Build list legend
|Version of Microsoft Windows
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 3.05% of desktop and laptop computers as of January 2024.
Mainstream support ended on 13 January 2015, while free extended support ended on 14 January 2020. For Professional and Enterprise users, paid extended support ended on 10 January 2023. It is the last version of Windows that supports processors without PAE, SSE2 and NX,[a] and is the last to include Internet Spades, Internet Backgammon and Internet Checkers and thus also the last client version of Windows to receive a Service Pack from Microsoft.
The name "Windows 7" comes from the major version number of Windows Vista (6.0) being incremented by one, with the 7.0 kernel version being used internally for several weeks before shortly being bumped down to 6.1 around the time of build 6469's compilation. The kernel version acted as the project's codename, and was eventually used as the final name as well. Contrary to popular belief, the previous codenames 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:
The above editions are also offered in N and KN variants without Windows Media Player in order to meet European and Korean legislation, respectively. An E variant which would have also removed Internet Explorer in order to comply with European Commission antitrust regulations was also planned, but was not made generally available days after the operating system had already been released to manufacturing. The Browser Choice ballot screen was introduced as a replacement to satisfy the European Union's demands. Some builds leading up to the RTM, including the RTM and Service Pack 1 build itself, are available in this variant.
Although very similar to Windows Vista, Windows 7 brings many enhancements to the desktop experience.
The Taskbar received a major overhaul with larger buttons, hidden labels, and the ability to pin applications directly onto 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 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 color of the Start menu's right column is no longer a darker color and now matches the user's selected Aero Glass color. The design of the Start orb has also been slightly updated with the orb now having a fade-in highlight effect when the user hovers their mouse cursor over it.
The Windows Aero user interface has received many enhancements. The glass texture of windows has been updated to appear smoother along with recoloring the outlines of windows with a white color. When windows are maximized, the window title bar and the taskbar no longer turn opaque and retain their transparency effects. The buttons for minimize, maximize/restore up, and close have been slightly increased in size, and the animations for opening and closing windows are also missing frames, overall appearing choppier compared to its predecessor, which was later fixed in Windows 8.
The Show Desktop button last seen in Windows 98 build 1415 and Windows 2000 build 1796 has been reimplemented. Its functionality is mostly the same with the additional inclusion of Aero Peek, which shows a preview of the desktop when hovered over along with outlines of any open windows with glass outlines.
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. Using the ⊞ Win key alongside the arrow keys dictate the direction the windows will be snapped to.
Another feature known as Aero Shake has been implemented. This involves holding the active window and moving it back and forth a few times, which causes other open windows to minimize as well as restore up. It can also be triggered by pressing ⊞ Win+Home for minimizing, and again for restoring windows.
Two major user interfaces have also been introduced for device management which are Devices and Printers and Device Stage. The Devices and Printers is a Control Panel applet that replaces the Printers window and shows a limited icon view of connected devices and printers and allows easier access to certain device-specific features when right-clicking on certain device icons. Device Stage is a centralized interface that appears when the user clicks the icon of a device from the Devices and Printers applet and contains actions that are relevant to the selected device. The Device Stage interface may also display an image of the selected device if it is present otherwise, the system will need to connect to the internet to download the image of the device. If the selected device does not support Device Stage, a generic interface with a limited set of actions will be shown instead.
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 than 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 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, and a DVD-ROM drive.
The 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 becoming unavailable.
Setup of the RTM release only allows an upgrade from Windows Vista to Windows 7, with the upgrade option being disabled if started from Windows XP and instead recommending the user to transfer files with Windows Live Transfer. The upgrade block was removed with the Service Pack 1, allowing Windows XP installations to be upgraded.
Windows 7 is fully compatible with 6th-generation Intel processors and earlier. Later processors are not officially supported as Windows Update is blocked and integrated Intel graphics drivers do not work, although 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 the lack of USB 3.0 support, which was not introduced until Windows 8 build 7777. The performance and efficiency cores on 12th-generation and later processors are incorrectly identified as two physical processors in Windows 7.
Though no hacks currently exist to allow Intel graphics to work on 11th-generation and up, the latest chipset drivers still work on Windows 7.
This version also 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 its predecessor on Haswell and newer Intel processors, where the OS will often not boot up successfully or boot up with many services having failed to start due to the drift.
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 the bootloader) require.