Summary

Our Score

9/10

User Score

Review Price £72.00

Which Edition Should You Buy?

One hangover from Vista that does remain is the ridiculous menagerie of different editions on sale. Quite aside from the confusion created by splitting things into 'full' and 'upgrade' versions, which is arguably the greatest sin of all, there are a total of six different official editions of Windows 7. In fairness to Microsoft it is all too easy to over simplify this whole situation, as critics enjoy doing, but we'd dearly love to see the back of upgrade versions at the very least.

As noted earlier, Starter and Home Basic are niche concerns. Starter, which has been created specifically for netbooks, strips out a huge amount of the key functionality, including all the Aero effects, Media Center and various other niceties, while Home Basic is slightly less severe but is only available in emerging markets. Another we can dismiss is the 'Enterprise' edition, which is just like Ultimate but with a volume license.

This leaves Home Premium, Professional and Ultimate. For the sake of argument we're going to ignore Ultimate. With the possible exception of BitLocker, whose addition of USB key encryption might make it more applicable to 'normal' users now, most of its key benefits are above and beyond what most people want or need and it's very expensive. Suffice to say if you need what it has then you won't be having this debate!

However the choice between Home Premium and Professional is less straightforward and is made more complicated by some typical Microsoft pig-headedness. While the vast majority of users will be more than happy with Home Premium and most of the Professional only features (Location Aware Printing, Windows XP mode, Remote Desktop Host et al) aren't necessary for everyday use, Microsoft jams a giant spanner in the works by not enabling backup to network drives in Home Premium.

One can't help but think this is a well calculated decision. Although most home users won't want to make network backups, equally there's a healthy number that have embraced the whole NAS revolution - one Microsoft itself has promoted - and will want this functionality. These people will be left with two choices: pay more for Professional (approx £87 for Upgrade, £140 for Full) or use a third party solution instead. A lot to ask for one small feature and in light of the lack of NAS support in libraries, it's clearly a bit of a blind spot in Windows 7.

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