Windows 7 – finally out (and not much different from expected)

By | November 1, 2009
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In Computers One Step at a Time this time:


  • Windows 7 – finally out (and not much different from expected)
  • Microsoft’s free anti-virus program – is it any good?
  • Making Christmas cards on your PC
  • Word to the wise: old buffers… I mean buffering



It’s been a busy week here at The Helpful Book Company. As soon as Windows 7 was officially released I dashed out and got a new PC with it on – just so I can make sure we’re up to date with how it works. I had a “pre-release” version before but there’s no guarantee that the real thing will be the same. But that’s not all – I’ve also been testing Microsoft’s new anti-virus program, checking whether it’s any good. And one question I had from an Inner Circle member was about buffering – and I thought it might be worth explaining it for everyone.

So I’d best dive in…

Windows 7 – it’s finally here
You’ve probably heard about the new version of Windows – not least because I mentioned it last time.

Well, it’s finally out now. Apart from anything else that should mean that after a week or so it stops being in the news!

When I wrote about it before I mentioned that I’d tried a “pre-release” version and that the final version, when it came out, might be a little different. Well, the good news is they don’t seem to have made any big changes at the last minute – phew!

It doesn’t have Windows Mail built in, and it’s missing a few other bits and pieces (video editing, photo browsing…) but you can download these extras from Microsoft for nothing. And there’s a program called Windows Live Essentials to make it easy (well, easier…) to do.

Despite the fuss the EU commission made, Microsoft have included Internet Explorer. And they haven’t set it up so you have to choose which browser (Internet Explorer, Chrome, Firefox etc) you want to use… not yet anyway. When you get Windows 7 it has Internet Explorer there all ready to use. Rumours are that in a month or so an automatic update will ask you which browser you want to use and give you the choice – stick with what you’re using or switch to one of the others. That might even happen if you’re using Windows Vista or XP – it all depends on what gets hammered out between Microsoft and the EU.

One useful tip in Windows 7 is a new way of starting programs. For example if you have a shortcut for Wordpad but you can’t remember where. You can press the Windows key, start typing wor… and it’ll find all the programs starting with that and show you a list – then you can click on the one you want and it’ll start. So you don’t need to remember where the shortcut is. In fact this works in Vista as well but they’ve improved it in Windows 7 so it works better.

Windows XP first came out in 2001 but it’s still the most popular version of Windows. Two thirds of people use it vs only about a third for Windows Vista. But I think Windows 7 will catch on much better than Vista did.
If you’re in the market for a new PC, I’d definitely recommend getting Windows 7 rather than Vista. But if you have Vista or XP and are happy with it, don’t feel you have to upgrade. Microsoft will be carrying on with security updates for Windows XP until 2014 so as long as it does what you want, stick with it!

Microsoft Security Essentials
This is a program Microsoft brought out recently. It includes an anti-virus and anti-spyware program.
I’ve been giving it a test to see if it’s any good and I have to say I’m quite impress. I’d been using the free AVG anti-virus program at home and the Microsoft one works if anything a bit better. It’s slightly quicker on my PC and a tiny bit easier to use.
As with AVG you can only use it for free if you are using it for home use – not as a business. But Microsoft allow you to use it in a home office, which isn’t really allowed by AVG.
All in all, it’s a good option. If you’ve already got AVG installed and know how to use it I wouldn’t bother switching but if you need a security program (or you currently have a paid for one and want to save a few pounds) I’d recommend the Microsoft one. You can download it at

Making Christmas Cards
Every year about this time I get some questions about making Christmas cards on your PC. You can do it using a simple word processor but the best way is to use a DTP (Desktop Publishing) program – Microsoft Publisher if you have it (though it’s expensive) or Serif PagePlus. Either way, you can read more about DTP here:

Word to the wise – Buffering
When you try to watch a video on the internet (or listen to some music) you might see the message “buffering” – often with a percentage. What it means is that it’s building up a “buffer” of a minute or so’s worth of the video on your PC, so it doesn’t have to download it one frame at a time to be displayed. That way if it suddenly slows down a bit, it can carry on playing the video from the buffer.
If it’s struggling to keep up while you watch it might use all the buffer and you’ll get another message saying it’s buffering. Once it’s playing again, pressing pause and giving it a few minutes to get even further ahead often sorts this out.

Lots of information again this time. Hope you find it interesting and I’ll write again ina couple of weeks!


Tim Wakeling

All the above © Tim Wakeling 2009

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