Windows XP Migration: Windows 7 vs. Windows 8

Windows XP Migration: Windows 7 vs. Windows 8

January 6

The days of Windows XP are numbered – literally. Microsoft has designated April 8, 2014 as the date that it will officially end support for XP, which still has its fair share of die-hard users. Among that group are businesses that have put off migration and refuse to let go of the platform that fuels their day-to-day operations. Unfortunately, this looks to be one of those cases where loyalty could prove to be a major fault.

A Forrester blog post mentions how Microsoft itself warns that XP is 21 more times likely to be infected by malware than Windows 8. Throw in performance woes and compatibility issues, and one would think that enterprises have all the motivation needed to migrate to a more reliable system.

Speaking of Windows 8, it’s one of two options available for those who are considering a migration. Windows 7 is the other. Which is the best upgrade option for businesses? Let’s take a closer look at what stands out about each system.

Smart Search

If you moved up to Windows 8, I’m sure the first thing you noticed was the new and improved interface. Much has been made about the touchscreen functionality and intuitive integration of live tiles for various applications, but what really stands out about the new interface is the built-in search feature. Windows 8 conducts searches right from the Start screen, allowing you to easily find apps, files, and even settings. Search has been bolstered even further in the recent Windows 8.1 update, which leverages Bing to deliver visually rich results equipped with facts, images, and relevant links.

Boot Speed

Another area Windows 8 receives high marks in is the speed department. By taking a smarter approach to system hibernation and shutdown, Microsoft has enabled users to enjoy boot times as fast as eight seconds. For businesses, this speed boost comes in handy for system updates. XP updates were so slow that you may have put off the reboot process just to avoid the dreadful waiting period. Since the system boots up remarkably faster, business users can get back to work faster without fear of taking productivity losses.

Fresh Updates, All the Time

Microsoft didn’t change much in the Windows 8.1 update, but the changes it did make were well received. One such improvement is the addition of automatic application updates. Instead of bothering you with notifications of which programs need to be updated, Windows will simply update those apps in the background whenever updates are available. Updates address critical areas such as performance, security and overall efficiency so businesses benefit tremendously by not having to hunt down and apply them.

Web App Compatibility

Microsoft tried its best to address support for legacy applications since moving on from Windows XP. However, it appears to have done a better job with Windows 7 in this regard, particularly when it comes to web applications. Internet Explorer 10, the browser that comes bundled in Windows 8, has compatibility issues with older applications due to their dependence on session handling and Active X controls. It’s possible to run legacy apps in Windows 8 Pro using Hyper-V, but businesses that would prefer to have their apps up and running without dealing with virtualization will find more seamless compatibility in Windows 7.

User Appeal

As the most recent technology, Windows 8 seems to be the logical choice for an XP migration. However, it would appear that the user community did not get the memo. According to the latest OS market share data from Net Applications, Windows 7 outperformed both Windows 8 and Windows 8.1 combined by grabbing a bigger portion of the market in November. Why pass on the new operating system? Based on my research, usability appears to be a major issue. In its article Five reasons why Windows 8 has failed, Zdnet examines the new interface and other factors that could be stalling adoption.

Upgrade Considerations

When it comes to choosing between Windows 7 and Windows 8, there really is no right or wrong. Both are great operating systems designed to meet the performance, security, and reliability needs of the modern day business. But if you must choose, these are probably the most relevant factors to take into account:

Upgrade process. Windows 7 has been hailed as one of the best operating systems to ever hit the market. However, getting there isn’t necessarily easy, especially if XP is your starting point. Since you can’t upgrade directly from XP, you have to perform what Microsoft calls a “fresh install”, which essentially erases your existing system and all the programs, files, and settings that come with it. If you’re looking for a faster, less hectic way to migrate, Windows 8 is your best bet as it upgrades directly from XP.

Tablet use. In Windows 8, Microsoft created an operating system that caters to the touchscreen format used by tablet computers. Of course a touch screen is not required, but it does attribute to the ease of use the system is so well known for. Companies that plan to use their new OS with a tablet, be it directly or via remote access, may get the best bang for their buck with Windows 8.

Hardware requirements. Windows 7 and Windows 8 both have specific hardware requirements that must be met in order to run the software on certain equipment and take advantage of select features. As a result, some of your legacy machines may not be eligible for an upgrade. This isn’t an issue when purchasing a new computer as it’s possible to buy hardware running either Windows 7 or Windows 8.

In the case of XP migration, choosing between Windows 7 and Windows 8 is a matter of preference. With what we know about outdated software, I think it’s fair to say that making the transition is what matters most. The clock is ticking. Which system are you siding with?

If you’re curious about how to make Win XP migrations easy, check out this helpful article, “Windows XP End of Life: Upgrading the Easy Way.” 


Photo credit: creativartist via deviant art.