# The mystery of the 3 app limit in Windows 7 Starter

One of the things I've been asked about with regards to Windows 7 Starter (see my pre-RC screenshot gallery) is that controversial three application limit. Is it really there? And is it really much of an issue?

It really is there. (See this shot in particular.)

But. It doesn't pop up that often. In fact, you will often have far more than three applications running before you see it. How is that?

One theory is that the built-in applications don't count, or perhaps its just Explorer-based apps. For example, you can launch SnagIt (third party app), WMP, and IE 8, and then launch Paint. No problem. The, launch WordPad. No complaints. Windows Anytime Upgrade.

But if you try to launch Windows Fax and Scan at this point ... bam.

Or Windows Live Photo Gallery. Blocked.

But launch Windows Explorer? No complaints. It starts right up.

OK, let's start over.

No apps are running. Launch, in order, SnagIt, Windows Live Photo Gallery, Windows Live Movie Maker, and then Windows Fax and Scan. No problem. That's four apps right there. Now launch IE 8 ... nope, it's blocked. But Windows Explorer will run. So will Windows Anytime Update. WMP? No.

Oh, and ESET NOD32 is running in the background the whole time.

Regardless of the exact mechanism used, it's pretty clear that most people who end up with Windows 7 Starter will be using a netbook anyway, and will likely never (or rarely) run into this limit. I'll keep testing to see if that is true. But it doesn't appear to be the huge issue tht people are making it out to be. And if Starter is cheap enough, I could see many being A-OK with this. Hey, anything is better than a stripped--down netbook version of Linux.

clindhartsen
on Mar 30, 2009
On the Explorer bit: If it's like previous versions of Windows, the explorer is always running in the background and opening a new window would only run upon that process unless you change the option to run new windows in a new instance of the process.
Master3
on Mar 30, 2009
Aren't most netbooks powerful enough to run home premium anyway? I guess this would have to be a really low-end one to need starter.
clindhartsen
on Mar 30, 2009
Master3: I'm running 7057 on an HP Mini 1030nr, so it's perfectly possible. The sad thing is some of the Aero effects work better than my full sized HP dv9000. But yes, at neast my netbook is capable of 7 eather easily.
yipcanjo
on Mar 30, 2009
I'm trying to ascertain whether or not the "3 app limit" will really be an issue if I ran Starter Edition on my netbook. That said, *NOT* having the Aero interface is an issue. Big time. The Aero interface runs greats on my HP Mini 1120NR, and I can't figure out why the Starter Edition should be *dinged* and not have that functionality. Turn it OFF by default, if you like, but let me run Windows and have it look as good as possible! Honestly.
vinski-
on Mar 30, 2009
@yipcanjo Naturally Aero is left out to make the more expensive versions more attractive. Doh!
stevejobs
on Mar 30, 2009
Now, can these same geniuses step up and invent a system limiting Waethorn's mother to three concurrent burritos?
pthurrott
on Mar 30, 2009
So, yes, not having Aero is a bigger issue for me as well, actually. Should have mentioned this. I've gotten the following reply, anonymously, about this limit: Some built-in apps are excluded from the 3 app limit. You can also work around it by launching apps like this from the command prompt: C:\> write & "x:\path\to\app1" & "x:\path\to\app2" ... & "x:\path\to\appN" Note: 'write' should be first in the list. Apps launched from within another application (installers, for e.g.) do not count towards this limit. Apps launched from the system notification area (system tray) do not count towards this limit. These exclusions to the 3 apps limit are for compatibility reasons. Hope this helps, --Paul
DarkSages
on Mar 30, 2009
@ Master3 Yes I think that most netbooks can run any version of windows 7, I have installed ultimate on a couple. The problem is price, if your buying a netbook your buying it for it's low price. We don't really know the price between starter and home premium version of windows 7 but I bet it will raise the prise of your new netbook.
Waethorn
on Mar 30, 2009
Unless they can make Aero usable on a GMA 500 by making it a) perform decently, unlike in Vista where Vista recommends to turn it off for performance reasons, and b) actually write compatible drivers for it in Windows 7 (the Vista drivers don't support Aero in 7), then it's really pointless to have Home Premium for netbooks. Intel is increasing the speed of the Z series processors but the N series are stagnating, so it seems that they are trying to push netbook makers to use the MID-class CPU's instead. The Z series are only sold with the Paulsbo chipset (US15W, which includes the GMA 500 DX10.1 graphics). If they can't make Aero work well on it, then Intel should just give up on making chipsets for the Atom and hand that business over to NVIDIA. Don't get me wrong. I'm hoping that Intel can get their act together and improve the performance of Aero on the GMA 500, but right now it doesn't work in 7 (I haven't tried the latest builds myself), and in Windows Vista, the performance is pathetic on these chips with Aero enabled. The Atom processor isn't fast enough for HD video or whathaveyou. As much as I'd like to use Windows Media Center on a netbook (touch-based would be ideal), it's just not a possibility at this point. Starter is looking attractive for underpowered netbooks due to restrictions in the hardware. I'd like to see someone create a shell overlay for Starter to make it more appliance-like for launching apps, similar to the netbook versions of Linux. Except that it's Windows. I always thought that the Origami launcher app would be a good front end for netbooks, especially considering it integrates media access into the same program.
Raf
on Mar 30, 2009
So, to clarify. All SKUs of Windows have Aero. What's really missing here is Aero 'Glass', a snazzy transparency effect that only applies to the upper tiers of Windows. I'm not sure why it's a shock to readers this functionality is missing, given that Home Basic was missing the functionality -- a higher tier than Starter.
Waethorn
on Mar 30, 2009
Here's the Origami Experience: http://www.microsoft.com/windows/products/winfamily/umpc/demo.mspx A couple of notes: 1) it scales well on low-resolution screens 2) it doesn't require that Aero be turned on (checked on Vista Business with Aero turned off) 3) the browser is wicked sweet (it supports drag-to-scroll) 4) it doesn't require touch input 5) it's customizable for adding programs to the launcher 6) it works like a stripped-down version of Media Center 7) it supports RSS feeds in an integrated reader app 8) it supports it's own gadgets for time, and weather, etc. 9) it's awesome 10) i haven't tried it on Vista Starter, or any version of 7 yet
Waethorn
on Mar 30, 2009
"All SKUs of Windows have Aero. What's really missing here is Aero 'Glass', a snazzy transparency effect that only applies to the upper tiers of Windows." Aero = Aero Glass insofar as most people are concerned. The other option is called "Windows Vista Basic". It lacks all of the transparencies as well as Flip 3D, live thumbnails on the taskbar, and the window animations for minimize & maximize. If you have Windows Vista Home Basic, but also have 3D hardware, there is an alternate UI to Windows Vista Basic, called Windows Vista Standard. It includes everything in Aero except for the transparencies. I think that's the one you're referring to here.
USArcher
on Mar 30, 2009
I could put an inexpensive Windows 7 based netbook to use. The thing is, I need touch support. It doesn't have to be *multi* touch though. Hopefully, Microsoft can put a stripped down touch capability into the final starter/home editions.
USArcher
on Mar 30, 2009
@Waethorn, I agree..MS needs some sort of base origami/touch experience. OEMs still could put their own customization but there are plenty of OEM/System Builders that just don't bother with this sort of thing. Also, I'm a believer in using default experiences as much as possible.
Waethorn
on Mar 30, 2009
"The thing is, I need touch support. It doesn't have to be *multi* touch though." Why not look at some of these ultra-cheap Linux-based touch MID devices from Asia and load Windows 7 + Origami on it? There was one that was sold in China or Hong Kong or whatever, and it was a tablet form factor with touch Linux MID with an Atom processor. I don't remember the name of the device or company, but I remember the website had a lot of purple on it. Can anybody help identify it? Update: Origami Experience 2.0 works on Windows 7 Ultimate 7000 in Virtual PC, meaning that you don't need Vista for it to work, nor do you need Aero on 7. It even works surprisingly well in a 512MB envelope. One thing I've noticed is that Mobility Center is that the battery icon links to Mobility Center, so if your netbook/notebook/MID/whatever doesn't have a Windows version that supports it, that icon gives an error saying that Mobility Center is only for Mobile PC's.
USArcher
on Mar 30, 2009
@Waethorn, sure I could do that. All I'm suggesting is that Microsoft include this so that when touch based netbooks come pre-installed with Windows 7, you are good to go. When Windows 7 is released, I'll be looking for systems similiar to this... http://on10.net/blogs/sarahintampa/Shuttlersquos-New-All-in-One-PC-Arrives/
subzerohitman721
on Mar 30, 2009
This 3 app limit in Windows 7 Starter edition really stumps me. My biggest question? Why? There's no edition of Linux and OS-X doesn't do this. Can't people figure out when you've got too many things running that your PC slows to a crawl? Now I could understand if it was 6 or 7 app limit. But three? I can run past 3 apps in my daily usage. I'm sure this is true of many other users world wide. Its just an annoying feature that will definitely come back to haunt Microsoft. As I've stated before, my brother is currently testing Windows 7 on an 2003/2004 era XP hardware. 2 Ghz Intel Pentium 4 single core processor, 1 GB of Ram, 256 MB graphics card on AGP, & 120 GB hard drive. Not that far from what an Atom processor based nettop uses. It manages to run Windows 7 Ultimate just fine. There's really no need for such a restriction. By the time the 1st Windows 7 nettops make it to market, I'm sure the first dual core atom processors and single cores will break the 2 GB barrier. Even a 1.6 dual core atom would be able to manage any version of Windows 7 without being restricted to 3. I'm assuming that the first wave of nettops with Windows 7 on board will probably be in 2010. I'm also assuming that the 2009 nettops will just get the free upgrade option. This is really a bad decision and I hope MIcrosoft changes that before the backlash happens.
Waethorn
on Mar 30, 2009
You know, this Origami thing is pretty neat. I think I might be on to something here. I sort of see this as being analogous to having a skin over top of Windows Mobile. Windows is sitting in the background, being all computer-y like for advanced users. Then you have this user-friendly skin that gives you access to multimedia and a limited number of integrated applications. It's funny, because I prefer using the Windows Mobile default home screen for advanced use, but the Origami Experience isn't something I would mind on a small netbook or tablet. I wouldn't use it as my main OS UI though, but it'd be handy on a portable. At least I know that Windows is still there, so if I need to run some big application, I can. Unlike when you have a MID-optimized version of Linux.
Waethorn
on Mar 30, 2009
@sub: Nettops and netbooks are vastly different. Nettops have dual-core and x64. Netbooks generally don't. There's a huge performance difference there. A lot of the industry is also shifting into MID's with limited RAM, and as I mentioned, many companies are using the (even-slower) Z series Atom CPU's in their designs. The Starter edition will be targetted to a new class of MID's and ultra-small netbooks that will look like oversized PDA's and pocketable laptops. They just don't have the processing power to multitask that well. Even with Hyperthreading, the Atom Z series are woefully slow compared to the apt Atom 330, and even then, the 330 can't do HD video with only the Intel-approved 945 chipset. I wish I could say I was surprised by this, but it's the truth, and I kind of saw it coming. The Atom for MID's just isn't designed for multitasking - they're designed for rich handheld internet-connected devices with light workloads. If it makes it easier to understand, take an iPhone and then boost it JUST ENOUGH to allow it to run Windows, but with the synthetic software restrictions that Apple places on the platform. The best processor option that would fit into a device of that type would be an Atom Z series, and you wouldn't be able to run much else on it except for the limited multimedia support and some low-resolution mobile apps that aren't designed for any real productivity. That's the market that the Atom Z series fits into. And netbook makers still want to use it. Intel also isn't giving anybody any good hints about the platforms, since the N series are stagnating. They recently released info about new Z series clock speeds though, which is tempting for netbook manufacturers.
robertsjoe
on Mar 30, 2009
Windows 7 Starter Edition. What a dumb idea.
Waethorn
on Mar 30, 2009
Letting robertsjoe post: even dumber
RaggieSoft
on Mar 30, 2009
Feeding Trolls: priceless
robertsjoe
on Mar 30, 2009
@waethorn: Come on! You're telling me that adding an almost worthless edition, like Starter, is a smart move? I don't think so. Not at all.
whiplash55
on Mar 30, 2009
I could never get over the 3 app limit right now I've got FF , IE8, Windows Explorer, Live Mail, and Live Photo Gallery open and I didn't even think of it. I think the Starter Edition is as Paul stated just for netbooks and only to save money. I don't see the point, they're just going to annoy people with this, just give them Home Premium and be done with it, same price. I'd like to see an advanced installer (for those that want it) similar to what vlite gives you in Vista. I used vlite to make a custom install of Vista Business that runs fantastic on my 1.33 GHZ ULV Latitude XT and it starts and runs faster than XP ever did on the machine.
callayheeko
on Mar 30, 2009
My guess is that the three-app limit isn't driven by technical limitations at all; rather, the limit is the result of a strategic decision to enable further market segmentation. In other words, it's a way to sell copies of Windows to consumers who aren't willing to pay the higher price required for the other SKUs.
callayheeko
on Mar 30, 2009
That's not a value judgment, by the way. I'd say that market segmentation is (probably) an economically rational practice used widely in the software industry (Apple's 10-client version of OS X Server is another example), and in the commercial sector as a whole.
robertsjoe
on Mar 30, 2009
Another dumb Microsoft video: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=GsMFyo8DWs4 They are so great at producing crap videos and ads, it's astonishing.
Waethorn
on Mar 31, 2009
"You're telling me that adding an almost worthless edition...." What? Microsoft is selling OS X now?
Waethorn
on Mar 31, 2009
"I don't think" That explains it all robertsjoe.
stevejobs
on Mar 31, 2009
"You're telling me that adding an almost worthless edition...." "What? Microsoft is selling OS X now?" They're selling Windows Waethorn's Mother Professional Edition. Perfect for users who want to know what it feels like to be @#$!%ed over, and yet not be satisfied. Comes with a free year of OneCare. You're gonna need it. Waethorn on Mar 31, 2009 "I don't think" Yes I see you're doing more of that lately. "Perfect for users who want to know what it feels like to be @#$!%ed over, and yet not be satisfied." Oh so they ARE selling OS X now. Why bother buying that from Microsoft, when they can just go and buy a Mac.

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