Authored by Casper Manes
Sticking to Windows 7 may seem logical for you and your company, but are you aware of all the features you're missing out, which can make daily system administration much easier.
Are you still on the fence about upgrading to Windows 10? Stubbornly sticking to Windows 7 and having no intentions of changing any time soon? Maybe you have some legacy applications that are preventing the move to newer Windows operating systems? Well, part of me cannot really blame you, since Windows 7 was a great operating system, and it may still fully meet the needs of your users.
But what about security, patching, administration? Is Windows 7 offering the same feature set as Windows 10? It may seem like a similar OS, but the newly introduced features brought many cool things, especially for IT professionals. In this post, we'll give you an overview on some of the compelling features that Windows 10 brought, making the upgrade a good thing for you as a sysadmin, but also for your users.
But first, a word on supportability. Windows 7's current Service Pack is SP1, and there's no indication that there will ever be an SP2. Since SP1 came out in February 2011, and hit extended support in January 2015, that means that there won't be any new features or capabilities introduced to Windows 7. With this in mind, the list below gains more importance.
Security patches will continue to be made available until January 2020, so you won't be at an extended risk from hacks, as long as you patch regularly. But the longer you remain on Windows 7, the more likely you will run into applications you want to run, but cannot.
FEATURES FOR SYSADMINS
There are some great features that end users might not care about, but sysadmins will, and these can make a compelling case for the upgrade. Here are the top ones to consider:
1. Security features
Protecting user data and credentials has been upgraded to a totally new level in Windows 10, even in comparison with Windows 8, let alone the 7-years-old Windows 7 (yes, it's been that long). Device Guard can help you protect against zero-day attacks in downloads, while Credential Guard helps defeat credential stealing, including the dreaded Pass the Hash and Golden Ticket attacks, by virtualizing the Local Security Authority (LSA).
Finally, Windows Defender ATP includes endpoint sensors, analytics, and intelligence to help manage your enterprise security. Combine these with specialized tools like GFI LanGuard to ensure your operating systems and third party apps are fully patched, and your environment just got a whole lot more secure.
2. Deployment scenarios
Windows 10 can be joined to a local domain and AD environment, or managed through a cloud-based Azure AD environment. This should be very appealing to companies with a more decentralized infrastructure or those that support BYOD and/or remote users. If you're expecting a PC renewal streak in the next year, it's obvious that these new deployment scenarios will make your job much simpler and faster, even with remote users.
3. New and improved functions
There have been several core functionality improvements with Windows 10 which raised the bar when it comes to data protection. Sure, BitLocker was introduced back in Windows Vista, but it has now been upgraded to support hard drives with physical encryption, bringing more resilience in remote restart scenarios, and protection against both brute force and cold-start attacks. There is also now support for individual file encryption.
4. Administrative enhancements
If you manage your users' workstations with Group Policy, you will be amazed at the number of additional settings that you can now control using GPO in Windows 10. There are almost 200 of them in total, several of which address security in the operating system or modern versions of the Office suite. Admins can also use the Windows Management Framework 5 on Windows 10, which includes PowerShell 5, that has some big gains in performance and functionality over earlier versions.
5. Shell improvements
Two words regarding the command line. Copy and Paste. Sure, you could do some basic copy and paste in the Command Prompt before, but it was unique to the shell. Now with Windows 10, Ctrl+C and Ctrl+V work just like they do in any other Windows app. There's also more fonts available, and you now have transparency, which may have little to no practical value, but you know you want it.
Even better, for those of you who still have a Linux box because some things are just easier there, you can run the Ubuntu version of the Bash shell right on Windows. It's not an emulator or a virtualized shell, or even PuTTY to another box – it's the Bash shell, running right on your Windows machine.
FEATURES FOR END USERS
If you are a power-user, using Windows 7 with no plan on upgrading your PC to a newer OS, here are a few of the end user features you're missing out on. Take a look and see how many of these you would like to have.
1. Better performance on same hardware
On the exact same hardware, Windows 10 runs better than Windows 7, with faster boot up times, smoother transitions from one application to the next, and overall better system performance. If you are trying to get another year or two of life from older hardware, but your users are complaining that their machines are too slow, a straightforward upgrade to Windows 10 will have both perceived and actual benefits for performance.
2. Virtual Desktops
While Linux users have had multiple virtual desktops for years, it's something that has eluded Windows users unless they wanted to buy an alternative shell. That is, until now. Windows 10 includes multiple virtual desktops, so you can really spread out if you are multitasking. Even without the virtual desktops, the task switcher (Alt+Tab) has been greatly improved, so you can see at a glance what you have open.
3. Edge Browser
Internet Explorer is not dead yet, but Edge is going to give Firefox and Chrome some serious competition for best alternative to IE. Beating many of its competitors in speed, Edge has quickly become the "weapon of choice" of many IT pros sick of Chrome's memory-eating nature.
4. DirectX 12
The next two features are for the serious gamers, but they are also serious features. Windows 10 has DirectX 12, which in addition to unlocking some new future capabilities, is 10 to 20% faster than DirectX 11 for the same games on the same hardware. That's another serious performance boost to eek a little more life out of older hardware.
5. Xbox One Streaming
And if you have an Xbox One, you can run your Xbox One games on your console, but play them from your laptop or desktop running Windows 10. This will solve many an argument with roommates or parents, and might even be a welcome boost for those who work from home, but need something to do while their "code compiles."
Looking at just these 10 features that we've highlighted, and there are more of them, it seems that Windows 10 has a lot to offer both you and your users over Windows 7. If the reasons above aren't enough to convince you, that's okay, but sooner or later you will come across that third-party application or piece of hardware that won't run on W7, and you know the clock is ticking on support. So, keep your eye on the calendar, and consider at least using Windows 10 on your new and redeployed systems, or you may find yourself in a situation where you have to upgrade everyone quickly, and that would be painful for all of you.
The content of this article is intended to provide a general guide to the subject matter. Specialist advice should be sought about your specific circumstances.