Demystifying the multiple editions of Microsoft’s Windows 7

by Parm Mann on 24 June 2009, 00:00

Tags: Windows 7, Microsoft (NASDAQ:MSFT)

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Microsoft will launch its Windows 7 operating system on October 22nd 2009, and it’ll be available in no less than six different editions. We explain what they are and which will be relevant to you.

What editions of Windows 7 will be available?

Windows 7 will be offered in the following six unique flavours, but what’s perhaps more important is where and to whom they’ll be available.

Windows 7 Starter (32-bit only)
The Starter edition of Windows 7 will be made available to OEMs only. For the consumer, that means Windows 7 Starter won’t be available as a standalone software product on store shelves – instead, it’ll be available to system integrators and computer manufacturers for pre-installation on low-end systems such as netbooks.

Windows 7 Home Basic (32-bit or 64-bit)
Unlike Windows Vista, the Home Basic edition of Windows 7 will be available only in emerging markets such as India, Brazil and China.

Windows 7 Home Premium (32-bit or 64-bit)
This is the edition that Microsoft will be targeting at the everyday home user – expect to see this one occupying the most room on store shelves.

Windows 7 Professional (32-bit or 64-bit)
The Professional edition targets the small-business user and, as with Home Premium, it’ll be available through the usual retail channels.

Windows 7 Enterprise (32-bit or 64-bit)
Aimed at the enterprise market, this edition will be available only through volume licensing.

Windows 7 Ultimate (32-bit or 64-bit)
In terms of features, Windows 7 Ultimate is identical to Windows 7 Enterprise, but it’ll be available to home users on an individual license basis.

Taking the above information into consideration, we can ascertain that only three editions will be made available to consumers via retail stores. If you’re planning on shopping for Windows 7 later this year, you’ll be presented with a choice of Windows 7 Home Premium, Windows 7 Professional and Windows 7 Ultimate.

We’ve narrowed it down to three, but which retail version is right for you? Let’s take a brief look at the features offered by all six editions.

Comparing Windows 7’s multiple editions

The below table briefly highlights a selection of the key features application to each Windows 7 edition:



Key features

Windows 7 Starter

OEM only

Windows Media Player, Backup and Restore, Action Centre, Enhanced Taskbar, Device Stage

Windows 7 Home Basic


As above, plus changeable desktop wallpaper, fast user switching, Windows Mobility Center, support for multiple monitors

Windows 7 Home Premium

Retail and OEM

As above, plus Windows Aero, Multi-touch support, Home Group, Windows Media Center and Remote Media Player,

Windows 7 Professional

Retail and OEM

As above, plus Offline Folders, Remote Desktop, Domain Join, Encrypting File System, Presentation Mode and Windows XP mode

Windows 7 Enterprise

Enterprise (volume licensing)

As above, plus BitLocker, AppLocker, Direct Access, Branche Cache, volume-licensing

Windows 7 Ultimate

Retail and OEM

As above, minus volume licensing

In addition to the array of unique features, what’s new to Windows 7 is that each edition is a superset of the one before it. Therefore, all the features in Windows 7 Home Basic will be present in Windows 7 Home Premium, and so forth. Users will consequently be able to digitally upgrade from one edition to another via Windows Anytime Upgrade.

At retail, all three editions are aimed clearly at a specific audience. Windows 7 Home Premium targets the home user, Windows 7 Professional is aimed at the business user and Windows 7 Ultimate is available for the user who requires enterprise-level functionality.

For the everyday consumer, then, Windows 7 Home Premium will be the obvious choice. Sounds simple enough, but the plot thickens. In recent years, Microsoft has been accused by the European Union of harming competition by bundling certain software components into its Windows operating systems.

In response, Microsoft has announced that all editions of Windows 7 sold in Europe will be without Internet Explorer. European editions will be denoted with an “E”, i.e. Windows 7 Ultimate E.

With no web browser included, Microsoft claims it will attempt to help European users get online by providing Internet Explorer 8 via FTP and on CD-ROMs at retail stores.


There’s certainly no shortage of choice when selecting an edition of Microsoft’s Windows 7 operating system, but this guide should have you prepared.

Windows 7 will launch globally on October 22nd. Microsoft is yet to announce pricing information.

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