The good: Strong design and Microsoft don't always go together, but they do in Windows 7. Users might take a while to get used to the new taskbar and Aero Peek, but they're a pleasure to use.
The bad: Performance is still hit-or-miss in Windows 7. At the ripe age of seven, Windows XP still performs better in some categories.
The bottom line: Windows 7 is more than what Vista should have been, it's where Microsoft needed to go. How much damage Vista did and whether Windows 7 is enough for people to finally abandon Windows XP are questions that nobody has the answers to right now.
Deserved or not, Microsoft had dug itself a cool, deep, dark hole with Windows Vista. Users demanding that Redmond extend the life of Windows XP wasn't exactly something they could be proud of, either. Bombarded by complaints and negative press even after the first service pack was released, the bar had been set high for Vista's successor: Windows 7. This review is based on an official copy of the Windows 7 RTM that Microsoft provided to CNET on July 30, 2009.
Windows 7 will support both 32-bit and 64-bit systems. The bare minimum requirements for the 32-bit include a 1GHz processor, 1GB RAM, 16GB available hard-disk space, and a DirectX 9 graphics device with WDDM 1.0 or higher driver. 64-bit systems will require at least a 1 GHz processor, 2GB RAM, 20GB of free space on your hard drive, and a DirectX 9 graphics device with WDDM 1.0 or higher driver. A touch-screen monitor is required to take advantage of the native touch features. Do note that some users have claimed to have limited success running the Windows 7 beta with less than 1GB of RAM, but that's not recommended.
Microsoft is offering several paths to install Windows 7. People can buy a new computer with the operating system already installed, upgrade from Windows XP or Vista, or do a clean install on a computer the user already owns. The clean installation took us about 30 minutes, but that will vary depending on your computer.
The upgrade procedure is different depending on whether you're running Windows XP or Windows Vista. Vista users merely need to back up their data before choosing the Upgrade option from the install disc. Both XP Home and XP Pro users will have to back up their data, then choose Custom from the install disc. Custom will have the same effect as a clean install, although it'll save your old data in a folder called Windows.old. Once you choose Custom, you'll need to select the partition of your hard drive that contains Windows XP, and then follow the instructions to enter your product key and allow the computer to reboot as needed.
If you're not sure if your current computer can run Windows 7, you can download and run the Windows 7 Upgrade Advisor from Microsoft.