Windows 7 and Your Practice

Friday, November 06, 2009 14:22
Windows 7 and Your Practice

This past August, I had been conducting testing and research for a practice on the use of Windows 7. It was timely, as Investment News at the time had also covered the forthcoming new operating system (OS) from Microsoft.

I had been using Windows 7 for about 30 days on my own evaluation PC when I commenced the testing in August - and have continued its use through the public release almost two weeks ago. I have been pleasantly surprised - which could be considered significant since all of my primary machines are Macs.

It has always been a practice of mine to maintain a Windows-based PC as a secondary machine and actually am fond of both platforms. I just want my machines to work efficiently, reliably and securely. I converted a Dell Pentium 4 3.0 GHz computer from Windows XP Pro to Windows 7.

I have 3 GB RAM installed and a 512 MB discrete graphics card, an 80GB hard drive and use a 22” LCD monitor. I also run a Lightscribe enabled DVD-RW which works fine under Windows 7. The performance has been totally acceptable to me. One caveat for those of you with similar machines to mine – I added the separate graphics card specifically to increase performance. If you have integrated graphics on a Pentium 4 – I would recommend the upgrade ($59 for me) before running Windows 7 (this helps with the Aero graphics interface).

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The biggest benefits have come from improved handling of drivers and increased memory and system tray resources management. For example, for this PC my peripherals include a Logitech Webcam 9000, an Epson V100 Photo scanner and an HP DeskJet printer.

All were discovered and accepted the driver software I already had downloaded during the XP Pro days (which were all XP/Vista drivers). The overall system performance and any resources tied up with pre-loaded background applications (the lower right hand system tray) are managed much more efficiently.  I even find the response of opening, closing and minimizing/maximizing applications is snappier.

I was even able to load my favorite utilities such as Dropbox, Evernote, RoboForm and Skype. The only issue I have had to date is my existing PC anti-virus suite did not fully support (in August 2009) Windows 7 (CA Security). I opted to load Panda Anti-Virus Pro and have since purchased it.

For those of you leveraging common web-based tools in our industry there are really no major surprises. Some of the tools I use that have worked as expected without issues (using Internet Explorer 8, which is native to Windows 7):

  • Albridge Wealth Reporting
  • DST Vision
  • eMoney Advisor
  • Forefield
  • Money Guide Pro
  • Morningstar Advisor Workstation, enterprise edition (Internet Explorer 8 in Compatibility Mode – a 1-click setting)
  • Paper Clip Imaging
  • Redtail CRM & Imaging
  • Smart Office by EZ Data – being very progressive, already supporting IE 8 and in beta on Windows 7
  • I have not yet tried to load Laser App on Windows 7 – but as it supported Windows Vista - it should work

(Windows 7 is in short - a massive service pack to Vista - with a lot of the same underlying structure. Thus if something worked without an issue on Vista - it should in theory work with little or no disruption in Windows 7.)

If you run into an issue with Internet Explorer 8 with a site (i.e. perhaps a custodian or other web-based application) - try using the Compatibility Mode before becoming overly concerned. This shifts the browsers settings back into Internet Explorer 7 mode - which most every online presence has supported for some time.


Comments (7)

Blaine, it's been my practice not to move to a new Windows version until the first service pack is released, as there are inevitably security flaws. What's your opinion of this risk and practice?
JimVoss , November 06, 2009
I agree with you on the releases prior XP - but have been more aggressive since XP Pro SP 3. Vista was dubious - but I chalk that up to organizational error. There is so much pressure on them for Windows 7 to be a good debut performer - that I do not have the same fear this time around. However - my only footnote is to vet out all of the apps you consider critical to insure they are already certified for use on Win 7.
bwarrene , November 06, 2009
Micah McCann
I attended a Win 7 launch event this past week and was impressed by some of the new features included in the OS. One of the speakers addressed the compatibility issues that were present during the launch of Vista and it seems like Microsoft has made a genuine effort to avoid those same mistakes.

If you do find compatibility problems, there is an XP mode but you need quite a bit of ram, at least 2 to 3 gig, as well as a processor capable of hardware virtualization with Intel VT or AMD-V enabled. Those who have computers that are more than 4 years old may have trouble meeting those requirements.

One of the things I think many will benefit from is Bitlocker and Bitlocker To Go which comes bundled in with Win 7 Ultimate edition. These applications will allow you to encrypt the data on your hard drive as well as on external media like USB thumb drives. We are still playing with these features but so far they have been very easy to use. For those advisors looking for ways to better secure client data this might be worth looking into.

We plan to install LaserApp this week and will report back if we find any issues.
micahm301 , November 07, 2009
An excellent point Micah - encrypting external devices is critical to safeguarding the overall data security concept. Thanks for pointing that out!
bwarrene , November 07, 2009
One of the intriguing features of Windows 7 is native support for Solid State Drives (SSD). SSD reviewers rave about the huge performance improvement over HDD. the downside is that the drives are expensive on a $/GB basis. My migration plan is to install Windows 7 on a SSD and maintain my XP on a separate HDD in dual boot mode. that way in can minimize the risk to my "mission critical" applications.
timk503 , November 20, 2009
Micah McCann
Just thought I'd follow up with some details on our Win 7 experience so far...

Netx360 and LaserApp appear to be working without any noticeable problems. We enabled Bitlocker encryption which was a little bit trickier than I thought... since our computer was manufactured prior to 2006 it doesn't have a TPM (Trusted Platform Module) chip on the motherboard. This required us to store the encryption keys on a USB drive which needs to stay plugged into the computer. If the USB is removed the computer will not boot up unless you manually type in the recovery key. These addl. steps aren't necessary for newer computers with the TPM chip.

For info on TPM:
Micah McCann , December 02, 2009
Good info Micah. In light of new guidance and laws around data security - it is inevitable that we will all be managing some level of encryption on just about any device we walk around with. Glad to see that both Apple and Microsoft now have native encryption capabilities available.
bwarrene , December 03, 2009

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