I’ve been a Windows user for many years, as I suspect many of you have also been, and I’m going to share my thoughts regarding Windows operating systems leading up to Windows 10. I decided to not go back any further than Windows XP as, in my opinion, XP marked the beginning of the modern operating system era. As well as for the sake of brevity. You may find my views are contrary to the general consensus, but that’s fine. These are purely my own opinions and experiences, so please feel free to disagree:
Windows XP: 2001 – 2014
Windows XP was destined to become one of the most cherished operating systems ever. I well remember the outcry when XP’s end-of-support date was finally upon us and comments such as ”they’ll have to take XP from my dying clutching hands” were commonplace. All I can say is, these people must have had very short memories. When XP was first released it was, in my experience, an abomination of an operating system, with issues aplenty. It was actually XP that helped me learn more about Windows than any other operating system, before or since. I reckon I spent much of the first 12 months running XP, constantly searching online for how to fix this and how to fix that. Seemed barely a day went by before yet something else broke.
Sure, eventually XP matured into a very good operating system. However, it took three service packs and almost a decade to reach that exalted position. No other operating system in Windows’ history has enjoyed the luxury of that extended period of support or been through so many service pack bug fixes. So, you’d expect XP to be pretty good in the end, would you not? I reckon XP was a lot like homesickness; users quickly forgetting all the bad times and only remembering the good times. My rating for XP: 2.5/5
Windows Vista: 2007 – 2017
Windows Vista was, in my opinion, quite an improvement over XP and its lack of popularity largely a result of unfortunate timing. Vista was released at the beginning of the great hardware boom, a period when advancements in hardware specs accelerated at a never before seen rate. At the time, older machines struggled to run Vista smoothly, particularly with the introduction of the new Windows Aero interface, and the majority of complaints were about how resource-hungry this new operating system was.
I was fortunate at the time because I had recently upgraded my main machine just before Vista was released and while the specs of that machine were still nowhere near as advanced as today’s PCs, they were nonetheless a vast improvement over my previous machine. I consequently had no problems running Vista. From my experience dual-booting between XP and Vista, Vista was far more aesthetically pleasing and made XP look somewhat dated which, of course, it was. XP started out as number 1 in my dual boot system but was quite quickly relegated to number 2.
I might add that Vista would easily run on today’s machines with their advanced specs. As I said, to a certain extent, a victim of unfortunate timing… just a tad ahead of its time. My rating for Vista: 3/5
Windows 7: 2009 – 2020
Now we’re talking an operating system. Without a doubt, Windows 7 was one of the best, if not the best, Windows operating system ever. I loved Windows 7 and everything about it. Simple, practical, reliable, everything an operating system should be. Windows 7 shipped with several well-received new features, including the first operating system with a Taskbar which allowed applications to be pinned to it, the introduction of Libraries (which admittedly did cause quite a bit of confusion initially), the new file-sharing system HomeGroup, support for multitouch input, a new ”Action Center” interface to provide an overview of system security and maintenance information, and tweaks to the User Account Control system to make it less intrusive.
Windows 7 also shipped with updated versions of several stock applications, including Windows Media Center (which should never have been dropped). Ah yes, I have very fond memories of Windows 7… nuff said. My rating for Windows 7: 4.5/5
Windows 8: 2012 – 2016
Following on from the excellent Windows 7, Windows 8 pretty much took us from the sublime to the ridiculous. I remember when I first booted up Windows 8 and stared at that virtually blank desktop for quite some time wondering where and/or how the heck one would get started. If I recall correctly, I was eventually forced to seek help online on where to begin. Of course, as with most things, once I knew, it wasn’t all that difficult.
I guessed at the time that Microsoft had purposely delivered a virtually blank desktop so users could then customize to their own requirements. If that was indeed Microsoft’s intention, it was a patently stupid concept and one, which among other silly innovations — such as the missing Start Menu button — led to Windows 8’s universal unpopularity and its comparatively quick and merciful demise. My rating for Windows 8: 1.5/5
Windows 8.1: 2013 – 2023
Bring back the Start Menu button! That was the hue and cry following Windows 8 and with the next iteration which was Windows 8.1, Microsoft did just that. I openly admit, I like Windows 8.1 and still have it installed on my main machine in a dual boot system with Windows 10. The majority of complaints regarding Windows 8.1 were centered on the full-screen Start Menu, with some editorial reviews describing switching between the Start Menu and Desktop as a ”jarring” experience. Seriously!? That was never my experience, quite the contrary, I find it altogether seamless and, to be honest, I never understood all the fuss.
As is the case with most tech writers I believe that, once the user outcry over the full-screen Start Menu started to gain momentum, they quickly jumped on the bandwagon. Telling readers what they want to hear always makes for good copy, plus a little controversy never hurts either. One-click on the Start Menu button to open, and one-click on the Desktop tile to go back. Too easy.
What amazed me about Windows 8.1 the most was its vastly improved hardware recognition and compatibility. At the time, I had a machine running Windows 8.1 where the motherboard up and died. So, I transferred the HDD over to a different but working machine, with completely different hardware specs, and pressed the Go button, more in hope than expectation. To my amazement, after several messages during boot that Windows was re-configuring hardware (or words to that effect), Windows 8.1 finished booting and worked perfectly. Now, all you XP diehards, try that with XP and see what happens. My rating for Windows 8.1: 4/5
Windows 10: 2015 –
Again, Microsoft heeded the complainers and Windows 10 saw the return of the old-style Start Menu, albeit with Live Tiles rather than the traditional links. So, what can we whinge about now? Oh, I know, let’s carry on about the telemetry and lack of privacy. Sheesh! I’ve been over this ad nauseum so won’t go into detail all over again. Suffice to say that Windows 10 is installed on millions of mobile devices as well as on static desktops and the reality is that in order to be truly effective, mobile devices require a lot more personalized data than static desktops. It’s called progress.
Do we hear continual grumblings from Apple iOS users or from Google Android users regarding both these platform’s excessive data collection? For Windows 10 desktop users, most of the telemetry can easily be turned off, there are a hundred and one articles explaining how this can be done and in the end, telemetry will be minimal.
Personally, I subscribe to the theory that once you decide to go ”online” your privacy is basically out the window anyway. So please stop fretting and just enjoy the experience. I’ve said it many times before and I’ll say it again– users should be more concerned over security than telemetry. I’ve never heard of, nor read of, anyone who has ever suffered serious repercussions as a result of telemetry.
Okay, rant over. Yes, I do like Windows 10, a lot. I do not like the forced automatic updates though. However, I can appreciate Microsoft’s position in wanting to get every user on the same platform. The dollar savings over maintaining support infrastructure for multiple platforms must be enormous. My rating for Windows 10: 4.5/5
It never ceases to amaze me how people react negatively to change, even when that change might be for the better. I guess familiarity is a difficult thing to overcome. In the history of Windows, the Windows 7 operating system is the only one I can remember which didn’t attract an avalanche of criticism post-release. Oh, and possibly XP… I really can’t remember clearly that far back. I am old, after all.