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Microsoft Windows 7: Your questions answered

About Windows 7

Windows 7 is an operating system released by Microsoft in 2009. Active development ended in January 2015, so there will be no further service packs, but Windows 7 security updates will continue to roll out until January 2020. Windows 10 is Microsoft's current OS, and the most recent version is the August 2016 Windows 10 Anniversary Update.

  • Windows 10 desktop Cortana

Windows 7 FAQs

Microsoft Windows has been around since 1985 and remains the most widely used operating system in the world. It has always been a complex product -- here are answers to common Windows questions.

  • Can you download Windows for free?
    It's no longer free to upgrade to Windows 10 from Windows 7 or 8. For $120, you can download Windows 10 from Microsoft and its online retail partners, or you can buy the boxed version. The boxed version contains a USB thumb drive instead of an optical disc, since an increasing number of PCs do not come with optical drives.
  • Is your PC compatible with the latest version of Windows?
    Windows' hardware requirements have been largely unchanged since version 7.0. For Windows 10, you need:
    • • 1-GHz CPU
    • • 2GB of RAM (1GB for the 32-bit version)
    • • 20GB of hard disk space (16GB for the 32-bit version)
    • • DirectX 9-compatible graphics device
    • • display capable of at least 800x600 resolution
  • How long will Microsoft keep patching Windows?
    Check Microsoft's Windows lifecycle to see the levels of support for several versions of Windows. For Windows 10, Microsoft plans to update and add to the OS until October 2020, and security patches will continue until October 2025.
  • Which software is compatible with Windows 7?
    For any Windows product on, go to the product page and scroll down to Full Specifications. Click or tap the + button at right to expand the section, and look for Operating Systems. If your OS is listed here, the app should be compatible with your PC.
  • What is Windows 7 Service Pack 2?
    Windows 7 does not officially have a Service Pack 2, which would be a single collection of system updates going back several years. Instead, if you have installed Service Pack 1, you can use the Windows Update Catalog to download and install a " convenience rollup" to get all updates through April 2016. Then use Windows Update as usual to keep your version of Windows 7 current.
  • Can you get a Windows 7 boot disk?
    Microsoft doesn't offer a boot disk for Windows 7. However, if you have your product key for Windows 7, 8.1, or 10, you can make your own installation disk. Download a Windows disc image (aka ISO file, links below), then install it to a blank optical disc or USB thumb drive using Microsoft's Windows USB/DVD Download Tool.
  • What is a Windows 7 recovery disk?
    Major laptop and desktop manufacturers like HP, Dell, Gateway, or Lenovo often bundle a recovery disk that can restore your version of Windows to its original condition. If you have that recovery disk, it's your best option. Otherwise, you can make your own recovery disk with a blank optical disk or USB thumb drive. To do so, press the Windows key, type "Create a Windows repair disc" without the quotes, and click Create a System Repair Disc. Then follow the on-screen instructions.

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Tom is the senior editor covering Windows at