If you’ve been following Windows 7 review week, then you’ll have a pretty good idea of the various features included in Windows 7, but like Vista there isn’t just one version of Windows 7, there are 6.
You’ll probably only come across 3 though, which are Home Premium, Professional and Ultimate edition. If you buy a new PC from a manufacturer, you won’t have to decide which version to buy as it will come pre-installed on the PC. Most home computers will ship with the Home Premium version, although more expensive builds may ship with Ultimate.
So what’s the difference? The obvious difference is the price, with pricing at £99.95, £147.95 and £157.29 respectively for Home Premium, Professional and Ultimate version of Windows 7. (Pricing taken from PC World – who somewhat surprisingly have the cheapest prices for each of the Windows 7 full versions I could find!)
As Microsoft is so fond of showing information in charts and tables, there’s an easy to understand comparison chart of the different features in each version on the Microsoft website or you can compare the Windows 7 versions on the chart below.
The most notable feature missing from the Home Premium version of Windows 7 is XP mode, allowing backwards compatibility by emulating Windows XP to run older applications. This feature is available in both the Professional and Ultimate versions of 7. Quite a few people have been complaining about the lack of XP mode in Home Premium, but the feature is aimed at business users more than home users. Also, if you’re going to be using your computer on your work’s network, then you may need the Professional or Ultimate version of Windows 7, because you can’t connect to a domain in Home Premium.
In addition to this, although all versions of Windows 7 come pre-installed with a backup feature, which allows you to back up your data to a local drive or DVD, if you want to back up your data to a network, you can’t do this with Home Premium.
Finally, if you want to use BitLocker drive encryption, you’ll need Windows 7 Ultimate. If you haven’t heard of it, BitLocker was introduced in Windows Vista to encrypt the data on local drives and has been updated in Windows 7 so it can now encrypt the data on removable drives too. When you encrypt a drive, you can choose to either unlock it with a password or a smart card.
Most people who use Windows 7 will opt for the Home Premium version, as the price difference is quite significant between Home Premium and the Professional and Ultimate versions, and the features that aren’t included in Home Premium probably won’t be needed by the average home user, although I would like to have some form of BitLocker on all the versions of Windows 7, so the average user can keep their data safe against hackers and loss of their computer. Another feature I’d quite like to see included in Home Premium is the ability to back up to a network drive, although this feature is aimed more at business users backing up to a server rather than home users.
What version of Windows 7 will you be buying, if you’re planning on using Windows 7 at all? Let us know in the comments section and check back for our Windows 7 how-to guides coming soon!
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