41 of 45 people found the following review helpful
For the Technically Inclined,
This review is from: Microsoft Windows 7 Professional [Old Version] (Software)
This is the full version of Windows 7 Professional, so chances are you're looking at it because you are building a new computer and plan on putting this on it. If you're wanting to upgrade your old XP or Vista computer and start from scratch, it's not like the old days where you could only format by using a full version. Save yourself some money and purchase the upgrade version: it will still offer you the ability to do a "clean" install and jettison the old Windows baggage.
I HIGHLY recommend you stop by Microsoft's website and look the different versions over to confirm you have the right one. If you're running a computer old enough that you're upgrading from Windows 98 or Windows 2000, I don't recommend it: your performance will drop and you'll see compatibility problems, some of which may be major. If this is the case, stop by Microsoft.com, grab their "Windows 7 Upgrade Advisor", and run it first.
That said, Windows 7 Home Premium is probably the best bet for the average home user. Unlike XP Home, which made basic things like networking a pain, or Vista Home, which really seemed to only be missing some eye candy, 7 Home Premium truly is aimed at the everyday consumer. Professional is going to be more suited to a corporate environment, or if you are an individual, you will probably want Professional for a personal machine that you regularly use to interact with a workplace.
Pro gives you:
1) complex networking made simpler (for example, connecting to AD domains and/or interacting with your workplace/corporate networks)
2) "XP Mode" - which runs a program within a virtual version of XP. You still have the ability to use "XP Compatibility Mode", which fools your programs into thinking they're running in XP, but the XP Mode is an honest-to-god XP shell that runs within Windows 7. Your hardware will need to support "Virtualization Technology" in order to take advantage of this.
3) Automated backup (which can be done using free tools such as Macrium Reflect if you'd rather save the money)
Ultimate also adds:
4) Hardware-level encryption (and your hardware will need to support this)
5) Native multi-language support: which means you switch from one language to another on the fly and need to make things easier on yourself than they were when you used the Language Bar in XP or Vista
If you're a typical home user, chances are you'll be perfectly happy with Windows 7 Home Premium. If you're an avid gamer who often has to rig that favorite game *just so* in order to get it to run, you might consider Windows 7 Pro to ease your headaches. Ditto if for some reason you have a lot of older "barely XP compatible" programs that you think might be completely unable to function in just "XP Compatibility Mode" (check user forums first). And of course, if you have a desktop or laptop that you often use to connect to work with, check with your support guru, and he'll tell you whether you need to go with the Pro.
Probably one of the biggest advantages with Windows 7 over earlier versions of Windows is that it makes sorting out your networks easier: specifying whether a network is a Home, Work, or Public network means Windows will be more open about sharing across your machines at Home, easier to access your files at Work, but much more cautious about information when you're on a Public network (which means, free Wi-Fi hotspots and the like). This will help you a lot if you're jumping from a home environment to a work environment on a regular basis. It also helps Windows decide how often to nag you about security: more when you're connected to a Public network, less if you're at Home or securely connected to Work. If you dealt with that in Vista, you'll be relieved at the fewer security nags in 7.
Another huge improvement is "Windows XP Mode". If you have a program that is picky, XP Mode will run it in a native XP virtual environment. This doesn't have to mean the user has to know how to manage Virtual Machines; it can be configured to be localized to the program: stop by CNET TV, and look at the video "Windows 7 video: Windows XP Mode" for an excellent explanation and demo).
If you're putting this on a new computer that you want to use to replace an older computer, you will be happy to know that you can migrate all your old stuff from one machine to another. Search Microsoft.com for "Windows Easy Transfer": this program will let you migrate your old user accounts and settings to the new machine very simply. If you want to take it a step further--for example, you have a lot of programs on the old machine you don't want to have to sit down and reinstall one by one on the new machine--you can migrate all of them for $19.95 using Laplink PC Mover: their website is currently offering a special version that is just designed to migrate one computer to Windows 7 one time. Read the documentation very carefully and keep a copy of it handy as I've no room to go into detail on that here.
So what are some of the things Microsoft doesn't tell you in the description above?
Windows 7 isn't just "fixed Vista": it's a full overhaul of Windows based on a ton of feedback collected directly from Beta and RC 1 users (of which I was one--I let 'em have an earful and I think they actually listened)
Windows 7 does things drastically different from XP in that, like Vista, it does a lot of the eye candy in a smoother way. XP and earlier used to send graphics work through your processor before it'd get to your video card...now, it bypasses the processor and goes straight to the video, clearing up what was a pretty substantial bottleneck. This system was imperfect (to say the least!) in Vista, but it's been improved here, particularly in the area of being compatible with older games
Windows 7 is trying to slowly "trim the fat" we normally have to put up with by making itself more compatible with other devices. Where you typically have to install a new device by running the manufacturer's setup disc, installing a bunch of junk and tray icons, and etc., Microsoft is making native support more common. My sound card, for example, used to need about 5 or 6 "helper" programs that would drain my performance and occasionally annoy me. Now it's just using the drivers that came with the installation of 7.
New Operating Systems are always a bumpy road: your journey might not be as easy as others. However, compared to previous Windows releases, Windows 7 is a substantial improvement, and I'm pleased to say that I haven't been burned by 7 like I was with Vista (and Windows Me--agh, the horror, the horror). If you just want to get yourself onto the 7 platform and don't need a lot of customization, Windows 7 Home is a great place to start. If you need more for your work environment (or you are building a workplace environment), then 7 Pro is the way to go.