Windows 10 vs Windows 7: What You Need to Know

Earlier this week, Microsoft showed everyone what they could expect from Windows 10. Forget all the new features and changes for a second though because its price was the biggest thing to come out of the keynote. For the first year, absolutely any Windows 7 user who has the latest updates installed will get the Windows 10 update absolutely free of charge.

With pricing like that, upgrading from Windows 10 to Windows 7 is expected to be a pretty easy decision for some. It’s the latest version of Windows, and Microsoft has made changes that it hopes will satisfy touch users and mouse and keyboard users alike. The question now becomes what you can expect when you upgrade from Windows 7 to Windows 10.

Windows 10 vs Windows 7 – Start Menu vs Start Screen & ContinuumWindows 10 1

If you’re reading you for whatever reason decided that upgrading to Windows 8, Microsoft’s current operating system, wasn’t what you wanted to do. Maybe you were comfortable with the features Windows 7 offered. Perhaps you were very attached to an app that was included in Windows 7? Whatever the reason, you’re now looking at taking a major leap.

Ironically, Windows 7 users who upgrade to Windows 10 are in for less of a big shock than they think. You may have heard of Windows 8’s Start Screen. In Windows 8 everyone was forced to interact with the Start Screen, which completely takes over your entire display. Windows 10 users can expect a Start Screen that matches what’s available in Windows 7. It may look different but the idea is the same. To the right of recently used files and folders is an area reserved for the Live Tiles of apps download from the Windows Store.

Windows 10 vs Windows 7- Gadgets Vs Live Tiles

How to Get the Start Menu Back in Windows 10 (8)

Once upon a time, Gadgets were the way Microsoft hoped you’d get basic info. Windows 7 didn’t introduce them, they were actually available in Windows Vista. You simply downloaded your favorite Gadgets for the latest news or weather. In Windows 7 they float on the right side of your screen.

In Windows 10, Gadgets are dead. Technically, they died in Windows 8 when Microsoft introduced Live Tiles. Think of Live Tiles as everything you might have loved or hated about Gadgets. They show your latest emails, who just sent you a friend request on Facebook and more. You can resize them and stick them directly on your Start Menu. The trick here is that Live Tiles double as shortcuts for apps. You click on them to look at whatever is surfacing on a Live Tiles.

Windows 10 vs Windows 7 – Windows Media Player, Windows Media Center vs Xbox Music & Xbox Video

The media landscape is a perfect presentation of just how much personal computing has changed since Windows 7 was released. With Windows 7 you might still find yourself watching television in your living room using Windows Media Center, organizing your music collection with Windows Media Player and watching DVDs effortlessly.

Throw out everything you know about media for Windows 10 because there are a lot of changes. First, chances are that you watched DVDs in Windows Media Player or one of the other apps device makers included on their PCs. Make sure you do an upgrade to Windows 10 instead of a fresh install or you’ll lose the ability to play DVDs without purchasing another app. Not only has Windows Media Player been relegated to legacy status, Microsoft went and removed built-in DVD playback. To be clear, you can still purchase a DVD player app if they’re really important to you.

Windows Media Center is no longer part of Windows. In Windows 8 it was a separate download for users who purchased Windows 8 Professional or purchased a device with it loaded already. If your Windows 7 PC has a TV tuner that you depend on, wait until Microsoft announces its Windows 10 plans for Windows Media Center. It’s entirely possible that it won’t be available at all.

Windows Media Player and Windows Media Center were shown the door because almost everyone streams their television shows, music and movies. Xbox Music and Xbox Video support the latest entertainment options. Xbox Music will playback MP3s and other audio files you own. You can also sign up for Microsoft’s Xbox Music subscription service. Xbox Video supports all the video files you’ve probably been downloading the VLC Media Player desktop app to watch. In addition, you can purchase more television shows and movies inside the app. There’s also support for video rentals. Windows Media Player is still around, Microsoft just isn’t improving on the application.

Instead of plugging a cable into your phone or tablet to sync your media, Windows 10’s apps handle this automatically.

Windows 10 vs Windows 7 – Alt Tab vs Task View

Windows 10 9860 Update Whats New & Different (5)

Perhaps you’re a habitual user of Alt+Tab in Windows 7. It’s still there but Microsoft has made significant changes to the way users switch between apps and manage the apps they’ve already opened.

Windows 10 has the Alt+Tab shortcut, but it’s been fine-tuned a bit. Now, all the apps that are open lay flat across your screen, giving you a better idea of what’s going on in them. Windows 10 also includes multiple Desktops. With the feature, you can partition your personal life from your home life and keep all of your personal apps in one screen meanwhile your work apps are sitting in another. They’re out of view but they’re still running.

Windows 10 vs Windows 7 – User Accounts vs Microsoft Accounts

If there’s one thing you’re going to probably have trouble wrapping your head around with Windows 10 it’s going to be Users Accounts. Simply put, a user account doesn’t give you as much access as it used too. Don’t misunderstand, for now you can create a local account that’s specific to your device, but you won’t want to.

Microsoft Accounts are what the focus is on these days. Adding a Microsoft Account to the User Account you already have unlocks Xbox Music, enables OneDrive storage, lets you back up your settings and purchase new apps and extras in the Windows Store. You’re going to need one after the upgrade if you don’t already have one.

If you have ever used OneDrive, Microsoft Office 2013, Xbox or, you already have a Microsoft Account. You’ll just need to add it to your user profile when prompted.

Windows 10 vs Windows 7 – Built-In Search vs. Cortana

Windows 7 allows users to open an app simply by pressing the Start button, typing a few letters and hitting enter. The same is true of Windows 10. The big change is that all other forms of search powers rest in the hands of Cortana, Windows’ new personal assistant. You can use Cortana to search for files, apps and folders like you can today. You ca also ask her to check the weather, send a message or set an appointment.

I said “ask” because Cortana takes both text commands and voice commands. What’s more, there’s a setting to have Cortana always listening and waiting for your commands and searches without a button push.

Windows 10 vs Windows 7 – Taskbar & Notifications

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Where the Windows 7 Taskbar was clear and barren, the Windows 10 Taskbar has all sorts of extras. For starters, the taskbar is where Cortana, that aforementioned personal assistant lives. There’s a search bar specifically for her.

On the far right of the Windows 10 Taskbar is the Action Center. Here you can choose different settings to quickly access. It’s also the one place all apps will surface notifications for you to check out.

Windows 10 vs Windows 7 – The Windows Store

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In Windows 7 it’s your responsibility to seek out and find quality apps that extend your experience beyond the ones Microsoft includes. A long time ago, finding a decent app involved searching a web and downloading one from a place that might be a tad sketchy.

It’s not as fully stocked as the web yet, but the Widows Store allows users to download apps from a source they can trust. Some of these apps are among the ones you’d expect like Facebook. Others are utilities that simply make life easier. There are games with Xbox Live support available in the Windows Store specifically to replace Minesweeper and Solitaire.

Any app you download gets added to your app collection and synced to your other Windows 10 notebooks, tablets, smartphones and desktops. So does some of the data it contains if you’ve authorized it too. Apps you purchase sync too.

Read: What is Windows 10?

It’s important that you look at your usage habits and decide whether upgrading to Windows 10 from Windows 7 is the right thing for you. In general, I’d say that it is unless you have specific needs like a Media Center PC or an app that specifically needs Windows 7 (Don’t worry, very little apps aren’t compatible with both.) To be clear, don’t download the preview, wait for the full release.

Microsoft plans to launch Windows 10 in final form later this year.