What Version of Windows 7 is Right for You? (and why you should care)

One problem I see all the time is people (or practices) purchasing a new computer with the wrong version of Microsoft Windows 7.  You might not be aware of how big a problem this can be. [Update – Thinking of Windows 8?  See my other article]


What versions are there?
There are essentially five versions of Windows 7 available today that you might encounter:

  • Starter Edition
  • Home Edition
  • Professional Edition
  • Ultimate Edition
  • Enterprise Edition

What’s the difference?
Microsoft adds features to each more expensive version.  The basics of each are:

  • Starter – is essentially free and included on only the lowest end devices.  It is just enough to make the computer run.   If you are going to sell a $299 PC, you have to cut corners somewhere.  Don’t buy a $299 PC – they’re junk.
  • Home – is designed for the home user, not the office.  It has everything you would need for the typical home network, but has been stripped of features necessary to work properly in a business.
    Take note that this is the most common mistake I see. Someone buys a computer at Costco or Staples to save money, tries to use it at the office and gets a big surprise when it can’t properly connect to the server.  Most every practice management application states that they DO NOT support Windows Home Edition with their products for this reason.  If you are buying a PC for the office it needs one of the three versions listed next.
  • Professional – ideally suited for business.  It includes all of the necessary features to connect to your server, plus it includes all the stuff from Home edition. When purchased with a new PC it doesn’t cost much more, usually $70 over the cost of Home edition.   Costco, etc., don’t normally offer many computers pre-configured with Windows Professional since their target market is the Home user and to offer the lowest possible price.
  • Ultimate – adds a bunch of additional media related features to Professional, generally not needed for business use.  If you are into using your PC as a Media Center computer at your home, this is the edition for you.   Since the features don’t add anything useful for the office we tend to avoid this (simpler = better).
  • Enterprise – only available through a Microsoft reseller and is intended for large scale corporate users.  You likely won’t see this version, and there is nothing special about it to seek it out.

You can learn more about the version comparisons online here.

It’s pretty simple.  For home use, and ONLY for home use, get Home edition.  For the office get Professional edition.   If you are getting a laptop that will need to work at both home and the office, get it with Professional edition.   If you need something specifically available in Ultimate edition go for it, but otherwise stick with the Home or Professional as required.

I already have the wrong version – now what?
In the past if you had the wrong version of Windows on your computer, the only way to upgrade it was by reinstalling Windows from scratch, then reinstalling all of your applications and data.  This was a huge hassle.

To improve this, Microsoft now allows you to use ‘Windows Anytime Upgrade’ and you can simply hand them more money and your computer will update itself over the Internet.    It’s pretty easy. For details on how to do this check out this article online showing exactly how.


Upgrading from Home to Professional Edition should cost about $90. Note that this is probably more than it would have if you purchased the PC with Professional edition originally.   Be prepared to let your PC work on this for a while. The update will take some time, probably more than an hour depending on the speed of your Internet connection and computer.

Another note – I am not a fan of this method.  Some instinct inside me says a computer originally loaded with the correct version will be better than one with the wrong version later updated.  It’s worth the trouble to get the PC with the correct version to begin with.  If you are already saddled with Home edition, however, this is the best path forward.

32 or 64 bit?
The astute reader will note I have not discussed the other great variable in selecting the correct OS for your PC, whether to choose 32-bit or 64-bit Windows.  Please check out my other Blog article The Difference between 32-bit and 64-bit Windows and Why You Should Care.

Since your existing IT person didn’t share this with you, perhaps you would consider working with the people that did. If you need a little help with your Practice, this is what MME Consulting does. Just give us a call at 866-419-1102 or check us out online at

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By Steve McEvoy

Car Guy, Nerd, Canadian hiding in California