That’s a pretty bold title, don’t you think?

Well, those of you who know me well know that I don’t say things like this unless I actually mean them. And this time, I’m telling you, I mean it. Let me share with you the story of my laptop.

About 8 months ago, I bought a Sony Vaio laptop. I’m a Mac user, but I liked the large size and feel of this laptop, I’d heard good things about the brand, and frankly, it was cheaper than what I was willing to fork over on a Mac at the time. The only problem with the laptop is that it came pre-installed with Windows Vista (cue dramatic music here).

The darn thing never quite ran right – the hard drive would chug away on invisible tasks, boot up time was much longer than I was used to, and the sheer volume of security notifications just about put me over the edge. I’ve been using computers for 25 years. Vista treated me like I was an idiot.

I stopped using the laptop altogether. It sat in the bag, being extracted only when every other computer I had was tied up with other tasks. Even at that it was an exercise in futility.

Finally about a week ago, I decided I needed to do something about it. I had an old copy of Windows XP and decided to “upgrade” – at least I’d be able to function again on a stable OS.

I happened to tweet my plans and caught the attention of my friend and local Microsoft guy, Rick Claus (@Rickster_CDN). Rick said “No! No! Install the Win7 Release Candidate – you won’t be disappointed.”

I trust Rick immensely, he’s never steered me wrong when it comes to advice about Microsoft. He works for them so he knows of what he speaks. He told me to back up my data and the install would take about 20 minutes. But what about drivers? Any other Windows install I’d ever done required me to spend 2 hours after the install to upgrade my sound card, DVD player, and other drivers. He informed me that the driver support was excellent.

I took the plunge. With my husband by my side for moral support, I hit the Install button on Win7 RC and listened as my hard drive got wiped clean and the install began.

Rickster’s estimate of 20 minutes was a bit light – it actually took about 50 minutes all told (but he’s running a much more powerful machine than I, so the timeframe is totally justified). My Vaio rebooted for the last time, and lo and behold, the password prompt appeared. I set my password, logged in and was greeted, pleasantly, with….nothing.

No error messages. No “Windows cannot find the driver for XX”. No constant loading of invisible programs. It just worked. It detected my wireless network right away, I plunked in the security code and…it just worked.

Within 15 minutes of the install I’d loaded up Skype, Tweetdeck, and OpenOffice and I was in business. I kid you not. I didn’t even bother to load Firefox because IE 8 was running so smoothly and looked so nice.

The interface is slick. Large icons sit in the task bar eagerly awaiting their launch. The resemblance to MacOS did not go unnoticed, but hey, it looks great, so I’m not complaining. I met up with Rick the other day after work and he gave me a run through. I won’t go through everything here but what I really like is what you can do with the desktop. Slamming an open window to the top of the screen maximizes it. Slamming it to the right minimizes it to half screen, so you can do side-by side comparisons. And my personal favourite, if you have lots of windows open, take the top window and shake it quickly back and forth and it minimizes all the windows but that one. Kitschy, I know, but fun – and pretty useful, too.

I’m learning how to be a better keyboarder (having done away with my mouse now), and I like how Win7 has integrated keyboard commands. For example, pressing the Windows button and the letter “P” puts you right into the setup for an external monitor or projector, and you can toggle your settings. No more hitting Function F7 a million times! W00t!

What I’m most impressed by is how “light” this OS seems to be. It doesn’t seem to be hogging any resources, and program launches are fast and easy. I tend to have lots open at the same time, and I’ve had no issues with this. I’ve had no compatibility issues so far with software or drivers.

The only down side I have seen is that sometimes on program close, particularly with Skype and Firefox, the processes don’t all get shut down in the background so I have to go in and do that manually before I can launch the program again. But that might be a compatibility issue that will get fixed up in a future update.

All in all, I think that Microsoft is about to change the way PC users work. Windows 7 combines ease of use with a slick interface and FAR fewer clunkiness issues than in the past. To be honest, I’d gotten to the point where I was ready to give up on the PC platform altogether. But thanks to Rick’s good advice, I gave them one more chance and I’m not disappointed. Good on ya, Microsoft.

The Windows 7 RC is available for free from the Microsoft site. I encourage you to check it out. It will be free till sometime next year when the full version comes out. Enjoy!