Guys and gals, I’ve written an article on my experience. Hope you’ll like it.
I've been playing with the brand new Windows 7 beta (build 7000) since it's been made public. I've installed it on my three notebooks:
IBM Thinkpad a31p (2 GHz P4-M, 2100b, 1GB RAM, 120 GB 5400 rpm HDD, UXGA with FireGL 64M VGA)
IBM Thinkpad t42p (2 GHz Dothan, 2200gb, 2GB RAM, 250 GB 5400 rpm HDD, UXGA with FireGL2 128M VGA)
HP TC1100 Tablet (1 GHz ULV Banias, 2200gb, 1.5GB RAM, 160 GB 5400 rpm HDD, XGA with Geforce 4 Go 32M VGA)
(My three notebooks running Windows 7; click the picture for the larger version)
So far, I'm absolutely happy with it and have completely switched to it on both the t42p and the TC1100. (On the latter, I don't really watch videos so the sub-par video performance isn't an issue with me.) It's, speed- and compatibility-wise, way superior to Vista, even as of SP1. While the speed of Vista was more like of a snail on both my a31p and TC1100 and was incomparably slower than XP SP3 running on the same hardware, Windows 7 (W7 for short) is at least equally fast than XP – or, I should say, even faster. On my a31p (which I mostly use for watching DVD's and as a back-up notebook), I think I'll stay with XP before I manage to "hack" a video accelerated driver to the system.
Of course, Windows 7 has all the goodies of Vista. This will definitely be appreciated by the Tablet PC (PC's that can also use pens as input devices, just like Pocket PCs) folks: it's Tablet PC's that have gained the most by the version switch. Vista, as with W7, has much better tablet PC support: trainable (!!!) handwriting recognition, much better multiple list selection capabilities; visual feedback of the activated "right" mouseclick etc. (See THIS
for more info.) However, there are a lot of goodies for non-tablet users as well; for example, running the system on a non-native resolution looks far better on LCD's because of the new and better smoothing algorithms. This is a definite plus if you plan to use your operating system on a monitor that has higher native resolution than the currently used one.
Also, using larger (125/150% pre-set; of course, this can also be fine-tuned) characters are, generally, better handled than under XP. This is of extreme importance if you have an extra high resolution, but, comparatively, small (15 or 15.4") screen (UXGA (1600*1200), WUXGA (1920*1200) or even QXGA (2048×1536)) like on high-end IBM / Lenovo Thinkpads. Of course, you will run into problems of hidden buttons or clipped titles, even with Microsoft's own (!) programs, if you raise the magnification, but, in general, I've still found Vista / W7's approach better than that of XP. Some examples of it not working:
Two shots of Microsoft's own Windows Mobile Device Center misbehaving when using 150% magnification are shown in the following two shots:
(Click the images for the original-sized versions. Note that many other images in this article are also linked via a resized, "small" thumbnail. You can easily spot them by not only the changed mouse cursor [hand instead of the pointer], but also the lowish JPG quality of the thumbnails - while native screenshots are all high-quality PNG files.) Clipped titles, misplaced labels and, what is worse, completely hidden buttons. Adding even more insult to injury, you can't even resize the window and, therefore, in no way can make the hidden buttons visible in the second GUI. Hope this will be fixed.)
Total Commander's plug-in window – several buttons [on the right] are missing. It should look like the following:
(a shot without any default zoom)1.1 Drivers; common problems
As a rule of thumb, W7 has a far wider choice of both built-in (offline, coming on the DVD and, therefore, installed at install time) and online (accessible via automatic (!) driver search) drivers than Vista. Just an example: while I was in no way able to make the Wi-Fi card work in either my a31p or TC1100, it worked (almost) out of the box under Windows 7.
You can even use most of your XP drivers, keeping in mind you always run them in XP SP2 compatibility mode and as an administrator. I've encountered far fewer driver problems under W7 than under Vista.1.1.1 The video acceleration problem
Currently, the biggest W7 problem you may also face is that of the video acceleration. On many notebooks (more precisely, built-in video hardware), trying to make use of the video acceleration features results in an immediate Blue Screen Of Death (BSOD) crash or just a system hang. This not only happens when you try to run 3D games, but also when playing back videos in most video players, even including the built-in Windows Media Player – they also use acceleration features of the video card.
If you do encounter these kinds of problems, you'll want to go to Display / Change Display Settings / Advanced Settings / Troubleshoot / Change Settings and, there, just set the slider to the second position:
Note that this will severely degrade not only gaming, but also 2D and video rendering speed. This also means you won't be able to enjoy the really cool visual effects of W7 – which are automatically enabled when W7 notices it runs on a sufficiently quick and capable machine. To do this (and to get a performance estimation), go to Control Panel / Performance Information and Tools (it's under System and Security / System / Check your computer's Windows Experience Index base score if you don't use the "All Control Panel Items" feature of Control Panel) and run the test. For example, on my t42p, I got (for a 2004 model) pretty nice results; this is why animation was enabled after finishing the test:
On a device with a non-acceleration-capable card (in this case, my TC1100), you'll always get 1.0 for the 3D acceleration index:
Theoretically, it could be possible to "hack" the so-called "reference" drivers of both ATI and Nvidia (the two major players on the accelerated video hardware field) with "Mobility Modder". You might want to check out THIS
for ATI [like the FireGL GPU's in the p-series Thinkpads] and THIS
for Nvidia [like the GPU in the TC1100] hacks. Nevertheless, neither of them worked on my ATI-based a31p or Nvidia-based TC1100; see my a machine-specific reports in Chapter 2 for more info. You, however, may have better luck.1.2 Generic software compatibility issues
In general, most of the (legacy) software titles I've thrown at W7 worked. Some of the most notable exceptions are as follows:1.2.1 Virtual CD/DVD software
Most of the virtual CD/DVD mounter software titles (which are realy useful, should you want to for example install an application in a disk image – for example, .ISO – file without burning it on a real CD / DVD) refuse to work. For example, both Alcohol 52% Free Edition 220.127.116.1117 FE (also admitted by the Alcohol folks themselves
) and DAEMON Tools Lite v4.30.3 32/64 Bits (with SPTD 1.56) have major issues. In my tests, however, PowerISO 4.3 turned out to be working just fine. Too bad it has no free versions to just mount a disk image, unlike Alcohol's 52%...
Some folks at the thinkpads.com forums also stated
VirtualCD v9 is compatible with W7; I haven't tested this myself.1.2.2 WinPcap
(The Windows Packet Capture Library) doesn't work either, not even the latest 4.1 Beta 5. This means software titles depending on this driver won't really work either. The most prominent example of them is WMRecorder
, the, in my very thorough streaming media saving tests, best title of all (version 12.3 was really able to capture everything I've thrown it at) – you won't be able to use it in ADA mode, only in PRO, which is far from being the best.
That is, for the time being, you'll need to switch back to XP (or Vista) to back up your multimedia strems.1.3 Installation on top of older (Windows) operating systems1.3.1 Activation, serial numbers
Currently, it seems, every beta tester is eligible to get five different serial numbers for testing. Should you need all of them (if you for example are afraid of running out of the 2.5 million requests before realizing you need to install W7 on another PC), just make sure you refresh (F5) the W7 beta download page where the first serial number is displayed.1.3.2 Multiboot
If you install W7 on another partition (or hard disk), the old operating system will still be accessible and listed in the new boot loader W7 installs.
A notable exception is Linux, including "hacked" OS X versions (see THIS
for more info on setting up the latter on ordinary WinTel PC's). If you install W7 on a PC with, for example, the OS X boot loader being the active, it will no longer be visible.
Fortunately, there is a very easy way of fixing this: the free EasyBCD
. Just make sure you follow THIS
guide. A screenshot showing it configured to access my OS X setup:1.4 Security and its implications; loosening security restrictions1.4.1 File system
If you're a newcomer to Vista / W7, you'll notice it uses an entirely new file system security approach.
In XP, it's just the subfolders of Documents and Settings that were protected (by default) so that other users couldn't just step into them to examine the contents of other users. In Vista / W7, this has been taken further – now, among other things, c:\Program Files is entirely write protected.
There are some implications of this. For example, if you run some "hacker" tools (like Driver Heaven
's "Mobility Modder" hack) needing to have full write access to the given (sub)directory so that they can patch / copy files, they'll fail. Also, if you need direct write access to a subdirectory of c:\Program Files, you may run into problems.
An example of this is running Apache Tomcat (or any other Web server) from inside c:\Program Files. If you develop Web pages (JSP's etc.) in its webapps/ROOT directory, you will run into problems when you try to edit the individual files. Sure, if you use the plain Notepad to do this, all you'll need to do is either creating it or saving under a different name so that, later, you can re-edit it. Third-party tools like JCreator (even as of the latest, 4.5 version), however, may run into severe problems doing the same. In my practice, they reported my files having been saved; however, they were nowhere to be seen. That is, JCreator was simply unusuable to edit my Java files under c:\Program Files.
Fortunately, it's pretty easy to fix problems like this. Right-click the directory where you keep your files (for example, ROOT under webapps), select Properties and, then, the Security tab:
There, select "Users
" in the upper "Group or user names
" list as is depicted in the above screenshot. Now, click Edit under the "Group or user names
" list and, again, select "Users
Finally, tick in the "Allow
" checkbox in the "Full control
" row (it's selected in the next screenshot):
Now, click Apply and two times OK.
Note that you'll only want to do this when you're absolutely sure you must write into a given directory a lot of times. Otherwise, being read-only is part of the tighter security model. That is, always make sure you only allow free writing to a the bottom-most directory, not a more generic one closer to the root directory.1.4.2 User Account Control (UCA)
You may also want to hide the User Account Control
prompts, which can be quite a nuisance, particularly if you install a lot of software. For this, you'll need the free TweakUAC
tool. Please consult the online documentation for more info.1.5 Mobility: iPhone, Windows Mobile, Symbian, BlackBerry
Now, let's have a look at how W7 supports the (outside the U.S. – sorry, I still don't have a real, genuine Android machine – I don't want to use Android hacks on WinMo ones – so I can't comment on Android yet) four major mobile operating systems. 1.5.1 Apple iPhone
I haven't really run into problems accessing or synchronizing my iPhone (firmware version 2.2, yellowsn0w
-unlocked and jailbroken) under W7. Even T-PoT
worked (please see THIS
for more info), which is great news for all iPhone freaks wanting to access the file system right from Total Commander on the desktop, without having to run an SSH server on the phone (and having to stick to an SSH / SFTP client under Windows.)1.5.2 Windows Mobile
Accessing (and synchronizing) Windows Mobile (WinMo for short), on the other hand, have turned out to be a little more cumbersome. It hasn't always managed to recognize my WM5+ Windows Mobile models easily. In some, I had to switch to the other USB connection approach.
The following screenshot shows what happened when I tried to make it recognize my HP iPAQ 210, HTC Universal and HTC Wizard, in this order. For example, as can clearly be seen, I could only connect my iPAQ 210 in non-RNDIS (that is, the "traditional" serial) mode. You may also run into the same problem; just remember to set the USB connection type to the other mode.
Fortunately, the WinCE file system plug-in worked flawlessly. (Note: you must install it after you've successfully made W7 recognize at least one of your WinMo phones. This will make sure WDMC is installed and the DLL used by the plug-in is made available. Otherwise, you'll get an install-time error telling you a DLL is missing.) That is, you'll have easy access to the full file system of your phone (or PDA) if you plan to stick with Total Commander – just as with the iPhone plug-in.1.5.3 Nokia Symbian S60
Nokia's Ovi Suite 1.1 (current version as of 01/15/2009): seems to only partially work:
File explorer: works OK
Nokia Map Loader (updated itself to 2.0.2): has continuously kept displaying "Waiting for device" in both PC Suite and Data Transfer modes when started from outside Ovi Suite already having recognized my phone. Started from inside the latter, the same happened.
Content copier: seems to work OK
Nokia Software Updater: isn't compatible:
Nokia Application Installer: a no-go either, it isn't able to read the installed apps:
Note that there is another report on Ovi Suite HERE
. He seems to only use it for PIM synching, which also worked on my configuration. However, he doesn't mention whether he had any success with running the failing submodules I've listed above.
Also note that there's a report on installing the standard PC Suite HERE
. You might want to prefer it to the Ovi Suite for the time being.
Note that S60 phones are perfectly accessible in mass storage mode.18.104.22.168 BT dial-up via the N95
BT dial-up networking (via my N95) worked flawlessly on all my three notebooks. Note that even if you install Nokia's suite, it'll list your device as an unknown one:
Nevertheless, BT DUN will still work OK.1.5.4 BlackBerryRIM
's official desktop synchronization tool, Desktop Manager
4.7.0 B50 US English - Without Media Manager
, works just great, I've experienced no problems at all so far. (Tested backing up, application deployment etc.)
I had no problems with recognizing the phone after installing Desktop Manager either (unlike with Windows Mobile in certain USB configurations):1.6 Battery runtime
I've very thoroughly tested (running multi-hour tests in a controlled environment: 0% CPU usage, lowest backlight level) the impact on the battery life of switching from XP to W7 on both my Thinkpad t42p and HP TC1100. The results are stellar: W7 in no way consumes more battery than XP under exactly the same circumstances (again, assuming 0% CPU load – active usage of Aero and, consequently, the graphic processor, may have had an adverse effect on battery life). The battery meter and the "remaining time" are pretty dependable. The real runtime I've measured on the TC1100 was somewhat (about 9%) lower than predicted with hight charge levels; however, this may have been a result of using a third-party, comparatively cheap battery (with the wear level of about 15%) in the TC1100, while I run a brand new (wear level 0%), factory battery in my t42p.
Note that if you have a notebook with a touchpad, it's possible you'll see two EXE files starting by SynTP (one of them is SynTPenh.exe) in the process list of Windows, consuming 1-2% CPU time (measured at 600 MHz) all the time. You can safely kill these processes; unlike what's stated HERE
, the touchpad (and the pointing stick / USB mice) will still work.
That is, while some people state Vista has worse battery consumption than XP (see for example Finnish Tietokone's 1/2009 article in the printed mag), this certainly doesn't seem to be the case. (Also note that other people state the opposite – see THIS
.) I also recommend THIS
article on the additional power usage of Aero and THIS
on Microsoft's promising 11-15% better battery life under W7 than under XP.2. A thorough report on installing W7 on my notebooks
In the following sections, I explain how I installed W7 on my notebooks, what my experience is and what you should pay attention to. Note that while I "only" discuss three models, most of the stuff I state can be generalized. For example, you'll need to use exactly the same apps and drivers (Hotkey fix etc.) on most other Thinkpads and the same Wacom driver on your Tablet PC if it has Wacom hardware but the factory driver doesn't support pressure sensitivity (as is the case with the TC1100).2.1 HP TC1100 Tablet PC
This was a pretty hard nut to crack. First, the VGA support. By default, a generic VGA driver is installed, which doesn't even support screen rotation (orientation change). That is, the first thing you do should be installing the video driver (THIS
file [linked from HERE
]) and disabling D3D to avoid crashes.
After connecting to the Net and right-clicking all the unknwon devices and letting them to automatically update, the only "Unknown device" remains will be the buttons – everything else will be found online after install. This means you'll only need to install the video driver (again, don't forget to disable acceleration to at least D3D levels!), Q Menu (THIS
file) and the button drivers (THIS
file) of the official HP drivers – nothing else. And, of course, the Wacom driver from the Wacom folks (and NOT the HP ones – the one automatically installed), should you need pressure sensitivity.
You might also want to check out THIS
for an excellent writeup on the TC1100. BTW, speaking of the same thread, you might also want to have a look at THIS
Some additional remarks:2.1.1 SD card support
In a nuthsell, it doesn't work – at least for the time being.22.214.171.124 Auto-installed driver
If you let it auto-install the driver when you insert a <= (smaller or equal than) 1 GB card, it'll only work until you reboot your machine. After you do reboot the TC1100, it won't work even with <=1 GB cards – inserting them will result in an immediate crash. The same will happen if you insert >1GB card in the slot even before the first reboot – they'll freeze the TC1100 for the time the cards are in (but not later – unlike after reboots).
I've played quite a bit with trying to find and remove the driver, TI UltraMedia_sd, from the system – in vain. There's no such driver in Device Manager; removing the similar-named System Devices / TI UltraMedia Firmware Loader Device didn't help; neither did PCMCIA Adapters/Texas Instruments PCI-1620…. I've even run some very thorough searches in the file system under \Windows to find the driver that is installed and needs to be removed so that the subsequent card insertion can trigger the automatic reinstall (and working of the card until the next reboot) but in vain. I've even run searches for .inf files with ‘UltraMedia' – no success. All I've found was references to the above-mentioned System Devices / TI UltraMedia Firmware Loader Device. Removing the instance that could be removed (that is, not the one in the driver repository) didn't help.126.96.36.199 The XP SD driver
The XP SD driver (sp29116.exe
) doesn't help – the card remains invisible if you install it, unlike with the driver that is auto-installed first time you insert a compatible card.2.1.2 Wacom pressure sensitivity support
As with XP, the factory driver available at the official HP download page doesn't support pressure sensitivity. You must download the XP driver from HERE
(if the link doesn't work, go HERE
and select Tablet PC from the left and Windows XP from the right list). (I've used XP SP2 compatibility mode and installed it as an administrator.) It's the driver that is automatically installed when you right-click the unknown devices in the device manager after installing W7 and force a driver update.
I've tested it work with Corel Painter X, in Edit / Preferences / Bush Tracking. With a non- pressure sensitive (HP) driver, the lowermost two sliders will remain the same, no matter how much hard you press the pen on the screen on the scrap field; with the Wacom driver, they'll move just like the uppermost sliders. (Photoshop users should take a look at THIS
, should they not know how pressure sensitivity can be utilized. A not that interesting video is HERE
)2.1.3 I've tried to hack the following video drivers…
I present you a detailed explanation of what video drivers I've tried to hack to gain both orientation change support (which, again, is supported by the stock HP driver when manually installed) and full video acceleration. So far, I had absolutely no success. Hope the TC1100 folks I've posted my premilinary results to (see THIS
threads) will have more success than me.188.8.131.52 The laptopvideo2go driver hack
I've thoroughly tested the laptopvideo2go driver hack mentioned at http://www.tabletpcbuzz.com/showthread.php?t=36154&page=2
and explained at http://www.laptopvideo2go.com/forum/index.php?showtopic=9547
. I've downloaded 84.43 from http://www.driverheavendownloads.net/download.php?site=2&file=84.xx/84.43_forceware_winxp2k_english.zip
( linked from http://www.driverheavendownloads.net/nvidia.htm
) and let it decompress itself to under c:\NVIDIA (of course, it couldn't install as it's incompatible with the system). I've replaced the INF file (after changing the two (!) occurrences of Rotateflag in the file from 4 to 0x40) and, after renaming, I've copied the DLL file to the same directory. After this, I've run setup.exe in the same c:\NVIDIA\some subdirectory as an administrator.
It didn't really work – I couldn't find any difference from the stock HP driver (also installed as Administrator, in XP SP2 compatibility mode). While it does support rotation (unlike the standard, stock driver installed by Win7 by default), it also crashes on D3D / movie playback with a nv4_mini.sys BSOD (page fault in nonpaged area).184.108.40.206 Mobility Modder hack attempts
Also tested with the latest Vista driver (178.24_geforce_winvista_32bit_english_whql.zip
) with the driverheaven.net "Mobility Modder" hack
. A no go - not even orientation changing is supported.
I've done the same to ForceWare 93.71 WHQL
as it's the last driver to support the GeForce 4 MX series, according to the page HERE
) – a no-go either.
Note that I haven't tested GeForce Release 179 for Notebooks (see THIS
). Dunno if they would work.2.1.4 Sleep problems
W7 seems to have major sleep problems (note that hibernation is working just great). In many cases, when you resume the notebook from sleeping, it just won't display anything and you'll end up having to restart the entire device by long-holding the Power slider.
That is, don't use Sleep mode for the time being. Also make sure you disable automatic sleep timeouts. Always use hibernation instead.2.2 IBM ThinkPad t42p
Unlike with the TC1100, I had absolutely no problems with the t42p (and don't have since then, except for some file integration problems. I will keep my eyes open to
The Windows Experience Index (WEI) isn't at all bad, given that it's a 2004 model:
Everything is working (including the volume / ThinkLight / backlight buttons and hibernation / sleeping), except for the additional, IBM-specific functionality like Fn +Space (to quickly switch between the UXGA (1600*1200) and SVGA (800*600) resolution) or Fn + F3 (to dim the screen). There're no on-screen controls for the volume / backlight buttons either.
(Note that the situation is exactly the same on the a31p.)2.2.1 Emulating the Windows key
As you probably know, Windows 7 uses a lot of keyboard shortcuts to access some advanced functionality. With Windows Aero
, one of them is Flip 3D
, requiring you to use Win+Tab
To map an existing button to the Windows button, use THIS
utility. It worked flawlessly on my t42p (as usual, installed in XP SP2 compatibility mode and as an administrator). After installing and restarting your PC, go to All Programs / ThinkVantage / Keyboard Customizer Utility, check the Enable key assignments checkbox and select a button to map to the Windows key (uppermost drop-down list):
After this, among other things, Flip 3D will work just fine:
(click the image for a full-sized version)
(Incidentally, if you have a PC with a comparatively good video card but Aero still isn't enabled, you can give a try to the Aero-enabling hack described in the article Hack to Force Enable Aero in Windows 7
)2.2.2 Other stuff to install
You'll want to install the two files (Hotkey Driver
and System Interface Driver
) also linked from the first post HERE
. Note that, as has also been explained in the post, you'll need to execute c:\DRIVERS\WIN\HOTKEY\SETUP.exe
– that is, simply downloading and executing the two installers won't suffice as all they do is decompressing their content. After this, not only the standard (sleep / hibernation / backlight / volume / Fn + F7 [switching between internal and external monitors]) hotkeys will work (or, on the A3x-series like the a31p, the app buttons on the left), but also for example zooming (Fn – Space; it's also used as sending the current window to the other desktop.) Also note that, during install, Hotkey Driver may display an error message. (This happened on my t42p but, interestingly, it didn't do the same on my a31p.
Incidentally, external monitors will work just fine. I've tested this with an external Viewsonic monitor with the native resolution of 1680*1050 (WSXGA+). When duplicating the built-in display's content, UXGA was used on both (the built-in and external) monitors (meaning a bit suboptimal, but still pretty good rendition on the external one); when extending the desktop, both LCD's were driven at their native resolution (UXGA for the built-in and WSXGA+ for the external one):
You'll also want to download and install ThinkVantage Active Protection
so that your hard disk will be protected
Also, you may also want to install ThinkVantage System Update
. It will install the following recommended updates:
Note that it doesn't install for example the Hotkey Driver needed for additional hotkeys. The most interesting app it installed was Lenovo Services' Lenovo System Toolbox (also available as a separate download HERE
; see for example THIS
for more info), which is pretty nice:
Note that it can also be installed on the a31p; a screenshot showing it running on mine:
Finally, if you have an IBM Thinkpad notebook, don't forget there's a dedicated forum to them at Thinkpads.com
- make sure you check it out!2.3 IBM Thinkpad a31p
I've also installed W7 on my aging, but, because of the UXGA IPS screen, still pretty cool a31p. It works OK, except for the lack of D3D.
I've tried to hack the driver with Mobility Modder (see my dedicated thread HERE
); so far, without any success.
For some reason, it's not possible to run WEI on the a31p, unlike on my TC1100 or t42p. At the end, it always reports an error (note that D3D is disabled):
Note that, while the Hotkey driver
(one of the two apps needed to be able to see the on-screen feedback of the volume / backlight etc. messages; the other is the System Interface Driver
) isn't stated to be compatible with the a31p, it's working just great on the a31p.
Also note that you won't want to install ThinkVantage System Update
as, unlike with newer models, it won't offer to install anything. 3. Verdict - is it worth giving it a try?
Definitely. If you wanted the niceties of Vista, particularly if you're a Tablet PC user, but without the snail-alike speed and major compatibility problems, installing Windows 7 is a must. You won't be disappointed, particularly not if you don't have any kind of driver compatibility issues (most importantly, graphics acceleration problems.) Believe me: Windows 7 is orders of magnitude cleaner, better and faster than Vista.