A Look at the Windows 7 Editions

If you have decided to upgrade to Windows 7, you have one other thing to to do, choose an edition. This will depend on a number of factors, whether you are doing a clean install, upgrading from a previous version of Windows, or you have multiple PC’s in your home. Microsoft has made choosing an edition of Windows 7 a little easier in comparison to Windows Vista. Instead of 6 editions, you will now see 3 editions in mainstream markets. Cost is also a factor and users need to evaluate their needs. Do I need all the features of Windows? Am I really using all the features of Windows? This article takes a look at whats included, hopefully you will be guided in the right direction.


I mentioned that Windows 7 is available in 3 editions, true, but there are still 6 editions. No, I wasn’t lying, its just how Microsoft is marketing the editions. If you go into a Best Buy or wherever software/computer products are sold you will see only 3 mainstream editions in pretty product boxes, but Windows 7 is available in the following 6 editions:

Starter, Home Basic, Home Premium, Professional, Enterprise and Ultimate.


sku'sslide1_thumbStarter: Broad app and device compatibility, unlimited application support, Safe, reliable, and supported. Ability to join a Home Group, Improved taskbar and Jump Lists. Windows 7 Starter will be distributed only on new systems that meet a certain requirement: 10.1″ screen display with 1024×600 resolution, 1.66Ghz Intel Atom N280 processor, 1 GB of RAM, and a 250 GB hard disk – otherwise known as Netbooks.

Home Basic: Another OEM only version of Windows 7 will available on new systems in emerging markets. Microsoft describes this edition as a product for cost concious consumers. Users should note, that Home Basic is 32 bit only, (Vista Home Basic had a 64 bit edition). Home Basic includes enhanced visual experience, Advanced networking support (ad-hoc wireless networks and internet connection sharing), Mobility Center.

Home Premium: Now this edition is probably the sweet spot for many consumers who decide to move to Windows 7. You get all of the cool user interface features: Aero Glass & advanced windows navigation, Easy networking & sharing across all your PCs & devices through HomeGroups, Improved media format support, enhancements to Windows Media Center and media streaming, including Play To, Multi-touch and improved handwriting recognition. Windows 7 Home Premium is available in both 32 and 64 bit editions supporting up to 16 GBs of RAM if you have such a configuration (both disks are included in the product box too). If you have multiple PC’s, you can purchase the Windows 7 Home Premium Family Pack Upgrade for 3 PC’s. This entitles you to upgrade 3 computers for just $149.99, great value. Learn more here

Professional: If you consider your self an advanced user, then Professional would be the right choice for you. Windows XP Professional or Windows Vista Business users, if you are running those editions, its most likely you will need this one. Professional gives you the ability to join a managed network with Domain Join, Protect  data with advanced network backup and Encrypting File System, Print to the right printer at home or work with Location Aware Printing. In addition to this, Windows 7 Professional includes Group Policy Editor for controling access and behavior of your computer. Windows 7 Professional supports up to 192 GBs of Random Access Memory and includes support for multiple physical processors and its also available in 32 and 64 bit editions.

Enterprise: This is a unique edition of Windows that you won’t find in stores. It is sold to businesses who need Windows licenses in volume to install on hundreds or thousands of computers. Basically, Windows 7 Enterprise is like Windows 7 Professional on steroids, you will find all the features of that edition along with some additional tools called BitLocker Drive Encryption and BitLocker To Go for encrypting your laptop hard disk or an external storage device such as Thumbdrive, in addition to this, Enterprise features World Wide Language support (Multi-Lingual User Interface or MUI’s) support, with up 35 available languages. Enterprise edition also works best when deployed with Microsoft’s Windows Server 2008 R2 network operating system to provide unique features such as AppLocker support, Direct Access, BrancheCache, features that protect what type of applications employees have access to, speedy access to network resources and faster access to Virtual Private Networks.

Ultimate: Combining all the features of Windows 7 Home Premium and Windows 7 Enterprise, this edition of Windows 7 gives you every single feature available. Microsoft dubs it, ‘the most complete edition of Windows’. Feautures such as BitLocker data protection on internal and external drives, DirectAccess provides seamless connectivity to your corporate network.  (requires Windows Server 2008 R2), Decrease time branch office workers wait to open file across the network with BranchCache. (requires Windows Server 2008 R2), Prevent unauthorized software from running with AppLocker are all available in Windows 7 Ultimate. If you want it all, this is the Windows for you.

Ultimate, Professional and Home Premium, are the editions you will see in stores this October.

How much will Windows 7 cost?

Windows 7 will be available in 6 editions, but primary emphasis is being put towards Home Premium and Professional for mainstream markets.


SKU Full Package Upgrade Package
*Windows 7 Starter OEM only OEM only
*Windows 7 Home Basic OEM only OEM only
Windows 7 Home Premium $199.99 $119.99
Windows 7 Professional $299.99 $199.99
Windows 7 Enterprise Volume License Only Volume License Only
Windows 7 Ultimate $319.99 $219.99
  • Windows 7 Starter Entry-level OEM SKU in all markets for cost conscious consumers.
  • Windows 7 Home Basic Value SKU in emerging markets for cost conscious consumers on value PC’s.
Windows Anytime Upgrade from Pricing
Windows 7 Starter to Windows 7 Home Premium $79.99
Windows 7 Starter to Windows 7 Professional $115
Windows 7 Starter to Windows 7 Ultimate $165
Windows 7 Home Basic to Windows 7 Home Premium $80
Windows 7 Home Basic to Windows 7 Ultimate $165
Windows 7 Home Premium to Windows 7 Professional $89.99
Windows 7 Home Premium to Windows 7 Ultimate $139.99
Windows 7 Professional to Windows 7 Ultimate $140
Windows Family Pack licensing Pricing
Windows 7 Home Premium Family License for 3 PC’s $149.99

Windows 7 Starter to Windows 7 Home PremiumWindows 7 Home Premium to Windows 7 Professional Windows 7 Home Premium to Windows 7 Ultimate

Windows Anytime Upgrade makes it easier to get more features.

Anytime Upgrades allow you to move from one edition of Windows 7 to another without the need to reinstall from scratch or purchase the desired edition at retail upgrade pricing. Its great if you have exhausted the features of the current edition of Windows 7 installed and you need more. Another great thing about Windows Anytime Upgrade under Windows 7 compared to Vista’s, you don’t need a special disk and you don’t need to be online to do the upgrade, just have a key for the edition you want and you are good to go. Microsoft will be offering Windows Anytime Upgrades online in 13 countries: Australia, Belgium, Canada, France, Germany, Italy, Japan, the Netherlands, Spain, Sweden, Switzerland, the UK or the US. While the Windows 7 Home Premium Family Pack will be available in the US and 8 European countries (UK (£149.99), Ireland (£149.99), Germany (€149.99), France (€149.99), Switzerland (€149.99), Austria (€149.99), the Netherlands (€149.99), and Sweden (€149.99) on October 22nd 2009 while supplies last.

Which should you choose?

I have been reading through a number forums, and persons keep asking, which edition is right for me? Other questions that pop up, I have xyz amount of PC’s, how do I get to upgrade all of them. First of all, you need to evaluate your needs. A person who has 6 PC’s in his house hold used by four individuals in his family with 4 PC’s running Windows XP Professional SP3 and one system Vista Home Premium and the other Vista Ultimate would have to invest in a lot of licenses if they wanted to upgrade to corresponding editions of Windows 7. Considering that 4 of the PC’s are being used at home, do most of the PC’s running Windows XP Professional need the unique functionality of Professional (most of which are business oriented)? You probably could reduce the expenditure by investing in two Windows 7 Home Premium Family Pack Upgrade Licenses for 3 PC’s. Home Premium features easier networking and sharing of resources such as Documents, Music, Pictures, Videos and even Printers. You can do things like stream music and videos to other PC’s and you get all of the major user experience features in that edition.

Family Pack of Windows 7 Home Premium

Windows 7 Home Premium Family Pack provides an affordable way to upgrade multiple PC’s to Windows 7.

Another way to reduce the cost of licensing, if you have a student enrolled in college with a valid .edu, you could let them take advantage of Microsoft’s Student discount offer that gives you the option of purchasing either Windows 7 Home Premium or Professional for just US $30. Please note, these are upgrade licenses, meaning, you need to have a qualifying operating system such as Windows 2000 Professional, XP or Vista. Learn more here and here

Microsoft is putting less prominence towards Windows 7 Ultimate with this release too and you can see the reason why when you compare it to the Professional edition. The Windows Team has made each successive edition a subset of the other. So for instance, Professional is a subset of Home Premium including all its features and more. Unlike Vista Business which only included business only features, users will be pleasantly surprised to know functionality like Media Center is now available in Professional. The pricing is also another factor. Windows 7 Professional cost $300 (upgrade $200) for the full version, while Ultimate cost $320 (upgrade $220), this probably should be a time for reevaluating the need to upgrade from Windows Vista Ultimate to Windows 7 Ultimate or choose an edition that is more inline with your needs.

Upgrade paths

This is probably the tough part. Users of Windows XP and prior versions of Windows must understand you cannot do an in place upgrade to Windows 7. Windows Vista users too must also evaluate their upgrade paths, because certain editions cannot do in place upgrade to certain editions of Windows 7. An in place upgrade allows you to upgrade to Windows 7 while preserving your personal files, settings, applications and installed drivers.

Version Windows 7 In place Upgrade Path
Windows XP/2000 Professional Clean Install Only
Windows Vista Home Basic Home Premium, Ultimate
Windows Vista Home Premium Home Premium, Ultimate
Windows Vista Business Professional, Ultimate
Windows Vista Enterprise Enterprise
Windows Vista Ultimate Ultimate

Don’t let this surprise you, if your are running Windows 2000, XP or Vista you are eligible for upgrade pricing to any edition of Windows 7. Customers who are running Windows Vista that can do in place upgrades to respective editions of Windows 7 must ensure they have Service Pack 1 or later installed.


Prior to Windows 7 users had two choices for operating systems on Netbooks, Windows XP or Linux. Microsoft has really improved the performance in areas such as disk and memory foot print, making any edition of Windows 7 suitable for that form factor. Most manufacturers might pre-load their Netbook devices with Windows 7 Starter, but you will have the option of using Windows Anytime Upgrade to move to a more feature rich editions such as Home Premium.


The information provided in this article might come across a bit overwhelming, but that really is the case when it comes to choice. Microsoft develops multiple editions to meet different needs and market trends. Hopefully with a simplified retail line up and more value added features available in Home Premium and Professional, users can make better choices without feeling there are trade offs in the process.


Windows 7 Compare Editions

Windows 7 System Requirements

Windows 7 Upgrade Advisor

Purchase Windows 7 at the Microsoft Store

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