Comparing Vista Versions (Editions)

Comparing Vista Versions Windows Vista 6 versions or editions

Before you buy Windows Vista or upgrade from XP, make sure that you choose the most appropriate edition of the operating system.  Obvious traps include, Vista machine cannot join the domain, no Media Center, or you buy an edition that only runs on a 64 bit processor.

To clarify the semantics, most people refer to them as Vista Versions, however, Microsoft are pushing the phrase ‘Vista Editions’, I use the term Vista version and Vista edition interchangeably.

Approximate Costs of Windows Vista

Windows Vista Ultimate for approx. $400 $320 (Upgrade $260)
Windows Vista Business for approx. $240 $220 (Upgrade $200)
Windows Vista Home Premium for approx. $240  (Upgrade $160)
Windows Vista Home Basic for approx. $200  (Upgrade $100)
Windows Vista Enterprise TBC – (Part of Software Assurance enterprise licensing)
Windows Vista Starter ?Affordable Price


Which is the Best Edition of Vista?

Let me start with a few questions to help you decide which edition is best for your circumstances.Windows Vista Business Edition

1) Will your machine need to join a domain?  I mean a Windows Server 200x domain and not just a peer-to-peer network.  If you need to join an Active Directory domain, then the Windows Vista Business edition is essential.  One pointer for choosing this edition is that you are currently running XP pro rather than XP home.

If you have a large roll-out of Vista Business, then Microsoft provide additional software such as System Image Manager (SIM).  These latest bulk-install techniques extend to Vista.  You may have glimpsed these principles in XP, namely, answer files and Windows Server 2003’s RIS technology.

2) Do you want the Windows Media Center?  If yes, then consider the Home Premium edition. ($240 ish).  The business version does not have the Windows Media Center.  If you’re certain that you will never need the Windows Media center, then you could save $40 ish and buy the Home Basic edition.Vista Editions - Ultimate

3) Do you want to be sure that you get every feature in Vista? And do you have the $400 asking price?  OK, go ahead and order the Windows Vista Ultimate edition.  An example of matching your hardware to the Vista edition is BitLocker Drive Encryption.  It is only available in the Ultimate edition and moreover, BitLocker requires a TPM 1.2 chip.  Incidentally, Vista Ultimate and the Home Premium are the only editions that have the Windows Media Center.  Vista Ultimate also has the complete PC Backup imaging tool.

4) Are you a developer, who has no need for peripherals such as scanners, moreover, you run only Microsoft software?  In this specialist case, the 64-bit editions of Vista Business or Vista Ultimate may be for you.  One day buying a 64-bit edition of Vista may be the best option, but for non-developers that day will not be in early 2007.  The consensus of opinion in the spring of 2007 was that manufacturers had not produced sufficient 64-bit drivers and software applications to risk installing any of the 64-bit editions of Vista.  In addition, it does not seem possible to upgrade any edition of XP to any version of 64-bit Vista, thus it’s just not worth ordinary people considering 64-bit Vista for home or business use until at least 2008.

5) Are you covered by Microsoft Software Assurance?  In which case, your supplier has probably contacted you about upgrading to Windows Vista Enterprise under the Volume License agreement.  Ordinary people cannot get hold of Vista Enterprise thus you can cross this edition off your short list; opt for Vista Business edition instead.

6) Vista Starter does not support the Aero Graphics, consequently this edition is unlikely to be your first choice.  In addition, you have to be a member of one of 119 emerging markets to get a copy of this Starter Vista edition.  Microsoft’s idea is to help poor countries with old machines to at least get the security advantages of Vista even if they cannot see the fancy graphics.

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How does Guy’s maths reach 13 editions of Vista?

The Starter version, as its name implies, does not come in a 64-bit edition.  Thus depending on how you count, Microsoft has produced six editions of Vista, or eleven if you count the five 64-bit editions separately.

Because of legal wrangling over Vista in Europe and Korea, Microsoft produced at least two extra beta versions, these were denoted by the (N) for example: Windows Vista Business (N).

My information is that as of January 2007, the (N) version has been abandoned, all countries will have the same 6 Editions.

Brad Smith Press Conference Transcript: Announcement Regarding Release of Windows Vista in Europe and Korea.  Microsoft has complied with the 3 requirements (Browsers level playing field, XML file format, New security API).  One indirect reference in this Oct 13th press release indicated that there was now no problem with Windows Media Center either in Europe or in Korea.

See Windows 8 Editions.

Statistics on Purchases of Vista Editions

While I am never one to follow the crowd, these statistics make interesting reading.

Windows Vista Ultimate ……….46%
Windows Vista Home Premium ..37%
Windows Vista Home Basic ……..9%
Windows Vista Business …………8%

What surprised me was the ratio of Vista Home Premium and Vista Ultimate.  I would not have predicted so many people would have bought the Vista Ultimate Edition.

Plan B

If your original purchase does not include the package that you now want, do not despair, just contact Windows Update Anytime at Microsoft’s site.

Summary of Vista Editions

1) Vista Ultimate (Best Edition)

2) Enterprise (Only for SA or EA customers)

3) Business

4) Home Premium

5) Home Basic

6) Starter (Simplest)

1) Vista Ultimate (Best Edition)

Microsoft has made a good choice of name for their flagship version of Vista – Ultimate.  I think of the Ultimate edition as a direct successor to XP Professional.  As the name implies, Ultimate combines all the features found in the home Premium with those found in the Business enterprise.  Put simply, if you read about a Vista feature, such as BitLocker drive encryption, then you can be sure it’s in the Ultimate version.  See much more about the Vista Ultimate Edition.

2) Vista Enterprise (Only for SA or EA customers)

Windows Vista Enterprise will only be available to customers who have PCs covered by Microsoft Software Assurance (SA) or a Microsoft Enterprise Agreements (EA).

The key feature is Windows BitLocker Drive Encryption.  The Business Enterprise version also has Unix and multi language support.  I imagine that the Enterprise Version is Vista Ultimate, but without the Media Center.

3) Vista Business (OK)

Regular business edition.  Similar to the basic Vista version, but with the ability to join a domain.  This edition also has Remote Desktop.  However, it lacks the Media Center.

4) Vista Home Premium (Good)

The key feature of the Premium edition is the Windows Media Center.  You will also notice that the specification for this edition includes a mention of the Aero Graphics interface.

5) Vista Home Basic (Avoid)

If you buy a new machine from a store, if the marketing blurb says ‘Windows Vista pre-installed’, then it’s likely to be the Home Basic version.  You will get a wonderful operating system, it just will not have the Windows Media Center and will not be able to join a domain.  Beware, double check, whereas Microsoft explicitly mention Aero Graphics for the above four editions, they do not mention Aero in the Home Basic version.

Microsoft are describing Home Basic as the foundation for all the other Vista versions.  That means even the Home Basic version has the core Vista operating which means it’s safer, securer and more robust than XP.  New features such as pre-fetch, proactive wizards and troubleshooters are here in this simplest version.

6) Vista Starter (Simplest)

Microsoft say Vista Starter is designed for old machines with slow processors and minimal RAM.  The idea is to benefit from Vista’s extra security, but to sacrifice the graphics.  This edition does not, repeat, not support Aero Graphics. 

The Starter Edition comes only in 32-bit form, furthermore, it is also only licensed for use on these processors:

  • Intel Pentium 3 processors
  • Intel Pentium 4 processors not supporting Hyper-Threading technology
  • Intel Pentium 4 processors model 541, 531, 524, 661, 651, 641, 631, 630, 640, 650, 660, 670
  • Intel Celeron, Celeron D, or Celeron M processors
  • AMD Athlon XP, Duron, Geode or Sempron processors
  • Also equivalent processors from other manufacturers

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