Thursday, February 19, 2015

Windows 10 vs Windows 7 Should you upgrade?

Windows 10 vs Windows 7
Windows 10 vs Windows 7

Should you ditch Windows 7 for Windows 10 later this year?

Even at this early stage we’ve established that Windows 10 is a good deal better than Windows 8 for most desktop PC users. But what if you’re still using Windows 7? Microsoft may be offering a free upgrade to Windows 10, but should you take it or should you stick with what you know? That’s what we’re here to find out.

Windows 10 vs Windows 7 – Performance

One of the least talked about improvements of Windows 8, and subsequently Windows 10, is that it does include a raft of performance upgrades.

Chief among these is bootup time, which is markedly quicker, while better hardware acceleration and a host of other tweaks mean general navigation feels nippier, too. Power management has also been improved, so mobile device battery life tends to be a little longer.

Gaming performance is much more evenly matched, but with Windows 10 will come exclusive access to DirectX 12, which promises to unlock more performance from your existing hardware – read our DirectX 12 vs DirectX 11 comparison for more on that.

It may seem like trivial stuff, but if there’s one single thing that's generally at the heart of the upgrades we make to our computers, it’s performance. So the fact that Windows 10 offers that base-level improvement on top of all its other features is definitely something to be happy about.

Windows 10 vs Windows 7 – Design

Windows 8 marked a stark departure from the styling of Windows 7, with flat windows and bold colours taking over from 3D-looking icons and round-edged and transparent windows.

Windows 10 continues this change, with the flat and bold styling now taking over desktop icons and other core system features, though there’s still some way to go, with plenty of features such as the Control Panel using old icons.

Related: How to install Windows 10 Technical Preview

Windows 7 Design
Windows 7's design is cohesive

Overall, we’re still unconvinced that the new styling is actually better than the old. It’s arguably more "modern", as flat seems to be the design theme of choice at the moment – websites are doing it and so is Apple – but we’re not sure it generally looks any more aesthetically pleasing.

Also, Microsoft’s implementation is particularly stark and disjointed, and it clashes with legacy programs.



Windows 10 Design
Windows 10 feels more disjointed and stark

All that said, there are some practical benefits to the new design direction, such as windows being smaller due to the lack of borders. Windows are also more customisable and some elements are clearer, thanks to the lack of translucent backgrounds.

Windows 10 is still in preview, so there's time for Microsoft to make changes for the better, but 'more modern looking' isn't really a powerful argument in its favour.

Windows 10 vs Windows 7 – Search

Windows 7 has a reasonably powerful search function that will quite rapidly look up matching programs and documents as you type. However, Windows 10 ups the ante by adding Windows Store apps and web search, as well as a much more organised results page.

Windows 7 Search
Windows 7 search is effective but simple

Click on the search box and it also shows preview information such as the latest headlines, updates from your favourite sports teams and the weather.

What’s more, it includes Cortana, the digital personal assistant. This adds two key features. Firstly it monitors things like your email, calendar and search to provide useful information, such as when you need to leave for your next appointment.

Windows 10 Search
Windows 10 greatly enhances the features of search

If you have a microphone on your machine, you can also speak your commands to Cortana and it does a fine job of interpreting colloquial language to get you the answer you need. Sadly the interface doesn’t return the answer to you right there in the search bar, but rather opens the web browser. It’s still pretty cool to not have to type anything, though.

Windows 10 vs Windows 7 – File Management

It may seem totally mundane, but the tools used for finding and managing your files are some of the most oft used and fundamental to a good operating system.

Windows 7 has a decent selection and certainly we’re all long used to them. However, they certainly aren’t the most advanced, and in some ways they’re a backwards step from what came before – who remembers the removal of the Up button from the File Explorer?


Windows 7 File Management
Windows 7 File Explorer and copy dialogue are relics

This one little feature summed up all that was wrong about the nonsensical path being trodden by Microsoft at the time. But it wasn’t the only problem with Windows 7 File Explorer. By any standard it was poorly designed, with wasted space and key functions hidden from view.

Well, with Windows 10 the Up button is back! And with it are a host of other improvements to File Explorer – many of which, again, first arrived in Windows 8. The top menu is now arranged in a ribbon, so all the common tools are right where they’re easy to click and, perhaps more importantly, easy for novices to find.

There’s also a new Share ribbon which makes it much easier to move files between different apps such as Outlook, Dropbox or Skype. It’s still not perfect, but it’s a definite step in the right direction.

On top of these improvements to File Explorer there’s also an improved file copying interface. Now copying/moving tasks are grouped into one window for easier management. Transfer speed is also shown in real time and operations can also be paused, where they could only previously be cancelled.


Windows 10 File Management
Windows 10 File Explorer and copy dialogue is much more useful

Another neat new addition is Storage Spaces. This is a way to group multiple hard drives together to form a single logical drive. While hardly revolutionary sounding, what makes it particularly useful is that it supports multiple levels of drive redundancy, to ensure your data is backed up, and unlike a RAID system it's completely hot-swappable and drives can be different sizes.

All told, there's a lot that Windows 10 adds to day-to-day file management and very little that's been taken away.

Windows 10 vs Windows 7 – Gaming and DirectX 12

We touched earlier on how gaming performance hasn’t changed much on Windows 10, but it’s worth elaborating.

In fact there's a slight drop in performance on average, with Windows 10 tending to be about 0.5% slower than Windows 7, particularly with older games – Crysis 3, for instance – although there are some instances where the roles are reversed. Of course 0.5% is a ridiculously small amount either way, so much so that it’s not worth worrying about.

Elsewhere Windows 7 has proven to be a robust and reliable gaming platform, though not one entirely stacked with innovation – it’s a solid base on which a host of gaming tools are built.

Windows 10, though, adds a load of new features. Most will, in all likelihood, be of limited interest to most PC gamers – the ability to access your Xbox Live account, stream games from your Xbox to your PC and have multiplayer games work with both PC and Xbox players – though they are, of course, mostly welcome.


Windows 10 Gaming
Windows 10 brings access to lots of Xbox features

Probably the neatest feature is built-in game capture. This will constantly record your gaming sessions, allowing you to grab a snapshot of the last 30 seconds of gameplay to share with your friends. It may not be new technology, but having it baked into the OS is very useful. Also it will work with every game ever – at least so Microsoft says – so if you fancy capturing a video of your Monkey Island adventures, it will happily do so.

Also, Windows 10 will have exclusive access to DirectX 12, which promises to unlock performance on existing hardware thanks to it allowing programmers to better access the features of specific hardware. The performance gains are likely to be fairly small, and very much dependent on exact circumstances, but it’ll likely be enough to tip the balance of performance back in Windows 10’s favour.

DirectX 12 will also likely bring some new features – new graphics effects and such like – but Microsoft hasn’t yet disclosed what these will be.

Windows 10 vs Windows 7 – Notifications

Windows has long had a notifications area of sorts, in the shape of the System Tray. Here you’ll find popup messages from the likes of Outlook, Dropbox and Spotify – anything that actively runs in the background.

However, it’s never really been a proper unified place where messages from other apps can reside, and where you can see a history of updates.

Windows 10 Notifications
Windows 10 has a useful single place for all notifications

Enter the new notifications area of Windows 10. This simple addition brings together system messages and app notifications into one place, with alerts ordered chronologically. It’s a small addition, but one that’s immensely useful.

The notifications area also contains some useful system functions, such as being able to switch to tablet mode or access the settings screen.

Winner: Windows 10

Windows 10 vs Windows 7 – Workspace Management

Getting and keeping your workspace tidy is of key importance to certain users. While those with a laptop may be content with just making everything fullscreen, if you’re a desktop user you may have multiple large monitors and need good tools for managing all the windows and desktops that make up the total working area.

Windows 7 has multi-monitor support, though it’s somewhat limited with just access to either a mirroring mode or one that stretches the whole desktop across all the monitors, but with only one taskbar on one monitor. It also has an early version of Snap – the tool that automatically resizes windows when you drag them to the left or right. But that’s it – it’s a fairly limited set of tools.


Windows 10 Virtual Desktop
Windows 10 adds virtual desktops and better multi-monitor support

With Windows 10 both these features have been enhanced. Different monitors can now have different backgrounds, with different slideshows, too. Pictures can also now be set to span across all your monitors.

On a more practical note, the taskbar can now appear on multiple monitors or both your primary monitor and whichever monitor you’re currently active in. Snap has also been improved to support snapping to four corners, not just side to side.

Perhaps the biggest addition, though, is virtual desktop support. Although Windows 7 has had support for virtual desktops via third-party software, now it's built right in. The implementation isn’t super slick, but it's a big bonus, particularly for laptop users.

Windows 10 vs Windows 7 – Price

Of course, right now we don’t know how much a standalone copy of Windows 10 will cost, but the big news is that it will be free to upgrade from either Windows 7 or 8 for the first year of Windows 10’s life.

As such, if you’ve got a copy of Windows 7 you’d almost be foolish not to upgrade. After all, although we’re yet to find out exactly how the upgrade process will work – whether you’ll lose your Windows 7 license if you upgrade – the chances are you’ll be able to just reinstall your old version of Windows if you find the upgrade isn’t for you.

If you're buying a fresh new copy and the upgrade period has run out then there’s a chance Windows 7 will be cheaper than Windows 10, but that’s rather dependent on whether you can still get hold of it.

The verdict so far...

It’s clear Windows 10 has a lot of genuinely useful new features, as well as key improvements to old features, compared to Windows 7. None is enough on its own to make an upgrade necessary, but when combined they do make a compelling case.

You’ve got better search, window management, file management, gaming tools and more. Indeed it’s only really the styling that we’re less keen on, which in the grand scheme of things is a minor point.

As such, with Windows 10 being a free upgrade it would almost be silly not to at least try it. Windows 10 may not be perfect, but it most definitely looks like an upgrade worth having when it's available later this year.

Thursday, February 5, 2015

Hands On: Windows 10's New Preview

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When Microsoft released the newest Windows 10 Technical Preview on Friday, testers saw some major new features the company is hoping to bring to its operating system designed to switch seamlessly between PC and tablet modes. Among the key new features are a new Start Menu and Cortana, the digital assistant that, until now, was only available on Windows Phone.

Along with those and other new features, the new Build 9926 takes a key step forward in showing the progress Microsoft is making to remove the split personality that epitomizes Windows 8.x. Microsoft is designing Windows 10 to launch desktop apps from the Windows Store interface and vice versa. Upon downloading the new build you'll want to look at the following:

Start Menu: One of the biggest mistakes Microsoft made when it rolled out Windows 8 was the removal of the popular Start Button. While the company brought some of its capabilities back with Windows 8.1, the new build of the Technical Preview introduces a new Start Menu that Windows 7 users who have avoided Windows 8.x should feel comfortable with. The Start Menu displays the apps you use most on the left side of your screen and lets you customize the rest of the page with tiles that can be sized however the user chooses and grouped based on preferences such as productivity tools and content. It can be viewed in desktop mode (Figure 1) or in the pure tablet interface (Figure 2).

http://redmondmag.com/blogs/the-schwartz-report/2015/01/~/media/ECG/redmondmag/Images/2015/01/Win10Preview_Fig3.ashx
 Figure 1. The Start Menu in Windows 10's desktop mode.

http://redmondmag.com/blogs/the-schwartz-report/2015/01/~/media/ECG/redmondmag/Images/2015/01/Win10Preview_Fig2.ashx
Figure 2. The Start Menu in Windows 10's tablet mode. 

Cortana: The digital voice assistant available to Windows Phone users is now part the Windows PC and tablet environment and it was the first thing I wanted to test upon downloading the new build. It wasn't able to answer many questions, though when asked who's going to win the Super Bowl, Cortana predicted the New England Patriots. We'll see how that plays out. Ask it the weather forecast and she'll give you a brief answer. In other cases when I asked certain questions it would initiate a Bing query and send back the search results in a browser view. Cortana is also designed to search your system, OneDrive and other sources based on your queries. Microsoft has warned Cortana for Windows is still in early development but it could emerge as a useful feature if it's able to work as the company hopes.  Like the Start Menu, Cortana works on the traditional desktop (Figure 3) or in the tablet mode (Figure 4).

http://redmondmag.com/blogs/the-schwartz-report/2015/01/~/media/ECG/redmondmag/Images/2015/01/Win10Preview_Fig3.ashx 

Figure 3. Cortana on the desktop.

http://redmondmag.com/blogs/the-schwartz-report/2015/01/~/media/ECG/redmondmag/Images/2015/01/Win10Preview_Fig4.ashx 

Figure 4. Cortana in the tablet mode.

Continuum: The design goal of Windows 10 is its ability to let users transition between desktop and touch-based tablet modes. In either environment, you should be able to access desktop or Windows Store apps. For example if you have downloaded Google's Chrome browser as a desktop app, when in the tablet mode it will appear as an app in that environment. In either case, you're accessing the same browser, just from a different interface.

Farewell Charms: Microsoft introduced Charms with Windows 8 as a hip new way of configuring machines but many found it cumbersome and confusing. In the new build, Charms are gone, replaced by a new Settings component (Figure 5). As the name implies, Settings offers an easy way to customize the display, connect peripherals and configure networks.

http://redmondmag.com/blogs/the-schwartz-report/2015/01/~/media/ECG/redmondmag/Images/2015/01/Win10Preview_Fig5.ashx
Figure 5. Windows 10's new Settings component.

New Windows Store: Microsoft is preparing a new store that has a common design for PC, tablet and phone users as well as those accessing it via the Web. The new Windows Store beta (Figure 6) appears as a gray icon, though the existing Windows Store is still available in green.

http://redmondmag.com/blogs/the-schwartz-report/2015/01/~/media/ECG/redmondmag/Images/2015/01/Win10Preview_Fig6.ashx
Figure 6. The Windows Store beta.

File Explorer: Many users have complained that the File Explorer in Windows 8.x doesn't allow for a default folder. Now when opening the File Explorer in the new preview, it can be set to open to a default folder (Figure 7).
 http://redmondmag.com/blogs/the-schwartz-report/2015/01/~/media/ECG/redmondmag/Images/2015/01/Win10Preview_Fig7.ashx
 Figure 7.Windows 10's File Explorer.

Because this is still an early beta you'll find bugs and just because you see features here doesn't mean they'll end up in the shipping version this fall. If you've looked at this build, please share your opinions on the latest Windows 10 Technical Preview.

Thursday, December 25, 2014

Windows 10 Preparation Tool for Windows 7, Windows 8.1 (Updated)

http://winsupersite.com/site-files/winsupersite.com/files/imagecache/large_img/uploads/2014/12/stream-update-hero.jpg 

Microsoft has quietly released a Windows 10 Preparation tool for Windows 7 and Windows 8.1 which ostensibly makes sure your PC is ready for the new OS. But I'm pretty sure all this tool does is alert users when the latest preview build is available for download in January.

I'm curious if it actually does more than that. So if you run this on your Windows 7- or Windows 8.1-based PC and see anything other than a "Your PC is now ready for Windows Technical Preview" message, please let us know in the comments.

http://winsupersite.com/site-files/winsupersite.com/files/uploads/2014/12/success.jpg  

News of the tool comes courtesy of WinBeta, which was tipped off by a reader. But it's not clear what actual preparation it does per se. I would guess it just adds a trigger to Windows Update so that the next preview build will appear there. That happens January 21, as you may know.

 UPDATE

I've spoken with Rafael Rivera about this tool and after a bit of Windows spelunking, he provided the following information.

The tool does check for OS upgrade eligibility. Which is a little more complicated than "Windows 7 or Windows 8.1." Actually, it will only work with Windows 7 with Service Pack 1 (SP1) and Windows 8.1 with Update 1 (KB2919355).

It only supports a range of languages—Arabic (Saudi Arabia), Chinese (Traditional, Taiwan), Chinese (Simplified, PRC, though it's currently not supported due to a bug), Czech (Czech Republic), Dutch (Netherlands), English (United Kingdom), English (United States), Finnish (Finland), French (France), German (Germany), Italian (Italy), Japanese (Japan), Korean (Korea), Polish (Poland), Portuguese (Brazil), Russian (Russia), Spanish (Spain), Swedish (Sweden), Thai (Thailand), and Turkish (Turkey) —and will return an error message if you don't meet its requirements:

"We can't prepare this PC for Windows Technical Preview. Make sure it's using either Windows 7 SP1 or Windows 8.1 Update and a language supported in Windows Technical Preview.

Likewise, if you've already run the tool and try to run it again, you will see the following message: "This PC has already been prepared for Windows Technical Preview. Windows Update will let you know when the latest preview build is ready to install on this PC in early 2015."

So what does the "preparation" bit mean? It means that the tool creates the following key in your PC's registry:

HKLM\SOFTWARE\Microsoft\Windows\CurrentVersion\WindowsUpdate\WindowsTechnicalPreview

And creates a value under that key named "Signup" with its data set to "924EADEB-2472-490D-9203-5D0A1FD5CC73"

Put simply, this is roughly what I thought it was, a way to get Windows Update ready to look for and then prompt you to install the January Update for the Windows Technical Preview (or what we think of as the Windows Consumer Preview.)

Update 2: This is just the tool people download when they sign up for the Windows Insider program, not something new. In short, nothing to see here. This is what I get for trusting other blogs. :)

Tuesday, October 28, 2014

Microsoft opens up About More Windows 10 Preview eatures in the Works

Windows 8 and want Windows 7 back, I have good news and bad news.There is a new Windows 10 coming and at first glance it has all the right stuff to please many; but it won’t be here until next summer. This means we are stuck with Microsoft’s Windows 8.1, a feeble attempt to combine traditional desktop and laptop computing with the popular touch tablet.After having spent a few weeks on the first public version of Windows 10 Technical Preview, I am impressed with the handful of improvements. They should have been in the original Windows 8, which was launched two years ago. This time Microsoft is listening.

What’s new?

  • The start screen is back, much like the old start screen that is missed by Windows 7 fans. It’s even better with a mix of large enhanced icons and access to all of your apps.
  • The old desktop is back when you start your PC, but with more features. The Windows 8 enhanced view of mixed touchable icons is gone. You can also still search for computer content in the charm bar.
  • You can open, size and move around a mix of the simpler-looking enhanced programs and desktop programs, instead of the current awkward way of accessing those programs in Windows 8.1.
  • Too many apps open on your PC screen? No problem. The virtual desktop feature lets you easily create multiple desktops, each with its own open applications. Simply choose which desktop you want to show on your screen. This is akin to a poor man’s multiple screen set up!
  • Even though the desktop is front and centre, the screen touch fingers – up to 10 fingers at the same time – trump mouse and keyboard only PCs.


Microsoft missed the rumored Windows 9 and Windows jumped 10 instead, citing a major update which central bank (such as DNA) is common for Windows phones, laptops, desktop computers, hybrid and even Xbox. This means that an application can run on all devices, but the smaller the simplest device that runs as a single touch functionality on smart phones.

View Utopia Microsoft all devices running the same operating system contrasts with Apple's commitment to keep its popular iPhones and iPads in a simple, easy to use iOS, MacBooks and Mac more productive and environmental seal and timely control of OS X. Apple User allows each device to know what the other is doing. You can even complete the unfinished tasks between devices. The new Mac OS X also allows people to text phones, including Android, Blackberry and Windows.

Windows 10 is on the right track, but time is your worst enemy in the consideration of a task so great.

The saving grace of Microsoft is its large installed base and the flood of laptops Windows 8.1 innovative and well-priced are dozens of computer and tablet manufacturers associated.

Should consumers buy Windows 8 computers now, or wait for Windows 10 next summer? Microsoft has not commented on whether Windows 10 will be a free upgrade for current owners of Windows 8. Think. If your Windows 7 PC or laptop is less than 30 months old, I hope. Hardware will be better and cheaper way.

Inevitably, the question of Mac or Windows appears. Here is my executive summary of Apple versus making computer and Microsoft sales philosophy:

Apple makes a lot less choice models with better components and more expensive. Laptops from $ 999 for the MacBook Air and go as high at $ 3.900 for a load of 15 "MacBook Pro.

Microsoft and its partners make a much wider selection of models and price range, the more expensive it is as good as the best of Apple. But buyer’s budget conscious Windows PC can end up with "good enough" PCs that are less stuck with, unless you do your homework.

Here are some examples of smart Windows laptop choices:
  • MacBook killer Dell 15.5” XPS 15 ($1,599 – $2,399)
  • Microsoft’s own 12” Surface Pro 3 with stylus ($849 – $1,999)
  • Acer 10” Switch 10($449)
  • Dell’s pocket-sized 8” Venue 8 Pro (starting at $299)
Microsoft’s goal to get its dissatisfied user base on board with Windows 10 is apparent.

“We want to make Windows 7 users feel as though they are upgrading from a Prius to a Tesla with Windows 10 without having to relearn how to drive,” said Microsoft’s Joe Belfiore who leads the company’s operating system experience team.

If you want to take the Windows 10 Technical Preview for a spin, a word of warning: You need a spare PC, preferably a desktop, not your regular working PC and do-it-yourself troubleshooting experience.

I am using a small, minimally powered 11” Acer V 11 Touch and it did take some fiddling to get things running right. But it runs all the new Windows 10 features well.

Monday, September 29, 2014

MCTS 70-680 Practice Questions - Windows 7 Configuring



Free practice questions for the MCTS Windows 7 Configuring exam: 70-680. This video includes 5 sample questions but users can visit our site for the full online practice test for MCTS 70-680.

Monday, September 8, 2014

MCTS 70-680 Windows 7 Remote Assistance/Desktop



This video will look at Remote Assistance and Remote Desktop. Remote Assistance is designed to provide help to the user in the same way that they would get help from someone if the person were looking over their shoulder so to speak. Remote Desktop is designed to allow a user to take complete control of their P.C. from remote. For example they could access their computer from home.

Tuesday, August 5, 2014

Windows 8.1 and XP Market Share Falls While Windows 7 Gains Users

Windows XP is no longer supported, and according to the latest statistics from Net market share, it seems some people are moving to other operating systems as a result. However, unfortunately for Microsoft, many people are moving away from XP, while Windows 8.1 actively dodge. They are probably also waiting for Windows 9, which could be released as early as 2015.

For the month of July, Windows 8.1’s desktop market share stood at 6.56 percent. That's a smaller decline of 6.61 percent in June but down nonetheless. Meanwhile, the share of Windows 8 was reduced from 5.93 percent in June to 5.92 percent last month, a small tiny 0.01 percent decrease. Combined, Windows 8 and 8.1 occupy 12.48 percent of the pie desktop operating system from July. That's not much, considering that Windows XP takes almost twice that despite the fact that it is over 10 years old.



Speaking of Windows XP, although still very popular, some PC users are left there last month. I share the desktop of Windows XP decreased from 25.31 percent in June to 24.82 percent last month. However, that does not necessarily mean that the decline will continue unabated. After all, Windows XP share actually increased in June, up from 25.27 in May.

Then there is the big cheese, the head honcho, the big kahuna; Windows 7. Installment of Windows 7 in July soared to 51.22 percent. That's up 50.55 percent in June, representing an increase of 0.67 percent.

For us, the reasons for the continued dominance of Windows XP and Windows 7 over 8 and 8.1 are simple. The first two operating systems have a Start menu and provide a familiar experience for users. Windows 8 and 8.1 do not, through a Metro-market version of the Start menu is likely to return in Windows 9. Then, of course, is the issue of cost. Windows 7 costs the same as it does in Windows 8.1 on Newegg; about $ 100. Most people clearly prefer to use the operating system with a boot menu, even if you are approaching five years old.