Remembering Windows 7

Back in 2009, Microsoft released Windows 7 to improve the Windows operating system with enhanced stability and features.

Extended support for Windows 7 ended about a month ago, on January 14. So what better time to talk about my experience with the operating system?

It’s no secret that Windows Vista, which was released about two years prior to 7, was extremely buggy and generally disliked in the tech community. Vista was fraught with issues that resulted in programs constantly crashing and giving Blue Screens.

Back in 2017, when Vista’s extended support phase ended, I wrote about my experiences with Vista. My experience with Vista was unique in that it was the operating system that came with my family’s first modern computer. (Before that, we had a dinosaur Gateway 2000 dating from around 1994, running MS-DOS and Windows 3.11.) The HP Pavilion we purchased was also one of the first computers to feature Vista, as it pre-dated the January 30, 2007 general launch. (We purchased the Vista machine back in December 2006.)

Fast forwarding to 2009, I can vividly remember when Windows 7 was released. I was intrigued by the slightly more modern appearance. For 8-year old me, the updated version of Microsoft Paint was probably the biggest thing.

About a year later, in October 2010, our house burned down and we lost everything. The next day, a neighbor gave me an Acer Aspire One netbook which ran Windows 7 Starter. While it wasn’t the fully-featured version of Windows 7, it still allowed me to get a taste of Windows 7. The Starter version had a lot of limitations that were annoying, but I was not one to complain after loosing everything and receiving the computer as a gift.

The following summer, I received the Asus Essentio Series computer (now known as the MintTin), which ran the fully-featured version of Windows 7. Compared to Vista, it was a much better operating system all around. I used Windows 7 on the Essentio Series up until the hard drive conked out on that machine in October 2014. I used that machine to teach myself how to code HTML/CSS using Crimson Editor among other things.

My desktop in 2012, including the Asus Essentio desktop displaying Crimson Editor. The machine ran Windows 7.

The timing on the hard drive’s death was unfortunate. Windows 8 was the operating system of choice at that point in time, and I still regard Windows 8 to be even worse than Vista in many regards. We used Windows 8 at my school and I was very familiar with the confusing and lackluster user interface, with strange bugs (like dialog boxes that couldn’t be closed without restarting the machine altogether.) Windows 8 didn’t know what it wanted to be; Microsoft bred it as a universal operating system suited for tablets and touchscreen PCs, but support for non-touchscreen PCs seemed to be an afterthought.

Windows 7 was the last of the “classic Windows” operating systems, an era which stretches back to Windows 95. With the dawn of Windows 8, Microsoft redesigned the Windows UI from the ground up (initially removing familiar items like the Start menu, etc.) to compete in the touchscreen/mobile market. It was a strange transition.

In November 2014, I switched ships. After being a life-long Windows user who has used almost every version of Windows, I finally persuaded myself (and my parents) to get a Mac. On November 26, 2014 we did just that: after making the journey to the nearest Apple Store in Kansas City, we purchased the late 2014 MacMini.

Later, in June 2016, I switched back to Windows – this time on Windows 10. Windows 10 is an improvement over Windows 8, but many argue that it still falls short of Windows 7 in terms of customization and stability.

However, my Windows 7 experience wasn’t over.

ThinkPad T42

The IBM ThinkPad T42 runs Windows 7 on a meager 512MB RAM

In December 2017, I decided to purchase the IBM ThinkPad T42. I’ve wanted to get into collecting vintage computers for a long time, but on my budget I couldn’t purchase a proper vintage machine such as a MS-DOS machine or vintage Macintosh/Apple II.

The T42 is just barely able to run Windows 7 with its limiting 512MB memory. According to Microsoft, it doesn’t even meet the minimum system requirements.

Regardless, the T42 still runs fine as long as you keep its limits in mind. Because of the limited memory, trying to open up a large image in Microsoft Paint, trying to download an upgraded browser, and having too many applications open at once will cause programs to crash. Thanks to Internet Explorer and the limited memory, many webpages render incorrectly or refuse to render at all on this machine.

As a testament to Windows 7’s stability, however, even complete system crashes or lockup’s are few and far between even on the T42. Back when I was daily driving Windows 7, crashes were uncommon and BSoDs even more uncommon. Compare that to Vista, where system crashes and BSoDs were (literally) a daily occurrence.

Windows 7 will have a special place in my heart. It was the last of the classic Windows operating systems, and was the operating system that I used to teach myself to design websites (from scratch using HTML/CSS) in.