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Windows 7 vs Windows 10

Windows 8 was such a radical overhaul for Microsoft's desktop OS that many users have stuck with Windows 7. We explain why it's time to upgrade to Windows 10.

PRICE WHEN REVIEWED
  • $119.99 (Home), $199.99 (Pro)

Windows 8 was a radically different operating system to Windows 7 but with Windows 10 Microsoft brought back the legacy look and feel of Windows 7, but improved performance and added new features. Here's our comparison of Windows 7 vs Windows 10 to help you decide whether to upgrade.


For many, Windows 7, which launched in 2009, has been the benchmark against which to judge all other versions. Considering how confusing and ill thought out was Windows 8's interface, it's no surprise that many are sceptical of the Windows 10 upgrade.

Security updates for Windows 7 will continue until January 2020 but although Microsoft is offering a way for business users to pay for additional updates until 2023, that isn't going to be an option for home users. So consider 14 January 2020 to be the time when you really need to decide whether to upgrade to Windows 10 or find a different operating system.

Windows 10 comes on new PCs and laptops, but if you prefer to upgrade your existing machine, a licence costs £119.99 for the Home Edition and £219.99 for the Pro version. However, you can get them a lot cheaper if you buy an OEM version.

Since you came here to find out the differences between 7 and 10, let's get into it. 

THE START MENU
Windows 7 has a straightforward, well-designed interface that is very familiar to Windows users. Click on the Start Menu button in the bottom left corner and you can navigate your PC. When the minds behind Windows 8 decided to supplant this with a touch-focussed approach, it soon become apparent that not many users wanted big icons, charm bars, and menus swiping in from up, down, left and right.

In fact many people we talked to used tools like Classic Shell and Start8 to bypass this completely and revert to the Desktop mode with its simple Start Menu. Windows 10 doesn’t make the same mistake. The Start Menu returns from its brief hiatus, but now it’s been beefed with some useful new features. Live tiles from Windows 8 are now included on the right side of the menu, although if you’d prefer not to have these then they are easily removed.

Alternatively, there is also the option to run the Start Menu in fullscreen mode. The left side of the menu brings a sense of continuity with Windows 7 in that it contains options for regularly used apps, File explorer, Settings, and a Search bar.

Now with the Anniversary Update in Windows 10, live-tiles now take you to what is being displayed, rather than to the app's home page. More importantly, the 'All Apps' list is now the default view when opening the Start Menu, meaning a removal of the extra option; this also changes the positioning of the power button, which now resides in the left-hand corner. This all adds to a better experience over Windows 7 through the Start Menu.
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SEARCHING THE WEB FROM YOUR DESKTOP
One area where the changes between the two systems are obvious is in search. In Windows 10 the Search bar not only looks for folders, apps, and files on your PC, but is also linked to the Windows Store and your browser so it can seach the web right from your desktop.

No need to navigate to the right tab when you want to look something up, just hit the Windows key, start typing, and your search results will be displayed in a browser window. In addition to this there’s also the rather impressive addition of Microsoft’s personal assistant Cortana.

CORTANA
Cortana is the built-in assistant in Windows 10. Google Now and Apple’s own Siri perform similar duties, but in Windows 10 Cortana has become an integral part of the desktop OS.

Clicking on the Search area in the Taskbar opens the Cortana interface and allows you ask her various questions, such as search queries, your upcoming appointments, the weather, directions to the nearest coffee shop is, and many others. She can also schedule appointments, take dictated notes, add tasks and reminders, plus play music on your PC.

There are now Cortana apps for iOS and Android, making Cortana a more useful way to organise your life across all your devices, whatever they may be, and all from your Windows 10 desktop.

VIRTUAL DESKTOPS
While it’s technically possible to have virtual desktops in Windows 7, via the Desktops v2.0  software available on the Windows Sysinternals site, Windows 10 has the feature included directly in the operating system. Simply click on the Task view icon located in the Taskbar (or use the WIN+Tab key combination) and you’ll be able to quickly add a virtual desktop by clicking on the Plus sign in the bottom right corner.

Now you can easily drag open applications onto the new workspace and declutter your various tasks. Navigating between them is easy, and as they all share the same data any changes you make will be universal. 

UNIVERSAL APPS
When Window 7 was first released back in 2009 the smartphone phenomena was only just beginning and the iPad was still just a rumour. The idea then of having software that worked across all platforms was one that really didn’t make any sense.

Nowadays, in our increasingly mobile centered world, this is a much bigger issue. In Windows 10 Microsoft introduced Universal apps (or Windows Apps as they’re now called) whose purpose is to run smoothly across your tablet, PC, and even Xbox One.

This means that when you buy an app, you buy it once and it’s immediately available on all your devices. Of course it isn’t quite that simple, as a full version of Photoshop really isn’t going to run on an Xbox, but many apps can do a lot of the basics and sync up with each other seamlessly. 

EDGE BROWSER
Internet Explorer has been a staple of the Windows experience for many, many years. In Windows 7 it is the default gateway to the world wide web, as it comes pre-installed with the OS. Of course there’s nothing stopping you downloading an alternative browser - say Firefox, Chrome, or Opera - but statistics show that many opt to go with what they’ve got.

There’s good reason for this, as IE is a standard that many sites on the web are guaranteed to work with, and it’s a stable, easy to use app. It came as something of a surprise then when Microsoft announced that Windows 10 would ship with a brand new browser - Edge - that it thought was better suited to the modern web.

After testing Edge recently we certainly agree, as it is fast, elegantly designed, and features a variety of advanced capabilities including being able to annotate web pages and then send the image to friends or colleagues, Cortana integration, a new simplified reading mode that clears out the clutter on a screen, and a number of under the hood improvements.

In the Windows 10 Anniversary Update, Microsoft has added extensions, web notifications and the option to clear your browsing history on exit, making it a more modern web browser over IE. Here's how to use Edge browser in Windows 10.

GAMING
DirectX 12, PC Game DVR, and Xbox One game streaming
One of the most popular uses for a Windows machine is - of course - games. Windows 7 is a tried and trusted gaming platform that has stood up well to the rigours of time, still delivering excellent performance, stability, and compatibility.

Windows 10 builds on this solid base with a few additional enhancements that might make you consider making the leap to the new version. The most obvious is the inclusion of DirectX 12. There's also Game DVR. This smart upgrade to the Xbox app allows users to record videos of their games in real time and then share it with friends.

And with Play Anywhere titles, you can buy a game on Xbox One or PC and play it on the other platform as well: it will work on both.

PRICE AND ROLL-BACK
There are a number of other improvements that we've seen in Windows 10, including Snap Assist, Syncing desktop settings, Windows Ink, Timeline, Story Remix not to mention the new design language, but probably the most compelling reason to upgrade to Windows 10 was that it was free up until 29 July 2016.

Unfortunately that date has long passed, but we still deem it as a good upgrade when those security updates cease for Windows 7. 

SPECS
Windows 10: Specs
  • Windows capable PC and web connection
  • membership of Windows Insider Program
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