Windows 7: Getting Started with Windows 7

Lesson 4: Getting Started with Windows 7



You may still be exploring Windows 7, or you may have already purchased the operating system. Either way, we're now going to look at the installation process.

In this lesson, you will review pre-installation preparation and learn how to install Windows 7, along with any accompanying devices and hardware.

Getting started with Windows

If you've used earlier versions of Windows, you may find that Windows 7 is pretty familiar. However, if you're new to Windows you'll need to learn about some of the basics, such as the taskbar, Start menu, and Recycle Bin.

Watch the video to learn the basics of using Windows.

Click the buttons in the interactive below to learn more about the Windows desktop.

Date and Time Settings

On the right side of the taskbar, you will see the date and time. There will also be shortcuts to different settings, such as internet settings and sound volume.


The taskbar contains the Start Button, shortcuts to applications, the date and time, and more.

When you open a program or file, it will appear on the taskbar, and you can easily switch between different programs by selecting them on the taskbar.

Recycle Bin

When you delete a file, it is moved to the Recycle Bin. This allows you to recover the file if you change your mind. To permanently delete the file, you will need to empty the Recycle Bin.

Folders on the Desktop

You can keep folders, files, or shortcuts on the Desktop so that they will be easily accessible.

Start Button

Click the Start button to access the Start menu, which lets you access applications, files and settings. You can also use the Start menu to shut down your computer.

Shortcuts on the Taskbar

Some programs will have shortcuts on the taskbar for easy access. In this example, there are shortcuts to Windows Explorer, Windows Media Player, Internet Explorer, and Mozilla Firefox.

Open Folders

When you double-click a folder, it will open in a specialized program called Windows Explorer. This allows you to navigate to the specific folder or file that you want.

Desktop Background

The Desktop background (or wallpaper) allows you to personalize your computer. You can choose a built-in background, or use one of your own images.

Aero features

Windows 7 uses a group of features called Windows Aero. Aero is a visual desktop experience that combines translucent windows, appealing color, and graphics effects with convenient functionality. Aero includes Snap, Peek, Shake, and Flip.

Watch the video to learn how the Aero features work on the desktop.


Snap allows you to resize open windows to make reviewing and comparing easier. The images below show two windows before and after using the Snap feature.

Overlapping windowsOverlapping windows
Windows snappedSide-by-side Snap view
  1. Place the mouse at the top of the window, drag to the left or right of the screen, wait for the transparent window to appear, and let go.
  2. Your window should Snap into place.
  3. To return to the full view, Snap the window to the top of the screen.
Windows showing snap actionAero Snap


You can view your open windows on the taskbar by using Peek. Simply scroll the mouse over the taskbar icons, and a thumbnail preview of the open windows will appear.

aero peekAero Peek
  1. Hover the mouse over the windows in Peek, and the full window will appear on your screen.
  2. Click the Peek preview to open the window, or click the X to close the window from the Peek view.
    Mouse hovering over aero PeekPreviewing a window with Aero Peek


When your desktop is cluttered with open windows, you can use Shake to select a single window and close the rest.

  1. Click on the top of the window you want to focus on and shake your mouse, and the rest of the windows will disappear.
  2. Simply shake the window again, and the closed windows will reappear.
Screenshot of Windows 7Cluttered screen
Screenshot of Windows 7Shake to clear screen


Flip and Flip 3D are two ways you can see previews of all your open windows at once. Flip will display previews in a row, and Flip 3D will display them as a stack.

Desktop showing flipAero Flip
  1. Press and hold the Alt key, then press Tab to open the Flip view of your open windows.
  2. While still pressing the Alt key, you can flip through open windows by pressing the Tab key.
  3. Stop on the window you want to open, and it will appear on the full screen.
    Desktop showing flip 3dAero Flip 3D
  4. Press and hold the Windows key, then press Tab for a 3D version of Flip.
  5. Use the Tab key or Arrow keys to flip through your open windows.

Instead of holding down the Windows key, you can press Control + Windows key and press Tab. You can then release all of the keys and Flip 3D will stay open.

Taskbar features

Microsoft has improved the taskbar by making it easier to view and access files and windows.

Watch the video to view the improvements to the taskbar.

The taskbar view

When multiple windows are open in a program, the icon will look "stacked" on the taskbar.

TaskbarStacked icons on the taskbar
  • Aero Peek will show you a thumbnail of each window when you hover the mouse over the icon on the taskbar.
    aero peek showing beachViewing open windows with Aero Peek
  • If you wish, you can change the order of the icons by clicking and dragging the icon to whatever space you desire on the taskbar.

Pin a program to the taskbar

You can Pin programs to the taskbar and access them with a single click of the mouse.

  • To Pin a program, drag it to the taskbar and release.
    PinPinning a program to the taskbar
  • To Unpin a program, simply right-click on the icon and select Unpin.
    Unpin class=Unpinning a program

Access a Jump List

A Jump List is like a mini-menu for a program. It allows quick access to recent files, frequently viewed items, performance tasks, and more. For example, you can select frequently used websites with a simple click from the Internet Explorer Jump List.

  • Right-click an icon to open the program's Jump List.
    Jump listA Jump List for Internet Explorer

More taskbar features

Click the buttons in the interactive below to learn more about the additional taskbar icons.

labeled graphic

Show Desktop button

Hover over the button to Peek at your Desktop or click on the button to clear your Desktop.

Speaker Volume

Click to mute or adjust your volume setting.

Action Center

Select to view notifications and access Action Center. A red X will appear on the icon when you have notifications waiting.

Hidden Icons

Select to view additional icons and to customize your Taskbar.

Internet Access

Select to access the Network and Sharing Center to connect to the internet.

Show desktop

To Peek at the desktop without closing windows:

  1. Hover the mouse over the Show desktop button.
    Show desktop buttonThe Show desktop button
  2. The windows will become transparent, allowing you to see the desktop.
    Screenshot of Windows 7Viewing the desktop
  3. Click the Show desktop button to close the windows.
  4. Click again, and the windows will return.

Action Center

Older versions of Windows had pesky pop-up notifications that appeared whenever there was a security issue or warning regarding an action you were taking. Windows 7 allows you to customize how often you view these notifications through the Action Center. The Action Center icon in the taskbar will allow you to view and take action on any notifications you have received.

Action center Action Center notifications

Personalize your desktop's background and themes

Windows 7 has some amazing new themes and backgrounds to choose from. They include vivid photography, digital artwork, and Aero themes that use color and glass effects in an appealing way.

Watch the video to review themes and ideas for personalizing your desktop.

Themes and background

In the Search bar of the Start Menu, type and select Personalization. Alternatively, you can right-click the Desktop and select Personalize.

Click the buttons in the interactive below to learn more about the options in the Personalization pane.

labeled graphic

Screen Saver

Windows 7 offers a variety of screen savers that you can choose and customize.


If you wish, you can change the default sounds for Windows 7.

Window Color

You can choose the color of your windows and taskbar.

Desktop Background

It's easy to change the background image for the Desktop. You can choose from one of Microsoft's many free images or use a photo from your Pictures library. You can also choose to set up a slideshow so that your desktop background frequently changes..

Get More Themes Online

You can download additional themes from Microsoft.

Change Account Picture

You can choose an account picture that will appear whenever you sign in to Windows 7.

Change Desktop Icons

You can choose to change the look and feel of your Desktop icons.

Review and select a desired theme or background. You can search online for more themes by selecting Get more themes online in My Themes.

Windows background imageSample Architecture Theme
Windows background imageSample Digital Animation Theme
Windows background imageSample Name Brand Theme
Windows background imageSample International Theme

Personalize font settings

You can adjust the font settings and ClearType on your desktop based on your preferences.

To change the font:

  1. From the Search bar in the Start Menu, type and select Fonts.
  2. Select the font you desire from the Fonts pane.
    Fonts paneSample Font selections

To change font size:

  1. Adjust the font size by selecting Change Font Size from the menu on the left of the Fonts pane.
  2. Select the desired font size, and click Apply.
    Font sizeChanging the font size

Please note that a larger font size may interfere with how some items are displayed on the screen.


You may also adjust the ClearType for your screen. ClearType helps improve the readability of text on LCD monitors and screens.

  • To adjust ClearType, select Adjust ClearType text from the menu on the left of the Fonts pane, and follow the steps for selecting the text that appears the best to you.
    Cleartype optionsClearType sample text


Gadgets are programs that run on your desktop so you can see information at a glance. Gadgets can give you information about the weather, date and time, news, traffic, and more.

To add gadgets to your desktop:

  1. Right-click your desktop and select Gadgets.
    GadgetsDesktop gadgets
  2. Select and drag the gadgets you desire, and place them anywhere you want on the desktop.

Customizing a gadget

Click the buttons in the interactive below to learn more about customizing your gadget.

labeled graphic

Drag Gadget

Use this button to drag and place your gadget onto your computer's Desktop.

Options for customization

Select this tool to see options for your Gadget.

Make Gadget larger

Click on this button to change the size of your Gadget.

See the below options pane for an example of how you can change the face and time zone on the Clock gadget.

Clock gadgetCustomizing the Clock gadget


Now it's your turn to play. Take some time to explore the themes, customize a few gadgets, and adjust the ClearType on your screen. Practice using the Aero features, and pin your favorite programs to the taskbar. Change your user account picture, and choose a screen saver.

While we covered the major features, there are likely additional ways in which you can personalize your desktop. If you want, open the Appearance and Personalization pane and continue to explore.

user account picturesWindows 7 User Account Pictures