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Windows 7 Upgrade vs. Full Version

written by: Nicholas•edited by: Michele McDonough•updated: 3/29/2010

The $100 difference in price got you scratching your head on which one to go with? There are a couple of things that you should take into consideration before you decide whether or not the full version is worth it. Check out our guide to the differences between Windows 7 Upgrade and Full Editions.

  • slide 1 of 7

    Pricing

    Although places like Amazon.com, Newegg, and more may offer slightly cheaper overall prices on Windows 7, we will be using Microsoft's official prices. These places may sell Windows 7 Upgrade and Full editions for cheaper, but the actual price difference separating an Upgrade and Full version is essentially the same, no matter where you choose to purchase Windows. For example, the difference between Windows 7 Professional Upgrade and Windows 7 Professional Full is roughly $100. Here are Microsoft's prices:

    Windows 7 Home Premium

    • Anytime Upgrade - $79.95
    • Upgrade - $119.99
    • Full - $199.99

    Windows 7 Professional

    • Anytime Upgrade - $89.95
    • Upgrade - $199.99
    • Full - $299.99

    Windows 7 Ultimate

    • Anytime Upgrade - $139.95
    • Upgrade - $219.99
    • Full - $319.99

    As you can see, that's quite the selection they've got there. Which one should you go with? Continue to the next section.

  • slide 2 of 7

    What is an Anytime Upgrade?

    windows anytime upgrade Windows 7 Anytime Upgrades are designed to move from one version of Windows 7 to a higher version of Windows 7. For example, the $79.95 Windows 7 Home Premium Anytime Upgrade listed above is designed to upgrade a PC from Windows 7 Starter. Don't know what Windows 7 Starter is? It's a rare copy of Windows used for netbooks. Read here to learn more about Windows Starter.

    Another example would be the $89.95 Windows 7 Upgrade listed above. This upgrade is designed to upgrade a PC from Windows 7 Home Premium to Professional.

    Finally, the $139.95 Windows 7 Ultimate Anytime Upgrade is designed to upgrade a PC from Windows 7 Professional to Ultimate.

    If you are upgrading from Windows XP or Windows Vista to Windows 7, an Anytime Upgrade is not for you. Before we go any further, it should be noted that you cannot upgrade from a 32-bit version of Windows to a 64-bit version of Windows. For that, you will need to do a clean install.

    Anytime Upgrades are much different than regular Windows 7 Upgrades and Full versions. To learn more about how Anytime Upgrades work, check out this article.

  • slide 3 of 7

    What is a Full Version?

    windows 7 ultimate A Windows 7 Full version is a full copy of Windows, designed to be installed on a blank hard drive or computer that you do not currently have any version of Windows for. For example, if you build a PC from scratch or purchase a PC with Linux on it.

    When you put a Windows 7 Full version disc into your computer's CD/DVD drive and install Windows, it will install the full operating system on your computer. Immediately after Windows gets done installing, you enter the serial number and Windows is ready to go.

    Wait, we're not done yet. Be sure to check out page 2 of this article for the rest of the differences between the Windows 7 Upgrade and Full editions. The most important stuff is yet to come.

  • slide 4 of 7
    Ever wondered what Windows 7 Anytime Upgrades were for? Alternatively, do you know the real differences between Windows 7 Upgrade and Full? There is quite a price difference between upgrade and full versions of Windows 7. However, the Upgrade version can do everything the Full version can do. Check out this article to learn more about Windows 7.
  • slide 5 of 7

    What is an Upgrade Version

    windows 7 pro 

    A Windows 7 Upgrade is a version of Windows designed to upgrade a PC that is currently running Windows XP or Windows Vista to Windows 7 – or a lower version of Windows 7 to a higher version of Windows 7. For example, if you have an older PC that is running Windows XP or Vista, or have Windows 7 Home Premium and would like to upgrade to Windows 7 Ultimate.

    When you put a Windows 7 Upgrade version disc into your computer's CD/DVD drive, it will upgrade your current operating system. This can work in several different ways. Here are some examples:

    If you currently have Windows XP installed on your PC and insert a Windows 7 Upgrade disc - It will upgrade Windows XP to Windows 7. However, your files, folders, and data will not be upgraded with the rest of the operating system. They will stay on your computer, but they will be moved to an unused location. After the upgrade completes and you have Windows 7, your XP files will be pretty much unusable. If you are doing an upgrade like this, you need to back up your files and folders to an external hard drive or flash drive.

    If you currently have Windows Vista installed on your PC and insert a Windows 7 Upgrade disc - It will upgrade Windows Vista to Windows 7. You will have the option to carry all of your files, folders, and data from Windows Vista to Windows 7. After the upgrade completes, you will have Windows 7 and all of your stuff.

    If you currently have Windows 7 on your PC and insert a higher Windows 7 Upgrade disc - It will upgrade Windows 7 to the higher version. All of your files will be saved and you will not lose anything from doing a Windows 7 to Windows 7 (higher version) upgrade.

    Please note, a Full version of Windows (covered on page 1) is capable of doing everything that an Upgrade disc can do. Thus, if you insert a full version disc, you can upgrade from previous versions of Windows using it as well.

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    What is the Difference Between a Full and Upgrade Version?

    Windows 7 Upgrade

    Pretty much nothing. Something that was not mentioned on page 1, you can actually do a complete install of Windows 7 on a blank hard drive, using an upgrade disc. Thus, if you are building a PC, or have a PC running Linux, a Windows 7 Upgrade disc is capable of installing Windows on your computer. Now, although they can do this, that's not what they were designed for.

    The problem that arises with doing a clean install of Windows using an Upgrade disc is the serial number. Say for example, you are running Linux and want to switch to Windows 7. Upon deleting Linux from your hard drive and doing a clean install of Windows 7 (with an Upgrade disc), you will have Windows 7 completely installed on your PC. However, when you go to activate Windows 7, you will get an error prompt saying something like "This serial number will not work with this version of Windows. In order to use this serial number, you must first Upgrade from an existing Windows install."

    Windows 7 Full

    Despite what Windows 7 Upgrades and Windows 7 Full Editions were designed to do, they are both capable of upgrading or full installing. Thus, you can upgrade using a Windows 7 Full disc.

    Using that same scenario above, deleting Linux and clean installing Windows 7 – with a Windows 7 Full version, you would not get that error. Windows would activate and you'd be good to go.

    As far as Windows 7 Upgrade vs. Full, the major difference is the serial number (activation code) that comes with it. Plain and simply, that's about it. The discs are capable of doing the same thing. You are paying extra for the activation code. A Windows 7 Upgrade activation code will only work when upgrading from a previous version of Windows. A Windows 7 Full activation code will work under any scenario.

  • slide 7 of 7

    Should You Get a Full Version or Upgrade

    windows 7 ultimate That would be up to you. If you own any version of Windows XP or VIsta, definitely go with the upgrade and save the $100. You can simply upgrade your current operating system. If you want to clean install with an Upgrade disc, this can be done. Simply clean install XP or Vista, and then Upgrade using the Windows 7 Upgrade disc.

    Hopefully, these articles helped you figure out the differences between Windows 7 Anytime Upgrade, Upgrade, and Full Editions, and will assist you in making the right purchase.

    Need some more Windows 7 advice? You may also be interested in:

    Upgrading to Windows 7 from Vista - How Long Does it Take

    Installing WIndows 7 Without a DVD

    Making Your Copy of Windows 7 Genuine