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Should I upgrade to Windows 7?

November 9, 2009 by Sara Nagreen

windows 7 laptop

Every time there is an update of any sort of software, the question inevitably arises.   Should I upgrade?

First, it depends on whether or not your computer even can run Windows 7.   Windows 7 runs on most machines that could run Windows Vista, so if you are already running Vista, chances are very good you can run Windows 7.  In fact,  if you are unhappy with Windows Vista, you should be much happier under Windows 7.  Microsoft listened to complaints about Windows Vista and fixed them in Windows 7.   There are minimum system requirements for Windows 7, and they are truly minimum.  Don't upgrade unless you exceed those requirements, or you will be unhappy!

Second, if you have a processor capable of 64-bit processing, then yes, you should upgrade.  64-bit processors allow your computer to work on more things at once, and utilize your RAM (Random Access Memory) more effectively.   Simply put, there was a ceiling on how much RAM your computer could use under the regular vanilla version of Windows XP, and any extra RAM that was there simply went to waste.   If you have 4 GB of RAM, and you are using Windows XP, you aren't using all of the RAM in your system.  With the 64-bit version of Windows 7, you will.  Most of the computers being put out in the last few years are already capable of 64 bit processing, but if you aren't sure, please ask.

Third, is something that we must take into account before any such upgrade ... what else might be affected by this upgrade?  In the case of Windows 7, we've already discovered that some very old printer drivers don't work.  If you have old equipment or a piece of old software that you use on a regular basis, you should talk with us before upgrading.  We can try to install your software or hardware with out Windows 7 test machines, and determine what might happen if you were to upgrade. 

Lastly, before you decide to grab the upgrade DVD, you will want to do a backup.  It's a good idea in any event, but especially when you are doing an upgrade.  It doesn't happen often, but all it takes is one wrong click to lose something important, and having a good backup is just for peace of mind.   If you have a USB hard drive, it won't take very long to copy your important documents to it before you start.   If you don't have a USB hard drive, you can copy your important documents to the UW's MyWebSpace which offers 1 GB of free online document storage to any UW student, staff or faculty.   A good backup is always a good idea!

In general, our testing of Windows 7 has gone very well, and the speed of the system has been very favorable.  Aside from the general "where'd they put that?" that happens everytime we deal with something new, we've been surprised by the nimbleness of it, and do recommend it for both new and newer systems.

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