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Windows 7 Upgrade: Pro and Con

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Unless you’ve been living in a cave or server closet, you know the long-awaited release of Windows 7 is just days away (October 22nd). When a new version of Windows hits, firms naturally begin investigating the feasibility of upgrading. Today, however, the upgrade question is especially fraught given the current challenging economic environment.

While there is no pat answer to the upgrade question, as food for thought, consider the following five reasons to take the Windows 7 plunge. Then take a look at five reasons you might want to leave the new OS on the back burner for now.

Top 5 Reasons to Upgrade to Windows 7

1. Windows XP is ancient

It may still be a mainstay of corporate IT departments, but XP will turn a whopping eight years old this month. Sure, there have been three XP service packs and countless other updates and security patches, but the underlying foundation is getting long in the tooth — technology has changed a lot since 2001.

2. Windows 7 has been around the block

Due in part to a beta version and a release candidate that were both made freely available to the public earlier this year, Windows 7 is probably the most extensively tested version of the operating system — ever. Suffice to say, many folks have been banging on Windows 7 for a long time, reducing the likelihood of any unforeseen post-release problems, a la Vista.

3. Windows 7 isn’t Vista 2.0

By almost all accounts, Windows 7 is everything its predecessor wasn’t, offering far better reliability and performance — particularly on modest hardware — than Vista could muster. Windows 7 also has plenty of useful interface improvements, like a redesigned taskbar for easier application switching, Jump Lists for convenient access to frequently used documents and tasks, and a revamped — and much less obtrusive — User Account Control (UAC) feature.

4. XP is still available “a la mode”

Windows 7 Professional and Enterprise (as well as the all-inclusive Ultimate) feature Windows XP Mode, a prepackaged and fully licensed copy of XP that runs in a virtual environment on systems with processors that support AMD-V or Intel VT hardware virtualization. (Note that although XP Mode doesn’t ship with the OS, you can get it from the Microsoft Download Center starting Oct. 22.) Windows XP mode can make it easier to accommodate custom or legacy applications, enabling you run them reliably from the Windows 7 Start menu alongside native programs.

5. More bits equal more RAM

If you’re still running Windows XP, chances are it’s the original 32-bit version with a 4GB memory ceiling (which in practice is barely more than 3GB). That’s not as spacious as it once seemed, and while 64-bit went mainstream with Vista, moving to 64-bit Windows 7 will give your desktop apps some welcome elbow room.

Top 5 Reasons to Take a Pass

1. Better the devil you know …

Windows XP is a known quantity, and as extensively as it’s been tested, Windows 7 is still an essentially new operating system with the potential for unforeseen kinks. As the saying goes, the pioneers are the ones with the arrows in their backs.

2. XP updates will continue

Geriatric as XP may be, businesses have continually resisted Microsoft’s efforts to put it out to pasture, so the company has committed to supporting XP with critical updates through 2014.

3. It won’t be cheap

We don’t doubt Microsoft’s Windows 7 claims of reduced support costs and increased productivity, but you have to spend money to make money (or save it). With the economy struggling and budgets tight, it will likely be difficult to justify the considerable up-front expense of the upgrade, which may also require refreshing certain applications, such as anti-virus utilities.

4. Uncertain driver support

If a system’s compatible with Vista, it will almost certainly work just fine with Windows 7. But if your organization demurred on Vista — as most did, and has PCs that are more than a few years old, driver support for some hardware components may be lacking.

5. The learning curve

The new Windows 7 user interface is a big improvement over Vista’s, and it’s a huge leap forward from XP. The downside of this is that for users who have spent the better part of this decade working with XP, getting up to speed with the Windows 7 interface’s many changes may require some training (read: downtime) at a time when personnel may be as scare as money.

Article courtesy of Enterprise IT Planet.

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