Should We Stay With Windows XP?

In September of 2000, Microsoft released Windows ME to much pomp and circumstance. They touted its new graphical interface, and its greatly reduced startup time. What they failed to advertise, however, were its instability and unreliability and, as a result, Windows ME was considered a flop. Millions of PC users "downgraded" to Windows 98 instead of switching to ME. Microsoft suffered a blow to its image that didn't recover until the release of Windows XP in August 2001. Windows XP finally met the promises of Windows ME, and placated the user base.

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Fast-forward 6 years, and the pattern appears to repeat itself. Microsoft releases Windows Vista, and the populace revolts. Instead of producing something unstable and unreliable, they instead released an OS to a population confused by a myriad of versions, frustrated with a lack of speed, and balking at the cost. In similar fashion to its predecessor, PC users switched back to Windows XP en masse. With the release of Windows 7 in October of 2009, many feared that it was just a clone of Vista, with all of its attendant problems. The following contains some of the major differences between Windows XP and Windows 7, and shows that Windows 7 is a much better operating system choice for most users.

First, though, a disclaimer: Windows 7 is not perfectly compatible with Windows XP. There are many third-party applications that have not yet been optimized for the new system, and some older applications that just will not work on the OS. These tend to be performance-critical programs, such as device drivers, graphics software, and games. While support increases every day for these applications, due to the near-complete rewrite Microsoft conducted on its kernel it may still be some time before these applications are fully supported.

For the vast majority of users, though, this will not be an issue. Windows 7 has much to offer the average consumer. One of the more important improvements is an enhanced handling of multiple-core processors. While most users will be unaware, the more efficient use of multiple processor cores increases the speed of calculation-heavy applications. It also results in more efficient execution of parallel task, which can produce a drastic increase in programs designed to take advantage of this improvement.

Windows 7 also features a redesigned task bar, with a focus on the user in mind. It integrates the Windows XP Quick Launch toolbar with the taskbar itself, creating an area where the user can pin commonly used applications for easy access. It also added a preview feature - hovering over an icon on the task bar for an open program displays a snapshot of what currently appears in the window for that program. This can be highly useful for those who make extensive use of multitasking.

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Finally, Windows 7 features an improved media viewing experience. An upgraded and improved Windows Media Center is included, and offers a large increase in functionality over the previous Windows Media Player. Windows Media Center was designed with a 10-foot user interface, ideal for the centerpiece of a home theater system. It features DVR capability for the avid television watcher, an interface for remote controls, and streaming capabilities to multiple devices. Windows Media Center goes a long way towards meeting the needs of someone looking to create a home theater experience on their PC.

While Windows XP still has a lot of merit and has cemented a hefty niche in the PC OS marketplace, today's newer hardware and software will benefit from an upgrade to Windows 7. Improved reliability, improved performance, and an enhanced user experience make a switch from Windows XP to Windows 7 an obvious choice. While the upgrade may not be for everyone, if you can upgrade you most definitely should.



Copyright John Lavin 2010