windows 7 top tips
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DESCRIPTIONGetting excited at the prospect of a new version of an operating system has for a long time been reserved for Linux and Mac users, but with the release of Windows 7, Windows users also have something to be excited about. The most recent version of Microsofts operating system has been several years in the making and was unveiled to the public via freely available preview editions. Many thousands of words have already been written extolling its virtues over previous versions of Windows, but what is 7 actually like to use, and what benefi ts does it offer us gamers?
ISSUE 233 THE DUDE ABIDES
Issue 233 Dec 2009 5.99 Outside UK & ROI 6.49
Hot Win 7 tips and tricks
Gaming chassis roundup
Make an arcade table
AMDs stunning new CPU
Repair Windows Update
Radeon 5870 AMD grabs the performance crown
Radeon 5870 AMD grabs the performance crown
FREE DVD!57 MUST-PLAY GAMES
ROUTER SHOWDOWN GETTING THE MOST FROM YOUR ISP? PAGE 8
ESMissing disc? Tell your newsagent and well unleash the Ford!
ISSUE 233 THE DUDE ABIDES
GAMINGS EXPLOSIVE FUTURE REVEALED
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Getting excited at the prospect of a new version of an operating system has for a long time been reserved for Linux and Mac users, but with the release of Windows 7, Windows users also have something to be excited about. The most recent version of Microsofts operating system has been several years in the making and was unveiled to the public via
freely available preview editions. Many thousands of words have already been written extolling its virtues over previous versions of Windows, but what is 7 actually like to use, and what benefi ts does it offer us gamers?
Every new version of Windows is touted as being an all-singing all-dancing answer to our prayers, but all too often they are found to be wanting. With ever increasing competition from the world of console, PC gaming often faces something of an uphill struggle, but with Windows 7 Microsoft has a few tricks up its sleeve, which are likely to impress lovers and haters of Windows alike.
Upon its release, Windows XP was heralded as a great leap forward for Microsoft. Vista was less well received, but with Windows 7, PC users have an operating system they can be proud of. Windows XP has
endured like no other OS - it is now eight years old and still widely used. The stability is virtually unrivalled and was certainly a far cry from Windows Me... a time few computer users have fond memories of. Vista felt like something of a stop-gap and was initially plagued by hardware problem due to a lack of drivers.
The long awaited release of Windows 7 brings a lot to look forward to for computer users in general, but gamers seem to get a particularly good deal. Whether youre upgrading from XP or Vista, theres a lot to look forward to, and we reveal all over the coming pages. Well take a look at some of Windows 7s most exciting features and developments as well as unearthing the tips and tricks, which can help to improve things even further.
Its been a long time coming, but Microsoft has nally given birth. Mark Wilson takes a look
at the new baby
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The fi rst thing that anyone will notice about Windows 7 is its look. This is a strange mix of being very similar to its predecessors while at the same time boasting a fresh feel. At fi rst glance the most notable change in appearance is to be found in the taskbar, but there is much more to discover when you delve beneath the surface - in terms of cosmetics, features and improvements. As the taskbar is where the vast majority of tasks are started it makes sense to use it as our fi rst port of call.
The default grouping option means that the old Quick Launch joins forces with the standard taskbar, helping to reduce the number of button and icons that are on display at any one time. It also provides access to handy jump lists, which can be used to access multiple instance of the same program, fl ip between documents and access program specifi c options. But this is not necessarily to everyones taste and can be easily customised if required just right click the taskbar, select Properties and use the Taskbar buttons menu to opt out of the combining buttons action, or to do so only when space is short.
The raft of icons that have become a familiar sight in the system tray has been consigned to history as now only the network and volume control icons are visible - any others are accessible through a popup menu. The default behaviour will please most people, but anyone who prefers easier access to certain icons can customise what is displayed through the Notifi cation Area Icons Control Panel - Just right-click the clock and select Customize notifi cation icons for the settings.
But the most important element of any software is how it performs - particularly if you're talking about a
gaming rig. One of the key benefi ts of Windows 7 is the fact that it makes far better use of memory than previous versions of Windows and you should fi nd that it performs better than Vista on the same hardware. The hardware ratings used by Windows to determine a baseline performance score for your computer have been extended so that components such as processor, graphics and memory performance are now between 1.0 and 7.9, allowing for a wider range of more accurate scores. It's easy to get hung up on the precise meaning of each of the fi gures, but it does provide a simple, at-a-glance means of checking whether your system is up to running a particular game, and provides a handy means of checking what difference a hardware
upgrade has made.Vista introduced the idea of a
specifi c folder in the Start menu designed to house shortcuts to games; this is still available in Windows 7 but it has been enhanced. At its most basic, the folder acts as a handy shortcut repository, which the more disorganised of us will soon feel the benefi t of. Rather than wildly searching through a desktop full of icons in an attempt to fi nd the shortcut to launch a particular game, all of them are available in one handy location. This in itself is nothing groundbreaking - you could very easily create a gaming folder of your own - but the Games Explorer has more to offer.
As well as providing information about individual games when the mouse is hovered over the relevant shortcut, you can also jump straight to manufacturer's web site to access the forums or other online information you may be looking for. We have all become used to the idea of Windows itself being kept up to date through the use of Automatic Updates; while this feature has not quite been translated in a game specifi c tool, Windows 7 comes close. The operating system can automatically check for the availability of game updates and alert you to their existence - they won't necessarily be installed on your behalf, but it saves making manual checks from time to time. Obviously, not all games are currently compatible with, or taking advantage of, this service, but we would hope that it is something games developers cotton on to in the not too distant future.
The way Explorer handles fi les has also been adjusted, harking back to Microsoft's initial plans for Vista to include a completely new fi le system. This has manifested itself in the form of Libraries, which can be used to group together different types of fi le, no matter where they are located.
Below Windows 7s Games Explorer may not be ground-breaking, but easy access to game updates is a boon.
Above DirectX 11 offers signifi cant graphical bonuses for supported hardware
Windows 7 Top Tips
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The raft of icons that have become a familiar sight in the system tray has been consigned to historyTraditionally, the My Music folder was intended as a store for, well, music fi les, but few people are that organised. Using a Library it is possible to create a link to music stored in several folders and display them all in one location - the same is true of videos and other types of fi le. Libraries work much like virtual folders and can be easily confi gured by clicking the 'locations' link that appears at the top of a library folder and then indicating which standard folders it should include.
Windows 7 has better support for multiple monitors and this can take the likes of fl ight sims to a whole new level.
Gamers can also benefi ts from Win7's native support for GPGPU, or general purpose computing on a graphics processing unit. This technology enables a graphics card to take over more of the tasks that would normally be catered for by the CPU. This currently means supporting image editing software, video editing tools as well as 3D modelling and video encoding can now be greatly sped up by sharing the workload between the CPU and GPU for specifi c tasks.
64-bit versions of Windows have been around for many years, but it is only very recently that the concept of
64-bit computing is being embraced. What this means for the average user is that specifi cally written software and games will run far better, and more RAM will be supported to help boost performance further.
If you want to ensure that your games look at good as they possibly can, the Display Color Calibration tool is available. Just click the Start button, type 'dccw' and press Enter before working your way through the wizard which will guide you through the process of adjusting colour settings, brightness and gamma for the best possible appearance - it's a small touch, but a welcome one. Gamers also have the prospect of DirectX11 to look forward to. In addition to support for enhanced multithreading, the hull shader, tessellator and domain shader has also been added which should ultimately lead to games with a more immersive feel (check out our main feature on DX11 on page 52 for more information).
Touch screen devices look like being here to stay and it shouldn't