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December 3, 3: Microsoft may be offering a free upgrade to Windows 10 , but should you take it or should you stick with what you know? There are several new features in the update that might push the non-upgrader over the edge to activating their free Windows 10 licence. For a start, the personal assistant Cortana is getting a major upgrade, with new commands and the ability to ask questions about meetings, flight information and anything else you can think of straight from the lock screen, without having to log in.

Stylus users listen up: Windows 10 is getting the new Ink API, which allows developers to work stylus movements and drawings directly into their apps without needing to come up with their own handwriting and gesture recognition algorithms.

Microsoft has shown off Ink in a couple of ways: The final big changes come to the Edge browser, which now has extentions in the same way Firefox and Chrome do. This means the browser will be more customisable as ever and might tempt some users back thanks to its speedy performance. Edge is also getting Windows Hello support, which means newer devices with fingerprint scanners and facial recognition hardware will be able to log you into a website without having to use a password.

This requires the website to enable it, of course. Best Amazon UK deals One of the least talked about improvements of Windows 8, and subsequently Windows 10, is that it does include a raft of performance upgrades. Chief among these is boot-up time, which is markedly quicker, while better hardware acceleration and a host of other tweaks mean general navigation feels nippier, too.

Power management has also been improved, so mobile device battery life tends to be a little longer. Gaming performance is much more evenly matched, but with Windows 10 comes exclusive access to DirectX 12, which unlocks more performance from your existing hardware game dependent and is the future for Windows gaming — read our DirectX 12 vs DirectX 11 comparison for more on that. So the fact that Windows 10 offers that base-level improvement on top of all its other features is definitely something to be happy about.

Windows 10 vs Windows 7 — Design Windows 8 marked a stark departure from the styling of Windows 7, with flat windows and bold colours taking over from 3D-looking icons and round-edged and transparent windows. That said, Microsoft has toned things down from the inital Windows 10 Technical Preview, where it used more bold and contrasting colours — like in Windows 8 — but the final release is more subdued and relies on dark grey and semitransparent menus that look cleaner and more professional.

We really like the look of the final version. Early versions of Windows 10 looked particularly stark and disjointed The latest version of Windows 10 looks much more coherent There are some practical benefits to the new design direction too, such as windows being smaller due to the lack of borders.

Windows are also more customisable and some elements are clearer, thanks to the lack of translucent backgrounds. Windows 10 vs Windows 7 — Search and Start Menu Tap on the Windows 7 Start Menu and you can quickly access the reasonably powerful search function that will quite rapidly look up matching programs and documents as you type. It also provides quick access to core features and your chosen programs.

Windows 7 search is effective but simple However, Windows 10 ups the ante on all accounts. Click on the now separate search box and it will also now include Windows Store apps and web search, with results shown in a much more organised fashion. Also, even just clicking on the search box will have it show preview information such as the latest headlines, updates from your favourite sports teams and the weather, if you choose to turn these features on.

This adds two key features. Firstly, it monitors things like your email, calendar and search to provide useful information, such as when you need to leave for your next appointment. Windows 10 greatly enhances the features of search You can also use it to add appointments or make notes. If you have a microphone on your machine, you can also speak your commands to Cortana and it does a fine job of interpreting natural language to get you the answer you need.

Certain key features such as File Explorer and Settings are more clearly shown too, while pointless clutter like the Default Programs button have been removed. Windows 10 vs Windows 7 — File Management It may seem totally mundane, but the tools used for finding and managing your files are some of the most oft used and fundamental to a good operating system. By any standard it was poorly designed, with wasted space and key functions hidden from view.

Well, with Windows 10 the Up button is back! And with it are a host of other improvements to File Explorer — many of which, again, first arrived in Windows 8. Transfer speed is also shown in real time and operations can also be paused, where they could only previously be cancelled.

This is a way to group multiple hard drives together to form a single logical drive. Of course 0. Windows 10, though, adds a load of new features. Most will, in all likelihood, be of limited interest to most PC gamers — the ability to access your Xbox Live account, stream games from your Xbox to your PC and have multiplayer games work with both PC and Xbox players — though they are, of course, mostly welcome. Best Gaming Laptops Windows 10 brings access to lots of Xbox features Probably the neatest feature is built-in game capture.

This will constantly record your gaming sessions, allowing you to grab a snapshot of the last 30 seconds of gameplay to share with your friends.

It may not be new technology, but having it baked into the OS is very useful. Also it works with every game ever — at least so Microsoft says — so if you fancy capturing a video of your Monkey Island adventures, it will happily do so.

Also, Windows 10 has exclusive access to DirectX 12, which promises to unlock performance on existing hardware thanks to it allowing programmers to better access the features of specific hardware. Windows 10 vs Windows 7 — Notifications Windows has long had a notifications area of sorts, in the shape of the System Tray. Best Windows Phone Round-up Windows 10 has a useful single place for all notifications Enter the new notifications area of Windows This simple addition brings together system messages and app notifications into one place, with alerts ordered chronologically.

The notifications area also contains some useful system functions, such as being able to switch to tablet mode or access the settings screen. Windows 10 vs Windows 7 — Workspace Management Getting and keeping your workspace tidy is of key importance to certain users. It also has an early version of Snap — the tool that automatically resizes windows when you drag them to the left or right. Windows 10 adds virtual desktops and better multi-monitor support With Windows 10 both these features have been enhanced.

Different monitors can now have different backgrounds, with different slideshows, too. Pictures can also now be set to span across all your monitors. Snap has also been improved to support snapping to four corners, not just side to side. Perhaps the biggest addition, though, is virtual desktop support. You may not ever use the features on the desktop but it is good to know that the OS is designed to work smoothly across a range of devices, making it much easier to switch between your desktop, hybrid laptop and tablet.

In this regard Windows 10 is no different. Perhaps the most prominent is that Windows 10 really pushes you towards creating a Microsoft account. This is then used to log into the machine where it links up with your email, calendar, OneDrive shared storage and more, syncing them across all your devices. Thankfully you can choose to just create a local login and ignore all the extra Microsoft account stuff.

Cortana arguably falls into this category too, but this you can at least just choose to turn off completely, leaving a more basic localised file search. Now, the OS will download and install any important updates whether you like it or not, with only the option to choose when it does so. Windows 10 has a lot of genuinely useful new features, as well as key improvements to old features, compared to Windows 7.

None is enough on its own to make an upgrade necessary, but when combined they do make a compelling case. Windows 10 is faster in general use, too, and the new Start Menu is in some ways better than the one in Windows 7. The only real sticking point is that Microsoft wants you to sign in with a Microsoft account and if you choose not to you lose some features.

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What version of Windows do I have installed? It is not even a complicated thing to do. However, it is a question you may have to answer. If you have handled Windows devices before, the answer is only a couple of clicks away.

VIDEO: Difference Between Windows 7 Home Premium, Professional & Ultimate Editions

The Windows edition refers to the name of a major release of Microsoft Windows. Windows Windows 8. Windows 8 Pro. Windows 7 Home Premium. That’s something Windows 7 can’t do at all. If that plan works out, that means you shouldn’t need to buy a new version a few years from now. Generally speaking Windows 7 Home Premium Edition has everything that most end users would need for normal day-to-day usage of their PC. There is no use.

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