As many may know, Microsoft's new Windows 7 operating system became available last week worldwide and through TechSoup's Microsoft Donation Program. Our customer service representatives have been plowing through the donation requests, helping nonprofits and libraries register and place their requests, and answering questions about whether to upgrade and how to do it. They're working as hard as they can to meet the demand and overflow of queries, so please be patient if you've called or emailed since they have a lengthy queue (even with additional staff support). Our community forums have also experienced a flurry of discussion on the operating system and lots of questions are being answered there.
To help bring some of the more frequently asked questions to the forefront (and hopefully answer some of your lingering questions), we've compiled this short list of Q&A to help you navigate.
Q. We're a 501(c)(3) nonprofit or public library listed in the IMLS database. We'd like to request a donation of Windows 7 operating systems. Where do we begin?
A. Check out TechSoup's Getting Started page, where you can see the steps to create your individual login and password, get started with registering your organization, and verify any order history (since someone else may have already registered your organization previously). Getting set up can take a few days since our customer service reps will need to verify your tax status with a faxed copy of your IRS tax determination letter and tax ID/EIN number. If, during registration, you find that your organization was registered by someone else (a different staff person or former employee), you can become an authorized agent so you can start requesting donations. Once you're registered, you'll want to check the eligibility restrictions for the discount and donation programs for the products available through TechSoup to see what you're eligible to request. You can look at the general TechSoup Stock FAQ page for answers to more specific questions about registering and requesting donations.
Q. We're already registered with TechSoup but are having problems logging in to our account so we can't see our order history and request Windows 7. Who can help?
A. You should login with your individual username and password. If you don't have one, create one here. Once you create a personal account login, you can see if your organization is already registered in TechSoup's system and check your order history to see whether you've placed an requests for Microsoft donations recently. You'll want to verify how many titles and licenses you've received. If you have problems logging in, you can email email@example.com for help, but keep in mind, it may take a few days for a response right now due to their higher-than-normal call and email volume.
Q. We heard that nonprofits might be eligible to receive an extra donation of Microsoft products this year, instead of one. How does that work?
A. Microsoft has a two-year donation cycle and an eligible organization is normally allowed to place only one order of Microsoft donated products per calendar year. They can request up to six different titles (for example, Microsoft Office Professional, Microsoft Business Server 2008, and Windows 7, would constitute three different titles), and up to 50 licenses for each title during that two-year period. Right now, Microsoft is offering organizations the opportunity to place one additional request this year in order to request Windows 7 or Windows Vista. You still can't exceed the six-titles-in-two-years-rule or the 50 licenses of each, but you're able to place an additional request between now and January 30, 2010 instead of only getting one donation request per year.
Q. What's the difference betweeen Windows 7 Professional and Enterprise editions?
A. Enterprise has features that are best used in a client-server environment. Enterprise offers Direct Access, which is another option for remote users to access their network securely. (You'd need Windows Server 2008 R2 in order to do this.) Our Lead Technology Analyst, Kevin Lo, recommends that unless you really need true enterprise-level applications, Windows 7 Professional is a great option for most organizations. You can see a pretty detailed comparison chart of the different functions available in each version of Windows 7 on Wikipedia. Keep in mind that TechSoup's donation program only offers Enterprise and Professional editions of Windows 7.
Q. Should I request 32-bit or 64-bit?
A. According to Kevin Lo's article Should You Upgrade to Windows 7? "If you are deciding between 32-bit and 64-bit, and have to do a custom install anyway, it is strongly advised that you choose the 64-bit version. At the most basic level, a 32-bit operating system is limited to about 3 GB of RAM. By not migrating to the 64-bit version, you would be denying yourself one of the most affordable upgrades you can perform on your computer. For more information, read this Microsoft FAQ on 32-bit and 64-bit Windows."
Q. How do I upgrade?
A. Check out Kevin's other article, Upgrading to Windows 7: Steps and Checklist and also double-check to see whether your third-party software is compatible with the new operating system yet or not. This list covers TechSoup donor partners, but there are other lists around the web that will give you compatibility information about the programs you regularly use.
Please check out the Windows 7 forum thread for more questions and answers to help you make the best decision for your needs. If it hasn't been asked already, feel free to ask your questions and join the discussion about your Windows 7 experience.