Help Me Choose: Operating systems

The operating system (OS) is the most important software on your PC because your PC must have an OS to run other programs. The OS allows you to give your computer commands through the graphical interface, like where to save your personal files, without you speaking the computer’s language. It recognizes input from the keyboard, sends output to the monitor, organizes files and directories on the hard disk, and controls devices like webcams and printers. In addition, it manages how your computer accesses available networks.

To choose the right OS, consider how you plan to use your PC and whether it is touch-enabled.

If you’re buying a touch-enabled PC, want to use cloud services and Windows apps in addition to the features of Windows 7, and want a faster loading time, choose a Windows 8.1 edition.

If you browse the internet, work on Word documents, make presentations, use social media, and you’re not buying a touch-enabled PC, choose a Windows 7 edition.

If you mostly use web-based applications, are not dependent on OS-specific programs, want low cost of ownership, you’re comfortable with open-source software, choose Ubuntu if it’s available.

To learn more about the features and editions of Windows 10, 8.1, Windows 7 and Ubuntu, use the tabs below.
Choose Windows 10 if you want to:…Features
Do things confidently.
  • It’s the familiar feel of Windows - only better

It all begins at start. The Start menu is back and better than ever so you can expand and customize it.

Fast and responsive. Technologies like InstantGo let you boot up and resume quickly.
Do things naturally.
  • Windows 10 is designed to fit who you are and how you do things

Your own digital assistant. Cortana is the personal assistant who learns over time to become more useful to you.

Touch, type, pen. Choose what works best for what you’re doing.

Start and Live Tiles. Reach your favorite things fast with customizable Start screen and Live Tiles.
Do things simply.
  • Lots of great features for keeping things easy and simple across your devices.

More ways to play. Stream and play your Xbox One games to any Windows 10 PC in your home.

Great built-in apps. Windows 10 comes with apps – Photos, Maps, Music Video and more – that work across your devices.

Free cloud storage. 15GB of free OneDrive storage: easy, anywhere access to your files and photos.
Do things easily.
  • Windows 10 gives you great ways to start fast and stay focused.

A web you can write on. Write directly on web pages and easily share the mark-ups with friends.

Get organized. Snap up to four apps on the screen and create new desktops for more space.
Choose ...If you ... Features*
New Windows 8.1 FeaturesWant more personalization optionsSet the lock screen to your favorite photo, or turn the lock screen display into a slide show of your pictures. Pin tiles to your Start screen for the people, sites, and apps that matter to you, and arrange them the way you want.
Would like Improved AppsApps that you love have been redesigned with better features :
  • Photos app allows user to open pictures from other apps – Mail, OneDrive, Camera
  • Camera App allows you to record video and take a picture at the same time. Also there is new Panorama functionality
  • xBox Music and Video app has been completely redesigned to simplify user experience
  • Mail app has a new print function in the app bar, gives notifications while in other apps
Like to SkypeNothing beats Skype when you want to catch up with your best friend, see your kids when you’re on the road, or reconnect with far-away family.
Plan to use a touch-enabled device
  • Windows UI designed for touch input
Want to take advantage of the wide range of new Windows apps designed for Windows 8.1
  • Windows Store (wireless connectivity is required to access the Store)
Want real-time updates to the information you care about
  • Live Tiles
Want assurance that you always have the latest version of your Windows app


  • Windows Store always has the latest software available (wireless connectivity is required to access the Store)
Want secure bootup
  • Unified Extensible Firmware Interface (UEFI) BIOS that intercepts and notifies you of threats early in the boot process
Want to use cloud services to the fullestWindows Store — purchased apps are available on multiple devices.
Windows Store — pick up where you left off in a game or app; from anywhere you can access your app (wireless connectivity is required to access the Store).
OneDrive — Windows apps are more easily integrated with OneDrive. (internet connection required)
The new language of touch
On new, touch-enabled PCs, you can move things on your screen comfortably.
Here are a few common Windows 8 gestures. 

Swipe from the right edge for system commands
Swiping from the right side of the screen reveals the charms with system commands. Swiping from the left brings up previously used apps.

Mouse equivalent:
Place the mouse pointer in the lower or upper right corner of the screen and move your mouse up the right edge.

Swipe from the bottom or top edge for app commands
App commands are revealed by swiping from the bottom or top edge. You can swipe from the top to the bottom of the screen to dock or close the current app.

Mouse equivalent:
the app to see the apps commands.

Swipe in from the left to switch apps
Swiping in from the left reveals thumbnails of your open apps so you can switch to them quickly.

Mouse equivalent:
Place the mouse pointer in the upper-left and click to cycle through apps or lower-left corner of the screen to see the start screen.

Drag an app to close it
You don’t have to close apps. They won’t slow down your PC and they’ll close on their own if you don’t use them for a while. If you want to close an app, drag the app to the bottom of the screen.

Mouse equivalent: Click the top of the app and drag it to the bottom of the screen.

Swipe in and out on the left brings up previously used apps
Swiping in and back out on the left brings up the most recently used apps and you can select an app from that list.

Mouse equivalent: Place the mouse in the upper left and slide down the left side of the screen to see the most recently used apps.

Press and hold to learn
You can see details when you press and hold. In some cases, pressing and holding opens a menu with more options.

Mouse equivalent: Point to an item to see more options.

Slide to drag
This is mostly used to pan or scroll through lists and pages, but you can use it for other interactions too, such as moving an object or for drawing and writing.

Mouse equivalent: Click, hold and drag to pan or scroll. Also, when you use a mouse and keyboard, a scroll bar appears at the bottom of the screen so you can scroll horizontally.
Pinch or stretch to zoom
Zooming provides a way to jump to the beginning, end or a specific location within a list. You can start zooming by pinching or stretching two fingers on the screen.

Mouse and keyboard equivalent: Hold down the control key on the keyboard while using the mouse wheel to expand or shrink an item or tiles on the screen.

Tap to perform an action
Tapping something causes an action, such as launching an app or following a link.

Mouse equivalent:
Click an item to perform an action.

Rotate to turn
Rotating two or more fingers turns an object. You can turn the whole screen 90 degrees when you rotate your device.

Mouse equivalent: Support for rotating an object depends on whether the specific app supports it.
If you want to ...Choose ... 
Use your PC for web surfing.Windows 7 Home Basic 
Use your PC primarily for entertainment, in addition to web surfing,
gaming and productivity. (Enjoy and share your favorite TV shows, photos,
videos and music.)
Windows 7 Home Premium
Use your PC both at home and at work. (Enjoy all the multimedia and
entertainment features of Windows 7 Home Premium, plus business
relevant features, such as Location Aware Printing and Windows Mobility
Center Presentation Mode.)
— Need Windows 7 Professional today but may want to use Windows 8 Pro in the future
— Want to enable your Downgrade Rights* as defined in the Windows 8 EULA*. What is it: This offering* is a License of Windows 8 Pro, with the installation of Windows 7 Professional. This does not have a license of Windows 7 Professional.
 Windows 7 Professional
Have it all — the multimedia benefits of Windows 7 Home Premium,
plus the business features of Windows 7 Professional. (Get added
security features and the flexibility to work in multiple languages.)
 Windows 7 Ultimate

Note: The system you are configuring may or may not include all of the options listed here.


  1. Some product features may require advanced or additional hardware.
  2. Downgrade Rights enable a customer who purchases a Windows 8 Pro license to utilize a different operating system in the place of the licensed OS. Specifically at Dell, we are enabling Windows 7 Professional in the place of Windows 8 Pro. The PC licensed for Windows 8 Pro may only have 1 Operating System installed at a time, so the customer may utilize a Windows 8 Pro Operating System or Windows 7 Professional. With this offering we are installing Windows 7 Professional in place of Windows 8, but providing the license to Windows 8 Pro in the BIOS so that when the customer chooses to upgrade to Windows 8, the customer will have a licensed and activated Operating System installed on the PC.
  3. The EULA is the End User License Agreement. This is an agreement between the PC Owner and Windows that enables the PC Owner’s right to use either Windows 7 Professional or Windows 8 Pro. For reference this document can be accessed from the following link: (Instructions: Choose Pre-Installed on your computer from the computer manufacturer, Product Name: Windows, Version: 8 Pro, Language: your choice)
  4. To enable downgrade to Windows 7 on this system the BIOS settings on this system were changed to boot into legacy BIOS mode. If the BIOS setting is not changed to native UEFI mode boot prior to installing, Windows 8 Pro [update] Product or Windows 8 Pro will install; however, the following Windows 8 Pro [update] Product, Windows 8 Pro functionalities will not work as they rely on a native UEFI mode boot:
    • Secure Boot
    • Seamless Boot experience
    • Network unlock for Bitlocker for systems with a Trusted Platform Module (TPM)
    • eDrive support


Ubuntu is an open-source linux-distribution operating system created by a global community of IT professionals and enthusiasts. Dell offers the Ubuntu OS on select products as an alternative to commercial operating systems.


  • Ubuntu is modern, stylish and easy to use. Its user-friendly design makes learning new applications a snap
  • Ubuntu can have a low total cost of ownership over the life of your computer. There are no licensing fees for Ubuntu or for the thousands of free applications available through the Ubuntu Software Center
  • An office productivity suite, LibreOffice, also comes bundled with Ubuntu
  • Ubuntu is safe and secure. With a trusted application software repository, data encryption and built-in protection from malware and viruses, you can be protected
  • If you are a corporate customer, Dell offers ProSupport for Ubuntu to help with any OS questions or issues you may have

Which should you choose?

You might prefer Ubuntu if:

  • The applications you use are mostly web-based, for example, using a browser. Web-based applications run well with Ubuntu
  • You are not already dependent upon applications based on other operating systems
  • You are comfortable with open-source software
  • You want to customize your operating system