Windows 7 Is Here! Now What?

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By Jessica Mintz, AP Technology Writer

SEATTLE (AP) — Microsoft Corp. put a new edition of Windows on sale Thursday, hoping for a fresh start after a bad reception for the previous version of the software that runs most of the world's personal computers.

Windows 7 is now available on new computers, and as a software upgrade for some older PCs.

A Fry's Electronics store in Renton, Wash., several miles south of Microsoft's headquarters in Redmond, opened at midnight to give customers an early shot at buying a new PC or a disc that they could use to put Windows 7 on their existing computers. Such upgrade discs start at $120.

"We're geeks, that's what geeks do. This is our excitement," said Mike Naramor, 55, who runs a consulting business called My Computer Guy and was one of about 50 people who were waiting outside the store when it opened.

Naramor said that he also had bought copies of the last two operating systems, XP and Vista, the nights they were released and that he planned to go home and install Windows 7 right away.

"Vista took me about 72 hours," he said. "I expect this to take me 20 minutes."

Indeed, Microsoft hopes people like Windows 7 more than its most recent predecessor, Vista, which was slow and didn't work well with existing programs and devices. Microsoft fixed many of Vista's flaws, but it was too late to repair the system's reputation.

Windows 7 promises to boot up faster and reduce the clicks needed to get common tasks done. Microsoft has added features to help people keep track of open windows, cut out some redundant ways to start up programs and added flourishes that can help users keep track of all their open windows. It promises to put computers into sleep mode and wake them faster, too.

Windows 7 is also meant to be "quieter" — with fewer pop-up boxes, notifications, warnings and "are you sure ..." messages. Instead, many of those messages get stashed in a single place for the user to address when it's convenient.

To coincide with the Windows 7 launch, computer makers and retailers such as Best Buy Inc. are cutting prices for PCs to try to goose holiday-season sales. Microsoft also is beginning to try running its own retail stores, which has been enormously successful for Apple Inc.

The first Microsoft store was set to open Thursday in Scottsdale, Ariz.

Need a guide to switching to Windows 7? Here it is!

  • First you'd want to run a software exam called the Upgrade Advisor to see whether your machine has enough memory and computing power to handle Windows 7. It's available here. Most computers that are running Windows Vista should be fine for Windows 7.
  • If your PC passes the test, then you'd need to choose a version of Windows 7. You would pick from Home Premium ($120), Professional ($200) or Ultimate ($220). (Big businesses can also buy an even more feature-laden version, Enterprise.)
  • For most people, Windows Home Premium will be fine. Microsoft will sell the software as a download on its Web store, but copies on discs are stocked at electronics retailers and available from such sites as Amazon.com.
  • Make sure you buy a copy that's compatible with your PC's microprocessor. There are two flavors, 32-bit and 64-bit. Microsoft offers help in figuring out which one is right for you.

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AP Photographer Ted S. Warren contributed to this report from Renton, Wash.

Copyright 2009 The Associated Press. All rights reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten or redistributed.

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