Windows 7 on notebook computers
Jul 7, 2009, 11:09 GMT
Washington - The release of Windows 7 this October is likely to have the computer world abuzz. But will notebook users be feeling the joy, too?
Every new operating system seems to render yesterday's hot notebook computers virtually worthless for running the latest and greatest operating system, so notebook owners have a right to be skeptical. Microsoft claims that Windows 7, though, was built with notebooks in mind. Read on to find out what that means.
Q: Do I need to get the fastest notebook available to run Windows 7?
A: No. Just about any notebook made today will run Windows 7 acceptably, at least from the standpoint of the central processing unit (CPU), which is how most people measure the 'speed' of a computer.
One of the design goals of Windows 7 was actually to improve the operating system's performance on all computers over that of Windows Vista, and to a large degree Microsoft seems to have accomplished that goal. Windows 7 is measurably more responsive than Windows Vista.
That doesn't mean you don't have to pay attention to the notebook's specifications at all, however. Consider 2 gigabytes of memory (RAM) a bare minimum for your notebook, and you'll really be better served with 4 gigabytes if you do much multitasking.
If you're buying a notebook, you should spring for one with dedicated graphics as opposed to integrated graphics. A dedicated graphics card is typically more powerful and has more on-board memory than graphics that are built directly onto the notebook's motherboard. Both graphics speed and memory are important in Windows 7, as they were in Windows Vista, in large part because of the demands of the Aero interface.
In terms of LCD size, wide screens predominate today. For Windows 7, there's really no perfect size. The operating system is configurable enough to display adequately on the LCD size that suits you best, although it is worth pointing out that if you use a widescreen LCD, you may want to move the Window task bar to the right or left edge of the screen so that you can maximise the amount of vertical space you have.
Q: Will Windows 7 run on a netbook?
A: The netbook market is among the fastest growing in the PC industry, so you can bet that Microsoft will tout Windows 7 as a suitable desktop operating system - especially since competing operating systems, such as Ubuntu, are stealing market share from Microsoft in the netbook market.
But don't expect netbook makers to pre-load the premium versions of Windows 7 any time soon. Instead, you'll likely find Windows 7 Starter Edition or Windows 7 Home on netbooks.
There are two reasons for this. First, these editions are stripped-down versions of Windows 7, and as such they won't require the same hefty hardware to be run adequately. Second, though, is price: Netbook buyers, and makers, expect these mini notebook computers to be priced lower than traditional notebooks, in part because they often cannot be used as true notebook or desktop replacements, since they often do not run all software well.
As manufacturers figure out how to pack more powerful hardware into the netbook form factor, however, you're likely to find Windows 7 Ultimate running on more than a few of these small PCs.
If you're buying a netbook now with Windows 7 in mind, opt for the most powerful components you can afford - with a special emphasis on CPU, graphics, and memory.
Q: Does Windows 7 include any special power-saving features for notebooks?
A: Yes, Windows 7 will be the most notebook-aware operating system that Microsoft has released, in fact.
By default, Windows 7 will be more aggressive than any previous version of Windows when it comes to dimming or shutting down power- hungry components of the notebook. So you can expect to see your notebook's LCD be dimmed and then shut off sooner after periods of inactivity. The same goes for the notebook's hard drive and CPU.
Vista was often criticised for keeping a notebook awake - and therefore draining power - when it wasn't absolutely necessary. One example was with open network files.
If you happened to be working on a Word document that was stored on a network, for instance, Vista would not put the notebook to sleep, assuming the file might get corrupted. But because applications usually create a local copy of all open files, Windows 7 is smarter about this type of use and will allow the notebook to go to sleep.
Windows 7 also does a better job of powering down components of a notebook that aren't in use. There's an option to power down USB ports that aren't in use, for example.
Q: How about security? Are there additional security features for mobile users?
A: Yes. New in Windows 7 will be a BitLocker to Go feature, which allows you to encrypt the data stored on removable drives, including USB flash drives, which are increasingly popular in businesses today.
Turning on BitLocker for a drive is simple - it's a menu option when you right-click a drive. But you do need to activate BitLocker first, which you can do by typing BitLocker after opening the Start menu, clicking BitLocker Drive Encryption, and then turning the service on.
Windows 7 also includes biometrics, which - along with a fingerprint reading device - will allow the operating system to use your fingerprints to secure your system and your data.
Q: Should I get a solid state drive in my new notebook?
A: Hard drive speed has long been the major bottleneck in today's PCs, and solid state drives (SSDs) go some way toward remedying this issue. Because they're made from flash memory rather than constantly spinning magnetic platters, SSDs are not only faster but more durable and probably longer-lasting than traditional hard drives as well.
Windows 7 will take advantage of SSDs in a couple of ways. First, the operating system does not require as much space on your hard drive as did Vista, so you'll have more room left over on your SSD after installing the operating system.
Second, Windows 7 is the first Microsoft operating system to recognise SSDs and optimize itself for their use. For instance, the useful life of SSDs can theoretically be shortened by excessive writes to the drive, so scheduled defragmentation - which writes repeatedly to a drive and is unnecessary with SSDs anyway - is turned off when Windows 7 is on an SSD.
There are also some more obscure features that limit the number of times that Windows 7 needs to write to an SSD. One of these is call the TRIM command, which essentially reduces the number of times that a single file must be rewritten to the drive when files are moved or changed.
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