Is Windows 7 Still Good for Gaming? Performance Compared

The upcoming Windows 11 release has once again sparked the age-old debate of which Windows version is superior. Of course, many people claim that Windows 7 is the best Windows ever and has the best performance. But is Windows 7 still good for gaming?

Overall, Windows 7 is still good for gaming, but newer versions of Windows still perform slightly better. The main difference is due to better software optimization. Games use more RAM and have more micro stutters on Windows 7. Also, some games won’t run on Windows 7 at all.

Read on to learn more about gaming and general computer use on Windows 7 and see how it stacks up against Windows 10. Then, let’s get started so that you can get back to your gaming.

gaming using keyboard and mouse with windows 7 logo in the corner

Is Windows 7 enough for gaming?

Windows 7 is enough for gaming, especially if you prefer to play older games. Many old games experience compatibility issues on Windows 10. However, some newer games won’t run on Windows 7, and DirectX 12 support is limited.

There are several reasons why people prefer using Windows 7 over Windows 10. I know people who installed Windows 7 on a brand-new PC because they never felt the need to upgrade their OS.

Whatever your reason might be, you’re here and are wondering if you can play the latest games on Windows 7.

You’ll be able to run 99.9% of games released in the past few years without any issues. However, some titles like Forza Horizon 4 only work on Windows 10 because Microsoft decided to put it on the Microsoft Store.

But Windows 7 is still better than Windows 8 and 8.1 for gaming. A good example is that RTX 3000 series cards have driver support only for Windows 7 and 10. So, that means you can enjoy some of the most powerful graphics cards in the world on Windows 7. In addition, you won’t experience a lack of driver support, meaning your graphics card will run as intended.

You won’t experience a significant decline in performance if you run Windows 7. The FPS is generally about the same, but you might experience more FPS drops.

This, in turn, results in a noticeable stutter that can get you killed in an online match. 

But games that launched on Windows 7 initially work without any problems, and if you play games like League of Legends and CS: GO, you won’t experience any issues. Note that Windows 7 has worse RAM optimization than Windows 10. 

In other words, games and the operating system itself use more RAM than necessary. 

This can hurt your gaming sessions. If you don’t have enough RAM, some games will be unplayable on Windows 7. However, you could try running them on Windows 10 to see if there’s a difference.

windows 10 vs windows 7 abstract design

Windows 7 vs. Windows 10

But it’s hard to talk about Windows 7 by itself. So let’s take a closer look at how Windows 7 performs compared to Windows 10.

Gaming

Countless gamers claimed when Windows 10 launched that they got much better (or worse) FPS after upgrading from Windows 7. But is there any truth to these claims?

See the difference yourself in this YouTube video by Wolfgang running a few AAA games on Windows 7 and Windows 10:

As you can see, the FPS is almost identical. Windows 7 seems to have 1-2 less FPS, but it’s within the margin of error. However, the main difference is the 1% and 0.1% lows. 

If you don’t know what those are, they’re essentially the lowest percentages of recorded FPS.

In other words, the lower the 1% and 0.1% lows are, the more the game stutters. This can have a worse impact on your overall gaming experience than having slightly lower FPS in the first place.

Ideally, you want your lowest FPS to be as close to the average FPS as possible. That’s why people lock their FPS even when their hardware can run slightly higher. It’s just a smoother experience. Since Windows 10 has better 0.1% lows, that means the game has fewer micro stutters.

Another major point I learned from the benchmark video is that RAM usage is vastly different. Windows 7 uses much more RAM than Windows 10 to run at the same or worse framerate. This mostly happens due to a lack of optimization, and it’s worse in some games than others.

The biggest difference in the video was in Project Cars 2, where Windows 7 used about 1.6 GB more RAM while having 15 less FPS in the low 0.1%. So, in a nutshell, you’re losing anywhere from 500 MB to 2 GB of RAM just by gaming on Windows 7. 

The poorly optimized RAM usage could be the reason behind the micro stutters and lag.

Also, your PC could have used the RAM you lost in Windows 7 for background programs. For example, you could record smoother gameplay footage on Windows 10 because of the RAM issue. But if you’re a gamer who likes to alt+tab all the time, Windows 7 is allegedly much faster at this.

However, you can disable full-screen optimizations on Windows 10 to get the same effect.

Compatibility

compatibility options in windows

Both Windows 7 and Windows 10 have built-in compatibility modes that allow you to launch a game as if you were on an older system. However, Windows 10’s compatibility mode for Windows 7 often doesn’t work. 

You can’t launch a game if it doesn’t support the newer system.

But if you have Windows 7, you’ll be able to run most older games. You can usually launch games that worked on Windows XP, but you can’t do that on Windows 10. Here is a long list of games that work on Windows 7. 

Some games work only in 32-bit or 64-bit, and others require minor tweaks. I’ve tried running Call of Duty 2 on Windows 10 a few years ago, and it took me a few hours to make it work. 

Once I had it up and running, the game was volatile. The FPS dropped all the time, there were micro stutters, and it even crashed a few times. So, if you’re into playing older titles, Windows 7 is just better. 

You’ll not only run the games, but they’ll be more stable, too.

There’s also the issue of software compatibility. For example, if you have bought several licenses for programs that only work on Windows 7, you can save money by not upgrading to Windows 10. Or perhaps you use your computer for something other than general use. 

Following the good old “If it isn’t broke, don’t fix it” rule makes sense. 

You could give yourself a huge headache if you spent hours updating to Windows 10 only to find out that a piece of expensive equipment doesn’t work anymore. That’s why most ATMs run on good old Windows XP Professional or Windows XP Embedded.

Security

security abstract design

It’s no secret that Microsoft ended support for Windows 7 on January 14, 2020. What that means for you is that there’ll be no new features or security patches, so if you care about security and don’t want your data stolen, you shouldn’t use Windows 7, period.

Even if you have the latest version of Google Chrome and use antivirus and anti-malware programs, there’s no guarantee that you are safe. Operating system exploits are perilous, and the only way to protect your data is to upgrade it. 

If you think that you’ll be safe because viruses never got to you, think again.

There are a total of 1887 recorded Windows 7 vulnerabilities. A hacker can exploit a vulnerability and use ransomware to lock you out of your computer.

I’m not saying that Windows 10 is completely safe because it’s not. However, it’ll see a few more years of security updates and exploit patches that could be lifesavers. If you plan to use Windows 7, make sure to store all important data on the cloud or a USB flash drive. 

If you don’t have anything important on your computer and only use it for entertainment, it’s not that big of a deal. An antivirus program could help you, but it’s not obligatory.

Another way is to run Windows without the internet. This comes with a few inconveniences but is still the safest way to run Windows 7.

Interface and settings

windows 7 and windows 10 ui

This is a big one. Surveys like the one conducted by ZDNet show that many Windows 7 users prefer the design over that of Windows 10, and I completely understand why. Windows 7 and 10 almost look like two different operating systems. 

Not to mention that Windows 10 has become progressively worse with its unnecessarily complicated settings.

My biggest pet peeve with a recent Windows 10 update is that you can’t open sound devices directly from the taskbar anymore. Instead, you have to navigate through complicated menus to get to them.

With Windows 7, there won’t be any new surprises that ruin the user experience, as it has that transparent “aero” feel that users fell in love with and aren’t ready to replace. On the other hand, Windows 10 has simple, bland rectangles.

There’s also that disaster called Windows 8, a huge flop, and the general public never upgraded to it. It was nearly impossible to convince them that Windows 10 was good. Overall, the Windows 7 user interface is plain better and allows you to change settings more easily.

Also, Windows 10 is full of unnecessary third-party programs. 

They even have multiple programs for one function. For example, if you want to listen to some music, you can use the Groove Music app or Windows Media Player. Windows 7 only has the good old Windows Media Player, so there’s no need for redundant replacements.

Performance and stability

computer with speed gauge

While it’s true that all newer games run better on Windows 10, it’s not the case with older titles. I already mentioned Call of Duty 2 as an example, but some old games like MechWarrior 4 won’t even launch on Windows 10.

Windows 10 has a compatibility mode for older Windows versions. However, it’s far from perfect, and there’s no guarantee that the games won’t lag and crash.

If you run Windows 7, you’ll be able to play almost all games released for Windows XP or even older. Old games run smoother and more stable on Windows 7, but the opposite is true for newer titles.

Granted, you can run many old games on Windows 10 after searching for a solution on a few forums. But Windows 7 is still better because it requires less tweaking.

When it comes to general computer use, Windows 10 is faster. It needs less time to boot and opens programs and games faster. As a result, your online match may load a bit faster on Windows 10 than Windows 7.

That can be a huge advantage in battle royale games like Fortnite and Call of Duty: Warzone. But Windows 7 is better at running older titles, so it depends on what games you play at the end of the day.

System updates

Windows 10 is still supported by Microsoft, meaning it gets two regular updates every year. However, this isn’t necessarily a good thing. ZDNet explains how two updates every year are way too much for the average user.

The worst part of this is that they add too much new stuff or change something that worked just fine.

And these updates sometimes make games stop working out of the blue. This isn’t an issue on Windows 7 because there aren’t any surprise updates. Instead, you install Windows 7, update it, and it works like a charm from that point.

Final thoughts

Windows 7 is still good enough for gaming. In addition, the overall performance in the latest AAA titles is similar to Windows 10.

However, the 0.1% and 1% lows are significantly worse on Windows 7, indicating micro stutters. Moreover, games use substantially more RAM on Windows 7 than Windows 10. Your in-game performance might suffer as a result.

Nonetheless, Windows 7 remains popular because the interface is simpler, has more control, and older games have better compatibility.