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Tech Report – Waiting for Windows 7

Since we published yesterday’s back-to-school guide to affordable laptops, a number of parents have asked whether they should buy now or wait until Microsoft’s much-heralded Windows 7 operating system reaches the stores on October 22nd.

It’s an excellent question. Most reviewers agree that Windows 7 will represent a definite upgrade over the heavily-criticized and much patched-up Vista operating system that is installed on most PCs and laptops sold today. The Online Mom will feature a full review of Windows 7 a little closer to the street date but everything from the improved task bar to desktop enhancements to better connectivity and device management indicates that Windows 7 will be a popular and much-needed upgrade.

Whether it’s worth deferring a purchase of a computer now to take advantage of that software upgrade later will depend on two things: what type of computer you are thinking of buying and how you will use that computer. If you are thinking of buying a desktop PC or a high-performance laptop, then you might want to wait. (Although Microsoft has made some elaborate arrangements to allow free or heavily-discounted upgrades, which I will get to shortly.)

If you are looking at a netbook or a smaller notebook of the variety described in our affordable laptops posting, then you can safely go-ahead and make that purchase now without worrying about whether you will miss out on any major enhancements. Those smaller notebooks are designed to work with modified versions of Windows, like Vista Home Basic or XP Home Edition, which are more than adequate for limited student activities like search, e-mail, and media management.

Where Windows 7 will make a major difference is when your computer is or will be used for business purposes, multi-tasking, or where it forms part of a wider home network.  In particular, the HomeGroup feature in Windows 7 will make connecting with other computers, printers or media devices a painless and rewarding experience.

Fortunately, Microsoft and the PC manufacturers have made elaborate plans to allow retailers to continue to make sales of higher-end equipment during the introductory period. Although terms vary slightly from manufacturer to manufacturer, generally speaking anyone who purchases a laptop running Windows Vista Home Premium between June 26th, 2009 and January 31st, 2010 will be eligible for a free upgrade to Windows 7. (Shipping and handling fees may apply based on your point of purchase.)

All the major PC manufacturers are participating in the program, including Acer, Dell, Gateway, HP, Lenovo, Samsung, Sony and Toshiba. For more details on upgrade options and to ensure your computer purchase will qualify, visit Microsoft’s Windows 7 Upgrade site. Be sure to register for the upgrade program as soon as you make your purchase.

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