How to Make Windows 8 or 8.1 Look and Feel Like Windows 7

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Make WIndows 8.1 or 8 look like Windows 7

If you have a PC with Windows 8 or 8.1 but miss Windows 7, there's no need to downgrade. Following a few simple steps, you can make Microsoft's current operating system look and feel almost identical to its predecessor. Here's how to bring back the Start menu and the attractive aero glass theme how to hide other Windows 8 elements like the Charms menu.

Step 1: Swap the Start screen for a Start menu

Without a doubt, the most unfamiliar (and, for some, most annoying) feature of Windows 8 and Windows 8.1 is its tile-based Start screen. Where Windows 7 lets you choose from a list of applications by pulling up the Start menu, Windows 8 and Windows 8.1 make you go to a completely separate screen just to launch an application or conduct a search. Windows 8.1 places a Start button in the lower left corner of the screen, but don't be fooled; it does nothing more than take you back to the same tile-based Start screen when you click it.

MORE: How to Upgrade From Windows 7 to Windows 8.1

There are a number of third-party Windows 8 / Windows 8.1 Start menu apps including the free Classic Shell, but if you're willing to pay $4.99, we recommend Start8, because it looks the most like the Windows 7 Start menu and allows you to control many other elements of the UI. 

To set up Start8:

  1. Download and install Start8. You can try the program for 30 days without paying for it.
    Start8 Install
  2. Select Windows 7 Style and Shadow Theme under the Style tab.
    Start8 Style Tab
  3. Select the Desktop tab.
    Start8 Desktiop Tab
  4. Check "Disable all Windows 8 hot corners." This setting will prevent the Charms and Windows 8 Start shortcut from appearing when you hover the mouse in a corner.
    Start8 Disable Hot Corners
  5. Make sure "Automatically go to the Desktop when I sign in" is checked. This way Windows 8 / Windows 8.1 will take you straight to the desktop when it boots rather than making you go through the Start screen first.
    Go straight to desktop 
  6. Make sure Disable Taskbar Translucency is unchecked.
     Disable Taskbar Translucency
  7. Select the Control tab.
    Start8 Control Tab 
  8. Uncheck "show the Windows 8 menu when I press the right windows key." With this setting off, you won't accidentally end up on the Start screen if you hit the right Windows key.
     Prevent right windows key from opening the start menu
  9. Close the Start8 settings window.
  10. View all your programs by clicking All Programs on the Start8 menu. 
     Click All Programs on the Start Menu
  11. Pin your favorite programs to Start8 by right-clicking on them and selecting Pin To Start8.

    Pin to Start Menu

MORE: 5 Windows 8 Apps to Bring Back the Start Menu

Step 2: Install the Windows 7 Aero theme

With Windows 8, Microsoft took away the attractive translucent Aero glass effects and style many people love in Windows 7. Instead, the company made the desktop theme flat, solid and a little bit boring. While you can't get all of the translucent effects back, you can get a very similar look to Windows 7's default theme.

  1. Download and install UxStyle. This application tweaks your settings so you can install third-party themes you didn't get from Microsoft.


  2. Download this Windows 7 theme from Deviant Art and open its zip file. Ignore the warning saying that it does not work in Windows 8.1. 

    Aero Theme Zip

  3. Copy the contents of the Themes Files folder from the zip file to C:\Windows\Resources\Themes.

    Copy all files from the Theme Files folder

  4. Double-click the Aero8Rounded-Default.theme icon. Your theme should now change to Aero 8 rounded, which looks like Windows 7's default theme, complete with the Windows 7 logo wallpaper.
     Click Aero8Rounded-Default

To switch back and forth between this theme, the Windows 7 Architecture theme and several other Windows 7 and Windows 8 themes, right-click on the desktop and select Personalize.


Select other themesMORE: How to Shut Down Windows 8 or 8.1  in Just One Click

Step 3: Add an Aero glass effect to window title bars

Even with the Aero theme installed, the window title bars and borders are opaque. While you can't make all parts of the UI have the smoky translucent effect they do in Windows 7, WinaeroGlass can make the title bars see-through. 

  1. Download and unzip WinaeroGlass to your desktop.
  2. Double-click Winaeroglass.exe to turn on its visual effect. At present the app has no UI; it just works.
     Winaeroglass running
  3. Copy WinaeroGlass.exe to the C:\ProgramData\Microsoft\Windows\Start Menu\Programs\Startup folder if you want it to start every time Windows 8 starts.
    Copy WinaeroGlass.exe to StartUp folder

Step 4: Skip the lock screen

Windows 7 doesn't waste your time by making you swipe away a lock screen before you get to its login prompt. Fortunately, it's easy enough to disable Windows 8's time-wasting lock screen.

  1. Open Regedit by hitting Windows + R and entering regedit at the prompt.
    Open Regedit 
  2. Navigate to HKEY_LOCAL_MARCHINE\SOFTWARE\Policies\Microsoft\Windows.
    Navigate to the registry key 
  3. Create a registry key called Personalization if it doesn't already exist. You can create a key by right-clicking on the Windows key, selecting New then Key and renaming the folder that appears.
    Create Personalization key
  4. Create a new DWORD value and name it NoLockScreen. To create a DWORD, right-click in the white space on the right side of the window and select New then DWORD (32-bit) value. Rename the DWORD.
    Create a DWORD
  5.  Assign NoLockScreen a value of 1 by double-clicking it and entering the number 1 in the dialog box that appears.
    Set NoLockScreen to 1
  6. Close Regedit and reboot. From now on you will be taken straight to the login prompt.

Step 5: Run Windows 8 style apps in Desktop mode

Even if your desktop looks like Windows 7, you have a Start menu and your system boots you directly to the desktop, you may still want to run some Windows 8 apps. Under normal conditions, you'd be forced to run new style apps like Bing News or the People app at full screen in Windows 8's Modern UI, but with the help of a utility called ModernMix you can run every Windows 8 program in its own draggable, resizable window on the desktop.

  1. Download and install ModernMix. The application costs $4.99 but has a free 30-day trial. You may need to enter your email address to receive a download link.
    Install ModernMix
  2. Select Windowed mode under "When launched from the Windows 8 Start Menu." With this setting enabled, even if you launch a Windows 8 app from the Start screen, it will open on the desktop.
    Select Windowed Mode 
  3. Select "Never return to the Windows 8 menu when I close applications" under the Advanced tab.
    Never Return to Windows 8 Start Menu
  4. Close the ModernMix settings window.

As long as ModernMix is running, all Windows 8 style apps (also known as Modern apps) will run in windows. You can even pin Windows 8 apps to the taskbar by right-clicking on their taskbar icons and selecting "Pin this program to taskbar."

Pin Modern Apps to Taskbar

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Author Bio
Avram Piltch
Avram Piltch, LAPTOP Online Editorial Director
The official Geeks Geek, as his weekly column is titled, Avram Piltch has guided the editorial and production of since 2007. With his technical knowledge and passion for testing, Avram programmed several of LAPTOP's real-world benchmarks, including the LAPTOP Battery Test. He holds a master’s degree in English from NYU.
Avram Piltch, LAPTOP Online Editorial Director on
Add a comment
  • Vishwa Says:

    Im using windows 8.1 i want access my professional software with windows 8.1, all software were working only XP and windows 7 basically. with this condition how can do 8.1 access my software any possible is there for this conditions.

  • Frank Says:

    I personally lke Windows 8 / 8.1. My advice is not to use any product of Stardock. There prodicts have a bad performance and they are not really stable. For the clasic start menu I use Classic Shell, which is much faster and stable. ...and it's absolutely free.

  • maria stephens Says:

    windows 8 / 8.1 feels like vista renamed you have to take 3 steps just to get to the desktop and they also did away with the network map.
    I hate it. with microsoft turning out more garbage i am seriously considering going linux

  • bob Says:

    (Ryan Says:
    March 18th, 2015 at 10:28 am
    I love how I have to pay $5 or download a third party program because Microsoft is a bunch of fucking idiots who can’t even keep a good UI.
    Windows just lost a 20 year customer over this shit. I’m going to mac.)

    and you my friend, are a complete fkning retard

  • Ryan Says:

    I love how I have to pay $5 or download a third party program because Microsoft is a bunch of fucking idiots who can't even keep a good UI.

    Windows just lost a 20 year customer over this shit. I'm going to mac.

  • toc233 Says:

    15 months after this article was posted, a major tech chain has 42 laptops that come with win7 home, and 3 that come with win7 pro. Now some of these are refurbs, but still...shows there's still a sizeable market for win7.

  • avdulla Says:

    a whont a windows 7

  • Lode Says:

    I've been utilizing a program called "StartIsBack". You can try it out for free for 30 days. If you want to keep it you have to pay $2,99.

    My notebook lookst like Windows 7.

    The program lets you make some choices as to looks and a few other handy things, Of course it lets you get rid of Metro. The only thing I had to do separately to stop the Charm bar from still showing up(every time I moved my finger from right edge to left on my touchpad) was disabling Edge Motion under Mouse Settings.

  • Anonymous Says:

    The Windows 7 theme link is broken.

  • Todd Says:

    IMHO: I understand MS has to create a product to deal with the new touch screen tablets, that's ok. BUT, why didn't they create a new OS for that instead of adding more code to an OS that, once you scratch the service still looks and feels and works like windows NT 4.

  • Deb W Says:

    First, I have to admit, I don't hold any degrees...not even one pertaining to my sanity after Windows 8. I am an office manager for a small company. I am not a guru but any means, but I can hold my own on a computer.
    I bought a new laptop to speed up my own productivity, only to dread opening the lid and dealing with Windows 8. I really didn't need another password to remember, this time to access my own property. I have nothing good to say about Windows 8, except that it is colorful. I agree with others who said "If" my computer had a touch screen, it wouldn't be as bad as without, I don't think it should be installed on a computer that doesn't have one. I find myself constantly moving between unwanted screens, and having no idea how I got there. I didn't want to change, I just wanted newer, faster, better....
    I didn't need a computer screen that looks like my phone, I can still tell the difference. Actually, I can still boast that I have even kept a land line.
    Soon I suppose, there will be a class action lawsuit against Microsoft--- for all those forced to change against their will. Users (aka suckers) will get $10 per computer, and some law firm will get 4.8 billion.
    Technology is one thing, changing just for the sake of change is another. There is still a good point to the adage, "if it's not broken, don't fix it". I am in Windows 8 purgatory most of the time.
    Actually, I seldom open my new laptop, I hope Microsoft is happy. It's the biggest white elephant I have ever purchased. What will they do to us next? One can only dream!

  • Jerry Says:

    Like your article, hate Windows 8. When getting new laptop, i replace new, uninitialized drive with another and install operating system that i will need. Problem with new laptops pre-loaded with Windows 8 is that there are no drivers for OS versions other than the one pre-loaded. Manufacturers like Toshiba don't release drivers for operating systems other than Windows 8. USB 3.0 requires drivers that Windows 7 does not have. Recently purchased Toshiba L70 laptop, 3 USB ports (two of them USB 3.0). Drivers will not work with Windows 7.

  • many Says:

    Get a life people what would happen if everyone stuck to horse and carriage and didn't drive cars, big deal if it hasent got a start menu. Looks perfectly fine to me

  • seaton Says:

    Yahoo support @ 18009350357

  • Good Grief! Says:

    You forgot to mention how to Tweak the settings so that if the Windows Theme changes, the Mouse cursor size would NOT be affected!

    MS Stupidly removed that "check the box" function from Win 8 from Win 7 under Themes!

    There was a work around through the settings but MS also ELIMINATED that procedure in Win 8 as well!

    Any wonder why people HATE MS and Win 8?!

  • DENNIS Says:

    just bought my first computer with
    win8. the system is designed for a generation who were not properly
    taught to read and use their computers only for social media.for
    those who use their computers for
    actual work win8 is a nightmare.3-4x
    longer to do anything. looking
    into linux if this is the way ms is going. they have to stop listening to these huffington post tech bloggers who keep saying desktops are gone. desks can do more than laps and laps can do more than notes. do they forsee a future of an office of 50 people all doing work on their ipads-i don't think so/

  • KS Says:

    Classic Shell. It's free, stable, and ... free...
    I actually like windows 8.1 (without metro of course), it has a huge driver base, Compatibility Mode really works, I still use some XP programs on 8.1 just fine.

  • JPG Says:

    MS shouyld have learned the lesson of "New Coke". It was allegedly new and improved, but no one wanted it.

  • Mayor Mashal Says:

    Utill we all rock the believe that "there is a distinct difference between rebranding and innovation" then mass rejection of a particular product is inevitable. Tho the fact that consumers interest is paramount in the innovative process of any idea, still yet the chase of the future trend is also considered alongside. The execution of window 8 by Microsoft was an huge step towards balancing both consumers interest and time based/ future trends. Time based/future trend was exceptionally achieved but consumers interest achievement was minimal, but can be raised to the the maximum if only the general consumers will stop comparing window 7 too window 8, and take window 8 as a new innovation.

  • Oh boy Says:

    What a bunch of crying bitches! You applaud pale and then when anyone else follows because they know you will piss and moan that it don't like like apples interface, you throw a fit. Relax and customize it like you do an android os or leave it plain like an apple os. Get over it

  • Okienoah Says:

    Using Windows 8 is similar to learning French for a life long English speaking fellow. Especially when someone says that, French is a better language than English, because our neighbor speaks French, so we should learn French to be smarter! By the way, for a new user, all operating systems are same, i.e., clumsy! Use to be a user of CPM and Beta tester for DOS and all varieties of Windows, except Windows 8. Had enough.

  • Ian Says:

    My elderly mother has been happily using Windows 7 for years. When her PC died I got her a Windows 8 laptop. She phoned me with tears of frustration because she cannot do anything on her laptop. Now she wants me to put Windows 7 on it.

    Windows 8 = Vista 2.0 An absolute car crash of an operating system.

  • SadoMessiah Says:

    It's really funny how ignorant the people are here-.- Windows 7 is so great, blablabla... What are you? Little children who cannot accept chances? Windows 7 is very unstable and many big Games have Problems running with windows 7. They all "Dont react anymore". I've never had this Problems in Windows 8. Windows 8 runs smoother and is faster. I've testet it. 2 Identical PCs with SSDs. Win7: 10 to 15 seconds, Win8: 3 to 5 seconds. So what is faster now. I use Win8 at home an i dont have to go to the start menu ever, because, if you wouldn't be so ignorant you would know that when you left klick in the left corner you can access all important features of Windows without the start menu... So go learn something about this great OS or go die in a fire...

  • Dan Says:

    I'd love to find a way to make Windows 7 work like Windows 8. I know I can install a them, but I'd really love to remove the Start Menu and add the shortcuts that make it easier to get to things in Windows 8.

  • Adam Says:

    The Microsoft rollout of Windows 8 was not well executed. The people have spoken and they are not looking for a Windows operating system which mimics their smart-phone, despite what Steve Ballmer may have envisioned: "I think with the addition of Windows 8, with these incredible new form factors that are tablets and PCs, I think we're going to see a lot of growth and vitality and explosion in the PC market," said Ballmer last October at the company's BUILD developers conference. "I guarantee you, this will be the best opportunity software developers will see as hundreds of millions of new machines go out with the potential of billions and billions of new applications being sold."

    There was an attempted shift of the GUI to something more modern... but I speculate as to whether it was MS trying not to be left in the dust or greed via their version of an "app store."

    Many have commented on the Windows 7 vs. Windows 8 "experience", and indeed, this article is truly about that. Yet I think the "elephant in the room" is Microsoft's desire to be like the cool kids (they never were, and never will be - no matter how many Rolling Stones songs you purchase) and their greed which blinds them to the point where they give up the core competency.

    Don't worry - Ballmer paid dearly with respect to his image and legacy, just as he did with Vista.

    For further reading - dare to check out: The Microsoft Case: Antitrust, High Technology, and Consumer Welfare

    As for user interfaces... check out the film Minority Report for 5 minutes ... everything we currently have is craptastic. We have been using the same tired Xerox idea which apexed in 1973 and has been reborn ad infinitum ever since.

    Bill Gates... Steve Jobs (for the life of me I cannot understand the zeitgeist behind his idolatry)... Why not give credit to Alan Kay and perhaps Jean Piaget instead?

    Perhaps then we can move forward by understanding the real motivators of our current GUI paradigm long enough to abandon them. We're not children anymore.

  • Divine Says:

    I can't stand when a website combined the entire article with the comments in one page. It takes more precision to scroll the page.

    Advice, make the comments appear below the article only AFTER clicking them.

  • John Doe Says:

    I hate Windows 8, I would rather use Windows 2000, even though it can barely run any new programs. I will always use XP, it has the best interface and runs the fastest, because of its low system needs. I don't care about end of support, I never download updates anyways, the notifications annoy me. I guess those notifications will just be one less thing to deal with.

  • Fik of Borg Says:

    MAYBE Windows 8 is better than 7, but most of us will never know because 8 has that big ugly, unintuitive and unwieldy interface in the way (while Microsoft insists it is beautyful, intuitive and customizable).

    I have been preaching for a long time that Microsoft should separate Windows the OS (undeniably the most successful consumer OS ever) from its UI, Linux style. One could then conceive GUI-less Windows servers and user selectable interfaces (think Gnome, KDE et al).

  • Sharon M Says:

    I bought my laptop last year and didn't expect a hot mess like Win 8. It wasn't until I started reading reviews on Win 8 I felt vindicated.

    I'm not an expert, but I'm not a total no0b, but Win 8 made me feel like one

    I finally shelled out $100.00 for the Win 7 Home Premium OEM software (Newegg).

    This whole mess reminds me of when my company switched from a simple, user friendly data entry system called Labman, to a horrendously hot mess called UVIS (Universal Veterinarian Information System)
    It took months of training, an ungodly amount of driving back and forth between offices ( 3 hours away one way), headaches, mistakes et al, but by the time they realized it wasn't going to work, they didn't want to lose face.

  • daveg Says:

    You are my hero. THANK YOU SO MUCH for showing me how to fix my previously unusable windows 8 machine.

  • Asterix Says:

    There is one sure way to wake up MS to reality:


    If enough holders would do this the top brass would soil their pants and would be replaced !

  • ACampanelli Says:

    Since I do not know how to "reach" to the truly idiotic geeks at Microsoft who are causing Microsoft to put out products as abysmal as Windows 8, I hope to use symbols to communicate with them.

    The Microsoft Refrigerator

    New from Microsoft is the Microsoft refrigerator. When it arrives, you'll notice that the door to the refrigerator has no handle. Nor does it have any signs or notes telling you from which direction the door opens, or how to open it.
    This feature is brought to you by the genius who conceived of "charms" hidden in Windows 8, to ensure that you will curse at least once while trying to figure out how to shut down your laptop or desktop for the first time.
    To cause the refrigerator to first get cold, and before you can store anything inside of it, you must first call Microsoft, register the refrigerator with them, and open a video-account with them, so Microsoft can see everything you place inside your refrigerator at any time.
    This feature is brought to you by the dweeb who thought it was a good idea to require you to register with Microsoft, just to be able to use a computer which has the windows 8 operating system.
    Once your video-registry for your refrigerator is complete, you can open the door, and once you do, an arm will automatically extend out to you with a ham sandwich, and the door will then close.
    It doesn't matter that you wanted to eat something other than a ham sandwich, because Microsoft has decided that since you’ve eaten a ham sandwich in the past, that's what you will eat now.
    This feature is brought to you by the imbecile who created the auto-formating features in Microsoft Word which make it virtually impossible for users to simply set-up documents they way they want to, but instead are forced to fight with Word, every time they have the audacity to indent something and thereafter proceed to try to start a new paragraph.
    I could go on, but I hope perhaps, the next time one of the idiots at Microsoft come up with another one of these truly moronic ideas, they may ask themselves, would I want this feature on my refrigerator?

    Andrew J. Campanelli

  • robertzevs Says:

    nice post. I really need this tutorial.I thought I can adapt on windows 8.I'm having problem on locating the shortcut icon.

  • L B Says:

    I grew to like Vista after a few months of figuring out and correcting the bugs (all but the one that doesn't allow changes to property access even as the admin, that is). That laptop died in Nov and I replaced it with a new one with Win8. Now here we are at March. I've applied many of the fixes discussed here and elsewhere, added one of the start shells, and rid the damn thing of as many non-functioning or redundant options as possible. But I swear I still can't handle W8, tho like many of you I've been computing since the DOS era.

    I have CRIED about the frigging W8 start menu and stupid charms, xbox (altho I finally got rid of that piece of crap), and other metro shit taking over my desktop and obliterating my work if I get too close to the left or right side of the screen. I have partial paralysis, and the necessity of repeatedly trying to get the cursor to the top left to return me to the desktop, and to then go there again to close whatever had taken over, is just too much for me. I can't get work done. I can no longer participate in the one online game I've played for years because it's a timed-game. Having my screen blocked has ruined any fun I got from playing.

    I thought I had the swipe screen nonsense killed but guess what? At least 2 Win 8.1 updates have returned that crap. I have never been so unhappy with a product, and have never felt that I was a disabled person until now. I hate it.

  • Lydia Says:

    Windows XP stops sending updates in April. Do you know how long Windows 7 will continue to have updates? I don't want a Windows 8.

  • Fall Says:

    i have buy a new laptop acer, it's windows 8 and it sucks. I fcking hate it con'z it gives me headache to find files. Is it ok for me to do this for my laptop? co'z i want win 7 and win8 at the same time co'z if i change my os to win 7 i will just pay if i want to go back to win 8. thanks please help me.

  • Carol Says:

    I hate Window's 8. It's so frustrating to use. I am no techy but I've used a computer for several years (20) so I'm no dummy either. I would not recommend it to anyone. My next purchace will be a Mac, I used that one at work so I'm familar with them. To bad MS you should've just upgraded 7 with a few whistles instead of changing the whole program.

  • systemBuilder Says:

    We bought a gaming computer (Lenovo Y580) a year ago and it's been unusable for anything else ... until tonight, when I put it into Windows 7 mode.

    All of our usable computers are 2005 Windows XP thinkpads (since Microsoft sent the cost of Windows 7 skyrocketing to shove Windows 8 down everyone's ... errr up everyone's .... oh never mind ...)

    Anyway, I think my family is going to really enjoy the near-win-7 experience that i've been using at work - thank you !!!

  • Chuck1037 Says:

    sad to say, the critics got it right - Win8 may be great for techies and gmae players but has made my life miserable - when you upgrade you expect things to be easier not more complicated. How do I find a comprehensive tutorial so that I can at least survive with my new "toy"?

  • JP Says:

    Jon Rome - If it takes you hours to figure out a simple UI, then you have no need to be using a PC in the first

  • Dave Brickner Says:

    One of the big problems with Windows 8 is corporate productivity. If a company buys a new computer with Windows 8 on it and tries to integrate it with a Co-ordinate Measuring Machine or other application they soon find that it may cost $50,000 to upgrade the corporate machinery software. Learned THAT lesson at Chrysler!!!!

  • Edward Sheldrick Says:

    I've really persevered with Win 8 for 2 months and still can't get used to it. It's another real disaster - a repeat of ME & Vista, which confirms that MS still don't listen to their customers' needs or wants.
    I'm certain there are millions who feel the same and hope they tell many more millions more potential customers NOT TO BUY OR UPGRADE TO WIN 8
    This is intended to be a serious and helpful warning in order to save them heartache, time & money.

  • Spencer Says:

    I certainly appreciate the time & effort put forth to write this article. Nicely done & thank you.
    BUT... why not just stick with Win 7 Ultimate?? Less headaches... less third party apps eating away at the available memory... et. al.

  • James Says:

    This sh@t is stupid. All it did was f@ck up my laptop. Don't do it.

  • Mick Says:

    Just install Classic Shell . . .

  • roywesthouston Says:

    ;Microsoft windows 8 is a pathetic software. I would break the idiots nose who designed this garbage. They are idiots on steroids. Freaking idiots. I should never have to Google how to turn on my computer. Who the hell was your focus group you GD idiots. Then I do not have an option to change it to Win 7. Screw you idiots.

  • Anton Says:

    Are you kidding me? Widows 7 is already built into windows 8. To launch it, all you do is click on, or tap, the small orange icon at the left bottom of the Windows 8 screen, and viola! You're now working in Windows 7. Nothing to buy and download, nothing to remove, nothing to configure.

    Did the author of this article fail to read the instructions on Windows 8? Did all the posters here also fail to read them? For an ENTIRE YEAR???

  • charles best Says:

    bought a new laptop with windows 8
    don't like it at all find that every thing takes longer than my old windows 7, needed help with a problem told to wait 24hours.went back to my old laptop and was resolved in second. going to change back to windows 7, that will solve my problem, from

  • arthur herd Says:

    I am sure schoolkids can do a better job of producing a pc more than windows its a shame that lots of people will m,ove to mac rather than windows but its windows stupid fault byeeeeeeeeee windows

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