As if playoff football wasn't exciting enough, I decided to dive into Windows 7 this weekend. I've been building the perfect media pc for the past couple of years, and have yet to find the right recipe. My main reason for trying out Windows 7 was to see if the Media Center experience had improved at all.
I downloaded the ISO from MSDN and burned it to a DVD. The download was surprisingly fast! There was just one problem - I downloaded the 32bit version instead of the 64bit version. So back to MSDN. Once I had the correct version, I ran the install from inside of Windows Vista. Yes, my current setup is a Vista box, which I'm very pleased with - but I'd still like to know what's new in Windows 7.
You can either install Windows 7 clean, or perform an upgrade from Vista. I chose the upgrade route because it would let me keep my settings. It turned out this wasn't such a great idea. It turns out the upgrade logic for Media Center didn't like something about how my Media Center was already set up. Besides that, my DVD drive wouldn't show up anymore.. and was listed as unknown in the device manager. So I did what anyone with nothing better to do on a Saturday afternoon would do.. re-install.
This time, I chose to install Windows 7 clean. I had all of my personal files saved on another drive, so re-installing shouldn't be a problem. I had never tried this but the theory was sound. I had nothing to lose! I proceeded to wipe my OS partition and install Windows 7. Media Center worked like a charm this time, but there was an unfortunate problem.. my SATA RAID controller wasn't being recognized. I tried installing the Vista drivers, but still no luck. Eventually I realized that the only way I was going to see my data files was to install Windows Vista first, and then upgrade to Windows 7 from my clean Vista install. I tried that and finally success!! Windows Media Center setup properly, and even detected my clear QAM channels. No more hacky Fiji TV Pack, no more 3rd party scanning application, and my data drive and DVD drive were both back!
So what do I think of Windows 7 so far? I like what I've seen. There are a ton of 'little' features that make this OS more friendly. Here's one for you.. Your personal folders like "My Documents" are now considered libraries. Each library can be composed of multiple folders, and you specify which folder to use as the "save location". This makes storing your personal files on a separate disk a breeze. I haven't tried it, but I'm guessing you can even use a removable disk. When the disk is present, it's added to the library. But you can safely remove the disk/usb drive with out wondering what's going to happen.
Windows Media Center also got some nice upgrades like the "turbo scroll"
feature. There are a bunch of blogs out there covering the individual features, so you can easily find info on the features. What you're not so likely to find, is the info on the best way to install. It seems like most of the Vista drivers will work with Windows 7, but the installers for those drivers may not.
My single complaint so far is that giving feedback is much harder that I had expected it to be. I initially clicked on the "feedback" link that appears on every window, which then prompted me for my live id. I entered my info and tried to submit feedback only to get a message saying that my account wasn't authorized to send feedback or the servers may have been too busy. Either way, it's too bad considering one of the main points Microsoft has been making about Windows 7 is "we're listening closely to what the public is saying". Have you had trouble getting your feedback in? Let me know in the comments.
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