Windows Vista editions
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Windows Vista—a major release of the Microsoft Windows operating system—was available in six different product editions: Starter; Home Basic; Home Premium; Business; Enterprise; and Ultimate. On September 5, 2006, Microsoft announced the USD pricing for editions available through retail channels; the operating system was later made available to retail on January 30, 2007. Microsoft also made Windows Vista available for purchase and download from Windows Marketplace; it is the first version of Windows to be distributed through a digital distribution platform. Editions sold at retail were available in both Full and Upgrade versions and later included Service Pack 1 (SP1).
Microsoft characterized the retail packaging for Windows Vista as "designed to be user-friendly, […] a small, hard, plastic container designed to protect the software inside for life-long use." The packaging opens sideways to reveal the Windows Vista DVD suspended in a clear plastic case. The Windows Vista disc itself uses a holographic design similar to the discs that Microsoft has produced since Windows 98.
Editions for personal computers
- Windows Vista Starter
- Much like its predecessor, Windows XP Starter Edition, this edition of Windows Vista was sold in 139 developing countries in 70 languages. Microsoft did not make it available in developed technology markets such as the United States, Canada, the European Union, Australia, New Zealand, or other high income markets as defined by the World Bank. Windows Vista Starter can also be installed from optical media for other editions of the operating system. Windows Vista Starter has significant limitations; as examples, it allows only a total of three applications to operate concurrently, does not accept incoming network connections, displays a permanent watermark in the bottom right corner of the screen, imposes a physical memory limit of 1 GB and a maximum amount of 250 GB hard disk space. Windows Vista Starter is licensed to run only on PCs with AMD's Athlon XP, Duron, Sempron and Geode processors, and Intel's Celeron, Pentium III processors, and certain models of Pentium 4. Starter Edition comes with some locale-specific desktop wallpapers not found in other editions of the operating system.
- Windows Vista Home Basic
- Similar to Windows XP Home Edition, Home Basic targets budget-conscious users not requiring advanced media support for home use. This edition lacks the Windows Aero graphical user interface with translucent glass effects; however, it does support desktop composition. Home Basic supports one physical CPU, but with multiple cores, and the 64-bit version supports up to 8 GB of RAM.
- This edition includes Windows Firewall, parental controls, Windows Photo Gallery, and other features. Windows Movie Maker is included as well, but without support for working with high-definition video.
- Windows Vista Home Premium
- Containing all features from Home Basic and similar to Windows XP Media Center Edition, this edition also supports additional features aimed for the home market segment, such as support for HDTV and DVD authoring and DVD burning, and Windows Media Center with support for Extenders and the Xbox 360. Home Premium also includes premium games, including Chess Titans, InkBall, and Mahjong Titans, and includes support for network projectors, touchscreens, auxiliary displays via Windows SideShow, and the ability to schedule backups. Home Premium supports 10 simultaneous SMB peer-network connections (compared to 5 in Home Basic).
- The version of Meeting Space included also allows users to create meeting sessions (in Home Basic, one may join, but not create, meeting sessions). Like Home Basic, Home Premium supports only one physical CPU, but also supports multiple cores. The 64-bit version supports up to 16 GB of RAM.
- Windows Vista Business
- Comparable to Windows XP Professional and Windows XP Tablet PC Edition, Windows Vista Business Edition targets the business market. It includes all the features of Home Basic with the exception of parental controls and the Windows Vista Standard theme. This edition can join and participate in a Windows Server domain. It includes Internet Information Services, fax support, Rights Management Services client, Encrypting File System, system image backup and recovery, Offline Files, a single user Remote Desktop server, ad-hoc P2P collaboration capabilities, Shadow Copy support which provides access to previous versions of files, support for tablet PCs, and other business-oriented management features. The Business edition of Windows Vista supports up to two physical CPUs, and the 64-bit version supports 128 GB of RAM.
- Windows Vista Enterprise
- This edition targets the enterprise segment of the market: it comprises a superset of the Vista Business edition. Additional features include support for Multilingual User Interface (MUI) packages, BitLocker Drive Encryption, and UNIX application-support. Not available through retail or OEM channels, this edition will get distributed through Microsoft Software Assurance (SA). Since Vista Enterprise classes as a benefit of Microsoft Software Assurance, it includes several SA-only benefits, including a license allowing the running of up to four virtual machines running a mix of Vista editions and versions, access to Virtual PC Express, and activation via VLK. Windows Vista Enterprise supports up to two physical CPUs, and the 64-bit version supports up to 128 GB of RAM.
- Windows Vista Ultimate
- Windows Vista Ultimate combines all the features of the Home Premium and Business editions, and includes "Ultimate Extras." The 64-bit version supports up to 128 GB of RAM.
- Microsoft released two notable variant upgrade versions of Windows Vista Ultimate: Windows Vista Ultimate Signature Edition, and Windows Vista (PRODUCT) RED. The former featured the signature of Bill Gates on the front of the packaging along with a unique production number; the edition was limited to 25,000 copies. Windows Vista (PRODUCT) RED was an edition dedicated to the awareness, elimination, and treatment of AIDS in Africa, with portions of proceeds being donated to the Global Fund. The edition was first announced on January 25, 2008 in a partnership with Dell where it would be preinstalled on select PCs, and was later made available as a standalone product. It included (PRODUCT) RED content including six desktop wallpaper images, a screensaver, two Windows Sidebar gadgets, and an animated Windows DreamScene wallpaper.
- Users could purchase and download Windows Vista directly from Microsoft through the Windows Marketplace before it was replaced by the Microsoft Store.
- Optical media distributed through retail or through OEMs for Windows Vista are identical; Microsoft refers to this as "CD unification." Prior to Windows Vista, versions of Windows for OEMs and retail were maintained separately. All editions of Windows Vista—excluding Enterprise—are stored on the same optical media; a license key for the edition purchased determines which version on the disc is eligible for installation. To upgrade to a higher edition from a lower edition (such as from Home Basic to Ultimate) Microsoft includes a Windows Anytime Upgrade Control Panel applet to facilitate an upgrade.
- Home Basic N and Business N editions of Windows Vista ship within the European Union (EU) without Windows Media Player, in accordance with EU sanctions brought against Microsoft for violating anti-trust laws.
- Due to a 2005 anti-trust ruling by the Fair Trade Commission in South Korea, Microsoft was forced to sell a set of K and KN versions of Windows Vista that contain some changes from the standard release. The versions include links to competing instant messaging and media player software, and the "KN" versions do not include Windows Media Player at all.
- A Windows Vista Family Discount program enabled United States and Canada customers who purchased the Ultimate edition before June 30, 2007 to purchase additional licenses for Windows Vista Home Premium at a cost of $49.99. Microsoft sold these licenses online through its website.
- For computers with optical disc drives that supported CDs but not DVDs, Microsoft offered alternative media for Windows Vista that spanned a series of CDs. The company would later release alternative media for Windows Vista SP1.
- Eligible students in qualifying regions had the option to purchase the upgrade version of the Home Premium edition at a reduced price. A similar offer was later introduced for the Ultimate edition.
To support 64-bit platforms such as Intel Xeon, Intel Core 2, AMD Opteron and AMD Athlon 64, Microsoft released 64-bit versions of every edition of Windows Vista except for the Starter edition. These editions can run 32-bit programs by running them within the WOW64 subsystem. Most 32-bit programs can run natively, though applications that rely on device drivers will not run unless those device drivers have been written for 64-bit Windows. Reviewers have reported that the 64-bit editions of Windows Vista outperform their 32-bit counterparts in synthetic benchmarks such as PassMark.
All 32-bit editions of Windows Vista, excluding the Starter edition, support up to 4 GB of RAM. The 64-bit edition of Home Basic supports 8 GB of RAM, Home Premium supports 16 GB, and the Business, Enterprise, and Ultimate editions support 128 GB of RAM.
All 64-bit versions of Microsoft operating systems currently impose a 16 TB limit on address space. Processes created on the 64-bit editions of Windows Vista can have 8 TB in virtual memory for user processes and 8 TB for kernel processes to create a virtual memory of 16 TB.
Editions for specific markets
In March 2004, the European Commission fined Microsoft for €497 million (about US$603 million) and ordered the company to provide a version of Windows without Windows Media Player. The Commission concluded that Microsoft "broke European Union competition law by leveraging its near monopoly in the market for PC operating systems onto the markets for work group server operating systems and for media players." Microsoft reached an agreement with the Commission where it would release a court-compliant version, Windows XP Edition N, that does not include the company's Windows Media Player but instead encourages users to download and install their preferred media player.
Similarly, in December 2005, the Korean Fair Trade Commission ordered Microsoft to make available editions of Windows XP and Windows Server 2003 that do not contain Windows Media Player or Windows Messenger. Similar to the European Commission, this decision was based on the grounds that Microsoft had abused its dominant position in the market to push other products onto consumers. Unlike that decision, however, Microsoft was also forced to withdraw the non-compliant versions of Windows from the South Korean market. This decision resulted in Microsoft's releasing "K" and "KN" variants of the Home and Professional editions of Windows XP in August 2006.
As a continuance of these requirements, Microsoft released "N" and "KN" variants of some editions of Windows Vista that exclude Windows Media Player, as well as "K" and "KN" editions that include links to third-party media player and instant messaging software. "N" editions of Windows Vista require third-party software (or a separate installation of Windows Media Player) to play audio CDs and other media formats such as MPEG-4.
Editions for embedded systems
Two additional editions of Windows Vista have been released for use by developers of embedded devices. Microsoft lists the system requirements for these editions as being the same as their desktop variants. These editions are licensed exclusively for the development of embedded devices.
- Windows Vista Business for Embedded Systems
- This edition mirrors the feature set of the Business edition of Windows Vista.
- Windows Vista Ultimate for Embedded Systems
- This edition mirrors the feature set of the Ultimate edition of Windows Vista. Accordingly, it includes capabilities not found in Vista Business for Embedded Systems such as BitLocker Drive Encryption, the Subsystem for UNIX-based Applications, and Virtual PC Express.
|Features||Starter||Home Basic1,2||Home Premium2||Business1,2,3||Enterprise1,2||Ultimate2|
|Licensing scheme||OEM licensing in emerging markets||Retail and OEM||Retail, OEM and volume||Volume||Retail and OEM|
|Maximum RAM on IA-32||1 GB||4 GB||4 GB||4 GB||4 GB||4 GB|
|Maximum RAM on x64||N/A||8 GB||16 GB||128 GB||128 GB||128 GB|
|Maximum physical CPUs||1||1||1||2||2||2|
|Windows Speech Recognition||Yes||Yes||Yes||Yes||Yes||Yes|
|Number of running software||3||Unlimited||Unlimited||Unlimited||Unlimited||Unlimited|
|Windows Movie Maker||Partial||Partial||Yes||Yes4||Yes||Yes|
|Desktop Window Manager||No||Yes||Yes||Yes||Yes||Yes|
|Premium games5||No||No||Yes||Disabled by default||Disabled by default||Yes|
|Windows Media Center||No||No||Yes||No||No||Yes|
|Complete PC Backup||No||No||No||Yes||Yes||Yes|
|Joining Windows Server domains||No||No||No||Yes||Yes||Yes|
|Windows Fax and Scan||No||No||No||Yes||Yes||Yes|
|Remote Desktop Services||No||No||No||Yes||Yes||Yes|
|Multilingual User Interface||No||No||No||No||Yes||Yes|
|Windows Ultimate Extras||No||No||No||No||No||Yes|
|Features||Starter||Home Basic1,2||Home Premium2||Business1,2,3||Enterprise1,2||Ultimate2|
- Home Basic, Business and Enterprise editions are available in the South Korean and European markets as "KN" and "N" editions, respectively, which exclude Windows Media Player and HD components of Windows Movie Maker.
- All editions except Starter are available in the Korean market as "K" editions, which are sold in place of the standard editions of Windows Vista. Unlike the "KN" editions, the "K" editions do include Windows Media Player and its related components, and also include links to web sites which list third-party media player and instant messaging software.
- Windows Vista Business N is available in the European market. By default, it does not include Windows Media Player and its related components, or Windows Movie Maker.
- Windows Movie Maker is not available in Windows Vista Business KN.
- Premium Windows Vista games, including Chess Titans, InkBall, and Mahjong Titans, are available in Windows Vista Home Premium and Windows Vista Ultimate. Windows Vista games are also available as optional components in the Business and Enterprise editions, but are not installed by default.
Unlike previous versions of Windows, Windows Vista does not support compliance checking during installation; compliance checking previously allowed users to insert a disc as evidence that the operating system was being upgraded over a previous version, which would allow users to enter an upgrade license to perform a clean install. As a result, Upgrade versions of Windows Vista will not install unless a previous version of Windows is already installed on the machine to be upgraded. A workaround for this limitation was reported by Paul Thurrott, who stated that users should be able to perform a full installation of Windows Vista through Upgrade media by bypassing the prompt to enter a license during setup, and then, once installed, reinstall the operating system over the previous installation—this essentially allows users who purchased the Upgrade version to perform a full retail installation. While the workaround is indeed possible, Microsoft has cautioned that users who perform a full installation of the operating system through this method without a genuine license for a previous version would be in violation of the Windows Vista end-user license agreement.
Users can upgrade from Windows XP to Windows Vista, or upgrade from one edition of Windows Vista to another. However, upgrading from a 32-bit edition to a 64-bit edition or downgrading from 64-bit edition to a 32-bit edition requires a clean install. In addition, not all potential upgrade combinations are supported. The following chart indicates the possible upgrade paths:
|Version and its
specific edition of
|Edition of Windows Vista to upgrade to|
|XP Media Center 2005||No||No||Yes||Yes||Yes||No|
|XP Media Center 2004||No||No||Yes||Yes||Yes||No|
|XP Media Center 2002||No||No||No||No||No||No|
|XP Tablet PC||No||No||No||Yes||Yes||No|
|XP Professional x64||No||No||No||No||No||No|
|Vista Home Basic||No||N/A||Yes||No||Yes||No|
|Vista Home Premium||No||No||N/A||No||Yes||No|
- Only Windows XP can be upgraded to Windows Vista; a clean install is required for PCs running Windows 2000 or earlier versions.
- While it is possible to upgrade from Windows XP Media Center Edition to Windows Vista Home Premium if the computer was joined to an Active Directory Domain at the time of upgrade, the computer will remained joined to the domain but no users will be able to log into the computer through the domain controller. Windows Vista Home Premium does not support joining an Active Directory Domain.
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