Windows 7: Seven Points of Imperfection

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#4. Windows 7 isn't impervious to viruses.

Well, no OS is impervious to viruses, actually. But in examining Windows 7 just after its release on October 22, the security firm Sophos found that, when configured to follow the system defaults for User Account Control (UAC), Microsoft's latest OS was vulnerable to eight out of ten viruses tested.

More recently, the security firm Prevx spurred an uproar by claiming in a blog post that "Black Screen woes could affect millions on Windows 7, Vista and XP" and charging that the issue was caused by a patch issued by Microsoft. Yet as noted by Tony Bradley, a fellow PC World blogger, it turns out that while there does seem to be a real black screen of death issue, it's affecting much smaller numbers of PCs, more like thousands or even hundreds. Further, a Trojan virus could be the actual culprit.

But as with previous editions of Windows, Microsoft doesn't include any anti-virus software in Windows 7. So here's another place where Microsoft hasn't learned from experience.

#5. Installation of Windows 7 can be a real bear, especially in upgrades from XP.

While many users have installed Windows 7 quite seamlessly, others have run into major problems around moving to the new OS, including endless reboot cycles and product keys that don't work, for example. Upgrades from Windows XP can be especially cantankerous. Yet Microsoft doesn't even give official support to upgrades to Win 7 from XP.

"It was my understanding that Win7 was supposed to answer the problems people faced with Vista. So you would think all the people who had to go back to XP would be able to jump right to Win7. Very disappointing," complained one frustrated user, 68Vistacruiser, in a support forum.

"Upgrading from XP to 7 is a mission for the A-Team. When upgrading from pre-XP to XP, you just put the CD/DVD in and click next, enter a s/n and press next. With 7 you have to back up all your current data and system files into a folder using a tool on the 7 DVD and then install 7 next to XP, then manually delete XP without [losing] your current data," chimed in a user named UK-Penguins.

#6. Windows 7 pricing is both too high and too complex.

With family and business budgets pinched right now, why is Microsoft charging anywhere from about $100 to $300 for an upgrade disk for Windows 7, depending on the version? C'mon, Microsoft. Windows 7 beta testers got their upgrade disks for only $50. The latest edition of the Mac OS cost $29, and distributions of the Linux OS can be downloaded free of charge.

Some discounts on Windows 7 are now available from Microsoft and retailers. You can also get a bit of a price break by buying an OEM or "system builder" version online. But Microsoft isn't doing a lot to make deals like this widely known. And why does Microsoft need to have multiple versions of the same OS -- with names like Home Premium, Business, and Ultimate - all with different features and price points? Isn't Windows 7 installation complicated enough, anyway?

#7. Customer support for Windows 7 is too scanty.

Many people say they've turned to user forums only after calls to Microsoft's customer support lines prove unsuccessful. Often, it's a matter of an inability to get through the busy phone lines to an actual person.

Even after Win 7's commercial release, support in Microsoft's TechNet forum tended to be erratic. Microsoft reps handily answered some questions from users. Yet other questions went unanswered, and in some casers, users got conflicting advice from different reps - or, at least, that's how they interpret the situation. "This page says you can only upgrade Vista to Win7 for the same edition. The main MS page says you can upgrade from any edition. Which is correct?" asked one confused user, B-C-S, in the TechNet forum.

In early sales, Windows 7 has been beating Vista by a wide margin. But does the company have enough customer support in place to handle the load?

To its credit, Microsoft is now providing some new support alternatives with Windows 7, including automated troubleshooters built into the OS, new "Fix Its" to supplement Microsoft Knowledge Base articles, support through Twitter, and a new Win 7 forum on Ask Microsoft. In the Ask Microsoft forum, Microsoft reps often answer questions within a matter of a few hours. Still, when a user is facing a critical system error, just about nothing in the customer support realm beats the immediacy of a phone call.

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