The State of Windows 7 Satisfaction

Early adopters tell us they're mostly happy--Vista users even more so than XP ones.

By  |  Monday, November 30, 2009 at 12:41 am

Windows 7 is scarcely more than a month old. Most of the people who will eventually use it haven’t gotten around to trying it yet; those that have are still settling in. And the Win 7 experience will change rapidly as remaining bugs are squashed, missing drivers arrive, and compatibility glitches are ironed out. Even so, it’s not too early to start gauging what real people think of Windows Vista’s replacement.

So to riff on Ronald Reagan’s famous question from his 1980 debate with Jimmy Carter, Are Windows users better off today than they were a few weeks ago, back in the Vista era? We decided to ask the Technologizer community, a group of tech enthusiasts with a high propensity to acquire new operating systems quickly and push them to their limits. Starting on November 16th, we surveyed our readers (and Twitter followers) about their experiences with Windows 7. Our goal: to do a reality check on the mostly favorable initial reviews of the new OS (as well as our own survey of largely enthusiastic Windows 7 beta testers back in March).

The 550+ Windows 7 early adopters who took our survey mostly echo the positive response that the upgrade has received from professional reviewers, pundits, and users of pre-release editions. A sizable majority say they’re extremely satisfied with the OS and rate it as a clear improvement on both the beloved Windows XP and the widely-panned Windows Vista. Crippling installation problems–the bane of every upgrader’s existence, and always a legitimate reason to postpone switching OSes–were rare.

Our full report follows. But first, some quick facts on the folks who took our survey:

  • Prior to using Windows 7, forty-six percent of respondents ran Windows Vista, and thirty-two percent ran Windows XP. Seventeen percent ran Vista and XP about equally, five percent ran an OS other than Windows, and a whopping 0.7 percent used a version of Windows other than Vista or XP.
  • Seventy-three percent upgraded an existing PC to the final version of Windows 7, and eight percent are running it on a PC that came with the OS pre-installed. Fourteen percent are still using a pre-release version, and six percent are running it on a Mac via Boot Camp or a virtualization program.
  • Sixty-four percent of respondents rate themselves as expert Windows users; thirty-five percent say they’re intermediate ones. Less than one percent call themselves beginners.
  • Sixty-one percent are using Windows 7 entirely or mostly for home/personal use. Twenty-five percent are using it about equally for home/personal and business use. Just fourteen percent are using it entirely or mostly for business use.
  • Sixty-one percent are using a 64-bit edition of Windows 7, and thirty-one percent are running a 32-bit version.
  • Eighty-two percent did a “clean”  install of the OS from scratch; nineteen percent installed it over Windows Vista.
  • Fifty-nine percent say they’ve used Windows 7 extensively, and thirty-six percent say they’ve done so a fair amount. Five percent say they’ve just used it a little so far.

It’s important to note that our goal wasn’t to survey a representative, projectable, normalized sampling of all Windows 7 users. The responses that follow are from members of the Technologizer community who chose to take our survey. Their opinions are their own–but we think they make for interesting reading even if they’re not the last word on how average users will react to Windows 7.

Getting Up and Running

As with all things, first impressions count with operating systems. And if you’ve bought an OS as an upgrade, the first impressions it makes come in the form of the installation process.

As I’ve written before, there’s no such thing as an operating system upgrade that doesn’t cause headaches for some percentage of the people who install it. In the case of our survey takers who installed Windows 7, however, the number who encountered major hassles was very small–presumably in part because Windows 7 is so similar to Vista under the surface. The fact that the vast majority of respondents performed clean installations rather than installing on top of Vista surely helped, too.

Eighty-four percent say the process went off without meaningful hiccups; thirteen percent say it went fairly well. A total of three percent reported major problems, two-thirds of which were resolvable. Pretty impressive–when PC World surveyed Windows XP users shortly after that OS shipped, half reported installation difficulties.

The fact that respondents’ upgrades tended to go smoothly doesn’t mean that they didn’t encounter any issues with their new operating system. Two problem areas stand out: More than forty percent had to try and resolve driver issues, and more than a third needed to deal with software incompatibilities. Other problems, however, were reported by a much smaller percentage of respondents. For instance, eleven percent reported crashes or blue screens of death. And only six percent said that Windows 7’s performance was poor, which is a relief given that the original version Windows Vista quickly developed a reputation as a poky resource hog.

Are the percentages of users who reported problems impressively low, or unsettlingly high? That’s subject to debate. But here’s something that isn’t: Both Windows XP and Windows Vista also suffer to some degree from all the gotchas that respondents said they encountered in Windows 7.

(In this infographic and those that follow, the scale of 0% to 100% represents the percentage of survey respondents who answered a particular question as indicated by the bars.)

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41 Comments For This Post

  1. true Says:

    I’m getting ready to take the W7 plunge in three weeks. I was one that upgraded to XP from Vista. I found this article a surprisingly rare occurrence. Now days authors and the news media spit stats with out documenting the facts of how many people, and all the circumstances involved. The article was precise, revealing, unjaundiced.
    Very refreshing and informative. Thanks.

  2. Tech Says:

    Installation went smoothly for me and it’s a pleasure to use.

  3. drew Says:

    I have been using if for a few weeks now, and I, like Tech, find it a pleasure to use. It is what Vista should have been.

  4. Rob Says:

    Upgraded from XP, Win7 runs smoothly.

    Losing all apps would be a critical problem, but used Zinstall to fix it.

    Harry, I think you should address this issue somehow – people are losing their stuff when upgrading from XP to 7, they need to know how to fix it (and in a better way than Easy Transfer)

  5. Shaida Says:

    Its beautiful to use , but not compatible with other software , no upgrades available for Nero start and vodafone connect………very frustating

  6. Bouke Timbermont Says:

    I am still a very satisfied 7-user. Thing even became better!

    Previously I mentioned device stage stopped working for me when I switched from the RC to the retail version, but now it’s up and running again!

    Its only useful for my camera and my mouse really(so in essence I only use device stage when importing pictures cause how often does one configure his mouse? ;)), but hey, at least I don’t get the generic icons anymore! It actually shows the actual picture of my devices :)

    Device icons: http://i49.tinypic.com/dngd1c.jpg
    Device Stage for my mouse: http://i46.tinypic.com/20prd53.jpg

  7. Mark Says:

    I really enjoy Win 7 Ultimate so far, I am a long time Apple/Mac user (since 84) and due to some unfortunate circumstance I ended up being a PC user and really, I am quite happy. I didn’t enjoy Vista so much but since upgrading to 7, I am a happy happy camper. It’s stable, responsive, enjoyable to use, my workflow remains constant and I have had no issues with software or my local development environment. MS did a really nice job this time around and I have not been so comfortable with windows since XP Pro.

  8. Robert Says:

    Been using it since August 6th and I am extremely pleased at the performance. I have not noticed any performance degradations on my machine at all.

  9. iphonerulez Says:

    I’m a Mac user and had installed Windows 7 Ultimate on both of my Macs under Parallels Desktop 5. Windows 7 is a breeze to install and his a very nice interface. I’ve had no problems with it. All the applications I’d been using still worked. Microsoft Office 2007 and some video converter programs I use run flawlessly. Windows 7 runs relatively fast and certainly faster than Vista Ultimate. I’m still using Windows XP Pro in BootCamp since full support for Windows 7 isn’t ready yet.

    I don’t see any reasons for XP users not to move to Windows 7 when they get new computers. However, I would recommend them to stay with Windows XP until that time unless they have relatively new computers. I don’t see any real incentive to upgrade from Windows XP to Windows 7. If you’ve used Windows XP for five plus years, it won’t hurt to wait another year until you’re ready to change.

  10. John Baxter Says:

    On my desktop (Dell) machine, I inherited one problem from the previous Win 7 Beta install, after clean install with Windows Easy Transfer. Flash caused crashing (either when a tab containing flash was closed or when a tab containing flash was scrolled). Thanks to Ed Bott, the solution was to remove Flash (using Adobe’s flash remover), “reset” IE 8 (Tools->Internet Options->Advanced->Reset… and check the optional part. Restart Windows, install Flash (unfortunately). All was well. The IE 8 reset was critical–I had already done the Flash uninstall/reinstall cycle.

    HP was a bit late with software and drivers for my Photosmart 2575, but it’s working well now (scanning was not possible until a recent update). But HP was also late to the party with Snow Leopard drivers and software for the 2575…OK now.

    And Setup froze the machine (leading to forced power down). That happened when I asked setup to join a Homegroup whose creating machine was no longer on the network (and no longer exists–it’s become a Linux machine). A restart went through setup just fine (skipping the Homegroup setup).

    The Setup crash started me off with a reliability index of 9; the Flash problem dropped it to the bottom in one day. The Flash/IE8 fix has allowed it to return to the top.

    Happy.

    My other Win 7 machine (the survey only allowed for one) is a new Sony Viao laptop (mid-range). Smooth and happy.

    Oh, and “beloved XP”? Not here. Hated XP and all prior versions (and didn’t run Windows much).

  11. yoshi Says:

    Am I reading these figures right? About 1/3 of those surveyed said they were having problems with “Applications that won’t run”.

    Are there more details about what apps don’t work? I’d be very curious to find out about that. Are they older versions that require an upgrade? Is that upgrade free?

    I know there was a little stink about 100 or so apps for 10.6 that would not run. Mostly old versions and silly little software programs. Is this the same thing for Win 7?

  12. Anthony Bynoe Says:

    As I am currently running Vista, I decided to wait for the reactions of the early adopters.
    Two years ago I ran out and brought Vista and became one of the guinea pigs.
    This time I’ll take my time and purchase Win 7 when I’m damn good and ready. Hah!

  13. drew Says:

    At the risk of incurring the wrath of Mac people, I am running Windows 7 Professional N (I have TechNet Account) on my MacMini, and there was almost no issue with drivers. I don’t think I have booted in OS X for two or three weeks now. It is running like a top on the Mac mini.

  14. barb Says:

    I’ve installed Win7 on no less then four different computers. One was a clean install and the others were upgrades. I didn’t have problems with any of the installs. And there hasn’t been any issues on any of the machines either. Best. Upgrade. Ever.

    I suggest to my XP friends to either move their xp hard drives to an external drive and install 7 on a pristine drive then move their files over. It will in the long run be easier.

  15. SoStupid Says:

    “Those suckers that bought Vista Ultimate, myself included, are screwed,” said yet another commenter. “There isn’t a chance in hell that I am paying $219 for what should really be Vista SP2. We were promised ‘extras’ which we never got, now we are being excluded from the pre-order special. Anyway even at $49, it is still too much to pay.”

    The extras that commenter mentioned refer to “Ultimate Extras,” one of the main features Microsoft cited in the months leading up to the 2007 release of Vista Ultimate to distinguish the operating system from its lower-priced siblings. According to Microsoft’s marketing, Extras were to be “cutting-edge programs, innovative services and unique publications” that would be regularly offered only to users of Vista’s highest-priced edition.

    But users soon began belittling the paltry number of add-ons Microsoft released and the company’s leisurely pace at providing them. Just five months after Vista was launched, critics started to complain.

    Earlier this year, Microsoft dumped the feature, saying that it would instead focus on existing features in Windows 7 rather than again promise extras.

    The furor over Vista Ultimate has even reached analysts’ ranks. In May, Michael Cherry of Directions on Microsoft urged Microsoft to give Vista Ultimate owners a free upgrade to Windows 7. “It would buy them a lot of good will, and I don’t think it would cost them much,” Cherry said at the time.

    Some of the commenters in the latest Computerworld stories about Windows 7 echoed Cherry.

    “I am running Vista Ultimate and feel ripped off by Microsoft because … [we] never received the extras we paid good money to get,” said “Hellfire” in a long comment. “The very least that they should do is offer a heavily-discounted upgrade to Windows 7 Ultimate to those that have lost money by purchasing Vista Ultimate.”

    check google for source

  16. Kent Says:

    I agree with all the good things that have been said about Windows 7 with the very big exception of graphics, particularly the ability of older hardware/software to create the “Aero Experience”.

    I easily upgraded my older Dell Dimension 3100 with an add-in Nvidia graphics card, but debugging problems with Windows desktop rendering is an exercise in finger-pointing between Microsoft and Nvidia.

    I blame Microsoft for their inability to even describe the “Aero Experience”, much less control it. Did you know you could disable transparent borders without disabling taskbar preview and window animations? Well, you can, but it ain’t easy to find the checkbox. Thanks, Microsoft.

    I blame Nivida because their drivers don’t even run Vista Aero Experience properly, much less deal with the newer Windows 7. When you try to find out from Nvidia what to do to fix the problems, they point fingers at everyone else; Microsoft, Dell, the Weather Channel, …

    Is GUI glitz important? Not really, except when your system locks up hard and you have to hold the power button to shut down. In 2009, I have to hold down the power button to recover from a graphics software failure. Shame on Microsoft and Nividia. Windows 7 should tell me exactly what to do to avoid further crashes by disabling the most stressful features of Aero.

    I ordered a compatible ATI/AMD graphics card, so I’ll soon know whether to blame ATI about a bad Aero experience.

    With brand-new hardware and the option of Windows 7 64-bit, perhaps none of these problems occur. But I researched upgrading my old Dell and did everything I could to avoid these problems to no avail.

  17. Bouke Timbermont Says:

    @kent:
    “Did you know you could disable transparent borders without disabling taskbar preview and window animations? Well, you can, but it ain’t easy to find the checkbox. Thanks, Microsoft.”

    excuse me kent, but this is complete bullocks
    When you go to desktop preferences, clearly the place to change desktop appearance, you get this: http://i49.tinypic.com/332xbme.jpg
    I don’t think it takes a genius to figure you have to click “window clolour” (vensterkleur in my Dutch install) to change the way windows look.
    Then, you get this screen: http://i46.tinypic.com/25jl4ex.jpg
    It has one checkbox. Saying it will disable/enable window transparency.

    Starting from an empty desktop, unchecking the checkbox takes 4 clicks. So yes Kent, I think changing this setting IS easy ;)

  18. Marc Says:

    @Kent When I used to use a Mac I longed for a away to turn off the pointless effects that at the time pushed the G3/G4 to its limits.
    Microsoft thankfully to its credit does listen to users, and so can you can turn off Aero as stated above. In fact you can make Windows 7 look pretty much like Windows 2000 if you really want to.

  19. heulenwolf Says:

    I was impressed how smoothly the RC ran on 2003-class hardware. Installation was pretty easy though sound drivers took some time to magically appear. Since then, that hardware has died and I haven’t replaced it, yet. That was not a critical machine. I’m unsure whether I’ll upgrade machines I use more often, currently running XP and Vista, to Win 7. I’ll probably wait until its time to build a new PC.

  20. MB Says:

    Nice to see the results, but I’m curious as to your sample size. How many people took the survey?

  21. Harry McCracken Says:

    @MB: A bit over 550 Windows 7 users took the survey.

    Thanks,

    –Harry

  22. Walter Poole Says:

    WIN 7 came pre installed on hp dv6 lap top.
    Haven’t yet finished reading this & PCW article but, in general, so far been VERY pleased w/ WIN 7.
    Only complaint so far has do w/ Synaptics “Pointing Device”.
    Consider myself as having M-H experience,
    Approx. 75 apps. downloaded onto previous PC may have something to do w/ my exp. Prob. too many for old hp laptop (also abt 5 yrs old.)
    WEP

  23. drew Says:

    @Harry: A bit over 550 Windows 7 users took the survey.

    Harry, how many “regular” visitors do you think you have? 550 seems like pretty good numbers for an online poll.

    -Drew

  24. skip Says:

    We had problems with five client computers with windows 7 (64 bit) on a domain, using Small Business Server 2003. The word file with pictures could not be retrieved for 3 minutes. All the best, Skip

  25. Russell W. Coover Says:

    Two Vista Machines were converted from Vista (one, Home Pro, the other Ultimate) to Win 7 Ultimate and a third Win 7 Home Premium machine was purchased. The two converted computers each had a clean installation. Prior to installation, I formated their harddrives. There were absolutely no problems in installation. All Drivers worked perfectly.

    The newly purchased machine, had no problems out of the box. I did have to transfer my wife’s documents, her settings, and install her software from her previous desktop computer, which I had decided to retire. The only major change I had to make was to add Thunderbird (in place of Windows Mail, which is not available for Win 7). After training her to use Thunderbird, she has noticed no problems, at least regarding the OS change. She is not an advanced computer user and simply wants it to respond properly when she is using the internet, email, and word processing. The one thing she has noticed is that the computer is more reliable, has fewer problems, and is much, much quicker, even with a similar CPU and amount of memory.

  26. Justus Says:

    I’ve seen M$ had spent 3 years to do nothing for home or small org users. Just one or two whistles more.

  27. Dan Says:

    I bought vista with my new computer and I hated it. Unfortunately I wasnt eligable for the downgrade to XP so was stuck with vista freezing up all the time. I purchased the $49 upgrade from TD and love it. I have absolutely no regrets that I did. NO driver issues. Even for my OLD HP 707 camera that came with my old laptop. My printer and all included with my old XP machine work great. Only my video IM camera wont work with 7. But hey… I got that when 98 was around. What should I expect. lol. FINALLY Microsoft. Vindication for me a MAC infested Thanksgiving Dinner table. lol.

  28. Cindy Says:

    Haven’t tried 7 yet, but after being burned so bad by Vista, I want to read more than 550 reviews saying it’s wonderful. Vista reviews were wonderful at first too…then people actually USED it and found out what crap it was. Waiting and watching here….

  29. Jim Says:

    Having migrated to Windows 7 from XP Pro, I like the apparent stability of Windows 7 since it’s release; just hope it holds-out for awhile. It seems to be a “smarter” OS and not as glitchy as other MS products. However, I really miss XP’s search function. What happened to the quick and easy way to find any document or any file across multiple hard drives? That little puppy was really good at doing that. I am surprised that MS would discard essential functionality in their newest product. Windows 7 “Search” simply does not appear to exist. I hope MS will consider rescuing that cute little puppy, take it out of the pound, and bring it back very soon.

  30. Clark Says:

    I have an ASUS X83VM-X1 purchased from BestBuy. After installing Windows 7 I found some basic motherboard drivers missing and unsupported. I managed to locate and download all the drivers I needed and things looked good for a couple of days, then the system began bluescreening. I had enough and uninstalled it! It will not be going on my laptop again.

    I think it may work well on some systems but expect it will cause problems and not be fully compatible with some hardware and software.

    Therefore as it stands right now, I don’t like it and I don’t need it.

  31. gbr2 Says:

    I have upgraded from Windows XP directly to Windows 7 and like a few others had to reinstall my favorite programs, However, I have found no real compatibility issues with 99% of the programs I use. Windows 7 has an XP compatibility program built into it that is very effective, unlike Vista did.(My wife’s laptop computer runs Vista.)My Nero 9 installed flawlessly and works perfectly. If you are ever needing a deeper analysis of your computer there are several free programs you can use to give you detailed information of what hardware and software is installed, Most of these programs will also verify any Windows updates you have installed to see if they are correctly installed. So far I have immensely enjoyed using Windows 7

  32. KLT Says:

    I am still using XP but know it is too old to stay with indefinitely. Paying attention to the user reviews I am still holding off because apart from the described glitches & bumps I have to say the cost of Win7 just irritates me. MS has once again offered a too basic ‘Cheap Seats’ $ version, a ‘Better’ $$ version with features everyone wants & then the Big Kahuna $$$ version. All three are just too damned expensive.

  33. Dwayne Says:

    I did a clean, full install of Windows 7 a couple of weeks ago. So far, I’ve enjoyed the layout and find it relatively easy to use. My two major problems are the amount of updates I’ve already had to download and Windows 7 doesn’t support my Creative Labs Xi-Fi Sound card and Creatives provided driver updates don’t work to fix it. So I have a working computer without sound. What Sound cards are Window 7 ready?

  34. Jim Says:

    Having migrated to Windows 7 from XP Pro, I like the initial stability of Windows 7 since it’s release. The new OS has a good feel. It appears to be more intuitive and smarter. Its not as glitchy as its predecessors, and hope this won’t change as patch-work fixes and updates are sure to follow.

    Regardless, I really miss XP’s search function. What happened to the quick and easy way to find any document or any file across multiple hard drives? That little puppy was really good at doing this. I am surprised
    that MS would discard this essential functionality in it’s latest product.

    A Windows 7 file “search” simply does not appear to exist. I hope MS will consider rescuing that cute little puppy, take it out of the pound, and bring it back very soon.

    :o)

  35. Jim Says:

    Having migrated to Windows 7 from XP Pro, I like the apparent stability of Windows 7 since it’s release. The new OS has a good feel and appears to be smarter and not as glitchy as its predecessors. I hope that
    this won’t change as patch-work fixes and updates are sure to follow.

    Regardless, I really miss XP’s search function. What happened to the quick and easy way to find any document or any file across multiple hard drives? That little puppy was really good at doing this. I am surprised that MS would discard this essential functionality in it’s latest product.

    A Windows 7 file “search” simply does not appear to exist. I hope MS will consider rescuing that cute little puppy, take it out of the pound, and bring it back very soon.

    :o)

  36. Dixon Marshall Says:

    I have two newish, very similar HP laptops. One came with Vista and a free upgrade to 7, the other came with Windows 7.

    I took the upgrade path using the HP-supplied OS and driver upgrade kit, to install 7 on the Vista machine. If I had it to do over, I would have used a clean install. I have had absolutely no compatibility issues with the machine that came with Windows 7, but I’m still having annoyances with the upgraded machine. Some software, even HPs own media software, is still hanging on the upgraded laptop, while everything is smooth as butter on the other. Both machines are loaded with the same software.

    I have updated all of the drivers on the previously Vista machine, but it still has performance problems. I’ve decided to re-do the Windows 7 as a clean install, as I believe that the upgrade method is what is causing me grief.

  37. Algae Says:

    Windows 7 has very few challenged components but there are some. Unfortunately they are also very major issues. (note googling for these issues will reveal much). I’m familiar with the 64 bit version so I cannot say 32 bit versions have the same problems.

    1. No email client included in installation. Extremely odd for a “net aware” OS. I suspect because the email client had/has issues. There’s even the directory where “vista” used to keep it, but it’s not there! Sure you can download “Live Mail” and it “might” work. After a couple hours playing with “Live Mail” I pitched it (no uninstaller??) and went for Mozilla’s excellent Thunderbird.

    2. Mouse and general USB issues. This is hit or miss and potentially a deal breaker. Since Windows is a mouse driven interface, a mouse that doesn’t work or stutters and freezes is a disaster. Also reported are other USB components which fail such as network adapters and hard drives. Even microsoft’s own products may have persistent, intermittent problems. There are nearly as many attempts at solutions as there are reports. These reports have been coming in since pre-release and are not corrected yet. This does not bode well. Alas, there’s no 3rd party to come to the rescue as in the case of email so if you have trouble, you’re probably stuck.

  38. Rick Bellefond Says:

    We are a Microsoft partner and I think that Windows 7 is the product that will cause us to replace Windows XP on our own PCs. It looks like a reasonably solid o/s.

  39. Diane Says:

    I am having a problem with IE8 since I upgraded to Win 7 Ultimate. I can open an email, but the minute I open the next one it restarts or shutsdown. Any help out there to fix the problem. I have my add-ons off and it still does it. Help!

  40. Rodrigo Conti Says:

    Built a new rig and installed Windows 7. I thought it would be something worthy, but it starts with a very cheesy interface. Then it has lots of compatibility issues, even with my brand new HD 6870 Sapphire, and I had to reinstall Windows three times due to problems with my sound card. What a nightmare it has been. If you use your computer just for surf the web, it may do the trick, but if you are a heavy user and rely on high end software, beware. The day Apple releases an operational system to rival Microsoft in the PC market we are going to see Microsoft filing for bankruptcy in no time. If I could, I would sue Microsoft for all the hours I lost trying to make it work.

  41. Rizwan Says:

    Windows 7 is great when compared to xp but there is a lot of room for improvements. i'm happy that they are making some impressive improvements in window 8

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