I recently sent this email out to the employees of the company I work for. Feel free to re-use it as you wish, with or without attribution.
I’ve started getting questions about Windows 7 and new computers, and my opinion about the whole situation. It is a complicated topic, so I thought it would be more efficient to send out some basic information once rather than repeat myself a dozen times. This is not to say I don’t want you to ask me any more questions, but maybe I can answer a few of them before everyone asks them.
Because we depend on a lot of Windows-only programs at Van Dam Iron Works (AutoCAD, Fabtrol, Access, and Quickbooks), we will be getting Windows 7 on any new desktops and laptops that we buy going forward. We are locked-in to Windows on the desktop for the foreseeable future. However, there is absolutely no time frame on when such purchases will occur, so don’t get too excited!
Now you are wondering whether you should get it for your home computers. Many of you have avoided Vista at home (a prudent decision, in my opinion), and your XP computers are getting quite long in the tooth. Despite repeated problems with crashes, viruses, and potential identity theft, most of you have always used Microsoft Windows, and you may or may not be aware that you even have a choice. In fact, you can choose between three different roughly equivalent operating systems for your home computers at this time. Each of these systems has strengths and weaknesses, so I’d like to give you all a quick run down on your options.
It is much more stable than Windows XP, efficient, and has a lot of pretty animations. Most of your old programs that ran in Windows XP will probably run fine. If your computer is more than three years old, you should not bother upgrading. You’ll get more bang for your buck by buying a new one. You may have some trouble getting printers or other devices that are more than four years old working correctly. It is quite different from Windows XP, so you will have to learn some new ways of doing things on the computer. The biggest problem with Windows is its susceptibility to viruses. Microsoft has made efforts to make Windows 7 more secure, but only time will tell if they have been successful. No matter what, you will still have to run some sort of antivirus program and keep it up to date. It will cost $100 – $350 to upgrade an exisiting computer to Windows 7. Manufacturers will be dumping their Vista computers for cheap, so you could buy one and upgrade it yourself and maybe save a few bucks compared to a new one with windows 7 pre-installed for you. It is fairly easy to move your data from Windows XP to Windows 7.
It is as stable as, more efficient than, and as pretty as Windows 7. It is currently virus free, so you don’t have to constantly worry about viruses and antivirus software. Although many of the programs you may currently use will not run on it, you can usually pay for something similar that will work. You can also buy a Windows license and run Windows along with OSX on an Apple computer if you need to. You will have to learn new ways of doing things on the computer because Apple’s user interface is very different from Windows XP. An Apple costs about 50% more than a similar computer with Windows. It is fairly easy to move your data to OSX, but it is very difficult to move back to Windows. Most high-end games are not available for OSX.
It is more stable than Windows and OSX, as efficient as Windows 7, and is much more customizable than either of them. It is virus free, and more secure than OSX and Windows 7. Many of your old Windows programs will not run on Linux, but there is almost always a similar program available for free. The quantity of software legally available for Linux for absolutely free will amaze you. If you need to, you can purchase a Windows license to run Windows alongside or inside of Linux if you have enough RAM. More of your old printers and other devices will work on Linux than will work on Windows 7 or OSX – the big exception to this is dial-up modems. If you don’t want to learn new things, Linux can be made to look and operate similar to Windows XP. If you don’t mind learning new things, you can learn the preferred way of using Linux quite easily. Just about any computer from the last seven years can run Linux for web surfing and other light tasks, so you may not even need to buy a new computer. It is easy to move your data back to Windows or to OSX if Linux does not suit you. The biggest drawback to Linux is that there are no high-end games available, and iTunes is not available for it. iPods will work with Linux, but not as easily as with Windows and OSX.
The easiest thing to do is to buy a new computer with Windows 7 and keep computing the way you always have. If you are tired of Microsoft and Windows problems, OSX and Linux are both mature and available, but you will have to learn some new ways of getting things done. If you are sick and tired of dealing with your virus-filled computer but don’t want to spend anything for a new one, Linux may be what you are looking for.
If there is some interest in Linux, I can put together a demonstration for anyone interested. One of the best things about Linux is that it is free, so you can try it out and use it whenever you want without paying anything.
– Ben Rousch