It may seem like it’s only five minutes since the last version of Windows was released before they’re announcing another, but there are actually usually several years between instalments.
The illusion that they come along like London buses is perhaps created by the amount of media attention each new edition receives.
Understandably, as the main mode of interaction most people have with their PCs, there’s plenty of interest in what to expect from upcoming incarnations of the flagship operating system.
This can lead to huge numbers of headlines, debate and rumour – and often, the final version of the software that hits the stands contains nothing like the features that were first hinted at when its development was announced months earlier.
But because of this media burnout, many casual computer users can miss the moment when a new version of Windows comes out of beta testing and actually goes on general release.
If you’re still logging on to Windows 98 to check your emails, you could be missing out on a more streamlined, user-friendly experience – and it’s not always too hard to catch up.
The latest version of the operating system, Windows 8, might be a bit too daunting for casual users, as it involves a dramatic shift in the visual interface of the software, towards a tile-based layout that’s perfect for touchscreen devices.
But its immediate predecessor, Windows 7, is still hugely popular among many users, and is not a million miles away in appearance and functionality from even Windows 95, making it a good upgrade option if you want something that’s faintly familiar.
Sure, there are a couple of differences – for instance, you’ll need to look for a button with the Windows icon on it, rather than the word ‘start’ – but in principle there’s the same combination of desktop icons and start menu shortcuts that there’s always been.
In addition, there’s more of a blurring of the boundaries between online and offline, with built-in options to search both your local hard drive and the internet.
The hardware question
The main obstacle you’re likely to encounter to upgrading is whether or not you have the necessary hardware to support a newer version of Windows – particularly if you’re planning to leapfrog past several versions in between.
If you’re hoping to go all the way from Windows 95 or 98, right through to Windows 7, there’s a very good chance that at least some of your hardware will not be supported.
Luckily, with Windows 8 now on the market, Windows 7 machines are becoming more affordable as they are no longer ‘the latest thing’ – so it might be time to back up your most treasured files and copy them across to a whole new system with newer software installed.
About the author
Buy cheap Windows 7 laptops in the UK from Portable Universe to get as-new equipment at competitive prices. Our systems are reconditioned to factory standard, making them an affordable way to get a newer piece of kit without having to pay the full recommended retail price.