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

Posted by Ed Bott @ 11:07 pm

Windows 7 Home Premium

If you walk into your local Best Buy (or PC World, for my readers in the U.K.) or visit an online vendor like Dell or HP, chances are you’ll find Windows 7 Home Premium as the default choice on virtually every new desktop and notebook PC. Now that Home Basic is no longer an option and Starter edition is restricted to tiny portable PCs, this is the new entry-level Windows . It will undoubtedly be installed on 70% or more of all PCs sold via retail outlets.

So, what’s in it?

Shell/kernel: Home Premium allows you to switch to a second user account without logging off from the first one (a feature called Fast User Switching). That feature is unavailable in Starter edition. It also allows you to connect to multiple monitors and includes Windows Mobility Center, a central location for managing power, display, network, and other settings on a notebook PC.

User interface: You get the full Aero interface, including themes, glass borders, taskbar previews, Aero Peek, Flip 3D, Aero Shake, and desktop slide shows. Personalization features include a Control Panel for changing desktop backgrounds, window colors, and sound schemes; this same interface allows you to save these settings as a theme (for reuse on the same PC) or a theme pack (which can be shared with other computers).

Hardware support: Windows 7 Home Premium can address up to 16 GB of RAM (that requires a 64-bit edition, naturally). By comparison, a 64-bit edition of Windows 7 Home Basic is limited to 8 GB of RAM, and the 32-bit Starter edition is limited to 3.5 GB or less, depending on how much RAM is reserved by hardware. If you’re planning to purchase a PC with a multitouch screen, this is the minimum Widows 7 edition you[‘ll need; it has full support for multitouch and Tablet PC features.

Included applications: It’s unlikely that anyone is going to choose this edition because of its extra applets. But if you must know, the utilities that you get here that aren’t in lesser editions include the Snipping Tool (a nifty little screen-grab utility that debuted in Vista), Sticky Notes, and some premium games (Chess Titans, Hearts, Internet Backgammon, Internet Checkers, Internet Spades, and Mahjong Titans.

Digital media: This category is where the premium features really kick in. If you’re a fan of Windows 7 Media Center, you’ll find it here. This is also the first edition in the Windows 7 family that allows you to stream media from Windows Media Player to other PCs or devices over a local network or over the Internet. Lesser editions can play streamed media but can’t originate a stream. Windows DVD Maker is included in this edition, which also contains an MPEG-2 decoder for DVD playback.

Networking: If you use the new, Windows 7-only HomeGroup feature, you’ll need at least one PC on your network running Home Premium or better. That’s because lesser edition (Starter and Home Basic) can join an existing homegroup but can’t create or manage one; for that task, you need Home Premium or better. If you want to join a Windows domain, you’ll need to go up at least one more edition, though, as Home Premium doesn’t do enterprise networks. Interestingly, this edition does include some well-hidden advanced networking features, including a full copy of Internet Information Services and Internet Connection Sharing.

Next: Advanced networking and more in Professional edition –>

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