Windows 7

Windows 7
Version of Microsoft Windows
OS familyWindows NT
CodenameWindows 7[1]
Architecturex86, x64
Latest build6.1.7601.17514
Release date2009-10-22
Support end2020-01-14
2023-01-10 (with Extended Security Updates)
Server counterpart
Windows Server 2008 R2
Windows Vista
Replaced by
Windows 8

Windows 7 (codenamed Windows 7[1]) 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 2.93% of desktop and laptop computers as of May 2024.[2]

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.

A pre-RTM build, 7600.16384, was speculated to be the final version of the product but had a flaw in Internet Explorer 8 which prevented it from shipping.

Name[edit | edit source]

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.[1] 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.[1]

Editions[edit | edit source]

Windows 7 was shipped in the following SKUs:

  • Starter: A low-end edition available only through OEMs. It is usually found preinstalled on netbooks, tablets and cheap laptops. It does not include the Windows Aero theme and does not support changing the desktop wallpaper or visual styles. Supports 2 GB of RAM at most and comes in an x86 version only.
  • Home Basic: Available in emerging markets, such as India, Mexico, Brazil, Russia and others. It includes the Aero theme, but some of its features are disabled. This edition came in x86 and x64 versions.
  • Home Premium: Standard edition aimed at the home customer segment and is most commonly preinstalled on new computers and laptops. It includes the fully featured Aero theme and Windows Media Center.
  • Professional: Replaces Vista's Business edition and includes all features of Home Premium. It adds the ability to join a domain and other features commonly used in business environments, and additionally supports activation over a KMS server.
  • Ultimate and Enterprise: The top-level editions of Windows 7. They are identical with regards to supported features, with both editions including all functionality of Professional and adding MUI support. The only difference between the two is that Ultimate was available directly to end customers via OEM and retail channels, can be activated only by WPA and have premium games enabled by default, while Enterprise was only offered to businesses through Software Assurance, supports activation over a KMS server and has the premium games disabled.

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.[3] The Browser Choice ballot screen was introduced as a replacement to satisfy the European Union's demands.[4] Some builds leading up to the RTM, including the RTM and Service Pack 1 build itself, are available in this variant.

Main changes[edit | edit source]

User interface[edit | edit source]

Taskbar[edit | edit source]

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 Quick Launch bar is also disabled by default but can be reenabled by adding a new toolbar pointing to %AppData%\Microsoft\Internet Explorer\Quick Launch and moving it to the left.[5] It features the same default set of shortcut buttons seen in Windows Vista, including a button for Flip 3D, which would normally require pressing ⊞ Win+Tab.

Start menu[edit | edit source]

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.

Windows Aero[edit | edit source]

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.

Aero Peek[edit | edit source]

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.

Aero Snap[edit | edit source]

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.

Aero Shake[edit | edit source]

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.

Device management[edit | edit source]

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[edit | edit source]

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.

Control Panel[edit | edit source]

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.

Applications[edit | edit source]

Many changes to built-in Windows applications can be seen with this release.

  • Paint and WordPad have been updated to use the Ribbon interface found in Office 2007, which came out before the operating system was released, however with the Office menu being replaced with the File tab. Paint also gets new brush types, and shape tools.
  • Calculator has been updated and features a new design and layout. Unit converters have also been added in.
  • Internet Explorer 8 adds suggested websites, relocated the favorites bar, and improves compatibility. It can be updated to Internet Explorer 11.
  • Windows Media Player 12 features a new design and layout, but it loses the transparency effects on its interface, as it was in Windows Vista.
  • Windows Easy Transfer has been simplified.
  • Windows Photo Viewer has been added to replace the built-in Windows Photo Gallery. It is similar to Windows Picture and Fax Viewer from Windows XP in terms of functionality.
  • Windows Media Center has updated UI elements.
  • Windows Anytime Upgrade received major changes. Components for the upgraded editions are now preinstalled with the operating system thus speeding up the upgrade process significantly. It also no longer requires physical media or additional software and the user is simply required to purchase a license online for the edition that the user wants to upgrade to.
  • XPS Viewer adds native support for viewing XPS files.
  • Windows PowerShell has been added as a built-in application.
  • Sticky Notes replaces the Notes gadget and is much easier to use than its Windows XP/Vista counterpart.
  • Many Ease of Access applications, such as the magnifier and on-screen keyboard, have been overhauled.
  • Internet Spades, Internet Backgammon and Internet Checkers were readded after being absent from Windows Vista. These games would later be removed again in Windows 8.
  • Many Windows Vista apps, such as Windows DVD Maker, Remote Desktop and Help and Support, have been updated to fit the design of Windows 7.
  • The Welcome Center Control Panel applet from Windows Vista has been renamed to Getting Started featuring less links and no longer opens automatically when Windows 7 boots up. Instead, it is prominently listed at the top of the Start menu.
  • The Web filtering and Activity reporting features have been removed from Parental Controls.
  • The Windows Ultimate Extras which were introduced with the Ultimate edition of Windows Vista as an add-on pack that included games, security features and other extras have been discontinued in the Ultimate edition of Windows 7 and are removed when upgrading from an installation of Windows Vista Ultimate that had the extras installed and the associated Control Panel and Welcome Center entries have also been removed.

Other changes[edit | edit source]

  • Jump Lists has been introduced, allowing 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.
  • Some programs such as Control Panel, Windows Explorer, Calculator and Paint have had their icons revamped as well with the icons having a flat, heads-on appearance rather than being in a 3/4 view. Otherwise, the icon set is mostly the same as Windows Vista.
  • User Account Control no longer prompts users when they make changes to Windows settings that require elevated permission by default. Additionally, a new Control Panel applet has been added to adjust the level at which UAC operates.
  • Support for Virtual Hard Disk files were added.
  • Better support for SSD drives have been added along with a new TRIM command.
  • User-mode scheduling has been introduced.
  • Windows Installer 5.0 was introduced.
  • The Windows Recovery Environment is now installed to a hidden partition with the rest of the operating system. This allows the boot loader to automatically start WinRE whenever it deems it necessary.
  • DirectX 11 was introduced.
  • More Windows features and components can be turned off.
  • Support for a cut-down version of Virtual PC called Windows Virtual PC was added for the Professional, Enterprise and Ultimate editions as an optional add-on that could be downloaded from the Microsoft website until Windows 7's end of life. It enables support for Windows XP Mode which is a virtual machine that has Windows XP SP3 installed. It allows Windows XP applications to be ran natively on the Windows 7 desktop.
  • Remote Assistance does not support file transfer or clipboard sharing.
  • The About Windows applet no longer displays the system's RAM.
  • The Language bar is the only toolbar that can float directly on the desktop and not Quick Launch like with Windows Vista.
  • AutoPlay no longer prompts users to install software that is stored on a USB drive for security reasons. Users will have to manually browse the drive to install the application. AutoPlay also no longer detects HD DVD discs.
  • The login screen wallpaper can now be customized by OEMs via the Windows Registry.
  • If a folder's properties are opened in Libraries, the Customize tab will be removed.
  • The List, Details, Extra large icons, Large icons and Medium icons views from Control Panel have been removed.
  • The default e-mail and internet browser applications can no longer be pinned dynamically to the Start menu.
  • The tooltips for system tray icons like Volume, Network, Power and the clock no longer show any icons.
  • The Microsoft Agent technology is no longer included with the operating system, breaking compatibility with applications that rely on it. An installation package can be downloaded from the Microsoft website to restore it.
  • The Windows Sidebar has been replaced with the Desktop Gadget Gallery, which allows users to freely place gadgets across the desktop, and can be easily resized or hidden via a new desktop menu. A Windows Media Center gadget has been added, whereas the stocks and note Gadgets have been removed.

Deprecations[edit | edit source]

  • Windows Meeting Space, which replaced Windows NetMeeting in Windows Vista, was removed.
  • InkBall, which was also first part of Windows XP Tablet PC Edition 2005 before being included in Windows Vista, was removed.
  • Windows Import Video has been removed.
  • Software Explorer has been removed from Windows Defender. It no longer notifies users if User Account Control blocks a startup program that requires administrator privileges.
  • Many built-in Windows Vista apps, such as Windows Mail, Photo Gallery, Calendar and Movie Maker, have been removed and were replaced by Windows Live-branded versions as part of the Windows Live Essentials suite. Windows Mail would later be readded as a UWP app in Windows 8.
  • Floating toolbars are no longer supported.
  • The taskbar no longer displays the number of grouped windows like in Windows XP and Vista when multiple instances of an application are running.
  • The Quick Launch toolbar was disabled since programs can be pinned directly to the taskbar.

System requirements[edit | edit source]

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.[6]

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 Easy Transfer.

Hardware compatibility[edit | edit source]

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.[7]

As of 2018, Microsoft dropped support for Windows 7 on processors without SSE2 instructions.[8] 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.

List of known builds[edit | edit source]

Milestone 1[edit | edit source]

Milestone 2[edit | edit source]

Milestone 3[edit | edit source]

Beta[edit | edit source]

Release Candidate[edit | edit source]

Pre-RTM[edit | edit source]

RTM Escrow[edit | edit source]

RTM[edit | edit source]

Service Pack 1[edit | edit source]

Beta[edit | edit source]

Release Candidate[edit | edit source]

RTM[edit | edit source]

Notes[edit | edit source]

  1. Support for processors that lack the SSE2 instruction set was dropped in update KB4088875, released on 13 March 2018.

References[edit | edit source]