Windows 7 versus XP – Is Windows 7 better than XP – 12 Comparisons

First Impressions - Windows 7 versus XP – Is Windows 7 better than XP – 12 Comparisons

by Larry Neal Gowdy -Agust 28, 2011 (updated October 6, 2013)

Screenshot of XP Sysytem Menu

Screenshot of the XP System Menu.

Recent changes have widened the gap between XP and 7, but it is still not always easy to decide whether to upgrade or to stay with XP.

For me, I have been interested in Windows® 7 so that I can become more familiar with the user interface, specifically that of remembering where the administrator commands are located. When servicing a customer’s Windows 7 PC I often have to do a bit of searching to find various commands that are similar to XP commands but located in different menus. Having Windows 7 on my own computer is not a necessity, but it would be convenient, and I continue trying to find a good excuse to upgrade.

The use of Internet Explorer® 9 is also a strong consideration for all web design businesses. With IE9 not being compatible with XP, I have to decide whether or not IE9 and the future IE10 are worth the cost of upgrading to Windows 7.

One of the difficulties with Microsoft® is that it has already created some of the world’s best software, and it is darn difficult to improve on something that is already almost ideal. Word® in Office 2003 remains to be the world’s best (or second-best) word processor, with Word 2010 having a few nice changes of appearances but being slower than 2003 (Review and Comparison of Word 2003, Word 2010, OpenOffice, Libre, and WordPerfect X5). Expression® Web 4 Professional is a superb HTML/CSS editor primarily because it has the quality word processor behaviors found in Word. If Microsoft were to aim a version of Expression to function primarily as an HTML editor, and not aim for so many unnecessary options, Expression would surely become as important to website coders as Word is important to writers.

Windows 2000 was a large step forward from earlier versions, but XP became the world’s best operating system due to stability, speed, usefulness, and appearance. There were a lot of complaints about compatibility when W2K was first available, and there was a similar percentage of complaints about XP. Both W2K and XP later became very solid operating systems after most of the bugs were fixed. At present there is again a similar percentage of complaints about Windows 7, and it is hoped that the current problems with Windows 7 will eventually be ironed out as well.

XP is currently faster than all other known PC GUI operating systems, and with the very high stability on most computers there is little room left for improvement. At present Microsoft’s greatest competitor is itself.

Below I have reviewed 12 of the main features that Microsoft advertises as being new and improved in Windows 7.

(1) Faster startup and shutdown:

Of the computers that I have seen, Windows 7 is normally a few seconds faster than XP for booting and shutting off. Nevertheless, much of the speed of booting and shutting down is dependent on what programs are installed alongside of the OS. A clean install of XP can be as fast or faster than 7, Windows 2000 can be even faster than XP, and while boot time can be important to some individuals, most of us do not reboot our computers several times a day, and so there is not much importance in an operating system’s startup/shut down time. The more important thing is what happens between startup and shut down.

On one machine I had so many different programs loading during XP startup that my typical sequence of chores each morning was to crawl out of bed, get half dressed, go to my home office, start the computer, go to the bathroom to brush my teeth, finish dressing, go to the kitchen for caffeine, wander back to the office, wait another minute or two, and then begin work once the computer finished booting.

While I do enjoy having a computer that boots quickly, the boot speed of the OS is not as important as what the computer is capable of doing once it finishes booting. In my own personal experience with numerous customers’ computers, most programs run as fast or faster in XP than all other operating systems. There is a perceived processing speed enhancement in Windows 7, likely due to the popularity of dual- and quad-core CPUs, but I personally have not yet seen the final output of Windows 7 to be sizably faster than XP.

As a comparison, a customer’s computer in front of me at the moment has an Intel® M350 2.27ghz dual core CPU, 4g DDR3 RAM, a 500g SATA hard drive, and a 4.5 Windows 7 experience rating (6.4 CPU, 5.9 RAM, 4.5 graphics, 5.1 gaming graphics, and 5.9 primary hard drive). The computer that I am writing on has an AMD® 2.3ghz single core Sempron®, 2g DDR2 RAM, 80g SATA hard drive, 1g ATI® Radeon® 4350 graphics card, and Windows XP. A third computer has a Pentium® 4 2.0ghz CPU, 1g RAM, a ten year old 5400rpm IDE hard drive with fat32, a 256m GeForce® AGP graphics card, and Windows 2000.

Windows 2000 boots in about 50 seconds and shuts off in about 3 seconds (75 seconds for boot and 7 seconds for shutting off when the anti-virus and automatic updates are turned on). With updating and all other features turned on, the XP machine boots in about 106 seconds (not counting log-in time) and turns off in about 27 seconds. Without any updates turned on, the Windows 7 computer boots in about 82 seconds (not counting the time to enter the password) and turns off in about 22 seconds. Similar to Windows 2000, it is expected that Windows 7’s boot time will be slower when anti-virus and automatic updates are turned on, and the final speed will be closer to XP’s.

Windows 2000 blows the socks off of XP and Windows 7 for boot and shut off times even on an old machine with slow hardware and many of the same programs that are used on the other machines. If boot time were important, then Windows 2000 could be the favored choice. With a fresh install, XP initially booted in about 60 seconds, but now with the system filled with programs, it is to be expected that the boot time would slow.

XP and 7 use a caching system that pre-loads startup files for frequently used programs. The caching is great for improving the responsiveness and load times of programs, but the caching does slow the initial boot. As a comparison, a basic no-frills Linux® distribution may boot around 20 seconds faster than Windows 7, but Linux typically requires 5 to 20 seconds longer to open programs, and 1 to 5 seconds longer for menus to open. During a typical day’s work of having opened and closed perhaps 50 programs, it is about average for a Windows machine to have saved the user around 10 minutes or more just on the load times. When combined with the speed of the programs themselves, a Windows system saves some of us an hour or more of work each day.

Of the PCs that I have seen with Windows 7, by default all of them used around 1300m of RAM while not having any programs open other than Windows 7. As a comparison, my XP desktop with a 1g graphics card uses around 300m RAM with no open programs. Most of the additional RAM used in W7 may be reserved for start-up files and the graphics display, so if your XP computer relies on the operating system RAM for graphics memory, then expect a similar use in W7.

Much of the responsiveness of operating systems is also dependent on faster hard drives, faster RAM, and faster CPUs. I am not yet convinced that Windows 7 would be faster than XP with the same hardware, software, and caching configuration.

(2) Improved reliability:

In a typical year I have less than one hour of downtime due to a XP problem, which is less than .02% of the total time that XP is running: 99.98%+ stable. Actually, the only times that my computer crashed were after I installed buggy software, which was not the fault of XP.

In a nearby small town an appliance repairman once commented that Maytag® was not very dependable because almost all of the appliances that he repaired were Maytags. The reason why he mostly only repaired Maytags was because the one and only store that sold appliances in the town was a Maytag outlet. Similarly, of all PCs that I have seen with Windows 7, none were more stable than XP, but, of course, most all PCs that land in front of me are newer computers being repaired, and so I usually only see Windows 7 problems.

Nevertheless, in almost all Windows 7 computers I have noticed a tendency for the menus to do weird funky things. The menus might simply stop working, or not allow scrolling, or behave in any number of different ways without doing the same thing twice. It is very frustrating to me when I must spend several minutes attempting to navigate through several layers of buggy menus to reach a command that in XP can be clicked in a couple of seconds from a top-level menu.

Reliability improvements will most often be recognized by the users who previously had reliability problems (Vista® users mostly), but the rest of us may not notice any improvement of Windows 7 over XP.

(3) Security Enhancements:

Few of us ever knew that Vista had sizable security enhancements over XP, and few of us will likely ever know what additional security has been coded into W7. I am confident, however, that Microsoft’s claim of Windows 7 being more secure is surely valid; maybe.

There are a few security improvements in Windows 7 that users will notice. One improvement is that a menu pops up to ask whether you want to install a program that is already trying to install itself. It appears that many viruses and trojans are initially installed by the user clicking on a website’s icon or link that says one thing but is actually a command to install the unwanted software. With the Windows 7 pop-up you will hopefully get a second chance to say no before the software is installed. Several distributions of Linux have a similar pop-up technique of requiring a password to install new software, and XP can be configured to be more security conscious.

It is unknown if the pop-up menu is beneficial or just one more annoying pop-up in W7 (there are many), but the menu does exist and hopefully it will be of value to the user.

Nevertheless, most security concerns on personal computers are user related, not so much OS related. It is the user that chooses how to use the computer, and no OS is safe if the user chooses to install unsafe software; not Windows 7, not XP, nor even Linux. At present about 90% of my customers with serious viruses and trojans had Windows 7 installed along with big-name anti-virus software, and while there are many reasons why the percentages of my customers surely do not reflect national averages, it is still obvious that Windows 7 is not immune from security problems. As a side note, I have not yet had a computer come in with serious trojans that also had Avast!® installed, but it may just be luck of the draw.

(4) Longer battery life:

If you frequently use a laptop, and you frequently use the laptop while not being plugged in to a power supply, then the power savings of Windows 7 might be useful, or perhaps not. The simple fact remains that a battery has the same amount of voltage and amperage regardless of what computer and operating system is used, and - other than extreme temperatures and large hammers - the battery’s life is 100% dependent on what electrical devices are being used. No operating system can magically create more electricity than what a battery holds, and so the only thing that can increase battery life is to use less electricity.

There are power savings settings in XP that can be configured similarly as the settings in Windows 7, and except for some relatively minor differences, it is unlikely that you will notice a sizable difference of battery life between Windows 7 and XP if both operating systems are configured similarly and running the same programs. Some tests have concluded that some laptops have increased both battery life as well as charge efficiency with Windows 7, while at the same time other laptops had shorter battery life and less efficiency with Windows 7.

If you want to run Windows 7 on a laptop and you are concerned about battery life, then it would be worthwhile to research how well your specific laptop model fares with Windows 7.

(5) Performance:

Of the numerous comparisons that I have read, in almost all charts XP was as fast or faster than Windows 7 on all but one or two relatively minor scales. It appears that wireless networking may be the only perceivable performance improvement in Windows 7.

At present, programs like Word load almost instantaneously on my 2.3ghz XP computer, and Word 2003 runs faster than all other known word processors. If a program already loads faster than I can lift my finger off of the mouse after clicking the icon, then what advantage would there be in a different operating system possibly loading a few milliseconds faster? In real-world use, from what I continue to see on customers’ computers and store displays, Windows 7 is often slower than XP when loading and running programs. Linux is frequently said to be faster than Windows, but I personally have not yet seen it on a PC, and neither have I seen Windows 7 being faster than XP with similar hardware.

As mentioned previously, there is a perceived increase of data processing speed, but due to many newer programs requiring more RAM than previous versions, the real-world output speed may be slowed back down to being similar or less than XP.

Windows 7 has shown to be better able to handle some graphics. As an indicator of processing ability I aggressively resize menus while watching CPU usage. Linux often pegs 100% CPU while aggressively moving menus, while XP jumps to 80-85%, and Windows 7 stays at around 40-50%. Much of the difference is due to the menu design, but regardless of the reason Windows 7 is still better able to handle some graphics.

By default Windows 7 menus open gradually, requiring a second or two or more, which can seem to be terribly slow to those of us who have our computers configured for instantaneous menus. Windows 7 can have a similar speed as XP if W7 is configured to open menus without delay, but the menu problems in W7 slow the over all performance, and the user may not experience any performance improvement.

It appears that XP and Windows 7 are already streamlined for speed, and if you want more speed then you may need to install faster hardware. Regardless of how fast an operating system might be, the OS still cannot operate faster than the hardware.

If at a future date I install a faster CPU in the XP computer I will run the tests again so as to determine to what degree that CPU usage might be affected by CPU speed alone.

(6) Easier to use:

If an individual has never used a computer before, then there may be a few items that are easier to learn in Windows 7 than in previous versions of Windows, although I cannot image what they might be. Windows 7 can initially be difficult to navigate while learning the new layout if a person is accustomed to the normal layout of menus and commands that have been commonly found in most other software over the past twenty years. One example is the display menu that in XP has most all configuration options in one menu, while in Windows 7 it is required to open three different menus to access similar configurations.

It is normal for humans to categorize and create classifications. It is normal for a person to create classifications of animals, minerals, clothing, etc., but it is not normal for a person to create classifications of animals, animals, animals, animals, and animals. Yes, the person who makes five different classifications of the same classification may know in which classification a specific sub-category might be, but no one else but that one person will know. It is a rapidly growing problem with websites and software that there can be numerous different links for the same category, and the person who created the website or software assumes that the user will somehow magically know which link contains the wanted information.

It would be logical for the Windows Start menu to open with a list of categories, and to then have each category branch out to specific sub-categories, within the strings of sub-categories all links related to each specific category would be included, and once a person has reached the final sub-category there would then be an end of possible links. Operating systems, however, may place one administrator tool under one classification, place another administrator tool under a different classification, and then place more administrator tools under other classifications. The user is forced to click through dozens of menus in search of tools that should have been combined under one heading, and worse, if the user does not know that a specific tool exists, then how is the user expected to know where to look for the tool? Similar to the manner of many companies believing that since they have a website then everyone should magically know the domain name, similarly do all operating systems assume that you know the link to find a menu that you do not know to exist.

To greatly abbreviate my initial grumpy comments about the psychologically detrimental effects of illogical menus and the irrational sequencings of classifications, I will simply state that a relatively small number of people will find Windows 7 Libraries useful, while the rest of us are much better off simply not using the Library feature. The Libraries feature is wildly not user friendly, and neither are the menus.

(7) Legacy programs:

While Windows 7 Professional has the ability to run older programs in a virtual setup, virtualization is not possible unless your hardware supports virtualization. If you absolutely must use virtualization, I recommend Oracle’s® VirtualBox®: it works very well and does not require special hardware.

XP runs most any pre-Vista Microsoft-based program, including a twenty year old DOS game that I still enjoy, plus Windows 3.1 programs like Lotus® Improv®. The general consensus is that if you have old programs that you want to keep using, then you may not want Windows 7: the programs may either be difficult to install or simply not work. If you do not have any old programs then the legacy features are likely not important anyway.

Before buying Windows 7, be sure to check and verify which software on your computer is compatible.

(8) You can watch and record TV:

I already own a television, and the TV is in the living room for the specific reasons that I use a computer for computing and I use a television for watching television. If you watch television on your computer then you may find Windows 7 is a little better suited for television viewing, or you could simply install a different video program in XP to watch TV. In my opinion a new multimedia program is not enough of a reason to install a new operating system, but that is only my opinion, and I am confident that there are good reasons why some people find the television feature to be highly desirable.

The ability to use DirectX11 in W7 is an improvement for individuals who want DirectX11 for games or other video enhancements. DirectX11 is also used for some Intranets and websites with intensive graphics that require DirectX11, but the number of Internet sites using the technology is currently not large, and it is debatable whether the sites will gain much popularity in the near future. Most web designers will not build a site that cannot be accessed by a high majority of Internet users, and so at present there will be relatively few sites requiring DirectX11. In years past I used to be one of the first to buy the newest technology available, and so I do empathize with everyone who wants DirectX11, but until ISP speeds increase to 1mb+ for everyone, including dial-up, I would not think that graphic intensive websites will become very numerous. Just because a technology exists, it does not mean that we must use it.

(9) Internet Explorer 9 and 10:

As stated previously, for my purposes of web design I need to see how a web page will look on all different browsers, and I would like to have IE9 so that I can verify that my pages are displaying properly. For me, the ability to use IE9 and the future IE10 remains the primary feature that keeps me interested in Windows 7.

With the rapid improvements of open source browsers like FireFox®, Opera®, and Chrome® it appears that any advantage that IE9 may have had has already been equaled or bettered by the open source browsers. All major browsers including Safari® are already more HTML 5 compliant than IE9, and it is a growing assumption that IE9 may not be any more competitive than IE8. Chrome continues getting faster, more stable, and more useful by the week, and I honestly do not believe that IE10 will be much competitive, but I might be completely wrong, and I hope that I am.

If Windows were not the dominate operating system, and with Internet Explorer included with the OS, then we would not be much concerned with being compatible with IE6, IE7, IE8, and IE9. Many web designers continue aiming website code to be compatible with IE simply because the majority of people continue to use IE, and in many ways Microsoft has us at the disadvantage of our being required to upgrade the operating system just to use IE9. For some of us, however, we are beginning to focus more on standards and less on compatibility, and we may soon reach a point where we begin to actively suggest that visitors to our sites switch to standards compliant open source browsers. FireFox and Opera are both excellent and can be used in Windows 2000, while Chrome requires XP or higher. Users of Windows and Mac® are slow to upgrade and/or change browsers, but users of FireFox, Opera, and Chrome update frequently. If and when a site is coded with the latest standards, it will be FireFox, Opera, and Chrome that the web designers will be thinking of – the browsers that are compatible – and not Internet Explorer.

My wife recently (finally!) switched to FireFox from IE7, and now she says that she will never go back to IE. Once the public gets a taste of FireFox, Opera, or Chrome, the public is not quick to again use Internet Explorer. By pushing web designers into the choice of either paying hundreds of dollars to use IE9 or for the web designers to code for open source browsers, Microsoft appears to have possibly shot itself in the foot on this one; or maybe not.

It appears that Microsoft may be pushing the idea of HTML 5 so that the older versions of IE5, 6, and 7 – which do not support HTML 5 – will more quickly fade away. There is an advantage of our no longer coding websites to be compatible with IE5-7, but at the same time current users of IE5-7 will have to either upgrade Windows or else use an open source browser. My current guess is that Microsoft is betting that a large percentage of IE5-7 users will upgrade to Windows 7, but at the same time I am thinking that most new websites will continue to use HTML 4 for several more years so as to retain compatibility with the greatest majority of browsers.

Recent visitors to site use IE5 about 1% of the time, with IE6 having 5.1%, IE7 at 5%, IE8 at 15.5%, and IE9 at 4.2%. For myself I will continue to design websites that are compatible with IE 6 and 7, as well as the 3 series of FireFox which also accounts for around 10% of the visitors. I am not purposefully limiting my code for specific browsers, rather I am simply using HTML 4 because there would not be any benefit in HTML 5 for sites like mine that are mostly text and a few static graphics. I want my sites to be stable, to work well for as many different browsers as possible, and to never force a visitor to install a plug-in or to upgrade anything that the visitor does not already want. HTML 4 works fine, and at present there is no value in my considering HTML 5 (even if I would enjoy coding the new version).

I am fully aware that XP is now ten years old and that new software should not be forced to be compatible with older operating systems, but at the same time some of us are not anxious to leave behind the stability and performance of XP for a new unknown OS, especially to just use a new browser. I do not hesitate to spend a lot of money on quality tools: I have paid ten to fifty times the normal cost for tools that were of top quality and lasted over twenty years, making the tools actually less expensive than the cheap tools that have to be replaced frequently. I would not be concerned about the cost of Windows 7 if I knew that it was a quality tool that I could use for twenty years, but I am not decided if Windows 7 is of a quality higher than XP. Regardless of our choice, it is not an easy one.

I am not anti-Microsoft, quite the opposite, I am highly appreciative of the quality software that Microsoft has already created and made available to the public, but it is very unlikely that Microsoft or anyone else in the near future will create software that is sizably better than Word and XP. Word 2010 is more attractive but slower than Word 2003 (review article), and my concern is that XP could have been enhanced with add-ins rather than Microsoft dropping XP in favor of the appearances of Vista and Windows 7. Microsoft is in business to make money, and the money is mostly in entertainment software, which is good for some people and not so good for others.

(10) Support for wireless devices, digital tuners, Blu-ray, WiMAX, etc:

It appears to many of us who use computers for computing that Windows 7 is being promoted as multimedia software, not as an operating system. For those of us who do not want to watch television on our computers, the idea of multimedia software is a turn-off. In my opinion it has been Microsoft’s specifically speaking of bells and whistles - while not saying hardly a word about the operating system itself - that has me concerned that Windows 7 is more of a toy than a working OS.

I fully understand that the greater majority of people simply use a computer for entertainment - and the greater customer base is where Microsoft must aim its sales - but still it would be nice to see Windows 7 having benefits for business needs.

(11) Rapid search:

With a chuckle and a groan, I can only imagine how annoying it must be for a hard drive to run constantly while cataloging files for use in the search feature. Many of us have had to turn off the search features in XP so as to allow the hard drive to stop endlessly searching for files, and it is not a pleasing thought of Windows 7 purposefully having additional search features.

(12) User Interface:

Appearance preferences range from individuals who only want command line ANSI text, to individuals who want to be entertained with menus of glowing cartoon colors that dance and explode across the screen. Many people will like the appearance of Windows 7, while just as many will not. For those of us who do not want curved edges, transparencies, nor any other special effect, it appears that the only method of having solid colors for borders and the taskbar in Windows 7 is to use the Windows Classic theme, which is also available in XP.

My concern is that Windows 7 is leaning too far towards mirroring Mac in both the user interface as well as being an entertainment OS that has a decreasing focus on productivity. Mac has the advantage of higher quality materials used for monitors and CPU enclosures (which is almost enough of a reason by itself to buy a Mac), and Mac has succeeded in enabling the average person to create fun projects, but there is almost no productivity software available for Mac other than Microsoft Office and a few Adobe® titles. Mac is not an OS for techies and big business, nor was it designed to be. Will Windows become another entertainment operating system, or has it already? In the future will Linux become the only viable choice for business, programming, and for individuals with higher than average skill-sets? For entertainment use only, Linux is already as good or better than Windows 7 and Mac, and updates are available at no cost.

If I only used a computer a few hours a week I would then perhaps like the Windows 7 theme, but since I am on the computer over eight hours a day, I need a more subtle theme that is not distracting, not animated, and not of cartoon-like icons. At present XP is the best known choice for many individuals who work long hours each day on a computer.

It is useful for XP users to take a look at the features that are no longer available in Windows 7 and Vista to ensure that any regularly used features in XP are still present in Windows 7.


Due to the rather severe problem of new products and services being defective and/or simply not performing as promised, there is a sizable gamble when leaving a dependable operating system and upgrading to another. I feel lucky that I have about a dozen stable programs on my computer, some of which I would not be able to use if I upgraded to Windows 7. Since almost 100% of all electronics that I see are defective (my occupation is repairing electronics), it is expected for me to not easily trust new products.

I strongly recommend that if you decide to install Windows 7 that you use a new hard drive and unplug the existing hard drive so that in a worst case scenario you can simply unplug the new hard drive and plug the old hard drive back in. I will reemphasize the need to turn off the PC power, unplug the computer, and fully unplug both the hard drive power plug as well as the IDE/SATA cable on the existing hard drive: bad things do happen, and there is a possibility that the installation of an operating system will use and erase the old second hard drive or corrupt the data. It just takes a few seconds to unplug a hard drive; please do it. Using a new or reformatted hard drive is standard practice for when I install a distribution of Linux or any other unproven operating system. I fully trust Windows 2000 installations (the CD is actually one of the best tools available for setting up partitions on a new drive), and I have not yet had a problem with an XP installation. If the Windows 7 install goes well, then you can simply configure the old hard drive as the slave or an external which will still have all of your documents, photographs, music, and everything else. With new hard drives costing around $50.00, it is inexpensive insurance against losing days of work and all of your files.

In recent years IE was used by about 70% of the visitors to blog, but now in August of 2011 FireFox has 30.8%, IE is 30.6%, Chrome is 22.7%, Opera is 6.8%, and Safari is 5.3%. More interesting is that the site is primarily all text, which historically attracted users of IE and not as many FF users who tended to be more frequent on websites with graphics and videos. The numbers seem to suggest that many Internet Explorer users have already switched to FireFox and Chrome. Within my sites, Internet Explorer is showing a steady decrease of use, and unless Microsoft can perform a bit of magic, I suspect that Internet Explorer popularity will continue to drop until it is no more popular than Safari. If the future of IE website compatibility is one that we do not have to be much concerned about, then there is less reason for those like me to consider upgrading to Windows 7.

My guess is that the free Internet Explorer is an expensive headache for Microsoft, a headache that they would much prefer to simply stop all support. But if MS were to no longer have IE, the public would then better learn about open source software and MS would lose a ton of OS and Office sales. The Libre® Office is now very close to being of a similar quality as Microsoft’s Office, and once the Libre Writer gets a few weaknesses corrected, there will be almost no reason to buy Microsoft. At the moment, with the Internet being such a strong influence of which software a user chooses, MS absolutely must keep a browser available so as to maintain sales of other software. The lack of IE9 for XP users will surely negatively affect MS sales.

If you have any version of Windows other than XP, and you want to stay with Windows, then I would recommend Windows 7 for your next upgrade. If you already have XP, and you do not have a specific need for W7, then I would recommend keeping XP.

I want Windows 7, and I want Internet Explorer 9, but I am not yet decided that I want to gamble on the costs of time and money, nor on the likelihood that I may never acquire a taste for the appearances. Word, Expression, and XP are currently too good to give up for an open source operating system, and maybe too good to risk using Windows 7. We are being given a lot of options, and none are easy choices.

(Update October 06, 2013: A lot has changed in the two years since this article was first written. Internet Explorer 10 is quite good, Chrome and Firefox continue improving, and Windows 8 has every advantage that I want for an operating system. My prolonged hesitation with Windows 7 is now no longer important; I installed Windows 8 on all of my regularly used computers, and to me neither XP, Windows 7, or any other operating system is a viable choice.)

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