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Buying a new computer these days, chances are, it will come pre-installed with Windows 7 Home Premium Edition. That makes sense from the vendor’s standpoint, as the license for Home Premium costs less and it still has most of the functionality and features that the average user will want. But what if you aren’t the average user?

Looking to Upgrade? How to upgrade Windows 7 to Windows 7 Professional

Some Vendors only offer the Windows 7 Starter Edition, which in my point of view is a sham to make you pay even more money for your computer. Steer away from these offers I say – unless of course you enjoy NOT being able to change your wallpaper – ever again.

Upgrade on Demand

Buying the computer online (from Dell or HP etc.), you can order it with Windows 7 Professional or Ultimate – but not without the additional cost; you’ll have to pay for that upgrade (Dell charge from $130-$150 Depending on version). Buying from a store, your upgrade choice is the Anytime Upgrade program ($89.95 for Pro or $139.95 for Ultimate).

Is Ultimate, a “must have” ?

Before you shell out the extra money, you might want to first consider why you want or need the higher cost edition. Is it just that one feature you “need” – then, there might be a less expensive way to get its equivalent while still running Windows 7 Home Premium. Let’s take a look at some of the important features that are missing in Home Premium and how you can add similar functionality without upgrading the OS.

Remote Desktop Service

Home Premium has the Remote Desktop Client, letting you connect your HOME computer to another systems desktop, but you are unable to use the Remote Desktop Protocol.

If you are in dire need of a Remote Desktop, there are several free options to choose from – without paying the extra $80-$150.

  • Join.me (The free Remote Desktop App from LogMeIn.com – Our Review)
  • LogMeIn.com – full version Remote Desktop Application which has a Free account and several paid account options. http://www.logmein.com
  • TightVNC is a free program and versions 2.0 and above run on Windows 7.
  • RealVNC offers a free version, but it’s not compatible with Windows 7.
    The personal edition does and it costs $30 – still far less than the upgrade to Windows 7 Pro or Ultimate.

Network Backup

Network backup is another desirable feature of the high-end editions that you sacrifice with Windows 7 Home Premium. However, there are a number of options here: you can use software such as GFI Backup Home Edition, which is free and easy to use or you can use something like Microsoft’s SyncToy, which will synchronize files and folders between a local and network drive, effectively giving you a network backup of your data.

Windows XP Mode

If you would like to use the XP Mode Feature, you will have to have the Pro or Ultimate version – Or Do you Now?
What is XP Mode Really ? The XP mode is nothing more than Microsoft’s Windows Virtual PC plus a licensed copy of Windows XP in a virtual machine to run on it.

Same thing can be done using third-party applications like Virtual PC 2007, Windows Virtual PC, VMware or Sun’s VirtualBox. However, you’ll still need to buy a license for XP to run it in the VM. If you already have a licensed copy of XP, you’re good to go. Otherwise, you’ll probably come out better by upgrading to Windows 7 Pro so you can download XP Mode free. The nice thing about the “real” XP Mode is the way it integrates with your Windows 7 desktop.

Encrypt individual files to protect sensitive data (EFS)

Another feature that you get with Pro and Ultimate but not with Home Premium is the Encrypting File System (EFS). This feature allows you to encrypt individual files to protect sensitive data stored on your hard drive. There are of course several options you can choose from, which are free or have different payment options, still less expensive than Upgrading to Pro or Ultimate.

  • TrueCrypt, Lots of features, tho a bit less user-friendly than EFS
  • BitLocker (Our Tutorial), Encrypts entire disks
  • Secret Disk, Creates encrypted folder
  • AxCrypt, Open Source File Encryption

Discussion: Thoughts on Encryption

To Domain or Not Domain

Ok, so the final argument for going all the way (investing in Pro or Ultimate), is to join a Domain. But do you really need that option ? Unless you want all the flexibility in the world wanting to log in to any of your Numerous PC’s and laptops and receive and send e-mails from any computer, then the ability to join a Domain isn’t all that necessary.

But I want to get access to it all

Your computer doesn’t have to be a member of the domain for you to log into a domain account. Meaning that if you only need to access shared folders, files and printers then Home Premium will work just fine. However, should you need the computer to be managed by domain Group Policy and Active Directory Security, then you need to upgrade the OS.

What do YOU think?

Tell us about your experiences. Are there any features of Windows 7 Pro or Ultimate that you just can’t live without, or have you been able to make do with Windows 7 Home Premium Edition? What workarounds (if any), have you used to “upgrade” your Home Premium Edition?

About Thomas

Computer geek from the age of 7, which amounts to 30 years of computer experience. From the early days (when every computer company had their own OS) of DOS, Windows 1.0 through Seven...

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9 thoughts on “Which Windows 7 Version do You Really Need?”

  1. Rich says:

    I’ll be sure to refer friends to this article when I’m asked this exact question (which I’m probably asked once or twice a month.)

    Just a point of clarification on Remote Destkop. Windows 7 Home Premium (W7HP) allows you to remote to another computer (as stated in the article.) The lack of RDP means you cannot (without modification and violation of EULA) connect INTO a computer running W7HP, which is a real bummer if you want to access the PC (which I do around home.) You listed some great alternatives — thank you.

  2. David says:

    I prefer W7Pro for the built-in automatic (scheduled) network backup and remote desktop features. The remote desktop as built into Pro and Ultimate allow easy remoting to others with Pro or Ultimate. Logmein is OK, but I prefer TeamViewer or TightVNC for remoting to computers of OSes other than W7Pro/Ultimate.

    I do NOT like M$’s XP Mode and much prefer VirtualBox to implement VMs–especially since I usually run a number of ‘nix VMs on W7 machines, and several different Windows VMs on native ‘nix machines.

  3. Mosh says:

    Best remote admin tool I’ve found to date is TeamViewer. I used to use VNC and this wees all over it from a great height – and it’s completely free in all forms to non-pro/business users. Works fine on Win7 (all versions) and XP. Oh, and Mac and Linux. Oh – and mobile phones! Impress your friends by accessing your desktop on your Android handset :)

    1. Thomas says:

      TeamViewer HUh?
      I’ll be sure to review that as soon as possible.
      Thank you for the tip

  4. omgwtf says:

    what about aero genius

    1. Rich says:

      I’ve not heard of “aero genius.”

  5. Edward Fairchild says:

    I am using VMWare free player for running Virtual Machines (currently XP, Ubuntu, 95, and Chrome OS).

    I am using SyncbackSE from 2BrightSparks to do data sync backups. This is the paid version. It had enough extra capability, including waiting-instead-of-dying when the network connection goes down, to justify the higher price. I used the free version for months without problem. My wife and I are cross syncing data files to backup accounts on each others machine across our Wi-Fi network. I use the free version of Macrium Reflect for full as-needed system backups as well as having Windows 7 Backup running to an attached Hard Drive. Macrium Reflict is blindingly fast compared to anything else I have found. Plus I signed up for MozyHome a couple of months ago, but have decided to dump it because they have significantly raised their price. (I’m a software engineer and am paranoid about Backups.)

    I haven’t needed remote support yet, but you give good ideas for me to try if and when I do.

    For encryption, I have EncryptOnClick also from 2BrightSparks loaded though I have never really needed it.

    1. Thomas says:

      I’ll be looking into those application as soon as I’m able

  6. Kirk F. says:

    In my opinion, if you’re someone who doesn’t use the computer often, Windows 7 Home Basic is one for you.

    I really don’t see the need that MS should come out with so many versions.

    Windows 7 Basic and Windows 7 Professional is easier for us.


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