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Book Review: Windows 7: The Definitive Guide by William R. Stanek

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Windows 7, Microsoft’s new operating system, launched in October, following on the heels of Vista, which most PC users and media pundits declared a failure. Although hardware manufacturers are continuing to sell off computer inventory preloaded with Vista or Windows XP, the new Windows 7 operating system comes installed on all major PC brands. And these computers are manufactured with the appropriate levels of memory, processor speed, and large storage capacity to perform well over time.

 

This comprehensive book, Windows 7: The Definitive Guide, at over 900 pages, builds on the author’s Vista guide, and includes a focus on all the new features of Windows 7. Rely on the detailed index to find your way around.

Although author William Stanek remains objective, of necessity, if you use the book as a companion to a new computer loaded with Windows 7, as I did, you’ll get the most out of it. Unless you’re a skeptic, you’ll be dazzled by all you can do to optimize the system, manage files, and use features that weren’t in prior versions of Windows.  The conversion to Windows 7 from Vista or Windows XP is fully explained, and if you are a PC user, you will want Windows 7 after reading this guide. If you’re a Mac user, you might be looking over your shoulder with lust for the speed and performance of Windows 7.

You can work hours on Windows 7 without being asked if you really want to do what you just tried to do. No more requirements for administrator rights for every small adjustment you want to make. There is still a User Account Control (UAC) area, but it is much easier to manage with fewer persistent problems.

All users should read the “Getting Started” chapter and “Optimizing Windows 7’s Interface.” In my experience, installing software was a breeze, despite the expected problems running old 16-bit software in my new 64-bit environment. Believe it or not, many of us still need those old programs for quirky client projects.

If you read the book while touring your new Windows 7 computer, you’ll be inclined  to skip the fine tuning for a week or two until you’re used to the new look. But revisit the book then to explore resources for set-up, problem solving, and optimizing your experience.

Among the productivity resources in Windows 7, the book covers utilities to partition and mirror drives, use Windows Easy Transfer to copy all desired data from your older computer, and learn new ways to manage folders. (Easy Transfer requires a cable, not included.)

While some of Windows 7’s features are carried over from Vista, the book devotes about seven pages to them. Even a first-time computer user can read through the choices, and quickly get comfortable working with all the tools.

Windows 7 removes much of our dependence on third-party software, with built-in utilities to manage and edit photo and movies, and snag screen shots. Windows 7 also has a flexible backup utility for local or remote backup. Surely, companies will come along with expensive add-on programs, but this is the first Microsoft operating system to really support users’ needs.

Read about file structures and new search options, and you’ll find your entire user experience easier. Folder options include instant search functions, partial matches and natural language. From now on if you can’t find your files, don’t blame Microsoft

Not all software will run, but most programs that worked on XP will run. Windows 7: The Definitive Guide walks you through the many options to create compatibility, add stubborn peripherals, or upgrade drivers.

Finally, the book includes a chart comparing the features of all Windows 7 version. Use it before purchasing to get the functionality you need. Windows 7 versions above Home Premium work with a “Windows XP Mode” and “Windows Virtual PC,” both downloadable from Microsoft, which enable Windows 7 to run older programs. Using Windows XP Mode is thoroughly explained in the chapter on installing and customizing software.

A devoted technology lover, Stanek has just published his 100th book! A remarkable writing career he started in 1995. 

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