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Windows 7 Setup Part 2: Eanie-Meany-Miney-Moe – Choosing the Right Version of Windows 7

This is part 2 is a multipart series on setting up Windows 7 on YOUR computer.   You can see parts here at Just Another Mobile Monday and at iTechGear.org. When Microsoft released Windows XP, there were 2 versions – Windows XP Home and Windows XP Professional. Yes, it satisfied the KISS principle...it couldn’t get much simpler.  However, the Pro version was installed on more home PC’s than the Home version was (or at least, it seemed that way).  There were key security and networking features in the Pro version that were missing from the Home version. When Microsoft released Vista, they decided to up the ante a little and released 4 versions. I honestly remember hearing that they released (or planned to release) 7 versions; but Microsoft’s website documents 4 as of this writing. The four versions (compared to XP’s two) did nothing more than confuse the day lights out of everyone, especially when the features varied so greatly from version to version.
Vista Versions
Too many Vista versions...

With Windows 7, Microsoft went back to basics, or took a more Windows XP approach.  While they technically released four versions of Windows, only two of them are really worth mentioning.  Here’s why…

 

Windows 7 Starter Edition
This version of Windows 7 is NOT available for purchase at retail. The ONLY way to get this version of Windows 7 is to purchase it on a new computer; and then that computer MUST be a netbook, like an Asus Eee PC, MSI Wind, Dell Mini, etc. While I (and just about anyone else) can get just about ANY version of Windows 7 to run on a netbook (provided that netbook satisfies the minimum hardware requirements for Windows 7). However, I’ve been able to install any and every version of Windows 7 on a netbook.  As long as the computer meets the system requirements, you’re good to go.

Windows 7 Home Premium
This is the version that 95% of the consumer world will use. Windows Home Premium gives the user the improved Windows 7 interface, provides enhanced desktop search, includes IE8 and provides secure home networking and file sharing within that home network.  From a technical perspective, what does this mean?  Very simply, you’re going to get the new OS with all the eye candy and enhancements, very quickly find programs, options and documents regardless of where Microsoft or you put them, surf the internet (allowing you to share pictures, send and receive messages, and visit your favorite websites), and share documents between all computers in your home.

Home Premium
Windows 7 Home Premium is $199.99

Windows 7 Professional
Windows 7 Professional does everything that Windows Home Premium does but also provides the following capabilities – The ability to run Windows XP Mode (an advanced compatibility mode only needed in the most EXTREME incompatibility cases), the ability to join a business network (like the one at work), and the ability to backup your data to a network drive. These extra three features aren’t worth an extra $100 unless you need to connect to a business network. Period; so save your money.  Most everyone won’t need to do this. Windows 7 is NOT like Windows XP or Windows Vista where there are vast differences between one version and the next.

Business
Windows 7 Professional is $299.99

Windows 7 Ultimate
There was a compelling reason to buy Windows Vista Ultimate – Windows Ultimate Extras (a series of cool, free, MS created add-on applications only available with the Vista Ultimate version – Ultimate Extras have now been discontinued and are no longer available), included DVD decoders (so you could watch a DVD on your PC without having to buy any other program), as well as some other not often used differences.  Windows 7 Ultimate offers two (2), just two additional features over Windows 7 Professional – BitLocker (a data security add-on originally included as a Windows Vista Ultimate Extra, but now only available in Win7 Ultimate) and the ability to have Windows 7 display in one of 35 different native languages (Simplified Chinese, Spanish, German, etc.).  Unless you MUST run Windows 7 in a different language than the one native to your country, there is absolutely no reason to spend the extra $120, so again…save your money.

Ultimate
Windows 7 Ultimate is $319.99

Conclusion
Over the years, Microsoft hasn’t made it easy to choose the right version of Windows for your home computing needs.  XP’s two choices were simple enough, but more people wanted the connectivity and networking features of Windows XP Pro than the features of the apparently crippled XP Home.  Choosing the right version of Windows Vista was just plain confusing. With Windows 7, Microsoft has made it much easier – Save your money. Unless you have specific computing needs as outlined above, you need Windows 7 Home Premium.

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