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Windows 7 guide: Before, during and after migration

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Top 10 Windows 7 features you'll miss in Windows 8

Sure, Microsoft has made lots of changes in Windows 8 and 8.1, but when you compare Windows 7 vs. Windows 8, you might miss these Windows 7 features.

It's no big secret that Windows 8 is a lot different from Windows 7. Although Windows 8 has sometimes been described as Windows 7 with a new interface bolted on, there are actually a number of Windows 7 features missing from Microsoft's latest operating system.

Here are 10 Windows 7 features you won't find as Windows 8 features -- and, no, the Start menu is not on the list.

1. Being able to do everything through a single interface

The biggest thing that I miss about Windows 7 is being able to do everything through a single interface. Unlike some people, I don't have a problem with the Modern UI, nor does the missing Start button bother me. Even so, constantly switching back and forth between the Start screen and the desktop can be a pain.

2. A unified Control Panel

Another thing that you are likely to miss about Windows 7 is a unified Control Panel. Yes, the Control Panel still exists in Windows 8, but it isn't the only place to make configuration changes. The configuration options are scattered across multiple locations in Windows 8.

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3. Windows XP Mode

One of the big selling points for Windows 7 was Windows XP Mode, which allowed a fully licensed version of Windows XP to be run within a virtual machine. Although Windows 8 includes Hyper-V, Windows XP mode is not officially supported because of Windows XP's impending end of support. Even so, there are plenty of websites that show how to make Windows XP Mode work in Windows 8.

4. DVD playback

Windows 8 lacks the ability to play DVDs through Windows Media Center. While the average corporate user probably doesn't need to play DVDs on the job, there are plenty of situations in which this omission could prove to be disruptive. For example, I produce IT training videos and frequently use the DVD playback capabilities to review my work.

If you need DVD playback capabilities in Windows 8, you can purchase the Windows Media Center Pack, which installs on top of Windows 8 Professional. Another option is to install a free media player such as VLC Media Player.

5. Backup and recovery

The native backup tools in Windows have never been its best feature. Even so, there are those who use it to back up the contents of their desktops. Among the Windows 8 features, Microsoft has included the Windows 7 backup tools, but it announced that those tools were being deprecated in favor of the new Windows 8 File History tool.

In Windows 8.1, the ability to create a Windows 7 style backup has been completely removed, although it is still possible to restore a legacy backup. If you need backup capabilities beyond those offered by the File History feature, you will need to use third-party tools.

6. Detailed blue-screen errors

In previous Windows versions, the dreaded "blue screen of death" contained helpful diagnostic information. Sure, wading through the information presented on a blue screen was not a task for amateurs, but Microsoft was at least kind enough to provide diagnostic information.

In Windows 8 the old-school blue screen of death has been replaced by a new blue screen that simply shows a frown face and states, "Your PC ran into a problem that it couldn't handle, and now it needs to restart."

7. Recent document lists

One of the downsides to no longer having a traditional Start menu is that the recent document lists are also gone. Thankfully, many applications (such as Microsoft Office 2013) now maintain their own application-level recent document lists.

8. Libraries

Windows has long used libraries such as Documents, Photos and Downloads to help users organize file data. The libraries still exist in Windows 8, but Microsoft has hidden them in Windows 8.1 as a way of trying to get users to begin saving data onto SkyDrive.

You can still access the libraries in Windows 8.1, but to do so, you have to open File Explorer's View tab, click on the Navigation Pane option and select the Show Libraries option.

9. The Windows Experience Index

The Windows Experience Index has been removed from Windows 8.1. Although some people have criticized the index as being a meaningless score, I have always found it to be a helpful way of quickly evaluating the effect of hardware upgrades without having to delve into Performance Monitor. Fortunately, there are plenty of free, third-party tools you can use to benchmark desktop performance.

10. Gadgets

In July 2012, Microsoft published a security advisory warning customers that Windows gadgets contained a security vulnerability that could allow malicious code to be run. Microsoft's "fix" for the problem was to provide a patch that disables gadgets in Windows Vista and Windows 7. It should therefore come as no surprise that desktop gadgets have been removed from Windows 8.

Microsoft's stance is that gadgets are unnecessary in Windows 8 since data can be conveyed through live tiles on the Start screen. Even so, there is no denying that gadgets can do things that live tiles can't, such as monitor running processes and CPU usage. Fortunately, several third-party vendors offer software to re-enable gadget support.

Although there are a number of features that have been removed from Windows 8 or Windows 8.1, the removal of features is not unique to this operating system. Every version of Windows in recent memory has had features that were either deprecated or removed.

This was first published in October 2013

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Essential Guide

Windows 7 guide: Before, during and after migration

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