Top 10 Differences between Windows XP and Windows 7

If you skipped over Windows Vista like so many others have, you may be in for a shock when you upgrade from Windows XP to Windows 7. Microsoft’s newest operating system is a major shift in usability, convenience, and overall computing from previous versions of Windows.

Although not all are earth-shattering changes, listed below are the Top 10 differences between Windows XP and Windows 7. Many of these changes may seem like a big deal because you’ve gotten so used to how things work in XP. If you are considering upgrading from XP to Windows 7, be prepared for these changes.

1. No e-mail Client

Outlook Express (OE) has been a trusted friend since Windows 95, so much so that many people have never used another e-mail client. OE was removed from Windows Vista but was replaced with Windows Mail. Strangely, Windows does not ship with any e-mail client at all. Users must either purchase an e-mail client such as Outlook, use a free service such as Windows Live Mail, or download an open source e-mail client such as Thunderbird.

2. 32-bit vs. 64-bit

Although Windows XP did have a 64-bit version (Windows XP x64), many people are unaware that it even existed. When upgrading from XP to Windows 7, you will have to decide whether you want the 32-bit version (x86) or the 64-bit version (x64). Which you choose largely depends on your computer’s hardware and the availability of drivers and other software to make everything work in your PC.

3. Aero Desktop

The Aero Desktop is really nothing more than a collection of window and desktop behaviors that make Windows 7 the prettiest version of the operating system to date. Features such as Aero Snap let you quickly organize open windows and transparency makes it easy to see what’s underneath other windows. With Windows XP think opaque, with Windows 7, think translucent.

Windows 7 Aero Desktop vs Windows XP

4. Documents and Settings

The Documents and Settings folder, the location for all protected personal files and folders, has been replaced with a simple Users folders. Not a big deal, but many tech support personnel have spent hundreds of hours answering the simple question of where the Documents and Settings folder went in Windows 7.

5. Start Menu

The Start menu in Windows 7 has been completely reworked and has been met with several criticisms. No longer does the Start menu use fly-outs and scroll-outs to show you what shortcuts to programs and folders you have on your computer.

Now you must use a more conservative folder system that forces you to use a scroll bar to access shortcuts that can’t be displayed because you’ve reached the maximum number that can be shown at one time. Luckily, if you really like the Windows XP Start menu, there is a way to make the Windows 7 Start menu behave like XP.

Windows 7 Start Menu vs Windows XP

6. Ribbon

Introduced in Office 2007, it is clear that Microsoft will continue to push the Ribbon interface over the more familiar drop-down menu and toolbar approach to using programs. If you want to get a taste of the Ribbon, start up Microsoft Paint or WordPad on a computer running Windows 7 and you can see for yourself whether the Ribbon is going to be useful or just another technology forced upon you.

WordPad Ribbon Windows 7

7. Libraries

Windows 7 Libraries are nothing more than collections of files that are similar. Similar content that is located in multiple areas of your computer are brought together into the Library system to make finding files easier.

Of course, you can choose to use or not use Libraries depending on whether you find them useful. However, if you store a lot of media on your computer such as music or video and you want access to them without having to physically move them the same location or folder, Libraries may be for you.

8. DirectX 11

If you are a gamer, you know that you must keep up with advances in both hardware and software technology to get the most from your games. Windows XP will not support DirectX versions beyond 9.0c so if your games require a higher version such as 10 or 11, you have no choice but to move a more recent version of Windows.

As more and more people make the switch to Windows 7, the game developers and publishers are likely to take full advantage of more recent DirectX versions. Stick with XP too long, and you may be shut out of the newest games.

9. HomeGroup

Whether you have a simple or complicated home network, you know that any help you can get to make administration easier is always welcomed. HomeGroup is a major shift in home networking simplicity that makes older paradigms seem archaic.

Not much has changed in setting up a home network since Windows NT 4, an operating system from before Windows 95 that you may never have heard of. Marrying simplicity, easy setup, and stable connections, HomeGroup takes the guesswork and troubleshooting out of home networking on any scale.

10. Touch Support

Although touch interfaces have been around for a better part of a decade, touch has not yet replaced the familiar keyboard/mouse combination of navigating personal computers. Still, Windows 7 is the first operating system from the software giant to natively support touch as a computer interface.

If you think that you would like to be on the frontier of this emerging interface paradigm, Windows 7 is your only real choice if you want to run a Microsoft operating system.


Some people have become so comfortable working with Windows XP that they have avoided upgrading to Microsoft’s newest operating system. The Windows Vista fiasco didn’t help matters, forcing some diehard fans of XP to downgrade to make their PCs functional again.

If you are considering upgrading from Windows XP to Windows 7, be prepared for some new things, some missing things, and a few things in between. Still, the stability and usability of Windows 7 has been more or less established so you can rest assured that you are taking a step in the right direction by leaving XP behind.

Comments [10]

  1. Ribbon-I hate the new ribbon. It is too big. I know how to use Word so I don't need every feature to be presented. The organization is also jumbled. Most general correspondence or even more complicated documents require basic word processing features and they should be grouped together and easily accessible. I'm using Microsoft Office 2010 Beta and it is no improvement on this issue. There are better word processing programs out there but Microsoft hasn't learned to keep it simple.

  2. There are so many more important differences between he 2 than simple things like start menu and email client.

    how about:

    XP Mode

    better power/battery management

    remote media streaming

    real system restore (Xp's system restore was a joke)

    Much better Memory management


    have you seen how in-depth windows firewall is in Win7?

    do i need to keep on going?

  3. Have you even see that the security in windows 7 is better than xp? LOL W7 has more security than mac imagine that…

  4. Windows 7 is a improved version of Windows XP all we need to learn few of things.
    Starts and shuts down faster
    Searching for programs and files is easier from Start—>type the file or program name in search box it will display quickly
    Security is Good,
    You have parental control in your windows 7
    Battery management is good,
    Bit locker which helps you protect your sensitive information from hackers.
    The calculator now has many different modes including scientific, programmer, and statistics.
    Built-in defense against spyware and other malware.
    Virtual Wndows XP mode for XP lovers.
    So people go for windows 7 and make your life Easier and faster.

  5. I am not sure if this impacts u, but in the shipping line world in India we have to submit EDI to Indian Customs.

    Windows XP is friendly to show the feild delimiters (special ASCII) chars. However Win7 only shows if you logon using XP mode.

  6. I got a hp dv6 i5 with Windows 7 pre-installed. The interface is slicker than XP, and I like that, but it took me more time to find programs in the Start bar and to me that’s really annoying, when progress means making things more complicated. So I installed a freeware that restores the xp start bar (which I use in ‘classic’ mode like folders to). However, aside from a game I wanted to play with my son, an expensive Italian-English dictionary no longer works (tried XP compatibility), and I really need it (I translate).

    Thought about virtual xp mode and found out my Home edition does not support it. Thought about dual-boot with xp and found out it is complicated because xp will erase the win 7 boot manager plus HP has ‘secret’ partitions that could screw up the whole thing. I wish I still had XP. It would have been sensible if 7 came with xp in dual-boot pre-installed to make sure people were cut off from some apps they really needed.

    Word is beyond Words in its idiocy. Unless you use Word as Notepad, the easiest and most efficient way of accessing lots of functions and information are and will always be compact and _fixed_ alphabetical lists not a bunch of buttons. Integrated with customizable buttons and keyboard short-cuts and search functions.

    I remember as a student in 1989 using Wordperfect 5.1 for dos. I could easily write in its version of Basic my own interface and access a a 5 level deep subfolder with 4 keystrokes. More than 20 years later I still haven’t found a way to do it in Word, since macros are not allowed to end in an open dialog window.

    In the end, I think that 90% of ‘progress’ in OS derives from the need to keep selling software and machines, whereas 90% of the serious software-hardware needs of users (db, spreadsheets, worprocessor, reference info) were already addressed 10 years ago.

  7. Hi

    Windows 7 is not supporting some old program versions. eg: Tally 7.2, When we open tally 7.2 will get a message ” Program stoped working” Even compatibility mode also not working.

  8. The real truth is the only reason Bill Gates went to Vista, 7, and 8 is because they won’t run earlier software like the earlier office suites, all of which run just fine and don’t need replacing. Why would anybody want to dump Outlook Express. It’s great. It’s easy to use and works just fine. Why would anybody in their right mind want to dump it?

    What Bill should do is make an upgrade for XP that would open vista, 7, and 8 files and finally admit that some people would rather have what they know how to use, than have to learn something else just because Gates wants to make more money.
    Not everybody can be that shortsided. Who is making a version of Outlook Express for Windows 7?

  9. Just bought a new HP laptop with windows 8.1. This is the worst OS I have ever used. I will return it to Staples and ask to have Windows’s 7 installed. If no can do I will return for money back and by and apple equivalent. Microsoft you have once again stuck it to the consumer to put more money in your pocket. Everything we are comfortable using we now have to buy and app to make it possible. Once again you have left the consumer down.

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