1. Back-up your system
Whilst we’ve been mightily impressed with the stability of Windows 7 ever since the pre-beta launch, this remains a work in progress. If you’re even considering installing Windows 7 on a mission-critical system, make sure you take a full back-up first, so that you’ve got a fall back if it all goes horribly wonky.
2. Take note of your settings and software keys
If you’re making a fresh install of Windows 7, rather than upgrading a previous OS, make a note of all your crucial settings – such as your wireless network key and Outlook configuration – so that you can get online immediately. Also make sure you can lay your hands on keys for any essential software that you’ll need to re-install in Windows 7.
3. Tweak the Taskbar
Beta 1 is the first version of Windows 7 to include the new look Taskbar. If you can’t abide the chunky new icons, you can make them smaller by right clicking on an empty part of the Taskbar, choosing Properties and checking the Use Small Icons box.
4. Uncover the jumplists
One of the best new features of the new UI is the jumplists. Right click on a Taskbar icon and you’ll be presented with a series of shortcut options for that application – selecting a recently-played album in Windows Media Player, for example. You’ll also find jumplists sprouting from application listings on the Start menu.
5. Unpin the default apps
Microsoft has cheekily pinned Internet Explorer, Windows Media Player and Windows Explorer to the Taskbar, ensuring they remain a constant presence on your desktop. If you want to get shot of them, right click on the app’s Taskbar icon and select Unpin This Program From Taskbar. If you want to replace them with your favourite software, open the application of your choice, right click on its Taskbar icon and select Pin This Program To Taskbar.
6. Tone down the eye candy
Windows 7 will probably install an Aero glass scheme by default, and the good news is that the vast majority of the PCs we’ve installed the new OS on have coped with this effortlessly. However, if you find that windows are juddering, right click on the desktop, choose Personalize, and select one of the Ease of Access Themes, which are far less demanding.
7. Stretch out on extra displays
It’s now far easier to extend the Windows desktop on to secondary displays. Simply press Windows +P and you’ll be presented with options to extend, duplicate or show your desktop only on the secondary display.
8. Boost the text size
The huge screens and high resolutions of today’s flat panel monitors can make it difficult to read on-screen text, particularly if you use your PC as a Media Center on the main living room television. Windows 7 allows you to boost the size of text on screen to up to 150% of its normal size to make it more readable. Right click on the desktop, choose Screen Resolution and select the Make Text And Other Items Larger or Smaller.
9. Sort out the System Tray
The System Tray now has an overspill area, allowing you to relegate attention-hungry applications to a hidden sin bin. Click on the little up arrow on the left-hand side of the System Tray and click Customize to pick and choose which System Tray icons you want to see, and how much you want them to bother you with alerts.
10. Silence User Account Controls
The bête noir of Vista has finally been hobbled. To stop UAC interrupting your working day every two-and-a-half-minutes with another inane request, type UAC into the new Windows Start menu search bar, select the Change User Account Control Settings option and drag the slider right down to Never Notify. Just take a little extra care with your day-to-day computing, as you’ll almost certainly be running without security software.