Windows 7 is what Windows Vista should have been, what we hoped it would be. The Batman Begins to Vista's Batman and Robin. While superficially both are kinda the same (Batman!), there's a completely different thought process at work. Our walkthrough and videos showed you how the new user experience is something to be excited about; now we want to show you what it is under the hood that enables the wholly hypeworthy experience to be all it can be. And why Windows 7 will totally smash Vista's kidneys.Microsoft is cheerfully explicit about 7 killing Vista. At PDC, the head of Windows performance Gabriel Aul laid it out simply in a presentation entitled "Raising the Bar":
• If an application or device runs on Vista, it should run on Win 7. • If a system runs Windows Vista, should run Windows 7 even faster. • Notebooks should get better battery life in Windows 7. • Windows 7 will be more reliable than Vista SP1 from Day 1.
Yep, not only does it have a more usable UI thanks to snazzy elements like peek through, a whole new taskbar and just common sense simplifications, Microsoft admirably pulls an Apple here—its next release of Windows will run even faster than the previous one, an unprecedented feat for Microsoft. That's because it's a whole lot smarter about taking care of what's going on in the background while you're gaping at some new UI element that's both pretty and useful. For instance, Vista's window memory manager devotes the same amount of RAM to every window you have open: No matter how many windows are open, it acts like every one of them is visible and full screen size, even if you had them minimized or in the background. This ate up a ton of resources, especially if you're like us and leave a billion windows open. Windows 7's window memory manager doesn't do that—only the visible windows use video resources now. That means you can actually run Windows 7 with 1GB of RAM—unlike Vista, where having anything less than 2GB is totally retardiculous.
Windows 7 is also way more brainy when it comes to crashy apps and errors, in a couple different ways. Probably the most impressive sounding—though we'll have to see how well it works in real life—is application crash resiliency. If an app crashes more than once, Windows 7 learns how it should run the app to avoid that particular train wreck. Also, error reports are actually useful: The Problem Steps Recorder watches what you do to trip an error—if you can repeat it after turning on the recorder, that is—and it generates a useful, detailed error report in a language that actually resembles English! And 7 just plain practices safer sex—device drivers are sandboxed, so nastiness from one cruddy set won't infect another. Having learned its lesson, Microsoft is working with hardware makers to deliver all updated drivers through Windows Update instead of, say, Samsung's byzantine excuse of a website. None of Windows 7's awesomeness matters, though, if all that rock is too much for your notebook's battery to handle. Vista's power management was definitely better than XP's, and Windows 7's is remarkably better still. Part of it is just that whole smarter background management, which for battery life does things like dial down the processor more often, use less juice to play a standard def DVD, automatically turn off your Ethernet adapter, common sense stuff like that. But it doesn't just do all this fancy energy-saving jujitsu behind your back (though it can). Windows 7 is capable of delivering a battery efficiency report that breaks down in detail what's chomping on your battery—power-slurping hardware, vampire-y processes, the works. All of this reflects a new mindset about the overall user experience that seems like it just got left on Vista's cutting room floor, for whatever reason. Vista was just going through the motions of a new OS. If Microsoft actually delivers on what they've shown and are promising for Windows 7—and all signs seem to point that way—it'll actually have the heart and soul of one, even if it's wearing the same brand of clothes. Something you still wanna know? Send any questions about Windex, Billy G or spending G's to email@example.com, with "Giz Explains" in the subject line.