if I’d bother to ever upgrade. Sometimes it’s just nice not to be stuck in the past.

Fair point, I should have clarified. Back around 2003 I upgraded from win98 to win2k because win98 couldn’t handle hard drives above a certain size, which my new drive surpassed.
Around 2008 I switched from win2k to winXP because I was running into problems with several programs I wanted to use that wouldn’t run on anything prior to winXP.

I realize that in ten years or so I’ll be forced to upgrade because winXP won’t be supported any more. My comment above is more focused on, as of today, is there something I’m missing on winXP that is on win7? Some super cool feature that I haven’t even conceived of but will love once I try it? I’m not as familiar as I probably should be with the ‘features’ list of win7.

As far as I know, not really. I’m a very casual PC user so perhaps there is a really nice feature for more die-hard computer users.

A lot of it is just graphics updates and small conveniences in being able to view a window without going to the window and other such taskbar perks. But that is what the changes amount to: perks.

Four years, and that’s only if you’ve paid for extended support. Link.

As I understand it, you can’t upgrade from XP to W7. You have to wipe your hard drive and install fresh. So I wouldn’t do it without a good reason.

Not exactly. The changes from Vista to Win 7 are not so huge. The changes from XP to Win 7 are big and important. There’s a whole new way of thinking about the start menu & taskbar which will affect user experience. Additionally, Vista/Win7 are significantly more stable and secure than XP (which, at the end of its life, has gotten pretty solid, but still isn’t as strong.)

As for what you need to think about - back up everything. I mean everything. Track down drivers for your video card, mouse, printer etc now. You probably won’t need them, but at least no where to find them if you do.

The install process is faster and more painless than earlier versions. I always do a clean install so I can’t comment on the upgrade. I’m pretty sure that coming from XP, you’ll need to do a clean install too. Win7 has a huge stable of built in drivers. Unless you’re using something really outre, it’s likely that Win7 will just find your drivers and run them automatically.

You didn’t say if you want the 32bit or 64bit version. The main reason for 64bit is future proofing. It can use more RAM than the 32bit computers can (and some other stuff.)

As far as compatibility - there shouldn’t be any problem running XP programs in either 64bit or 32 bit edition. I’m running in 64bit myself. From a user experience standpoint, it’s completely transparent even when running 32bit programs. Dos programs however are right out. There’s something called XP compatibility mode. I’ve never used it. Theoretically if you wanted to run a DOS program, you’d start XP compatibility and run it as if it were running on an XP box. I’ve only had one program I couldn’t get to run because of the 64bit thing (Santa Zia, sniff). OTOH, Diablo 2, which is 10 years old, runs perfectly. But really XP compatibility Mode is for corporate legacy programs from teh Dawn of Time. You’d need Win7 Professional to access it.

The only reason I would hesitate to recommend it to you is because you don’t describe your hardware. The system reqs are listed here. You’ll definitely want to meet or exceed them.

I love Windows 7. Love it. Love it. Love it.
It’s the best Windows since Windows 3.2
Really. Just do it.

If an old program doesn’t work, you can right click on the icon and Win 7 tries to figure out the problem. It will then recommend what version of Windows to emulate when you run that program and this pretty much works all the time. A very old game won’t run right but I hate that game anyway.

I have Windows 7, and my wife has XP. We both use each other’s PCs, and while, having experienced the benefits of 7, I wouldn’t want to go back to XP, my wife can see no significant advantage to upgrading. I’m more geeky than she is, so I get my kicks by having the latest and shiniest, whereas, for her, as long as it does what she wants, she’s happy.

7 does things more easily and seemlessly, (wifi connections are a doddle, for example), it looks better (beauty in the eye of the beholder, of course), but it’s not going to change your life.

Having said that, you’ve got 7. so you could always set up another partition and install 7 in that, and dual boot so you can test it.

If you have any games that use copy protection mechanisms like Starforce you will need to be very careful.

There are a few printers, scanners, and other equipment that no longer work with Windows 7. But for total backwards compatibility there’s XP mode. XP running in a virtual environment. And when you add programs to the XP environment, you can run them from your Windows 7 start menu and each XP program will run in it’s own Window so it will seem to run just like a normal Windows 7 program.

This link is slightly dated but still pretty accurate.

ETA: Some printers, scanners, cameras, etc… will still work, but you’ll have to run them with Windows drivers so you won’t get any of the extra features from vendor software because the vendors don’t support Vista or 7.

I’ve been running Windows 7 since Saturday (when I finally broke down and bought a new machine) and have no complaints so far. I’m rather pleased with the improvements to the taskbar in particular. And, surprisingly, the machine has not yet crashed? (I’m almost temped to start a pool on how long until it does, though…)

When my six-year-old XP-based PC died, I purchased a new PC that came with Windows 7 on it. I love my new Windows 7 OS, but unfortunately I had a couple of programs that Windows 7 refused to install, including a few that I needed for my job:

My old COMPAQ FORTRAN compiler - and replacing that compiler with a different one wasn’t an option, as I hand off my source and object code to others who use the same compiler.

My Microsoft Visual Studio version 6.x compilers - and replacing those with their newer versions wasn’t an option because Microsoft has since switched to their .NET technology and my old programs won’t come close to compiling under them.

Fortunately, I was eventually able to get both of the above to install under Windows 7 using Microsoft’s Virtual PC software and its XP mode.

(My old Palm Pilot software was toast, though, because I couldn’t find the original install diskettte and the current drivers I found on the web couldn’t detect my old Palm Pilot even when I tried them on another XP-based PC. So that issue had nothing to do with Windows 7.)

Civilization (Beyond the Sword) has some issues with Windows 7. Not major ones for me, but a BSOD does occur.

Just adding yet another voice to the chorus: Do it. XP is 10 years old now grandpa get with the time :wink:

First, it’s much more secure. There are a lot more vulnerabilities in windows XP just waiting for some flash movie to exploit them. Running as a standard user in windows 7 and running a modern browser is probably the safest you could be in the PC world.

Also, the start menu and taskbar are a joy to work with. The other UI enhancements vary from useful but not essential to great improvements. Aero is great in that it’s more resposive and more stable since it runs on your graphics hardware instead of on the CPU. Networking is super simple and combined with the new libraries feature it’s just hella easy to locate files across computers. I have a video folder in my libraries on my main PC that shows me the videos in the Recorded Tv folder, my downloads folder, and myvideos folder on that PC + all the videos on those same folders on my home theater PC). It all just works.

I’ve been using Win 7 for about three weeks now. So far, I have found only one program that absolutely will not work. It should work once we install a service pack on it’s host system. There were a few other programs that needed minor tweeks and/or patches, but nothing major.

The interface changes are not huge. Basically, they made the taskbar work more like the OSX dock, which is a good thing, once you get used to it.

They’ve moved a few things around. for example, user profiles are stored in C:\Users, not C:\Documents and Settings. The %UserProfile% environment variable points to the new location, so most programs won’t even notice the change.

The biggest difficulty, for me, anyway, is finding various property pages to tweek settings. In some cases, Win 7 hides these behind information or navigation panels, and it can take some time to locate them. The System dialog is like this.

Programs crashes (yes, they do happen) appear to be less likely to affect other running programs and processes. Explorer crashes don’t seem to affect any running program, a very different thing from XP.

Overall, it looks good.

As someone (a couple someones?) have already said, just be careful. There is no upgrade option to go from XP to Win 7, you have to do a full wipe and install. So back up EVERYTHING that’s on that hard drive. Someone else can say whether or not you can only wipe and install one partition…that I’m not sure of. But at any rate, whatever letter drive Win XP is on, at the very least all of that will be gone.

The new Taskbar is great, but it is only superficially like the OSX dock (big icons, no text, a certain amount of animation when you hover over the icons). Here’s an article that compares them in-depth, quite even-handedly I think (he probably leans slightly pro-Mac but says nice things about the Windows taskbar too): Paradigms lost: The Windows 7 Taskbar versus the OS X Dock | Ars Technica

I think it would be more accurate to say that the new taskbar brings it back to being the application switcher that it originally was, instead of the hybrid that it had become over the years.

It’s well worth getting acquainted with all the right-click/middle-click/shift-click shortcuts available on the new taskbar, by the way. If you tend to have many applications open with several windows each, they make windows management so much easier. I already find it painful to go back to the XP taskbar. The “jump start” menus, in particular, are a great feature.

I installed Windows 7 a week after its release, and I play Civ4BtS all the time. Never had any issues.

I don’t know about the compiler but Visual Studio 6 was released in 1998 (ie: the Morning After the Dawn of Time) which means it probably has DOS roots. Not surprising it gave you trouble. It’s good to know that XP mode works with it though.

I’ve had no issues with Beyond the Sword. I haven’t really tried to get any of my ancient games working on it. But I have bought a number of games from Good Old Games for $5-$10. I figure it’s easier than screwing around with my old disk for which I no longer even have a drive. OOO - they just released Betrayal At Krondor today. Possibly the ugliest game ever but also one of the best.