Back in February, I wrote an article, Windows 7 Product Editions, in which I discussed the various SKUs (stock keeping units, or product editions) that Microsoft would provide with its next operating system. Now, with nearly fully-functional versions of each product edition available to the public, I thought I'd provide a series of tables comparing each Windows 7 product editon, similar in scope to the work I did documenting Windows Vista.

I believe these tables will help you pick which Windows 7 product edition makes the most sense for you, based on your needs and wants. Let's dive right in.


Note: This set of tables has been updated for the final, shipping versions of Windows 7. Unlike similar comparisons, these tables were generated using not by simply observering each product edition, but also by using Microsoft's internal reporting mechanisms to determine exactly which features are, in fact, available in each version. For this reason, I can reasonably state that this is the most complete and accurate list of Windows 7 features anywhere. That said, I'm still human and could have made mistakes transcribing the information. If you see anything wrong or missing, or would like to see a certain feature added, please contact me.


Finding what you need


Availability User interface features
Security features Performance features
Reliability features Bundled applications
Digital media and devices Networking features
Mobility features Enterprise features

Availability


  Home Basic Starter Home Premium Professional Enterprise & Ultimate
Retail packaging     Yes Yes Ult. only
Can purchase electronically     Yes Yes Ult. only
Pricing: Full version     $199.99 $299.99 $319.99 (Ult)
Pricing: Upgrade version     $119.99 $199.99 $219.99 (Ult.)
Bundled with new PCs in major markets   Yes Yes Yes Ult. only
Windows Anytime Upgrade (WAU) Yes Yes Yes Yes  
WAU pricing/To Home Premium $79.99 $79.99      
WAU pricing/To Professional   $114.99 $89.99    
WAU pricing/To Ultimate $164.99 $164.99 $139.99 $129.99  
Virtualization rights (Can be installed in a virtual environment)     Yes Yes Yes

User interface features


  Home Basic Starter Home Premium Professional Enterprise & Ultimate
Windows Basic UI Yes Yes Yes Yes Yes
Windows Standard UI Yes   Yes Yes Yes
Windows Aero UI ("Glass")     Yes Yes Yes
Aero Peek     Yes Yes Yes
Aero Snaps Yes Yes Yes Yes Yes
Aero Shake     Yes Yes Yes
Aero Background     Yes Yes Yes
Libraries Yes Yes Yes Yes Yes
Windows Flip Yes Yes Yes Yes Yes
Windows Flip 3D     Yes Yes Yes
Live Taskbar Previews Yes   Yes Yes Yes
Live Preview (Explorer)     Yes Yes Yes
Jump Lists Yes Yes Yes Yes Yes
Windows Search Yes Yes Yes Yes Yes


Security features


  Home Basic Starter Home Premium Professional Enterprise & Ultimate
More granular UAC Yes Yes Yes Yes Yes
Action Center Yes Yes Yes Yes Yes
Windows Defender Yes Yes Yes Yes Yes
Windows Firewall Yes Yes Yes Yes Yes
IE 8 Protected Mode and DEP support Yes Yes Yes Yes Yes
Windows Update (can access Microsoft Update) Yes Yes Yes Yes Yes
Fast User Switching Yes   Yes Yes Yes
Parental Controls Yes Yes Yes Yes Yes

Performance features


  Home Basic Starter Home Premium Professional Enterprise & Ultimate
Windows ReadyDrive Yes Yes Yes Yes Yes
Windows ReadyBoost Yes Yes Yes Yes Yes
SuperFetch Yes Yes Yes Yes Yes
64-bit processor support No No Yes Yes Yes
Physical processor support 1 1 1 2 2
Processor core support Unlimited Unlimited Unlimited Unlimited Unlimited
Max RAM (32-bit) 4 GB 4 GB 4 GB 4 GB 4 GB
Max RAM (64-bit) n/a n/a 16 GB 192 GB 192 GB

Reliability features


  Home Basic Starter Home Premium Professional Enterprise & Ultimate
Windows Backup Yes Yes Yes Yes Yes
System image Yes Yes Yes Yes Yes
Problem Steps Recorder Yes Yes Yes Yes Yes
Backup to network       Yes Yes
Encrypting File System (EFS)       Yes Yes
BitLocker         Yes
BitLocker To Go         Yes
Automatic hard disk defragmentation Yes Yes Yes Yes Yes
Previous Versions Yes Yes Yes Yes Yes
Create and attach (mount) VHD Yes Yes Yes Yes Yes

Bundled applications


  Home Basic Starter Home Premium Professional Enterprise & Ultimate
Internet Explorer 8 Yes Yes Yes Yes Yes
Windows Gadgets and Gallery Yes Yes Yes Yes Yes
Games Explorer with basic games (FreeCell, Hearts, Minesweeper, Purble Palace, Solitaire, Spider Solitaire) Yes Yes Yes Yes Yes
Premium games (Internet Backgammon, Internet Checkers, Internet Spades, Mahjong Titans)     Yes Yes Yes
Calculator Yes Yes Yes Yes Yes
Paint Yes Yes Yes Yes Yes
Snipping Tool     Yes Yes Yes
Sticky Notes     Yes Yes Yes
Windows Journal     Yes Yes Yes
Windows Fax and Scan Yes Yes Yes Yes Yes
Windows PowerShell and ISE Yes Yes Yes Yes Yes
WordPad Yes Yes Yes Yes Yes
XPS Viewer Yes Yes Yes Yes Yes

Digital media and devices


  Home Basic Starter Home Premium Professional Enterprise & Ultimate
Windows Photo Viewer Yes Yes Yes Yes Yes
Basic photo slide shows Yes Yes Yes Yes Yes
Windows Media Player 12 with Play To Yes Yes Yes Yes Yes
Windows Media Player Remote Media Experience     Yes Yes Yes
MPEG-2 decoding     Yes Yes Yes
Dolby Digital compatibility     Yes Yes Yes
AAC and H.264 decoding Yes Yes Yes Yes Yes
DVD playback     Yes Yes Yes
Can install MPEG-2 (DVD playback) add-in Yes Yes n/a n/a n/a
Windows Media Center     Yes Yes Yes
Number of TV tuners supported     4 of each type (analog, digital, etc.) 4 of each type (analog, digital, etc.) 4 of each type (analog, digital, etc.)
Windows DVD Maker     Yes Yes Yes
Device Stage Yes Yes Yes Yes Yes
Sync Center Yes Yes Yes Yes Yes

Networking features


  Home Basic Starter Home Premium Professional Enterprise & Ultimate
SMB connections 20 20 20 20 20
Network and Sharing Center Yes Yes Yes Yes Yes
HomeGroup sharing Join only Join only Yes Yes Yes
Ad-hoc network create and join Yes Yes, but accessible only via Start Menu Search Yes Yes Yes
Improved power management Yes Yes Yes Yes Yes
Connect to a Projector Yes Yes Yes Yes Yes
Remote Desktop Yes Yes Yes Yes Yes
Remote Desktop Host       Yes Yes
IIS Web Server     Yes Yes Yes
RSS support Yes Yes Yes Yes Yes
Internet Connection Sharing Yes   Yes Yes Yes
Network Bridge Yes   Yes Yes Yes
Offline files       Yes Yes

Mobility features


  Home Basic Starter Home Premium Professional Enterprise & Ultimate
Windows Mobility Center Yes (No presentation mode)   Yes (No presentation mode) Yes Yes
Windows Sideshow (Auxilliary display)     Yes Yes Yes
Sync Center Yes Yes Yes Yes Yes
Tablet PC functionality     Yes Yes Yes
Multi-Touch support     Yes Yes Yes

Enterprise features


  Home Basic Starter Home Premium Professional Enterprise & Ultimate
Domain join (Windows Server)       Yes Yes
XP Mode licensed       Yes Yes
AppLocker         Yes
Boot from VHD         Yes
BranchCache         Yes
DirectAccess         Yes
Federated Search (Enterprise Search Scopes)         Yes
Multilingual User Interface (MUI) Language Packs         Yes
Location-aware printing       Yes Yes
Subsystem for UNIX-based Applications         Yes