This had the potential to be a nerve-wracking upgrade, since this site had warned me against the potential issues of attempting to do a "full-install" (otherwise known as a "clean" install) of Windows 7 using a Win 7 "upgrade" disc. In the past if you tried to install a Windows upgrade and you had a previous version of Windows, you could format your hard disc and then the upgrade OS install would ask you to "verify" your original media by placing the Windows 95 disc (or whatever it was) into the CD drive temporarily. It would verify the original disc, and you'd be on your way.
It's different now, but not bad at all. It sounded like it was gonna be nuts, and instead it was absurdly and totally straightforward. You boot off the upgrade disc like normal, it verifies that you have Vista installed, and then you ask for a "clean" install, and it finishes. You then boot into Windows 7, run the activation (AFTER IT HAS INSTALLED, NOT DURING)
So it was an absurdly simple "full" upgrade (with reformat) from "upgrade media", and super quick to get going. Right off the bat, Windows 7 looks similar to Vista, but a few awesome things are already obvious. There is excellent driver support - it automatically recognized my video camera and downloaded the installer from Logitech's site and started automatically. It auto recognized dual monitors, my video card, etc, and installed all the Windows drivers and 3rd party drivers. It recognized my printer, my external drive, my USB keyboard hub, my exact monitor brand and model number... absurd!! Truly amazing. It even installed a driver for my Video Capture card. This is a really smart OS, and the amount of driver support is through the roof.
It really does not feel a lot like OSX at all. I think it just feels like Vista (which I thought was fine), but with better driver support, slicker UI, and some nicer/better thought-out usability features. The stability feels better than Vista, too. Startup time is fast, and there is fancy new stuff like an integrated virus scanner (nice touch). Another benefit is file type support... it seems that I can run MOV and DIVX files without downloading any extra codecs (FINALLY!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!) This is AWESOME. Windows Movie Maker now fully supports MOV files, so the big 720p videos from my Canon Rebel T1i can now be edited and uploaded to YouTube with Windows Movie Maker. Very fancy.
Haven't tried the Networking stuff yet but it's supposed to be fast and easy to set up. Windows Media Center looks even better, and considering it was probably the best thing about Vista, it's pretty cool that it got an upgrade too.
Other stuff is just slicker - the "jump lists" showing recent files per application on the new "Taskbar" seems much more useful than the anything-goes "My Recent Documents" from XP and Vista. The "Libraries" folder is somewhat of a collection of all user documents, music, pictures and videos... nice touch. All my XP and Vista applications (32 or 64 bit) all run fine, no problems at all with compatibility. The OS was a super fast install (~30 minutes) and the programs all installed pretty quickly as I could do several things at once. It seems to be taking much more advantage of my Quad-Core machine and my 4Gb RAM. I kinda wish I spent the extra at the time and got 8Gb... but I'll upgrade at a later date I guess.
Seems to be running VERY smoothly already, it looks sharp, everything worked first go, and I'm really impressed with the clean UI, the smooth transitions and general slickness, the compatibility, file-type and codec support, and so on. Nice work, Microsoft! For those who are dumping on Win7 as a total OSX ripoff, I'd suggest a closer look. It's sharp, it's snappy, and to me it seems that rather than sending people over to Cupertino to copy OSX, I think they focused internally on Vista and worked their butts off to make it better. It is clearly a "usability pass" over top of Vista, some base cleanup, a way better way to lower the annoyance of that User Account Control thing, and some fundamental changes to the driver and codec and file-type support. Bravo!