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Some readers might wonder about similarities and differences between Windows 7, 8.x and 10. This page is designed to highlight major (And some minor) similarities and differences between these versions of Windows.

Note: for ease of navigation, headings denote categories, and footnotes are provided to give explanations.

General information, requirements and upgrades

td>Can be upgraded from Windows 7
FeatureWindows 7Windows 8.xWindows 10
Release dateOctober 22, 2009
  • 8: October 26, 2012
  • 8.1: October 18, 2013
July 29, 2015 (note 1)
End of supportJanuary 2020January 2023October 2025
Can be upgraded from Windows XP (in-place upgrade; note 2)NoNoNo
Can be upgraded from Windows Vista (note 2)YesNoNo
Yes (Windows Anytime Upgrade to upgrade to a higher edition)YesYes (requires Service Pack 1)
Can be upgraded from Windows 8N/AYes (Windows Anytime Upgrade to upgrade from Core to Pro; need to visit Windows Store to upgrade from 8 to 8.1)Yes (requires 8.1)
Eligible for a free upgrade until July 29, 2016 (except Enterprise edition)Yes (genuine license required)Yes (genuine license of Windows 8.1 required)Yes (in-place upgrade from 7 and 8.1 supported)
Processorx86 32-bit or 64-bit from Intel, AMD and othersx86 32-bit or 64-bit from Intel, AMD and othersx86 32-bit or 64-bit from Intel, AMD and others
Minimum processor Clock speed1 GHz1 GHz1 GHz
Processor features requiredN/ASSE (Streaming SIMD Extensions) 2 (note 3), NX (No eXecute), PAE (Physical Address Extension)SSE (Streaming SIMD Extensions) 2, NX (No eXecute), PAE (Physical Address Extension)
64-bit processors requireNo additional feature requirements8.1: CMPXCHG16B (Compare and Exchange 128; note 4), PREFETCHW (Prefetch instruction), LAHF/SAHF (Load and Store). See note 5 for additional requirements when using professional editions.CMPXCHG16B (Compare and Exchange 128), PREFETCHW (Prefetch instruction), LAHF/SAHF (Load and Store)
Memory on 32-bit systems1 GB1 GB1 GB
Memory on 64-bit systems2 GB (except Starter)2 GB2 GB
Maximum memory on 32-bit systems4 GB4 GB4 GB
Maximum memory on 64-bit systems for consumer editions (note 6)
  • Starter: No 64-bit edition
  • Home Basic: 8 GB
  • Home Premium: 16 GB
128 GB128 GB
Maximum memory on 64-bit systems for professional editions (note 6)192 GB512 GB2048 GB
Minimum disk space for 32-bit systems16 GB16 GB16 GB
Minimum disk space for 64-bit systems20 GB20 GB20 GB

User interface features

FeatureWindows 7Windows 8.xWindows 10
DesktopYesYesYes
Start menu interfaceTraditional Start menuStart screenStart menu with tiles
Offline searchYesYesYes
Online searchPartial (via third-party programs)YesYes (note 7)
Windows ExplorerYesYes (note 8)Yes
TaskbarYesYesYes
Jump listsYesYesYes
Libraries (virtual folders)YesYesYes
Hub for accessing commonly used administrative toolsStart Menu's programs columnQuick menu (note 9Quick menu
Charms (note 10)YesNo
Optimized for keyboard and mouseYesYes (8.1)Yes
Optimized interface for touchscreensLimitedYesYes
Switch between desktop and touchscreen interface modesNoNoYes (note 11)
Virtual desktops/workspacesNoNoYes

Applications and app acquisition

FeatureWindows 7Windows 8.xWindows 10
Supports traditional desktop programsYesYesYes (see note 12 for which apps are kept and removed)
Supports new style apps (note 13)NoYesYes (see note 14 for a special case for a variant of Enterprise edition)
Dedicated store for appsNoYesYes
Can run new style apps in a desktop windowN/ANoYes
Can snap windows side by sideLimitedYesYes (note 15)

Multimedia, games, web browsing and socialization

Games
FeatureWindows 7Windows 8.xWindows 10
Windows Media PlayerYesYesYes
Windows Media Center and DVD/Blu-Ray playback (note 16)YesYes (via an add-on pack for professional edition)No
Yes (note 17)YesYes
Record gameplay and stream console game sessions to a computer (note 18)NoNoYes
Internet ExplorerYesYesYes
Microsoft EdgeNoNoYes (set as initial default web browser)
Stream multimedia content wirelessly (Miracast)Yes (requires Intel Wi-Di app)Yes (built into 8.1)Yes
Stream videos from a web browser to multimedia devicesNoNoYes (note 19)
Open PDF documents directly from a web browser (note 20)YesYesYes (Microsoft Edge has a built-in PdF reader)
Built-in messaging featuresNoYes (8)Yes (note 21)

Configuration, accounts, updates and recovery options

FeatureWindows 7Windows 8.xWindows 10
Control PanelYesYesYes
Dedicated settings appControl PanelPC SettingsSettings
Windows UpdateYesYesYes
Selective update installYesYesPartial (note 22)
Public beta programNoNoYes (Windows Insider program)System RestoreYesYesYes
Restore Windows to a clean state while preserving user files (note 23)NoYesYes
Remove everything while restoring Windows to a clean state (note 23)Yes (requires presence of a recovery image)YesYes (note 24)
Return to an earlier version of Windows from a newer versionNo (recovery image must be present)No (recovery image required)Yes (must be performed within a month of installing Windows 10 via in-place upgrade)
Product key required during installationYesYesNo (note 25)
Local accountYesYesYes
Log in using Microsoft AccountNoYesYes
Use a pin instead of a passwordNoYesYes
Log in using face and fingerprint recognitionNoNoYes (requires compatible hardware such as infrared cameras)

accessibility, security and miscellaneous features

FeatureWindows 7Windows 8.xWindows 10
Ease of Access CenterYesYesYes
NarratorYesYesYes
Touch support in NarratorNoYesYes
Dedicated shortcut key to toggle Narrator on/off (note 26)NoYesYes
Speech recognitionYesYesYes
Personalized Digital AssistantNoNoYes (note 27)
Action CenterYesYesYes (note 28)View all notifications from one placeNoNoYes (note 28)User Account Control (UAC)YesYesYes
Built-in antivirusNoYes (expanded Windows Defender, identical in functionality to Microsoft Security Essentials)Yes
Remote desktop (note 29)YesYesYes
join active Directory or a domain (note 30)YesYesYes
Multilingual user interfaceYes (note 31)YesYes
Windows gadgets (note 32)YesNoNo
Go to desktop when signed inYesYes (8.1)Yes (desktop interface mode)
USB 3.0 supportNo (requires drivers from manufacturer)Yes (built into Windows)Yes
Set default printerNoNoYes (note 33)
3-D printingNoYes (8.1)Yes

Footnotes

  1. Windows 10 was released to public beta testing channel (Windows Insider program) on October 1, 2014. The latest version was released on November 12, 2015.
  2. Clean install is required when upgrading from XP to 7. Windows Vista and later (including 7) supports upgrading to a higher edition via Windows Anytime Upgrade.
  3. Streaming SIMD Extensions is used to boost performance when working with multimedia and other tasks requireing doing same things on multiple data at once.
  4. Without compare and exchange 128, Windows 8.1 and later cannot handle large amount of virtual memory.
  5. To use Hyper-V (Microsoft's virtualization feature), one must be running 64-bit Windows 8/8.1/10 Pro or higher on a processor that supports virtualization features (Intel VT with EPT (Extended Page Tables), AMD-V with RVI (Rapid Virtualization Indexing), collectively termed Second-Level Address Translation (SLAT).
  6. Consumer editions refer to Windows 7 Starter, Home Basic, Home Premium, Windows 8/8.1 (Core) and Windows 10 Home. Professional editions refer to Windows 7 Professional, Enterprise, Ultimate, Windows 8/8.1 Pro, Enterprise and Windows 10 Pro, Enterprise and education.
  7. Windows 10 adds Cortana search, replacing Bing search.
  8. Renamed to File Explorer in Windows 8 and later.
  9. Quick menu (Windows+X) houses common administrative tools such as Control Panel, Device Manager, Run and so on. Windows 8.1 and later allows hsutting down a computer from this menu.
  10. A bar on the right side of the screen that allows users to open Start screen, share content and more.
  11. Called Continuum. Windows 10 can switch between desktop and Tablet mode (touchscreen mode) automatically (connecting a tablet to a keyboard dock, for instance) or through user intervention.
  12. Certain old-style desktop programs are removed (either outright or because they are not compatible). Removed apps in Windows 10 include traditional calculator, Windows Media Center and others. Windows 10 discontinues certain MSN branded apps from Windows 8.1.
  13. Called by various names, including "modern apps", "metro apps", "Windows Store apps" and "universal apps".
  14. A variant of Windows 10 Enterprise called Enterprise LTSB (long Term Servicing Branch) does not come with most of the new-style apps.
  15. Windows 7 allows users to position apps on the left or right half of the screen. Windows 8.x allows new-style apps to take a portion of the screen. Windows 10 can snap up to four apps in a quadrant mode.
  16. Available in Windows 7 Home Premium and higher and Windows 8/8.1 Pro with Media Center add-on installed. Requires DVD playback app in Windows 10 (available in Windows store).
  17. Certain Windows 7 versions does not come with premium games.
  18. Called Game DVR. Xbox One game sessions can be streamed to a Windows 10 PC on the same network as the console.
  19. Available in Windows 10 Version 1511 (fall 2015 update) and later.
  20. Requires installing Adobe Reader.
  21. Limited form via Messaging app. Messaging features from Skype are now part of Windows 10 Version 1511 and later.
  22. Windows 10 Home is set to install any updates. Windows 10 Pro, Enterprise and Education can defer feature upgrades (termed Current Branch for Business). Windows 10 Enterprise LTSB is set to receive critical updates.
  23. The former option is called "refresh" where user files and new-style apps are preserved. The second option, "reset", removes everything and optionally allows drive formatting.
  24. When resetting Windows 10, whichever version of Windows 10 is installed will be used.
  25. Once upgraded via in-place upgrade, Windows 10 can be installed without having to enter a product key due to changes in license detection and generation. Starting with Windows 10 Version 1511, on compatible hardware, clean installation does not require entering product key, and one can use Windows 7, 8 or 8.1 product key to activate Windows 10.
  26. Windows+ENTER.
  27. Microsoft Cortana, which accepts text and voice commands, equivalent to Siri and Google Now and other such services (available in certain countries).
  28. Windows 7 and 8.x's Action Center is used as a hub for security and maintenance. Windows 10 includes notifications from all apps and allows toggling certain settings quickly such as airplane mode.
  29. Allows a user to log onto a remote computer (all editions support client mode, while professional editions support hosting this service).
  30. A group of computers managed by a central server.
  31. Requires Windows 7 Enterprise or ultimate. Multilingual user interface and switching between languages are supported on all editions of Windows 8 and later.
  32. Small apps designed to perform a single task such as displaying sports scores. Same effect can be achieved in Windows 8 and later by letting new style apps take a portion of the screen.
  33. Available in Windows 10 Version 1511 and later.