Home > Windows 7 vs Windows 8.1 for the SMB

Windows 7 vs Windows 8.1 for the SMB

June 24, 2015 - Stacey Vanden Boogart-Romenesko
Although the launch of Windows 10 is just around the corner at the end of summer 2015, many SMB’s are still running on the recently retired Windows XP. Ideally, organizations should have no hesitancy when upgrading to a current platform, but the polarizing reception of Vista, as well as Windows 8 has many IT managers shy to pull the trigger on an upgrade. Fears of compatibility issues and user challenges are not unwarranted, but thankfully both Windows 7 and Windows 8.1 offer formidable options for businesses. Windows 7 continues to be the favorite in many offices, but Windows 8.1 offers some significant improvements, along with with some major interface changes. Let’s take a look at how these compare to determine which option is best for your business.


The first thing you’ll notice when running Windows 8.1 is that the boot time is incredibly fast - taking just 10 to 15 seconds. Beyond boot time, Windows 8.1 offers increased speed and fewer resources consumed. However, Windows 7 brought better performance over Windows XP, so both 7 and 8.1 are very capable for office use. For most everyday users, the resulting difference between 7 and 8.1 is minimal, however those running on lower end systems will find the less resource intensive 8.1 beneficial.

Interface and Appearance

The front-facing Modern (a.k.a. Metro) user interface is one of the most distinguishing, and polarizing, features of Windows 8.1 While Windows 7 sticks with the familiar desktop with the start menu and taskbar, Windows 8.1 greets users with a start screen, which includes apps and live tiles similar to those we’ve gotten used to seeing on mobile devices. Most users find that although this start screen looks great, it’s not the friendliest design to users without touch screens. Thankfully, Windows 8.1 does offer the option to boot to desktop. Some UI improvements in Windows 8.1 include faster universal search on the start screen and support for separate start bars and wallpapers on dual monitors. Even with these new features, most users prefer the familiar, classic look and navigation offered by Windows 7. With market share of Windows 7 well over 50%, and Windows 8.1 owning just 12.88%, it’s likely that many users in your workforce may face a learning curve to transition to Windows 8.1.

Additional SMB Considerations

Windows 7 and Windows 8.1 share many of the same security features, including BitLocker Drive encryption. Windows 8.1 goes a step further by enabling security features by default and allowing automatic connection to VPNs. These default security features are make Windows 8.1 a smart choice, however many of them can be acquired by downloading Microsoft Security Essentials for Windows 7 for free from Microsoft.

Windows 8.1 rolls out a number of features that will make the management of your desktop or laptop fleets much easier. Some of these features including faster and cleaner data transfers, native mounting of ISO, IMG and VHD disk images, better mobile management tools, and optional Hyper-V support. Windows 8.1 also brings Windows to Go, which allows users to start a personalized version of Windows from a USB on any machine running Windows 7 or 8.

Although these features are attractive to IT admins, Windows 7 continues be the confident choice with proven stability and comprehensive compatibility with business applications and peripherals.

Windows 7 or Windows 8.1?

Windows 8.1 has a lot to offer, however most businesses will find Windows 7 will offer significant improvements over Windows XP, without as many hiccups. Windows 8.1 lends itself well to creative departments and agencies, those running low end systems or thin clients as well as those already invested in the Windows mobile infrastructure and looking for a seamlessly synced Windows environment between devices. Outside of these specific instances, most business will prefer to deploy systems with Windows 7. Not sure you’re ready to commit to either version? OEM Windows 8.1 licenses that come preinstalled on systems, for example Dell or HP laptops and desktops will offer downgrade rights to Windows 7. Furthermore, Microsoft will be offering free upgrades to Windows 10 for users running Window 7, 8, or 8.1 between July 29, 2015-July 29, 2016.

Whether you’re considering Microsoft Windows 7 or Microsoft Windows 8.1, please visit our store for your Microsoft OS needs. To learn more about Windows 7 and 8.1, check out our on-demand webinar "Windows 7 vs. 8.1 - Which is the Better OS for Your Users?" or browse the slides below.