Windows 7 Home PremiumWindows 7 UltimateWindows 7 ProfessionalMicrosoft released Windows 7 to the general public on October 22nd, 2010. This new operating system is much more stable and compatible than Windows Vista. Microsoft has also rectified many of the problems and nuisances that plague Windows Vista.

Many professionals consider Windows Vista to be the second coming of Windows ME. Remember that operating system? We can only speculate that either Microsoft made a huge mistake in development, or perhaps needed a scam to make more money. Either way, that’s all in the past.

Windows 7 has been much easier to work with, even since the beta versions were released. iValley has been testing the operating system since the first beta release and we are very happy to report that our tests have not produced many incompatibilities or instability issues.

Microsoft still has not reduced the number of versions of the operating system available, so you still need to choose the version right for your needs. The 4 flavors available are Starter, Home Premium, Professional, and Ultimate. Starter is only available in the U.S. on small laptops, so you may not see this too often.

Be careful when selecting your operating system, or when purchasing a new system. Most business users will need either the Professional or Ultimate version, but many home users may also need the Windows XP compatibility mode, which is not available with the Home Premium version.

The main features are the same in all 3 versions, with a few exceptions. Windows XP compatibility mode and domain membership is only available in Professional and Ultimate and BitLocker and multiple language support is only available on Ultimate.

To make your decision even more complex, each of the 3 main Windows versions are also available in 32 and 64-bit.

Which to choose depends on hardware you have, what you do with the system, and what applications you run. Although most 32-bit applications will run on a 64-bit system, many hardware devices may not work. Verify drivers are available in 64-bit for your devices, like scanners, cameras, and printers.

Unlike other popular operating systems, like Macintosh and Linux, Microsoft has been slow to force developers into the 64-bit realm. The main benefit of 64-bit is speed. A bit is the smallest piece of data your computer processes. A 32-bit operating system uses 32 pieces of data per CPU execution, wheras a 64-bit operating system uses twice as large of a chunk of data. In effect, your computer can work twice as fast in the same amount of time.

Another benefit of 64-bit is the aibility to use more than 4GB of RAM. The more RAM you have, the more applications you can run simultaneouly and the more data your computer can process without having to read it from the hard drive. This means your system runs faster.

So will you select Windows 7 32 or 64-bit? If you use and cannot upgrade old applications, or have hardware that doesn’t support 64-bit, then you will need to stick with 32-bit. If you have a need for speed and use new applications and hardware, then 64-bit may be a better decision. As 64-bit Windows operating systems become more mainstream, developers will provide better support.

Keep in mind there is no upgrade path to Windows 7 from pre-Vista systems and some versions of Vista. This means you cannot install Windows 7 over Windows XP and still retain all your applications. Windows Vista may be upgradable, but it depends on the verison you have. The only option for non-upgradable systems is to perform a custom installation, which will attempt to retain documents and settings, but all applications will need to be reinstalled from scratch.

For more information on Windows 7, visit Microsoft’s web site at www.microsoft.com.

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