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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.

Note: this comparison is geared towards screen reader users. Unless otherwise specified, features from Windows 10 are based on latest stable version (currently Version 1703).)

General information, requirements and upgrades

Feature Windows 7 Windows 8.x Windows 10
Release date October 22, 2009
  • 8: October 26, 2012
  • 8.1: October 18, 2013
July 29, 2015 (note 1)
End of support January 2020 January 2023 October 2025 (note 2)
Can be upgraded from Windows XP (in-place upgrade; note 3) No No No
Can be upgraded from Windows Vista (note 3) Yes No No
Can be upgraded from Windows 7 Yes (Windows Anytime Upgrade to upgrade to a higher edition) Yes Yes (requires Service Pack 1)
Can be upgraded from Windows 8 N/A Yes (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)
Processor x86 32-bit or 64-bit from Intel, AMD and others x86 32-bit or 64-bit from Intel, AMD and others x86 32-bit or 64-bit from Intel, AMD and others
Minimum processor Clock speed 1 GHz 1 GHz 1 GHz
Processor features required N/A SSE (Streaming SIMD Extensions) 2 (note 4), NX (No eXecute), PAE (Physical Address Extension) SSE (Streaming SIMD Extensions) 2, NX (No eXecute), PAE (Physical Address Extension)
64-bit processors require No additional feature requirements 8.1: CMPXCHG16B (Compare and Exchange 128; note 5), PREFETCHW (data prefetch instruction, part of 3D Now!), LAHF/SAHF (Load and Store flags). See note 6 for additional requirements when using professional editions. CMPXCHG16B (Compare and Exchange 128), PREFETCHW, LAHF/SAHF (Load and Store flags)
Memory on 32-bit systems 1 GB 1 GB 2 GB (Version 1607 and later)
Memory on 64-bit systems 2 GB (except Starter) 2 GB 2 GB
Maximum memory on 32-bit systems 4 GB 4 GB 4 GB
Maximum memory on 64-bit systems for consumer editions (note 7)
  • Starter: No 64-bit edition
  • Home Basic: 8 GB
  • Home Premium: 16 GB
128 GB 128 GB
Maximum memory on 64-bit systems for professional editions (note 7) 192 GB 512 GB 2048 GB
Minimum disk space for 32-bit systems 16 GB 16 GB 16 GB
Minimum disk space for 64-bit systems 20 GB 20 GB 20 GB

User interface features

Feature Windows 7 Windows 8.x Windows 10
Desktop Yes Yes Yes
Start menu interface Traditional Start menu Start screen Start menu with tiles
Offline search Yes Yes Yes
Online search Partial (via third-party programs) Yes Yes (note 8)
Windows Explorer Yes Yes (note 9) Yes
Taskbar Yes Yes Yes
Jump lists Yes Yes Yes
Libraries (virtual folders) Yes Yes Yes
Hub for accessing commonly used administrative tools Start Menu's programs column Quick menu (note 10) Quick menu
Charms (note 11) <no Yes</no
Optimized for keyboard and mouse Yes Yes (8.1) Yes
Optimized interface for touchscreens Limited Yes Yes
Switch between desktop and touchscreen interface modes No No Yes (note 12)
Virtual desktops/workspaces No No Yes
Centralized hub for notifications and toggling settings N/A N/A Action Center

Applications and app acquisition

Feature Windows 7 Windows 8.x Windows 10
Supports traditional desktop programs Yes Yes Yes (see note 13 for which apps are kept and removed)
Supports new style apps (note 14) No Yes Yes (see note 54 for a special case for a variant of Enterprise edition)
Dedicated store for apps No Yes Yes
Can run new style apps in a desktop window N/A No Yes
Can snap windows side by side Limited Yes Yes (note 16)

Multimedia, games, web browsing and socialization

Feature Windows 7 Windows 8.x Windows 10
Windows Media Player Yes Yes Yes
Windows Media Center and DVD/Blu-Ray playback (note 17) Yes Yes (via an add-on pack for professional edition) No
Games Yes (note 18) Yes Yes
Record gameplay and stream console game sessions to a computer (note 19) No No Yes
Internet Explorer Yes Yes Yes
Microsoft Edge No No Yes (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 devices No No Yes (note 20)
Open PDF documents directly from a web browser (note 21) Yes Yes Yes (Microsoft Edge has a built-in PdF reader)
Built-in messaging features No Yes (8) Yes (note 22)

Configuration, accounts, updates and recovery options

Feature Windows 7 Windows 8.x Windows 10
Control Panel Yes Yes Yes
Dedicated settings app Control Panel PC Settings Settings
Windows Update Yes Yes Yes
Selective update install Yes Yes Partial (note 23; see note 24 for changes to Windows 7 and 8.x update routines)
Public beta program No No Yes (Windows Insider program)
System Restore Yes Yes Yes
Restore Windows to a clean state while preserving user files (note 25) No Yes Yes
Remove everything while restoring Windows to a clean state (note 25) Yes (requires presence of a recovery image) Yes Yes (note 26)
Return to an earlier version of Windows from a newer version No (recovery image must be present) No (recovery image required) Yes (must be performed within a few days (10 for Version 1607) of installing Windows 10 via in-place upgrade)
Product key required during installation Yes Yes No (note 27)
Local account Yes Yes Yes
Log in using Microsoft Account No Yes Yes
Use a pin instead of a password No Yes Yes
Log in using face and fingerprint recognition No No Yes (requires compatible hardware such as infrared cameras)

Accessibility, security and miscellaneous features

Feature Windows 7 Windows 8.x Windows 10
Ease of Access Center Yes Yes Yes
Narrator Yes Yes Yes
Touch support in Narrator No Yes Yes
Dedicated shortcut key to toggle Narrator on/off (note 28) No Yes Yes
Speech recognition Yes Yes Yes
Personalized Digital Assistant No No Yes (note 29)
Action Center Yes Yes Yes (note 30)
View all notifications from one place No No Yes (note 30)
User Account Control (UAC) Yes Yes Yes
Built-in antivirus No Yes (expanded Windows Defender, identical in functionality to Microsoft Security Essentials) Yes
Remote desktop (note 31) Yes Yes Yes
Join Active Directory or a domain (note 32) Yes Yes Yes
Multilingual user interface Yes (note 33) Yes Yes
Windows gadgets (note 34) Yes No No
Go to desktop when signed in Yes Yes (8.1) Yes (desktop interface mode)
USB 3.0 support No (requires drivers from manufacturer) Yes (built into Windows) Yes
Set default printer No No Yes (note 35)
3-D printing No Yes (8.1) Yes

Footnotes

  1. Windows 10 was released to public beta testing channel (Windows Insider program) on October 1, 2014. The latest version (1703/Creators Update) was released on April 5, 2017.
  2. From time to time, a version of Windows 10 destined for mission-critical devices will be released. The latest of such releases is supported until October 2026.
  3. 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.
  4. Streaming SIMD Extensions is used to boost performance when working with multimedia and other tasks requireing doing same things on multiple data at once.
  5. Without compare and exchange 128, Windows 8.1 and later cannot handle large amount of virtual memory.
  6. 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).
  7. 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, Pro Workstation, Pro Education, Enterprise and Education. Windows 10 S is considered a device-specific edition that can be upgraded to Windows 10 Pro. Windows 10 Pro Workstation is designed for users requiring reliability and supporting high-end specs, including up to four processors and 6 TB (6144 GB) of RAM.
  8. Windows 10 adds Cortana search, replacing Bing search.
  9. Renamed to File Explorer in Windows 8 and later.
  10. Quick menu (Windows+X) houses common administrative tools such as Control Panel, Device Manager, Run and so on. Windows 8.1 and later allows shutting down a computer from this menu.
  11. A bar on the right side of the screen that allows users to open Start screen, share content and more.
  12. 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.
  13. 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.
  14. Called by various names, including "modern apps", "metro apps", "Windows Store apps" and "universal apps".
  15. A variant of Windows 10 Enterprise called Enterprise LTSB (long Term Servicing Branch) does not come with most of the new-style apps.
  16. 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.
  17. 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).
  18. Certain Windows 7 versions does not come with premium games.
  19. Called Game DVR. Xbox One game sessions can be streamed to a Windows 10 PC on the same network as the console. Support for broadcasting game sessions via the Internet is provided with mixer (formerly Beam) in Creators Update and later.
  20. Available in Windows 10 Version 1511 (fall 2015 update) and later.
  21. Requires installing Adobe Reader.
  22. Limited form via Messaging app. Messaging features from Skype are now part of Windows 10 Version 1511 and later, and a universal app version of Skype is installed as part of Version 1607.
  23. Windows 10 Home is set to install any updates. Other Windows 10 editions can defer feature upgrades (termed Current Branch for Business). Windows 10 Enterprise LTSB is set to receive critical updates.
  24. From October 2016 onwards, monthly updates for Windows 7 and 8.x have become cumulative updates.
  25. 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.
  26. When resetting Windows 10, whichever version of Windows 10 is installed will be used.
  27. 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.
  28. Windows+ENTER in older versions, Control+Windows+ENTER in Windows 10 Version 1703.
  29. Microsoft Cortana, which accepts text and voice commands, equivalent to Siri, Google Assistant, Alexa and other such services (available in certain countries).
  30. 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.
  31. Allows a user to log onto a remote computer (all editions support client mode, while professional editions support hosting this service).
  32. A group of computers managed by a central server.
  33. Requires Windows 7 Enterprise or Ultimate. Multilingual user interface and switching between languages are supported on all editions of Windows 8 and later.
  34. 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.
  35. Available in Windows 10 Version 1511 and later.