Windows 7 public beta: first impressions

At CES, Microsoft CEO Steve Ballmer announced the public availability of the Windows 7 beta release.

Windows 7.

Windows 7.

Networking Improvements

Windows 7 adds a few networking improvements that Vista and XP lacked. One of the most significant of these is HomeGroups, which give structure to the process of sharing devices and media files over a home network. Setting up a HomeGroup between two or more Windows 7 PCs automates the sharing of Libraries (collections of pictures, music files, movies, or documents), printers, and storage devices. Windows 7 also increases the number of SMB network connections that you can have in a single network.

Setting up a HomeGroup needn't put all of your systems at risk, it seems. When you create one, Windows generates a secure passkey that you must enter on every system that you add to the HomeGroup, which should help keep interlopers from reaching your shared files and devices, even if they manage to get onto your wireless network.

Easy Upgrade

In our last trial of Windows 7, we had no opportunity to perform a full upgrade from Vista--an experience that will be important to many people who want to try out the 7 beta or to upgrade their own systems to 7 from XP or Vista. If no news is good news, I'm pleased to report that my own upgrade went off without a hitch. The actual install time was roughly 40 minutes, and the system rebooted more times than seemed necessary for a simple OS upgrade, but the final result was a fully functional installation. Even my AVG antivirus continued to function normally, which came as a welcome surprise.

Of course, I'm running the new OS on a test machine that I use primarily for trying out things like this, and it isn't exactly laden with media files and applications. In coming weeks, we'll try the beta out on additional systems with a range of installed apps and files to see how the upgrade goes on machines with more-complicated software loads.

Performance

The biggest question on everyone's mind is whether Windows 7 introduces much-needed performance improvements over Vista. I can't answer that question based on one day of subjective use, but I can say that it seems a little faster. Throughout the OS, windows open faster, apps seem to launch more quickly, and the interface seems a little snappier than it was with my Vista installation on the same machine a few hours ago. Startup is a bit quicker, too, getting me from power-on to fully booted in about 74 seconds, versus 87 seconds prior to the upgrade. This comparison is totally unscientific, mind you, and we'll do more extensive testing in the PC World Test Center soon. But my first impression was that Windows 7 generally outperformed Vista on the hardware I used.

Try It For Yourself

So that's my take on my first day with Windows 7. But you don't have to rely on my opinion alone. If you're curious, have lots of free time, and want to conduct your own research and reach your own conclusions about the upcoming Windows OS, read our guide to getting Windows 7 beta for yourself. The DVD images are large and will generally take a few hours to download and install, but there's nothing quite like taking an advance look at the next generation of your OS. If you decide to check it out, let us know what you think of it by dropping a note in our comments section below. Ultimately, it's you, the end users, not us the critics, who will decide whether Windows 7 is the bomb or a dud.

Join the PC World newsletter!

Error: Please check your email address.

Tags MicrosoftWindows 7

Our Back to Business guide highlights the best products for you to boost your productivity at home, on the road, at the office, or in the classroom.

Keep up with the latest tech news, reviews and previews by subscribing to the Good Gear Guide newsletter.

Robert Strohmeyer

PC World (US online)
Show Comments

Most Popular Reviews

Latest News Articles

Resources

PCW Evaluation Team

Azadeh Williams

HP OfficeJet Pro 8730

A smarter way to print for busy small business owners, combining speedy printing with scanning and copying, making it easier to produce high quality documents and images at a touch of a button.

Andrew Grant

HP OfficeJet Pro 8730

I've had a multifunction printer in the office going on 10 years now. It was a neat bit of kit back in the day -- print, copy, scan, fax -- when printing over WiFi felt a bit like magic. It’s seen better days though and an upgrade’s well overdue. This HP OfficeJet Pro 8730 looks like it ticks all the same boxes: print, copy, scan, and fax. (Really? Does anyone fax anything any more? I guess it's good to know the facility’s there, just in case.) Printing over WiFi is more-or- less standard these days.

Ed Dawson

HP OfficeJet Pro 8730

As a freelance writer who is always on the go, I like my technology to be both efficient and effective so I can do my job well. The HP OfficeJet Pro 8730 Inkjet Printer ticks all the boxes in terms of form factor, performance and user interface.

Michael Hargreaves

Windows 10 for Business / Dell XPS 13

I’d happily recommend this touchscreen laptop and Windows 10 as a great way to get serious work done at a desk or on the road.

Aysha Strobbe

Windows 10 / HP Spectre x360

Ultimately, I think the Windows 10 environment is excellent for me as it caters for so many different uses. The inclusion of the Xbox app is also great for when you need some downtime too!

Mark Escubio

Windows 10 / Lenovo Yoga 910

For me, the Xbox Play Anywhere is a great new feature as it allows you to play your current Xbox games with higher resolutions and better graphics without forking out extra cash for another copy. Although available titles are still scarce, but I’m sure it will grow in time.

Featured Content

Latest Jobs

Don’t have an account? Sign up here

Don't have an account? Sign up now

Forgot password?