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Microsoft Windows 7: Your Questions Answered

Windows 7 no longer gets updates, and you can't get Windows 10 for free. Find out how to upgrade, get service packs, and create a boot or recovery disk.

Apps in this Guide

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 Windowsmore

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 7 doesn't have a 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 just use use the operating system's built-in Windows Update utility as usual to keep your version of Windows 7 current.

Making your own recovery disks

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.

Windows 7 system requirements

Windows' hardware requirements have been largely unchanged since version 7.0. For Windows 10, you need a 1-GHz CPU, 2GB of RAM (1GB for the 32-bit version), 20GB of hard disk space (16GB for the 32-bit version), a DirectX 9-compatible graphics device, and a display capable of at least 800x600 pixel resolution.

Getting 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.

Determining software compatibility

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. At a retail store, boxed Windows software should have the Windows 10 logo prominently featured to let you know it will work on a Windows 10 PC.

How long Microsoft will support Windows 10

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.

Recommended Alternatives to Windows 7

Linux Mint

Linux Mint


Linux Mint is based on Ubuntu (which itself is descended from Debian), but it removes Ubuntu's ironically divisive Unity interface in favor of a more traditional desktop look. You actually have several to choose from, and you can swap them in and out. Like Ubuntu, Mint is completely free and centralizes all system and app updates into one tool.

Windows 10

Windows 10


Windows 10 is clearly different enough from Windows 8.1 to be considered a new operating system, which hasn't always been the case with Microsoft's version releases. For desktop users, Windows 10 has more in common with Windows 7 than 8. That shared DNA feels like an intentional result of listening to feedback, as Microsoft did when gamers nearly rebelled against the original design of the Xbox One. It just took longer with Windows.

On the flip side, Windows 10 doesn't feel like a must-have upgrade for the average desktop user (if there is such a person). If Windows 7 or 8.1 does everything you need, there's no killer app in Windows 10 that will change the picture for you.

Ubuntu Linux

Ubuntu Linux


There are many versions of Linux to choose from, but Ubuntu is arguably the most accessible one. You can download it for free and set it up on a USB thumb drive to install into your computer -- or to run directly off the USB drive. It won't run most PC games, or Photoshop, or Microsoft Office. But for the latter two, GIMP and LibreOffice are credible alternatives. One big plus: Linux is virtually virus-free. Another plus: All of your system and app downloads and updates are centralized into one tool (and updates can be done automatically, if you prefer).