Is Windows 7 the next XP?
May 22, 2010 3:53 PM   Subscribe

I'm an advanced computer user and would like to know how Windows 7 compares with XP Pro. I'm clinging to the latter like Dagon to an emaciated villager but I know the time will come when I'll have to move on. Basic info about install size, resource hogging, software compatibility (particularly MS Office versions) and tweakability in terms of Windows' always annoying "security" functions will be greatly appreciated. I have tried Vista, only to run away from it screaming. I'll be sitting round the fire in the trashcan, looking forward to reading your thoughts.
posted by New England Cultist to Computers & Internet (26 answers total) 6 users marked this as a favorite
I'm by no means an expert (see the post directly below yours), but here are two things I learnt during my own decision-making process:

- Windows 7 Pro has a downloadable "XP mode" which lets you run XP-compatible programs from your Win7 desktop. The Home Premium version doesn't have this feature.

- If you want your OS to recognise more than 4Gb of RAM, you need the 64-bit version. I'm not sure if there is a workaround to this, but it sounds like an annoying limitation.
posted by embrangled at 4:24 PM on May 22, 2010

Response by poster: I should clarify - when I say "advanced" I mean it in the basic user sense; I'm not an engineer or programmer and I'm not looking to move to Linux or the like. I know enough about computers to fix my own problems and to tweak them according to what I want them to do. I guess I'd call myself a savvy user.
posted by New England Cultist at 4:40 PM on May 22, 2010

Also an 'advanced' user here (well, more like a power user obsessed with efficiency and too lazy to learn *nix.) I just switched over from XP Pro after equal trepidation and oh my god I am amazed. It is like switching from 98 to XP. Everything is smoother, cleaner, more responsive. I have yet to have a single system crash - Flash-heavy sites used to cause Firefox to take down my XP box at least once a week. I've had Firefox crap out on me once and instead of having to kill the process through task manager, I closed it on the taskbar and just started it back up. No OS hiccups, nothing. I was amazed.

I've managed to turn off every 'security' feature I don't like. 7 is surprisingly friendly with letting you do things yourself. Compatibility modes are much, much better, letting you run programs with compatibility for any legacy system you can think of. Definitely get the 64-bit version, btw.

A few issues: as I do not have the space in my house for a desktop, I bought a deeply discounted top-of-the-line quad-core laptop that I cleaned the installed software off instead of totally blanking the drive and re-installing. My Windows directory is 13 gigs. I don't have the time or inclination to sort out why, as I don't have any actual issues with that outside of "what the fuck is the OS doing with 13 gigs." With a few background things running (utorrent, pidgin, skype, heavily customized Firefox) I'm at about 1.8 GB used RAM out of 8.
posted by griphus at 4:41 PM on May 22, 2010

1.8 out of 4 rather. However, I'm not a Serious Gamer (emulators and Flash-based mostly) and don't run singularly intensive applications so I'm not sure about that aspect.
posted by griphus at 4:44 PM on May 22, 2010

Windows 7 is every bit the upgrade to XP that Vista should have been. I'm actually quite pleased with it, and I haven't said that about a Windows OS since 2000.
posted by Pogo_Fuzzybutt at 4:50 PM on May 22, 2010

Just don't be running an old PC. My 5-or-so-year-old HP xw4300 Workstation ran notably slower with Win7 than XP Pro (it had almost twice the boot time), and I am still using XP.

And (as my neighbor found out) your favorite Win95 games won't run on Win7 64-bit(in his wife's case, Scrabble--so he shelled out $10 for a working Scrabble & a bunch of other old games that (I think it was) Hasbro sells). And don't try to explain to a construction worker & springsteenesque musician why 64bit is better than not-64bit. Or if you can, please post how.

I've been trying to get 7 where I work, but there is a backlog for conversions, and it is really pretty low on my extensive list of gripes.
posted by hexatron at 5:32 PM on May 22, 2010

I've upgraded a bunch of our most... demanding users (not really "power users" but the people right on the "knows enough to be dangerous/hold strong opinions" line) at the office from Vista or XP to Win7, and everyone's loving it.
posted by mendel at 5:45 PM on May 22, 2010

...favorite Win95 games won't run on Win7 64-bit...

What happens when you try to set the 95 compatibility mode? (Actual question.)
posted by griphus at 5:49 PM on May 22, 2010

griphus--It seems Win95 compatibility is not available for 64-bit windows.
If it is, it's a $10 my-bad, but I can't really answer because, as noted, I am not now using Win7 anywhere.

But would someone more knowledgeable please settle this?
posted by hexatron at 6:11 PM on May 22, 2010

It seems Win95 compatibility is not available for 64-bit windows.

It is on Home Premium, I'm not sure which version you're using. Right click either the program or its shortcut, go to the "Compatibility" tab, check the "Run this program in compatibility mode for:" box and select "Windows 95."

Here's a more involved guide to compatibility modes..
posted by griphus at 6:22 PM on May 22, 2010 [1 favorite]

I am a programmer/engineer and a user of both Windows (for work) and Macs (for pleasure). I have lived through Vista and am currently using Windows 7. I've found that Windows 7 is vastly improved over Vista and holds up well against OS X in terms of usability, stability and overall experience. Or, as another Mac-using friend put it: 'Microsoft finally got it right.' All of the little things that made me tear my hair out about Vista (ultra-slow copies and deletes, for example) have been resolved.

I use a laptop with a ~2.2 GHz C2Duo with 4GB memory (70% utilized, atm) and an underpowered graphics card. I'm usually running a bunch of developer tools, servers and browsers. This is about as resource-intensive as I've ever made a computer, but Win 7 stays responsive. And if an app hangs, the Task Manager can really kill it, instead of politely requesting it to quit (if it's not too much trouble.)

The security features are sufficiently fine-grained such that I can configure it to a degree that it's not annoying to me. I quickly got fed up with Vista and chucked UAC outright. I've been able to leave it enabled in Win7 and be OK with it, and it's still set several notches above the minimum.
posted by JohnFredra at 6:23 PM on May 22, 2010

Response by poster: My Windows directory is 13 gigs.

Seriously?! Wow. That's a bit of a pain. Maybe it can be crunched down but still, hell, I'd wonder too wtf an OS needs that much space for.
posted by New England Cultist at 6:56 PM on May 22, 2010 may be counting the page and hibernation files in that, considering I have no idea where they are anymore. Google suggests a clean install is ~5GB or so.
posted by griphus at 7:23 PM on May 22, 2010

Don't assume old hardware will work with Windows 7. Device drivers now need to be signed by Microsoft. Defunct, lazy, or cheap hardware vendors have not done this, and the consequence devices that worked even in Vista may no longer work with Windows 7. For example, my stupid StreamZap remote control and a friend's SCSI RAID controller.
posted by qxntpqbbbqxl at 7:32 PM on May 22, 2010

I see no one has answered the "MS Office" compatibility part of your questions so I'll chip in and say that I have a 2002 / 2003 version of MS Office Suite and it works fine on my Windows7 install (Home Premium)

I think the rest of the posters have your question covered, I'll just say that I too held out for 8 years with my beloved single copy of Windows XP only to finally switch to Windows7 a few months ago and I have no regrets at all.


Bill Gates, I like windows 7 and all but WHERE IS THE FILMSTRIP... T_T
posted by xdvesper at 7:42 PM on May 22, 2010

Don't let people automatically convince you that 7 is so amazing just because they have bought into it. There are some neat features on the backend, but besides some fancy UI tricks it is Windows XP. No revolutionary features. None.
posted by lakerk at 7:50 PM on May 22, 2010

Seriously?! Wow. That's a bit of a pain. Maybe it can be crunched down but still, hell, I'd wonder too wtf an OS needs that much space for.

That's not that much space if you think about it - with terabyte drives for so cheap. Besides, WoW is ~18gigs and doesn't quite do as much.

Windows keeps all the system restore points in the windows directory, as well as a cache of system files and updates. The hibernation and pagefile are in root of C:\ and so don't add to the size.
posted by Pogo_Fuzzybutt at 8:27 PM on May 22, 2010

"Windows 7 Pro has a downloadable "XP mode" which lets you run XP-compatible programs from your Win7 desktop."

Just be aware that the programs won't always run correctly from within the XP shell [we ran into this], so hopefully all your stuff is Win7 compatible.
posted by HopperFan at 9:23 PM on May 22, 2010

Windows 7 sucks less than Vista. UAC still does some stupid things, but it isn't as bad. However, Microsoft has been moving steadily in a sucky direction for search. Search is not as good. Search is now, in fact, bad. Search is bad enough that there are some things for which I just use Windows XP, if I would like to search. Search is probably okay if you have one PC with all of your stuff on it and you aren't searching for anything interesting. If you're connecting to a network drive somewhere because you have to inspect some minor's PHP code in the hope that he hasn't left register globals on, you're doomed, because 1) it's on a network, so it isn't indexed. 2) The search will see that the files end in .php and, lacking an iFilter for .php, will default to searching the name, but not the text of the file. These things can be corrected for, but you have to figure out what's going on, first, then do research, whereas in XP, stuff just got found.

And, after all of these years, Windows still won't tell you what goddamned program has a file handle open to the USB device you'd like to unplug. C'mon, guys. Still opening up Process Explorer to find it. Ugh.

Some of the UI stuff is more attractive, yes. And a lot of things have been buried even further down — network connections, is that one more level down than before, or two? Lakerk is quite right: no revolutionary features.
posted by adipocere at 11:16 PM on May 22, 2010

Response by poster: Thanks everyone. At this point it looks like I might cling a bit longer. Nothing thus far to convince me otherwise.
posted by New England Cultist at 11:42 PM on May 22, 2010

I think the best reason is being able to up your RAM over 3GB. For this reason, you are going to want a 64 bit OS sooner or later. You might not have any compelling reason to switch right now, but I would definitely buy a copy on your next hardware upgrade and I would not be installing XP on anything in the future.

I switched a few months back on my main desktop, which is used for heavy gaming and coding. I turned all the flashy UI stuff off within the first week, as well as most of the UAC and services. It took me a few more weeks to get it tweaked into submission after that, but is now running fairly smooth. Overall, stability seems slightly better than XP, and there are a few nice features, but it isn't anything revolutionary. It still has the godawful registry, it still runs a whole bunch of unnecessary shit, it still sometimes becomes unresponsive or chugs for unusual amounts of time (Core2Duo with 8GB & GeFore 9800), search is still basically unusable, it still doesn't have a halfway decent terminal. These can all be fixed with enough pokes and replacement software in the right places, but it still doesn't hold a candle to Linux in stability, security, or customization; and it still doesn't rival the ease of use and attention to detail of OSX.

In response specifically to search... I've been pretty happy with Everything for local searches. Searching network drives is somewhat of an advanced behavior for most Windows users, so having to jump through those hoops isn't particularly surprising. IMHO, Windows search has always sucked, and the indexer eats up way too much resources.
posted by sophist at 12:54 AM on May 23, 2010

The only issue I have with Windows 7 (64 bit) is that I have several old (16 bit! hah!) programs that I would love to be able to use, but because I have the 64 bit version, they are not compatible, and compatibility mode (or XP mode) seems to do nothing. Otherwise, Windows 7 is very nice and if you are a fan of XP I would encourage you to switch because the transition is very simple.
posted by Night_owl at 5:57 AM on May 23, 2010

My Windows directory is 13 gigs.

My old win98 computer didn't have 13 gigs on its entire hard-drive... My, how times have changed! :P

I'm not really the best person to answer this question, cause I'm a Mac user, but my boyfriend bought a laptop with Windows 7 on it a few months ago, and it seems to be working great. Then again, his old laptop used Vista, so I don't know how good his word is to you.

I do have a Windows drive in my desktop computer (a MacPro), running XP Pro, so I can play games that aren't Mac-compatible (meaning, almost anything that's good), and I haven't bothered upgrading yet, either, though I have considered it. In my experience it's always best to wait until an OS has been on the market for a while and the developers have had time to sort out any bugs that weren't caught during beta testing, and fix compatibility issues with hardware developers.
posted by MaiaMadness at 6:27 AM on May 23, 2010

Personally I'm running a hobbyist Frankenputer with Windows XP and a Sebmoja laptop with Vista for the wife to use that gets as little added to it as possible. Both work absolutely fine.

I have a free upgrade Windows 7 disk for the lappy that I've yet to find a reason to use - apart from UAC (which I've turned off and therefore bothers me not a whit) unless there is a major advantage that Windows 7 has that means I should install it, I'm going to stick with Vista.

I do suspect Win7 on the Frankenputer would be nice, but not enough nice to bother paying or pirating it.
posted by Sebmojo at 5:29 PM on May 23, 2010

Old thread, I know, but if your Windows 7 Windows directory is huge it could be your Windows backup being set-up quite wrongly. Seen that just a few days ago.
posted by yoHighness at 1:23 PM on April 26, 2011

« Older Best practice file management in Windows 7?   |   How to swap caregiving chores Newer »
This thread is closed to new comments.