From Starter to Ultimate: What's really in each Windows 7 Edition?

Posted by Ed Bott @ 11:07 pm

The set of core features that goes into Windows 7 cuts across every edition, even the lowly Starter. Here’s what you’ll find in any edition that has the Windows 7 logo on it.

Shell/kernel: All of the tweaks that have given Windows 7 a generally positive reputation for snappy, responsive performance are in each edition, as the kernel is shared. If you access power management features, you’ll find they’re consistent in every edition. The Windows Search components are also shared with all editions.

User interface: Here’s one place where you will find some bright lines between editions. A handful of shell enhancements are found in all editions: Aero Snap (move a window to the edge of the screen to resize it automatically), jump lists, and Desktop Gadgets are in every edition. The Aero interface—with its live taskbar previews, glass effects, and Flip3D—are missing from Starter edition. Home Basic uses the weird Windows Standard interface, which contains some Aero features (taskbar previews) but lacks the glass effects. Touch support is available only in the premium editions.

Included applications: Internet Explorer 8 is, of course, in every Windows 7 edition. (Note to the European Union: it can also be removed from every edition.) You’ll find Ribbonized versions of Paint and WordPad, which are greatly improved over their predecessors, along with a slick new Calculator, in every edition. Surprisingly, the Windows Fax and Scan utility, previously available only in business editions, is now a consistent part of Windows 7, as is the high-end PowerShell scripting engine for administrators.

Security and reliability: Every feature in this category is available in all editions: Action Center, Resource Monitor, Windows Update, Windows Defender, Windows Firewall, and Parental Controls. The significantly less annoying update to User Account Control works the same in Starter as it does in Ultimate. Two huge changes in this category show that Microsoft really was listening to its critics: The Backup program provides full functionality in every edition, allowing you to create a system image and do file backups to an external hard drive or rewritable media (in Vista, system image backups were possible only in Business edition). In addition, the Previous Versions feature now works in all editions. This feature allows you to recover earlier versions of a file from automatic system restore points (Apple has a similar feature, slicker but less powerful, in Time Machine). Oh, and you can make a System Repair Disc any time with any edition.

Digital media: Windows Media Player 12 is included with all editions, including support for unprotected MPEG-4 (AAC) music files and QuickTime video (MOV) formats. Although Windows Media Player is capable of playing DVDs in every version, the feature depends on a DVD decoder, Because that component requires a royalty payment from Microsoft, it’s only in the Windows 7 premium editions.

Networking: There are no apparent differences between editions in terms of the number of permitted SMB network connections; in practical terms, up to 10 PCs or devices can connect simultaneously to a Windows 7 client machine. The biggest difference between editions is the Remote Desktop feature, where all versions include the Remote Desktop client but only Professional and Ultimate/Enterprise editions can act as a Remote Desktop host. There are also minor differences in how different editions enable the new HomeGroup feature and major differences in domain connectivity.

Next: Has Starter edition gotten a bad rap? –>

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