Windows 7 is available in six different editions, but only Home Premium, Professional, and Ultimate are widely available at retail. The other editions focus on other markets, such as the developing world or enterprise use. All editions support IA-32 CPUs and all editions except Starter support the x64 CPUs. (64-bit installation media is not included in Home Basic edition packages, but can be obtained from Microsoft).
According to Microsoft, the features for all editions of Windows 7 are stored on the machine, regardless of what edition is in use. Users who wish to upgrade to an edition of Windows 7 with more features can then use Windows Anytime Upgrade to purchase the upgrade and to unlock the features of those editions. Microsoft announced Windows 7 pricing information for some editions on June 25, 2009, and Windows Anytime Upgrade and Family Pack pricing on July 31, 2009.
|Windows 7 Starter||Windows Aero theme is not included, and it isn't available in 64-bit. The desktop wallpaper and Visual Style (Windows 7 Basic) are not user-changeable.|
|Windows 7 Home Basic||Some Aero options are excluded along with several new features.|
|Windows 7 Home Premium||Features aimed at the home market segment, such as Windows Media Center, Windows Aero and touch-screen controls.|
|Windows 7 Professional||All features of Home Premium, plus joining a domain, Remote Desktop, EFS, Windows XP Mode.|
|Windows 7 Ultimate||All features, including BitLocker, Multilingual User Interface (MUI) packages.|
|Windows 7 Enterprise||Same as Ultimate, but Microsoft Software Assurance (volume-licensing) only.|
Editions in details
- Windows 7 Starter
- Windows 7 Starter is the edition of Windows 7 that contains the fewest features. Windows 7 Starter is only available in a 32-bit version. The Windows Aero theme is sadly not included in this version. The desktop wallpaper and Visual Styles (Windows 7 Basic) are not user-changeable. Microsoft originally intended to restrict the edition to running 3 simultaneous applications but this limitation was dropped.
- This edition is available pre-installed on computers, especially netbooks, through system integrators or computer manufacturers using OEM licenses.
- Windows 7 Home Basic
- Windows 7 Home Basic is available in "emerging markets", in 141 different countries. Some Windows Aero options are excluded along with several new features. Home Basic, along with other editions sold in emerging markets, include geographical activation restriction, which requires users to activate Windows within a certain region or country.
- Windows 7 Home Premium
- This edition contains features aimed at the home market segment, such as Windows Media Center, Windows Aero and multi-touch support.
- Windows 7 Professional
- This edition is targeted towards enthusiasts and small-business users. It includes all the features of Windows 7 Home Premium, and adds the ability to participate in a Windows Server domain. Additional features include operating as a Remote Desktop server, location aware printing, Encrypting File System, Presentation Mode, Software Restriction Policies (but not the extra management features of App Locker) and Windows XP Mode. Like Enterprise, Microsoft will support this edition until 2020.
- Windows 7 Enterprise
- This edition targets the enterprise segment of the market and is sold through volume licensing to companies which have a Software Assurance contract with Microsoft. Additional features include support for Multilingual User Interface (MUI) packages, BitLocker Drive Encryption, and UNIX application support. Not available through retail or OEM channels, this edition is distributed through Microsoft Software Assurance (SA). As a result it includes several SA-only benefits, including a license allowing the operating of diskless nodes (diskless PCs), the running of multiple virtual machines, and activation via WOLF. Like Professional, Microsoft will support this edition until 2020.
- Windows 7 Ultimate
- Windows 7 Ultimate contains all of the same features as Windows 7 Enterprise, but unlike the Enterprise edition, it is available to home users on an individual license basis. Windows 7 Home Premium and Windows 7 Professional users are able to upgrade to Windows 7 Ultimate for a fee using Windows Anytime Upgrade if they wish to do so. Unlike Windows Vista Ultimate, the Windows 7 Ultimate edition does not include the Windows Ultimate Extras feature or any exclusive features as Microsoft had stated. However, even though it is the consumer equivalent to Enterprise, like Home Premium, Microsoft will only support Ultimate until 2015.
- N and KN Editions
- The features in the N and KN Editions are the same as their equivalent full versions, but do not include Windows Media Player or other Windows Media-related technologies, such as Windows Media Center and Windows DVD Maker. The cost of the N and KN Editions are the same as the full versions, as the Media Feature Pack for Windows 7 N or Windows 7 KN can be downloaded without charge from Microsoft.
- VL Builds
- VL builds work with VLKs (volume license keys). Volume license keys can be used to activate multiple installations of the software without any mechanism (such as a product activation mechanism) checking the total number of installations. The license for the software will place restrictions on the use of the key. Typically the license will limit the key to a fixed number of installations which must only be within the licensee's organization and also place the licensee under an obligation to keep a record of the number of installations, keep the key confidential and possibly even require that the licensee organization makes itself available for a software licensing audit to verify that its use of the key is within the terms of the license.
Windows Vista Service Pack 1 can be upgraded to Windows 7 with an in-place upgrade if the processor architecture, comparable edition, and language version are the same. Earlier versions than Windows Vista Service Pack 1 can only be upgraded to Windows 7 via a clean install. However, in some countries, Microsoft has recommended a clean install regardless of whether going from XP or Vista, with reasoning that has not been made clear.
Standard upgrade editions
Windows 7 supports upgrading from an applicable version of XP and Vista to an applicable version of Windows 7 via Upgrade Editions, however there is no direct way to upgrade earlier than Windows Vista Service Pack 1. Users can upgrade to Vista first then to Windows 7 or use Windows Easy Transfer to collect data and settings from installed programs, install Windows 7 then install their program data and settings from Windows Easy Transfer, then re-install all their programs. Not all programs will install if they don't support Windows 7. The latter method does a fresh install of Windows 7 so all software needs to be re-installed. If the original hardware is kept, suitable drivers will need to be found. The options mean that users can update freely from any previous version to any of the new three retail editions of Windows 7: Home Premium, Professional, or Ultimate (plus in Europe, and possibly South Korea, these Upgrade Editions also come in optional N versions). Discounted upgrade pricing is only available to current users of genuine copies XP or Vista.
Standard upgrade editions (Family Packs)
Windows 7 is available as an Upgrade Family Pack edition in certain markets, to upgrade to Windows 7 Home Premium only. It gives licenses to upgrade three machines from Vista or Windows XP to the Windows 7 Home Premium edition. These are not full versions, so each machine to be upgraded must have one of these qualifying previous versions of Windows for them to work. In the United States, this offer was discontinued in early December 2009.
Microsoft has since announced it will resume availability of Windows 7 Home Premium Family Pack which will be available starting October 3, 2010 for a limited time while supplies last.
There are two possible ways to upgrade to Windows 7 from an earlier version of Windows:
- An in-place install (labelled "Upgrade" in the installer), where settings and programs are preserved from an older version of Windows. This option is only sometimes available, depending on the editions of Windows being used, and is not available at all unless upgrading from Windows Vista.
- A clean install (labelled "Custom" in the installer). This option is always available.
The table below lists which upgrade paths allow for an in-place install. Note that in-place upgrades can only be performed when the previous version of Windows is of the same architecture. If upgrading from a 32-bit installation to a 64-bit installation, a clean install is mandatory regardless of the editions being used.
|7 Home Basic||7 Home Premium||7 Professional||7 Enterprise||7 Ultimate|
|Vista Home Basic||In-place||In-place||Clean||Clean||In-place|
|Vista Home Premium||Clean||In-place||Clean||Clean||In-place|
Anytime Upgrade editions
Windows 7 also supports in-place upgrades from a lower edition of Windows 7 to a higher one using the Windows Anytime Upgrade tool.There are currently three retail options available (though it is currently unclear whether they can be used with previous installations of the N versions). Currently, there are no plans for family pack versions of the Anytime Upgrade editions. It is possible to use the Product Key from a Standard upgrade edition to accomplish an in-place upgrade (e.g. Home Premium to Ultimate).
- Starter to Home Premium.
- Starter to Professional1.
- Starter to Ultimate1.
- Home Premium to Professional.
- Home Premium to Ultimate.
- Professional to Ultimate1.
1Not available in retail, only at the Microsoft Store
|Features / Availability||Starter||Home Basic||Home Premium||Professional||Enterprise||Ultimate|
|OEM licensing||Retail and OEM licensing in Emerging markets||Retail and OEM licensing||Retail, OEM and Volume licensing||Volume licensing||Retail and OEM licensing|
|End of Support||2015.01.13||2015.01.13||2015.01.13||2020.01.14||2020.01.14||2015.01.13|
|Full Package Retail Pricing||Not available for retail markets||Not available in developed markets||US$199.99||US$299.99||Not available for retail markets||US$319.99|
|Upgrade Package Retail Pricing||Not available for retail markets||Not available in developed markets||US$119.99||US$199.99||Not available for retail markets||US$219.99|
|Maximum physical memory (64-bit mode)||N/A||8 GB||16 GB||192 GB||192 GB||192 GB|
|32-bit and 64-bit versions||32-bit only||Both (64-bit disc not included)||Both||Both||Both||Both|
|Maximum physical CPUs supported||1||1||1||2||2||2|
|Backup and Restore Center||Cannot back up to network||Cannot back up to network||Cannot back up to network||Yes||Yes||Yes|
|Remote Desktop (Client and Host)||Client only||Client only||Client only||Yes||Yes||Yes|
|Home Group (create and join)||Join only||Join only||Yes||Yes||Yes||Yes|
|Fast user switching||No||Yes||Yes||Yes||Yes||Yes|
|Desktop Wallpaper Changeable||No||Yes||Yes||Yes||Yes||Yes|
|Desktop Window Manager||No||Yes||Yes||Yes||Yes||Yes|
|Windows Mobility Center||No||Yes||Yes||Yes||Yes||Yes|
|Premium Games Included||No||No||Yes||Disabled by default||Disabled by default||Yes|
|Windows Media Center||No||No||Yes||Yes||Yes||Yes|
|Windows Media Player Remote Media Experience||No||No||Yes||Yes||Yes||Yes|
|Encrypting File System||No||No||No||Yes||Yes||Yes|
|Location Aware Printing||No||No||No||Yes||Yes||Yes|
|Offline Files and Folder redirection||No||No||No||Yes||Yes||Yes|
|Windows Server domain joining||No||No||No||Yes||Yes||Yes|
|Windows XP Mode||No||No||No||Yes||Yes||Yes|
|Software Restriction Policies||No||No||No||Yes||Yes||Yes|
|Aero glass remoting||No||No||No||No||Yes||Yes|
|Windows Media Player multimedia redirection||No||No||No||No||Yes||Yes|
|Audio recording over Terminal Services||No||No||No||No||Yes||Yes|
|Multi-display Terminal Services||No||No||No||No||Yes||Yes|
|Enterprise Search Scopes:130||No||No||No||No||Yes||Yes|
|AppLocker||No||No||No||Create Policies, But Cannot Enforce||Create and Enforce Polices||Create and Enforce Polices|
|BitLocker Drive Encryption||No||No||No||No||Yes||Yes|
|BranchCache Distributed Cache||No||No||No||No||Yes||Yes|
|Subsystem for Unix-based Applications||No||No||No||No||Yes||Yes|
|Multilingual User Interface Pack||No||No||No||No||Yes||Yes|
|Virtual Desktop Infrastructure (VDI) Enhancements:130||No||No||No||No||Yes||Yes|
|Virtual Hard Disk Booting||No||No||No||No||Yes||Yes|
- Windows Thin PC
- On February 9, 2011, Microsoft announced Windows Thin PC, a branded derivative of Windows Embedded Standard 7 with Service Pack 1, designed as a lightweight version used only in thin client scenarios. It succeeded Windows Fundamentals for Legacy PCs, which was based on Windows XP Embedded. Microsoft announced that it is expected to become available during early 2011. A Community Technology Preview (CTP) version was released publicly on March 28 through their Connect website. On May 2, a Release Candidate (RC) was made available on their website. On June 6, Windows Thin PC was released. Microsoft promised that it would be generally available for download on July 1.
- Embedded versions
- Windows 7 is also currently available as an embedded version to developers, named as Windows 7 Embedded Standard (previously known as Windows Embedded 2011, the newest being Windows Embedded Standard 7 with Service Pack 1).
- Windows 7 homepage
- Microsoft PressPass article
- Paul Thurrott's SuperSite for Windows: Windows 7 Product Editions: A Comparison