How does Windows 7 compare with Windows 8?
Perhaps you’re thinking about buying a new Operating System soon; or maybe you’ve been using Windows 7 but are worried about support. Will Windows 8 work with your old programs? Are software vendors planning to make new applications backwards compatible with Windows 7 or will Windows 8 become the new standard?
Or maybe you’re wondering if Windows 8 really offers superior performance but you’ve heard rumors about a goofy Start Screen and missing Start Button.
In this guide I’m going to show you you the pros and cons of Windows 7 and Windows 8 in five areas:
- Boot Time
- Laptop Battery Life
Let’s talk about cost because that can be a deal breaker.
The cost of Windows 7 is contingent on the edition.
There are actually six editions but most consumers will only be interested in three:
- Home Premium
Home Premium is ideal for home users who want to share photos, videos and music with other Windows 7 users. Prices for Home Premium vary but a quick Google search reveals averages around $100. Most “ordinary” users will go with Home Premium.
Alternatively, Professional is geared toward small and large businesses and includes everything in Premium plus the ability to join a corporate domain, encrypt your file system with a technology called EFS and the ability to run old Windows XP programs in a virtual machine through Windows XP Mode (XPM). You can get all of this for about $139.99.
The Ultimate edition is the proverbial whipped cream of your Windows pie. Just like whipped cream, it’s extraneous fluff and therefore not worthy of your money.
Last I checked, it’s something like $320 dollars on NewEgg. Yeah, save that for your hot date this Friday.
Windows 8 also comes in three editions:
- Windows 8 Core
- Windows 8 Pro
- Windows 8 Enterprise
Core, which is basically tantamount to Home Premium, is available as an upgrade for $119.99. And like Windows 7 Pro, Windows 8 Pro is designed for corporations and hobbyist. At $200 dollars, the upgrade will set you back two Benjamin’s but it isn’t unwarranted. Pro gives you features like Group Policy, BitLocker (AES full-disk encryption), and Storage Spaces (a bunch of physical hard drives that appear as one or more logical drives; it’s a way to virtualize storage.)
Windows 8 Enterprise is available as a volume license; therefore, the cost is exorbitant and is only pertinent to large businesses.
So how does Windows 7 compare to Windows 8 in terms of price? Overall, the former is cheaper but cheaper doesn’t necessarily mean better. Let’s look at how the features line up.
You can eat up a veritable cornucopia of Windows 7 features on Microsoft website but instead of feasting on all those goodies there, I want to candidly tell you there is no super-feature that offers a cogent reason to purchase Windows 7. Unfortunately, there isn’t a silver bullet here but there are a few notables:
- Task Scheduler: You can schedule all sorts of fun things such as automatically shutting down your computer at a specific time, scheduling maintenance chores like Disk Cleanup, and teaming up with Ninite to keep your computer updated.
- Reliability Monitor: The Reliability Monitor can help you see why your computer just crashed. It displays a graph of recently installed updates and gives you the time stamp and warnings associated with those installs so you figure out which ones to rollback.
- Libraries: Libraries corrals all your import files and folders into one convenient location. For example, let’s say you have photos from your trip to Paris in a folder on your Desktop, pictures from your job promotion in C:\Photos and snapshots from your cousins 3rd birthday dumped in My Documents. In Windows 7, you can right click your related folders and add them to your Pictures Library – that way you can access them no matter where they physically live on the file system.
Windows 8 builds on the Windows 7 feature set with neat features like intuitive search. To find stuff in Windows 8 such as movies, music, photos and documents, just start typing and watch the operating system expertly narrow the results with each keystroke.
Additional Windows 8 features include the Quick Launch menu (Windows Key + x) which is a slim set of commands that old school Window’s users will love.
Here are my favorite Windows 8 features:
- Refresh: When prior versions of Windows died you often had to re-install the operating system which meant scrambling for old DVDs and product keys. With Windows 8, you can re-install the system with a single click. Just press the Windows Key + i from the Start Screen and type Refresh and you can install Windows on top of itself while preserving all your media and files. It’s great: Windows gets a new lease on life and you retain all your files.
- Super Screenshots: Everyone knows you can press the PrtScn button to take a screenshot and a few others know about the Windows Snipping tool, but did you know that pressing the Windows Key + PrtScn in Windows 8 instantly saves multiple screen grabs to your Pictures library as incrementing PNGs?
- Cloud Ready: Windows 8 was built with cloud storage in mind. Skydrive can become your C: drive in the sky. In addition, if you create a Microsoft Account, whenever you sign into any computer or tablet running Windows 8, all your preferences and settings will be there waiting for you. There’s no need to setup your Desktop backgrounds, bookmarks or other personal settings.
You can browse the comprehensive list of Windows 8 features on Wikipedia but the above are the most useful in my mind.
When it comes to performance, Windows 7 really shines over its predecessors because it takes advantage of multi-core processors.
Older machines had a single core (Central Processing Unit), but most if not all modern PCs ship with multiple cores.
Each core is distinct unit that can execute program code. Multiple cores mean your computer can process multiple instructions concurrently. The concomitant result is that applications load faster. One caveat is that the software utilizing multi-core processors has to be specifically written to use take advantage of parallel processing speed gains. Fortunately, Windows 7 does a pretty good job with this.
So what about Windows 8? How does it fare in the performance arena?
According to, Matthew Lambert from bit-tech.net: not as good.
In the fall of 2012, he published an exhaustive seven part guide detailing Windows 8 performance benchmarks and the bottom line was that it doesn’t multi-task as efficiently as we hoped.
Admittedly, since Lambert’s article, Microsoft has released dozens of updates to address performance problems and although I haven’t subjected my copy of Windows 8 to the same scrutiny as Lambert, I must say that it runs quite fine for me. If you’re just using Windows 8 to read emails, surf the web and run Microsoft Office then the performance differences are infinitesimal. Now of course, this is just my opinion and I have no data to support that claim but I’ve been using Windows 8 since its inception and have yet to encounter any egregious performance problems.
4. Boot Time
If Windows 7 and Windows 8 were cars and top speed was analogous to how long it takes to boot up each computer then the former would be a Ford Fiesta. Windows 8? A modified Nissan GTR with Alpha acceleration.
Michael Muchmore of PC Magazine subjected Windows 8 and 7 to speed tests and discovered that the 64-bit version of Windows 7 Ultimate took 21 seconds longer to start up than Windows 8 64 bit. Windows 8 even shut down over 2 seconds faster than its speed challenged peer.
Multiple tests corroborate the fast Windows 8 start times.
For example, David Eitelbach of Laptop Magazine installed Windows 8 on three disparate laptops and demonstrated that Windows 8 was the perennial boot time champion.
The greatest performance gains are achieved when you couple Windows 8 with a good Solid State Drive (SSD). Since SSDs have no moving parts they have lower access times and less latency than traditional magnetic drives.
Throw one of these suckers into a Windows 8 PC and start up time will become inconsequential.
5. Laptop Battery Life
Let’s talk about Battery Life.
Before Steven Sinofsky, President of the Windows Division at Microsoft, stepped down from his position last fall, he contended that Windows 8 will give you a 13% boost in battery life – but tests from disinterested parties such as Laptop Magazine suggested otherwise.
Michael Prospero discovered that some laptops are famished on Windows 8. For example, take the Acer Aspire S7: Prospero observed that this 2.8 pound anorexic laptop starves to death almost immediately after 4 hours.
But how does it compare with Windows 7? Is Windows 7 any better?
Not really. It turns out both are roughly level on the same playing field when it comes to battery life.
So my question to you is: where does this leave us? What should you do? Play it safe with Windows 7 or take a risk on Windows 8?
The Bottom Line
If you’re still ambivalent about which OS to buy, go for Windows 8. Yes, the user interface is incongruous with anything you’ve ever used before; however, Microsoft is investing all its time and money into making Windows 8 the new standard. I think it’s better to learn it now than wait until Windows 9 or 10 and miss out.
You’ll have an edge over your peers and will be at the crest of the operating system wave (especially if you upgrade to Windows 8.1).
Yes, Windows 8 isn’t perfect, in fact – in some ways it performs slower than Windows 7 and the new user interface can be disconcerting; however, the cheaper price, abundance of useful features and quicker boot up time make it a prime choice for anyone on the fence.
Have you upgraded to Windows 8 yet? What do you think about it? Was it worth it or do you wish you were on Windows 7?
Let me know in the comments!