At various points in time during the last 3 months I have had lots of different Windows 7 builds installed on various machines. Now that the Beta is out, we can focus solely on the Beta build (a.k.a. build 7000).
The first thing you will notice about the Windows 7 Beta is the incredibly short installation time. Even on the fairly slow 5400RPM 1.8” drive that came with my new Dell Latitude XT, it didn’t take more than 30 minutes from initial boot to the fully configured desktop. This is a huge improvement. (By the way, the upgrade process takes much longer, and I assume that it’s linear in the amount of files and registry keys that you have on the original box. It took me around 1:20 to do upgrades between different Windows 7 builds.)
The next thing you’ll notice about Windows 7 is the new taskbar; but let’s just skip the taskbar for a little while (don’t worry – we will come back to it later). Right now, if you have a Windows 7 machine installed, open Task Manager. Go ahead, open it. Here’s mine:
Have you EVER seen a Windows operating system that is actually idle when idle? Well, Windows 7 certainly is. Even though it requires great cooperation from applications and drivers, it is to some extent also the responsibility of the operating system to minimize idle CPU activity. And 0% is something I would certainly call minimized. By the way, when I took the screenshot above I had Outlook, Internet Explorer, Live Writer, Messenger, Visual Studio and several other apps open. (You would also notice memory consumption being significantly lower than that of Vista – with all these applications open, my primary work laptop drifts regularly between 1.4 to 1.8 GB of memory usage.)
Now for my installations of Windows 7…
I have Windows 7 installed on my work laptop as dual boot with Vista. I only ever boot into Vista when I have to check whether some code I wrote works fine on Vista, and to make sure the Vista installation is regularly patched. I feel there’s absolutely no reason to go back – and remember, we’re talking about a Beta.
I have Windows 7 installed on the Dell Latitude XT laptop which I got to work on the multi-touch features of Windows 7 (it comes with the N-Trig multi-touch hardware). Windows itself works flawlessly, including all drivers for esoteric hardware such as the fingerprint sensor. The N-Trig drivers are not that flawless, but with multi-touch disabled the system is as stable as theoretically possible.
I have Windows 7 installed on my HP Touchsmart, an amazing all-in-one 25.5” dual-touch computer. The HP dual-touch hardware works great from Windows 7, and I can’t wait for more applications to start taking advantage of multi-touch gestures. The Windows 7 Media Center, which I use a lot on this box, is the first edition of Media Center that I find responsive enough for my needs. I’m not sure yet if it’s thanks to the OS or the application itself, but for now I couldn’t care less :-)
Finally, I have Windows 7 installed in a virtual machine with 512MB of memory. It boots, starts up and works perfectly within these constraints – and I haven’t noticed any substantial improvement in e.g. startup performance when I increased the amount of memory given to the guest OS. (Of course I am not using this VM with 7 instances of Visual Studio, but for quick demos it works just great.)