Windows 7, what's the difference between the editions?

As Microsoft unveils the release candidate to TechNet and MSDN customers today we at Neowin wanted to answer that burning question, what is the difference between all these Windows 7 versions?

Microsoft supplied us with the following diagrams and we thought about re-doing them and making them pretty but they are what they are so without further ado....


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What does Neowin think? A fair product lineup?

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Couldn't be more wrong.

You managed it.

1) Apple only offers one version priced at $129 for the upgrade disc. That's the same price as Vista Home Premium. So they don't have "just Ultimate," they have just Home Premium.

Apple's last upgrade was $29 ($49 for a family pack). $129 buys you the full retail version of OS X - same version for everyone, nothing left out.

2) Apple charges $400 for group policy features which are sold separately from the OS.

Such as? Or are you thinking of OS X Server - $499 for unlimited clients. Not only much cheaper than Windows Server but only one version rather than the four or five MS will try to sell you.

3) Apple is a hardware company, and they price the Macbook Pro with higher margins than the Macbook, which is equivalent to MS charging more for the "Pro" version of Windows.

Except it costs Apple real money to put those extra hardware features in. By contrast it must cost MS money to take features out of Windows just so they can con people into paying extra for stuff that other OSs include for no extra.

I see a lot of people advocating Professional so I'm posting a breakdown of Ultimate/Enterprise features:

BitLocker = Extra full disk encryption feature (older encryption features still present).

AppLocker = Extention of group policy software restriction. For use with new group policy features of Server 2008.

Direct Access = VPN background auto-connect (on login) software usable through a Server 2008 vpn server configured with Direct Access.

BranchCache = Network file sharing cache daemon. "Smartly" caches files as they are shared over a network domain to improve future speeds. Again, only usable with a configured Server 2008 domain controller.

MUI Language Packs = Pretty obvious. Language packs are always available for download if you need them. Ultimate just includes more of them by default.

Enterprise Search Scopes = It's unclear to me exactly what this is referring to but I would assume it's the added functionality for network searching, primarily with SharePoint.

VDI Enchancements = VDI stands for "Virtual Desktop Interface". This means theres improvements in Ultimate for running in a guest virutal machine probably at the driver level on alternate platforms.

Boot from VHD = VHD stands for "Virtual Hard Disk" and is Microsofts file format for Guest virtual hard disks. This feature configures your bootloader to boot from a virtual disk although it will only boot VHD's installed with Windows 7 or Server 2008.

Current pricing:
Professional: Upgrade=$199 Retail=$299
Ultimate: Upgrade=$219 Retail=$319


My Verdict: Professional is as useless as Vista Business. While most of the added features of Ultimate are only usable with a properly configured Server 2008 Domain Controller, the price difference of $20 between the two is negligible.

Even if you're not interested in domain support and only interested in the RDP host feature of Professional the marginal price increase is well worth it. Ultimate/Enterprise provides great advances for seamless pptp vpn support, extended drive encryption, virtual machine support, and future advances in domain compatibility that each are worth $20 alone should you need them a few years down the road.

There is one important list that Neowin could not put in this ( mainly because they have not been given those details ) and that is the PRICE STRUCTURE of Windows 7.
Sure you make up your mind with what is in the various SKU's , but ..... price is very important thing as well !

Read the comparison to cars about having Toyota make one version of the Corolla so why not do 1 version then sell the add-on's for 5-10 USD each? And actually, Toyota does only make one version of the Corolla- everything else is optional, and some options are packages that include multiple options. Okay, two versions: 2 door and 4 door, but can you really compare extra doors to Windows? :D

So maybe everything in Windows 7 should be optional?

Which basically would mean: you pay say 89 for the 'core' (Home Premium) and everything is a 10-25 dollar add on each.
... or ... you can get the Business package that includes IIS7, domain joining... etc. for 100 dollars more which is a bargain compared to buying the individual bits ... and there are still some additional bits you can fork out for if you want.
... or ... you can get the Ultimate package with everything and a bagel (bagel not included) for 100 more than that.

What I see are really not complaints about having too many choices, and though you may think that 5 versions of Windows is too many if you're of that mind set you are deluding yourself. Everyone is complaining there are not enough choices: "I want X and Y but don't want to pay for P and Q because I'll never use them."

I read some months ago on this site that they were settling on 2 editions... must have read wrong... as they are doing the same as with Vista.

excalpius said,
Really lame, huh? Pathetic MBAs...

Yeah, sure. I always wanted to pay the price for Ultimate when i'm only using the features of Home Premium...

CyberDragon777 said,
Yeah, sure. I always wanted to pay the price for Ultimate when i'm only using the features of Home Premium...

There really only needs to be two versions. Professional is useless.

thealexweb said,
No XP Mode for Home Premium. :-(

Well from a marketing standpoint it's a really great way to get us to buy the Pro version. I'm getting Professional because I want XP mode, if it was for Home Premium I probably wouldn't get Professional. Pro will probably only be $20-$30 more.

The professional version of Windows is usually $100 extra. It wasn't with Vista because there was both Business (which was pro) and than Ultimate. If I had to place the upgrade prices I would place the bet as follows:

($150 | $179) Home Premium
($250 | $280) Pro
($450 | $480) Ultimate... likely why not really retail

No prices have officially been announced yet, however. The good new is that consumers get the option to basically test drive Win7 for almost a year for free (might be good, given state of economy).

All Neowin members MUST have Ultimate if they want respect here. Someone lacking all the features would be looked upon as a perpetual noob and every opinion they express would be mocked. The shame would drive them from this site.

I doubt it. An article recently on Neowin said you can open up multiple instances of the same application (they used firefox I think) and it only counted as 1 program.

Other programs are excluded altogether such as some security apps.

I just have to hope Professional isn't too much more expensive than Home Premium, I like remote desktop at home, and XP Mode if I ever need it but will have to hope I won't.

If there's a remote desktop "hack" like there is on Vista Home Premium, that may be enough for me. Otherwise, I'm getting Ultimate.

mamamamamamama said,
Can windows 7 boot from a vhd?

IF you even read the table you would see that you cant in professional you need ultimate.

bluarash said,
The real question is why? Why do I need to have the ultra, geek, bling! version in order to do something as simple as boot from a virtual hd?

Because only ultra geeks know what a VHD is

Way to teach the man a lesson. Now instead of paying $259 for an upgrade to Windows Ultimate... you likely can pay that price for Windows 7 Pro due mostly to the economy and you don't even have bit-locker. Yeah! Way to go man!

bluarash said,
Way to teach the man a lesson. Now instead of paying $259 for an upgrade to Windows Ultimate... you likely can pay that price for Windows 7 Pro due mostly to the economy and you don't even have bit-locker. Yeah! Way to go man!

Well, I had Vista Business, and it lacked something I wanted (MPEG2 decoder and Media Center).
Since Vista Business wasn't an "upgrade" to Vista Premium (more like a side-by-side product), I had to upgrade to Ultimate to get what I wanted.

Windows 7 Professional *IS* an upgrade to Windows 7 Premium (and has the MPEG2 decoder and Media Center), so it has everything Premium has, and there is no need to upgrade to Windows 7 Ultimate for me.

I will agree that Windows Vista Professional should have been the Ultimate edition. It was a pretty stupid breakdown to have basic, premium, pro and Ultimate. It is "better" relative to the situation with Seven returning to Home and a Professional edition. I feel the your pain of having the Professional edition of Vista. It was not a well thought out edition.

If every user and system configuration was identical I would agree. But they are not.

Personally I expect Home Premium will do for me.

Remote Desktop server, Offline Files, Location-Aware Printing and EFS should be there in Home Premium also. For laptops that some times need to join a more capable network than the average home network.

the420kid said,
I believe having multiple versions is a mistake. Ultimate or nothing. Its just silly at this point.



disagree, my parents dont need all the features of ultimate, nor do many folks...thats like telling toyota only make one version of the corolla...it wont happen

Apple somehow manages to give everyone everything and keep the prices relatively low for OS X, no reason M$ shouldn't be able to.

you do realize microsoft is a software company right? they make different versions/prices to target different parts of the market.

Apple builds computers and sells them with OSX. why does apple make different models for the iMac? shouldnt they have just one?

I think you have a defective keyboard there. Either that or you need more practice with it.

Anyway, why pay full price for features you don't really need? Let the people who need those features be the ones who pay for them. It makes perfect sense.

bobbit said,
Apple somehow manages to give everyone everything and keep the prices relatively low for OS X, no reason M$ shouldn't be able to.

And maybe that's one of the reasons why they only got single-figure-percentage share of the market.

I don't need the taskbar but that comes standard. Where's my version without the taskbar?

Seriously, all they need to sell is Home Premium and Ultimate. Ultimate having the same price tag. Easier and cheaper for them to sell/market, easier for people to get their heads around. The end.

without the taskbar?

IF they were to sell 2 different versions for the same price, then shouldnt they just drop them and have 1 version?

are you saying that people who need home premium should be paying the price of ultimate?

You do know what part of Windows the taskbar is, right?

Who said anything about selling two different versions for the same price? Where did I say anything about people who don't need Ultimate should buy it?

one version would only work if price was low ~150 lets say and that the user could select their features or preset features at first start up. Microsoft did improve the tier system this time around so that it makes more sense

"And maybe that's one of the reasons why they only got single-figure-percentage share of the market."

Whether Apple sold 1 version of OS X or 50, that wouldn't change. They are insular and that's how they run things. My point was, Apple includes everything in OS X for everyone and people manage just fine with all the extra bits they don't use.

"one version would only work if price was low ~150 lets say and that the user could select their features or preset features at first start up. Microsoft did improve the tier system this time around so that it makes more sense"

Why does a product not need to contain everything, other than cost? What's the point in removing everything you don't need? So long as it's not popping up every 5 minutes screaming "PICK ME, PICK ME!", there's no issue there.

bobbit said,
Seriously, all they need to sell is Home Premium and Ultimate. Ultimate having the same price tag. Easier and cheaper for them to sell/market, easier for people to get their heads around. The end.

this is what i was referring to.. maybe i read it wrong, but i thought you were saying sell home & ultimate for the same price.

the fact is, Windows is a huge business for MS. they create different versions with different features at different prices to cover the market and maximize revenue. with vista as an example, home premium oem can be found for $99, business around 150, and ultimate at 200.
with 7, we're really going to see just home premium and professional on the shelves or available from oems like dell,hp,etc

i really dont see what the big deal is. i could ask the same thing about apple. why bother with 3 different versions of a 24" iMac? why not have 1 and let people choose which features they want?

Nope. They really need to go back to one version with the option of having select items loaded. You are not actually paying anything more for any of the items because they are developed inhouse. Until XP, Microsoft released one version of the OS (for the Win9x and NT line).

I think the only reason they do it is simply to stroke the egos of those that somehow think they need to be "special" from the kid sister or the clueless masses, and therefore need the ultimate edition. The only reason of course is that they force businesses into it by require that you purchase the high end version (or versions) to join a domain.

I really think if people want to think of themselves as "elite," they might want to start by dropping the GUI, moving to the command line and learning a descent language like assembly or C. You might want to follow this by being able to compile an operating system from source. This is pretty much a sophomore class in computer science.

Until than you are pretty much a... noob (or whatever they call it).

bobbit said,
Seriously, all they need to sell is Home Premium and Ultimate. Ultimate having the same price tag. Easier and cheaper for them to sell/market, easier for people to get their heads around. The end.

Pretend Ultimate doesn't exist. It's pretty much JUST THAT!

I really don't feel those using Professional would have much use for the features of Ultimate unless they're... *gasp* a big corporation! I mean, Windows 7 HP and Pro is just like XP's Home and Professional Edition, except they both have a lot more features now, and those running a big business also have the option of getting MORE with Windows through a version designed around their needs.

Honestly, I'm not sure where some people get this deserving attitude as if Microsoft designed these features based on the needs of average consumers. You can bitch all you'd like, but it's not going to change the fact that many of us are happy with the way things are.

bluarash said,
Nope. They really need to go back to one version with the option of having select items loaded. You are not actually paying anything more for any of the items because they are developed inhouse. Until XP, Microsoft released one version of the OS (for the Win9x and NT line).

I think the only reason they do it is simply to stroke the egos of those that somehow think they need to be "special" from the kid sister or the clueless masses, and therefore need the ultimate edition. The only reason of course is that they force businesses into it by require that you purchase the high end version (or versions) to join a domain.

I really think if people want to think of themselves as "elite," they might want to start by dropping the GUI, moving to the command line and learning a descent language like assembly or C. You might want to follow this by being able to compile an operating system from source. This is pretty much a sophomore class in computer science.

Until than you are pretty much a... noob (or whatever they call it).

Right, because the time dedicated to features that would probably only be used by those in a big business does not cost Microsoft any more money. In fact, perhaps Microsoft should just stop developing great features like that altogether, since they could save money by not even offering features for those who could actually put them to use...

Seriously, get real. Time = money.

bluarash said,
Nope. They really need to go back to one version with the option of having select items loaded. You are not actually paying anything more for any of the items because they are developed inhouse. Until XP, Microsoft released one version of the OS (for the Win9x and NT line).

well technically even though win98 or NT4 had 1 version, they both existed at the same time. windows for home/consumer use and windows for professional/business use. XP also had multiple versions which didnt seem to be too big of a deal.

bluarash said,
Nope. They really need to go back to one version with the option of having select items loaded. You are not actually paying anything more for any of the items because they are developed inhouse. Until XP, Microsoft released one version of the OS (for the Win9x and NT line).

I think the only reason they do it is simply to stroke the egos of those that somehow think they need to be "special" from the kid sister or the clueless masses, and therefore need the ultimate edition. The only reason of course is that they force businesses into it by require that you purchase the high end version (or versions) to join a domain.

I really think if people want to think of themselves as "elite," they might want to start by dropping the GUI, moving to the command line and learning a descent language like assembly or C. You might want to follow this by being able to compile an operating system from source. This is pretty much a sophomore class in computer science.

Until than you are pretty much a... noob (or whatever they call it).

Ok big guy make your own OS then compete with Microsoft.

But yeah, Win 7 Ultimate/Professional is really for corporations and is not really aimed for home users and for the pricing as far as I know $300 or $400 is pocket change. If $300 or $400 can improve productivity by 10-30% that's enough to justify the cost.

There are things in the corporation world that cost $3000 a piece and it's only the size of a penny. Companies WILL spend the money if there are justifications for it.

Agreed. One version is all you need.

Ma and Pa Kettle will never click on the mysterious "Bitlocker" button anyway, since it's buried in Start menus they never ever access.

All modern machines have more than enough RAM to run everything anyway, even though there is no RAM increase between Pro and Ultimate in everyday use UNLESS you actually use one of those features.

And hard drive space...puh-lease. The difference is a fraction of a fraction of the size of any current hard drive.

One Windows to rule them all, and in transparent glass to bind them.

dead.cell said,

Right, because the time dedicated to features that would probably only be used by those in a big business does not cost Microsoft any more money. In fact, perhaps Microsoft should just stop developing great features like that altogether, since they could save money by not even offering features for those who could actually put them to use...

Seriously, get real. Time = money.

What a load of crap. Microsoft hasn't really had an original idea in years. What they really mean by time is money, is the resources that buy up or borrow (or steal) from other companies. Hell, the vision behind NT is borrowed from another company. Almost nothing they have ever done is really original.

profets said,
well technically even though win98 or NT4 had 1 version, they both existed at the same time. windows for home/consumer use and windows for professional/business use. XP also had multiple versions which didnt seem to be too big of a deal.

True to some extent. They were marketed at two different communities. It would be more like Microsoft releasing two different versions of Win7. One based on NT kernel and another with libraries built on top of XYZ or the use of a virtualized machine for compatibility with no backward compatibility outside of the box.

Windows NT was really only for businesses and developers until at least Win2k. I personally thought the idea of a home and pro version of XP was a joke. Finally, my real concern is with Vista and to a lesser extent Win7. Both have many versions. Yes, you can argue that only two versions of Win7 will be retail, but that doesn't take away from market segment issues.

Why divide when it is not necessary?

kouhii00 said,

Ok big guy make your own OS then compete with Microsoft.

But yeah, Win 7 Ultimate/Professional is really for corporations and is not really aimed for home users and for the pricing as far as I know $300 or $400 is pocket change. If $300 or $400 can improve productivity by 10-30% that's enough to justify the cost.

There are things in the corporation world that cost $3000 a piece and it's only the size of a penny. Companies WILL spend the money if there are justifications for it.

I don't believe anyone will seriously compete with Microsoft given the legacy in most corporations. Sun failed, IBM failed and Linux will as well. My point was it would be nice if they actually listened to consumers. If they want the Enterprise editions for corporations, that is fine, but to require the Pro version to get backup or Ultimate for disk encryption (by default) is simply greedy and crazy. I will not even get into a debate about whether domain functions should be default, I think you probably could guess the way I feel.

maybe for MS to maximize revenue it is necessary to divide and create different versions. dont get me wrong, i dont think ALL the versions are a good setup on vista or 7. for 7, its nice they went back to a true home & professional setup with pro being superset of home. but all these other editions i dont really agree with, even though we'll barely see them. those few extra options that enterprise/ultimate add could really be part of professional. home basic/starter could really just be combined into 1 much cheaper windows 7 version for "emerging markets" or whatever they want it for

excalpius said,
Agreed. One version is all you need.

Ma and Pa Kettle will never click on the mysterious "Bitlocker" button anyway, since it's buried in Start menus they never ever access.

All modern machines have more than enough RAM to run everything anyway, even though there is no RAM increase between Pro and Ultimate in everyday use UNLESS you actually use one of those features.

And hard drive space...puh-lease. The difference is a fraction of a fraction of the size of any current hard drive.

One Windows to rule them all, and in transparent glass to bind them.

you would rather have 1 edition, even if it were to cost lets say $250, as opposed to having a home edition at $150 and a pro edition at $250?

The trouble with that is it would not cost $250 because it would be the majority of purchases. The more items sold, the lower the cost for the business. BTW, Windows at $150 is way overpriced. You are talking about a crippled OS with primitive applications. It doesn't begin to get interesting until you had in the subcomponent for at least professional, if not ultimate. This, however, seems to be reserved for a specific class of people.

I think this pretty much takes away from the populism argument that Windows is the OS of the average Joe (or Jane).

But $129 is juuuuuuust right, eh?

Seriously, you attempt to toss my argument aside simply for the idea that Microsoft's ideas are not original. NEWSFLASH: many of the companies out there aren't bringing NEW IDEAS to the market! Many companies copy each other! The general idea is who can do it better, if anything. If Apple steals an idea but executes it much better, who really gives a sh--? The general public will still have options... And if Apple spend time on it, it's still time DEDICATED to including that feature into the OS... Once again, time = money.

bluarash said,
The trouble with that is it would not cost $250 because it would be the majority of purchases. The more items sold, the lower the cost for the business. BTW, Windows at $150 is way overpriced. You are talking about a crippled OS with primitive applications. It doesn't begin to get interesting until you had in the subcomponent for at least professional, if not ultimate. This, however, seems to be reserved for a specific class of people.

I think this pretty much takes away from the populism argument that Windows is the OS of the average Joe (or Jane).

Stop talking already. Your opinions are ridiculous. We all know you don't have the intelligence to create something even remotely close to Windows, yet you call it a crippled OS with primitive applications. Try to create something better then. Oh wait, you're not smart enough.

Stop talking already. Your opinions are ridiculous. We all know you don't have the intelligence to create something even remotely close to Windows, yet you call it a crippled OS with primitive applications. Try to create something better then. Oh wait, you're not smart enough.[/quote]
No. I am sick of the Microsoft fan boy behavior. This community is literally becoming an Apple (me to). You either go along with what Microsoft wants or else. It is simply a matter of conforming behavior by peer pressure.

As for compiling a system from scratch. It is pretty easy. Most CSEE programs have you do it during your sophomore year. It's called LFS. I was merely talking about building an OS from source. You can also substitute BSD if you want.

Second, Windows is a bad "copy" of VMS. The basic OS, the home version is crippled (it lacks many important features, encryption and domains come to mind) and many of the built in applications are primitive (notepad, paint, wordpad).

Finally, let's not get into a debate about intellect. That would be as silly as the half assed effort you made when scanning on the context of my comments. This is really a time when I wish we could meet face to face. I highly doubt that you would be as likely to make these so-called assertions.

dead.cell said,
But $129 is juuuuuuust right, eh?

Seriously, you attempt to toss my argument aside simply for the idea that Microsoft's ideas are not original. NEWSFLASH: many of the companies out there aren't bringing NEW IDEAS to the market! Many companies copy each other! The general idea is who can do it better, if anything. If Apple steals an idea but executes it much better, who really gives a sh--? The general public will still have options... And if Apple spend time on it, it's still time DEDICATED to including that feature into the OS... Once again, time = money.

Maybe. Many of the best products I've seen were developed more out of commitment to a cause (I know the whole socialism debate) than a simple time equals money argument. My problem is that Windows Home and Professional versions should be the same.

bobbit said,
Apple somehow manages to give everyone everything and keep the prices relatively low for OS X, no reason M$ shouldn't be able to.


Couldn't be more wrong.

1) Apple only offers one version priced at $129 for the upgrade disc. That's the same price as Vista Home Premium. So they don't have "just Ultimate," they have just Home Premium.

2) Apple charges $400 for group policy features which are sold separately from the OS.

3) Apple is a hardware company, and they price the Macbook Pro with higher margins than the Macbook, which is equivalent to MS charging more for the "Pro" version of Windows.

bluarash said,
Nope. They really need to go back to one version with the option of having select items loaded...

I would have to agree that their version model will be bad for business in the end.

I do IT analyst/consultation work and I can't tell you how many small businesses I've seen reject the idea of a more secure domain controller because they have several boxes with Home Premium licencing. In the end this is lost server licencing sales for Microsoft.

This type of thing is a part of what is causing a revolution of open source software and cloud computing. The failure to include an RDP host in their home version of Windows 7 will only serve to accelerate this trend by causing people to widely adopt more universal protocols such as VNC.

The only editions that does what I want are Professional and Enterprise/Ultimate.
e.g. Windows XP Mode and Remote Desktop.

If you bought XP Pro, then you'll probably want Windows 7 Pro. Pretty simple really.

If you bought XP Home or XP Media Center, then you'll probably be happy with Windows 7 Home Premium.

Except that...it really doesn't matter does it? If you don't have a domain, nothing changes. As per usual, this is just an MS way of doing the MBA 101 shuffle, market segmentation just for the sake of charging a premium price to "business" users. The code's all there and can co-exist with all other options (witness the all-in-one Ultimate versions).

I personally think it was a mistake to offer more than one version, period. Especially in this economy.

Fortunately for MS, Apple's impending slide backwards will make up for the ground MS lost because of the Vista debacle, thanks to the impending release of a very solid and satisfying Windows 7.

That's ridiculous. Why would MS give up all the extra money from having separate Home, Pro, and Enterprise editions?

You can't get rid of Home. Without that, everyone would have to pay for features like domain / group policy support which they don't need. That would reduce sales of the OS, because home users (especially in this economy) don't want to pay the price of Pro.

Your post makes no sense whatsoever.

Thanks, this table clarify the difference between version.

AFAIK from the table:

Windows Starter = good for nothing
Windows Home Basic =it is way better to stick with xp
Windows Home Premium = NAY if you want to use in a domain.

Starter will probably only be on a few very low-powered devices (even most netbooks will probably have Home Premium), and Home Basic is only available in "emerging markets". That leaves Home Premium and Professional as the 2 main choices - pretty much like Home and Professional of the XP-era. Enterprise and Ultimate are really for more special-case scenarios

I agree.
I really cant see why they make so many versions, its pointless.

They should have just two versions, home and business/pro.

Media center and other great features in home, with domains and fancy Aero in pro. easy.

Actually the table is wrong (I assume). Starter should be for emerging markets only and Home Basic should be for OEM only. NetBooks will probably come with Home Basic unless you pay to upgrade, just about everything else will come with Home Premium.