I installed Windows 7 RC, but really I just didn't see much difference between it and Vista. I was an early adopter of Vista and will admit that at first it stepped on a couple of devices due to missing drivers, however besides that it's always been as stable as XP for me. So really, for those who have been cheering about Windows 7, what's it doing for you? Why is it better and what do you think will tempt me to upgrade?
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It's basically Vista done right. Not only has the UI been cleaned up and polished in many areas, but it boots faster, is more responsive, and uses much less memory. (Oh, and it takes advantage of multi-core processors better, but I don't know if that applies to you.) On top of that, most drivers are now available through Windows Update, which is really convenient. Also, the media stuff was greatly improved; for example, Windows Media Player 12 supports many codecs such as DivX and AAC right off the bat, and the media sharing feature was improved.
All-in-all it's just an even better version of Windows Vista. Whether that sounds like something you'd want to spend money on is up to you.
Features new to Windows 7. Though for me personally, its that Windows 7 is a bit more polished, UAC is less intrusive, and Media Center "works better" with network-shared media resources. Other than the printer I need to replace anyway, everything "just worked" as far as drivers go (on a ~1 yr old Dell laptop).
In terms of "what's fixed" I would say the user experience. It is a much more pleasant OS to use, it feels responsive. In terms of what's new, here are some of my favorite features from the Beta/RC:
It has better video codec support out of the box (mpg, mp4, avchd (mts), xvid, etc) Media Center does some basic Transcoding, so you can watch the above video formats on an extender (such as an Xbox 360). Media Center/Media Player support (unprotected) AAC audio files Stream media from your pc over the internet Play media to a shared device (remotely control media being played on another computer/device
Libraries / Home Group
You can group similar files in different locations into Libraries. These libraries can also be shared with other computers in your Home Group (simplified file sharing / networking of computer).
The task bar is now a combination of the task bar and the quick launch bar. Aero Peek - mouse over the icon in the task bar and get a list of windows for that application. Mouse over the application windows and you can peek at the open application (all other windows become transparent outlines) Aero Peek also works with Alt+Tab
Benchmarks are showing better performance (though marginal). However the User Experience has improved in a way that the OS is perceived as being much more responsive than Vista. Better use of multiple cores
I have moved on from Vista to Windows 7, here are some of my observations:
The security management is more fine tuned. In Vista I have to use "run as administrator" to execute a batch file that just moves some files, but that's not needed in Windows 7.
The new taskbar really works quite well. It's easier to see what's running and to find recent documents.
Functions like connecting to a network and detaching devices is easier and clearer.
The memory usage is smaller. I installed it on a Samsung NC10 mini laptop, I would not even try to install Vista on it.
Bare install of Vista tops out to 12Gb or something of hard drive space.
Windows 7 install is a only a couple of Gigs.
less bloat == more speed (hopefully)
First of all it runs on much lighter hardware, making old laptops useful gifts for family members
Certain UI bits have been tweaked and fine-tuned making it feel more finished (like the taskbar and network settings)
But indeed if you know Vista, Windows 7 isn't a whole lot different, though there is more than meets the eye
Personally, I am in the same boat you were at first: I actually grew to like Vista over XP, and I didn't really have any problems with it.
When I tried Win7, I was really wondering how it was having such great press while Vista was having such horrible press.
After using it more though, it just has way more polish. It has a lot of small tweaks to usability and visuals that just make it feel a lot nicer. It has some great window management features, and the new taskbar is a pretty good improvement.
Plus, the speed issue is a big deal for people, but frankly I didn't notice much difference (outside of startup time, which is a lot faster).
I don't really have a fast PC, it's a few years old (Core 2 Duo E6600), and Vista has never felt slow to me, so I didn't really notice any big speed changes in Win7. I do have 8GB of memory though (for software development), so I think that is probably why I never had problems with memory-hungry Vista. Frankly I think Vista isn't really all so slow, it just needs a lot of memory (and ANYTHING gets really slow when you have to go to the disk often).