Friday, April 9, 2010

So Many Windows, So Many Choices

Windows 7 is the best operating system Microsoft has ever introduced. Essentially, it is what Windows Vista was supposed to be had Microsoft done it right the first time. However, there are a couple of caveats to be cognizant of if you are pondering upgrading your old computer to Windows 7.

If you walk into Office Depot to buy Windows 7 upgrade you will be presented with dizzying array of flavors including Windows 7 Home Premium ($119), Professional ($199) and Ultimate ($219) Editions. There is a cheaper upgrade path if you already purchased Windows 7 Home and need the Professional or ultimate version.

Microsoft claims they are trying to give the customer the freedom to choose. The truth is that Microsoft didn’t become the most successful, richest company in the known universe by giving their stuff away. Microsoft is squeezing you for all it can get in as many ways as possible. I’m a capitalist pig so I’m OK with that, actually. The problem I have is that Microsoft makes it very difficult for the average computer user to choose exactly how to be squeezed.

The Home edition gives you everything you would expect with any other version of Windows. The professional version has the Home stuff plus some network goodies that only a network administrator would appreciate plus a feature called “XP Mode” that gives users the ability to run older programs designed for Windows XP. In the old days of Vista, you could purchase a separate copy of Windows XP for $135.00 and install it as a “virtual machine” on your Vista computer. Windows 7 Professional has a virtual copy of XP built into it so you don’t have to buy anything else. It is a bit of a beast for the average home user to set up but it works well for those who need to run old software on a Windows 7 computer.

Windows Ultimate has everything that Home and Professional has plus some extra security features that most people would find useless. Bottom line: Windows 7 Home Edition is all most home users will need.

Microsoft complicates these choices with the “rule” that you cannot downgrade by performing an upgrade. What this means to you is that if you purchased a computer with Windows Vista BUSINESS edition, you cannot “upgrade” to Windows 7 HOME edition since going from a Business edition to a Home edition is actually a downgrade. I have Vista Ultimate on my home computer and I don’t’ really need the features (and extra expense) of Windows 7 Ultimate. But I cannot “upgrade” to Windows 7 Home Premium or even the Professional version because that would be a downgrade. If I want Microsoft’s new toy, if have to shell out over $200 instead of just over $100.

I’ve tried really hard to make this article as clear as possible but I’m sure I failed miserably. Microsoft just doesn’t make it easy for a home user to upgrade. My suggestion is, if you are considering an upgrade, call someone who knows what they are talking about. You have my number!

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