7 better than Vista

Early reviews of Windows 7 are good. Most of the issues encountered with Vista have been taken out

Will my old computer run the new OS?

If your computer can run the much-maligned Windows Vista, it can probably run Windows 7.

Check the computer specifications: To install Windows 7, it should be at least a 1 gigahertz or faster 32-bit (x86) processor, plus at least 2 GB of RAM and at least 16 GB of available hard disk space.

If you are still unsure, download a free Microsoft tool called a Windows 7 Upgrade Advisor, which will scan the computer, report any potential problems and offer ways to fix them.

Is upgrading worth it?

That depends on your budget and how you use your computer. The software will cost you from Rs 5,899 to Rs 11,799, depending on which version you buy.

The fact is that Windows XP is eight-year-old software, and that it will eventually stop running new applications.

Newer operating systems also offer better security against hackers. In case you want to upgrade, you can also check out cool deals like a new laptop or personal computer preloaded with Windows 7.

Which version should I buy?

Most computer users will probably be satisfied with the Home Premium edition which costs around Rs 6,000 and includes most of the basic features you’ll need. That includes Home Group, which makes it easier to share music, video and documents between Windows 7-enabled computers in a home.

Small business owners and people who work from home can opt for the Professional edition, which supports all the Home Premium features while automatically backing up all your data to a networked hard drive.

If you guard corporate secrets or work for the CIA, you’ll want the Ultimate edition, which comes with Bit Locker encryption, which prevents thieves from accessing your files if your laptop is stolen.

How tricky is it to install?

If you’re upgrading from Vista, it’s supposed to be easy. Just insert the disc, and it does the rest. Upgrading from Windows XP is more complicated.

Users will need to back up their files, format their hard drive, install Windows 7 and then reinstall browsers, re-import bookmarks and so on. Microsoft has a wizard called Easy Transfer that uses a USB cable to help you transfer files and settings.

What are the options available for easy installation?

Call over your tech-savvy friend, nephew or neighbor. Or try Microsoft’s online Windows 7 Solution Center, which will walk you through the installation process.

You may also want to consider hiring a tech-support services, whose technicians connect to your computer remotely to diagnose problems, help you install Windows 7 and show you how to migrate your old applications onto your new system for a fee.

Will it run my old XP programs?

After complaints about Vista, Microsoft is introducing something called XP Mode, which creates a virtual, or “shadow” Windows XP operating system running inside Windows 7. Once XP Mode is running, it fools your older applications into thinking they’re on Windows XP.

Here you’ll find an XP start menu and all your familiar XP features — all of which should work as they did before. XP Mode is only available in the higher-priced Professional and Ultimate editions, though.

Does it have any cool new feature additions?

First, there are trippier desktop wallpapers, in which Microsoft has replaced much of its blandly pretty nature shots with colorful psychedelic images.

A Library feature allows you to gather files — documents, photos and video — from different places on your computer and group them together in new folders by topic, such as beach party or my new boyfriend. A new feature called AeroPeek displays outlines of your open windows behind the window you’re working in.

A related feature, AeroSnap, allows you to move, shrink and enlarge windows on your screen so that you can see several at once. Finally, Windows 7 needs less processing power so you should be able to work faster and in more windows.