General Practice, Solo & Small Firm Division

A service of the ABA General Practice, Solo & Small Firm Division

Technology eReport

American Bar Association - Defending Liberty, Pursuing Justice

nov 2009

Vol. 8, No. 4



Windows 7: Ready or Not?

It’s here, it’s here, it’s finally here! After swearing up and down to Vista users that it would find a way to make it up to them for the pain they caused, Microsoft has released Windows 7. The question now is: should you make the move (and when)?

Even if mentally you couldn’t be more ready for Windows 7, the question remains as to whether your current PC is up to the challenge. There’s also the big question of your current operating system. Are you in Vista Home or Vista Business? Or are you still using Windows XP? Which edition of Windows 7 should you pick? Is your computer 32-bit or 64-bit . . . and what does that even mean? It’s almost never simple with our friends at Microsoft.

Let’s take that last question first: 64-bit editions of Windows 7 are designed to take advantage of the enhanced abilities of newer computers with 64-bit processors. How do you know which processor your computer has? Microsoft has come up with a Windows 7 Upgrade Advisor to assess your computer. Upgrade Advisor scans your PC and then makes recommendations about what to do before you upgrade. No matter which version of Windows you currently use, Vista or XP, you should download the Upgrade Advisor as your first step.

The Upgrade Advisor will alert you to the familiar Microsoft “Gotcha’s” as well, such as the fact that you cannot upgrade to a version that is less than the version of Vista that you have installed. So if you retired an office computer to home use and it has Vista Business installed, you cannot upgrade to Windows 7 Home Premium—you’ll need to order either 7 Professional or 7 Ultimate.

If you discover that your PC is ready for Windows 7 (we’ve been told that if your computer is Vista compatible it will run Windows 7 fine), your next step is choose which edition is right for you. The ‘Which one is right for you?’ site features a comparison chart will help you decide which edition to buy (and a link to purchase online). Upgrade prices range from $119.99 to $219.99, but as always, we say shop around online for the best deal.

Before we go any further, we should point out that experts agree that it is simpler to purchase Windows 7 on a new PC than to try to load it on your old PC with XP running. Moving from XP to Windows 7 will require a custom (clean) installation—you won’t be able to keep all your software and settings in place. Vista users will have an easier time upgrading but could still have issues depending on which version of Windows 7 they choose and which version of Vista they use currently. One good article to read before buying anything is 10 things you should know about moving from Windows XP to Windows 7 from TechRepublic.

Another article you should read before buying is Seven things to know about Windows 7, on CNN Tech. This article makes a pretty good case why lawyers will likely want at least the Professional version rather than Home Premium (automatic data backup to a network) and why laptop users may opt for Ultimate (because it comes with BitLocker encryption).

We can’t say that Microsoft hasn’t presented a lot of resources online for people making the transition to Windows 7. For example, let’s say you have Vista. Microsoft has put together a Getting Ready for Windows 7 guide with categories of questions and answers. There’s also a massive 140-page downloadable PDF Windows 7 Product Guide. For IT professionals, there is an entire Windows 7 Technical Library Roadmap complete with upgrade and migration guides.

One of the cool features in Windows 7 is something called XP mode. It is meant to make it easy to install and run Windows XP software within Windows 7. In order to tell if your computer hardware can support this mode, check out this helpful article from TechRepublic . It’s a little complicated, so if you’re not comfortable with a lot of technojargon, you might leave this alone.

If you’re reasonably content with your current operating system and you wonder if it’s worth the trouble to switch, Microsoft has previews of some of the new features in Windows 7 that might make it worthwhile. There’s also a side-by-side comparison chart of XP, Vista, and Windows 7 features.

It wouldn’t be a Microsoft operating system rollout without reviews. Ars Technica posted an informative 15-page article, complete with a history of the Windows platform. PC Magazine called Windows 7 a winner, “mostly.” Like other reviewers, the author noted that the upgrade is a complex process, and a clean install is required.

An Oklahoma judge tells Jim that purchasing the PCMovers Upgrade Assistant from Laplink was well worth the modest purchase price to help get all of his applications working on the new operating system.

If you’ve already made the jump to Windows 7 and have questions or issues, check out the Windows 7 Solution Center. As always, if you have questions and you can’t find the answer in our sites, go to your favorite search engine and search for your question. Chances are, you’re not alone. Good luck and happy upgrading!

Jim Calloway is the director of the Oklahoma Bar Association Management Assistance Program. He served as chair of the ABA TECHSHOW 2005. Calloway publishes the weblog, Jim Calloway’s Law Practice Tips, at, and was coauthor of the book, Winning Alternatives to the Billable Hour. He serves on the GPSolo Division Technology Board. Courtney Kennaday is the director of the Practice Management Assistance Program of the South Carolina Bar, where she advises bar members on practice management and law office technology. She also publishes the weblog, SC Small, at

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