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Windows 7 Starter vs. Home Premium: What's the Difference?

written by: Nicholas•edited by: Michele McDonough•updated: 6/13/2011

Contemplating a Windows 7 Starter to Home Premium upgrade? In some cases it may be worth it. Other times, not so much. This article goes over the differences between the two Windows versions, and give some advice on whether or not you should upgrade.

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    Windows 7 Starter Edition

    If you have Windows 7 Starter, you are likely running it on a netbook, as Microsoft does not officially sell Windows 7 Starter. Instead, computer manufacturers such as Acer, Dell, and HP sell netbooks with Windows 7 Starter installed. Starter is basically a stripped down version of Windows 7 Home Premium, with some features missing. In fact, it is a bit too stripped down for most people, as Windows 7 Starter has received countless negative reviews, and has held high criticism since its first release. Many netbook manufacturers have eliminated Starter from their lineups, replacing it with Windows 7 Home Premium.

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    Windows 7 Starter vs. Windows 7 Home Premium

    Windows 7 Starter As far as differences between Windows 7 Starter and Home Premium, there are a lot. Windows 7 Starter is limited from Home Premium in that it does not have:

    • Aero Glass themes. With Windows 7 Starter, you can only use Windows Basic or other opaque themes. With Aero themes, you have the ability to use taskbar previews (hover over an icon in the taskbar to preview) and Aero Peek (a convenient way of flipping through Windows and apps). Windows 7 Starter does not support these features.
    • The ability to change desktop backgrounds, Windows colors, or default Windows alert sounds.
    • Easy switch between different user accounts without logging off.
    • Dual or Multi monitor capabilities.
    • DVD Playback compatibility.
    • Windows Media Center.
    • Media streaming capabilities, allowing you to stream music, videos, or television.
    • XP Mode, used for running a Windows XP virtual machine inside of Windows 7.
    • Multiple app support (some versions of Starter).

    Now, that is a whole lot of features that Windows 7 Starter does not have, compared to Windows 7 Home Premium. Plus, Windows 7 Home Premium is the most basic of all Windows versions that Microsoft officially sells to consumers. This means that the difference between Windows 7 Starter and Windows 7 Professional or Ultimate would be even greater.

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    Windows 7 Starter for Netbooks - Things to Consider

    Home Premium Now, the list of lacking features above does say a lot about how basic Windows 7 Starter is. However, considering the fact that Windows 7 Starter is for netbooks, you may want to keep the following in mind.

    Windows 7 Starter is limited from Home Premium in that it does not have:

    • Aero Glass themes. With Windows 7 Starter, you can only use Windows Basic or other opaque themes. With Aero themes, you have the ability to use taskbar previews (hover over an icon in the taskbar to preview) and Aero Peek (a convenient way of flipping through Windows and apps). Windows 7 Starter does not support these features.

    Are Windows 7 Aero themes a necessity for netbooks? Even more importantly, does your netbook have strong enough graphics to officially support Windows 7 Aero themes should you choose to upgrade to Home Premium? Although Windows 7 Aero effects are cool, and look cool, they may not carry as strong of an effect on a netbook as most netbooks have a 10.1" screen.

    • The ability to change desktop backgrounds, Windows colors, or default Windows alert sounds.

    The same concept here as mentioned above.

    • Easy switch between different user accounts without logging off.

    Most likely, the majority of netbook users don't share their netbooks with other people, nor do they have more than one user account.

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    Windows 7 Starter for Netbooks - Things to Consider (Continued)

    • Windows 7 Starter Dual or Multi monior capabilities.

    Most likely, people do not purchase netbooks with the plan to run multiple monitors.

    • DVD Playback compatibility.

    The majority of netbooks do not have CD/DVD drives.

    • Windows Media Center.

    Most people use Windows Media Center on desktop computers and televisions.

    • Media streaming capabilities, allowing you to stream music, videos, or television.

    Same concept as previous.

    • XP Mode, used for running a Windows XP virtual machine inside of Windows 7.

    The majority of people do not use XP mode, no matter what version of Windows 7 they have. XP mode is designed to run old programs that Windows 7 cannot, which currently, is somewhat rare.

    • Multiple app support (some versions of starter).

    In all actuality, multiple app support is a feature that many people want. The Windows 7 Starter limit (only 3 apps can be run at once), could prove to be quite the annoyance. Please note, Microsoft has addressed this issue with newer versions of Windows 7 Starter, as they have added the ability to run unlimited apps simultaneously.

    Depending on your preference for these factors, you may want to consider upgrading to Windows 7 Home Premium.

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    Upgrading to Home Premium

    Home Premium Is it worth it to upgrade from Windows 7 Starter to Home Premium? With all of the differences between Windows 7 Starter and Home Premium, the answer is yes, very much so. Windows 7 Home Premium provides many features that people want.

    However, if you take price into consideration, then maybe not. You should consider that a Windows 7 Home Premium upgrade costs approximately $120.00. How much did your netbook cost? $250? If so, then a Windows 7 Home Premium upgrade will cost you half the price that you paid for the netbook itself.

    Considering upgrading to an even higher version of Windows such as Professional or Ultimate? A Windows 7 Ultimate upgrade costs approximately $220. That is nearly the full price that you paid for the netbook itself! Assuming that you purchase an upgrade for your netbook to go from Starter to Home Premium, that could be nearly a $400 investment that you have... for a netbook.

    Final Verdict:

    If you like the netbook a lot and use it on a constant basis, an upgrade from Starter to Home Premium is a good move. You will have more features and be able to do more with Windows. If there are several features listed above that you believe you would use on your netbook, definitely go for the upgrade.

    If you only use the netbook once in a while, and have checked out the Things to Consider section above (found some counter-points to be valid), then the upgrade to Home Premium may not be a good move for you.

    Hopefully, this article answered any questions that you may have had as far as Windows 7 Starter vs. Home Premium, and helped you decide whether to upgrade or not.



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