Finally upgrade to Windows 7

Windows 7 is out in the market for some time now. And from what has been reviewed, it seems to be very popular and much more user friendly than Windows Vista. So without much ado, it was time for me to upgrade to Windows 7, well at least for my laptop and give it a quick spin.

I was not about to destroy my Windows Vista installed in my Gigabyte AMD desktop PC. It has way too much stuff. Since I have a Dell Inspiron 1501 laptop which I have been using for the past 2-1/2 year (how time flies!). I used mainly for travel and don’t store my data inside at all. So this was a good candidate to try out for an upgrade to Windows 7.

Two ways to upgrade Windows 7

There are two ways to install and upgrade to Windows 7. Boot up from Windows Vista and install Windows 7 over it, or start clean by formatting over the previous O/S and install Windows 7. I always opt for the latter, although upgrading over from Windows 7 via Windows Vista was enticing as you could get to keep the various software and settings, it is not the wisest upgrade path. It would be extremely slow and the chance of something going wrong during the upgrade process is very likely due to incompatible software or drivers. So starting out clean is the best way to upgrade Windows 7.

My installation of Windows 7 was quick and painless using the latter method. All I needed to do after Windows 7 boot up was to format the partition where Windows Vista resides. After saying sayonara to my old faithful Vista, it was time to install Windows 7. As usual it would take awhile for it to transfer the necessary files to the hard disk. It was also a good time for me to take a bath and listen to some music. All in all took about half an hour to an hour for the installation process to be done completely.

Anti-virus is a must to have

Once the upgrade to Windows 7 was done, it was time to give it a quick spin. But first off, I needed to install the anti-virus and some drivers. I still have balance time from McAfee antivirus license, so I reinstalled it. It took a long while to get itself up to date with the latest anti-virus pattern and engine. That took the better part of another half an hour or so. In this day and age, it is a must to have anti-virus program with the latest engine and anti-virus pattern. No longer are those hackers just hacking for fun. It is big bucks for them to phish for credit card details and banking passwords.

Also Windows 7 didn’t install the proper drivers for the Dell Inspiron 1501 AMD chipset drivers as well as the ATI Radeon display drivers.

Use alternate browsers

First off, while the anti-virus was upgrading, I did a quick exploration and install my favourite browser, Flock using the Firefox engine. Of course I also installed Mozilla Firefox, Google Chrome and Opera as well. This time I skipped installing Safari. Safari browser didn’t really impress me much. I installed the browsers because I didn’t want to use Internet Explorer. It was as slow as usual just like before. Better to use the alternative browsers which render a webpage 5 to 10 seconds faster than IE.

Windows 7 Drivers for Dell Inspiron 1501

I found out from Dell support page that they didn’t prepare any Windows 7 drivers for Dell Inspiron 1501 laptop but mentioned that all the drivers for Windows Vista will work correctly with Windows 7. That was quite good news, which means that I didn’t have to download all the drivers again. I could just use the drivers that I’ve downloaded previous.

It also meant in a way that most previous software and drivers are pretty much compatible with Windows 7. Unlike the switchover from Windows XP to Windows Vista which was quite a painful process and requires waiting out for the software and hardware manufacturers to come up with software and hardware to work reliably with Vista, Windows 7 upgrade path was like a breeze.

Basically my Windows 7 installation onto Dell Inspiron 1501 had two hardware that it didn’t recognize: the motherboard AMD chipset and ATI display. Since I already kept those drivers for future installation and no compatibility issues, installing the drivers was a breeze.

All in all, took me about 2-3 hours to get the basic configuration right.

Overview

The Windows 7 runs somewhat like Vista, with the usual Windows Gadget on the side (if you wanted it, I found them to be useful), and basically quite similar. The difference in terms of user interface was the taskbar; it was thicker with bigger icon. You could pin software that you use frequently and unpin those that came default with Windows 7, and that means unpinning you-know-what software from the taskbar.

The notification icons were changed with a pop up to reveal more running apps to save on taskbar space estate. There were some changes to the “Safely Remove Hardware” for the better. Now it also gives the name of the device apart from the drive alphabet for easier identification. Most of time I give a guess or need to refer back on the main Computer icon drive list to make sure I eject the correct device.

Apart from the user interface improvement, some backend internals were also improved to speed up the O/S. Thanks to Ryan who had a looked through their services and found that many of it will not run until needed. That really speeded up Windows 7 without clogging it up with unused and seldom used services until required.

I will be installing more software later, which I suspect might slow down Windows 7 eventually. Overall I felt it was a little faster in the boot up process, but very likely it will slow down eventually after all those Windows update and various software installations. But with its lower overhead, it was actually possible to install into those Netbook which do not have so much processing power. Already I’m seeing some Netbook offering from Dell and various other branded computer manufacturers coming up with Netbook with Windows 7 pre-installed.

I might be considering a netbook from Dell which they are now offering at under $300 (RM1000). And then again, I might just wait till they launch a version of the netbook that has Google Chrome O/S inside.

Whacked my Ubuntu Linux GRUB dual boot

In the meantime, I need to figure out how to restore my Ubuntu Linux which was installed in another partition, without having to reinstall it. The installation upgrade of Windows 7 whacked my Linux GRUB multi-boot menu. Of course worse comes to worse is to reinstall it with the latest Ubuntu Linux, and that means downloading the 800MB ISO file. Sheesh…!

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