Since its launch near the end of October, Windows 7 has been applauded by many as Microsoft's best operating system yet. But no OS is perfect, and that goes for Windows 7. Here are seven key imperfections.
Some of these - such as your need to learn a new user interface, Windows 7's omission of Movie Maker, or its lack of support for older printers - may or may not matter to you personally. But issues related to Windows 7 pricing, installation and customer support are universal.
1. Windows 7 doesn't include certain earlier Windows components
In the interests of reducing bloatware and improving performance, Windows 7 strips out components such as Windows Messenger, Movie Maker and Live Mail, a program rolled out in 2007 to replace XP's Outlook Express and Vista's Windows Mail.
If you never use these components, you're not really going to care. You can always go ahead and add this software later, anyway. But if you're a long-time user of Windows Messenger, for example, and you don't know ahead of time that it's not supposed to be there, you might be a bit mystified as to where to find it.
2. Windows 7 lacks support for older printers and external devices
With Microsoft now imposing a more stringent approval process for compatibility of external devices, drivers for a lot of devices aren't yet available for Windows 7 - even six weeks after the release of the new OS. If you're among the many people who are stepping to a 64bit version of Windows for the first time ever with Windows 7, you could face even worse problems around peripheral support.
Assuming that your PC hardware supports it, 64bit Windows accommodates a lot more RAM. But like 64bit Vista before it, 64bit Win 7 requires drivers to be digitally signed for security reasons. So if you have a six-year-old laser printer or an ageing webcam you really want to hang on to, you might be out of luck.
3. Windows 7 forces you to learn a new interface
In creating Windows 7, Microsoft made a lot of tweaks to its previous user interface (UI), adding new features such as Jump Lists, One-Click WiFi, HomeGroup and Device Stage, along with smaller UI enhancements such as Aero Snap and Aero Shake.
I find some of these to be quite useful. HomeGroup, for example, makes it a lot easier to set up a home network. Device Stage helps you to manage external devices such as printers and phones. With Aero Snap, you can quickly resize windows on your desktop. But as with any software changes, there's a learning curve involved in getting used to the new tweaks. So if you're especially short on time right now, you might want to put off upgrading to Windows 7 until you've got more time to dabble.
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.
As with previous editions of Windows, Microsoft doesn't include any antivirus software in Windows 7. So here's another place where Microsoft hasn't learned from experience.
Next page: Tricky installations, complicated pricing and more >>
5. Installing Windows 7 can be tricky, especially 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. Upgrades from Windows XP can be especially cantankerous. Yet Microsoft doesn't even give official support to upgrades to Win 7 from XP.
6. Prices are too high - and too complex
With family and business budgets pinched right now, why is Microsoft charging anywhere from about £100 to £230 for Windows 7, depending on the version? The latest edition of the Mac OS costs £25, and distributions of the Linux OS can be downloaded free of charge.
Discounts on Windows 7 are available from Microsoft and retailers, and you can get 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
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.
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, very little beats the immediacy of a phone call.