Windows 7 is a major release of the Windows NT operating system developed by Microsoft. It was released to manufacturing on July 22, 2009, and became generally available on October 22, 2009. It is the successor to Windows Vista, released nearly three years earlier. It remained an operating system for use on personal computers, including home and business desktops, laptops, tablet PCs and media center PCs, and itself was replaced in November 2012 by Windows 8, the name spanning more than three years of the product.
Until April 9, 2013, Windows 7 original release included updates and technical support, after which installation of Service Pack 1 was required for users to receive support and updates. Windows 7's server counterpart, Windows Server 2008 R2, was released at the same time. Extended support ended on January 14, 2020, over ten years after the release of Windows 7, after which the operating system ceased receiving further updates. A paid support program was available for enterprises, providing security updates for Windows 7 for up to three years since the official end of life.
Windows 7 was intended to be an incremental upgrade to Microsoft Windows, addressing Windows Vista's poor critical reception while maintaining hardware and software compatibility. Windows 7 continued improvements on the Windows Aero user interface with the addition of a redesigned taskbar that allows pinned applications, and new window management features. Other new features were added to the operating system, including libraries, the new file-sharing system HomeGroup, and support for multitouch input. A new "Action Center" was also added to provide an overview of system security and maintenance information, and tweaks were made to the User Account Control system to make it less intrusive. Windows 7 also shipped with updated versions of several stock applications, including Internet Explorer 8, Windows Media Player, and Windows Media Center.
Unlike Vista, Windows 7 received critical acclaim, with critics considering the operating system to be a major improvement over its predecessor because of its improved performance, its more intuitive interface, fewer User Account Control popups, and other improvements made across the platform. Windows 7 was a major success for Microsoft; even before its official release, pre-order sales for the operating system on the online retailer Amazon.com had surpassed previous records. In just six months, over 100 million copies had been sold worldwide, increasing to over 630 million licenses by July 2012. By January 2018, Windows 10 surpassed Windows 7 as the most popular version of Windows worldwide. As of September 2022[update], 11% of traditional PCs running Windows are running Windows 7. Windows 11 has recently taken second place from Windows 7 as the most popular Windows edition. It still remains popular in countries such as Syria, China, India, and Venezuela.
When released, Windows Vista was criticized for its long development time, performance issues, spotty compatibility with existing hardware and software at launch, changes affecting the compatibility of certain PC games, and unclear assurances by Microsoft that certain computers shipping with XP before launch would be "Vista Capable" (which led to a class-action lawsuit), among other critiques. As such, the adoption of Vista in comparison to XP remained somewhat low. In July 2007, six months following the public release of Vista, it was reported that the next version of Windows would then be codenamed Windows 7, with plans for a final release within three years. Bill Gates, in an interview with Newsweek, suggested that Windows 7 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. An estimated 1,000 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.
In October 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. 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.
The taskbar has seen the biggest visual changes, where the old 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 Jump Lists to allow easy access to common tasks, and files frequently used with specific applications. 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. By default, 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 (8 pixels) wider in order to accommodate being pressed by a finger. Clicking this button minimizes all windows, and clicking it a second time restores them.
Window management in Windows 7 has several new features: Aero Snap maximizes a window when it is dragged to the top, left, or right of the screen. Dragging windows to the left or right edges of the screen allows users to snap software windows to either side of the screen, such that the windows take up half the screen. When a user moves windows that were snapped or maximized using Snap, the system restores their previous state. Snap functions can also be triggered with keyboard shortcuts. Aero Shake hides all inactive windows when the active window's title bar is dragged back and forth rapidly.
Windows 7 is available in six different editions, of which the Home Premium, Professional, and Ultimate were available at retail in most countries, and as pre-loaded software on most new computers. Home Premium and Professional were aimed at home users and small businesses respectively, while Ultimate was aimed at enthusiasts. Each edition of Windows 7 includes all of the capabilities and features of the edition below it, and adds additional features oriented towards their market segments; for example, Professional adds additional networking and security features such as Encrypting File System and the ability to join a domain. Ultimate contained a superset of the features from Home Premium and Professional, along with other advanced features oriented towards power users, such as BitLocker drive encryption; unlike Windows Vista, there were no "Ultimate Extras" add-ons created for Windows 7 Ultimate. Retail copies were available in "upgrade" and higher-cost "full" version licenses; "upgrade" licenses require an existing version of Windows to install, while "full" licenses can be installed on computers with no existing operating system.
In January 2016, Microsoft announced that it would no longer support Windows platforms older than Windows 10 on any future Intel-compatible processor lines, citing difficulties in reliably allowing the operating system to operate on newer hardware. Microsoft stated that effective July 17, 2017, devices with Intel Skylake CPUs were only to receive the "most critical" updates for Windows 7 and 8.1, and only if they have been judged not to affect the reliability of Windows 7 on older hardware. For enterprise customers, Microsoft issued a list of Skylake-based devices "certified" for Windows 7 and 8.1 in addition to Windows 10, to assist them in migrating to newer hardware that can eventually be upgraded to 10 once they are ready to transition. Microsoft and their hardware partners provide special testing and support for these devices on 7 and 8.1 until the July 2017 date.
In June 2018, Microsoft announced that they'll be moving Windows 7 to a monthly update model beginning with updates released in September 2018 - two years after Microsoft switched the rest of their supported operating systems to that model.
In July 2009, in only eight hours, pre-orders of Windows 7 at amazon.co.uk surpassed the demand which Windows Vista had in its first 17 weeks. It became the highest-grossing pre-order in Amazon's history, surpassing sales of the previous record holder, the seventh Harry Potter book. After 36 hours, 64-bit versions of Windows 7 Professional and Ultimate editions sold out in Japan. Two weeks after its release its market share had surpassed that of Snow Leopard, released two months previously as the most recent update to Apple's Mac OS X operating system. According to Net Applications, Windows 7 reached a 4% market share in less than three weeks; in comparison, it took Windows Vista seven months to reach the same mark. As of February 2014, Windows 7 had a market share of 47.49% according to Net Applications; in comparison, Windows XP had a market share of 29.23%. 2b1af7f3a8