Windows 7 vs Windows 10 comparison: What's the difference?

Windows 8 was a radically different operating system, but with Windows 10 it brings back the legacy look and feel of Windows 7, whilst maintaining a fast performance. Here's our comparison of Windows 7 vs Windows 10.

For many, Windows 7 has been the benchmark against which to judge all others. Considering how confusing and ill thought out Windows 8's interface was (and still is in many ways), it's no surprise that many are skeptical of the Windows 10 upgrade.

Well we have good news. Microsoft is back on form, with Windows 10 taking the best bits of Windows 7 and Windows 8 as well as adding some welcome new features.

Update 2 August:  The free upgrade period has ended, where Windows 10 now costs £99.99 for the Home Edition and £189.99 for the Pro version.

See also:

Free upgrade ends for Windows 10 podcast discussion:

Windows 7 vs Windows 10: 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.

Windows 10 Start menu

Windows 7 vs Windows 10: 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.

Windows 7 vs Windows 10: Cortana

Windows phone owners will already be versed in the ways of Cortana, the virtual assistant to whom you can issue voice commands. Of course 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.

Microsoft also revealed that it is launching Cortana apps for iOS and Android, which hopefully means the notebook that she uses to remember all of your requests will also work on those platforms. This could make Cortana an incredibly useful way to organise your life across all your devices, whatever they may be, and all from your Windows 10 desktop.

Now with the Anniversary Update in Windows 10, Cortana has taken even greater emphasis in operating system. You can now use voice activation to set reminders directly from the lock screen and use Cortana to provide you with more information within web-based searches.

Note: Unfortunately, Microsoft has decided to forcefully keep Cortana-based searches. You can disable the option, but you won't be able to fully remove it as you were able to prior to the Anniversary Update.

See also: How to use Cortana in Windows 10.

Windows 7 vs Windows 10: 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. Also see: How to use Virtual Desktops in Windows 10

Windows 7 Vs Windows 10: Virtual Windows

Windows 7 vs Windows 10: 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 has announced Universal apps (or Windows Apps as they’ve now renamed them) whose purpose is to run smoothly across your phone, 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 a £59 budget smartphone, but expect to see trimmed down applications that can do a lot of the basics and sync up with each other seamlessly. Here's how to use Universal apps in Windows 10

Windows 7 Vs Windows 10: 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.

Windows 7 Vs Windows 10: Edge browser

Windows 7 vs 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, which has already seen some impressive bench testing results on a variety of gaming sites.

Owners of AMD based systems should take note of this in particular as reports suggest that DirectX 12 makes significant strides in improving gaming performance from AMD-powered graphics cards.

Another game related addition in Windows 10 is that of PC 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. Users will also be able to play Xbox One games on their PCs by streaming across their local network.

This new feature means you can plug your Xbox One controller into your PC, fire up the Xbox One, don your headphones, and play away happily in the next room while the rest of the family watch the television.

Windows 7 vs Windows 10: Price and roll-back

There are a number of other improvements that we've seen in Windows 10, including Snap Assist, Syncing desktop settings, Contiuum, Windows Ink, Refresh and Reset options, not to mention the new design language, but probably the most compelling reasons to upgrade to Windows 10 were that it was free up until 29 July 2016.

Unfortuantely, it's no longer free, but we still deem it as a good upgrade for those who might have missed out on the free upgrade from Windows 7.

Also see: Downgrade Windows 10 in a few simple steps.

Windows 10: Specs

  • Windows capable PC and web connection
  • membership of Windows Insider Program
  • Windows capable PC and web connection
  • membership of Windows Insider Program

OUR VERDICT

Windows 7 is still an excellent, reliable, and stable operating system, but we've been impressed by the innovations Microsoft has included with Windows 10. If Windows 8 left a bad taste in your mouth, or just never really appealed, we think you'll find the user friendly feel of Windows 10 an easier transition from 7. The new features make it really feel like an operating system for the modern world, with mobile device and web integration opening up the possibilities. Give it a go and we don’t think you’ll be disappointed.

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