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What is Windows® 7?

By R. Kayne
Updated May 16, 2024
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Microsoft® Windows 7® is an operating system for personal and business computers, including both desktops and laptops. During its development, Windows 7 was code named Blackhorn and Vienna. An unofficial beta of Windows 7 was leaked to the Internet in the latter part of December 2008, while Microsoft released the official beta in January 2009. Windows 7 succeeds the Vista® operating system, and is considered an incremental upgrade to Vista.

Reviews of the beta versions of Windows 7 have been fairly uniform in assessment. In a nutshell, Windows 7 is reportedly a faster version of Vista. In a few cases the benchmarks of this operating system beat Vista and XP®, scoring higher in areas such as faster boot and shut-down times and faster access in working with files and documents. In other key areas including general office activities and video editing, XP remains faster.

The Vista operating system received wide criticism for being a slow operating system while consuming a great deal of system resources with higher minimum hardware requirements than previous Windows systems. In a word, critics claimed Vista was inefficient. While Windows 7 has the same minimum requirements as Vista, it does appear to make better use of them.

Since Windows 7 is an incremental upgrade from Vista, drivers and programs made for Vista are fully compatible with Windows 7, according to Microsoft. This should make it easy to switch from Vista to Windows 7, for those who took the Vista plunge. Programs that were designed to run on Vista will run on Windows 7, so performing a Windows 7 upgrade should be a painless process, preserving programs and preferences.

While the glassy Aero graphic user interface (GUI) persists in Windows 7, a few changes have been made as would be expected. The shut down button is a handy, uncomplicated textual button, rather than the icons that appeared in Vista, and the Security Center is called the Action Center in Windows 7. The new Action Center combines security and maintenance features for easier access to functions like system restore and backup management. Windows 7 also adds HomeGroups, a feature that makes it easier to set up a secure home network for sharing files and resources without putting your computer at risk from outside interlopers.

A few programs are no longer bundled with Windows 7, but can be downloaded at the Microsoft site. These include Microsoft Movie Maker, Photo Gallery, Windows Calendar and Windows Mail. The Windows Sidebar gadget is also gone from Windows 7, replaced by Desktop Gadgets.

Anyone familiar with Vista will likely find the change to Windows 7 easy to adjust to, and the improved performance a plus. If, however, Vista cannot run a device or program necessary for your computer environment, Windows 7 will not likely provide salvation.

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Discussion Comments

By goldenmist — On May 13, 2011

@softener - You can only drag windows to sides, not to corners. I imagine four windows on one screen would be too cluttered anyway unless you have a really big monitor.

By softener — On May 10, 2011

Does anyone know if you can use the Windows® 7 Snap feature on more than two windows? I find it really handy to be able to compare documents and spreadsheets but I can only get two documents side by side.

For those who don't know, the snap feature automatically "snaps" windows to corners of the screen just by dragging them there with your mouse. So you can drag one window to one side and another to the other side and they'll both fill up the entire screen, as opposed to having to cycle between them both with minimizing and maximizing.

By redhill — On May 10, 2011

Another one of those things that sort of came out right as we were getting used to the previous (MS vista). I guess I'm not a super computer user, but I don't really see the need to upgrade to Windows 7 while Vista is working fine. All the newer computers come with it now, and apparently it solves all the problems that Vista had. I did read that the actual performance (side by side on two computers) wasn't all that different.

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