Windows 7 rules the desktop

Windows 7 rules the desktop

Summary: XP is slowly dying, Windows 8 is slowly gaining, but the almost five-year-old Windows 7 was the real desktop operating system winner in May as it went over the 50 percent mark for the first time.


Android may be gaining on Windows when it comes to overall end-user devices, but when it comes to the desktop, Windows still rules. The one surprise is that Net Application's latest desktop operating system numbers show that Windows 7 and Windows 8.x are neck and neck in their gains over recent months.

OS Market-Share May 2014
For the first time, Windows 7 has gone over 50 percent of all desktop users.

The gold medal must go to Windows 7 as, for the first time since its introduction in the summer of 2009, it now has not just a plurality but a majority of users on the desktop with just over 50 percent of users. These gains have come at the expense of the now no longer broadly supported Windows XP.

Users may have said they were going to stick through thick and thin with XP , but the reality is they're slowly leaving it behind.

In the seven weeks since XP support ended, XP usage has fallen from 27.69 percent in March to 25.27 percent in May for a total drop of 2.42 percent. At the same time, Windows 7 use jumped from 48.77 percent to 50.06, a gain of 1.29 percent. During the same period, Windows 8.x bounced up from 11.30 percent to 12.62 percent for an overall increase of 1.32 percent.

What's noteworthy about this is that in the consumer space, where Windows 8.x is almost always the default choice in Windows PCs, its gains are in a dead-heat with Windows 7's growth rate. This indicates that business users are still choosing Windows 7 over Windows 8. Overall, of course, Windows 8 still lags far behind Windows 7 in general user acceptance.

If an end-user buys a Windows 8 PC, they can only "downgrade" to Windows 7 if they buy a new PC with Windows 8.x Pro pre-installed. While any PC with Windows 8.x has Windows Pro embedded within it, you must buy one with Pro to move it back to Windows 7. Windows 8.x Pro, which lists for $200, comes with Windows domain join, Group Policy support, and the ability to act as a Remote Desktop server. In short, it's a version that only a business would buy.

A closer look also reveals that Windows 8.1 has finally overtaken Windows 8 in popularity. In May, Windows 8.1 had 6.35 percent of users, while Windows 8 had 6.29 percent.

After that, Mac OS X 10.9, Maverick, comes in with 4.15 percent of users. It's followed by the Linux mix of desktop operating systems with 1.62 percent.

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Topics: Enterprise Software, Operating Systems, PCs, Windows

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  • Windows 7 has not been well-loved

    At least by most of people I know who went from well-maintained, often retro-fitted XP PC's to Win7. Network discovery is still flaky, UAC is easily confused and lacking basic controls ("Why can't I just set it to stop asking me about this program I use all the time!"), and the Internet is awash in work-arounds for its many glitches. Plus it seems to slow down more quickly with WinRot than XP. But at least it's better then Vista and 8.x I suppose.
    • Thoughts

      Network discovery worked fine here. Although I've since upgraded to 8 on all of my machines (although I don't use Metro).

      There is a workaround for that in UAC - although it involves some fiddling with things like the the Task Scheduler. Ideally, though - the developers of the apps really need to do more to prevent that from happening with UAC, so it's really the developer's fault.

      I use Firefox for the internet, and Chrome is pretty popular as well. As such, I don't really consider the internet when thinking about which OS to use, because they all support Firefox and Chrome.

      I have the opposite experience - it has less "winrot" than XP, not more.
      • Mixed environments are a different matter

        If you have a NAS unit on your network for instance, XP has no problem accessing the shares on it; whereas Win7 requires a workaround. And I've seen Win7 get completely confused about what's on the intranet versus what's on the Internet. As far as the UAC stuff goes, yeah, I'm well aware of that Task Scheduler trick, but that's pretty much beyond what the average user can deal with. And given that this involves using a Win7 component to solve an annoying issue with another Win7 component, that kind of puts the blame on Microsoft.

        And my observations clearly shows a pattern of Win7 PCs slowing down much more rapidly than XP PCs. Granted that pretty much all of the operational XP PCs I'm doing the comparison with are computers originally intended for use with Vista and Win7, still. But I personally have an old school Netbook that came with Win7 Starter, but which I then converted to a VirtualBox VM, which I then put back on Netbook after having retrofitted that into a Peppermint Linux computer. I also added an XP VM as well. Even though I rarely used the Win7 Starter VM, it went from totally usable to pretty much unusable as far as speed goes, apparently just from its updates. The XP VM remained totally usable even though that was used far more regularly.
        • NAS

          I have a ReadyNAS here and Windows 7 had no problems finding it, Windows 8 even less problems. The same for my Mac.

          My 4 year old Windows 7 work PC hasn't suffered from slowdown - although my iMac has, it takes 4 minutes to boot and Firefox takes 45 seconds to launch. The Windows 8 hasn't been around long enough to show whether it slows down over time, so far all the machines are as fast, if not faster than when I first installed W8 on them - 8.1 brought some optimization which improved things.
          • "Finding" the NAS is not the problem

            Accessing the shares is, especially with drive mapping, with a number of brands. I've personally seen the problem with Thecus and Synology units (a quick Google indicates that ReadyNAS units are more Win7 compatible, but are ranked below Synology units at least in overall quality.) I did get things working in relatively short order with online tips, but XP PCs were much better at it.
          • 4 minute boot and 45 second browser launch?

            I'm sorry if it's a bit off-topic, but to throw those numbers in there suggests that there is some degree of parity with respect to the inevitable and unresolvable slowdown of Mac OS and Windows. I'm not a Mac zealot, but one need only to have owned both a Mac and a PC at some point to know that the kind of inevitable and uncurable OS drag discussed above is with few exceptions a Windows phenomenon. Macs do experience slowing over time, but to the extent that it's not caused by outdated hardware, there is a finite, fairly widely understood and discussed list of potential causes (too little hard drive space, too many startup items, permissions needing repair, etc.) There is ultimately a reason that the term Winrot exists without an equivalent term for other operating systems. You may have a slow Mac, but the suggestion that it is reflective of a typical and unavoidable OS degredation similar to the Windows experience is disharmonious with conventional wisdom.

            That being said, I actually arrived at this article because I'm looking to upgrade from XP on my PC, so obviously whatever issues with Windows I have, I still recognize its advantages in a business setting.

            (I also want to apologize for accidentally flagging your post, the result of a dropped keyboard. I would unflag it if I knew how to do so.)
        • VMs have their own performance issues

          VMs can be sensitive to block (as opposed to file) write traffic, if they use dynamic or differencing virtual hard drives.

          Specifically, these may start off small and efficient, but anything that writes any non-zero material to any blocks, cause those blocks to be added to the growing (and fragmenting) virtual hard drive - which will be "too big" for the host OS to defrag.

          So it's not just updates that replace code, but also defragging, as that moves stuff to formally empty blocks even though nothing changes when considered as files.

          If you're comparing XP Mode with native 7, then you'll get a large does of this, because XP Mode uses a very poor choice of virtual hard drive setup. There's a 1.1G base .VHD that does not change, over which is a dynamic differencing .VHD layer sized at 127G (!).

          Given how NTFS loves to dump stuff in the middle of the volume, and how shadow copy likes to retain "previous versions" while doing new writes to empty space, your XP Mode will rapidly slow down if you actually use (rather than play with it once and then ignore) it.

          That has far less to do with "bit rot" than VM blues, and while you'd think this would slow down the VM more than the host OS, the host OS also suffers extra head travel due to the bloated VM .VHD
    • On a Mac

      Think of UAC prompt like the admin prompt you get on a Mac when you are trying to do something you do not have rights to do. Might be annoying but that is the point really.
      Rann Xeroxx
      • Exactly

        It is there for a reason, you are trying to do something that a "normal" user wouldn't do and the OS is prompting you to think twice about whether that is really what you want to do, and if you are on a properly configured machine, it won't do it unless you enter the administrator password.

        That said, I see it maybe once or twice a month on my Windows PCs and Mac.
    • Never experienced this

      with any install of Windows 7. Do you have exotic [and/or older ] hardware?

      I've heard people coming from XP complain about the differences in the way things are done, but not much else, as it just works when hardware is cooperating.

      If UAC bothers, either turn it off [while noting what it is that it does], or use the freeware TweakUAC, which ameliorates most of the problems of leaving it on.
      • windows 7 on old hard ware

        will it just works. I have reinstalled windows 7 on at lest a dozen older dell and hp computers and had no problem with them and windows updater loads most on the needed drivers but to speed up the install I got an dvd disk from ebay with 1,750,000 drivers and the program has never failed I just load a copy of W7 32 BIT on the system and the dvd to make it easier I copied it to a usb drive it runs faster and the system is done most old PCs with 2 gig cpu and a gig of ram are great candidate for the upgrade but it must be a clean install but you can get years of use from the system and no down time for retraining like W8 or 8.1 and older software will work
    • I can't get over the horrible UI

      that Metro (8.x) is but networking has been almost as easy as setting an alarm clock since Windows 7 inception, at least under my circumstances.
    • Apps and UAC

      Most applications should NOT need administrative access but are over permissioned. Of the few remaining applications that do cross over, they would not need administrative access if the permissions were properly set at installation. Knowing that you need to set permissions and setting the permissions correctly are the difficult part in transitioning to a UAC environment.

      It would reduce user pain and transition if you could set shims to not prompt the user on applications. That was a big miss by Microsoft.

      System tools, utilities and items that must alter system services are the only items that truly need administrative access.

      PS: If you are managing a group of users and want to remove some of this pain, you can use the method of setting a Scheduled Task and calling the task to launch the application. This requires that the use be a local administrator on the system.
    • I disagree completely, Windows 7 is one of the most loved


      I think Windows 7 has grown to be one of the most popular O/S to ever be designed. Look at the numbers alone. You don't get usage percentages like it has, if you are not loved.
      • Disagree, but speak for yourself

        "Most Loved?" The data doesn't support peoples emotions Donald. Thats for those sad yelpers who whine when they don't get what they want.
        Windows 7 is a "ho-hum" okay OS, granted, but XP by far was the most stable. The reason why Windows 7 is on 50% is because Microsoft has ended all xp support and updates.
    • Windows 7 is much loved!

      Have not experienced any of the problems you mention, nor do I know anyone else who has. Generally speaking, most people I work with consider Windows 7 the best version of Windows Microsoft has ever released (with the possible exception of Windows 2000).
      • Then you don't know anybody

        Who knows anything at all about PCs, or else you are judt making up stuff. There is no third option.
        • How about the 3rd option.

          99% of people aren't even trying to do what you mentioned. I can't say I've had a lot of problems with the UAC, and I do development and a lot of network storage related things. As a general rule if there's a real problem the program likely requires more access than it should. Either that or it was just poorly designed.

          All in all I haven't heard of many people complaining about Windows 7.
  • Windows 7 is my favourite OS of all

    I've had a few I've really loved over the years... MacOS System 8, Windows NT 4.0, OS X Snow Leopard, Windows XP.

    But Windows 7 is my favourite of all. It achieved the things Vista aimed at but didn't quite reach... the Aero Glass effect in Windows 7 is very beautiful to look at; I know chrome is going out of fashion in OSes, but Windows 7 has beautiful chrome.

    Windows 7 is rock solid and stable, it has one single user interface paradigm that makes total sense from top to bottom, and it is nice to look at.

    Who can ask for more from an OS?
    • Yes

      I still use Windows 7 as my primary desktop, because of things like Aero Glass. I have 8.1 running in a VM, but only use it when I absolutely have to; the desktop is horrible, and Metro doesn't make sense on a large, high resolution, monitor.