Windows 7 vs. Windows 10: Which is better?

Windows 7 is still immensely popular. Is it really better than Windows 10?

microsoft building tab support into windows 10 upgrade popup

It might seem obvious always to run the latest and greatest Microsoft operating system on your PC. But many people don’t agree. Windows 10 only recently surpassed Windows 7 as the most popular version of Windows. Despite the end of support in one year’s time, many are still holding on to the nearly 10-year-old Windows 7 operating system.

Though it has a rightful place in the heart of consumers, Windows 7’s drastic differences from Windows 10 might be a reason that you are holding back from a long-awaited upgrade. In this guide, we give a look at some of the biggest areas where the two converge.

The look: Start Menu and apps

windows 10 april 2019 update white theme cropped
Arif Bacchus/Digital Trends

Windows 7 holds on to tradition from previous releases such as Windows XP and Windows 98 and features a familiar, simplistic and easy to understand user interface. Want to find your program? Simply hit the Start button and find it in the list. Want to quickly add a printer or visit the control panel? Simply click the link to the right side of the Start Menu. Asides from a fancy “Aero” and glass look, there are no distractions that get in your way. All the important information and settings you typically want are right there, front and center.

Along with the ability to change its colors and further customize elements of the Start Menu, Windows 10 shakes up things and re-introduces a feature from Windows 8 known as Live Tiles. Some apps in Windows 10 not only can be installed directly as .exe files but also downloaded through a platform known as the Microsoft Store. It is these apps which will have Live Tiles on the right side of the Start Menu. By default, some of these Live Tiles are pinned next to the list of your desktop apps and intend to show you quick information about weather, sports, and more at a quick glance.

Like the App Store on your iPhone, you can download Instagram, Twitter, Facebook, Netflix, and more to your PC from the Microsoft Store. These make accessing some of those popular services quicker and easier and the overall UI is a bit more optimized for newer touch screen devices. That’s something Windows 7 can’t do at all.

The features: notifications, search, and Cortana

microsoft separating cortana from windows 10 search

Also slightly similar to your iPad, Windows 10 also has a dedicated notification center known as Action Center. If you’re on Windows 7, notifications typically appear in the taskbar, but Windows 10 steps that up and puts notifications in one clean and concise environment. The Action Center in Windows 10 will show notifications about important system information, and emails. It also has quick toggle switches for screen brightness, sharing files, network settings, and more.

Other important differences in Windows 7 and Windows 10 is the addition of Cortana. This Windows 10 voice assistant is somewhat equal to Siri and can assist you in certain tasks like keeping up with sports scores, weather and sending emails. Cortana is a big part of the newest version of Windows and is integrated with several core areas, including the Microsoft Edge web browser, which is exclusive to Windows 10. That web browser is also more modern than Internet Explorer 11 bundled in Windows 7. It comes with support for ad blocking extensions, continuing web pages from your phone, and more.

As for searching for your files, Microsoft is separating Cortana from Search in the next version of Windows 10. That makes the search experience in Windows 10 more like Windows 7, but with the bonus of having it search the internet and the web for helpful information along with your files.

Support and security

windows 10 april 2019 update cropped
Arif Bacchus/Digital Trends

As mentioned before, Microsoft is ending support for Windows 7 in about one years time. That means that upgrading Windows 10 is your best bet to stay safe from the ever-evolving threats from viruses, However, unlike Windows 7 which only received one major “Service Pack” update, Microsoft frequently works on big updates to Windows 10. Fresh features are always making its way into the newer Windows operating system. It gets major updates twice a year, with the most recent update rumored to be the April 2019 Update. In the past few years, Windows 10 has received new features like the ability to sync your activities across devices with Windows Timeline and continue things on your Android phone on your PC.

Unlike previous versions (including Windows 7), Windows 10 isn’t a stand-alone product for Microsoft. It’s more like a service. The company releases updates twice a year and intends to keep supporting the operating system into the near future. If that plan works out, that means you shouldn’t need to buy a new version a few years from now.

Compatibility and gaming

Playing Fortnite on a laptop
Nate Barrett/Digital Trends

Despite all the new features in Windows 10, Windows 7 still does have better app compatibility. While Photoshop, Google Chrome, and other popular application continue to work on both Windows 10 and Windows 7, some old third-party pieces of software work better on the older operating system. That can include software for printing mailing labels, managing point of sales systems, and more. This is often a reason why some businesses have been reluctant to update.

Still, Microsoft is taking steps to kill off compatibility in Windows 7. As an example, its new Office 2019 software won’t work on Windows 7. There’s also the hardware element too, as Windows 7 runs better on older hardware which the resource-heavy Windows 10 might struggle with. In fact, it is almost impossible to find a new Windows 7 laptop in 2019.

As for gaming, Microsoft bundles in an Xbox app on Windows 10. This allows you to stream content from an Xbox One over to your PC and keep tabs on Xbox Live content. You also can find popular Microsoft games like Forza 7 or State of Decay for download right in the Microsoft Store on Windows 10. Outside of that, Windows 10 exclusively supports DirectX 12, which is a technology that helps render video and audio in Windows 10. It is often a requirement for downloading and playing newer titles.

It’s time to upgrade to Windows 10

windows 10 october update

Although the free upgrade path to Windows 10 ended a long time ago, it is time to let go of Windows 7 and move to Windows 10. While Windows 10 isn’t perfect and many have believed it poses privacy concerns for its data collection, it’s the more secure operating system. Sure, there is the occasional bug, but Microsoft is always patching things quickly and working on updating Windows 10.

There are plenty of reasons for Windows 7 to hold a soft spot in our hearts, but in a world where malware and viruses are always attacking computers, going with the safer and more secure version of Windows is the better bet now rather than later. If for no other reason, it’s worth switching so you don’t have to pay the fee Microsoft will start charging. Besides, there are always ways to make Windows 10 feel a bit like the old system you love.

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