Microsoft Windows 7 Editions – Introduction

Microsoft has been offering multiple versions of their operating system for some time now and that hasn’t changed with the release of Microsoft Windows 7.

There are four main Windows 7 Editions on offer of which only three are available for upgrade and new installs.

The fourth edition is the ‘Starter Edition’ which is only available pre-installed and is a special Windows 7 version designed for the type of low power processors typically found in netbooks.

So, we are basically left with three versions to choose from, ‘Home Premium’, ‘Professional’ and ‘Ultimate’ (ignoring the ‘Enterprise’ edition which is basically the same as the Ultimate version but available for multiple installation under corporate licenses only).

Most new ‘off the shelf’ Laptops and PCs come with Microsoft Windows 7 Home Premium loaded as standard but some manufacturers will offer the option to upgrade to the Professional or Ultimate versions.

For those of us interested in upgrading or building our own PCs there are upgrade only or full versions available Microsoft Windows 7 Home Premium, Professional and Ultimate.

A full version will be required for a PC that does not have a licensed copy of Windows XP or Windows Vista pre-installed.

Or, if you are building a new PC, then to be able to use the Windows 7 upgrade version you will also need a copy of Windows XP or Windows Vista to install on your new PC first prior to installing your upgrade version of Microsoft Windows 7.

By the way, if your copy of XP or Vista does not pass the upgrade check (i.e. is it a genuine copy?) then you won’t be able to install an upgrade version of Microsoft Windows 7 – you’ll go to all the trouble of loading it in only to be told ‘no go’!

Now, please note here, if you choose the upgrade version you can still do a ‘clean install’ as detailed on our How to Reinstall Windows and How to Install Windows 7 pages.

Note though that you will need to install or have already installed Windows XP or Windows Vista so that Microsoft Windows 7 can verify that you have a genuine copy – then you can opt for a ‘clean installation’. 

Microsoft Windows 7 Editions – Family Pack

A new offering from Microsoft for their latest operating system is the ‘Family Pack’.

Microsoft have realized that many families have more than one PC in their household and upgrading all of these PCs and/or Laptops to the latest Windows 7 versions will prove more than a little prohibitive to most cost conscious families.

So, they’ve come out with the Microsoft Windows 7 Family Pack, a cost cutting alternative for upgrading your PCs and Laptops.

The Windows 7 family Pack will provide licenses to upgrade 3 machines but please note that these are upgrades only and not full versions so you will need Windows XP or Windows Vista already installed on your PC or Laptop prior to installing Windows 7.

Also note that this is the Windows 7 ‘Home Premium’ version that is on offer here but you can always upgrade later on should you wish by using ‘Microsoft Anytime Upgrade’

Let’s spend a little time now looking at what’s on offer within the different Microsoft Windows 7 versions. 

Microsoft Windows 7 Editions – Starter Edition

As we already discussed, this version is only available pre-installed on low power netbooks etc. with typically 1GHz processors and only 1 to 2 GB of RAM installed.

In order to keep up performance with these low powered devices, Microsoft have cut down on a number of functions such as Aero Glass, Aero Peak and Aero Shake, See Through Windows, Taskbar Previews, Media Center and Desktop Backgrounds.

There is also no support for multiple displays although you will still be able to view your desktop on an external monitor though you won’t be able to see your display on both at the same time.

Also missing is support for 64 bit processors but then we are not aiming here for high performance, just compact low power netbooks etc. 

Microsoft Windows 7 Editions – Home Premium

This is the one most people will opt for and the standard offering on all new PCs.

It does contain most of the functionality that the average user will be very happy with along with all of the pretty Aero functions; Media Center, Gadgets, Games and 64 bit processor support.

The new version of Windows Media Center will be welcomed by all as a high quality entertainment offering that can even be controlled remotely with a Microsoft Media Center Remote controller allowing your home PC to become the centre of your home entertainment world.

Windows 7 Home Premium comes with Media Player 12 which is a vastly improved version of Windows Media Player for use with all of your audio and video files with facilities to stream your media around your home.

The Windows Aero interface is also available with this version of Windows 7 giving the user a stunning visual experience and if you have a touch screen monitor then Windows 7 Home Premium provides full support via ‘Multi-Touch’.

Windows 7 Home Premium comes with a version of ‘Backup and Restore’ which allows you to make backups of your data to a local hard disk drive or via recordable DVD backups.

Not found in this version of Windows 7 though is Remote desktop, BitLocker Disk encrypting or Windows XP mode which allows users to run older software in a special environment that allows these older programs that are not compatible with Windows 7 to still run on your machine. 

Microsoft Windows 7 Editions – Windows 7 Professional

Aimed at business and power users this version of Windows 7 has all that Windows 7 Home Premium has to offer but with a far more extensive ‘Backup and Restore Center’ where you can do all manner of things such as backup scheduling together with an ‘Encryption File System’ with added layers of security for protection of sensitive data plus the ability to back up your data over your network.

Windows 7 Professional also incorporates Windows XP Mode which will allow the operation of a ‘Virtual Machine’ whereby you can ‘Run’ Windows XP in a Virtual environment just as if Windows XP was actually installed on your PC thereby allowing organizations to run older software programs that will not run properly under Windows 7.

Presentation mode allows users to switch into a mode of operation where the screensaver is locked out and the desktop wallpaper and volume settings are set to a preset mode/level for an easy and quick way to set up for a meeting.

Windows Server Domain allows easy connection to other PCs running different versions of Windows over a wired or wireless network.

Windows 7 Professional would be a good choice if you are a business user who wants to work with a laptop on the move in different locations, set up remote desktop connections or an IT professional who needs to keep control of a company network.

There are plenty of goodies to be had with this version of Windows but for not a lot more money you can have the ultimate – Windows 7 Ultimate Edition! 

Microsoft Windows 7 Editions – Windows 7 Ultimate

Ultimate gives you exactly what it says – everything that is available on all of the other versions of Windows 7 plus BitLocker, AppLocker, Virtual Hard Disk (VHD) booting and DirectAccess networking.

BitLocker allows full data encryption so that your data is completely safe if somebody should get their hands on it.AppLocker allows you to specify who can use certain applications over a network.

BitLocker To Go will allow you to encrypt portable data on USB sticks etc. to prevent accidental loss putting sensitive data into somebody else’s hands!

DirectAccess allows seamless communication between computers over a network.

There is also Language support for 35 different languages and support for the VHD file format.This most definitely is the version to go for if you can afford it! 

Microsoft Windows 7 Editions – 32 bit vs 64 bit Windows

Windows 7 is available in both 32 bit and 64 bit for all versions with the exception of Windows 7 Starter edition which is only available in 32 bit format.

It is worth noting here that if you wish to install more than 4GB of RAM in your PC then in order to be able to make use of all of your RAM you will need the 64 bit version of Windows 7 as the 32 bit offering can only address up to 4GB of RAM.

Why might you not want to purchase the 64 bit version?

Well, some older software programs may not work with the 64 bit versions and also you need to ensure that your PCs processor is 64 bit compatible. 

Microsoft Windows 7 Editions – Windows 7 Enterprise Edition

As mentioned earlier, this version is basically the Windows 7 Ultimate Edition but only available for corporate and business users under a Volume Licensing Contract from Microsoft and not from on or offline stores. 

Microsoft Windows 7 Editions – Anytime Upgrade

Microsoft Windows 7 supports the Windows Anytime Upgrade tool which allows users of a lower edition of Windows 7 to upgrade to a higher version, e.g. Starter to Home Premium, Home Premium to Ultimate etc.