Day 1: Installation
I elected to install the 64 bit version of Windows 7. The first thing that you should know is that if you are installing a 64 bit operating system on top of a 32 bit operating system, you must do so by booting from the installation media. The reason is that the installer for the 64 bit version is . . . 64 bits, and won't run on your 32 bit version.
Is this a problem? Only if you want to keep all your programs, files and settings; these are only restored if you run the installation from within the outgoing operating system. But the good news is that the Windows 7 creates a directory called Windows.old that contains three folders and all associated subfolders: Documents and Settings, Program Files, and Windows. Keep in mind, though, that while you may save your program files, they are not installed, in the sense of having registry entries, menu shortcuts, etc.
I obtained the "Ultimate" version of Windows 7. I'm not sure what's ultimate about it. It came with almost none of the default programs I'm used to, like mail, moviemaker, but they are downloadable for free from the Microsoft website.
The footprint seems very small. I installed Windows 7 on a 30GB drive, and it managed to fit not only itself but all the backups with 2GB to spare!
The stories I heard about driver issues with 64 bit Windows do not seem to apply. All my peripherals seem to be working correctly. Money95 still works. Matlab2007a does NOT work, giving me an error indicating that it isn't comfortable with the 64 bit operating system. I'm not too worried though, because I have the 64 bit version on my installation media. Windows 7 comes with a function under "Programs and Features" called "Run programs made for previous versions of Windows." I used this function to successfully reinstall MS Office 2003 (32 bit version). But it has proved no help with Disney Interactive "Mickey Mouse Kindergarten", et al. I'm not sure if this is a 32-bit vs. 64-bit problem, or the fact that this software hasn't worked on anything since XP.
What's up with having two program directories, one named "Program Files" and the other named "Program Files (x86)"? Weirdly, I have a folder in each labeled "CA" (my antivirus program), and yet I didn't install CA in either of these directories!
On a positive note, Windows 7 seems super crisp, but that may be just because the registry hasn't been cluttered yet.