Review

Windows 7 Beta: Quick Review

Steve Ballmer, Microsoft CEO, announced that Windows 7 beta is available from today to MSDN and Technet subscribers. A public preview version will be available on Friday January 9th 2009.

Over the next few weeks we will be looking into Windows 7 features, so far we have published the following overviews:

Over the new few weeks we will be adding many more focus items on Windows 7 including Touch, Internet Explorer 8, Windows 7 networking and media enhancements. Stay tuned for the ultimate Windows 7 focus from Neowin.net. Here is a quick review of Windows 7 Beta.

My PC Configuration

  • Intel Quad Core Q9400 @ 2.66GHz
  • 8GB RAM
  • nVidia GeForce 9800 GT
  • 24" Monitor - LG246WH Flatron Display
I chose to install the 64bit version.

Installation
The installation was very simple and it just took 20 minutes. It was a hassle free installation. The thing which surprised me was that Windows 7 had installed most of the drivers for my PC, unlike in Vista where I had to insert manufacturer's disc to install drivers. This saved a lot of time to get started with Windows 7!

Windows 7 Desktop
Below is the screenshot of the default Windows 7 desktop. Nothing fancy, pretty neat and tidy:

Superbar
And the quite famous Superbar looks fabulous:

Microsoft introduced thumbnail previews of applications in the Taskbar in Windows Vista, and this has been improved a lot with the new Superbar. It becomes much easier now to look what applications are running and switch between them. You might have probably seen the demo at CES or PDC.

Start Menu
The Start Menu has also undergone some changes:

The default behavior of the Shutdown button is now indeed Shutdown and you can easily change that by accessing the Superbar properties:

Desktop (right-click) Menu
The next immediate change I noticed is the desktop right-click menu. You can change your screen resolution very easily with this menu unlike in Vista. How simple is that?

Appearance and Personalization
The Personalize option in the desktop menu now takes you directly to change your desktop background, themes, window color and screensaver. It is more informative than in Vista. Windows 7 also lets you create personalized Themes, which I think is in its initial stage:

With Windows 7 desktop you can select multiple pictures for your desktop background. Users had to use 3rd party applications to have a slideshow in their desktop background in previous versions of Windows, and now Windows 7 does the job for you:

Aero Peek
The 'Show Desktop' button is now shifted to the right end of the superbar. The right end corner of your desktop is very useful in the sense that if you hover your mouse to the right end corner, Windows 7 gives you a sneak peek of the open windows in your desktop:

Superbar Notifications
With Windows 7, the user is in total control of the notifications that pop-up occasionally(and sometimes always). These notifications can be very easily customized now in Windows 7:

Games
Has anything changed in Games? Yes, indeed. The first time the user opens Games, the user is presented with game updates and options:

I also noticed somethig new - Game Providers:

Devices and Printers
This is an interesting location in your Windows 7 desktop which shows all of your connected devices and printers. It also provides the ability to troubleshoot if there is anything wrong. When I say connected devices, it not only refers to external devices connected, but also the other internal devices like the monitor and internal hard disk:

In my screenshot above, you can notice a yellow icon near my hard disk device. This indicates that there is some trouble with my device. The details pane of the window shows more information about the problem:

How easy is this to troubleshoot? Just right click the device and choose the Troubleshoot option to troubleshoot. The troubleshoot wizard tries to identify the problem and provides options if any. Below was the option provided for me:

The installer tries to resolve the problem by applying the fix:

And finally, the wizard fixed my problem..

Connecting to a Wireless Network
Connecting to a wireless network has never been so easy. Just click on the wireless network icon to see what networks are available and choose to connect:

You can also choose to connect to the selected network automatically:

Enter security key if its required for your network and you are connected:

Windows Homegroup
Windows Homegroup is a new feature introduced in Windows 7 wherein you can share your music, pictures, documents, videos and printers with other machines in your home network. This is a feature that is one you should just use and see it working, rather than reading a blog post. Anyways, visit here to learn more about Windows Homegroup.

Windows 7 seems to be much improved than Windows Vista in lots of areas and the beta clearly shows that Microsoft has indeed taken users feedback on Vista seriously. I would recommend everyone to try Windows 7 Beta atleast once if you haven't yet, especially if you dislike Vista!

Report a problem with article
Previous Story

AMD Phenom II X4 940 & 920 CPUs reviewed

Next Story

Microsoft CESFest 09

88 Comments

Commenting is disabled on this article.

Been testing out the Beta since Saturday...and I am loving it. I am finally ready to replace my Windows XP Pro box with Windows 7.

Microsoft has done a great job, and yes, I have a new full time OS (for 8 months) until the Full Version is released. I won't mind buying this one either. I actually didn't mind buying Vista, and had no issues with Vista, mainly because I knew that if my printer didn't work at first, it wasn't Vista's fault, it was the printer companies fault for not having a proper driver. Many people got confused with Sh*t like that...

give us at least an advanced clip_freaking_board like Klipper for linux... an OS released in the current present times and still doesn't have an advanced clipboard?? are you ****ting me people!?!? do i still have to use third party programs for even the common tasks?? speaking of task... still can't move them around the taskbar and position them in the order i like... guess i'll have to you a third party software as well... and finally the 'amazing' option to iconize the task... are you kiddin me people!?!? this is a NEW feature that make many of you WOW?? M$ is laughing at everyone even as I speak... sad... real sad that we don't really have much choice now do we? and the corporate ******* are taking advantage of this... same with the i-Crap on the other side!!!

Now please tell me that they will make the OS better and faster than this because seems this is just another skin.
I only hope that they dont stay on this and the only "improvements" that would be from here till the final release would be just bug fixes...

If you try Windows 7 for real, you would realize the speed and performance difference from Vista. Yes, it is Vista under the hood but with many updates.

If you try Windows 7 for real, you would realize the speed and performance difference from Vista. Yes, it is Vista under the hood but with many updates.

Lots of talk over whether this is a major or minor update. Internally, microsoft bit the bullet and modernized their driver/security model in vista. It was a non-sexy but right thing to do (and it was a huge hit to all the driver developers out there). Win7 was a revisit of the user-interface logic but compatible driver model/internals. Minor changes from a windows developer viewpoint, but major from an end-user usage viewpoint.

Also, I too do not like their icon artwork from XP, Vista, or windows 7 ( But this does look better than my mac w/ 10.5 and a lot more usable). Id like to see more 2d abstract/clean icons rather than these isometric/cartoonish network/home/printer/drive representations ms has now.

It took about 45 minutes for me to install the 64bit version. I have 6gbs of RAM and a Core 2 duo 6300 running at 3.2ghz. The bare bones installation used up 11.5gigs of hard drive space. I could not get Symantec Anti-virus 64 bit working because it wasn't verified. It also had a problem with the ethernet card in my Gigabyte DS3 motherboard. Consequently, connecting to the internet was very problematic. I think I could get to like it, but I'll have to wait for a more stable release.

Interesting. I'm running a AMD FX55 with 3gb ram and my install of the 64bit took a tad over 30 minutes. Clean drive reformatted. Now I normally use Comodo but it didn't like W7. It had issues with my sound card from Razer, but the vista64 drivers fixed that. Otherwise mines extremely stable and even update found 4 new drivers for me. My Mb is an old Asus A8N5X. So I wouldn't call the release "unstable" but the fact that Gigabyte and Symantec need to update or create drivers for W7. For the firewall I'm trusting Defender atm and using Avira till Comodo gets their fixed.

Sorry to see you're having issues. This is a worthwhile beta to try out. Hope you have luck in the next release with yours.

I installed the beta build 7000 onto a VM on my laptop though havent had much time to play - this review has definately pointed out some interesting things to look into. I particularly like the new UAC... Thanks

Brandon Live said,
Windows 7 is Windows 7

It's neither 7 by version number or by count (there was more versions than 7 both in desktop ("DOS") and NT line), and it's based on Vista kernel, so? Well, it's common practice for Microsoft, that revised, more stable, feature-full and longer-living systems are (by version) only updates to previous systems, think of 3.0 and 3.1, , 95 (4.0) and 98 (4.1), 2000 (5.0) and XP (5.1), and now Vista (6.0) and 7 (6.1) - which is OS which Vista was meant to be.
Brandon Live said,
The GetVersion APIs were going to return 7.0 but it caused too many compatibility problems, so we changed it to return 6.1 to reduce the number of compatibility issues.

I heard some time ago that Windows 7 was to leave everything behind, together with what most people call "backward compatibility" - thing that forces MS OSes to gather all APIs, quirks and shortcomings of all previous versions. Well, I see now that this "feature" was left behind - sad, but easy to predict... And I don't remember any problems for Vista caused by being version 6.0!

Any one got problems installing office 2007 sp1 on x64?
I get code78 from microsoft update and the standalone installer will also not work.
I've read the knowledge base article about code78 but none of that works.

How easy is this to setup a dual boot? I currently have Windows Vista 64bit installed, and would like to use its boot manager to boot Windows 7 Beta on a separate partition.

I dual boot Windows Vista with Windows 7 beta. My bootloader is managed by Windows 7 beta as I installed it on top of Vista. Everything is working fine. Except for one thing - I cant see the Vista disk mounted properly - It is not having a label to it - Will post about it in forums later.

well yes Chaks,
i'm having the same problem too,
have to manually mount the Vista partition so it can be seen in explorer

Chaks said,
I dual boot Windows Vista with Windows 7 beta. My bootloader is managed by Windows 7 beta as I installed it on top of Vista. Everything is working fine. Except for one thing - I cant see the Vista disk mounted properly - It is not having a label to it - Will post about it in forums later.

I had this problem too. Just go to Disk Management, find the Vista partition, and assign it a letter. It should show up in Explorer after that. :-)

Windows 7 was exactly what was needed over Vista, I'm glad MS realized this.

It's not an as huge update as Vista was, but it does a lot of good things to Vista.

And this is coming from an Apple user.

Have been running 7 as my main OS for about 2 weeks now. Like it much, much more than Vista so far. Seems to run much faster, love the new task bar, love the new Wireless Networking tool and I now actually have the UAC enabled and running (that used to be the first thing I would disable on Vista). Yes, I changed it to show me a few less notifications but now I am actually satisfied with it (have a problem with only one app - MySQL Query Browser for some reason activates an UAC prompt - strange).

I had UAC turned off, those messages still annoy me. It seems that Win7 may not have the option provided by TweakUAC where you keep UAC running but turn off all the prompts?

It is nice and fast though. Without tweaking anything it starts faster than XP or Vista and shuts down quickly too.

I'll be filing a lot of usability quirks for this though. There are lots of things that have unnecessary steps (like the first screen in the Troubleshoot compatibility feature) and some that need more (like the Troubleshoot Devices should have the option to choose the driver yourself).

Windows 7 should be delivered free to all those who forked over good money for a second rate product - Vista obviously.

There are some things broken by 7 which worked in Vista but yes it initially starts up a little faster.

What will determine its future will be pricing. Some reviews claim 7 has the same hardware demands as Vista - not less as some seem to be claiming without evidence. 7 may penetrate corporate environments by accident as by then many will be using hardware which is beyond its use by and new hardware will include 7

Roscomac said,
Windows 7 should be delivered free to all those who forked over good money for a second rate product - Vista obviously.

There are some things broken by 7 which worked in Vista but yes it initially starts up a little faster.

What will determine its future will be pricing. Some reviews claim 7 has the same hardware demands as Vista - not less as some seem to be claiming without evidence. 7 may penetrate corporate environments by accident as by then many will be using hardware which is beyond its use by and new hardware will include 7


Did Microsoft give ME users XP for free??? No.

Yes, they did provided that you purchased your computer after a certain date. They are doing the same with Vista. If you purchase a Vista machine in July or later of 09 you get Windows 7 for free.

Of course, that was not what you were trying to say. It would be a bit hard to compare Windows ME to XP though considering that ME was based on a really pathetic 9x kernel.

Finally, I don't think it would hurt Microsoft to release a free upgrade to individuals that had significant problems with Vista. I wasn't one of these individuals so I would not qualify, but they do have records of bugs submitted and incident reports.

At the very least they could reduce the number of versions available to a more sane Home and Professional editions. Though you have to give them credit for a least removing Home Basic.

And why would they? ME was a nice stepping stone between 98 and XP, just as Vista is a nice in-between for XP and 7.

Windows ME was a POS... anyone serious about running Windows had a Win2k box than. Hell, a lot of people gave up on Win9x after WinNT4 came out. I did. The only exception was games (and a lack of true USB support of standby in NT4). This made it a bit hard to run NT4 on a notebook. Win2k was a dream. It was just as stable, had good USB2 support and hibernated.

To everyone who says this is ugly...

1. Where is your product that you developed and released?
2. Have you sent an email to Microsoft that not only tells them you think it's ugly, but what they can do to improve it?
3. What else looks better than this right now?

I won't comment on the first one because I've developed applications, not a UI or worked on an operating system code outside of OSS projects. On the second, yes I've have contacted Microsoft a number of times on suggestions. I am sure that it went where ever other suggestion by an end user/developer goes. It is just sits in an inbox or goes down the memory hole. Finally, on operating system concepts that look better:

http://www.apple.com/macosx/guidedtour/
http://www.kde.org/announcements/announce-4.2-beta2.php ... Vista ripoff
http://www.microsoft.com/windows/windows-vista/default.aspx ...

They could have added the extra whiz bang features to the standard Vista UI. It is nice they finally plan to remove the classic UI, though I am not so sure that Windows admins are going to be happy.

I think OSX 10.5 (and 10.6 will), KDE 4.2 beta and even Windows Vista look better than the new interface. I think it looks like an amateurish hack. It does have a lot of functionality... as Windows always has. It just looks a bit underwhelming and frankly a bit ugly.

bluarash said,
I think OSX 10.5 (and 10.6 will), KDE 4.2 beta and even Windows Vista look better than the new interface. I think it looks like an amateurish hack. It does have a lot of functionality... as Windows always has. It just looks a bit underwhelming and frankly a bit ugly.


I think you're in the minority, though. Personally I think Win7 looks fantastic.

What looks "amateurish?" You keep posting that in different threads but everything looks super professional and really polished to me.

The general color theme and the default size of the superbar. The shading could be better. A new icon design might help. More transparent menus. The complete removal of icons from the desktop. I think the ribbon is a beginning but it needs to be a bit smaller and used much more often.

I will admit I have been playing around with it a bit more after getting flamed a couple of times by a few die hard Win7 supporters. I will say that it is growing on me. I just expected more (I guess). I've only had it for about a week. It is plenty fast though (so far).

bluarash said,
The general color theme and the default size of the superbar. The shading could be better. A new icon design might help. More transparent menus. The complete removal of icons from the desktop. I think the ribbon is a beginning but it needs to be a bit smaller and used much more often.

I will admit I have been playing around with it a bit more after getting flamed a couple of times by a few die hard Win7 supporters. I will say that it is growing on me. I just expected more (I guess). I've only had it for about a week. It is plenty fast though (so far).


If you took the time to check the "Windows History" posts out on the Interweb, you'd see that taskbars for KDE & Gnome were acutally used by Microsoft Windows 1.0 & 2.0. I hate to be such a fact-checker, but if one does not take the time to check their own facts that they should be prepared to have others check their facts for them.

How about drivers? Did anyone have trouble with drivers?
I assume I can use all the Vista drivers for this but not sure, some stupid drivers may only install on the OS it is designed for...

As stated in the article, Windows 7 found drivers for all of my hardware. I didn't have to install it separately from the manufacturer's disc.

Yes, I had problems. Upon first install it didn't find chipset and worse yet, network controller drivers. Now, I think the integrated Marvell Yukon on my Abit IP35 is common enough that it should have drivers, at least it does in Vista. I guess this will change in the final version.

Thankfully all Vista drivers work, but most have installers that need to be run in Vista compatibility mode because otherwise they may not run or may give an invalid OS error message. I got all my devices running just fine in the end though, but had to boot back to Vista to download network drivers.

I hope that the final version will at least know how to download drivers for the Soundblaster X-Fi since those are pretty common. I wouldn't expect it to have drivers for my Echo AudioFire 4 or Wacom Intuos though.

I still say that it is an ugly upgrade to Vista (blue look is not as artistic and the amateurish superbar look horrible). It is kind of like Vista, but without the classy looks. The ability to select a wireless network is nice... to bad it was available in Linux back in 2004. Also, the UI does generally look like it was copied from the best of OSX and KDE. Of course, in all honesty... this is probably deserved since at least KDE borrowed much from Windows.

Telling who did that and that first is pointless. They all copy from each other. The one who wins is the OS who delivers this features at best experience for the user side.

Which Windows 7 actually does it quite well...

Well, Microsoft itself says it's only Vista's upgdate, not a brand new OS!
Look, it's not Windows version 7.0, it's version 6.1, so it's only upgrade
of Vista (which was 6.0), like XP was for 2000 (5.1 and 5.0)...

That would be why I said, "Of course, in all honesty... this is probably deserved since at least KDE borrowed much from Windows." The OS with the best features is OSX. It is Unix (though in truth this is a bit lacking with limited ports with Fink), Carbon/Cocoa APIs and wonderful features like Finder, Expose, Spaces and Quicklook. There are alternatives to these under Windows but they are not as nice. The UI is beautiful. A number of application sold separate like iLife simply no real alternative on Windows. The trouble is that it is tied to some really expensive hardware and tied to one vendor.

As for the comment about Windows 7 being an upgrade for Vista, I know. I am just not sure what the hype is about. One can argue that it is Vista reloaded or done right... a point release with new features sold as a full version. In truth it does have enough full features to be consider a full version like Windows 95 was to Windows 98... I'm just not excited about it.

I am really just basically saying I am going to take the wait and see approach with this one. Microsoft is going to have to do a lot to convince me to move from Windows Vista to Windows 7.

the_ozyrys said,
Well, Microsoft itself says it's only Vista's upgdate, not a brand new OS!
Look, it's not Windows version 7.0, it's version 6.1, so it's only upgrade
of Vista (which was 6.0), like XP was for 2000 (5.1 and 5.0)...


Windows 7 is Windows 7. The GetVersion APIs were going to return 7.0 but it caused too many compatibility problems, so we changed it to return 6.1 to reduce the number of compatibility issues.

I'm jsut grabbing the 64bit version off technet, server is being a bit slow for me and the key genereation isn't working. Hope this gets fixed for me soon, Had the build 7000 leak, now i'm glad I have an official ones thats 64bit

I can confirm Windows 7 Beta 1 x86/x64 is available on MSDN right now, with Product Keys and the QFE related to the MP3 file corruption

I'm using it right now and loving it! Kudos to Microsoft for taking customers seriously. It's now my primary OS and with pride.

Can someone tell me how much disk space the default installation uses and do you have the option of a custom install or not?

P1R4T3 said,
Well, its time for XP to go to bed now.

It was time for Windows XP to go to bed on January 30th 2007...

cJr. said,
It was time for Windows XP to go to bed on January 30th 2007...

But Vista was making so much noise Windows XP couldn't sleep properly.

is there any chance that the visual style/icons will be updated/changed by the time 7 goes gold?

i was never a fan of the vista style, and am actually surprised - from the screenshots above, the visual style doesn't seem to have been changed AT ALL? :/

isn't it important for 7's release that they try to make it look different to vista?

just asking here cos i thought this sort of thing would have been dealt with by beta... obviously not

given that this is beta1, i'd expect to see some changes to the overall look of things however I doubt the functionality will change much, so it'll most likely look like a polished and expanded version of what you see now. It's an evolved taskbar/startmenu, I don't think you'll see a massive change to the UI until that UI concept has been superseded by something completely new.

I hope somehow they add a feature to windows 7. Like for example you have a selection of folders on your desktopo in a specific area, well when ya go and click organise desktop via icons etc it will rearrange everything including folders.

What i would like is a setting that allows me to select a group of folders/icons and have them fixed there so the next time i sort my icons they stay fixed BUT sort into name order on the desktop.

w00t! 64bit downloading now from my msdn :D
remember: DONT PUT THIS ANYWHERE NEAR YOUR MP3 COLLECTION until you've installed the Update to Windows 7 Beta (KB961367)

has anyone managed to get a key from the msdn site? key generation doesn't appear to be working.

An Error Has Occurred
There was an error error while trying to retrieve requsted key information and we cannot process your request.

how many people will have actually been affected by the mp3 issue. It was so niche I think your warning is a little bit overkill. just dont play them in windows media player if you have any mp3s that fit into the tightly defined group it applies to.

I get the same error trying to get a key off technet. Hopefully it will be fixed later today when the download finally finish's.

zoonyx said,
how many people will have actually been affected by the mp3 issue. It was so niche I think your warning is a little bit overkill. just dont play them in windows media player if you have any mp3s that fit into the tightly defined group it applies to.

Lets just make this abundently clear. It's an issue with auto updating meta data with media player 12 or when you edit in windows explorer and the tag is odd. Other then that MP3's are fine. If you hardly use explorer to check your collection and use other software it will not effect you.

zoonyx said,
how many people will have actually been affected by the mp3 issue. It was so niche I think your warning is a little bit overkill. just dont play them in windows media player if you have any mp3s that fit into the tightly defined group it applies to.

if you follow the express configuration settings when you first start media player, it will automatically update your metadata and screw the files. Given as most users will blindly accept the defaults and press next, I think many people will be affected? It's hardly a "niche" bug when the OS's default player and default config destroy files now is it? The same warning is printed on the details page of every Win7 ISO download on MSDN, want to call Microsoft and tell them that it's overkill too?

some people just like complaining for the sake of it

Aero peek is kind of useless. It doesnt help you determine which windows are what, nor does it help you locate what you are looking for. The only thing done to the "window management" that I found useful is the fact that when you hover over the "open windows" in the taskbar, all the other windows become transparent so that you can focus on that you have the mouse over. At least that helps you single out a window if you have a lot that look similar.

The superbar is not that great, and when you think about it is just the regular taskbar, with a giant sized "quick launch". Windows are still goruped the same way, etc. Only this time it lets you move things around, which is great.

Bottom line, Windows need something like exposé. Call it "show windows side by side for a second" if you please, but exposé is very useful.

Julius Caro said,
Aero peek is kind of useless. It doesnt help you determine which windows are what, nor does it help you locate what you are looking for. The only thing done to the "window management" that I found useful is the fact that when you hover over the "open windows" in the taskbar, all the other windows become transparent so that you can focus on that you have the mouse over. At least that helps you single out a window if you have a lot that look similar.


Wait, so you said Aero Peek is useless, then went and described you much you like Aero Peek? That's... strange. Were you referring to something else when you said Aero Peek? Maybe you were referring to peeking at the desktop?

Brandon Live said,
Wait, so you said Aero Peek is useless, then went and described you much you like Aero Peek? That's... strange. Were you referring to something else when you said Aero Peek? Maybe you were referring to peeking at the desktop?

You know what he meant. Don't be an ass.

I thought aero peek was the thing were you hover the mouse over the 'show desktop' button and it shows the borders of all the windows and the desktop? That's what I think is useless.

So sorry for getting it wrong. If aero peek is the thing I described was useful, then so be it. The hovering over the 'show desktop' button to show the desktop and JUST the window borders: useless.

And the actual aero peek would be the ONLY thing that is remotely useful. That and the 'x' button in the "previews", that means one less click to close a window.

You know what he meant. Don't be an ass.


Not really.

Julius Caro said,
I thought aero peek was the thing were you hover the mouse over the 'show desktop' button and it shows the borders of all the windows and the desktop? That's what I think is useless.

So sorry for getting it wrong. If aero peek is the thing I described was useful, then so be it. The hovering over the 'show desktop' button to show the desktop and JUST the window borders: useless.

And the actual aero peek would be the ONLY thing that is remotely useful. That and the 'x' button in the "previews", that means one less click to close a window.


Ah, yeah the Desktop Peek is something some people don't find useful. I do, though, it makes it very easy to glance at my gadgets.

Well you would only find peeking at the desktop useless if you have nothing on the desktop you want to look at. Once you do, like if you had some sticky notes or needed to see if a file was there, then it would be useful. Personally I peek at the desktop everytime Desktop Slideshow changes the wallpaper.