Microsoft releases an upgraded version of Windows every few years, but if you are not tech-savvy, there may not appear to be notable differences, barring surface details. However, delve deeper and you should see major alterations from one Windows version to the next.
Of course, not every change is a positive one, so if you have Windows 7 or 8.1, you may not be in a hurry to upgrade all the way to Windows 10. In this article, we compare and contrast the aforementioned trio of Windows options, and let you know the strengths and weaknesses of each.
- Windows 7: Although it was released in 2009, Microsoft still charges anywhere from $101 to $150 for this software license activation.
- Windows 8.1: This is of course the upgrade on Windows 8 and will set you back $101 on amazon.com.
- Windows 10: If you are a home or professional user of Windows 7, running Service Pack 1, or Windows 8 running 8.1, you are eligible for a free download of Windows 10 until July 29, 2016. Otherwise, you need to pay $119 for Windows 10 Home and $199 for Windows 10 Pro.
- Windows 7: The oldest of the trio actually boots faster than the newest version, by booting from the Windows logo to the desktop in 5 seconds.
- Windows 8.1: This is the fastest performer at 4 seconds.
- Windows 10: This lags behind the rest by taking 6 seconds to boot.
Waking Up From Hybrid Sleep
It should be noted that on laptops, all three versions wake up from sleep virtually instantly. However, on a desktop, Windows goes into Hybrid Sleep mode by default; this is a combo of hibernate and sleep which is designed to prevent your work from being lost forever in the event of a power outage. The times below relate to waking up from Hybrid Sleep.
- Windows 7: By far the slowest at 17 seconds.
- Windows 8.1: Next best at 12 seconds.
- Windows 10: The top performer at 10 seconds.
Waking Up From Hibernation
- Windows 7: Again, the slowest performer at 27 seconds.
- Windows 8.1: Next best at 23 seconds.
- Windows 10: The fastest at 21 seconds.
It seems as if there is little difference between the trio when it comes to gaming in DirectX11 (DX11). Experts tested gaming performance on popular titles such as Tomb
Raider and Hitman Absolution and it was determined that Windows 10 was no better than the others and was even slightly outperformed. You can read the results on Techspot.
However, Windows 10 users get the benefit of DirectX 12 (DX12) which is a must for serious players. It can provide a 20% improvement in performance over DX11 and is unavailable to Windows 7 and 8.1 users.
Additionally, Windows 10 can support streaming games from the Xbox One and controllers from that console are compatible with your PC. This streaming is extremely fast and again; this option will never be available to Windows 7 or 8.1 users.
As you should be aware, all operating systems have a cut-off date with regard to updates; after that deadline, each system will be abandoned and left vulnerable to all manner of security issues, until you pay for support. In other words, you must plan to switch systems long before the cut-off date. Fortunately, that day is a long way off for all three systems:
- Windows 7 (Service Pack 1): January 14, 2020
- Windows 8.1: January 10, 2023
- Windows 10: October 14, 2025
- Windows 7: This OS is known for its easy to understand UI and its familiarity is undoubtedly one of its plus points, as it makes it easy to navigate Control Panel, Task Manager and Windows Explorer.
- Windows 8.1: This OS saw Microsoft attempting to reach out to tablets and touchscreen devices, which caused consternation and confusion amongst desktop and laptop users. When it was initially introduced, users were irritated because when they clicked on the Start Button, they were met with a huge Start Screen filled with options that were not easy to navigate. On the plus side, Windows 8.1 has a taskbar on every screen that only shows the apps running on the screen; such is not the case with Windows 7.
- Windows 10: The latest OS has a Continuum mode which turns the large Start Menu into a touchscreen Start Menu, as and when you need it. It’s links to File Explorer, and a list of apps you’ve recently used, along with pinned folders, are all nice additions. The Windows management system is also massively improved on its predecessor’s, which makes it a great OS for users who like to multitask.
Although Windows 7 and 8.1 are relatively secure, Windows 10 takes things to a whole new level. Instead of using a password, you can log in with an iris or face scan thanks to Windows Hello. There is also an exciting new sign-in service called Passport which enables the OS to authenticate sites on your behalf without the need for a password. Passport connects to Windows Hello using a PIN code, or your biometric scan, to ensure you are who you claim to be.
The consequence is that you use your password far less often, which makes it tougher for hackers to get into your online accounts.
Since most computer users look for files with a specific filename, Search has become an increasingly important element in operating systems.
- Windows 7: Although it may be an ‘old’ OS, its search function is excellent, as it is built into the Start Menu, which makes it easy to locate folders and files stored locally and on network shares.
- Windows 8.1: The simultaneous search ability is absent in Windows 8.1 and its Start Screen search interface; app suggestions and integrated web search results from the Bing search engine are actually pretty annoying.
- Windows 10: Irritatingly, Windows 10 still hooks into search results from Bing, and they are listed ahead of search results for installed folders, files and apps. Worse still, there is no option to change it. Additionally, the old feature, which allowed you to search computer and network shares simultaneously, is still absent. On the plus side, the My Stuff Button allows for advanced searches from the Start Menu. There is also ‘Cortana’, the Windows Phone personal assistant feature which has the cool option of allowing you to search by voice. On the downside, the accuracy of the suggestions and search results is below par.
Windows 7 is the ‘old reliable’ and for most users, Windows 8 has only served to make them more attached to Windows 7. Since Windows 7 will remain the de facto OS for the next six to eight years in the corporate world, if you’re content with the functionality of Windows 7, the experts at Advanced IT Solutions recommend staying put. If, however, you’re using Windows 8 and are eager to move on, Windows 10 offers most of the things you loved about Windows 7, and is a significant improvement on Windows 8.