Windows 7 RC x64 version

(I uploaded a JPEG version of this, but it mysteriously disappeared on the image hosting site...)

I have used the Windows 7 32-bit (x82) beta version (build 7000) back when it came out earlier in the year. After discovering that my laptop (Acer Extensa 4620) could run 64-bit (x64) version, and with the release of the Release Candidate (RC) version, I decided to replace it.

During the installation process, like the beta, I have to select customize instead of upgrade and select the drive to install on. Had to be careful with this part as there is a long list. Fortunately, the name of the drive, capacity and the amount of free space are shown. Although I have already backed up my files on the drive, formatting the installation drive was not necessary. The Windows folder from the beta had ".old" added to the name. Since I don't need it, I deleted it.

Like the beta, there is the feeling that it's somewhat different from Windows Vista. I have used Vista since 2Q 2007. Have to admit, before Vista SP1, copying files especially, seem as though something is not right about it. Also , it wasn't until a year later, when the warranty expired, that I upgraded from 1GB (512MB + 512MB) to 2.5GB (2GB + 512MB) of RAM.

Anyways, I went to customize the themes and had a pleasant surprise. Besides the default theme, I noticed 5 additional themes (Architecture, Cartoon, Scenery, Nature, and Scene), something that I have not seen since Windows 95 Plus! ages ago. Upon clicking on the theme, Windows would nicely/magically change into the new theme. Exploring further, I notice that the wallpaper could be changed at set fixed intervals from any folder you like. Be it the default images, your drawings, or even... well, basically any supported image. The bar that used to contain widgets is replaced by one that you can drag around the screen and have it to appear at the very top. Access it by selecting "Gadgets" after right clicking on the desktop.

Not sure if it's an Ultimate version-only feature, but after heading to the Windows Update and selecting some optional updates, I was able to change the display language. Requires me to log off first though. Not sure if other updates are the cause of this, but a restart is also needed. Options to install those other languages seem to come and go at random. (Is it me or is WMP12 auto filling in missing info for my mp3 files wrongly from the moment it's opened and files added to the library?)

Another thing that I did not mention in the beta review is the new taskbar. If you hover it, the mini-thumbnail of the window appears. If it's a media player, controls would appear (currently works only with WMP12), if there are multiple windows (and tabs for IE8) of it, it would be grouped with each individual ones appearing. In earlier versions, even though the option isn't available, you could also move the taskbar to any corner of the screen as long as it's not locked. In Windows 7, this is made more obvious, though bottom is still the default. On top of that, you can also choose the following options for the way the icons in the taskbar appear:
  • Always combine, hide labels - (Displayed on most screenshots) This is the default option. Could tell programs from their icons. Also looks nice when it's at the side of the screen, which also takes up fewer screen space if on a widescreen display than to have it at the default bottom.
  • Combine when full -  Self explanatory.
  • Never Combine - (Displayed on the 2 screenshots of this paragraph) If you prefer separate icons for each running program, even if multiple instances of it are opened this option is for you. Multiple tabs in IE8 in a window are still display as a single icon if hovered over though, unless you have multiple windows opened. The closest to the classic option.
Performance ranking - The numbering might be different from Vista, but it still have the same function: scans all your processor, random access memory, graphic memory (for both games and Aero), and the transfer rate of the primary hard disk, and then takes the lowest rating. A blue coloured rating indicates that the ratings are current, grey if new hardware/driver is detected and a rescan is needed for an updated rating. Although it took a while to scan, my system rating fell to 3.2 from 3.4 after the rescan because of Aero support. Everything else remained unchanged.

I did mention that this is the x64 version, so what happens when I try to run a 32-bit program? Well, when installing to the Program Files folder, it would, by default, install into the "Program Files (x86)" folder. However, there may be some obscure programs that don't install there. An example would be visual novels, which seems to still actively support that ancient Windows XP and earlier operating systems and provide false alarms to anti-virus programs. If you're lucky it (visual novels) might actually run on Vista 32-bit. Setting the compatibility mode by right clicking on the program, click on properties, heading to the compatibility tab, enable that check box, and selecting the drop-down list don't seem to work. Speaking of that, the compatibility even includes service packs of earlier operating systems. The only real benefit of using 64-bit over 32-bit is that it could use more than 4GB of memory or more, which includes both system RAM and Video RAM combined.

Microsoft also made some improvements to the power button in the start button by making it obvious what pressing the button would do and having the ability to change that. Here's how different from earlier versions (might be different for corporate PCs):
  • Windows 3.1 & earlier - Except for the NT versions, exiting Windows meant heading back to MS-DOS. I don't know how to shut down in MS-DOS, but I think you could just power it off when nothing is running. For NT versions, it actually shuts down.
  • Windows 9x - pressing "Shut Down" would pop up a window with black dots at every other pixel and a window at the middle with ratio box (drop-down list for ME) for options in question format. In Win95/98 there was also an option to enter MS-DOS from there. Having it to head to sleep or log off instead appears as a separate option in the start menu and may or may not appear.
  • Windows XP - Difference from 9x is that it is now represented in a colourful box and the background actually fades into monochrome instead of a pseudo one. You could switch to other users without logging off. However, to hibernate, you would need to press the Shift key and the standby option would change.
  • Windows Vista - Pressing that button would immediately have the computer to be in standby mode instead of shutting down and, if long enough, hibernate. If there is an update needed to be installed (indicated by a yellow shield with an exclamation mark next to the icon), it would shut down after installing updates. Fortunately, there is an arrow to the right of it for more options. Option to switch/log-off user is integrated in there too.
  • Windows 7 - Same as Vista, but default has changed to shutdown instead and made visible what pressing the button would do.
Looking around, people seem to only know the "Shut Down" and "Restart" options seeing how often they complained on how long it takes to start up. Let me explain how it works in the order that appeared in Windows 7:
  • Switch User - Switch to another user account on the computer without logging off
  • Log Off - Logs you off from your account. Sometimes, you could use this instead of restarting and logging back in
  • Lock - Locks your computer to prevent unauthorized persons from using the computer while you go away. (Shortcut: Winkey + L)
  • Restart - Same procedure as Shut Down, but starts again after shutting down as though you had automatically pressed the power on button again right after it had shut down.
  • Sleep - Have the PC in a low-power state mode and would immediately start back when woken up. Power indicator might be red/ember or flashing green.
  • Hibernate - Somewhere between Shut Down and Sleep. It saves your session and shuts down and resumes back when turning back on. Useful for portable devices or, for some reason, want to temporally unplug the power chord. Slower when compared to sleep, but still a lot faster than shutting it down and turning it back up.
  • Shut Down - Starts the procedure so that the PC could be turn off safely. Older hardware, might display a message saying that it's safe to turn off instead of doing it automatically. Recommended only if you want to install updates, programs you just installed requires restart, but don't want it to start up again (eg. need to leave), or physically unplug the power chord (for desktop or laptop without battery) or battery (for laptop not plugged in) to move stuff around, opening it up, or just save electricity from non-usage for a long period of time.
I'm aware that there is a Windows Virtual PC that included Windows XP available for download, but my PC doesn't meet some of the requirements. Besides, I already have Microsoft Virtual PC 2007 on the Vista partion with the add-ons on all Guest OSes installed (except Win 3.1 & 95) and I only used that to check compatability of my web pages in Windows ME's IE6 or programs that can't work with Vista, the latter, as I found out, was caused by the anti-virus and can't be bothered with the white-listing or disabling it temporalily.

I would like to test on other PCs, but they are quite old (2002 or earlier) or had their curcits burst. (Remember me saying about inserting the RAM wrongly on the  2005 motherboard?) I also don't have the finance to buy a new one. At the current rate, the amount I get from those miserable banners per month won't even cover an item at a 100-yen shop...

What would I do when I'm done with the RC? Well, if they RTM or RC2 comes out or the time it expires in 1Q 2010, I would install some kind of a free Linux distribution on it. Might be Fedora, might be Ubuntu, who knows? No point downloading it now as there could be a new version by then and I already have burned CD images of various distros from some time ago.

That's all I could type for this review. For more detailed info and screnshots, I would like to refer you to Paul Thurrott or anyone who have better insights and could explain stuff that I don't understand like Hyper-V better than me. Also, sorry about possible spoilers in the first 7 screenshots of this post, was watching "Eden of the East" and "K-On!" episodes 8 and 9 respectively at the time of typing.

(Can't believe it took me 12 hours to write this...)


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