Windows 7 Editions Comparison

With its planned upcoming release of Windows 7, presently slated for release in early 2010, Microsoft has released some information as to the different editions of Windows 7 that may be available for use by consumers for purchase, original equipment manufacturers (OEMs) and corporations for use in their enterprise as part of their open and / or volume licensing agreements through their reseller.

[NOTES FROM THE FIELD] – A couple notes to point out. The first is the state of this information; it is important to remember that Windows 7 is still in beta release and this information as it is being provided is in a state of flux. Some of the different versions and editions of Windows 7 may be pulled or the details changed when the product formally releases to manufacturing (RTM) and then forward from there. This was the case with Windows Vista that started with four versions formally released and then more editions were added.

Additionally, not every version listed is going to be available for consumer purchase or OEM purchase, etc. For example, you cannot presently go out and buy at a retail outlet a copy of Windows Vista Business. Same is true for Windows Vista Starter edition.

Back History – Windows XP

With respect to the Windows XP family of operating systems Microsoft has formally released Home Edition, Professional Edition, Media Center Edition, Tablet PC Edition and Professional x64 Edition as outlined in Microsoft’s Windows XP Homepage.

With respect to system requirements for XP Home and XP Professional, the Microsoft Windows XP System Requirements outline the following:

  • PC with 300 megahertz or higher processor clock speed recommended
  • 233 MHz minimum required (single or dual processor system) Intel Pentium/Celeron family, or AMD K6/Athlon/Duron family, or compatible processor recommended
  • 128 megabytes (MB) of RAM or higher recommended (64 MB minimum supported which may limit performance and some features)
  • 1.5 gigabytes (GB) of available hard disk space
  • Super VGA (800 x 600) or higher-resolution video adapter and monitor
  • CD-ROM or DVD drive
  • Keyboard and Microsoft Mouse or compatible pointing device

[NOTES FROM THE FIELD] – No self-respecting IT professional would ever attempt to run a system with the minimum system requirements or the recommended system requirements other than to simply prove the installation would complete and the system would actually run upon completion.

The x64 version of XP has different minimum system requirements than those listed above but most of the other editions are the same or vary slightly.

Present Tense – Windows Vista

With respect to Windows Vista family of operating systems Microsoft had formally released with four editions Home Basic, Home Premium, Business, and Ultimate edition. Since that time and for various reasons (some legal, some performance, and some for various other reasons) additional editions were released.

As referenced by the Windows Vista Editions Comparison page, you can see a total of six versions available for use partially due to a legal settlement with the European Union and the anti-trust rulings there. This would be in reference to Home Basic N and Business N versions that do not include Windows Media Player and other media-related functionality preinstalled on the operating system.

You can compare the main version editions at the Microsoft Vista Editions Comparison page.

Also, you can read about the Vista Starter Edition at its homepage.

[NOTES FROM THE FIELD] – As I mentioned before, not everyone everywhere can buy some of the editions. As this site points out “Windows Vista Starter is not available in developed technology markets such as the United States, the European Union, Australia or Japan. Windows Vista Starter ships on lower-cost computers sold by original equipment manufacturers (OEMs) and Microsoft OEM distributors in 139 countries.”

Here is a summary of the system requirements for Windows Vista:

Vista Home Basic should have a 1 GHz 32-bit (x86) or 64-bit (x64) processor installed with 512 MB of system memory and a 20 GB hard drive with at least 15 GB of available space. Additionally there should be support for DirectX 9 graphics and 32 MB of graphics memory.

A DVD-ROM drive, Audio Output and Internet access are also listed there as “recommended.”

Vista Home Premium, Vista Business and Vista Ultimate Editions list the following recommended system requirements:

  • 1 GHz 32-bit (x86) or 64-bit (x64) processor
  • 1 GB of system memory
  • 40 GB hard drive with at least 15 GB of available space
  • Support for DirectX 9 graphics with: WDDM Driver, 128 MB of graphics memory (minimum), Pixel Shader 2.0 in hardware and 32 bits per pixelDVD-ROM drive
  • Audio Output
  • Internet access

[NOTES FROM THE FIELD] – While all editions of Windows Vista can support multi-core processors, only Windows Vista Business, Ultimate, and Enterprise editions can support multiple processors. (More than one physical processor regardless of the number of processor cores.)

Temporal Flux – Windows 7

With the beta of Windows 7 released and some of the roadmap laid out we do have some information to present on the suggested system requirements as currently available as well as some editions information with respect to the planned releases and versioning.

Presently the suggested system requirements as outlined in the Windows 7 Beta Installation Instructions indicate:

  • 1 GHz 32-bit or 64-bit processor
  • 1 GB of system memory
  • 16 GB of available disk space
  • Support for DirectX 9 graphics with 128 MB memory (required for Aero where it is available with no non-Aero amount listed)
  • DVD-R/W Drive
  • Internet access

Additionally I have been able to research out the following details on the different editions planned as part of the Windows 7 release. Again, these are preliminary and with any beta release, subject to change.

Windows 7 Starter (limited distribution)

  • Broad application and device compatibility with up to three concurrent applications.
  • Safe, reliable, and supported.
  • Home Group makes it easy to share media, documents and printers across multiple PCs in offices without a domain.
  • Improved taskbar and Jump Lists.

[NOTES FROM THE FIELD] – Don’t confuse “three concurrent applications” with the old “concurrent connections” from the desktop operating system limitations – this is different; this is effectively “three concurrent applications” running at the same time.

Windows 7 Home Basic (emerging market only)

  • All of the functionality listed above in Starter Edition
  • Live thumbnail previews and enhanced visual experience.
  • Advanced networking support (ad-hoc wireless networks and internet connection sharing).
  • Mobility Center is included.

Windows 7 Home Premium

All of the functionality listed above in Starter and Home Basic Editions

  • Aero Glass and advanced windows navigation.
  • Easy networking and sharing across all your PCs and devices.
  • Improved media format support, enhancements to Windows Media Center and media streaming, including Play To.
  • Multi-touch and improved handwriting recognition.

Windows 7 Professional

  • All of the functionality listed above in Starter, Home Basic and Home Premium Editions
  • Domain Join enables simple and secure server networking.
  • Encrypting File System protects data with advanced network backup.
  • Location Aware Printing helps find the right printer when moving between the office and home.

Windows 7 Enterprise and Ultimate

  • All of the functionality listed above in Starter, Home Basic, Home Premium and Professional Editions
  • BitLocker protects data on removable devices.
  • DirectAccess links users to corporate resources from the road without a virtual private network (VPN).
  • BranchCache makes if faster to open files and Web pages from a branch office.
  • AppLocker easily restricts unauthorized software and enables greater security.

[NOTES FROM THE FIELD] – I could not find real differences between Enterprise Edition and Ultimate in the Windows 7 information that I could reference.

As an example, one main difference between Vista Business and Vista Ultimate is the All-in-one media center functionality of Ultimate which allows the end user to leverage Windows Media Center and Media Center Extenders. Business edition does not support this functionality.

There are other subtle differences as well.

I could not find any delineation details in the information I referenced for Windows 7 editions between Business Edition and Ultimate Edition.

In Summary

So that is a wrap on my Windows 7 Editions Comparison article. I hope you found it informative and a good investment of your time.

As always, I welcome any feedback that you might have this or any other articles I have written and I am always interested to hear your suggestions for future articles so please keep that email coming.