Windows 10, released in 2015, is said to be the last Windows operating system, Microsoft once claimed. The group is not planning any further version. Then this: Microsoft unveiled Windows 11 in 2021 and released the final version on October 5th after a few months of beta testing. Apparently the new operating system is inspired by Windows 10X – a special version of Windows 10 that never appeared. We used to believe that Windows 10 would receive infinitely long updates. This has been refuted at the latest since the introduction of Windows 11 became known: Support and thus, above all, the provision of updates for Windows 10 will end in 2025. Until then, users are advised to switch to Windows 11 for security reasons. Is it worth it from a technical point of view even before the Windows 10 update is shut down? We compare Microsoft’s operating systems. The oldest OS considered appeared in 2009 (Windows 7), the newest OS took the stage in 2021 (Windows 11). In the meantime, Windows 8 and Windows 10 debuted.
The older systems Windows 7 and Windows 8 no longer receive updates. From a historical perspective, however, it is interesting to take a closer look. If you are a Windows 8 license holder, you can upgrade to Windows 8.1 free of charge. That will get updates up to and including 2023. You can also switch from Windows 7 and Windows 8 (.1) to Windows 10 free of charge. Windows 8.1 / 10 64 bit requires a CPU with certain instruction sets. If the processor is missing because it is too old, only Windows 7 / 8.0 32/64 bit or Windows 10 32 bit remain. Windows 8.1 is the last Windows to be updated and still uses Microsoft’s classic update support model: The provider granted five years of support as part of mainstream support, where there are security patches in addition to functional fixes. This period is over with Windows 8.1, meanwhile the OS is in Extended Support, which also lasts five years – in which the company only fills security gaps. The total support period of ten years has almost reached its zenith. Windows 7 left Extended Support in January 2020 and has not received any improvements since then. Only companies get it into the year of Windows 8.1 support end – at regular costs per device. With Windows 10 and Windows 11, the further development is more agile: Instead of a few service packs (such as up to and including Windows 7), Microsoft relies on function updates. For Windows 10, these come twice a year, with Windows 11, the Redmond-based company takes it more leisurely with an annual publication.
With Windows 11 the CPU situation is more tricky than with Windows 8.1 and Windows 10. The latter systems do not run with antiquated CPUs, hardly anyone has such old models anymore. Windows 11 is even more picky and is officially incompatible with CPUs about older than Intel’s seventh Core-i generation. There is no 32-bit version of the operating system; the system is only available for download with the 64-bit architecture.
Since Windows 10 and Windows 11 are way better than their predecessors, consider this article a nostalgic trip back in time. Enjoy what you did back then, but as a Windows 7 / 8.1 user, take the opportunity to switch to Windows 10 or 11: The free upgrade to Windows 10 is still possible; originally, the free switch to Windows 10 for licensees of its predecessors was only supposed to be open for one year after the 10 OS release. If you use Windows 10, you can run Windows 11 free of charge – at least in theory. That practically fails because of the increased hardware requirements of the new system. It is conceivable, if the hardware supports it, to switch from Windows 7/8 (.1) to Windows 11 via a detour: First upgrade to Windows 10. If this is successful, you can switch to Windows 11. It can be assumed that not all installed programs will survive the multiple so-called in-place upgrades.
Alternatively, reinstall Windows 11 with a Windows 7, 8.1 or 10 key. In addition to Windows 11 keys, the setup routine, similar to Windows 10, accepts the keys from previous Windows systems.
If Windows 8 (.1) or 10 is preinstalled on your PC or if an activated Windows 10 that you purchased yourself has already been installed, Windows 11 activation should also work. In the case of a pre-installation, the Windows 11 setup routine pulls the system key from the UEFI-ACPI tables; If Windows 10 has already been activated (regardless of whether it is installed or not), Windows (10/11) recognizes your PC when the OS is reinstalled using a hash value that is generated for your PC and which is identical on a Microsoft server. This digital license / authorization leads to Windows activation when there is an internet connection.
The free upgrade offer to Windows 10 was officially limited in time, nothing of the kind is known for Windows 11.
Windows 10 manages the balancing act between the familiar Windows 7 start menu and the modern Windows 8 tile surface: It combines the best of two worlds. Unfortunately, Windows 10 doesn’t shine everywhere: Version 1607 (Anniversary Update) in 2016 brought a deterioration in terms of UAC. The overlays of User A.ccount C.Since then, ontrol (user account control) no longer appear soft, but rigid – it’s a shame that the successful animations are no longer a Windows 8 innovation and Windows 10 feels like Windows 7 here.
Windows 11 doesn’t cure this, but it shines with animations that run through the entire operating system. The start menu flies in animated Windows 2000 fashion from bottom to top. For some, this seems too much of a good thing, whoever gets used to it feels something like this as pleasant.
Vista – the mother of today’s versions of Windows
In essence, all four systems considered here are the same: Windows 7, Windows 8 (.1), Windows 10 and Windows 11 work with the substructure – kernel – of Vista. Strictly speaking, it’s the Windows NT kernel; the systems, like almost all Microsoft systems, belong to the so-called NT line. Since Windows 2000 Microsoft has refrained from specifying “NT” in the product name of its operating systems.
Technical subtleties compared to Vista: Windows 7 does not store the boot manager on the primary system partition, but in a hidden drive area. The latter is marked as active. In addition, fewer services load when the system is started. Windows 8 introduced the quick start mode, which speeds up startup and even shutdown. In Windows 10, there is a lot of fine-tuning in the technical substructure, which was ensured by several major releases. We have dedicated a memory advisor to the many optimizations: “Windows 10 internal: Important improvements in memory management”. Windows 11 adapts the developments that have flowed into Windows 10 over several years. Windows 11 is therefore much better than the first Windows 10 released in 2015 with the major release version number 1507, which was only awarded in retrospect ; as long as the youngest OS offshoot is running on your computer at all.