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Seven things to know about Windows 7

Oct 24th, 2009
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OK, so after eight years and a lot of grumbling -- Vista, anyone? -- Microsoft has finally released a new operating system that people seem excited about.

Windows 7, which went on sale Thursday, promises a smoother user experience, multi-touchscreen capability and more seamless networking with other computers.

Early reviews have been good.

"We think it's a far superior product to the previous Microsoft operating systems," says Vishal Dhar, co-founder of iYogi, a tech services company. "It's got a more intuitive interface."

Great. But it is right for you? Which version of the software best fits your needs? And are there tricks to installing Windows 7 and navigating its new features?

We anticipate seven of the most common questions about Windows 7 and offer some advice:

Will my aging computer run Windows 7?

Maybe. If your PC can run the much-maligned Windows Vista, it can probably run Windows 7. Check your computer's specs: To install Windows 7, you'll need at least a 1 gigahertz or faster 32-bit (x86) processor, plus at least 2 GB of RAM and at least 16 GB of available hard disk space.

Yes, that sounds like a foreign language to most people. If you're not sure what all that means, try downloading a free Microsoft tool called a Windows 7 Upgrade Advisor, which will scan your PC, report any potential problems and offer ways to fix them.

Is upgrading to Windows 7 worth it?

That depends on your budget and how you use your computer. The software will cost you from $120 to $220, depending on which version you buy. If you're broke and you're happy with your Vista or Windows XP system, then there's probably no rush.

But keep in mind that Windows XP is eight-year-old software, and that it will eventually stop running new applications. Newer operating systems also offer better security against hackers. You'll need to upgrade someday.

Depending on how old your computer is, you may be better off buying a new laptop or PC, preloaded with Windows 7, instead of trying to refresh your aging machine. Retailers such as Best Buy and are offering Windows 7-loaded laptops for as low as $499.

Which version of Windows 7 should I buy?

Most casual computer users will probably be satisfied with the Home Premium edition ($119.99), which includes most of the basic features you'll need. That includes Home Group, which makes it easier to share music, video and documents -- a common printer, too -- between Windows 7-enabled computers in a home.