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Windows 7 voted most innovative Microsoft OS by Windows Central readers

Windows 7 Viking funeral
Windows 7 Viking funeral (Image credit: Databarracks)

What you need to know

  • Windows enthusiasts believe Windows 7 was the most innovative version of Windows, according to a recent poll.
  • Windows 95 earned a close second place, trailing behind Windows 7 by just over one percent.
  • Several voters argued that Windows XP was the most innovative, as it introduced the NT core to many PC users.

Windows 3.1 turned 30 years old last week. To celebrate the anniversary of the OS, we ran a poll to see which version of Windows our readers believed was the most innovative. After a close campaign, Windows 7 (24.86%) defeated Windows 95 (23.36%) by a narrow margin. Windows 10 (14.57%) and Windows 8/8.1 (13.2%) also received noteworthy numbers of votes.

While Windows 7 drew the plurality of the votes in our poll, very few people commented about the operating system. One user, Andrew G1, noted that Windows 7's main innovation was stability.

"I'm not sure I know what constitutes innovation in an OS. All I can say is Windows 7 had the innovation of not crashing on me nearly as often as previous versions. My main OS was still some version of GNU/Linux, usually with KDE."

We added an "other" option in case anyone felt a different version of Windows was the most innovative. Several people pointed to the innovation of Windows XP in our comment section.

"Why isn't XP on your list? First to merge the NT/Consumer cores and way too many other things to name. I had to pick Win95, since it changed Windows significantly from 3.x," said christopherandroid. "However, XP is as transformative for what it did under the hood as 95's UI improvements."

Our readers don't appear to rank the innovations of early versions of Windows highly. Windows 3.0/3.1 only earned 2.94% of the votes, while Windows 1 received just 0.57%.

Sean Endicott
News Writer and apps editor

Sean Endicott brings nearly a decade of experience covering Microsoft and Windows news to Windows Central. He joined our team in 2017 as an app reviewer and now heads up our day-to-day news coverage. If you have a news tip or an app to review, hit him up at sean.endicott@futurenet.com (opens in new tab).

15 Comments
  • OMG I'm famous!
  • Absolutely wrong. Windows 7 was a fix-up of Vista. It was a cop out and a cleaning up of things people hated.
    I don't consider the "sorry we tried to change things, we're taking it back" versions as innovative. Win 95 was a breakthrough. Windows 8 too.
  • Agree on Windows 95. It's what helped drive adoption of the internet for many people. Without it, the internet would have taking many more years to develop.
  • 95 changed the game forever.
  • Who didn't love hunting down INI files to change system behavior in Win 3.1? It was a GUI running over the top of MS-DOS. Also, the first version of windows was way too cutting edge and few apps existed since MSDOS and Lotus1-2-3/Wordperfect/DBase ruled the world. No reason to use it, very few tried it.
  • "Windows enthusiasts" 🤣🤣🤣 Bunch of people that doesn't know what is inovation, same as poll makers...
  • I can certainly say this comment wasn't innovative. I don't need a poll for that 🤣
  • You have to admit the polling choices were half-baked since it was to identify the most innovative yet ignored key releases. The cross-section of windows users here really don't understand the function of an OS from a Tannenbaum perspective; they seem to gravitate here for Win8 phone/tablet talk. UIs aren't OS; they can be swapped out as the situation dictates. See Unix/Linux/Windows core. Should we call Start11/Stardock toolset an OS--the UI is certainly different than native W11? This goes doubly for light/dark themes and rounded corners; not OS material.
  • I'm not trying to be innovative. Unlike you and your attempt of a poll that was complete fail. Now you are calling Windows 7 most innovative. 🤣
    Better stick to paid reviews...
  • Spotted the Linux fan.
  • With the caveat that neither Windows 2000 or XP were listed.
  • Nor were Windows 386 or Windows for Workgroups 3.11 (1st version of Windows with a fully functional TCP/IP stack.) I agree that the most "Innovative" versions of Windows were: Windows 366 (introduced extended memory and 16-bit support) Windows NT (multiple CPU types supported via a HAL and Global user accounts), Windows 95 (No more DOS underneath it, fully integrated NetBIOS over TCP/IP ) and Windows 2000 (introduced Active Directory/Sites/and Group Policies.)
    Everything since Windows 2000 is just "Window Dressing" and minor usability and visual tweaks.
    (Windows NT was created by the same guy that wrote VMS for DEC and was heavily influenced by it and is STILL the architecture of everything since then.)
  • I think the poll results are funny, because there were a lot of comments under the poll, and I didn't see a single one supporting Windows 7. In the original comments, there were a lot of people voicing their support for Windows 3, 95, NT, XP, 8, with even a bone tossed to Vista and ME, but NOT A SINGLE COMMENT arguing for 7. NOT ONE. Even the quote about 7 referenced in this article, from Andrew G1, in full context, he actually described 8 as the most innovative. I find that sociologically interesting: Windows 7 users are, quite literally, the silent majority here. My vote was for Windows 95, with Windows 8 being second, with an XP mention for being unfairly missing from the list of options. 95 was a huge game changer, as the first Windows that was really an OS (Windows 3 was more a fancy shell that ran on top of DOS, the actual OS). 8, which I think deserved the disdain for its bifurcated UX, was also clearly very different and therefore innovative (love it or hate it, no arguing it was innovative). XP was the first true consumer-focused multitasking OS (though arguably, incremental to NT4 and 2000 which had been more business-focused).
  • In my opinion Windows 8 was the most innovative as it added the concept of apps - unheard before. Now we're waiting for the developers to slowly adopt the new concept, and Windows will never be the same. Especially for the registry and leftovers, slowdowns and unexplained instability.
  • What are you talking about? Win 8 was released in 2012 so if we are waiting for developers to embrace whatever it is after a decade, it couldn't have been very compelling change.