Windows 7 annoyances that have got to go!

I can’t actually remember now how long I’ve been using Windows 7 for, so I had to look it up.  The day I got my hands on it was January 9th 2009.  That’s just 910 days Or 2 years, 5 months, 29 days, or 21,840 hours, or 130 weeks ago.  Actually not that long when you think about it.  I’m now looking forward to getting the beta of Windows 8 sometime around September (a perk of being an MVP and a Microsoft Press author that one) which will mean that I’ll have been using Windows 7 for much less than three years before I finally dump it on everything except the media centre box under my TV, and upgrade.

Around the beginning of January 2012 we can expect the official beta to begin, exactly three years since the last one.  With Windows 8 coming out at the end of the year, maybe this time even a couple of months earlier then Windows 7 did.

You’d imagine then that I’d be wondering why at this point I have to give up using an operating system that’s the most stable, dependable, attractive, feature-rich and secure that Microsoft have ever developed.  If you are though, you’d be wrong as the truth of the matter is that I simply won’t be able to get away from Windows 7 quickly enough!

In fact I’d go as far as saying I hate its annoying, finicky, irritating ways so much that once I get my hands on that Windows 8 beta it will be “Windows 7? What Windows 7?” from there-on in.

So let me explain this position to you.  The problem resides in all the annoyances that Windows 7 has, all things that simply have got to change for the next version of the OS.  Every version of Windows has had annoyances and I seem to remember the Windows XP Annoyances book was one of O’Reilly’s best-selling titles, and had a hit spin-off website that’s still alive and well today.

So what is it about Windows 7 that I hate so much.  This is also the list of what I would like Windows 8 the fix the most.  I’ll detail my hit list here and I’d absolutely love to hear yours too, so please feel free to comment.  These annoyances come in no particular order…

Windows will install Updates as Scheduled!

Actually, if I had to pick my top #1 Windows 7 annoyance, this would be it!  I don’t mind the Action Centre popping up an alert to tell me that Windows 7 will automatically install updates as to the schedule I’ve set.  Why though does the thing need to bring up a help page whenever I click on the action centre flag to discard the message, and then after I’ve done it why does it need to tell me again, sometimes a total of three times popping up Windows Help on every occasion?  Seriously guys, why did you have to put us through this?


libraries were a wonderful idea when they were first announced.  In Windows 7 though they are extremely limited and hamstrung by not being able to view libraries of certain file types, or libraries by author.


The Homegroup is another great idea that simply failed to work properly.  To this day I can find no rational explanation as to why two PCs cannot see themselves or their files over a Homegroup, when they can see both perfectly fine in the networking centre.

Start Menu

There’s so much to dislike about the Windows 7 Start Menu.  I can understand why they removed the legacy Start Menu display option, but the fact that it still exists at all when we have the fabulous new taskbar is a complete mystery to me.  Even programs that have additional options, such as sub programs, could be shunted off into Jumplists, and uninstalling a program should be as simple as it is on the Mac, by throwing its icon into the recycle bin.

The whole Start Menu / Windows 7 Taskbar thing never made sense to me.  It’s a half-way house between old and new ways of working and with both existing side by side and being used together, it means (to me anyway) that neither can ever be used effectively or to its full potential.

The System Reserved Partition

Okay, so on some computers Windows 7 needs to put a “System Reserved” partition on to store the boot loader.  This is understandable.  What’s not understandable is why this is only ever 100MB, which then prevents some users from being able to use the System Image Backup utility, and why can’t Windows make sure it’s on the same physical hard disk as the copy of Windows?  If you have a dual hard disk system in your PC you could all too easily find this essential partition ending up on the wrong disk.  This means that you effectively double your chances of a hard disk problem or removal causing Windows to become unusable.

Folder View Options

It’s always been great in Windows that you can set folders to view how you want them to.  It’s even better that you can set one folder to look a certain way and then click a button to make all other folders appear the same way too.   Why is it still with Windows 7 though that you have to do this two or three times before it actually remembers what you’ve told it?

Sound Device Switching

Many people now use several sound devices with our PCs, and these can very commonly include wireless headphones.  How come then that you still have to go all the way into the Control Panel and change the default sound device to be able to switch from one to another?

Files on the Desktop

This is a problem that should have been fixed with Windows XP!  How is the average computer user supposed to know that the desktop is not a suitable place to store files?  How are they supposed to know these files won’t be backed up with the rest of your documents by the average backup software?  It galls me that Windows still allows anything other than shortcuts and program icons to be stored on the desktop, and I’ve lost count of the number of times I’ve seen people lose valuable files and data as a result.

Your Computer Needs to Restart

I’ll skip lightly over how Windows 7 really should have had a facility enabling third-party software and hardware companies to plug their updates into the Windows Update system.  We’re all busy people though and on average we spend many more hours at our computers than we ever did before.  We don’t want to be constantly nagged by our computers to restart the machines then whenever there’s another minor update been installed.  It’s absolutely fine that if you have your Start Menu power button set to Sleep, that Windows Update temporarily changes it to Shut Down.  This is enough!  Busy people do not need to be nagged all the time, we need to be left to get on with work.

These are my top annoyances about Windows 7 and they’re all things that I won’t miss at all!  This is unless they’re all still present in Windows 8, in which case you’ll be able to hear the scream wherever you are.

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10 Responses to Windows 7 annoyances that have got to go!

  1. Xenthis July 7, 2011 at 11:23 am #

    I like the start menu, but only because I can search from it and open up locations – I don’t use the shortcuts that are in it.

  2. guest July 7, 2011 at 2:35 pm #

    I like the start menu because I frequently only use a VERY small portion of the programs that are installed so it is nice to have all the “junk” / seldom used programs somewhere else.

  3. Jamess109 July 7, 2011 at 3:12 pm #

    You dont need to access the control panel to get into sound options to change the playback/recording device. It can be changed from the speaker icon in the system tray (if you have it visible) – by right clicking on it select which type of device (playback/recording). Then set the device to the default you want to use. I have no problem with this method – but yes I’m sure there could be even easier ways to change the device.

  4. Jarrett Lennon Kaufman July 7, 2011 at 7:27 pm #

    I’m at a loss for much of your list:

    Updates: I’ve never had it bring up a help window when I click on it. I don’t know what you’re talking about.
    Homegroup: Has worked perfectly for me in every circumstance I’ve tested it in. In fact it works so much more reliably than other sharing methods that I’ve forgone certain other security methods just to make sure I could use this.
    Start Menu: What is it you want, then? You’re failing to explain how it could be better by instead merely complaining that you don’t like it. I find it perfect for me, and I don’t see a better option in place. But since you don’t like it, come up with a better idea, please. Your description makes no sense.
    Sound Device Switching: Right-click the speaker icon and click Playback Devices.
    Files on Desktop: What kind of terrible backup programs are your clients/friends using? I haven’t seen a single backup program in years that doesn’t pick the Desktop by default. They ALL know people stick their items on the desktop because it IS a relatively reasonable place to keep files. No, it’s not optimum or organized, but since it’s always supported it, everyone knows they can do it, and all the backup software makers know they do it and take it into account. Seriously, what crappy programs are you using that don’t? I can’t think of a single one, myself…

  5. Omoronovo July 8, 2011 at 7:25 am #

    As much as I tend to agree with you on almost every post you make to this site, this one just didn’t jive with me. Some of the issues you mention there are the result of software running on windows, not windows itself. Some others are issues that should never impact someone that knows what they are doing – I’ll explain what I mean in a second.

    I’ll go through it one point at a time.

    1. Update Notifications.

    I have no idea what the issue is that you describe, but I have been unable to reproduce it on either my desktop (windows 7 enterprise x64), laptop (windows 7 ultimate x86), or my parents’ computers (both running windows 7 home premium x64). Either you are doing something you haven’t mentioned in your post to make it seem like an operating system issue and not a PEBCAK issue, or there is a configuration error unique to your system (and not a default with Windows).

    2. Libraries. 

    I will agree that libraries are not properly implemented. The inability to save a search (one of Vista and Windows 7’s best features) that works within a full library is inexcusable. However, upon saying that, the idea of libraries was to make it simpler for less technically savvy users to place and find all their files in one centralized location without having to worry about what specific folder the files are stored in. It does do this well, so I’m going to call this a “could be improved” rather than a downright annoyance – if you need to organize files by types, there’s nothing stopping you from saving a search of the folders and file types you want within a folder in your library. One improvement I would like to see is an automatic/easier inclusion of new folders – perhaps Windows could recognize where downloads are being placed and automatically add that folder to a library.

    3. Homegroup.

    Homegroup works perfectly for people only requiring simple network access and sharing – anything more advanced would need standard network sharing connections set up. One major pitfall is Homegroups reliance on IPv6 – many home “freebie” routers do not properly support it, making it work sporadically or not at all on many of the networks of users it was designed to help. The usage of IPv6 has many benefits in a scenario like Homegroup, but I believe Microsoft misjudged the level of full support it has in home environments. The inability for it to fallback and use standard sharing (like in your example) is definitely a failing in it’s design, one I’m sure will be improved with Windows 8 and/or a service pack for Windows 7.

    4. Start Menu

    Absolute tosh. You seem to think that most people are running 1920×1080+ monitors, or use only a handful of programs. As a freelance computer technician, I can tell you right now that 95% of home users have far too many programs to fit along the task bar. You suggest using jump lists, could you elaborate on that? It sounds like you’re suggesting fragmenting the start menu into multiple “simpler” lists which will do nothing but confuse and slow down people who just want to get work done.
    The start menu + superbar approach is a fantastic middle ground that gives people the ability to quickly launch applications they use often (superbar), without sacrificing basic Windows functionality (start menu, programs, links to control panels and document areas). 
    If what I assumed you meant is untrue, please elaborate – it doesn’t seem like you actually have any better ideas than what’s currently implemented. 

    5. System Reserved Partition.

    This is just downright silly. If you are installing Windows from DVD, you are competent enough to know how to set a system partition in your BIOS. The System Reserved partition is placed on the System drive because an overwhelming majority of machines are set up to boot automatically from this drive, making it a logical place to put it. If you are a standard user reinstalling windows (via, say, recovery tools supplied with OEM machines), this again isn’t an issue since it’s restored to the factory state – and OEM machines will already be configured properly to have the system reserved partition on the correct drive. Finally, for someone *upgrading* to windows 7, the System Reserved partition isn’t created at all – sidestepping this “annoyance” entirely. 
    This is a complete non-issue for the well informed, and the uninformed should not be attempting to install Windows in a non-standard configuration, it’s as simple as that.

    6. Folder Views.

    Windows Explorer stores its settings when it is exited cleanly. Installing explorer extensions (like antivirus “helper bars”, as an example) often prevent Explorer being able to do this. Additionally, because it can’t store the settings until it is exited, you may find that a setting doesn’t “save” until you log off and log in again. This is an inconvenience, certainly, but it can be minimized by following best practices (like not installing software that insists on cluttering up Explorer with “useful” stuff).

    7. Audio Device Switching.

    There is a default device set up for a reason – it’s for applications that don’t have their own built in device changer. As you have suggested, a workaround for this is to simply change the default – a process you overcomplicate when you can simply right click the speaker icon in the tray and go to “playback devices”. I have three audio devices in my machine – my soundcard (to my receiver) HDMI output from my graphics card, and a wireless headset. There is nothing stopping you setting programs to use each device independently, assuming the programs support device switching – for example, in online games I set the output device to my headset – since I’m likely going to be chatting to others whilst doing so. For everything else, it’s piped through the soundcard to my receiver system. 

    8. Files on the Desktop.

    You complain that this is an annoyance with Windows, and then ramble on about third party backup programs? What programs are you referring to that ignore the desktop? The built in Windows Easy Transfer and Windows Backup utilities don’t ignore it – it’s just a subfolder under %userprofile% after all, and should be backed up along with everything else there.
    Additionally, the default folder that files are stored is a per-application setting – The only program I know of that still sets the desktop as the default download location is Firefox, in which case it’s (again) not a Windows issue – but an issue with you not setting it to something else. 
    Your example of the “average” computer user seems to wash over the fact that the average windows users will be using Internet Explorer – which stores all downloads in the Downloads folder under %userprofile% unless instructed otherwise.

    9. Restarting.

    I don’t even understand what annoyance you’re supposed to be talking about here. You say you’re happy that the system shuts down to install updates, but don’t really go on to mention what *does* annoy you about it. Updates are only downloaded once a month – except in emergencies – so unless you continuously postpone restarting your machine (which is your fault, not Windows’), then this is an event that should be rare at best. 

    9b. Third Party software via Windows update.

    I’m hoping you simply mentioned this as an afterthought, since if you thought this idea through logically you would see how horrifically difficult it would be to do. Just in case you haven’t, I’ll explain.

    Windows Update is a trusted software source. Everything downloaded via Windows Update is assumed safe – only WHQL drivers can be downloaded via WU, and the only software that gets pushed out is via Microsoft itself (Since, being Microsoft, they have obviously tested it). 
    There are two ways I can see in which third party software could be integrated into Windows update, and both are fraught with problems. 
    Either: The mechanism could require Microsoft to test all software delivered via Windows Update. Do you even realize how huge an undertaking this would be? There are *millions* of software packages out there that run under Windows, and if even 1% of them decided to enroll in this, it would have a major impact on Microsoft’s ability to actually make their own software – either that, or they would have to hire thousands of new staff for it making a massive financial impact on the company. This impact would be dropped on the developers signing up for this service, making it an extra expense that many small software developers simply wouldn’t be able to afford.
    Or: Microsoft could push updates out without any testing whatsoever. This would remove the cost/time aspects of the first method, but this would completely undermine the trust inherent in this sort of update system. Ultimately, Microsoft would be liable if an update delivered via WU caused data loss or system issues. This would be suicide for Microsoft to implement.

    I have a great amount of respect for you Mike so I hope you don’t take this as a personal poke at you, your ability or anything else. I just hope that you can see the points I’m making here and how I disagree with most of the issues you raised – I feel you are painting too harsh a picture of Windows 7 with the points you made.

  6. denis July 8, 2011 at 11:56 am #

    This article is complete nonsense, I’m so glad that not you are designing Windows!

  7. Jotinpro July 8, 2011 at 10:07 pm #

    I agree with everyone else here Mike. This artical should never have been written. This OS is nearly perfect. The only thing  I would do is improve the network center and add the ability to add custom icons to the task bar and be able to code jump lists if you wanted. There are ways to do that now.. but it’s really annoying.

  8. Madde Bruhn July 9, 2011 at 3:28 pm #

    “Actually, if I had to pick my top #1 Windows 7 annoyance, this would be it!  I don’t mind the Action Centre popping up an alert to tell me that Windows 7 will automatically install updates as to the schedule I’ve set.  Why though does the thing need to bring up a help page whenever I click on the action centre flag to discard the message, and then after I’ve done it why does it need to tell me again, sometimes a total of three times popping up Windows Help on every occasion?  Seriously guys, why did you have to put us through this?”Change the settings so that they will install when you turn off your computer. Problem solved! Everything is automatic.

  9. Email July 11, 2011 at 4:13 pm #

    here’s my annoyances list:
    switching users/domains. there’s no domain selection list and that is a big problem for corporate enviroment where there’s lots of them…
    run as admin: I can only run as logged in admin and to get a choise Shift key has to be pressed if I want to switch to another admin account. annoying!
    hotkeys: eerytime I get a yes/no prompt I have to press Ctrl key if I want to use letters as opposed to clicking with a mouse. older operating systems would just accept Y/N keys and so on.

  10. MHazell July 17, 2011 at 5:32 pm #

    I personally like the taskbar.

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