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Windows 7 is a major release of the Windows NT operating system developed by Microsoft. It was released to manufacturing on July 22, , and became generally available on October 22, 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 by Windows 8 , the name spanning more than three years of the product.
Until April 9, , Windows 7 original release includes updates and technical support, after which installation of Service Pack 1 is required for users to receive support and updates. Windows 7's server counterpart, Windows Server R2 , was released at the same time. A support program is currently available for enterprises, providing security updates for Windows 7 for up to four 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 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. In just six months, over million copies had been sold worldwide, increasing to over million licenses by July By January , Windows 10 surpassed Windows 7 as the most popular version of Windows worldwide. 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 , delaying the development of Blackcomb. After three major malware outbreaks—the Blaster , Nachi , and Sobig worms—exploited flaws in Windows operating systems within a short time period in August ,  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 Development of Longhorn Windows Vista was also restarted, and thus delayed, in August A number of features were cut from Longhorn.
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. 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 , it was announced that Windows 7 would also be the official name of the operating system. 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 May 5, , it became available to the general public, although it had also been leaked onto the Internet via BitTorrent. Windows 7 RTM is build Among Windows 7's new features are 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, 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.
ReadyBoost on bit editions now supports up to gigabytes of extra allocation. 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 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. 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. 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. 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. Users are able to disable or customize many more Windows components than was possible in Windows Vista.
Windows Defender is included; Microsoft Security Essentials antivirus software is a free download. All editions include Shadow Copy , which—every day or so—System Restore uses to take an automatic "previous version" snapshot of user files that have changed. A new system known as "Libraries" was added for file management; users can aggregate files from multiple folders into a "Library.
The system is also used as part of a new home networking system known as HomeGroup; devices are added to the network with a password , and files and folders can be shared with all other devices in the HomeGroup, or with specific users. The default libraries, along with printers, are shared by default, but the personal folder is set to read-only access by other users, and the Public folder can be accessed by anyone.
Windows 7 includes improved globalization support through a new Extended Linguistic Services API  to provide multilingual support particularly in Ultimate and Enterprise editions. Microsoft 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. Native support for USB 3. NET -based WCF web services ,  new features to simplify development of installation packages and shorten application install times.
Additionally, users can now adjust the level at which UAC operates using a sliding scale. 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 , Search button, and InkBall.
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.
The remaining three editions were not available at retail, of which two were available exclusively through OEM channels as pre-loaded software. The Starter edition is a stripped-down version of Windows 7 meant for low-cost devices such as netbooks. In comparison to Home Premium, Starter has reduced multimedia functionality, does not allow users to change their desktop wallpaper or theme, disables the "Aero Glass" theme, does not have support for multiple monitors, and can only address 2GB of RAM.
All editions aside from Starter support both IA and x architectures , Starter only supports bit systems. The installation media for consumer versions of Windows 7 are identical, the product key and corresponding license determines the edition that is installed.
The Windows Anytime Upgrade service can be used to purchase an upgrade that unlocks the functionality of a higher edition, such as going from Starter to Home Premium , and Home Premium to Ultimate. Support for Windows 7 without Service Pack 1 ended on April 9, , requiring users to update in order to continue receiving updates and support after 3 years, 8 months, and 18 days. Mainstream support for Windows 7 ended on January 13, Extended support for Windows 7 ended on January 14, On September 7, , Microsoft announced a paid "Extended Security Updates" service that will offer additional updates for Windows 7 Professional and Enterprise for up to three years after the end of extended support.
Variants of Windows 7 for embedded systems and thin clients have different support policies: Windows Embedded Standard 7 support ended in October Instead, a more complex method, that typically involves the utilization of a patching tool, allows the installation of pirated Extended Security Updates. This solution ended up being the only solution to allow consumer variants to continue to receive updates.
This will mark the final end of the Windows NT 6. In March , Microsoft announced that it would display notifications to users informing users of the upcoming end of support, and direct users to a website urging them to purchase a Windows 10 upgrade or a new computer. In August , researchers reported that "all modern versions of Microsoft Windows" may be at risk for "critical" system compromise because of design flaws of hardware device drivers from multiple providers.
In September , Microsoft announced that it would provide free security updates for Windows 7 on federally-certified voting machines through the United States elections. Additional requirements to use certain features: . The maximum amount of RAM that Windows 7 supports varies depending on the product edition and on the processor architecture, as shown in the following table.
The x86 editions of Windows 7 support up to 32 logical processors; x64 editions support up to 4 x In January , 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, , devices with Intel Skylake CPUs were only to receive the "most critical" updates for Windows 7 and 8. Microsoft and their hardware partners provide special testing and support for these devices on 7 and 8. On March 18, , in response to criticism from enterprise customers, Microsoft delayed the end of support and non-critical updates for Skylake systems to July 17, , but stated that they would also continue to receive security updates through the end of extended support.
However, the restrictions on newer CPU microarchitectures remain in force. Security updates released since March contain bugs which affect processors that do not support SSE2 extensions, including all Pentium III processors.
Microsoft initially stated that it would attempt to resolve the issue, and prevented installation of the affected patches on these systems. However, on June 15, , Microsoft retroactively modified its support documents to remove the promise that this bug would be resolved, replacing it with a statement suggesting that users obtain a newer processor. This effectively ends future patch support for Windows 7 on these systems.
A beta was released on July 12, In addition, it adds support for Advanced Format e as well as additional Identity Federation Services.
In Europe, the automatic nature of the BrowserChoice. This update backports some features found in Windows 8. Windows Management Framework 5. It was released on February 24,  and was eventually superseded by Windows Management Framework 5. The rollup is not available via Windows Update, and must be downloaded manually. This package can also be integrated into a Windows 7 installation image. Since October , all security and reliability updates are cumulative.
Downloading and installing updates that address individual problems is no longer possible, but the number of updates that must be downloaded to fully update the OS is significantly reduced. In June , Microsoft announced that they'll be moving Windows 7 to a monthly update model beginning with updates released in September  - two years after Microsoft switched the rest of their supported operating systems to that model.
With the new update model, instead of updates being released as they became available, only two update packages were released on the second Tuesday of every month until Windows 7 reached its end of life - one package containing security and quality updates, and a smaller package that contained only the security updates. Users could choose which package they wanted to install each month. Later in the month, another package would be released which was a preview of the next month's security and quality update rollup.