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Windows 7 Could Wash Away Vista Aftertaste -- or Most of It

Windows 7's Start menu is not too different from Vista's, unfortunately. A welcome change, however, is at the far right end of the taskbar. Windows 7 sweeps the tray clear of icons left by third-party programs to show only vital indicators.
Windows 7's Start menu is not too different from Vista's, unfortunately. A welcome change, however, is at the far right end of the taskbar. Windows 7 sweeps the tray clear of icons left by third-party programs to show only vital indicators. (The Washington Post)
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One Vista extra returns in improved form: its backup software, which now comes set to preserve all of a user's files and settings, not just a vaguely defined subset of them. But this program's inability to restore a selected program's data files -- say, e-mail archives -- to its original, hidden location in your user directory makes it useless in many common software malfunctions.

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On a new computer, Windows 7 should work well -- numerous third-party programs, such as Apple's iTunes and Google's Picasa, all worked just as they did in Vista.

But upgrading an older machine from XP to 7 is a recipe for pain even if the computer meets 7's hardware requirements. Your first warning should be a flyer in the 7 box that begins "Please read these instructions carefully and completely . . ." -- as if it were the manual for a new circular saw.

Microsoft calls an XP-to-7 upgrade a "custom install," but "destructive install" is more accurate. You run an Easy Transfer utility to back up your files, the 7 installer wipes out XP, your programs and the drivers enabling your computer's hardware; Easy Transfer reloads your files and settings; you reinstall programs. On a test XP system, this left some applications missing their settings or files.

But even if you're just moving from Vista to 7, things can go wrong. A Dell laptop wouldn't connect to a wireless network it had used reliably in Vista, while an HP laptop needed updates to its fingerprint-recognition and TV-viewing software -- and the latter update failed two times in a row. You might want to wait a month or so for your computer's manufacturer to ship a round of bug fixes.

In other words, if you were hoping to stop policing random software-versus-hardware squabbles, Windows 7 isn't the operating system for you. Nor does it bring an end to drawn-out program installations and uninstallations, the risk of virus and malware attacks, the need to submit the computer to "validation" checks, or compatibility problems between 32-bit software and 64-bit installations of Windows.

Then again, for Vista users weary of that operating system's foibles, Win 7's selling points can stop at two words: "not Vista."

Living with technology, or trying to? E-mail Rob Pegoraro at robp@washpost.com. Read more at http://voices.washingtonpost.com/fasterforward.


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