Microsoft Windows 7
Today is the momentous release of Windows 7 from Microsoft. Many people unhappy with Microsoft Windows Vista are looking forward to this day, but there are some things everyone needs to know about before "jumping ship"...
Windows 7 seems to run a lot faster than Windows Vista (about half of the crap that was running in the background in Windows Vista was removed), and Windows 7 also likes older hardware and software more so than Windows Vista. However, if you didn't like the "look and feel" of Windows Vista, then you won't like Windows 7, either. Once I had gotten used to Windows Vista, I didn't mind all of the aesthetic changes Microsoft had made. Heck, I've been using computers since the old MS-DOS 3 days (before Windows existed), so not only am I used to changes, I embrace them. But I know that many people don't. So, if you're looking for a WinOS (Windows Operating System) with the "look and feel" of Windows XP, then stick with Windows XP. Although there are ways of making Windows Vista and Windows 7 "look and feel" more like Windows XP (such as the Start Menu), but there are things that can't be changed (such as renaming items in Control Panel).
Although Windows 7 likes older hardware and software more so than Windows Vista did, it doesn't mean that it can run everything that Windows XP or older could run. Microsoft made some "generic drivers" (very basic computer software for computer hardware parts) that may work with older hardware, but Microsoft doesn't guarantee that everything will work perfectly. The best example I can think of if, say, you have a really old "all-in-one" (printer, scanner, fax, etc.) that worked perfectly with Windows XP. However, it didn't work at all with Windows Vista, but it may work with Windows 7 with limited functionality. This means that the printer may work and you may be able to scan from it using your computer, but the "Scan to Computer" button on it may not function anymore, just to give you an example.
As far as software goes, you can run what's called a "Windows XP Mode" built into Windows 7 Professional and Ultimate versions, after the download from Microsoft, of course. What this "virtual Windows XP" does is an actual version of Windows XP that can run while inside of Windows Vista, and allow you to run software that will not run normally run in Windows Vista or Windows 7. This is great for those who has older, pickier software that doesn't like anything newer than Windows XP. However, the ONLY editions of Windows 7 that supports this is either Professional or Ultimate. Starter or Home Premium editions doesn't have "Windows XP Mode".
Now, how do you get the free upgrade to Windows 7 if you purchased your computer AFTER Thursday, June 25th of 2009 (Thu, 6/25/09)? No matter what you may have heard from whatever sales person from whatever retailer, you HAVE to order it online, and usually directly from your computer's manufacturer. Here are some of the Windows 7 free upgrade links: