Windows 7 Reality Check: It Can Still Suck Big Time

Windows 7 Reality Check: It Can Still Suck Big Time

There’s a prevailing opinion that Windows 7 is a big improvement on Vista — but my own experience of the Windows 7 RC so far suggests that it can be just as bad, if not worse.

I’ve come to the RC late relative to its appearance, in large part because I was doing the Hand Luggage Only project during May and didn’t want to burden myself with an unsupported OS on the road, even in a dual-boot environment.

I’d been running the beta of Windows 7 on a spare machine, and had largely been impressed: it ran faster, seemed to have fixed some of Vista’s more egregious faults, and didn’t have a UAC implementation that made me want to throttle people. True, it wouldn’t actually let me submit any feedback, which didn’t bode well for online activation, and it had some problems with USB, but it was a beta after all.

windows7error01For the RC release, I decided not to do the downgrade back to Vista on the same system, and instead opted for a clean install. I wanted to see how well Windows 7 would handle recognising an older machine from scratch. Sadly, the answer turned out to be “not well at all”. On a ThinkPad T61 — a machine that’s only a couple of years old– it came up with five unrecognised hardware items.

However, that wasn’t the biggest issue: networking was. My predominant complaint about Vista was its poor handling of wireless networking. My very first Vista machine had major wireless networking issues, and just in the last week I had to go through a convoluted correspondence with Microsoft to get my newest Vista box to successfully communicate with a bog-standard wireless router.

I’d had no problems connecting to my home network with the beta of Windows 7. However, once the RC was installed, it spectacularly failed to get any kind of working connection whatsoever, alternating between the familiar exclamation mark (meaning “you’re screwed”) and no connectivity indicator at all (meaning “you’re screwed, but hopefully you won’t notice”). All this was on a router with which I’ve successfully hooked up not only the Windows 7 beta, but Vista, Xandros and iPod Touch devices as well. Even when connected directly via an Ethernet cable, it refused to talk, suggesting that Windows 7 sometimes effectively treats a working networking stack as its own personal slaughterhouse.

I’ve never been a fan of the Vista “diganose” feature, but compared to Windows 7, it’s starting to look like a mine of information. After grinding away for some time , Windows 7 simply said “Troubleshooting couldn’t identify the problem” — despite that bright yellow exclamation mark. Even Vista had the manners to suggest resetting the wireless card or getting a new IP address might help, even if it rarely did.

One swallow does not a summer make, and I realise plenty of people have managed to get Windows 7 to connect to wireless and wired networks without a moment’s pause. But the fact that the RC — which is meant to be much closer to shipping code — has lost the plot so badly in my case with a fresh install suggests to me that the honeymoon might not even last until the October release date. Frankly, the idea that you should never use the .0 release of a product sounds more appealing than ever right now.


  • I am starting to get some problems on my Windows 7 RC Dell 1525, but it is still far better than Vista. I had a lot of problems with the Intel Graphics 945 chipset with Vista. Windows 7 RC is starting to load slow like Vista but it still hasnt crashed yet. Overall it is far better and I think it should be SP2 of Vista.

  • It’s pity that minor glitches like this bring down a name of an operating system. when I installed the windows 7 rc I didn’t have to install any drivers to get my wireless network working which is a first for me. The Stupid thing is it sounds like its not windows 7’s fault it sounds like the fault of the driver manufactures(but I suppose Microsoft deemed them good enough to be included in the os). If you really want everything to work out of the box get an apple. Microsot can’t be held responsible for every driver manufacturer.

    • I don’t think networking not working at all is a “minor glitch” — and as it worked in the beta, I’d be surprised if it was a driver issue. (The RC should have more drivers natively in it than the beta if anything.)

  • I’ve actually got to say, Windows 7 RC has run smooth as butter sliding off a hot biscuit.

    Every bit of hardware picked up instantly and networking has been instant and troublefree – it even seems to transfer data faster than XP.

  • Firstly, its unclear to me how this fits being a Lifehacker post. Its not helpful to anyone, offers no solution or even a course to a solution.
    Secondly, who knows what your problem is? you’ve posted a bare minimum on your rigs set-up so no-one reading this can actually suggest much to help (look above – no-one has!).
    Thirdly – your’e right – one swallow does not a summer make – and this is a pretty lonely swallow indeed. The positive reviews and posts by experts and users pretty well everywhere do not come from nowhere. There isn’t software on the planet which never fails, maybe this was just bad luck.
    Suggestions: Try the SevenForums
    Try the latest build: Windows 7 Build 7229, RC keys work fine with the build
    Good luck

  • An issue that Ubuntu would laugh about. Wireless networking in Jaunty is so seemless my grandma could probably figure it out. And she’s 95 this year.

  • Installed Windows 7 RC on a Dell Mini 9 and everything ran beautifully out of the box! No networking problems at all. A bit slow on the Mini but runs well compared to Vista in its early days. Vista was a “shocker” on my home network at first, but Windows 7 has been as smooth as silk!

  • I’m quite surprised. As I sit here on my T61 with Vista, I can say there were only three things that didn’t work out of the box for me:
    1. the Mute key. That’s actually worked itself out though.
    2. The fingerprint reader. I had to download the Lenovo driver, and then cheerfully ignore the Lenovo software. Win7 works fine without it.
    3. The display. This was a bit of a mess, but only because I made a big mistake. I installed the Nvidia driver before installing the INF for the LCD, leading to Windows booting up to a black screen because of an unsupported display geometry. Once I worked out what happened it was trivial to fix.

    All in all, I have not complaints about Win7 on the T61 (nor on the T60 to my right).

  • Im running W7 on the (quad-core, 4GB, 8800GT) desktop at home and here on the laptop (Dell XPS Studio 16, 8GB, SSD, RGBLED screen) and it’s terrific on both. Networking is seamless, and it’s a huge amount easier to hookup to the iPhone for use as a modem than my 5-month-old MBP was, weird as that sounds.

  • I loaded Win7 on my Dell Latitude and it ran for a few minutes and then froze up. repeats this after every forced hard restart. It’s crap, yeah, it might be the hardware, but i’m no longer interested.

    7? no thanks. back to xp, i went.

  • As Microsoft becomes more and more desperate, it is making more and more mistakes.

    I read an article describing how the Microsoft developers are under enormous pressure to deliver.

    Not a good environment in which to write quality code.

    Meanwhile the quality of Linux on the desktop continues to improve by the day.

  • Windows 7 RC is working great for me! Shame about your networking, have you checked out the online forums to see if anyone is experiencing similar issues?

  • Yeah sure, OSX simply works – except when it doesn’t.

    I own a Mac, and enjoy using it – but when I first got it, it would freeze up due to graphics card issues. No-one at apple could/did help me – I just had to wait over 6 months for a graphics card update.

    Not a good first impression, House Of Jobs.

  • I have Dell 1525. I upgraded to Win7 beta from Vista HP — all good. Since it’s about to expire in 4 days, I planned to install the RC but having some serious issues. For some reason, it will not see the CD/DVD driver to get to the license screen. I’ve tried reinstalling the driver – nada…”no driver available..” As I write this, I decided to rollback to Vista (ugh) then try to install the RC. What do you think?

    btw…since it’s still only in the expanding files phase, I’m sure I’ll hear something b4 it finishes…thx

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