Saturday, September 19, 2009

Windows 7 Enterprise first look

Those of you who are Facebook friends might recall me talking about problems with my home computer's motherboard. In particular the audio drivers would crash and I'd have to reboot to restore sound. I also could not get it to recognize 4GB RAM, and I had to do all sorts of strange things just to get Windows XP to install.


A few weeks ago I finally bought an open box Asus M3N-HT. It was about this time that Microsoft offered a 90-day trial license of Windows 7 Enterprise for IT professionals. I have two Western Digital 1TB drives and one was mostly empty, so I decided to go for it.

I swapped out the motherboard rather easily, with only three small problems. First, while I was pulling the CPU out of my old motherboard I smeared CPU thermal grease across the pins on one side. I wasn't sure if it was conductive or not, but to be on the safe side a toothbrush and some rubbing alcohol took care of that. The second was figuring out which SATA port was #1. I needed to know because the #1 port is where you connect the boot drive. The six SATA ports are on the edge of the motherboard, in three columns of two ports each. Was the bottom #1 or the top? It turns out it's the top.

Finally, many new motherboards have what's called AHCI mode, which is used to enable some advanced features including more SATA ports. My motherboard has 6 SATA ports total, but I can only use 4 of them unless I enable AHCI or RAID mode. When did this I could not get my computer to boot from my SATA DVD drive. It turns out that this is not a supported configuration for this motherboard. If I want to install an OS with AHCI enabled from the start I would have to boot from an IDE optical drive. I'm not particularly concerned because I'm only using 4 SATA ports right now amd Windows Vista and Windows 7 support enabling AHCI later.


I had already burned the Windows 7 Enterprise 64-bit ISO to a DVD, so after I had all the above sorted out I popped that in and fired up the installer. It was completely painless. The installer loads in a graphical screen instead of the old DOS style like Windows XP used, and it loads much faster. I deleted the partition already on the drive I was installing to and let the installer recreate it. It added a 100MB system partition whose purpose I don't know yet, then created the primary partition on the remainder of the drive. The entire installation process took about 30 - 45 minutes. I left it running while I loaded the dishwasher so I'm not sure of the exact time. I heard my computer reboot twice during the process, and I came back and it was at a login screen.

Finishing Installation

The very first thing I noticed was Windows had automatically set itself to my monitors' native resolution, which is 1440x900, and both monitors were working. That was interesting. When I logged in my computer made a noise and I had to ask Myron if that was my computer or his. It was mine, so apparently my sound was working, too. With Windows XP I always had to install video and audio drivers before anything worked, so I wondered what else had the Windows 7 installation done automatically?

I finally tracked down the device manager and was stunned to see that everything had a driver. My audio worked, my video worked, and my network worked. I didn't have to install a single driver. It listed my video card as an nVidia GeForce 9800GTX+, my keyboard as a Saitek Eclipse and my mouse as a Logitech TrackMan Marble. It even loaded the nVidia Control Panel software.

First impressions

The first thing I did from here was install Thunderbird so I could get to my e-mail. IE8 prompted me to make sure I wanted to download the file, then Windows prompted me again when I ran the installer. This was the first time I had gotten any security prompts. Thunderbird installed fine, I copied the contents of my Thunderbird profile to the clipboard... then couldn't find where to put it. A quick search (using Bing) showed they had moved it to a folder called Roaming in my user profile. I found the Thunderbird folder there, pasted in my old profile, loaded Thunderbird, and e-mail started flowing in.

While I was working with the new Windows Explorer I noticed it wasn't showing me file extensions. And I didn't have toolbars. I tried right-clicking the area where the toolbars should be and nothing happened. Another Internet search and I learn I have to go through the Control Panel to set folder options. I changed those and they took place immediately in my open Explorer window.

Wrap up

As you may have guessed, I haven't worked with Windows Vista yet, so there is going to be a bit of a learning curve. So far I really like Windows 7. It's fast, it looks nice, andit's not so different that I want to scream in frustration (yet). My initial impression is Windows 7 is to Windows Vista what Notes 8.5.1 is to Notes 8: what it should have been from the beginning.


  1. I am using W7 on an older laptop which does not support the aero interface.

    To b honest the whole experience has been very underwhelming - maybe thats a good sign in a way after giving up on vista overwhelming frustration

  2. I've been using Vista for 2 years, and now windows 7 for 3 months, and I'm really enjoying the experience.
    It's fast, smooth, stable, and requires a rather small memory-footprint.

  3. the 100mb partition is reserved if you want to enable bitlocker earlier on , so you dont have to do the partions manually.

    try copying the install dvd to a fast usb key and you will see the install time reduce