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Windows 7: Differences between basic and ultimate

View Poll Results: What edition are you buying
Ultimate 545 53.59%
Professional 170 16.72%
Home Premium 255 25.07%
Other 12 1.18%
Not buying Windows 7 35 3.44%
Voters: 1017. You may not vote on this poll

14 Nov 2009   #101

Windows 8.1 Pro Update 1 x64
Special needs here, still unsure

For now, I'm running an... er... "unofficial" copy of Windows 7 Ultimate, but I do intend to buy a license very soon. However, I'm undecided between Home Premium and Ultimate. Professional is ruled out, because it would give me no real advantage, and its price here is just a little bit less than Ultimate's, so why bother?

My situation is somewhat unusual and different from most folks on this forum, and this is why my decision is also more difficult. First of all, I live in Brazil. Here, upgrade licenses are not being sold - only the full (FPP) ones. Family packs, student licenses? Forget it. Windows Anytime Upgrade is also unavailable here, so I can't start with Home Premium and later upgrade to Ultimate if I decide so, except if I buy a pricey full Ultimate license anew and lose my entire previous investment. And prices are higher here than in the U.S. With such policies for Brazil, Microsoft is on its knees imploring for Brazilians to pirate its system, don't you think so?

Now, I live alone, work from home as a technical translator (English-Portuguese and vice versa), live almost a hermit's life, rarely going out, and when I do, my cell phone serves me well. So, I don't have a laptop because I don't need one, and BitLocker is useless to me. (And if I had a laptop, TrueCrypt might not have the same strength as TPM encryption, but I have no military or millionaire trade secrets, and TrueCrypt would do very well against the petty street thieves who would just want to sell the PC for peanuts to buy dope, and who would be my only concern in that case.) I have only one desktop PC and no home network; so, network backups won't be missed. Besides, even the Starter edition can run a third-party program to do that - you only can't use Windows 7's native backup utility to save your backups to a networked location.

Likewise, my old Athlon 64 3800+ processor is not compatible with XP virtualization mode, but while I do need to use a few XP-only apps, free VMware Player 3.0 does the same job very fast and efficiently here without any problems (tested and approved, with excellent performance even with my 4-year-old single-core processor and 2 GB RAM). And VMware can run on any Windows 7 SKU, without requiring any hardware virtualization support.

Considering that an Ultimate license costs almost twice as much as a Home Premium license here (about U.S.$ 390 vs. U.S.$ 230 -- and the damage to the pockets in local currency and at local income levels hurts more than this sounds!), Home Premium would be a no-brainer for me, except for one thing: the multilingual user interface (MUI) feature that only Ultimate offers.

In my translation and localization work, sometimes I need to have the exact wording the system displays in messages, menus, screens, etc., in both English and Portuguese. Sometimes screen captures are handy, too, and I have had to ask friends to get them for me. I am using a U.S. edition of Windows 7; I have tested the Brazilian Portuguese MUI in it, and it was perfect - even system folders like Program Files were renamed Arquivos de Programas, while maintaining compatibility and switching back to English flawlessly later.

Of course, Windows 7 copies available for sale here are all in Brazilian Portuguese. So, I'm wondering if I can activate an "unofficial" English copy of Windows 7 Home Premium with a Brazilian key (meaning I don't know both if it would work and if it would be legal). Such work assignments where I need screens and messages in both languages are not very frequent, and I could create a partition image, briefly install the Portuguese version (I'd have the genuine DVDs, after all), get what I need, then restore the original partition. Much more troublesome than just activating a MUI, but it would work.

Weighing all the pros and cons, I think Home Premium will be my most likely buy. What would you do in my place, guys and girls?

My System SpecsSystem Spec

14 Nov 2009   #102

Windows 7 Profestional 64-bit

I got Pro 64 bit throught the univcersity i'm at for £0 one of the factore in getting it
(also the only opsions avalible were pro 32bit and 64bit)
My System SpecsSystem Spec
16 Nov 2009   #103

Windows 7 Ultimate 32-bit

When I purchased this laptop (Acer Extensa 5230) it was running Windows Vista Home Basic - I chose to upgrade to Windows 7 Ultimate a few days after it was released and I have to say, I am extremely impressed! I'm using a 32-bit edition because 64-bit would be pointless on a lower-end PC like this. I'm thinking about upgrading my desktop to Windows 7 Ultimate as well - it is currently running Windows XP Professional.
My System SpecsSystem Spec

20 Nov 2009   #104

Vista 64 Ultimate, Windows 7 64 Ultimate, Ubuntu 9.10

Ultimate 64 on the main PC and pro 32 on one laptop, I have a copy of Home Premium 64 that I'm trading for Home Premium 32 for the other laptop. Found I am enjoying it so much on the laptop that when the XP Pro bootmgr failed I didn't even care!
My System SpecsSystem Spec
20 Nov 2009   #105

Windows 7 Ultimate x86-64

Full retail copy on my laptop, buying Ultimate for my desktop and buying Ultimate OEM if I build my new pc. All x64.
My System SpecsSystem Spec
20 Nov 2009   #106

Windows 8.1 Pro Update 1 x64

I decided to downgrade from Ultimate to Home Premium. The latter does everything I need, and paying almost twice the license price for Ultimate wasn't worth it. Also using 32-bit because my PC is four years old, has only 2 GB RAM (see full specs on the link below), and the disadvantages of 64-bit in terms of incompatibility and software driver programs would outweigh the advantages for my present configuration and situation.

I'm organizing my finances to replace my PC with a more up-to-date configuration next year (such things are not simple down here in Brazil, where hardware is VERY expensive, due to excessive taxation and other reasons), and maybe then I'll change my mind and go 64-bit, but not for now.

And @fishnbanjo, I can understand you very well. I just reinstalled Windows 7 anew three days ago, this time for good (after a few early test installs), but it feels like I've been using it for years. I'm running a few (VERY few) incompatible legacy apps I need for my work on a Windows XP virtual machine under VMware Workstation 3.0, and the performance is surprisingly good, even with my old machine configuration. (See, not even XP Mode was a good reason for me to go Pro or Ultimate - my current processor is incompatible anyway...)
My System SpecsSystem Spec
29 Nov 2009   #107

Microsoft windows 7 Ultimate x64

i payed nearly 200 euros for the ultimate version but the beta version of ie 8 was better then the full version this one crashes so easily..
My System SpecsSystem Spec
04 Dec 2009   #108

win 7

hey i want to know what dif 32 bit ,64bit , 86 bit
My System SpecsSystem Spec
05 Dec 2009   #109

Windows 7 Professional

32bit and 86bit (in your mind, but there is no 86bit unless your comparing x86 (a.k.a. 32bit) to x64) are the same thing. For example say you have a pc that has a quad core pc with like 6gbs of memory or more, the 32bit version of windows 7 ONLY supports a dual core processor and 3gbs of memory, if you want the full FORCE of that pc you have go to the 64bit version of windows 7 (weather it is pro or basic e.t.c.)
My System SpecsSystem Spec
05 Dec 2009   #110

Windows 8.1 Pro Update 1 x64

Quote   Quote: Originally Posted by mastr55 View Post
hey i want to know what dif 32 bit ,64bit , 86 bit
I'm afraid this is going to be a long explanation, but I hope it will be simple and understandable enough. I will try to be the least technical possible.


First of all, there is no "86-bit". You are probably confused by the "x86" term. Consider it a synonym for "32-bit". It stems from the old Intel 8086, 80286, 80386, etc. processor models, whose architecture is still used today in backward compatible form by all processors that can run Windows. If you want more details, Wikipedia has an excellent article about it.


Now, what are "32-bit" and "64-bit"? The terms refer to the amount of data that the processor can get and process at each working cycle. The more data it can get at once, the speedier it will be able to work. A processor working in 64 bits can process twice as much data at once than if working with 32-bit chunks of data.

(In case you are wondering, nearly all modern processor models - roughly, launched and manufactured in and after late 2004 - can work in both modes, 32- and 64-bit, but to work in 64 bits, both the processor and the operating system - in our case, Windows - must be compatible.)

Additionally and even more importantly, however, as a side effect of that and an added bonus, 64-bit systems can use much more memory than 32-bit systems. This is because each memory position must have an address in order to be referenced and accessed, and this is done in numeric sequence. But computers always work in the binary system at their lowest, innermost level. They can display and accept decimal data for your (human) convenience, but the decimal number is always internally converted to binary for the actual processing.

So, the address of a given memory position is referenced as a 32- or 64-bit binary number like, say, 10110010 11101100 00010111 10010001 (a random example with 32 binary digits, or bits). A 32-bit processor will be able to take a 32-bit long binary number as the address of a memory position; conversely, a 64-bit processor will be able to take a 64-bit long binary number, and this is not twice, but the square of the number of possible addresses in 32 bits.

So, a 32-bit processor can address up to 2 raised to the power of 32 (2^32) memory positions. That's 4 gigabytes (GB), or about 4.3 billion bytes. This sounds like a lot, but it's actually standard today. Windows 7 needs about 1 GB just for itself, to work minimally well; this doesn't include the memory necessary for programs and data. You can have more than 4 GB memory installed in your computer and run a 32-bit system on it, but everything above 4 GB will be ignored and not used. (Actually, due to some Windows design features in the 32-bit versions, only a maximum of about 3.5 GB will be used in practice.)

By contrast, a 64-bit processor can theoretically address 2^64 memory positions. That's 16 exabytes (EB), or about 18.4 quintillion bytes - a number with 20 decimal digits. This is a lot of memory, many orders of magnitude more than needed by even the biggest military and scientific computers and applications of today. There isn't even a computer today whose design allows it to actually use all that. And by design, Microsoft has set an actual limit of 192 GB for 64-bit Windows 7 Professional, Enterprise and Ultimate, and 16 GB for 64-bit Home Premium. But very few of today's computer motherboards accept 24 GB memory, with 16 GB being the upper limit for most of them, including the most expensive, high-end ones. While 4 GB may be too little for some people, especially gamers and people who do heavy graphics and video editing, 8 GB are enough for the vast majority of today's users and applications. (Of course, I'm not talking about enterprise servers here, which often need much more, but they won't use Windows 7.)


Memory, memory, memory... Why all this talk about memory, you must be asking? Because memory is an electronic circuit that is much faster than a hard disk drive and its mechanical moving parts (now there are also the new solid-state drives, or SSDs, whose technology is similar to USB key drives and have no moving parts, but while they are much faster than mechanical hard drives, they are still no match for memory circuits).

When the amount of memory in your computer is not enough for what Windows and the running programs need at a given moment, Windows starts using parts of the much slower hard disk as additional "fake memory" (or, in proper technical terms, "virtual memory"). This process is called "paging to virtual memory". With more available real memory, this happens less often and your computer runs much faster. It will also be able to run more applications at once and have more data stored in memory at a time, instead of fetching them from the hard disk all the time. And there are other technical details that can make it run faster in 64 bits, too. Running 32-bit programs is (mostly) not a problem - 64-bit Windows can run them, too, if needed.


So, in theory a 64-bit system performs much better than a 32-bit system, mostly because of the memory advantage. In practice, however, there are other considerations, and you will notice on the left that I chose to use 32-bit Windows 7 myself, at least for now. This was because:

  • My PC is 4 years old and has only 2 GB memory. With 2 GB, there is little to no advantage in using a 64-bit system, because that still falls within the capabilities of a 32-bit system, and a 64-bit system will have the same constraints of that amount. And I don't want to invest further in an old system, by adding more memory or otherwise; I intend to replace it next year, and then things may change.
  • I wrote above that a 64-bit system can run 32-bit programs as well, but there are some exceptions. These are mostly programs that need to access the system at a much lower level than, say, a word processor or a Web browser. For example, firewalls, antivirus programs, some system utilities like one I use that prevents the processor from overheating at times of very intensive processing. Some of them don't have 64-bit versions yet, and the 32-bit version is not compatible. Some other applications, like Adobe Acrobat, may behave strangely at times when run on 64-bit Windows. I did test 64-bit Windows 7, but I found many low-level applications I use to be incompatible, and such problems to happen often enough to be a considerable nuisance.
  • Another and special case of such exceptions is device drivers, the little programs that tell Windows how to communicate and control your printer, scanner, camera, sound card, etc. I didn't have any driver problems myself, but there are other people having them, because 64-bit Windows treats drivers differently from the 32-bit versions. First, it requires specific 64-bit drivers, and not all device manufacturers or models have one available. Second, it requires all drivers to be digitally signed, and even some large and well-known brands don't do it (take Creative Labs, for example: only recently did it start signing the drivers for its SoundBlaster cards). There are workarounds for this, but they are somewhat technical and involve some trade-offs. The older your peripheral devices are, the more likely you are to have problems. If upgrading an old laptop (2006 or earlier, meaning launched before Windows Vista), you are almost certain to have them.
  • Finally, although 32-bit programs can be run, in order to get the full advantages of a 64-bit system, the program must have been specifically made for 64 bits. Otherwise, the system will still be able to run more of them at once with good performance, but each of them individually will run on a simulated 32-bit environment and have the corresponding constraints. The number of native 64-bit applications is increasing, but at this moment they are still relatively few and don't include some important ones. For example, there is no 64-bit Mozilla Firefox or Office 2007 (Office 2010 will have a 64-bit version). 64-bit Windows 7 comes with both 64- and 32-bit versions of Internet Explorer, but you won't be able to view YouTube videos with the former, because Adobe hasn't yet launched a 64-bit version of Flash, required to view YouTube videos.
So, for the time being, in my specific case and under my current conditions, I found that there would be more disadvantages and problems than advantages in using 64-bit Windows. But of course this varies a lot and depends on your specific needs and conditions. If you have 4 GB or more memory, if you like to play heavy games like Crysis, if you don't run incompatible programs, if you do heavy video processing, then you should go for 64 bits without hesitation. But if you, like me, run an old system with less than 4 GB memory, doesn't use such heavy programs and have incompatible applications or no driver support for your peripherals, then 32-bit Windows will certainly be better for you.

Like I said, this was long, but hopefully clear and understandable enough.
My System SpecsSystem Spec

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