Guide to Evaluating Windows 7

Thursday, May 7, 2009

I have noticed a trend in the evaluation of Windows 7 RC1 in the online community. Basically no one really has a guide or road map or even an idea as to what they really want to test and evaluate. As I evaluate operating systems and new software let me offer a bit of advise when evaluating Windows 7 RC1:

1. Driver support - This is one of the first things you want to look at when you install Windows 7 RC1 or any operating system for that matter, is all your hardware supported by default? Do you need to download special drivers from the hardware vendors website. Should you? Windows 7 RC1 provides the best driver support of any OS so far and a resolution center. For first time users you can see the Device Manager (which shows the hardware components installed on your system and their driver status) by right clicking Computer, clicking properties, and then clicking Device Manager on the left hand side.

2. System folders - Are all the system folders as they were in Vista or XP? Become familiar with the system architecture of your system files and folders. For example all of your user data is in: C:\users\%username%\ here you will find a list of folders including Contacts, Desktop, Downloads, Favorites, Links, My Documents (back to Windows XP naming, not Vista), My Music, My Pictures, My Videos, Saved Games, and Searches. If you enable show hidden folders (go to Organize - Folder and Search options - View tab) you will see an AppData folder. Here is where your local software profiles and settings are kept. Also it is worth noting that Microsoft STILL has hidden file extensions by default. This is a huge security issue as someone can send you a file virus.jpg.exe and it will only show virus.jpg leading you to believe the file is an image, which it clearly is not!

3. Media files - if you are like me this is one of the first things I checked. I wanted to make sure my itunes, movies, and games all worked well. To my amazement Windows 7 has a lot more support for media files and Windows Media Player is looking good. Take your time making sure all your media files work and if they don't find out why.Check out my blog post on media files in Windows 7.

4. Your applications - this is probably one of the most important and longest phase of the evaluation period. Do all your applications work? If you are a home user most applications should work, but in a business some will not. Microsoft has XP Mode targeted for businesses that have legacy software that might not work in Windows 7. Check with the software vendor with any issues first, if there are no solutions try XP Mode. I will continue evaluating applications and hope to evaluate XP Mode in the coming weeks.

5. Security software - I have not read much on this yet and do plan to test extensively. What anti-virus do you use? Does it work correctly with Windows 7? How do antimalware products work with Windows 7. I know Symantec Endpoint Protection had issues with Beta 1, have they been fixed? I plan to review this more in depth next week as well.

6. Networking - did Windows 7 recognize your network. Did you select Home, Work, or Public network when connecting? What is the difference between these three options. Windows 7 has a Homegroup network that is aimed at the home user and eases the headaches of home networking and allows streaming of media very easily. Is this a security risk? What does the Work profile do differently than home profile? What does the public profile do? Does it protect me in a Starbucks? All things you should evaluate with Windows 7. I will work on this in the coming weeks.

7. Try new features - Windows 7 has a lot of new features and you should try them out. Among them are the homegroup network, powershell, third-party troubleshooting support, Aero Peeks, new taskbar architecture, newer widgets, streaming media through Windows Media Player easier, Windows Media Center new features, search funcionality, XP mode, tablet and touchscreen functions, and many others. Evaluating all these new features should be fun and stress free!

Basically, what you should be looking for and evaluating with Windows 7 RC1 is a proper transition path from your current system to the new one. Having your data and operating system in two different drives as I suggested here is a great way to test everything out. Be daring and take risk as long as you don't do it with your data you will be fine. Remember to have fun and explore!

Till next time,
Jorge Orchilles


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