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If you’re not quite sure what an operating system is, envision it as the producer of the show on your computer screen – coordinating all the hardware and software in a hopefully seamless fashion. Like Dorothy in the Wizard of Oz, you really should “pay attention to that man behind the curtain.” Apple has recently quietly released Mac OS X v10.6 Snow Leopard, which seems to be primarily a performance update solely for Intel based Macs. For those already running OS X v10.5 Leopard, the $29 cost seems justified for a moderate but worthwhile improvement. All others will pay the Mac Box Set price of $169.
With far more fanfare, Microsoft will be releasing Windows 7 on October 22, just 3 days before the eighth birthday of Windows XP. As of June 2009, XP is by far the most widely used operating system in the world, with a 66.9% market share. Windows Vista, released January 30, 2000, has accumulated a 22% market share. A significant number of PC users have postponed upgrading and avoided Vista in the hope that something better will come along – the sooner the better!
A public “beta” version (a not quite finished test release) of Windows 7 has been available since February 2009 and has been generally well accepted. Reviewer’s comments have ranged from “this is what Vista should have been” to an over the top “Windows 7: heals the sick and raises the dead!” Perhaps a more telling indicator of acceptability is that neither Microsoft nor Intel installed Vista on their in-house computers, but Microsoft is already in the process of installing Windows 7 system wide and Intel has announced their intention to do the same.
Closer to home, several SaddleBrooke Computer Club instructors have been using the Windows 7 beta since its release and are already convinced that it will be quite successful. We have installed this version on our classroom computers and initiated Windows 7 classes this past summer; if you’re a member, you can try it before you buy it!
The majority of home users will find the Home Premium version a good fit. Most PC’s sold since late June will have Vista installed but include a free upgrade to Windows 7. Despite the offer from the Big Box store to install it for you for just $200, moving from Vista to Windows 7 should be a fairly easy do-it-yourself project. Owners of older PCs with Vista, XP or Windows 2000 will qualify for a retail upgrade copy ($120). A Family Pack ($150) of 3 copies will be available as well. Professional ($200) and Ultimate ($220) upgrade versions will also be available.
Unlike previous new versions of Windows, this version runs quite well on existing hardware. “As fast as XP and as secure as Vista without the hassles” is a common observation. A free online Windows 7 Upgrade Adviser will help you to decide if an upgrade is likely to be successful; don’t skip this step if your computer is more than two years old! Migrating an older PC to Windows 7 will require preparation and determination. A few colorful expletives may also help!