Introducing the Windows Family

When you begin to delve into details about how Windows 7 works, the discussion can quickly become complicated . The primary reason for confusion is because the operating system is actually distributed and sold in multiple editions . Compared to Windows Vista, the lineup of available editions is less complicated, but you can still get tripped up if you read about an advanced feature and don't realize that it's missing from your edition .

How can you tell which Windows 7 edition is installed on your PC? The easiest way is to look at the top of the System applet in Control Panel—click System in Control Panel; right-click the Computer icon on the Start menu and then click Properties; or use the keyboard shortcut Windows logo key+Break . Under the Windows Edition heading, you will see the current installed edition, as shown in Figure 1-1 .

Figure 1-1 System in Control Panel shows which Windows 7 edition is installed.

In this book, we concentrate on the three Windows 7 editions you are most likely to encounter on a mainstream home or business PC:

• Windows 7 Home Premium This is the edition you are most likely to find installed on a new PC in the computer section at your local warehouse store or consumer electronics specialist. It includes roughly the same mix of features as its predecessor, Windows Vista Home Premium .

• Windows 7 Professional This edition is the successor to Windows Vista Business and incorporates the same features as that operating system, notably advanced networking features that work with networks based on the Windows Server family. In a noteworthy change, however, Windows 7 Professional is a superset of Home Premium and thus includes all features (including Windows Media Center) found in the lesser edition .

• Windows 7 Ultimate and Windows 7 Enterprise These editions are essentially identical, with the names reflecting the sales channel of each: Ultimate is available on retail and original equipment manufacturer (OEM) editions; Enterprise is distributed only to large customers who buy volume licenses of Windows . This edition contains all features found in the Home Premium and Professional editions plus some advanced networking features, BitLocker encryption, and support for multiple languages

All of these editions are available in x86 (32-bit) and x64 (64-bit) options. When we wrote the previous edition of this book, 64-bit Windows was still a fairly exotic choice for most Windows users . Within just a few years, thanks in no small measure to the plummeting price of memory chips, that balance has shifted dramatically. Today, Windows 7 x64 is commonly installed on new computers, especially on systems with 4 GB or more of RAM.

Note

The default settings we describe in this book are those you will see if you perform a clean install of Windows 7 using a shrink-wrapped retail copy. If you purchase a new PC with Windows 7, your settings might be different Computer manufacturers have the right to customize Windows when they install it on a new system; they can change default settings, customize desktop backgrounds and screen savers, tweak the home page and Favorites list in Windows Internet Explorer, install third-party software, and configure the system so that it uses a different media player or browser than the Microsoft defaults .

In this book, we offer only limited coverage of two specialized Windows 7 editions:

• Windows 7 Starter This edition is available for sale only on low-powered hardware, such as lightweight "netbooks," and is limited in its feature set.

• Windows 7 Home Basic Although its predecessor was available worldwide as the entry-level edition of Windows Vista, Windows 7 Home Basic is available only in emerging markets and is not authorized for sale in the United States, Western Europe, and the rest of the so-called developed world. It lacks support for the Aero interface and does not include Windows Media Center.

We also ignore the handful of variations of standard Windows 7 editions that have been modified to satisfy terms dictated by courts in various parts of the world. We never heard from a single reader who actually used the N or K versions of Windows Vista, which had Windows Media Player removed and were offered for sale in Europe and Korea, respectively. Windows 7 offers similar packages, and our experience suggests they'll be equally unpopular, if not completely invisible .

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