With Windows XP coming to the end of its life you face the choice of either going over to Windows 7 or Windows 8, regardless of whether you plan to upgrade your current machine or purchase a new one.
As of late there has been a lot of negative press surrounding the release of Windows 8. Chief amongst those complaints has been the removal of the Start button, and the over optimisation of Windows 8 to favour the use of touch screen computers, thus leaving those without a touch screen feeling a little left in the dark. Windows 8.1 (released recently) was supposed to address those issues. Though aside from what seems fluff I feel that they have failed to achieve a more useable operating system.
We loved Windows 7 from the get go. In 2009 I built my own computer and was faced with a daunting prospect, I needed a 64bit operating system to deal with the hardware going into my computer and my choices were Windows XP 64bit (which was a bit hashed together), Windows Vista (no thanks!), and Windows 7 (install a new version of Windows? I’m not that mad!). So I opted for the 64bit version of XP, and boy was it bad! It seemed I had little choice but to bite the bullet and opt for Windows 7 to get the most out of my new computer, and truth be told I was impressed. I’d go so far as to say that it has been my favourite version of Windows so far. It’s fast, reliable (I don’t think I’ve had any major dramas since 2009), secure, and packed full of handy features (the window “snap to” feature is ingenious!). For those very reasons I feel confident it has everything you could want from an operating system, and thus I am happy to recommend it to all. Yes there are differences between XP and 7 – though most of them are cosmetic, and once you are use to the new layout I think 7 makes more sense. Being able to search from the Start button for example is another brilliant addition that I use regularly.
Without much further ado here is our run down of the Windows 7 and 8 pros and cons as we see them
Windows 8 For
- Most secure version of Windows yet
- It is very quick to start up, and programmes seem quick to load when compared with previous versions of Windows
- The new Task Manager is much more informative than previous versions
- Apps on Windows phone and Windows RT (tablet version) also work in the computer
- Very good touch screen interface
Windows 8 Against
- Currently the user interface is too touch screen orientated to consider using with a non-touch screen device even after the 8.1 update
- No Start button! (the 8.1 version is not a Start button!)
- The two Windows 8 interfaces (desktop and Metro) feel like (and for the most part are) two operating systems merged into one
- There are a few options that have the same name but might not have the same result. As an example of this: you can create a new user from the metro/tiled interface but you cannot create an admin user. This can only done from the control panel – it had me confused for a while I have to admit!
- To put it simply it is a bit like learning how to use a computer again. I’ll confess that first time I looked upon our first Windows 8 laptops I thought “where on earth do you go from here?!” and that is the polite version!
Windows 7 For
- Much of what we are all used to… yes stuff has moved, and yes it has a face lift but the general use and feel is the same as we had with previous version of Windows. If you’re a Vista user you’ll hardly notice the difference, and to paraphrase one of our XP customers making the leap to 7 “It isn’t as bad as we thought it was going to be”
- Some real fantastic features when compared with XP. There really are too many to list but some examples are the search feature within the Start button, the Windows Backup & Restore feature (as I know how much all of you love to backup!), and the task bar area that allows you quick and easy access to the stuff you use regularly
- Automatic updates now finds a lot of device drivers (such as printers and cameras) automatically (funny that!) and saves a lot of hassle when it comes to installing new stuff
- It is tried and tested. I thought that it was good from the release date, no major issues (they got those out the way with Vista!), but as with all most all things Windows 7 has matured into a fine operating system with no major user issues
- It has XP virtual machine mode. If you are really stuck with an old programme that you must run then the professional version of Windows 7 comes with Windows XP virtual machine mode. This is not like the compatibility mode (that proved ropey at the best of times) this is actually Windows XP running inside your Windows 7 computer. Microsoft decided to exclude this from Windows 8
Windows 7 Against
- It isn’t as secure as the Windows 8 platform
- It isn’t as optimised as Windows 8 is for the latest advancements in computing such as touch screens, solid state drives, and hybrid hard drives
- No cross platform compatibility for devices such as smartphones and tablets
- Not as “cloud” ready. For example you cannot synchronise computer settings, IE settings (history), and photos across computers as you can with Windows 8 computers
- No Windows Store. “Apps” are all the rage these days (in case you didn’t know!) and only Windows 8 includes the Windows Store
Microsoft had a difficult act to follow with Windows 7, and annoyingly enough Windows 8 is almost better than it. There are two major things that Windows 8 is guilty of though, and they are: the Metro and desktop interfaces feel like two different operating systems both producing different results (e.g. you can have a desktop and Metro version of a programme). The second crime is the omission of the Start Button (as I don’t consider the 8.1 version a true Start button), which to me seems like a bonkers decision, there is little more to say about it than that. Both of these have a very negative impact upon the usability of Windows 8, which is why it loses out to Windows 7 in the end. Roll on Windows 9 is all I can say!