Build list legend
|Version of Microsoft Windows|
|OS family||Windows NT|
2023-01-10 (with Extended Security Updates)
|Windows Server 2008 R2|
Windows 7 is an operating system developed by Microsoft. It was released to manufacturing on 22 July 2009 and made generally available on 22 October 2009. It is the eighth operating system in the Windows NT operating system line. It is intended to fix many of the issues users perceived with Windows Vista. Windows 7 has NT kernel version 6.1, making it a minor update to Windows Vista. Windows 7 improved performance on older hardware, while also improving many areas of the Aero user interface. It is one of Microsoft's most popular operating systems, still running on 9.61% of desktop and laptop computers as of October 2022. Windows 7 is the first version to support upgrade paths to Windows 8, Windows 8.1 or Windows 10 and the only version to support upgrade paths from Windows Vista.
It replaces Windows Vista and was replaced by Windows 8. Mainstream support ended on 13 January 2015, while free extended support ended on 14 January 2020. For Professional and Enterprise users, paid extended support will end on 10 January 2023.
This is the last version of Windows that supports processors without PAE, SSE2 and NX (Update KB4088875 removes support for processors without SSE2), the last version of Windows to include Internet Spades, Internet Backgammon and Internet Checkers, and the last version of Windows that received a Service Pack from Microsoft.
Windows 7 drops the ability to upgrade from versions prior to Windows Vista.
Contrary to popular belief, the previous code names of Blackcomb and/or Vienna refer to an earlier effort intended to succeed Windows Vista, which was canceled in early 2007 due to time and feature constraints, and was instead replaced with the Windows 7 project.
Windows 7 was shipped in the following SKUs:
All of the above editions are offered in N and KN variants without Windows Media Player in order to meet European and Korean legislation, respectively. An E variant was also planned, which would also remove Internet Explorer, but in the end the variant was not released and the Browser Choice ballot screen was introduced as a replacement to satisfy the European Union's demands. Some builds leading up to the RTM are available in this variant.
Although very similar to Windows Vista, Windows 7 brings many enhancements to the desktop experience.
The Taskbar has gotten a major overhaul, with larger buttons, hidden labels, and the ability to pin applications directly to it. Pinned and running applications can also be rearranged across the Taskbar. By hovering over an application, a window preview will appear. Moving the cursor over the preview allows the user to get a better view of the running application. The preview also contains the option to close the application, view its label, or adjust its media controls (if supported). The ability to hide icons from the system tray has been added, and can be accessed from a dedicated taskbar flyout. The Show desktop icon, last seen in Windows 98 build 1415 and Windows 2000 build 1796.1, has been re-added. Its functionality is mostly the same, with the addition of Aero Peek. By hovering the mouse over the button, a preview of the desktop will appear.
A new feature, Jump Lists, allow users to easily get back to what they were doing by showing recently accessed files and websites. These can be pinned to the top of the Jump List to be easily accessible later. Jump Lists can also include Tasks, which are actions the application can perform. Jump Lists can be accessed by right clicking its icon on the Taskbar, as well as from within the Start menu.
The Start menu is very similar to its Windows Vista counterpart, with a customizable shutdown toggle replacing the lock/sleep toggles from before. The classic Start menu however, has been removed.
The Windows Sidebar has also been removed. Because of that, Windows Gadgets can now be placed freely across the desktop, and can be easily resized. A Windows Media Center Gadget has been added, while the stocks and note Gadgets have been removed.
A new multitasking feature for application windows known as Aero Snap has been added. With Aero Snap, the user can easily snap two windows side-by-side on the desktop. An application window can be snapped by moving it to either the left or right edges of the screen. As the user snaps an window, a transparent border will appear, indicating where the window will be on the screen when the user releases it with the mouse.
Windows Explorer introduces Libraries, which can help users organize frequent files types to be accessed from one place. Documents, Music, Pictures, Recorded TV, and Videos are added by default, but users can create their own custom Libraries if needed. Homegroup is also a new feature, which allows users to connect to other PCs on their network and share files between them. The Navigation Pane has been simplified, and shows frequent places within the System instead (Favorites, Libraries, Homegroup, My Computer, and Network). However, the classic Windows Vista view can be re-enabled by selecting "Show all folders" within Folder Options. The Command Bar and Details Pane have also been redesigned, but functions about the same as in Windows Vista.
The Control Panel receives a redesigned start page, which removes the sidebar from previous versions of Windows. The sidebar only appears when a user clicks into a category or page. Classic view has been reworked, and can be accessed by selecting "Large Icons" or "Small Icons" within the "View by:" menu. The Action Center has been added under the new "System and Security" category. This interface replaces the Security Center. It functions very similarly, while also giving suggestions every so often. It also contains various links for opening the troubleshooters. Personalization settings have been overhauled, with an entirely new experience. Themes are upfront and take up most of the space, rather then being a small Windows XP-styled applet. Many new themes, wallpapers, and colors can be selected from this view. Display settings have been moved out of Personalization, and now have its own dedicated section within the Control Panel and DPI and resolution settings can be changed much more easier than in previous versions of Windows. Many more pages have been added as well, such as Getting Started, Windows Firewall, Devices and Printers, Taskbar Icons, and Homegroup.
Many changes to built-in Windows applications can be seen with this release.
Microsoft recommends Windows 7 to be installed on a system with a processor with a speed of at least 1 GHz, at least 1 GB of RAM (at least 2 GB of RAM for Windows 7 x64), 16 GB of hard drive space (20 GB for Windows 7 x64), a DirectX 9-based WDDM display adapter or better display adapter, a DVD-ROM drive. Microsoft also recommends Windows Vista to be upgraded to Windows 7 on the same system requirements. Windows 7 drops support for CD-ROM installation.
Windows 7's setup doesn't check for a required processor generation or speed to install as long as setup can start, and thus it is possible to install Windows 7 on processors as early as the original Pentium. Windows 7 can also be run with as low as 256 MB of RAM. SVGA cards can still be used, but will result in most WDDM-required features to become unavailable.
Windows 7 is fully compatible with Intel Skylake and earlier. Later processors aren't officially supported as Windows Update is disabled and Intel Graphics do not work, though users have come up with hacks to get both working. In some cases, integrating USB 3.0 drivers into the installation media may be necessary in order to successfully install Windows 7 on modern machines due to lack of pre-integrated USB 3.0 support, which wasn’t introduced until Windows 8. The P-cores and E-cores on Intel Alder Lake processors were incorrectly identified as two physical processors in Windows 7.
Though no hacks currently exist to allow Intel Graphics to work on Ice Lake (10th-generation) and up, the latest chipset drivers still work on Windows 7.
Build 6519 introduced a feature internally known as “drift correction”, which resolves issues related to CPU clock circuit timing that can potentially prevent services from starting up correctly. Clock drift/timing issues plague Windows Vista on Haswell and newer processors from Intel, where the OS will often not boot up successfully or boot up with many services having failed to start due to drift. Hobbyists are figuring out how to port this feature to Windows Vista to resolve this problem.
As of 2018, Microsoft dropped support for Windows 7 on processors without SSE2 instructions. Installing most updates released from 2018 or later on non-SSE2 compatible systems will result in a bugcheck due to the lack of instructions that the updated files (including bootloader) requires.