In the eight years between the releases of Windows XP and Windows 7, Microsoft redesigned its operating system, making the newer edition more convenient to use with an improved interface and additional features. Up until 2014, however, if you were happy with Windows XP, there was no pressing need to upgrade your computer. In 2014, Microsoft ended support for XP, leaving the old system unprotected from security threats. Without new security patches, using XP places your computer and your data at risk, making Windows 7 a preferable choice for any PC, desktop or laptop, at home or in the office.
In April of 2014, Microsoft stopped releasing security updates for Windows XP. Without these updates, the system has no protection against new threats. An anti-virus program can't make up the difference, as system security patches are a vital first line of defense against hacks and malware. Even a few years before Microsoft cut off XP's support, a Security Intelligence Report from Microsoft found that Windows 7 was four to five times better protected from malware than XP, making it the better choice for security. The bottom line: XP is not secure for use at home or in the office.
Compared to XP, Windows 7 offers a few usability improvements to the system's interface. Microsoft redesigned the Start menu, compacting XP's giant list of programs and folders into a small window that shows your most-used applications, with a search bar for finding other programs and files. The new Start menu provides shortcuts to common tasks and folders, such as the Control Panel and the Documents folder. Windows 7 also has a redesigned taskbar that supports pinning your favorite programs, rather than only showing a list of open programs. Right-clicking on a taskbar icon in Windows 7 opens a jump list with links to recent documents and shortcuts such as "Pause" and "Next" buttons in media players.
To test performance differences between Windows XP and 7, PC Magazine upgraded an old XP computer to run Windows 7. The result: both systems ran about the same, overall. In the test, XP started up a bit faster, while Windows 7 shut down faster, and results in programs varied. On its own, an upgrade to Windows 7 won't make your computer notably faster, but with a more convenient interface and improved system tools, performing the same tasks might take less effort. For example, Windows 7 includes HomeGroup, which makes sharing files on a network far easier. If you move to a newer machine that includes Windows 7, however, you will see a major difference in raw speed, as computers built in the Windows 7 era have far more powerful hardware compared to those made during XP's time.
Like Windows XP, Windows 7 comes in a professional edition that offers additional features for office use, such as the ability to join a Windows Server domain. Windows 7 Professional also provides new support for features not found in Windows XP, such as mounting Virtual Hard Disk files. The only potential concern in moving your company from XP to 7 is program compatibility. Programs made today support Windows 7 -- and many do not support XP -- but very old applications might not run correctly on the new system. If you encounter a program that won't work on Windows 7 Professional, you can download XP Mode to run Windows XP in a virtual machine. Like a regular installation of Windows XP, however, XP Mode is no longer secure, so consider only running it while disconnected from the Internet.
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