Last week on the Windows Weekly podcast, I mentioned that in writing my Windows 7 review, I pretty much determined that the "best" Windows 7 product edition for most people was Home Premium. I came to this conclusion based on the sheer number of unique features that you get from moving up to Home Premium (from Starter), and from the relatively small bump you get, respectively, from upgrading to Professional or Ultimate. But both Windows 7 Professional and Ultimate do have some unique features of their own, some of which would be hard to live without. Looking over the list in my Windows 7 Product Editions Comparison, you can see that the major unique features of those two versions include...
Windows 7 Professional
Remote Desktop Host
(Encrypting File System) EFS
Bitlocker to Go
(Windows 7 Professional and up also support Active Directory domains.)
That's not too many features. It made me wonder how difficult it would be to find free or low cost tools that would duplicate the missing functionality. So I asked people on the podcast to send in their suggestions for network-based backup, remote desktop, and file encryption (which is what EFS, Bitlocker, and Bitlocker To Go are, essentially).
I'll eventually turn this into a how-to article of sorts, but I'd like to get your feedback as well of course. Here's what I've gotten so far, listed in order of number of responses per solution:
TrueCrypt (very difficult to use)
I'd love to find other encryption solutions that just worked.
Also, with regards to Windows Virtual PC/XP Mode, I don't know of a free Windows-oriented desktop virtualization solution that offers the ability to run virtualized applications under the host OS a la XP Mode. (Both Parallels Desktop and VMWare Fusion do this on Mac OS X, but neither are free.) That said, even Windows Virtual PC only works with 32-bit guests. If you're looking for a surprisingly capable desktop virtualization solution for Windows that works with both 32-bit and 64-bit guests, and is absolutely free, check out VirtualBox. It's excellent. But of course any Windows 7 user can run Windows Virtual PC: You just won't get XP Mode for free.