Wolverton: For Windows 7 users, Windows 10 offers cool features — and concerns

Windows 10 is clearly better than Windows 8. But what does it offer Windows 7 users?

After reading my review of the new version Microsoft’s flagship operating system, that’s what one reader wanted to know. He felt I should have compared Windows 10 not to Windows 8, its immediate predecessor, but to Windows 7.

I focused on comparing Windows 10 to Windows 8, because so much of what Microsoft did in Windows 10 seemed to be to address what was wrong with the latter software. But the reader made a good point. Even though Windows 8 is newer than Windows 7, it was a commercial dud. Most people using Windows — about 61 percent of all PC users, in fact, according to the latest market share data from Net Applications — are still using Windows 7. Most people who might be considering upgrading to Windows 10 will be using Windows 7 today.

So what can they expect?

For Windows 7 users, Windows 10 feels like an incremental upgrade. It adds a few new features, but unlike Windows 8, the operating system basically looks, acts and feels the same as Windows 7.

Among the more notable new features are:

  • Cortana, which is like a combination of Apple’s Spotlight search technology, its Siri voice assistant and Google Now. It allows users to search for things and launch apps with their voice and provides unprompted information that users might find useful, such as the weather forecast or the score of the latest games involving their favorite teams.
  • A revamped Start Menu. Windows 8 eliminated the traditional Windows Start Menu in favor of a Start screen that lacked or hid many of the menu’s features. The new menu restores those features, but adds to them a smaller version of the application tiles that dominate Windows 8’s start screen. Those tiles — essentially glorified program icons — can show up-to-date information at a glance; the weather tile, for example, could display the current temperature.
  • Virtual desktops. Cribbed from Apple’s OS X, this feature allows users to divvy up their apps among multiple desktop spaces. For example, users could group all their personal applications or Web browser windows on one desktop and all of their work apps and browser windows on another. Users can only see one desktop at a time, but the feature allows them to quickly switch between them with a new multi-tasking button in the taskbar.
  • An improved version of Snap. In Windows 7, users can make a window go full screen by “snapping” it to the top of the screen. In Windows 10, users can quickly divide the display between two apps by snapping them to both sides of the screen or among four apps by dragging them to the four corners.
  • A new Web browser called Microsoft Edge. Edge replaces the aging Internet Explorer. Microsoft says the software is much faster than its predecessor and is comparable to Google Chrome and Mozilla Firefox. When you open a new page in Edge, it shows thumbnails of your frequently visited sites and a news feed of articles it thinks will interest you. Edge also has an option to allow users to get a “reading view of articles,” which strips out many of the ads and navigation buttons. It also offers users a way to annotate Web pages with notes or drawings and share those with others.

Perhaps the biggest change from Windows 7 (and 8) to Windows 10 is more how Microsoft plans to approach future updates. In the past, Microsoft has released a new version of Windows every few years to introduce new features and issued special major revisions in between those versions to fix bugs. Now, the company plans to turn Windows into something that is more like Facebook or Gmail or other Web services.

Instead of issuing major periodic revisions, Microsoft plans to continually update Windows 10 over time. The company’s plan is to ensure that all users will always have the latest version of the software, one that is frequently getting new features or is having bugs squashed.

That all sounds good, right?

It may, but users may want to hold off for a bit anyway.

One major reason is that any new version of software tends to have a lot of bugs. I ran into a few in my brief testing of Windows 10. It will likely take a while to work those out. Microsoft reportedly already has a service pack in the works to fix some of them.

Another reason to hold off is that it’s not clear yet exactly how Microsoft plans to turn Windows 10 into a service and whether users will have any control over the updates. Past upgrades of Windows have frequently be incompatible with the software “drivers” used to connect PCs to peripherals such as printers, scanners and the like. And older software programs sometimes won’t work on newer versions of  Windows. It’s unclear how Microsoft plans to minimize such problems as it rolls out updates to Windows 10.

And then there are some security, privacy and user preference concerns. By default, Windows 10 shares with users’ contacts the information needed to log into the WiFi networks to which users connect. While Windows 10 shares that information in encrypted fashion — the recipients of the log-in information can’t see the passwords used to access the networks — that feature opens up a potential security hole in users’ home networks, giving access to those networks to not only their friends and acquaintances, but to their friends’ friends and so on.

Another concern: according to reports, Microsoft is, by default, collecting data on just about everything Windows 10 users do on their computers. The privacy policy that accompanies the software gives the company wide latitude to store not just users’ names and passwords, but also the the content of their emails and private folders and even the words they type.

And critics have pointed out what they see as another problem: Windows 10 changes the default applications used to handle particular tasks, most notably the default Web browser. Users who have been using Chrome as their Web browser in Windows 7, may find that Microsoft Edge is their new default browser in Windows 10.

So, Windows 10 offers Windows 7 users some interesting and often cool new features. But it also comes with a bunch of new concerns.

Photo Microsoft CEO Satya Nadella speaks at an event in January demonstrating the new features of Windows 10. (AP Photo/Elaine Thompson)


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  • Steve Snyder

    Upgraded from Windows 7 to 10 over weekend and MAJOR issue was the something (Homegroup, perhaps?) changed all my security settings to read only. I couldn’t open Outlook, save any personal Excel or Word files, etc. Once I manually changed all Users to Full Access, only then could I open my outlook (and access pst files) and save all my documents. I STILL cannot access Chrome, but at least I was able to export my bookmarks beforehand so I could import them into Edge. Speaking of Edge, all the bookmarks are sorted in reverse alphabetical order and can’t figure out yet how to fix that. Other than that, it’s a good system.

  • newsball

    this one of the things, i havent’ had the problem, i had chrome as a browser and also what they don’t tell you, your under no obligation to use edge, as you upgraded, go under windows accerories, and you’ll have things like charcter map, journal, xl, wordpad, all that stuff, but you’ll also note the 2nd thing, oh it’s there old browser, so if you don’t want to use edge, you can still use explorer

  • Ben

    Windows 10 feels nothing like 7. It’s a jumbled up piece of crap if you ask me.

  • anon67

    I’ll just leave this here..

  • Marcelo

    I don’t see any reason to upgrade from Win 7 to Win 10. I’m usually playing music which interferes with voice activation. I don’t need assistance from Cortana. The Win 7 start menu is fine thanks. Virtual desktops have been around for more than a decade from third parties. I don’t use Internet Explorer and I am happy with Firefox. I don’t have an xbox and I use Windows Media Centre. No reason at all to upgrade for me, especially hearing about some of these issues.

  • JustMeToo

    I run both 7 and 8.1 (7 is my main). I see absolutely no reason to upgrade – particularly with the jaw dropping invasion of privacy that Microsoft feels its entitled to. As others have said – I dont need Cortana, am happy with Firefox and Opera, and the start menu in 7 is just fine by me. While I am a gamer, I dont have an XBox nor do I plan to. I also generally have no use for the cloud (I just dont need it, nor do I particularly want it.) So, I’ll stay with 7/8.1 for now, thanks.

  • Seth Johnson

    in my opinion win 10 is just win 8 with a start screen, i went back to win 7 after 1 hour it was awful. after downgrading it then tells me my copy of win 7 isnt genuine , it is lol, and it left remnants of win 10 on my pc which i am still finding and removing. all in all i think win 10 is made for phones and tablets it is not imo for hardcore pc users as it just isnt user friendly.

  • GeorgiaD

    Admittedly I’m not a tech-savvy guru and can’t talk the tech jargon, so I’ll complain in layman’s terms. 🙂 Basically, I’m annoyed that Win 10 does not notify one that Windows Media Center will be uninstalled and no longer compatible with Win 10 prior to installing Win 10 in the first place. I had begun the upgrade to Win 10 because, well, I thought that was the natural thing to do after having Win 7 for years. During the install, a msg box popped up and informed me that Windows Media Center will be uninstalled and not available in Win 10. I use WMC a lot both for work and for my personal hobbies. I couldn’t stand the uncertainty of losing my WMC files, especially since my grandkids adventures are such a huge component of those files, so I stopped the Win 10 installation. Will my WMC video, audio, and picture files still be accessible to me if I upgrade and lose WMC? Any advice would be nice, but I’m sure not going to risk losing those files in the meantime. Regardless, I strongly believe any upgrades should reveal such major changes prior to even beginning the installation.