With the failure of Windows Vista, and the resistance for people to move away form Windows XP for professional audio purposes, Windows 7 needed to offer a lot of new features, and support a lot of the old drivers, in order to be a wise choice for professional audio. Windows 7 was released in the summer of 2009, and only within the last few years, has it finally surpassed Windows XP in total user usage. Windows Vista never surpassed the usage of Windows XP.
One of the biggest advantages of Windows 7, is the ability to run 64-bit applications, which in turn, allows the musician to use 64-bit plugins, notably, VST plugins. However, this quickly creates confusion. Now, developed must release a 32-bit version and 64-bit version of their VST plugins, and for DAW developers, they must release 64-bit and 32-bit versions of their executable software. The program files directory is also split, making it a bit difficult to find the location of files.
However, in many professional audio cases, the upgrade to 64-bit is very necessary, as it allows the allocation of over 4gb of RAM. For large sound libraries, orchestral sampling, advanced drum sampling, and so fourth, this is very useful. There are other advantages to switching to 64-bit as well, but RAM allocation is the biggest factor, by far.
Windows 7, like any new operating system, starts out slow with official support and releases from developers. I would not recommend switching over to Windows 7 during the first few years of it's release, because so much audio software is simply not compatible with the new system, even though it should technically run on Windows 7. This is especially true with hardware drivers, where blue-screen crashes can be very common when trying to run older audio hardware on the newer Windows 7. Even when the developers created the correct compatible drivers, I know I still had some issues with some hardware, and I ultimately had to sell off some of my audio interfaces for newer ones.
Overall, Windows 7 nowadays is a must-have, since most PC computers have now adapted the software, and most developers have been familiar with it for quite a few years. With Windows 8 peeking around the corner, it may be awhile until we can safety switch to that for our professional audio uses.
I tested the RC (7100) and RTM (7600) in French and 64bit, so Quazi finalized versions of the OS:
Simple installation, automated and fast.
Most of your hardware is detected and installed automatically by Windows, so you do little or no need to worry to install lots of drivers. But it may still remain one or two things to install (as my card reader on my laptop or my graphics card on my landline).
Rather a good point, therefore, a great improvement over XP and Vista.
I have met are currently no incompatibilitées or on my pc fixed nor pon phone.
Configuration rather stable, although we can not judge too much on this non-final versions. At least for the moment this OS is more stable and faster than Vista.
The OS is lighter, starts much faster (between 30 and 40 seconds), faster and more responsive than Vista, although only 7 still requires a "large" configuration (recommended 2GB of ram, dual core minimum ... ).
The resources seem to be less used for anything (like the HDD which churns for nothing or the processor is never idle, as is the case for Vista), but hey it's not perfect yet . The power consumption is higher with Windows 7 with XP or a Linux OS.
I have met very few incompatible software (Daemon Tools for example).
Reliability remains to be seen over time, which has always been one of the biggest fault of Microsoft OS (big loss of performance after a few months due to an aging OS).
The performances are all those times away from a Linux OS.
A good catch-up Microsoft when compared to Vista, but could have done better ...
That said, I do not buy it at the advertised price ... (199 euros for a family version, for me it is clear from the flight)
Anyway, if you really want to move quickly on Windows, do not pass especially with VISTA! wait a few more weeks and go to Windows 7 which is much more successful.