Testing Windows 7 beta and RC versions

Windows is the piece of software that underlies everything on my computer so that I thought it would be a great opportunity to write about it since we’re on the verge of its new version, namely, Windows 7.

I’ve been testing Windows 7 for the last two months. It’s been my operating system since then.

Firstly I got the 32-bit Beta release on March, 15th and today I’m downloading the 64-bit RC (release candidate) version. I plan to install it this weekend and as soon as I have it installed and configured I’ll update this post.

What I have to write about this operating system? Numbered from 1 to 7 in an unordered relevance fashion…

1 - It is fast.
2 - I risk to say it is faster than Windows XP.
3 - It is beautiful! Take a look at the new taskbar.
4 - It simplifies a lot of tasks.
5 - It has more native programs.
6 - Previous Windows’s native programs got a refresh and were optimized.
7 - It adds more security points to your day to day tasks.

My Windows 7 Beta taskbar:

Windows 7 Beta Taskbar

I moved directly from Windows XP to Windows 7. I didn’t use Windows Vista because it was too bloated for my computer in the beginning of 2006 when I also tested it in the beta period. At that time I had an AMD Athlon XP 2400+ with 512 MB RAM memory and an onboard video card which didn’t allow me to get the so famous Aero interface. I didn’t have a plan to upgrade my hardware. That was the big impediment. I think that Windows Vista arrived in a time in which the majority of computers didn’t have a proper hardware configuration yet.

Now the landscape is different. Windows 7 appears in a time that it’s much cheaper to buy a 2-core computer with GBs of RAM memory; Computer prices went down during the past years even here in Brazil where hardware prices double if compared with US $. Today $ 1 = R$ 2.07. This price is still attractive. Believe it or not! :)

The following picture shows my current computer configuration:

 Windows 7 System configuration

This is the Windows Experience Index score I got - a low score given the fact that I still use an onboard video card and that the score is determined by the lowest subscore:

 Windows 7 Windows Experience Index

Even with a 3.2 score I have the windows Aero enabled. Take a look at the Windows Experience Index: An In-Depth Look post that describes the score levels and what system’s features are enabled or disabled based on them.

From the Engineering the Windows 7 “Windows Experience Index” post we have the following:

The Vista-era general guidelines for systems in the 1.0, 2.0, 3.0, 4.0 and 5.0 ranges still apply to Windows 7. But, Windows 7 has added levels 6.0 and 7.0; meaning 7.9 is the maximum score possible.

While using Windows 7 beta I installed all the software I work with as the Microsoft Visual Studio 2008 Professional, Oracle Database, PL/SQL Developer, TortoiseSVN, etc - a typical developer box.

Windows 7 didn’t crash and was a well behaved operating system during this beta period in which I did everything I used to do in Windows XP.

The only hardware problem I had was with a Creative Audigy sound card (model number SB0090). There was no driver available for Windows 7. So I had to install a driver that wasn’t full compatible. The sound didn’t sound as good as it should be. I experienced a lot of noise.
Creative Labs has a Windows 7 - Driver Availability Chart in case you’re interested.

All in all you’ll get a great experience with such a robust operating system. After all Windows is ubiquitous and the more you can do with it the better you get at work.

Updated on 6/6/2009 05:48:00 PM

I’ve installed Windows 7 64-bit version but I didn’t use it because for the sake of my work I thought Win 7 wouldn’t play as expected.

Firstly we should consider that Windows 7 64-bit has a default Program Files (x86) folder where it puts all applications that are made to run on a 32-bit operating system. This particularly broke my way because the software that I develop rely on an Oracle database connection. There is a known bug with Oracle that prevents an application hosted in a folder that has parenthesis in its name to access an Oracle database.

I didn’t notice any performance gains while running the 64-bit OS.

Today I finally installed the Windows 7 RC 32-bit. I upgraded from the 32-bit Beta version to the RC version. The upgrade is only possible from 32-bit to 32-bit versions and not from a 64-bit Beta to 32-bit RC and vice versa.

The upgrade took 1 hour and 40 minutes to complete and ran flawlessly. You may ask why this took so long? This is because in a upgrade it is necessary to copy a lot of files from the old OS to the new one.

I downloaded the ISO file and extracted its content to a temp folder. I changed the file cversion.ini as described in the post Delivering a quality upgrade experience from the Engineering Windows 7 blog so that I could go through the upgrade. I then clicked setup.exe while running the Windows 7 beta version and the installation started.

I got the following report:

Upgrading Windows will affect the following devices and/or programs:

          These programs might not work properly after the upgrade. We recommend uninstalling these programs before upgrading. Cancel the upgrade, open Control Panel, and search for "uninstall a program". (Note: Programs marked as * can be safely reinstalled after the upgrade.)
          • Microsoft SQL Server 2008
          • Microsoft SQL Server 2005

        I then decided to ignore the report and proceeded with the installation.

        Windows 7 - Upgrading from 32-bit Beta to RC

        The above image shows the early stages of the upgrade. In fact there were more than 400000 files to be gathered. I already had an extensive list of apps installed on the beta OS as for example Microsoft Office 2007 that in itself is a big suite of apps.

        Windows 7 then restarted sometimes and installed the new OS bits that were refined from Beta to RC. The last step was to transfer files, settings and programs to the new OS. It transferred a total of 524490 files.

        My Windows 7 RC taskbar:

        Windows 7 RC Taskbar

        From this what I have to say now that I’m using the RC to write this blog post using Windows Live Writer is that the upgrade was successful. I didn’t need to reinstall anything (including Windows Live Writer). Everything is the way they were before installing the RC version.

        I had a pleasant experience while upgrading from Beta to RC.

        Congratulations to the Microsoft Windows 7 Team for providing this must have feature, that is, making upgrades possible! :-)

        A last note: I described above the problem I had while configuring my Creative Audigy sound card in Windows 7 Beta. With the RC version the Creative Audigy soundcard is functioning as expected. One of the first things Windows 7 did was to install the sound card driver!

        Updated on 2/22/2010

        On February, 17 I made the change to Windows 7 RTM version. After almost a year of constant use the RC version proved to be really stable.

        Now let’s use Windows 7 till Windows 8 comes.

        Engineering Windows 7 blog

        Windows 7 Team blog

        Microsoft official Windows 7 site

        Windows 7 @ Paul Thurrott's SuperSite for Windows

        Windows 7 article at Wikipedia

        List of features new to Windows 7