Head to Head: Windows 7 vs Ubuntu 9.10

Our test system was a Lenovo ThinkPad X300 laptop, with a 1.2GHz Intel Core 2 Duo processor and a 64GB SSD hard disk, so while not bleeding edge it's still a relatively speedy piece of hardware. Windows 7 has a very straightforward installation process that won't trouble users there almost no user interaction. On our test system it took no more than 25 minutes to go from installing the disk to having a working system. However, upgrading from Windows XP or Vista can take a very long time, depending on the speed of your system and the number of applications you have installed. The bottom line is, if it's not a clean install, set aside a serious amount of time for your upgrade.

Ubuntu is a free system, and the ISO or disc image - can be downloaded from here. Once done the 750MB image needs to be burnt to a CD via a burning program such as Nero Burning ROM.

Windows 7 now has a very handy ISO burning utility built-in. Just insert an empty disc right click to burn and that's what we used to create our CD.

Once you pop it into your system, the Wubi (Windows Ubuntu Installer) comes up. This has a very clever system that enables you to install Ubuntu from inside Windows, without having to create a partition first. This is fantastic for first time users whatever their technical level, as it enables them to try Ubuntu with little effort or risk.

The WUBI effectively creates a virtual hard disk so that once you reboot you've a boot option to choose between Windows and Linux selectable via the arrow keys. There is a performance hit with this approach, but it's not significant.

If you're really in trepidation though you can try Ubuntu without having to install it at all and run it from the CD. A note has to be made of Ubuntu Netbook Remix, a version optimised for netbooks that can be installed directly from an appropriately formatted 1GB USB key.

So while the Windows 7 installation is simplicity itself, we were won over by the flexibility and ease of use of the Ubuntu Wubi tool.

Winner: Ubuntu 9.10

Benny Har-Even

Benny Har-Even is a twenty-year stalwart of technology journalism who is passionate about all areas of the industry, but telecoms and mobile and home entertainment are among his chief interests. He has written for many of the leading tech publications in the UK, such as PC Pro and Wired, and previously held the position of technology editor at ITPro before regularly contributing as a freelancer.

Known affectionately as a ‘geek’ to his friends, his passion has seen him land opportunities to speak about technology on BBC television broadcasts, as well as a number of speaking engagements at industry events.