2009 was a great year at PC Pitstop. We have a lot to be proud of in the past year. We now have three products that can be considered best in breed, PC Matic, Optimize 3.0, and Driver Alert 2.0. More importantly, we have assembled an incredible team of dedicated and talented individuals. From development, to marketing, to customer service to technical support, we are striving to be the best we can be.
2009 was also an incredible year because Microsoft introduced Windows 7. After 2.5 years of Apple battering Microsoft in market share and over the top advertising, Microsoft finally responded. What a relief!
I love my Sony Vaio and upgraded to Windows 7 Ultimate.
I quickly decided to upgrade my main computer to Windows 7, as I was doing some last minute Christmas shopping at Office Depot. After looking at the boxes in the display box, I chose Windows 7 Home Premium. I brought it home and BANG. An error. It is not possible to upgrade from Vista Ultimate to Home Premium without losing all of your data. That’s not a price I was willing to pay. I trekked back to Office Depot and the lady would not give me a refund. I talked to the Office Manager and he told me that I had to prove to him that I had Vista Ultimate. I trekked back to my house and brought the Office Depot Manager my trusty laptop. I fired it up, and he quickly figured out that I wasn’t one of those operating system scam artists. Honestly, he felt bad and gave me Windows 7 Ultimate for the price of Windows 7 Home Premium. I guess it was worth the trouble.
For the second time, I stuck the Windows 7 upgrade DVD in my trusty Sony laptop. Did I mention that I love my laptop? I would not be upgrading to Windows 7 if it were not for love. It ground a bunch, I put in my license key, and then it started doing its business. There was a note on the screen that the upgrade could take several hours. My wife and I took the kids out to dinner, and when I came back it was still churning. It seemed like it is stuck, but I decided to let it churn over night. I woke up the next morning and it was still churning. I checked the time and I realize that the upgrade was now on its 14th hour. Something wasn’t right.
The first Windows 7 install was 16 hours before I aborted.
Now, the nervous thoughts were going in my head. Was my system hosed? Was I stuck in the never land between Vista and Windows 7? There was no graceful way to abort the installation other than ctl-alt-del. Several times my hands moved to the keyboard and several times, I thought not. But finally, I did it. CTL-ALT-DEL.
My beautiful and precious Sony laptop began the start up process and somewhere in the middle of the initialization process, Windows realized that Vista had been uninstalled but the Windows 7 installation did not complete. A note flashed on the screen that it would now try to revert to Vista. The hard drive light went dead solid and Windows was using all of its magical power to get my laptop back to a known state. This went on for about 30 minutes, but it felt more like weeks or years. It was painful. Your mind starts to play games with you. What if this kills my lovely laptop? Will I ever work again? But thankfully, after 30 minutes, my Sony laptop was running Vista Ultimate.
Hurray! Hurray! All was not lost. There was a bird singing outside my window. The sun was shining. The kids were playing nicely with each other. What a great feeling! But wait. After 16 hours, I was right back where I started. It was too early for Groundhog Day.
Windows 7 is noticeably faster than Vista.
Then I thought, “What could I do differently?”. I sure didn’t want to do the whole thing over again and 16 hours later, I am back at the same point. Then it dawned on me, that there was a setting that allowed Windows 7 to install from the internet. It was the recommended setting, but maybe there was some problem with the latest version on the internet. The version on the DVD might be more stable. I jammed the DVD into my wonderful laptop and tried it again. Guess what? It worked. Not only that, it all installed in about an hour. The second time was a charm.
The first thing I noticed was the Windows 7 appears faster than Vista. Windows 7 is snappier. When you click on something, it shows up faster. When you mouse over, the action happens faster. Secondly, web pages render faster. Both these changes made me and my Sony laptop happier. After 18 hours, we were happy again.
It’s now been two weeks, and there are three things that I have fixed to make Windows 7 work better.
My amazing Sony laptop has an incredible 1366 x 768 high contrast screen. It weighs in at about 4 pounds but has a screen on laptops that weigh twice that. With all this screen real estate available, I like having multiple windows open on my screen, and moving them around. Windows 7 has a strange feature which they call Snap. If you move a window to the top screen, it automatically maximizes the whole window. Move it off the top, and it moves it back to the original size. The problem is that it isn’t easy to turn off snap. I finally found it in mouse settings. First go into the Ease of Access Center, and then go into mouse settings. Secondly, as you can see, they don’t call it the Snap feature instead they call it the “automatically arranging windows” feature.
I get a lot of zip files. I get monster spreadsheets that are pre-zipped. I get sets of videos that are zipped together, and so on. Suddenly, I could not double click on the zip file and it would open in Windows Explorer. In fact, it threw a nasty error. After scratching my head for a few days, I discovered that Windows 7 does not properly set the association for zip files. File associations now has its own area in Windows 7 in control panel called Default Programs <- Set Associations. Find the .zip extension and point it to Windows Explorer which is generally found in the Windows directory.
My last tip may not help a lot of people but it drove me crazy for a while. I like to keep my task bar hidden. The only time it’s visible is when I move the cursor to the very bottom of the screen. In this way, it is always there, but it does not use crucial vertical space which is key in a laptop screen which maxes out at 768 vertical pixels. The problem is that the task bar would not hide in Windows 7. I Googled and Googled and I couldn’t figure it out, but now I have. The problem is that during boot I have two virtual drives on my system. One is for the company VPN and the other is a Maxtor Axis drive which stores all my music. Since Windows cannot see these drives, it puts a notice in the task bar. That’s great but that notice prevents the task bar from auto hiding. There is a simple solution, click on the notice and then miraculously the task bar hides again. It took me 3 weeks to stumble on this solution.
Happy 2010 Everyone.
Rob is the CEO of PC Pitstop