How to get Windows 7 features on a Vista or XP system

Windows 7 features like ISO image burning, Windows Search, and the great new Windows 7 Calculator are a big part of the new OS. Here's how you can get them--or features just as good--on your current Vista or XP system.

Vista received well-deserved criticism for bringing few noteworthy new features in its train when it arrived to take over from Windows XP. In contrast, Windows 7 offers plenty of new stuff to like. Fortunately, you can add many of these features to your Vista or XP machine by using downloads and Web services.

Media Streaming

What it is: Windows Vista can already stream music, videos, and other content between networked PCs in your house, but Windows 7 goes a step farther: It makes your media available over the Internet. By taking advantage of that option, you can watch a recorded TV show at a friend's house, say, or stream your mammoth music library to your storage-strapped netbook.

How to get it: The new OS's media-sharing system has at least one major drawback: It requires Windows 7 to be running at both ends. Third-party alternatives, on the other hand, usually have no problem with different versions of Windows--or even with different platforms (Mac and Linux). Simplify Media, for example, can stream music files saved in various formats from your desktop music library (or from any friends whom you care to invite) to any other PC. An associated iPhone app (Simplify Music 2.0) handles streaming on the run. Both the software and the service are free.

Another possibility is Orb, which streams music, videos, photos, and--if your PC has a TV tuner--live or recorded TV shows. Using Orb can even help you share documents.

ISO Burning

What it is: An ISO image is a single file that contains the archived contents of a CD or DVD. Windows 7 enables you to burn ISO images to optical media, so you can crank out your own bootable discs. (Microsoft distributed the Windows 7 Release Candidate as an ISO file, which users had to burn to a DVD for installation on their PCs. Ironically, anyone working on a Windows XP or Vista system needed to use third-party software to handle the job.)

How to get it: Several free utilities can burn ISO images from Windows XP or Vista PCs (and with more options than you'll get in Windows 7). I'm partial to ISO Recorder, but you may also want to try Active ISO Burner or IsoBuster.

Improved Windows Paint

What it is: Windows' ancient, bare-bones graphics program, Paint, finally gets a thorough remodeling in Windows 7, complete with a jazzy new Ribbon interface (very similar to the one that people either love or hate in Office 2007), additional brush and shape choices, and various small but meaningful tweaks.

How to get it: Though you can't obtain Windows 7 Paint in Vista or XP, several similar Vista- and XP-compatible programs are even better. Regular PC World readers have seen us talk frequently of the open-source GIMP and the freeware Paint.Net, two Photoshop-caliber image editors. Either of these apps can run circles around Win 7's Paint, and neither will cost you a dime.

Too fancy for you? Try a Web-based paint program. Two good free options are Pixlr and Sumo Paint.

Join the PC World newsletter!

Error: Please check your email address.

Tags Windows Vistawindows xpWindows 7

Our Back to Business guide highlights the best products for you to boost your productivity at home, on the road, at the office, or in the classroom.

Keep up with the latest tech news, reviews and previews by subscribing to the Good Gear Guide newsletter.

Rick Broida

PC World (US online)
Show Comments

Essentials

Lexar® JumpDrive® S57 USB 3.0 flash drive

Learn more >

Microsoft L5V-00027 Sculpt Ergonomic Keyboard Desktop

Learn more >

Mobile

Lexar® JumpDrive® S45 USB 3.0 flash drive 

Learn more >

Exec

Lexar® JumpDrive® C20c USB Type-C flash drive 

Learn more >

Audio-Technica ATH-ANC70 Noise Cancelling Headphones

Learn more >

Lexar® Professional 1800x microSDHC™/microSDXC™ UHS-II cards 

Learn more >

HD Pan/Tilt Wi-Fi Camera with Night Vision NC450

Learn more >

Budget

Back To Business Guide

Click for more ›

Most Popular Reviews

Latest News Articles

Resources

PCW Evaluation Team

Azadeh Williams

HP OfficeJet Pro 8730

A smarter way to print for busy small business owners, combining speedy printing with scanning and copying, making it easier to produce high quality documents and images at a touch of a button.

Andrew Grant

HP OfficeJet Pro 8730

I've had a multifunction printer in the office going on 10 years now. It was a neat bit of kit back in the day -- print, copy, scan, fax -- when printing over WiFi felt a bit like magic. It’s seen better days though and an upgrade’s well overdue. This HP OfficeJet Pro 8730 looks like it ticks all the same boxes: print, copy, scan, and fax. (Really? Does anyone fax anything any more? I guess it's good to know the facility’s there, just in case.) Printing over WiFi is more-or- less standard these days.

Ed Dawson

HP OfficeJet Pro 8730

As a freelance writer who is always on the go, I like my technology to be both efficient and effective so I can do my job well. The HP OfficeJet Pro 8730 Inkjet Printer ticks all the boxes in terms of form factor, performance and user interface.

Michael Hargreaves

Windows 10 for Business / Dell XPS 13

I’d happily recommend this touchscreen laptop and Windows 10 as a great way to get serious work done at a desk or on the road.

Aysha Strobbe

Windows 10 / HP Spectre x360

Ultimately, I think the Windows 10 environment is excellent for me as it caters for so many different uses. The inclusion of the Xbox app is also great for when you need some downtime too!

Mark Escubio

Windows 10 / Lenovo Yoga 910

For me, the Xbox Play Anywhere is a great new feature as it allows you to play your current Xbox games with higher resolutions and better graphics without forking out extra cash for another copy. Although available titles are still scarce, but I’m sure it will grow in time.

Featured Content

Latest Jobs

Don’t have an account? Sign up here

Don't have an account? Sign up now

Forgot password?