First released in 2001, Windows XP is now somewhat of a dinosaur, yet because Vista never really caught on, it’s the OS that’s installed on most PCs. Today Microsoft (s msft) made the Release Candidate (RC) of Windows 7, the newest version of the OS, available to download.
If, like me, you stuck it out with XP and skipped Vista, you should consider upgrading. As Martin Brinkmann at gHacks explains, Windows 7 greatly improves on XP in several key areas:
Speed and Performance: This is perhaps the most important reason for upgrading. Windows 7 beats XP in all performance benchmarks.
Security: Windows 7 will provide much better “out of the box” security than XP, while at the same time cutting down on the annoying UAC prompts that plague Vista.
Hardware Compatibility: While it should be possible to continue running XP for quite a while, some future devices might not support the older OS.
Design: Windows 7 features a much more contemporary design scheme, coupled with a huge range of customization options and themes.
There is also some brand-new functionality, including multitouch support — a feature that, at first, I thought was a bit gimmicky. However, having now owned an iPhone (s aapl) for a while, I’m looking forward to seeing the new hardware that will be enabled by this move.
You might be concerned about the ability to run Windows 7 on your hardware. The good news, as ZDNet notes, is that the requirements of Windows 7 are not much more onerous that those of Vista:
- 1 GHz 32-bit or 64-bit processor
- 1 GB of RAM
- 16 GB of disk space (or 20 GB for 64-bit users)
- DirectX 9 graphics device with WDDM 1.0 or higher driver
If you’re planning on adding XP Mode (a virtualized copy of Windows XP that ensures full backwards-compatibility), you’ll need 2 GB of RAM, an additional 15 GB of disk space and a CPU that supports hardware visualization.
As the RC is not the final version of the OS, you won’t get much in the way of support from Microsoft, so if you’re not reasonably tech-savvy it would probably be better to wait until the full retail release (due out in October, if the rumor on Pocket-lint is correct). You’ll need to be able to burn an installation DVD from an ISO and be able to back up and restore the applications and data on your computer, because if you have XP you have to do a clean install of Windows 7. Microsoft has posted full installation instructions.
The RC should be available to download through July, and you’ll have until March 1, 2010, to buy a full Windows 7 license.
Will you upgrade to Windows 7?