Windows 7: A Complete Survival Guide

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Windows 7 launches on Thursday, and everywhere you look retailers and manufacturers are getting ready for a big day of sales. Apple may be looking to rain on Microsoft's parade with stellar news about its financial performance, but there's little doubt this week belongs to Windows 7.

Yet questions still remain about upgrading to the new OS, how Windows 7 works compared to Vista, and whether there will be any serious compatibility issues once Windows 7 is finally installed on computers across the United States.

There are a lot of questions out there about Windows 7, and I have answers. I've gone through the PC World vault to find all the information you need about upgrading, the pros and cons of buying a new system, Windows 7 security, and more. With this handy guide at your side, you'll be able to embrace everything Windows 7 has to offer.

Upgrade to Windows 7

Upgrading to a new Windows OS is always filled with questions, like which version of Windows 7 is for me? How much does it cost? Should I even bother upgrading at all?

Check out our Windows 7 Upgrade FAQ to read up on the numerous editions of the OS, and to find pricing information. But you may want to hold off on upgrading since Windows 7 upgrade fees could go down in the near future.

If you're still trying to decide whether the new OS is for you, here is why you should upgrade to Windows 7, and reasons why you shouldn't bother. We also have information about an online tool that tells you if your PC is upgrade-ready.

But if you're ready to make the switch, be sure you go through PC World's Windows 7 upgrade checklist, and the installation how-to guide. They can help ease you through the process. If you're a business owner, you should also read over these four tips for smooth upgrades to Windows 7.

Windows XP users may find the upgrade process too difficult, but we've got an XP-to-Windows 7 upgrade guide to make it easier. Netbook owners should also check out how you can get from XP to Windows 7 in just 30 minutes. But even if you decide to stick with XP, that doesn't mean you can't have some of the great new functionality in Windows 7. See how you can get Windows 7 features on an XP or Vista system.

Should I Buy a New System?

When Vista was released, it was clear that most users were going to need a new system to handle the OS. Windows 7, however, is supposedly designed to run on anything, and was even found to be a little bit faster than Vista in PC World's performance tests. So you may not need a new computer after all, but if you're running XP or finding the upgrade path a little too scary, maybe you should splurge on that new laptop you've had your eye on.

IT manager and PC World blogger Michael Scalisi has a great FAQ to help you through the big decision, but the Tech Inciter, David Coursey, says forget about upgrading and just buy a new computer already.

If you do decide to invest in a new machine, or even if you've upgraded, PC World's David Murphy has some tips to help you optimize your Windows 7 system.

Features, Features, Features

Windows 7 is loaded with new features and interface changes. Some you may find intuitive, while others are going to take some time getting used to. Check out Harry McCracken's list of the 10 Best Features of Windows 7, which includes Jump Lists, a better Windows Media Player, and the new taskbar. Rick Broida tells you about one-click Wi-Fi, DeviceStage, and HomeGroup. Then join Tony Bradley for his list of the best features in Windows 7. If you need more feature frenzy, how about a slideshow of the best and worst of Windows 7 and Windows 7 Server.

Windows 7 Security

Any Windows user knows you have to watch out for viruses, spyware, and worms, but Vista's security features were widely panned for being annoying. Windows 7 has toned down the warnings, but it's still got some big security features. In fact, Windows 7 may be the safest Windows OS yet. PC World's Business Center has an extensive guide to Windows 7 security like user Account Control, Fingerprint Scanner Support and data encryption. You can also check out a video tour of the improvements with Senior Editor Robert Strohmeyer.

The Best of the Rest

If you've got multiple computers in your house, then you'll want to read up on how you can take advantage of Windows 7's networking features to connect all the computers in your home. PC World also has a networking video tour taken at its Windows 7 launch party.

There's also a guide to the wide range of keyboard shortcuts in Windows 7 for quick access to common actions. If you're tired of both the mouse and the keyboard, Windows 7 also has a serviceable speech recognition tool worth checking out.

PC World also has a rundown of the good, the bad, and the unknown in Windows 7, and check out Nick Mediati's guide to how they test Windows 7 for performance speeds.

Finally, Windows 7 gives a lot in terms of new features, security improvements, and user interface tweaks, but it also demands a lot from your computer. Check out how to mitigate the seven deadly sins of Windows 7.

Not enough Windows 7 information for you? Be sure to check out PC World's Windows 7 section for more Windows-related tips, news and tweaks.

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