Where does the 7 come from in Windows 7

The question why the next iteration of the Windows operating system will be called Windows 7 is highly discussed among the technical inclined. The last days saw several posts pop up at various news sites like Cnet or DownloadSquad which all cited a post by Microsoft’s own Mike Nash who tried to explain why Microsoft is calling the next Windows operating system Windows 7.

Several theories circulated on various sites about the 7 in the name. Some suggested that it was the version number of the code used while others said it was because of the beauty of the figure. All of these speculations were far from the truth which is much simpler. Take a look at the table and find out how Microsoft came up with the 7.

Windows 1 (Windows 1)
Windows 2 (Windows 2)
Windows 3 (Windows 3, Windows NT)
Windows 4 (Windows 95, Windows 98, Windows 98 SE, Windows ME)
Windows 5 (Windows 2000, Windows XP)
Windows 6 (Windows Vista)
Windows 7 (Windows 7)

Windows 7 is the “next logical significant release [after Windows Vista] and 7th in the family of Windows releases” and that is how the 7 was picked for the new operating system. Mike Nash did not fail to put an end to the speculation that Windows 7 would be a minor release because of the 6.1 codebase which some users argued who would consider a 7.0 codebase a major release:

Windows 7 is a significant and evolutionary advancement of the client operating system. It is in every way a major effort in design, engineering and innovation. The only thing to read into the code versioning is that we are absolutely committed to making sure application compatibility is optimized for our customers.

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11 Responses to Where does the 7 come from in Windows 7

  1. Cameron October 20, 2008 at 11:26 pm #

    That logic seems flawed in that Windows 2000, Windows XP, Windows Vista, and it is assumed that Windows Next Version are all based on the NT Kernal, and the last version that clearly stated which version it was would be Windows NT 4.51, and Windows 2000 had kernal version 5, and so XP should have been 6; making Vista 7, and this upcoming release 8 not 7.

    Windows 3.1 and Windows NT 4.51 were not of the same architecture use or design. If you want to group anything it should be with Windows 95 and Windows NT 4. Then 98 and Me possibly with 2000. XP, where the versions between consumer and commercial-business were first merged should be stand-alone and not grouped with 2000, they were different Operating Systems, albeit with few major modifications, but enough that it shouldn't be considered a .5 or minor release.

  2. Andy April 2, 2009 at 9:17 am #

    Since the Windows 7 is what people expect Windows Vista “should” be, why not just call it Windows Vista SE (2nd edition). It looks almost like nothing has changed from Windows Vista anyway. So why is this new edition considered a major release?

    • Ken May 11, 2009 at 9:07 am #

      Actually there is a lot of things changed and improved on, this is a major release.

  3. Willy June 4, 2009 at 1:03 am #

    Some people say 7 is the number of God, maybe they believe it will be the god of the OS’s. most reasonable explanation i can find

  4. Name October 17, 2009 at 6:17 pm #

    I’m amazed at how many spelling and grammar mistakes I find on popular websites (such as here and AppleInsider.com). It’s “technically inclined”, not “techical inclined”.

    • Everton Blair October 18, 2009 at 3:29 am #

      Hi ‘Name’

      English is not Martin’s first language, and I guess that might be the same for other websites you read.

      How’s your German?



  5. Paul November 5, 2009 at 4:46 pm #

    I feel old.
    Do *not* group Windows NT (any version) with Windows 95. Completely different architecture. As the old joke went, Windows 95 was a 32 patch to a 16 bit windowing environment, built on an 8 bit operating system written by a 4 bit company that didn’t care 2 bits for your opinion, performance, or the future.

    The development tree split at windows NT 3.1 versus win95.
    The DOS tree was dos, then win 1/ 2 / 3 / 3.1 / 3.11 / 95 / 98 / Me. While windows 95 and up did a better job of hiding it, they all many many DOS related elements hidden in their kernels.
    The NT kernel started with joint work with IBM on OS/2, then jumped to NT 3.1 / 3.5 / 3.51 / 4.0. NT started with 3.1 probably because Windows was up to 3.1 and started a new Windows family at 1 would have caused much confusion.
    At version 5, then stopped calling the modern branch of the tree NT and just called it Windows 2000 (server or professional). The kernel for Windows 2000 for server and workstation were identical (I diffed the actual binary files one day – I was bored and curious). The differences were in registry settings, helper programs, etc.
    At this point, the underlying architecture had 5.0 pasted all over it. If you can get to a Windows 2000 box, start a command prompt and see what it says. But at Microsoft HQ, it was a quarter (25 cents of money for those not familiar with US currency) in the penalty jar for pizza at the end of the week if anyone called it 5 instead of 2000.

    Windows XP was 5.1. The kernel changed a good bit, but it was not a complete rewrite. They added the Windows 98 look and feel, and improved Plug-n-Play capabilities. But it shared no code with the 95/98/Me product tree. It was a significant, but not a major, upgrade to Windows 2000.
    Vista was then version 6 (complete rewrite of the kernel). It took too long (5 years from XP to Vista) and had many problems that have been discussed endlessly elsewhere.
    Windows 7 is another amost complete rewrite of the kernel. The confusing thing is that the command prompt (or a program-to-OS version request) will return 6.1.
    This was done so that software installers wouldn’t complain about it being the “wrong” version and refuse to install. Older software installers will simply think windows 7 is an update to Vista and continue to install. They did this in response to complaints that occurred when Vista was released where software that would *run* on Vista would not *install* on Vista because the installer (wrongly, IMO) looked for a 5 in the major version number and would not install if it didn’t find it. This explains the comments Nash about application compatibility.
    my two cents.

    • Johnbrooks January 30, 2012 at 9:42 pm #

      Good point Paul, as well Windows Server 8 is also NT 6.0.

  6. CYRIL April 12, 2010 at 4:37 pm #

    how good is windows 7

  7. Shaunu7 April 5, 2011 at 3:56 am #

    Took me a few months to let go of Xp… but now that I have windows 7… jeez. It looks amazing too!! best decision ive made.. ever. (as far as PC’s go) macs can go to hell!

    • Johnbrooks January 30, 2012 at 9:43 pm #

      You are on cheap drugs.  Windows 7 is still slower than XP in all aspects of loading, moving and so on.  Try copying from another computer or server.  Heck try opening a spreadsheet that is loaded on W2K3.  Slooo.  At least macs are a sealed unit.

      Now Win7 loaded on iMac is nice.

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