Windows 10 full review
Microsoft has been warning the world that this day was coming, and now it is upon us. On 14 January 2020 Windows 7 becomes "end of life".
The popular operating system launched on 22 October 2009 and is still used by millions of people, but as of 14 January there will be no more updates, no bug fixes or patches and no technical support available for it.
That's the reality and if your computer still runs Windows 7, now is the time to ditch it and buy a new one or consider installing Windows 10 on it instead.
When we originally wrote this article four years ago just as Windows 10 was released, we looked at the new features such as Cortana, virtual desktops and new Edge browser. With the option to get the new OS for free, it made sense for a lot of people to switch from Windows 7.
But if you're reading this in 2020, the comparisons below are largely irrelevant: Windows 7 is no longer a viable choice unless you really know what you're doing with antivirus software and malware protection.
Put simply, it's too risky to continue to use a Windows 7 laptop or PC as cybercriminals will undoubtedly look to exploit any vulnerabilities which remain in the operating system because they won't be fixed, which means they'll continue to work indefinitely.
And the chances are, if your computer is still running Windows 7 it's pretty old. And that's why it makes more sense to buy a new laptop or PC which will come with Windows 10 pre-installed. That takes the hassle out of upgrading, and it also saves you money. Microsoft charges £119.99 / $139 for Windows 10 Home, but you could put that money towards a laptop or PC where the manufacturer pays far, far less for that licence.
You can see our recommendations for the best budget laptops right here.
But 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.
It's very similar in Windows 10, but has now it’s been beefed with some useful new features. Live tiles from Windows 8 are included on the right side of the menu, although if you’d prefer not to have these then they are easily removed.
Following the Anniversary Update in Windows 10, live-tiles took you to what was being displayed, rather than to the app's home page.
One area where the two OSes differ 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 search 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. Plus, you can talk to Cortana, by typing or - if your PC or laptop has a microphone - by talking.
We think it all adds to a better experience than Windows 7.
Cortana is the built-in assistant in Windows 10. Google Assistant, Alexa and 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.
There are 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.
See also: How to use Cortana in Windows 10.
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 New desktop in the top-left 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.
Windows 7 was a great gaming platform, but these days you'll find most games only support Windows 10. So if you want to play Forza Horizon 4, you'll need Windows 10 or an Xbox. The fact that a lot of games work cross platform means you can also play against mates whether they're playing in Windows or on their Xbox One.
There are other features only available in Windows 10, too, such as DirectX 12 and 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.
More recently, the introduction of graphics cards which support real-time ray tracing are only supported in Windows 10, so you're out of luck if you wanted to run an RTX 2080 on your Windows 7 PC.
There are a number of other improvements that we've seen in Windows 10, including Snap Assist, Syncing desktop settings, Windows Ink, Timeline, and others. But whether or not you're tempted by any of the new features, it's the end of support that's likely to force you into moving from Window 7 to Windows 10.
Ultimately, then, the question isn't really whether Windows 10 is better than Windows 7 (it is) but whether it's safe to keep using the old OS. And after 14 January 2020, it won't be.
Windows 10: Specs
- Windows capable PC and web connection
- membership of Windows Insider Program