Apr 13, 2010

Time to consider a move to Windows 7

If you haven’t yet considered upgrading your business’ computers to the Windows 7 operating system,  this just might be a good time to give it some thought. Windows 7 offers some significant improvements over both Windows XP and Windows Vista that will make the change worth the effort for most business users – and home users, for that matter.

A few of Windows 7’s finer points:

  • It’s optimized to run on the most modern hardware.
  • Windows 7’s boot sequence is faster than either XP or Vista.
  • In benchmarking tests, Windows 7 performed both large file and small file transfer/copy processes more quickly than either XP or Vista.
  • Higher-end versions of Windows 7 feature an “XP Mode” that allows for the use of older software.
  • Better network performance than Vista.

And probably the most important difference: Windows 7’s security is a huge improvement over XP, and the User Account Control (UAC) is much more user-friendly than it was in Vista.

Nobody really likes Vista's UAC popups...

Nobody really likes Vista's UAC popups...

If you’re still using Windows XP, there are plenty of reasons to like that operating system — but let’s face it: Security isn’t one of them. XP will continue to receive security support from Microsoft through the middle of April, 2014, but it’s missing Windows Vista’s significantly improved security scheme. As malware and virus threats continue to increase, opting to continue using an operating system with considerably fewer security features is a lot like rolling the dice in a parlor game where the odds are stacked against you.

True enough, Vista’s UAC (you know, those annoying security popups…) is a real pain to deal with. But the idea behind it — limiting what the system can do on its own – is a good one that makes the Internet a much safer place. The UAC is also the foundation for other useful Windows features, including Internet Explorer’s Protected mode. This places strict limits on what Internet Explorer can do, preventing it from writing to most of your hard drive or the Registry without your permission.

... but nobody wants to see this, either.

... but nobody wants to see this, either.

Windows 7 features a customizable User Account Control that is much less aggravating. Multiple security levels mean that you can choose how many alerts you see – so easily annoyed users can pretend that UAC doesn’t exist while resting safe in the knowledge that their system is protected from third-party meddling.

The real value of Windows 7 security comes in its low-level changes, though. System services are more isolated and run with fewer privileges, reducing the damage that malicious code can do. A new TCP/IP stack offers improved encryption and authentication options, and Address Space Layout Randomization loads system files as random memory addresses, making it far harder for basic malware to exploit key system functions.

There’s no question that Windows Vista is more secure than XP. And Windows 7 keeps the best Vista features, while adding more controls to reduce the aggravation of UAC and Security Center alerts.

The upgrade from Vista is a straightforward process — there is a direct software upgrade available from Vista to Windows 7 that will install “over” your existing Vista operating system.

Many businesses have held off on implementing Vista for any of a variety of reasons and are still using XP as their PC operating system. Unfortunately, the “upgrade” to Windows 7 for XP users isn’t really so much an upgrade as it is a new installation. It’s complicated enough that you’ll want some professional help with the move. If you don’t have a properly-trained  internal IT staff, you’ll need to acquire the services of an experienced tech support company — like DataOne Networks.

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