I'll give you the bad news right up front: Windows 7 isn't what you think it is. Although Windows 7 is the latest release of the Windows operating system for personal computers, it isn't what it seems. Windows 7 does look a lot like its predecessors, albeit with a cleaner, more inviting interface. If you have a powerful computer, you might also be enjoying Windows 7's Aero Glass interface—or not. Regardless, you'd be hard-pressed not to notice all the eye candy Windows 7 presents, and this may lead you to believe that the operating system is little more than new veneer for the same old software. Nothing could be further from the truth—and in this chapter, I'll show you why. I'll start by helping you get to know Windows 7 and its various editions. After discussing how to start and use Windows 7, I will introduce some of the new ways in which you can work with this powerful operating system.
For the sake of this book, I'll assume that you are fairly familiar with the Windows operating system and have worked with Windows Vista, Windows XP, or an earlier release of Windows. If that description fits you, read this chapter to learn about the key changes in Windows 7 that will affect you the most. If you already have some experience with Windows 7, some of the material here may be familiar to you, but I recommend that you read the chapter anyway, because some of the subtler changes in the operating system have the biggest impact on your computer. Also, keep in mind that because I'm assuming prior experience with a Windows operating system, I won't discuss computing basics.
From top to bottom, Windows 7 is dramatically different from Windows XP and earlier versions of Windows. Though similar to Windows Vista, Windows 7 brings numerous important changes in both the interface and the underlying architecture. Continuing the trend started with Windows XP, Windows 7 offers separate home and business products. Unlike Windows XP, Windows 7 editions aren't organized by hardware type or processor architecture. Instead, Windows 7 comes in several distinctly different editions, including (in order from fewest features to most):
Each edition has a different set of features. Windows Starter Edition is a budget edition for casual users, as well as emerging markets. Windows 7 Home Basic and Home Premium are the standard editions for home users, and as such, they include various home entertainment features. Windows 7 Professional and Enterprise are the standard editions for business users, and as such, they include various business and management features. Windows 7 Ultimate is for those who want the best of both home and business features.
You can quickly determine which version of Windows 7 you are currently using by clicking Starts-Control Panels-System and SecuritysSystem or by clicking Start, right-clicking on Computer, and choosing Properties. When working with the various Windows 7 editions, keep the following in mind:
• Windows XP had a separate edition for Media Center; Windows 7 includes Media Center as a standard feature. Both Home Premium and Ultimate include Media Center.
• Windows XP had a separate edition for Tablet PCs; Windows 7 includes support for Tablet PCs as a standard feature. Home Premium and higher editions all support Tablet PCs.
• Windows 7 Home Basic and Home Premium both include home entertainment features; only Windows 7 Professional, Enterprise, and Ultimate include the features necessary to join a Windows domain.
• Windows Home Basic supports many of the same features as Home Premium, but it doesn't support the Aero interface (which you'll learn about in Chapter 2).
• Windows Vista's Starter edition was available only to emerging markets, but computer manufacturers now have the option of installing the Windows 7 Starter edition on computers sold worldwide. Although the Start edition is extremely limited compared to other editions, if you've already bought a computer with the Starter edition, you'll be able to upgrade for a small fee.
If you purchased a new computer or you work in an office where a new computer was delivered to you, Windows 7 was probably installed for you, and you only had to turn on your computer and click a few buttons to get your computer up and running. Because of this, you probably didn't have much of a choice as to which version of Windows 7 was installed. Thanks to new Windows 7 features, your edition choices are more open than you may think, however, so don't skip ahead just yet.
If you are installing Windows 7 yourself or are upgrading your computer from an earlier version of Windows, you can pick which version to install and can install or upgrade to Windows 7, as discussed in Chapter 22 of this book. You can purchase an upgrade copy of Windows 7 for earlier releases of Windows. You can upgrade Windows Vista to a corresponding or better edition of Windows 7 by buying and installing an upgrade copy of Windows 7. Upgrade copies are available for Windows XP, but you can't upgrade in-place. Instead, you'll need to use Windows Easy Transfer to transfer your settings and files. Unfortunately, you'll need to reinstall your applications, because Windows Easy Transfer does not transfer programs. If you start Windows 7 Setup from within Windows XP, you'll be directed to run Windows Easy Transfer to back up your files and settings before you proceed.
With upgrade copies, you have two general upgrade options: In-place upgrade
With an in-place upgrade, you perform an upgrade installation of Windows 7 and retain your applications, files, and other settings as they were in the previous edition of Windows.
With a clean install, you replace your previous edition of Windows with Windows 7 and do not retain applications, files, and other settings. Although you must reinstall all applications, you can retain files and other settings by running Windows Easy Transfer prior to installing Windows 7. After the installation is complete, you must run Windows Easy Transfer again to reload your files and settings.
As Table 1-1 shows, the version of Windows you are running largely determines your options for using upgrade copies of Windows 7. The in-place upgrade option means that a clean install option is also available, but not vice versa. For Windows XP, there will be upgrade pricing, but you will need to perform a clean install. For Windows 2000 and earlier versions, you must purchase and install a full (nonupgrade) copy of Windows 7.
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