Making sense of the different versions of Vista

Microsoft Vista is now out, the next version of Windows, successor to XP. While Windows XP will continue to receive updates into 2014 there are many that might be eager to upgrade and move to the latest greatest. (Note to those: Service Pack one may be en route THIS calendar year, so unless you like to bleed on the edge…. you MIGHT hold off until that’s out.) But those that do look at getting Vista are met with a dizzying array of choices.

First there is Windows Vista Starter edition which is not expected to be available in the US or other “high income” countries. This is targetted as a cheap and lean version of Windows for developing markets (intended to compete with pirated Windows and Linux installs.) If you’re in the US/Canada/European Union/New Zealand/Australia just go ahead and forget this one exists….. as it’s not expected to be sold in these areas.

Windows Vista Home Basic
This is the cheaper of the available versions with the OEM version for 64-bit system builders….
Microsoft Windows Vista Home Basic 64-bit for System Builders [DVD] running around $109.99

There is the upgrade version for end users though Microsoft Windows Vista Home Basic UPGRADE [DVD]Microsoft Windows Vista Home Basic UPGRADE [DVD]

The upgrade runs around $99.95. Of course, there is the full version as well….

Microsoft Windows Vista Home Basic FULL VERSION [DVD]Microsoft Windows Vista Home Basic FULL VERSION [DVD]

Which runs around $199.95 (with the spanish version running an extra $30….) Windows Vista Home Basic SPANISH FULL VERSION [DVD]

So, what’s in the home basic edition (or more importantly what’s not…)

For starters, there is no media center functionality. Will you be able to play music and videos – really, yes, some features should be workable with Media Player, but you won’t have the full screen menu media center mode suitable for remote control style/appliance use. There is no scheduled backup included in this version, but windows defender and firewall are included as is the web browser. There is no drive encryption, no bundled software to make dvds (although third party software should be available for that.) No high definition support in windows movie maker, limits in networking functionality (no domain support, no remote desktop.) No aero desktop eyecandy bundled in home basic, no tablet pc support and no “Windows meeting space” which is a tool for collaborating on documents. So… this is pretty much analagous to XP Home in many ways, extra features that aren’t included may be available through third party software if you’re interested (although the domain support wouldn’t be.)

If you want to move up to Home Premium, you get all the features of Home Basic, plus the Aero desktop, table pc support, bundled dvd creation software, windows meeting space, high definition support in windows movie maker, windows media center addons, scheduled backups and extra game packs.

Microsoft Windows Vista Home Premium UPGRADE [DVD]Microsoft Windows Vista Home Premium UPGRADE [DVD] The Home Premium upgrade edition will run in the neighborhood of $159.95….

Microsoft Windows Vista Home Premium FULL VERSION [DVD]Microsoft Windows Vista Home Premium FULL VERSION [DVD] the full version of home premium runs around $239.95. With the spanish version….
Windows Vista Home Premium SPANISH FULL VERSION [DVD] running $269.95

Windows Vista Business is the next version under the microscope. This version doesn’t have any of the media center “stuff” as the last version, nor does it have high definition video creation/dvd creation support (or the added game pack). It DOES add, full system backup capability (the scheduled backup of the other versions only supported data backups, this supports complete system backups.) They also add more network support in the realm of remote desktop and domain support.

Microsoft Windows Vista Business UPGRADE [DVD]Microsoft Windows Vista Business UPGRADE [DVD], this upgrade version of Vista will run around $199.95, while the full install…..

Microsoft Windows Vista Business FULL VERSION [DVD]Microsoft Windows Vista Business FULL VERSION [DVD] … is in the ballpark of $299.95

There is also Windows Vista Ultimate for those wanting the domain/full backup capabilities of Vista Business plus the Media Center and DvD/high definition capabilities of Home Premium.

Microsoft Windows Vista Ultimate UPGRADE [DVD]Microsoft Windows Vista Ultimate UPGRADE [DVD] This upgrade version is $259.95.

Microsoft Windows Vista Ultimate FULL VERSION [DVD]Microsoft Windows Vista Ultimate FULL VERSION [DVD] The full version runs $399.95.

All of the prices above mentioned have been full retail unless otherwise noted as OEM or system builder prices.

This page could be a good reference from Microsoft on the different versions of Vista. I should note that there is also an Enterprise version of Vista that adds hardware encryption, software assurance features and services for Unix support as well as multilanguage support and “It also provides the right to run four virtual operating system sessions, which enables you to run a legacy application in a virtual environment on top of Windows Vista Enterprise.”

One other consideration to keep in mind is the hardware requirement of Vista. If you’re buying Vista preinstalled this shouldn’t be an issue, but it’s worth thinking about (usually systems get undersold on the installed memory… i.e. install the bare minimum). Here are the requirements for Home Basic….

1 GHz 32-bit (x86) or 64-bit (x64) processor

512 MB of system memory

20 GB hard drive with at least 15 GB of available space

Support for DirectX 9 graphics and 32 MB of graphics memory

DVD-ROM drive

Audio Output

Internet access (fees may apply),

Other versions double the memory requirement to 1GB and the hard drive space to 40GB as well as upping the video requirements a bit….

WDDM Driver

128 MB of graphics memory (minimum)

Pixel Shader 2.0 in hardware

32 bits per pixel

There is an upgrade advisor available here, but I would seriously suggest that if you’ve read through the specs and your system JUST meets the minimum that you seriously consider upgrading to exceed the minimum requirements before upgrading.

What’s the old saying… “jumping required, parachute recommended…” Usually the requirements are pretty close to the bare minimum that the system will run with. In other words your experience with the OS will be severely limited if you are stuck with the BARE MINIMUM.

After looking at all of these (expensive) options for upgrading windows…. I’m reminded of a post I saw recently about ubuntu vista… it seems that someones father asked him to get and install vista when it came out. The young man in question was a linux user and instead installed the latest version of Ubuntu on his fathers machine. The man has raved to his son at how great Bill Gates is that this is so much better than what Steve Jobs has put out with the Mac… he says he’ll probably let the prank go a bit longer before giving his dad the money back….

Depending on your usage it’s worth considering alternatives. I have a few ubuntu installs in service right now (Dapper) I haven’t tried Edgy yet (outside of a virtual machine), but I must say I’ve been really impressed with the polish that Ubuntu shows. If it were not for free software I would NOT be able to do the kind of work that I do. I have… 5 computers, one came with Windows ME, I have bought 2 XP licenses for use (in virutal machines) if open source linux were not available for me, I would have probably another $2000 in cost (likely more counting hardware upgrades.) As I also keep several test systems and virtual machines. (If I recall correctly the Server version of Windows is required to host VMs on a network without running into some of XP Pro’s network number of client throttling issues….

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