Wednesday, March 10, 2010

The Ultimate Windows 7: Is it Worth the Difference?

Published by Sunbelt Software FORUMS | RSS | MY PROFILE | PRIVACY  

Vol. 2, # 10 - Mar 11, 2010 - Issue # 26 
 The Ultimate Windows 7: Is it Worth the Difference?

  1. Editor's Corner
    • The Ultimate Windows 7: Is it Worth the Difference?
    • Follow-up: Speech Recognition in Win7
    • Quotes of the Week
  2. Cool Tools
  3. News, Hints, Tips and Tricks
    • Microsoft says Blu-Ray is not the future of home entertainment
    • Office 2010 is almost finished; those who buy Office 2007 get free upgrade
    • New report on the Microsoft Courier says it won't run Windows 7
    • New Windows phones won't be compatible with old apps
  4. How to: Using the New Windows 7 Features
    • How to configure Windows 7 to search the Internet from the Start menu
  5. Windows 7 and Vista Security
    • New IE vulnerability revealed on Patch Tuesday
  6. Question Corner
    • Open command prompt here
  7. Windows 7 Configuration and Troubleshooting
    • Error message is ... an error
  8. Fav Links
    • This Week's Links We Like. Tips, Hints And Fun Stuff
  9. Product of the Week
    • Spotmau PowerSuite 2010 - New WinPE Technology

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Editor's Corner

The Ultimate Windows 7: Is it Worth the Difference?

If the title of this editorial sounds vaguely familiar, that might be because I did a similar article, except that it was about Vista, back in 2008. After discussing the feature differences between the different editions, I concluded then that if you could possibly afford it, springing for Vista Ultimate instead of Home Premium was well worth the difference in price.

Has my advice changed? Should you go all out and plunk down the extra money to get Windows 7 Ultimate edition? Well, the answer is obviously "yes" if money is no object and/or you really want or need enterprise level features such as DirectAccess, AppLocker and BitLocker/BitLocker To Go. But what if you don't have a compelling need for those features and you're on a budget? Then it depends.

It's likely that most folks who buy the boxed operating system will be upgrading from Vista or XP. The Windows 7 Home Premium edition upgrade price is $119.99; the price for the Ultimate upgrade is $219.99. That's a difference of a hundred dollars - not an insignificant amount. Of course, you get more for that hundred bucks than just the features that are unique to Ultimate (and Enterprise, which has the same feature set but is sold only to corporate customers). You also get those features that are in Windows 7 Professional but not in Home Premium.

If you use your Windows 7 computer for business, chances are you're going to want some of the features that come in Windows 7 Pro and above. And even if you use it strictly for your personal business, some of the Pro features may be necessary or at least desirable. For example, if you have sensitive data on your hard drive, it's always a good idea to encrypt it. That's particularly true if you share your computer with someone else, if it's in an area where others have physical access to it when you aren't around, or if it's a portable computer that could be lost or stolen. As with Vista Business, Windows 7 Pro includes the Encrypting File System and Home Premium doesn't.

Of course, there are third party encryption programs that you can buy or download at no cost, which you could use instead of EFS to protect your data - so that alone might not be enough to convince you that you need more than Home Premium. Here's another way that Windows 7 Pro is like Vista Business: it includes the Remote Desktop Service and Home Premium doesn't. That means you can connect to your Windows 7 Pro computer's desktop and control it from another computer on your home network or across the Internet (although the latter requires some special configuration considerations). Home Premium does have the built-in Remote Desktop Connection client software, so if all you want to do is connect to a Remote Desktop server from your Win7 system, you don't need Pro for that.

And there are workarounds for setting up a Windows 7 Home Premium machine so you can connect to its desktop. You can install a VNC server program or other remote control software such as Radmin or you can use a service such as GoToMyPC. Thus the lack of Remote Desktop Services doesn't have to be a deal breaker for sticking with Home Premium, either.

Another feature that you get with Windows 7 Pro but not with Home Premium is the ability to back up to a network drive. That might or might not be important to you. I like backing up everything to one of the servers on our network. And those few of us who have Windows Server domain based home networks, as well as those who need to connect their computers to a domain on their company networks, may need to get Pro or above, since Home Premium can't join a domain. Note, however, that you still may be able to log onto the domain with your domain user account - but your computer itself cannot have an account in the domain.

Most home users don't have to worry about domains - but many do have worries about application compatibility. A feature that's new to Windows 7 and only comes with Professional edition or above is something called XP Mode. It's actually a preconfigured virtual machine that runs on the latest version of Virtual PC (called Windows Virtual PC). It integrates with the Windows 7 desktop so that you can run old applications on the XP VM but have them appear as if they're running directly on Windows 7. If you need to use older XP programs that aren't compatible with Win7, you can use XP Mode to do it. However, once again, there are alternatives. You could buy and install VMware Workstation on your Windows Home Premium system, buy and install XP in a VM on it, and use its Unity feature to provide similar integration with your Windows 7 desktop. However, this would add quite a bit to the cost - much more than the difference in price between Windows 7 Home Premium and Professional. XP Mode for Windows 7 Pro is a free download from Microsoft.

Windows 7 Professional also adds a feature called location aware printing. This is particularly handy for laptops that you use both at the office and at home. Now you don't have to manually switch printers depending on where you are. Windows 7 detects which network you're on (home or work) and automatically sets your default printer to be the one you used when you were last at that location.

Laptop users who do presentations will also appreciate the Presentation Mode feature in the Pro version. It's part of the Mobility Center that was first introduced in Vista, but those who are moving to Windows 7 from XP will find it a welcome surprise when setting up their computers to do a presentation. You can invoke the Mobility Center by pressing the Windows Logo key plus X. Then click the "Turn on" button above "Presentation Settings." This puts you into presentation mode and you can adjust the settings to turn off the screen saver during the presentation so it doesn't kick in unexpectedly, show a particular background just for the duration of the presentation and adjust the volume. By the way, you won't find the Mobility Center on your desktop computer by default, although you can open it by running the PresentationSettings.exe file that's located in the Windows\System32 folder after doing a registry tweak. See

You may have noticed that throughout this article, I've referred to features being available in "Windows 7 Pro or above." A big difference between Vista and Windows 7 is that with the latter, each progressively more expensive edition includes all of the features that are in those editions "below" it. Many people who bought Vista Business edition were unhappy campers because the price was higher than for Home Premium, yet they were missing some of the "consumer" features that Home Premium had, most notably Windows Media Center.

In fact, that was one of the primary reasons that people bought Vista Ultimate - they wanted or needed both the business features of Business edition and the entertainment features of Home Premium, and Ultimate was the only way to get both. Now that Windows 7 Pro gives you all that, you may discover that it's the best edition for you.

On the other hand (there's always another hand, isn't there?), the upgrade price for Windows 7 Pro is $199.99. That's $80 more than Home Premium - but only $20 less than Ultimate. What might make it worth that extra twenty bucks if you aren't using your computer in a Windows Server 2008 network? Just one thing: BitLocker.

BitLocker encryption provides an extra layer of protection, especially for portable machines. Whereas EFS encrypts individual files, BitLocker encrypts entire volumes (partitions), including the system partition. It can be set up so that you have to insert a USB drive holding the startup key before you can boot into the operating system. BitLocker was also included in Vista Ultimate, but something that's new to Windows 7 is BitLocker To Go, which lets you encrypt removable drives, too. If you're concerned about security, BitLocker might be worth the extra price for Ultimate edition.

Or is it? Last month at the BlackHat convention in Washington, D.C., security researchers demonstrated a way to hack the Trusted Platform Module (TPM) technology that's used by BitLocker. However, Paul Cooke explained in the Windows Security Blog why this is not as much of a threat as it may seem, since it requires both physical possession of the computer and specialized knowledge and equipment:

A big advantage of BitLocker To Go in Windows 7 is that it gives you the ability to use smart cards for multi-factor authentication; in other words, instead of just entering a password to unlock your encrypted data, you can configure it so that you have to insert or swipe a card, as well. That makes it much harder for someone else to get into your confidential files.

Tell us what you think. Which edition of Windows 7 did you go with? Is that just because it came with the computer, or did you specifically choose that edition for its feature set? Which Pro or Ultimate features do you think make the most compelling arguments for spending the extra money? If you have Ultimate, do you use BitLocker, DirectAccess, or AppLocker? If you don't have Ultimate, would you use BitLocker if it came with your edition? Have you considered (or used) the Anytime Upgrade program to move up to a more expensive edition of Windows 7? Do you think there are too many editions, or do you like being able to pay for only those features you want and need? We invite you to discuss this topic in our forums at

Follow-up: Speech Recognition in Win7

In last week's editorial, I wrote about speech recognition technology and how far it has come (or hasn't) over the last couple of decades. It seems, based on my mail and the forum discussions, most people still aren't too impressed with how computers handle speech. Most of the few who are happy with it are using current versions of Dragon software - yet other readers said they've tried the new Dragon and it doesn't work well for them. Why the difference?

Well, for one thing, there are several different editions of the latest Dragon Naturally Speaking, including Standard, Preferred and Professional. There are also specialized versions for those in the legal and medical professions. Nuance, the company that makes Dragon, says all editions deliver the same transcription capabilities, but some folks have reported that there seems to be some difference between the lower and higher cost editions. Those may be just perceived differences, due to the different feature set, but maybe not.

Speech recognition software just seems to like some voices more than others. One reader noted that even though the Windows 7 speech application was using American settings, it was more compatible with his wife's Australian accent than with his Wisconsin one. Many of you said you'd played with speech recognition, but would never use it for production work unless you were forced to do so by a major injury or disability that prevented you from using a keyboard.

Finally, in response to Jaybird, who was disappointed that I didn't mention "one of the biggest news stories of the week," concerning the appearance of Roger Ebert on Oprah: I have to confess that I don't watch that program and don't really keep up with the Hollywood crowd (although of course I know who Ebert is). I was aware of Ebert's disease and surgeries but missed the story of his specialized software, so I thank Jaybird for pointing me to it. I've long been acquainted with the use of text-to-speech software by the disabled and have read a great deal about Stephen Hawking and the system he uses. In fact, one of my best friends has been stricken with a neuromuscular disease that has caused the gradual loss of his voice, and has a unit that can speak for him. I think it's wonderful that technology can give a voice back to those who have lost their own.

As always, thanks to all of you who participated in the discussion!

'Til next week,
Deb Shinder, Editor

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PS: Did you know this newsletter has a sister publication for XP users called WXPnews? You can subscribe here, and tell your friends:

And for IT pros, there's our "big sister," WServer News, at

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Quotes of the Week

"The occasional visit of success provides just the excitement an engineer needs to face work the following day." - Koichi Tanaka (1959 - )

"Good luck needs no explanation." - Shirley Temple (1928 - )

"I don't have a fear of flying. I have a fear of crashing." - Billy Bob Thornton (1955 - )

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Cool Tools


Just released! PerfectDisk 11 boosts Windows 7 PC performance. New BlockViewer. Microsoft Certified. Free trial and Special Offer.

Do you have programs you just can't seem to get rid of? Uninstaller! 2010 "ALL New" Version Just Released:

Moving to Windows 7 is Easy! PCMover moves programs, files, and settings from your old PC to your new PC.

Billing address autofill, secure password storage, all automatic and safe. Not a little toolbar utility. Huge time saver!

Get your speed back! Advanced Vista Optimizer will tweak Vista for Max performance. Easy to use:

Spellchecker is NOT ENOUGH! Improve your English writing skills with WhiteSmoke a smarter solution for high quality writing. Try it:

Search for a driver and you get a ton of Driver Software offers instead. But how do you know which one is good? Try Driver Genius 9.0. Free scan.

Ultra Edit New Version 15.2 - Replacing Notepad or Looking for The Most Powerful Text Editor?

News, Hints, Tips and Tricks

Microsoft says Blu-Ray is not the future of home entertainment

Well, I think I said it first - way back in September 2008 in our sister publication, WXPnews - but now I have one of the biggest companies in the tech industry on my side. At least, according to this report, which says Microsoft's director of entertainment and Xbox believes digital media, not Blu-Ray, is the future of home entertainment. That belief is supported by his further statement that they don't plan to come out with a Blu-Ray drive for the Xbox. I have a Blu-Ray player and I've bought (a few) Blu-Ray movies, but I have never thought it was worth the price difference (especially with the excellent DVD upconverting that you can get with a good player). Read more here:

Office 2010 is almost finished; those who buy Office 2007 get free upgrade

Office 2010 is currently in public beta and many of our readers have been giving it a test drive. If you have feedback for the team, send it in soon. The code is expected to be finalized next month and it will be available to businesses in May and to consumers in June. If you've been considering buying Office 2007, there's no need to put it off. Those who purchase it between now and the end of September will get to upgrade to Office 2010 at no cost. Read more here:

New report on the Microsoft Courier says it won't run Windows 7

The rumors have been going around for quite some time, and now Engadget has posted a report that gives a few more details about the Microsoft tablet known as the Courier. Specifically, it's going to be smaller than expected, about 5"x7" when closed, and will only weigh 1.3 lbs. The biggest surprise is that it's apparently not going to run Windows 7, but instead will use the same operating system as Windows Phone 7 Series. It's expected to be available for the 2010 holiday season. Are you more excited - or disappointed that Microsoft seems to be following in Apple's footsteps and giving us a tablet that runs on a less than full-fledged operating system? You can find out more and watch a video of it here:

New Windows phones won't be compatible with old apps

Speaking of the next generation of Windows Mobile, rebranded as Windows Phone 7 series, we've been looking forward to its release later this year. When Microsoft showed off the new OS in Barcelona last month, it got generally positive responses. However, some of the enthusiasm has been dampened since then by the news that the phones won't be able to run the many thousands of applications made for previous versions of WinMo. This also means you won't be able to upgrade an existing Windows Mobile 6.x phone to the new operating system. For a discussion of why a "fresh start" was necessary, see

How to: Using the New Windows 7 Features

How to configure Windows 7 to search the Internet from the Start menu

You know you can use the Search box at the bottom of the Start menu to search for documents, folders, programs, photos and other files that are stored on your computer. But did you know that you can use it to search for things on the Internet? You can enable this policy if you're using Windows 7 Professional or above, by using the Group Policy editor. Here's how:
  1. In the Start menu Search box, type gpedit.msc
  2. Press Enter
  3. In the Group Policy Editor's left pane, navigate to User Configuration | Administrative Templates | Start Menu and Taskbar
  4. In the right pane, double click "Add search internet link to Start Menu"
  5. In the dialog box, click Enabled
  6. Click OK and close the Group Policy Editor
Now when you type something in the Search box, along with the "See more results" link, you'll see a link that says "Search the internet." Click it to launch the web browser.

Windows 7 and Vista Security

New IE vulnerability revealed on Patch Tuesday

At the same time Microsoft was releasing patches for eight important (but not critical) security vulnerabilities on a relatively light Patch Tuesday, they also issued a security bulletin warning of a new IE security issue - but Windows 7 users will be pleased to know that it affect IE 6 and 7, not IE 8. If you have XP or Vista machines running the previous versions of the browser, though, please check this out and consider upgrading to IE 8:

Question Corner

Open command prompt here

One of the PowerToys for XP let you open a command prompt window from whatever folder you wanted. Is there something like that for Windows 7? Thanks. - Jack C.

Actually, that functionality is built into Windows 7 Explorer, but most people don't know about it because you use a key combination to invoke it. Just hold down the Shift key while you right click a folder in Explorer, and in the context menu you'll see that one of the choices is "Open command window here." Choose that and the command window will open to that folder.

Windows 7 Configuration and Troubleshooting

Error message is ... an error

If you're using a 16 bit PCMCIA (PC Card), you might find an error message in the system log after you resume your Windows 7 or Vista computer from hibernation. It's logged as Event ID 9 and says "The PCMCIA controller encountered an error powering up the inserted device." Don't panic. The error message is actually in error; the card should still function correctly. Read more about it in KB article 945279 at

Fav Links

This Week's Links We Like. Tips, Hints And Fun Stuff

Disclaimer: VistaNews does not assume and cannot be responsible for any liability related to you clicking any of these linked Web sites.

Product of the Week

Spotmau PowerSuite 2010 - New WinPE Technology

This must-have toolkit providing all essential utilities for every PC owner. You can use it to boot up any computer; perform a 360° PC health check, fix and install Windows; optimize and speed up your system; clean up history and protect your privacy; recover data and passwords; partition and format the hard drive; clone and backup your system; and more. More feature details here.

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Personal & Educational Use Only This blog consists mainly of FREE newsletters from computer web gurus that I receive. I thought you might like to see them all in one place than try to discover them on your own. A moderate amount of editing may be done to eliminate unrelated repetitious ads or unnecessary text which bloat the post. However I have given the authors full credit and will not remove their site links because you deserve to see where it comes from and they deserve to get credit for what they have written. Your use of this site is simply for educational purposes. For more computer-related help go to: CPEDLEY.COM for free software, advice and tips on low cost products which are very helpful. If you want to contact the editor, please go CPEDLEY.COM and check the Contact page for email address.