Q: I have a 6- or 7-year-old computer (that) works very well. Will I need a new computer for Windows 7? - Leonard
A: It's pretty amazing how many stories about Windows 7 (the next generation operating system that Microsoft is working on) are circulating around the Internet. It really does speak to the number of people who are still looking for an alternative to migrating to Windows Vista.
In my interactions with rank and file computer users, it seems that Vista's reputation is causing most folks to avoid it as opposed to any tangible specifics.
The Internet, word-of-mouth buzz and a clever series of ads from Apple have been far more powerful than all the money that Microsoft has spent promoting Vista, which is actually a pretty solid operating system.
Microsoft's current ads that show people who are excited after playing with the "next generation" Windows only to find out that it's Vista actually mirrors what I see going on in the real world.
Once you actually use a properly configured Vista machine, the fears of a problematic operating system melt away. The key is making sure you verify that the computer hardware and associated software and peripherals (printers, etc.) are suited to run under Vista.
Vista's reputation for being problematic has clearly been blown out of proportion based on some of the initial issues that have been common with every new version of Windows. I heard very similar complaints with the launch of Windows 95 and Windows XP. The difference with the Vista launch has been the power of the Internet and a healthy competitor (Apple).
Windows 7 won't be available until at least January 2010, and if the normal development issues crop up, you can bet that it will be later in 2010 before you would have the opportunity to use it.
A 6- or 7-year-old year old computer needs to run a 6- or 7-year-old operating system (Windows XP or older), because the amount of hardware needed to run Vista and Windows 7 is substantially higher.
Computer years are kind of like dog years, I calculate four computer years for every calendar year. A 6-year-old system is actually 24 computer years old if you use my scale of measure.
Anyone who gets three or more (calendar) years out of a computer is ahead of the curve in my book, so kudos to you for stretching the life of your system as long as you have.
If you keep using older software, you can keep using older hardware. But the minute you want to step into today's software, your best bet is to use today's hardware.
Mixing old hardware (including printers, scanners, etc.) with new software is one of the leading causes of computer abuse (and hair loss) and a big reason why Vista has such a bad reputation.
If the guidelines for implementing Windows Vista were more closely followed, fewer folks would have experienced problems with it. But we all know that "reading the manual" is an outdated concept!
Windows 7 will have some very interesting features, and, based on the early buzz, will likely offer a landing spot for those who want to skip over Vista. But you will need a lot more processing power and storage than your computer could possibly offer.
The good news is that you have plenty of time before you even have to think about migrating to Windows 7, so this question clearly falls under the advice we give on our radio show every week: "If it ain't broke, don't fix it!"