Head to Head: Windows 7 vs Windows Vista

Reviews 4 Nov, 2009

In our latest head to head, Windows 7 faces its immediate predecessor, Windows Vista. Will Vista be able to mount any kind of challenge?

Verdict: 
Windows Vista can lay claim to introducing many features and enhancements over Windows XP, but it really needed a major overhaul to make it work as a coherent whole. So much so that it took a whole new operating system to get it right. Windows 7 is far more than Windows Vista Service Pack 3 and using it will make you feel like you’ve got a new machine.

It’s time again for another of our head to head face offs.

We recently pitched Windows 7 against Mac OS X and an almighty battle it was, but this time we’re lining up Windows 7 against its much lambasted predecessor Windows Vista.

OK, we admit it. Vista originally received quite glowing reviews and with the benefit of hindsight that was, perhaps, something of a mistake.

But is Vista really as bad as all that? Now it has been patched and service packed up, it works so if you’ve got a single PC, or a floor of PCs that you’ve recently rolled out with Vista, is spending money on upgrading to Windows 7 really necessary?

There’s a lot to get through so let’s get on with it.

Price

The cost of any edition of Windows is always going to be something of a moving target as there are so many different versions. Windows 7 in particular has also been available at discounted pricing and before it was released you could pre-order it for £50. However, to Microsoft’s credit, the overall trend has been downward. At the time of Vista's arrival, an upgrade for Windows XP users cost £128 ex VAT, whereas as a Windows 7 Home Premium upgrade for XP or Vista today costs just £55 from Amazon UK, while the full version meanwhile costs just £92 ex. VAT.

Either way it’s a massive difference especially with the weak pound. Whether it’s because Microsoft feels the need to entice people to upgrade after the negativity surrounding Vista or under pressure from free alternatives such as Linux, Windows 7 is cheaper than Vista was, and that has to be a good thing.

Winner: Windows 7

Installation

There’s no doubt that Microsoft has made great strides in making Windows easier to install than it was in the old days. Even in the Windows 95 days you needed to be something of a enthusiast, but these days it could barely be easier. With both Vista and Windows 7 you can perform an ‘in-place upgrade’ or go for a clean install. We’d always recommend a clean install if possible, but it is easier to just stick the disc in and let it do its thing as it keeps all the files and applications in place so you don’t have to bother reinstalling anything.

Microsoft offered an upgrade advisor for Windows Vista, which runs a compatibility report and it’s done the same thing for Windows 7. If your computer can run Vista, it can run Windows 7, and most likely do a better job of it.

If you’re upgrading from Vista to Windows 7 you can upgrade to an equivalent or higher version – so Vista Home Premium to Windows 7 Home Premium, Vista Business to Windows 7 Professional, and Vista Ultimate to Windows 7 Ultimate – but if you want to, say, go from Vista Ultimate to Windows 7 Home Premium, you need to do a clean install – the same goes if you’re moving from 32-bit to 64-bit.

One thing we really like about the Windows 7 installer is that it can go and find your Wi-Fi connection during the installation, enabling you to activate and search for updates right there, without having to even find a wired connection. You just need to know the password for your hotspot.

So while both upgrades are easy processes and there’s not much between them, Windows 7 has made it that bit easier.

Winner: Windows 7

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