I finally got around to installing Windows 7 on bare metal this weekend. I've been roped into installing Windows Server occasionally, but always in a VM, and only for testing Linux interoperability with packages like Centrify and Likewise.
It's the first time I've installed Windows on a machine in 6 years. The last time, it was to play Doom 3 and Half-Life 2. The old PowerBook G4 was not up to those mighty titles, so I pressed my (then-)meaty P4 machine into service.
I've always heard good things about Windows 7, even from Mac fanboys. It has a reputation for being light, fast, and pretty.
Installation wasn't too awkward. I remember Windows XP being annoying and fidgety, especially when installing alongside existing operating systems. Windows 7's installation asks few questions and then goes about its business. It also managed to not completely blow away my Ubuntu installation, being satisfied with destroying my MBR and rendering my other OS's inaccessible.
The Super+tab switching, which shows the windows stacked up and cycles through them, is pretty slick. I found myself using that more than anything to get around. It's on par with Expose as a productivity enhancer, and Ubuntu's Unity could learn a thing or two from that.
The OS itself is still fairly snappy, even with all the new added bling. Not to say that it's faster than Ubuntu or Mac OS X, but it competes.
Having used Mac and Linux exclusively for years, the first thing that hit me is: Windows font-handling is still shit. Apple products are known for their excellent typography, so it's no surprise that it whips Windows on that front. But even Ubuntu beats the shit out of Windows when it comes to font rendering. The choice of fonts and the anti-aliasing tech is so bad, I get a headache trying to read it. I tried monkeying around with the ClearType settings, but was still getting ghosting and blurriness.
I installed Windows 7 on Dell OptiPlex 380 small form-factor machine, which is fairly run-of-the-mill hardware. Windows 7's support for Sandy Bridge is admirable, but the Network driver wasn't there. I had to boot into Ubuntu and download the driver pack from Dell.
I also had trouble burning DVDs. I was able to burn two easily and successfully, but after that, I just got coasters. No big deal, seeing as I have spindles and spindles of blank DVDs that I never thought I'd use anyway, but this is still an area where I figured Windows would shine.
The following are things that I consider to be matters of personal taste. I've always found NT to be a good operating system, with a technologically advanced kernel and a lot of brains architecting it. But I'll be upfront about my dislike of Windows as a user environment.
Windows Aero looks outdated to me. I don't like the gigantic chrome surrounding all the windows, nor the transparency effects. The clicky-bloopy sound effects get old fast. There's a sound hit for virtually every action. Clicking, showing menus, closing windows, logging in, notification bubbles. And when you're listening to music on a nice pair of speakers, you really don't need a 25-watt orchestra hit that tells you that your antivirus just updated itself.
The main thing I don't like about the Windows interface is that almost everything seems to be excessive. For example, the progress bars have a little lens-flare effect that sweeps across every few seconds. I have no idea what it means. Also, the window chrome blurs whatever's behind it, simulating translucency. But the blur is sever enough that you can't really tell what's behind it, only that something is behind it. They should have just dropped that.