After the non-stop complaints from users of Windows Vista, Microsoft took the hint and released the long awaited Windows 7. Windows 7 improves upon everything users loved from Windows XP and eliminates everything that went wrong with Vista. Windows 7 offers something Windows users have asked for years: a stable, easy to use and secure operating system.
Let’s start with the cons, which are few and far between. Older desktops may not be able to run Windows 7 correctly. The minimum requirements for a 32-bit system include 1 GB of RAM, 16 GB of hard drive space and a 1 GHz processor. For 64-bit systems, you must have 2 GB of RAM, 20 GB of hard drive space and a 1 GHz processor. Keep in mind that these are the bare minimum requirements and optimal performance requires more than the minimum. Most desktops made after 2006 should have little problem running Windows 7, especially with a quick memory upgrade.
Now let’s look at the pros of Windows 7. First off, installation is easier than ever. Users can upgrade from XP or Vista, purchase a new desktop with Windows 7 pre-installed or perform a clean install. The installation process takes less than a hour for the operating system itself, while prior versions took at least thirty minutes to an hour longer.
Windows 7 offers both improvements and new features. One stand out feature is the new taskbar, which has been compared to Apple’s Mac OS X system. By simply rolling your mouse over your taskbar icons, you can quickly preview the window and any windows related to it. Another feature many users will enjoy is the ability to drag windows to different portions of your screen to view multiple windows simultaneously. Users can even drag two windows to each top corner of their desktop to automatically resize the windows to half the desktop size.
Windows Media Player has also been improved in Windows 7. You can now stream media content between computers, over a network or over the Internet easily, with a quick and simple to understand setup process. Viewing and managing devices has also been simplified with all devices listed in one window. There is also support for older devices, so you can view and manage them in the Device Stage window.
One feature that die hard Windows XP users will enjoy is XP Mode. Any applications you have that are not compatible with Windows 7 can be used in XP Mode. With this virtual environment, users can use their favorite older programs and still enjoy all Windows 7 has to offer.
Windows Vista users often complained about the User Account Control feature. Windows 7 makes the UAC feature customizable and less frustrating for users. The Windows Firewall is still included with Windows 7.
Windows 7 definitely blows Windows Vista away and is considered by many users to be just as good, if not better than Mac OS X.
Mac OS X Leopard
Windows isn’t for everyone and that’s where Apple’s Mac OS X Leopard operating system comes into play. Many users turned to Mac OS X when Windows Vista was released. There have been several improvements from Tiger to Leopard, including enhanced graphics and search features.
The biggest cons for Mac OS X Leopard are the slow installation on systems that just barely meet the minimum system requirements and compatibility issues with some earlier applications. Some bugs have been fixed by Apple, however. In order to install Mac OS X Leopard, you must have an Intel G5 Mac, a PowerPC G5 Mac or a PowerPC G4 Mac with an 867 MHz or faster processor. At least 512 MB of RAM is recommended.
For users of earlier versions of Mac OS X, the look may appear slightly different. However, the changes are still similar enough so users will have little problem using the system. The Dock now organizes items in a more transparent format and icons can be viewed as a grid in addition to the list format.
Finding files is much easier with the advanced Finder and Search For features. Another wonderful feature of Mac OS X Leopard is Cover Flow. By simply holding down the arrow key, you can shuffle through files and folders. Pair this with Quick Look and you can preview most files quickly and easily along with a set of options on how to use and open the file. Photos and other images can be turned into a slide show with just a few clicks.
If you are a multi-tasker, Mac OS X Leopard may be the operating system that’s best for you. Instead of having countless windows cluttering your taskbar, Mac OS X Leopard organizes open windows into groups, called Spaces. You can group any open windows related to a project or idea into a single Space, creating a single window icon, instead of multiple ones.
Backing up data is incredibly easy with Mac OS X Leopard’s Time Machine. The only downside to Time Machine is that you must have an external hard drive in order to back up data. You cannot backup data to your internal hard drive, even temporarily.
For social butterflies, you can share your desktop with other Mac OS X Leopard users via iChat. You can also record sessions, fully customize your look and screen and share files and applications through iChat. Anyone who hates using Internet Explorer can relax since Safari is the default browser. Loads of features are included by default to make your browsing experience better than ever before such as Web Clips and access to Wikipedia from your Desktop.
Security has been enhanced in Mac OS X Leopard, which is now comparable to features included in Windows 7. The biggest problem is the firewall, which you must turn on manually. However, this is more than made up for by Sandboxing, which helps prevent outside access to your applications, and stricter parental controls.
Apple has released an upgrade to Leopard, called Snow Leopard. Finding files is easier, but Snow Leopard is only compatible with Intel Macs, which makes the original Mac OS X Leopard the best option for a desktop operating system for Macs.
Everyone has seen commercials comparing Macs and PCs, but how many users have actually heard of or even tried a free alternative? Yes, you read correctly, there is a free operating system available that is comparable to both Windows 7 and Mac OS X Leopard. Ubuntu 9.04 is the latest release of the popular Ubuntu Linux operating system.
Few cons exist except many popular Windows and Mac applications are not compatible with Ubuntu. However, Ubuntu counters this with thousands of free, comparable applications. Another issue is actually obtaining the software. You won’t find it in stores. You must either download the installation file or order a CD. If you have a slow Internet connection, you’ll have to wait for the postal service to deliver your copy of Ubuntu. If you do download the installation file, you must first place the disk image, or ISO, file on a CD or DVD in order to install it.
Ubuntu 9.04 is the best version of Ubuntu thus far. Multi-tasking is much easier and faster, even with sluggish applications. The desktop appears similar to those of Windows 7 and Mac OS X Leopard. This helps non-Linux users acclimate to the new and foreign system. Installing Ubuntu 9.04 is straight-forward, though a bug did originally exist that resulted in data loss with the Ext4 file system. This has since been patched. The notification system has been tweaked, resulting in notifications for almost every event. Some users love this, while others complain about the abundance of notifications.
More themes are included in Ubuntu 9.04 than in previous versions to help customize your desktop and windows. To help further customize your desktop system and prevent financial ruin, literally thousands of open-source applications are available to download for free. Community support is available to help users understand both Ubuntu and the free apps.
Networking has been improved in Ubuntu 9.04, which was one reason many users still paid for above mentioned operating systems. Wireless is recognized easily, without hassle. Add this to an extremely stable operating system without the dreaded blue screen many Windows users encounter, Ubuntu 9.04 is definitely a desktop operating system contender, especially with a price tag of $0.
Visit Ubuntu’s website to learn more about the operating system and to download the latest edition.
Honorable Mention: Windows XP
Windows XP is the operating system Microsoft originally thought would be replaced by Windows Vista. However, users quickly discovered that Windows XP was more compatible with existing hardware and software than Windows Vista. Due to security issues and hardware compatibility issues, Windows XP remained Windows users’ favorite Windows operating system.
With the introduction of Windows 7, many Windows XP users are upgrading. Support for Windows XP officially ends in 2010, but any existing updates can be downloaded from Microsoft.com. Due to it’s availability of security updates and patches, ease of use and compatibility with most software and hardware currently available, Windows XP must at least be an honorable mention when mentioning desktop operating systems.