Five Reasons to Upgrade to Windows 7

Today is the day. The curtain has been raised and the confetti has fallen. Windows 7 is here. After the problems with the launch of Windows Vista-- both real and perceived-- many users are cautious about jumping on Windows 7 too quickly.

Today is the day. The curtain has been raised and the confetti has fallen. Windows 7 is here. After the problems with the launch of Windows Vista-- both real and perceived-- many users are cautious about jumping on Windows 7 too quickly.

[ For complete coverage on Microsoft's new Windows 7 operating system -- including hands-on reviews, video tutorials and advice on enterprise rollouts-- see CIO.com's Windows 7 Bible. ]

Windows 7 offers little more than incremental improvements and cosmetic enhancements over Windows Vista, and Windows Vista users may be wise to simply hold off until its time for a new PC. But the majority of users are still using Windows XP and even Vista users have reason to embrace Windows 7. Let's look at 5 reasons why you should make the switch to Windows 7 today.

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1. Vista haters. Whether you are one of the nearly 19 percent of consumers who are actually running Windows Vista and don't like it, or part of the larger crowd of those who hate Windows Vista purely based on anecdotal stories and 'I'm a Mac' ads from Apple, Windows 7 is not Windows Vista.

The two most common complaints about Windows Vista are poor device driver support and annoyance over the UAC (user account control) pop-up alerts. Windows 7 has vastly superior device support, and Microsoft has modified the functionality of UAC to provide the user with more control over the alert prompts.

2. XP diehards. Security is arguably the best reason for a Windows XP user to make the switch. A lot has changed since the Clinton-era. Windows 7 has UAC, ASLR (address space layout randomization), and DEP (data execution prevention) in addition to improved operating system kernel protection. Certain versions of Windows 7 also include BitLocker and BitLocker-to-Go encryption.

There are also a number of improvements in the user interface that make it simpler and more intuitive to work with the operating system. The Windows Action Center, improved data backup, Blu-ray disc support, and jump lists stand out as good reasons to make the switch.

3. Home networking. Networking Windows-based desktops together in the home has theoretically been possible since Windows 3.11. However, it has been easier said than done and has come with certain security tradeoffs depending on which version of Windows you're trying to network.

Microsoft is offering Windows 7 in a family pack with 3 licensed copies to allow families to upgrade all of the systems in the home at a discount. If you take advantage of that, you can also take advantage of Home Groups which greatly simplify the process of sharing data and other resources between Windows 7 systems while also providing better protection to prevent guests or unauthorized users from being able to access those same resources.

4. Media sharing. Since the days of Windows XP a lot has changed in terms of digital media. MP3's are quickly replacing compact discs as the primary music format, and computers with TV tuners can act as DVR's (digital video recorders).

Windows 7 makes it fairly seamless and intuitive to share audio and video media between the various devices on the network. You can access and share libraries, play audio and video files to remote systems on the network, copy recorded shows from one system to another, and more with relative ease.

5. Go with the flow. When I was a teen lusting after my first computer, I wanted a Mac. The mother of a friend of mine worked for Apple so I got to play with the first-generation Mac at his house and that is what I wanted. My mother nixed that plan because she pointed out that they used PC's at her work, and my uncle was a programmer on a PC, and we had family and friends with PC's. The logic was that by getting a PC I would have more resources available to me than if I went with the obscure, albeit cooler, Mac.

Fast forward a few years and I was still trying to be a non-conformist even while using a PC. I ran the IBM OS/2 operating system on an AMD-based system (before it was the household name it is now). I used a non-HP printer and a non-Hayes modem. I made sure my sound card was not from Creative Labs. What I found was that all of that really just made my life more difficult trying to find drivers and make it all play nicely together.

So-- reason number 5 to embrace Windows 7 is to go with the flow. Between Windows XP, Windows Vista, and Windows 7, the Microsoft operating system dominates nearly 95 percent of the operating system market share. Now that Windows 7 is out, Microsoft and third-party software providers will be quick to drop support and development for Windows XP.

Tony Bradley is an information security and unified communications expert with more than a decade of enterprise IT experience. He tweets as @PCSecurityNews and provides tips, advice and reviews on information security and unified communications technologies on his site at tonybradley.com.

This story, "Five Reasons to Upgrade to Windows 7" was originally published by PCWorld.

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