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What to Consider when Upgrading to Windows 7

I’m thinking of upgrading to Windows 7, but there are so many versions. Which should I buy for home? Which should I buy for the office?

In the United States, there are five different versions of Windows 7 which may be readily found on computers:

  • Windows 7 Starter
  • Windows 7 Home Premium
  • Windows 7 Professional
  • Windows 7 Enterprise
  • Windows 7 Ultimate

With so many options to choose from, how can you understand which version is best for your needs? Let’s look at the versions more in-depth.

Windows 7 Starter

Windows 7 Starter is a version of Windows 7 that contains very few features. It does not have the Windows Aero theme and it’s also not available to be installed in a 64-bit version. This version is generally available pre-installed on computers, most often on netbooks, by computer manufacturers.

Windows 7 Home Premium

Windows 7 Home Premium is available for purchase at retail locations. It is made primarily for home usage as its name implies. This version contains Windows Media Center, Windows Aero and additional controls for touch-screens. Also, there are controls to watch, pause, rewind, and record television on your computer, pending you have the appropriate hardware. While there are features available for it to connect to other workstations on your home network by using Microsoft’s HomeGroup, this version of Windows will not join a Microsoft Server domain. Thus, it is best if this is left on a home network.

Windows 7 Professional

Like Windows 7 Home Premium, Windows 7 Professional may be purchased at a retail store. This version of Windows 7 contains all the same features of Windows 7 Home Premium, with a few additions more. First, it has the ability to join a Windows Server domain, which is key to connecting to most business networks. Next, it has the ability for you to connect remotely to the system using Remote Desktop. Finally, Windows XP Mode is included with this version. This allows you to run applications in a virtual environment that only operate in Windows XP without the need of having a second, older computer.

Windows 7 Enterprise

Windows 7 Enterprise is not available for purchase at a retail location as it is primarily geared toward the enterprise market. Windows 7 Enterprise contains all the features and functionality of Windows 7 Professional, except that it also has support for BitLocker Drive Encryption, Multilingual User Interface packages, and UNIX application support. Most of these additional features are geared toward the enterprise environment, thus you don’t lose too much functionality if you stick with Windows 7 Professional.

Windows 7 Ultimate

With the exception of some changes with licensing and activation, Windows 7 Ultimate contains all of the same features of Windows 7 Enterprise. Additionally, this version of Windows may be purchased at a retail store or if you have Windows 7 Home Premium or Windows 7 Professional, you may upgrade to Windows 7 Ultimate for a fee by using the Windows Anytime Upgrade which can be found in the Control Panel of those versions. Like Windows 7 Professional and Enterprise, this version of Windows 7 may be joined to a Microsoft Server domain and thus is suitable for business networks or home networks.


If you’re purchasing a new computer for your home use, generally the Windows 7 Home Premium edition will be adequate for your needs, especially if you have a single computer environment. But, if you’re purchasing a laptop or desktop system which will be used on a business network, purchase Windows 7 Professional minimally or Windows 7 Ultimate if you want a few more bells and whistles.

For more information on the three retail versions of Windows 7, please visit http://www.microsoft.com/windows/windows-7/compare/default.aspx.

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