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Windows 7 - Pre Release Purchasing Advice

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Windows 7's official release date has been updated to October 22nd, 2009.  I have been testing the beta version and it appears to be relatively solid. Also, the Windows 7 beta community seems to be excited and confident in this release (unlike Vista 32bit). As many of you may be looking to invest in new computer equipment currently, I wanted to share my thoughts and answer a few questions I received lately.

Should I buy a computer right now (before the Win 7 release)?
My advice is to wait until computers are formally released with the final version of windows 7 operating system. 

In my humble experience, this ensures formal compatibility testing and support of Win 7 drivers.   Often a "hardware refresh" occurs with the release of a new OS, thus you can receive the latest technology advances available.

What if I need a computer right now and I can’t wait. 
Then buy one, but make certain that it states that it is Windows 7 upgradeable and compatible (not just Windows 7 capable). See the next comment.

What if I buy a new computer with Windows Vista or XP and it says it is upgradeable to Windows 7?
Watch the marketing lingo. Is it Windows 7 “capable or compatible”?  They did this marketing trick with Vista.  If its capable, it could “run Vista based on minimum hardware requirements, but there was no formal compatibility testing.  If it is compatible, there was some testing of vender supplied Vista programs and drivers on the computer. People that bought Vista capable machines, where not thrilled with the results. The good news is that Windows 7 runs on the same kernel, which means that compatibility issues between Vista and Windows 7 will be lower (but, not nonexistent). Whereas XP to Windows 7 is a much more dramatic and pricey venture.

What if a new computer is not tested for compatibility with Windows 7?
It might work with the new OS, it might not, it could just hang and crash a lot and exhibit unpredictable behaviors. It’s a roll of the dice.  As mentioned, odds are much more in your favor with a Vista vs. a Windows XP computer.

Be careful of “Deals”, especially when a new OS is released.
If a product price is too good to be true, it usually is.  You will see some really cheap computers out there right now.  If you are ok with staying with an older machine and an older OS, then you can get a "good deal" as venders offload their old stock. However, upgrading from an old to a new OS can cause major issues and costs in time and money. So keep this in mind.  Also, be wary of purchasing older technology, since its useful lifetime is limited, which can significantly devalue your overall investment.

Further, based on the rapid changes within technology, it is best to invest in the most advance technology possible (given available funds and a price comparison of options and competition) to ensure the longest lifespan for your investment. Because lets face it, anything you buy today will most likely run for as long as it will do the job and probably 1-2years more.. then it will begin its second life as a spare computer or a mp3 player or whatever... This is a decent economic, business continuity and "environmental" strategy =D

Can my old computer run Windows 7?
You could install it and see how it goes.
You can use the Upgrade Advisor.
This will assess system requirements, device issues and program issues. It does not guarantee all components and software will play nicely together though, as it does not do a formal compatibility test..

Windows 7 Business for Free
Also, be aware that the Department will be able to provide FREE access to Windows 7 Business (Not Ultimate) to all students, staff and faculty through our departmental MSNDAA licensing.  Please contact me if you would like access to MSNDAA downloads.

Should I buy a computer right after Win 7 is released?
This is up to you.  Most people l like to wait a bit for others to work out the bugs before adopting.  Common wait times are 3-6months… usually after the first service pack is released. 
Based on my tests, it does seem very solid and I will be recommending it for new computer purchases.  However, if at all possible, I prefer to buy a computer with support for a previous OS (in this case Windows XP), just in case there are compatibility issues with programs, etc needed. This gives you a choice to be backwards compatible.  This is most beneficial if the industry is slow to develop drivers and programs for Windows 7.   This extensive compatibility is usually only available through business purchases.

Will Windows 7 require the purchase of new software or peripherals?
Yes, some software and peripherals that work with XP and Vista, may not work with Windows 7.  This is due to software not being written specifically for the changes in Windows 7. This can cause issues or prevent things from working.  For software, it means that the code needs to be altered. This is usually means upgrading to the next version.  For peripherals, venders often chose not to release new drivers for a peripheral. This means you often get to go buy a new peripheral. The good news is since Windows 7 is using Windows Vista's kernel, there should be less dramatic changes and many programs should work. But, from my testing... do not hold your breath. There are many compatibility issues and software updates that will need to occur to make older programs and drivers windows 7 friendly.

Can I get a Columbia discount for a personal computer?
Columbia allows professors and students to get a discount with Mac and Dell computers. I am not certain of the exact discount, but I believe it’s around 10%.  Buying through the university allows you to purchase business level computers and 3 year business level warranty.  The business warranty from Dell is nice because technicians will come to your home or business to replace the broken parts, essentially by the next day.  Thus, depending on the machine you purchase, you might have the previously mentioned backward compatibility option of XP or Vista available to you.  Most home computers will not have this option.
-Click on Computers, Peripherals & Workstations
-Select the company you are interested in (for example Dell or Apple)
-Enter you uni and password
-Read through the info on the page looking for links to the personal purchasing info and following the instructions.

Investments: Life Expectancy
Personal Laptops tend to last 3-4years depending on usage.
Personal Desktops tend to last 3-6 years depending on usage.
When thinking about investing in a mac or PC, think in these terms.  You are making an investment for 3 years+
You want to purchase a machine that will support your needs over those 3 years. Do not buy what you think you need today, buy one or two rungs above since you will be growing into it over the next 3 years+.

OS lifecycles
Interestingly, Microsoft was schedule to stop supporting XP January 31, 2009, but extended it to 2011, basically because Vista was a flop.  Once it stops supporting the OS, it is no longer safe to use on the internet and will get harder to support and use as software changes.
This puts XP’s lifecycle at 10 years.  Most OS lifecycles are around 3 years.  So, if you are sadend by the potential need to upgrade peripherals, be happy with the value you received from your XP run.

Vista is currently scheduled to stop support by 2012. This may or may not be extended as well based on XP's extension.

System requirements for Windows 7
Windows 7 requirements are similar to Vista's. Thus, if you have a Vista capable computer, it's hardware should support Windows 7. Note: people are reporting issues with some Vista Graphics cards and their current drivers.

Windows 7 system requirements

If you want to run Windows 7 on your PC, here's what it takes:

  • 1 gigahertz (GHz) or faster 32-bit (x86) or 64-bit (x64) processor

  • 1 gigabyte (GB) RAM (32-bit) or 2 GB RAM (64-bit)

  • 16 GB available hard disk space (32-bit) or 20 GB (64-bit)

  • DirectX 9 graphics device with WDDM 1.0 or higher driver

Additional requirements to use certain features:

  • Internet access (fees may apply)

  • Depending on resolution, video playback may require additional memory and advanced graphics hardware

  • For some Windows Media Center functionality a TV tuner and additional hardware may be required

  • Windows Touch and Tablet PCs require specific hardware

  • HomeGroup requires a network and PCs running Windows 7

  • DVD/CD authoring requires a compatible optical drive

  • BitLocker requires Trusted Platform Module (TPM) 1.2

  • BitLocker To Go requires a USB flash drive

  • Windows XP Mode requires an additional 1 GB of RAM, an additional 15 GB of available hard disk space, and a processor capable of hardware virtualization with Intel VT or AMD-V turned on

  • Music and sound require audio output





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