Windows 7 was released to manufacturing on July 22, 2009, and reached general retail availability on October 22, 2009, less than three years after the release of its predecessor, Windows Vista. Windows 7's server counterpart, Windows Server 2008 R2, was released at the same time.
On 26 October 2012, Windows 7 was superseeded by Windows 8. However, as Windows 8 introduces significant changes in the user interface and is optimised for touch-screen devices, it is expected that Windows 7 will continue to be predominant for some time. Windows 7 will continue to be available for purchase until at least 2014, and will be supported by Microsoft until at least 2020.
Unlike Windows Vista, which introduced a large number of new features, Windows 7 was intended to be a more focused, incremental upgrade to the Windows line, with the goal of being compatible with applications and hardware with which Windows Vista was already compatible. Presentations given by Microsoft in 2008 focused on multi-touch support, a redesigned Windows shell with a new taskbar, referred to as the Superbar, a home networking system called HomeGroup, and performance improvements. Some standard applications that have been included with prior releases of Microsoft Windows, including Windows Calendar, Windows Mail, Windows Movie Maker, and Windows Photo Gallery, are not included in Windows 7; most are instead offered separately at no charge as part of the Windows Live Essentials suite.
New and changed features
Windows 7 includes a number of new features, such as advances in touch and handwriting recognition, support for virtual hard disks, improved performance on multi-core processors, improved boot performance, DirectAccess, and kernel improvements. Windows 7 adds support for systems using multiple heterogeneous graphics cards from different vendors (Heterogeneous Multi-adapter), a new version of Windows Media Center, a Gadget for Windows Media Center, improved media features, the XPS Essentials Pack and Windows PowerShell being included, and a redesigned Calculator with multiline capabilities including Programmer and Statistics modes along with unit conversion for length, weight, temperature, and several others. Many new items have been added to the Control Panel, including ClearType Text Tuner, Display Color Calibration Wizard, Gadgets, Recovery, Troubleshooting, Workspaces Center, Location and Other Sensors, Credential Manager, Biometric Devices, System Icons, and Display. Windows Security Center has been renamed to Windows Action Center (Windows Health Center and Windows Solution Center in earlier builds), which encompasses both security and maintenance of the computer. Readyboost on 32bit editions now supports up to 256 Gigabytes of extra allocation. The default setting for User Account Control in Windows 7 has been criticized for allowing untrusted software to be launched with elevated privileges without a prompt by exploiting a trusted application. Microsoft's Windows kernel engineer Mark Russinovich acknowledged the problem, but noted that malware can also compromise a system when users agree to a prompt. Windows 7 also supports images in RAW image format through the addition of Windows Imaging Component-enabled image decoders, which enables raw image thumbnails, previewing and metadata display in Windows Explorer, plus full-size viewing and slideshows in Windows Photo Viewer and Windows Media Center.
The taskbar has seen the biggest visual changes, where the Quick Launch toolbar has been replaced with the ability to pin applications to the taskbar. Buttons for pinned applications are integrated with the task buttons. These buttons also enable the Jump Lists feature to allow easy access to common tasks. The revamped taskbar also allows the reordering of taskbar buttons. To the far right of the system clock is a small rectangular button that serves as the Show desktop icon. This button is part of the new feature in Windows 7 called Aero Peek. Hovering over this button makes all visible windows transparent for a quick look at the desktop. In touch-enabled displays such as touch screens, tablet PCs, etc., this button is slightly wider to accommodate being pressed with a finger. Clicking this button minimizes all windows, and clicking it a second time restores them. Additionally, there is a feature named Aero Snap, that automatically maximizes a window when it is dragged to the top of the screen. Dragging windows to the left/right edges of the screen allows users to snap documents or files on either side of the screen for comparison between windows, such that the windows vertically take up half the screen. When a user moves windows that were maximized using Aero Snap, the system restores their previous state automatically. This functionality is also accomplished with keyboard shortcuts.
For developers, Windows 7 includes a new networking API with support for building SOAP-based web services in native code (as opposed to .NET-based WCF web services), new features to shorten application install times, reduced UAC prompts, simplified development of installation packages, and improved globalization support through a new Extended Linguistic Services API. At WinHEC 2008 Microsoft announced that color depths of 30-bit and 48-bit would be supported in Windows 7 along with the wide color gamut scRGB (which for HDMI 1.3 can be converted and output as xvYCC). The video modes supported in Windows 7 are 16-bit sRGB, 24-bit sRGB, 30-bit sRGB, 30-bit with extended color gamut sRGB, and 48-bit scRGB. Microsoft has also implemented better support for solid-state drives, including the new TRIM command, and Windows 7 is able to identify a solid-state drive uniquely. Microsoft is planning to support USB 3.0in a subsequent patch, support not being included in the initial release due to delays in the finalization of the standard.
Internet Spades, Internet Backgammon and Internet Checkers, which were removed from Windows Vista, were restored in Windows 7. Windows 7 includes the new Internet Explorer 9 and Windows Media Player 12. Users are also able to disable many more Windows components than was possible in Windows Vista. New additions to this list of components include Internet Explorer, Windows Media Player, Windows Media Center, Windows Search, and the Windows Gadget Platform. Windows 7 includes 13 additional sound schemes, titled Afternoon, Calligraphy, Characters, Cityscape, Delta, Festival, Garden, Heritage, Landscape, Quirky, Raga, Savanna, and Sonata. A new version of Microsoft Virtual PC, newly renamed as Windows Virtual PC was made available for Windows 7 Professional, Enterprise, and Ultimate editions. It allows multiple Windows environments, including Windows XP Mode, to run on the same machine. Windows XP Mode runs Windows XP in a virtual machine and redirects displayed applications running in Windows XP to the Windows 7 desktop. Furthermore, Windows 7 supports the mounting of a virtual hard disk (VHD) as a normal data storage, and the bootloader delivered with Windows 7 can boot the Windows system from a VHD; however, this ability is only available in the Enterprise and Ultimate editions. The Remote Desktop Protocol (RDP) of Windows 7 is also enhanced to support real-time multimedia application including video playback and 3D games, thus allowing use of DirectX 10 in remote desktop environments. The three application limit, previously present in the Windows Vista Starter Edition, has been removed from Windows 7.
Certain capabilities and programs that were a part of Windows Vista are no longer present or have been changed, resulting in the removal of certain functionalities. These include the classic Start Menu user interface, some taskbar features, Windows Explorer features, Windows Media Player features, Windows Ultimate Extras and Inkball. Four applications bundled with Windows Vista — Windows Photo Gallery, Windows Movie Maker, Windows Calendar and Windows Mail — are not included with Windows 7, but applications with close functionality are instead available for free in a separate package called Windows Live Essentials which can be downloaded on the Microsoft website. Although Windows Ultimate Extras was removed, many of the extras can be installed separately. Most popular extras were Microsoft Texas Hold 'em, Microsoft Tinker, and Windows DreamScene. InkBall may also be installed into Windows 7.
Originally, a version of Windows codenamed Blackcomb was planned as the successor to Windows XP (codename Whistler) and Windows Server 2003. Major features were planned for Blackcomb, including an emphasis on searching and querying data and an advanced storage system named WinFS to enable such scenarios. However, an interim, minor release, codenamed "Longhorn," was announced for 2003, delaying the development of Blackcomb. By the middle of 2003, however, Longhorn had acquired some of the features originally intended for Blackcomb. After three major viruses exploited flaws in Windows operating systems within a short time period in 2003, Microsoft changed its development priorities, putting some of Longhorn's major development work on hold while developing new service packs for Windows XP and Windows Server 2003. Development of Longhorn (Windows Vista) was also restarted, and thus delayed, in August 2004. A number of features were cut from Longhorn.
Blackcomb was renamed Vienna in early 2006 and again renamed Windows 7 in 2007. In 2008, it was announced that Windows 7 would also be the official name of the operating system. There has been some confusion over naming the product Windows 7, while versioning it as 6.1 to indicate its similar build to Vista and increase compatibility with applications that only check major version numbers, similar to Windows 2000 and Windows XP both having 5.x version numbers.
The first external release to select Microsoft partners came in January 2008 with Milestone 1, build 6519. At PDC 2008, Microsoft demonstrated Windows 7 with its reworked taskbar. Copies of Windows 7 build 6801 were distributed at the end of the conference; however, the demonstrated taskbar was disabled in this build.
On December 27, 2008, the Windows 7 Beta was leaked onto the Internet via BitTorrent. According to a performance test by ZDNet, Windows 7 Beta beat both Windows XP and Vista in several key areas; including boot and shutdown time and working with files, such as loading documents. Other areas did not beat XP; including PC Pro benchmarks for typical office activities and video editing, which remain identical to Vista and slower than XP. On January 7, 2009, the 64-bit version of the Windows 7 Beta (build 7000) was leaked onto the web, with some torrents being infected with a trojan. At CES 2009, Microsoft CEO Steve Ballmer announced the Windows 7 Beta, build 7000, had been made available for download to MSDN and TechNet subscribers in the format of an ISO image. The Beta was to be publicly released January 9, 2009, and Microsoft initially planned for the download to be made available to 2.5 million people on this date. However, access to the downloads was delayed because of high traffic. The download limit was also extended, initially until January 24, then again to February 10. People who did not complete downloading the beta had two extra days to complete the download. After February 12, unfinished downloads became unable to complete. Users could still obtain product keys from Microsoft to activate their copies of Windows 7 Beta, which expired on August 1, 2009.
The release candidate, build 7100, became available for MSDN and TechNet subscribers and Connect Program participants on April 30, 2009. On May 5, 2009 it became available to the general public, although it had also been leaked onto the Internet via BitTorrent. The release candidate was available in five languages and expired on June 1, 2010, with shutdowns every two hours starting March 1, 2010. Microsoft stated that Windows 7 would be released to the general public on October 22, 2009. Microsoft released Windows 7 to MSDN and Technet subscribers on August 6, 2009, at 10:00 a.m. PDT. Microsoft announced that Windows 7, along with Windows Server 2008 R2, was released to manufacturing on July 22, 2009. Windows 7 RTM is build 7600.16385.090713-1255, which was compiled on July 13, 2009, and was declared the final RTM build after passing all Microsoft's tests internally.
An estimated 1000 developers worked on Windows 7. These were broadly divided into "core operating system" and "Windows client experience", in turn organized into 25 teams of around 40 developers on average.
Bill Gates, in an interview with Newsweek, suggested that this version of Windows would be more "user-centric". Gates later said that Windows 7 would also focus on performance improvements. Steven Sinofsky later expanded on this point, explaining in the Engineering Windows 7 blog that the company was using a variety of new tracing tools to measure the performance of many areas of the operating system on an ongoing basis, to help locate inefficient code paths and to help prevent performance regressions.
Senior Vice President Bill Veghte stated that Windows Vista users migrating to Windows 7 would not find the kind of device compatibility issues they encountered migrating from Windows XP. Speaking about Windows 7 on October 16, 2008, Microsoft CEO Steve Ballmer confirmed compatibility between Windows Vista and Windows 7, indicating that Windows 7 would be a refined version of Windows Vista.
Antitrust regulatory attention
As with other Microsoft operating systems, Windows 7 is being studied by United States federal regulators who oversee the company's operations following the 2001 United States v. Microsoft settlement. According to status reports filed, the three-member panel began assessing prototypes of the new operating system in February 2008. Michael Gartenberg, an analyst at Jupiter Research said that, "[Microsoft's] challenge for Windows 7 will be how can they continue to add features that consumers will want that also don't run afoul of regulators."
In order to comply with European antitrust regulations, Microsoft has proposed the use of a "ballot" screen, allowing users to download a competing browser, thus removing the need for a version of Windows completely without Internet Explorer, as previously planned. In response to criticism involving Windows 7 E and concerns from manufacturers about possible consumer confusion if a version of Windows 7 with Internet Explorer were shipped later after one without Internet Explorer, Microsoft announced that it would scrap the separate version for Europe and ship the standard upgrade and full packages worldwide.
As with the previous version of Windows, an N version, which does not come with Windows Media Player, has been released in Europe, but only for sale directly from Microsoft sales websites and selected others.
Windows 7 is available in six different editions, of which the Home Premium, Professional, and Ultimate editions are available for retail sale to consumers in most countries. The other editions are not available in retail. The Starter edition is only available preinstalled by OEMs on new PCs, the Enterprise edition only by volume licensing, and Home Basic only to certain developing countries' markets. Each edition of Windows 7 includes all of the capabilities and features of the edition below it.
All editions support the IA-32 processor architecture and all editions except Starter support the x86-64 processor architecture. The installation medium is the same for all the consumer editions of Windows 7 that have the same processor architecture, with the license determining the features that are activated; license upgrades permit the subsequent unlocking of features without re-installation of the operating system. This is the first time Microsoft has distributed 2 DVDs (1 DVD for IA-32 processor architecture, the other DVD for x86-64 processor architecture) for each edition of Windows 7 (Except for Starter and Home Basic; some OEM copies have only DVD for IA-32 architecture; the installation DVD of Windows 7 Home Basic 64-bit edition is not included but can be obtained from Microsoft.). Users who wish to upgrade to an edition of Windows 7 with more features can then use Windows Anytime Upgrade to purchase the upgrade, and unlock the features of those editions.
Some copies of Windows 7 have restrictions, in which it must be distributed, sold, or bought and activated in the geographical region specified in its front cover box.
Microsoft is offering a family pack of Windows 7 Home Premium (in select markets) that allows installation on up to three PCs. The "Family Pack" costs US$149.99 in the United States.
On September 18, 2009, Microsoft said they were to offer temporary student discounts for Windows 7. The offer ran in the US and the United Kingdom, with similar schemes available in Canada, Australia, Korea, Mexico, France and India. Students with a valid .edu or .ac.uk email address could apply for either Windows 7 Home Premium or Professional, priced at $30 or £30.
Windows 7 is also currently available as an embedded version to developers (previously Windows Embedded 2011).
The different editions of Windows 7 have been designed and marketed toward people with different needs. Out of the different editions (Starter, Home Basic, Home Premium, Professional, Enterprise, and Ultimate), the Starter edition for emerging markets, Home Basic has been designed and marketed for lower cost notebooks, Home Premium for normal home users, Professional for businesses, Enterprise for larger businesses and corporations, and Ultimate for enthusiasts.
Microsoft has published the minimum specifications for a system to run Windows 7. Requirements for the 32-bit version are similar to that of premium editions of Vista, but are higher for 64-bit versions. Microsoft has released an upgrade advisor that determines if a computer is compatible with Windows 7.
|Processor||1 GHz IA-32 processor||1 GHz x86-64 processor|
|Memory (RAM)||1 GB||2 GB|
|Graphics card|| DirectX 9 graphics processor with WDDM driver model 1.0|
(Not absolutely necessary; only required for Aero)
|HDD free space||16 GB of free disk space||20 GB of free disk space|
|Optical drive||DVD-ROM drive (Only to install from DVD-ROM media)|
|SATA AHCI support||See below|
Additional requirements to use certain features:
- SATA AHCI support was not added to Windows until XP Service Pack 1. As a result, in most motherboards the BIOS default for SATA support is to (emulate) IDE (ATA) rather than use AHCI (SATA). As explained here, this setting needs to be changed before installation, and any chipset-specific AHCI or RAID drivers need to be loaded (from a USB Flash drive, for example) at installation time.
- Windows XP Mode (Professional, Ultimate and Enterprise): Requires an additional 1 GB of RAM and additional 15 GB of available hard disk space. The requirement for a processor capable of hardware virtualization has been lifted.
- Windows Media Center (included in Home Premium, Professional, Ultimate and Enterprise), requires a TV tuner to receive and record TV.
Physical memory limits
Maximum limits on physical memory (RAM) that Windows 7 can address vary depending on both the Windows version and between 32-bit and 64-bit versions. The following table specifies the maximum physical memory limits supported:
|Version||Limit in 32-bit Windows||Limit in 64-bit Windows|
|Windows 7 Ultimate||4 GB||192 GB|
|Windows 7 Enterprise|
|Windows 7 Professional|
|Windows 7 Home Premium||16 GB|
|Windows 7 Home Basic||8 GB|
|Windows 7 Starter||2 GB||N/A|
The maximum total number of logical processors in a PC that Windows 7 supports is: 32 for 32-bit, 256 for 64-bit.
The maximum number of physical processors in a PC that Windows 7 supports is: 2 for Professional, Enterprise, and Ultimate, and 1 for Starter, Home Basic, and Home Premium.
Service Pack 1
Windows 7 Service Pack 1 (SP1) was announced on March 18, 2010. A beta was released on July 12, 2010.
The final version was released to the public on February 9, 2011. At the time of release, it was not made mandatory. Technet has information on blocking it, or getting it via Windows Update, direct download, or by ordering the Windows 7 SP1 DVD. Microsoft confirmed that the service pack is to be on a much smaller scale than those released for previous versions of Windows, particularly Windows Vista.
Windows 7 Service Pack 1 adds support for Advanced Vector Extensions (AVX), a 256-bit instruction set extension for processors, and improves IKEv2 by adding additional identification fields such as E-mail ID to it. In addition, it adds support for Advanced Format 512e as well as additional Identity Federation Services.
Some programs have compatibility issues with SP1 and a limited number of programs may experience a loss of functionality.
- Official Windows 7 website
- The Windows 7 Blog for Developers
- The Windows 7 Team Blog - Windows Team Blog
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