Later this year Microsoft will release its next major desktop operating system, Windows 7. After deciding now was the time to expand my hard drives (because I really need 3TBs of space), I took the opportunity to install the "release candidate." The release candidate of Windows 7 is just that -- it's a version of the operating system that while still in development, has all the bells and whistles, and is essentially the exact same thing that'll be sold on the shelves.
The installation and configuration of Windows 7 went very smoothly. For the technically inclined, my computer has four gigs of RAM and operates off of two dual-core Intel Core2 processors. I have an nVidia GTX 260 graphics card, which is the latest generation. There's a bunch of other bells and whistles that I have as well, but those are the big things relevant to what I do every day here at WoW.com and how I play WoW.
Prior to installing Windows 7, I used Windows Vista updated to the latest patches. I got about 60 FPS on average, with a maximum of around 100 while idling in some far off place with not a lot of traffic; and a minimum of about 50 while in some of the more graphic intensive raids / battlegrounds. After installing Windows 7 I was running at about 75 FPS average, with a maximum still of around 100. However more importantly my FPS during raids / Wintergrasp shot up to 70.
This is obviously in part due to the upgraded hard drive (the one I had previously was about a year and a half old), but there's no way an older hard drive would cause a 20 FPS decline. Given the previous observations, it's safe to say that Windows 7 contributed significantly in increasing my in-raid FPS.
In WoW, all my settings were at their maximum, with the exception of the shadow setting (which was set to one below the max setting -- setting it to the max position after patch 3.1 caused stability and extremely low FPS issues for myself and several others).
How does this rank with other operating systems? I can't really compare it with my Mac that I have, since the hardware is significantly different. My Mac is 21" Intel iMac running a single dual core processor with a substantially less powerful video card. I can get about 40 FPS max with my Mac.
I did however, install the latest version of Ubuntu Linux on my Mac and ran WoW through that. I found I got around 55 FPS on average through the Ubuntu system. It should be noted however, that while my graphics card is supported, I get the distinctive feeling it's not supported entirely. There is some choppiness that shouldn't be there. This could be a result of minor misconfigurations within the Linux system itself, but if there are things misconfigured it's so buried in the configuration files I wasn't able to find it after an hour of poking around.
When I ran WoW on Ubuntu on the same computer I had installed Windows 7 on, I achieved frame rates of around 65 FPS. It should be noted that for the purpose of this article, I had all non-essential services turned off in Linux (no database, web server, etc...). On Windows 7 the default services were more or less the only ones running.
So roughly speaking, WoW runs better in Windows 7 on my systems.
Overall I would highly recommend that anyone who is thinking about reformatting their computer or just wants to take a new OS for a joyride go with Windows 7. It's much more stable than Vista. Generally I would find some way to crash Vista once or twice a day. Windows 7 has yet to crash.
*We should note that while Windows 7 RC is free now, it will eventually expire next year. Please do your research before you install this or any other modifications to your computer system.