Chapter 1. Installing Windows 7

Windows 7 is Microsoft’s latest version of its Windows operating system. Unlike its predecessor, Vista, Windows 7 offers incremental upgrades and is aimed at ensuring maximum compatibility with applications and hardware already supported in Vista. As mentioned in the Preface, Microsoft’s key agenda regarding Windows 7 is to lure back many of the Windows XP users who skipped Vista.

Windows 7 offers significant performance improvements over its predecessors—most notably Windows Vista and Windows XP. It is still based on the Vista kernel, but comes with substantial performance improvements and a redesigned Windows shell, a new taskbar, and a less-annoying User Account Control (UAC) system. There are also improvements in networking, in particular the introduction of a home network system known as HomeGroup.

This chapter first walks you through the different versions of Windows 7 available, followed by an overview of the installation process. We will then take a look at some of the new features in Windows 7 before we get into them in detail in subsequent chapters.

Versions of Windows 7

With Windows Vista, Microsoft released multiple editions of its operating system with the intention of targeting different segments of its user base with different features at different price points. However, this approach wasn’t well received, as it confused the market; many users urged Microsoft to come up with one simple, all-encompassing version of the operating system.

With Windows 7, Microsoft still has many editions. However, Microsoft is expected to focus its marketing effort on just two editions—Home Premium and Professional—just as it did with Windows XP. Here is a list of the available editions, in ascending order, from least to most advanced:

Starter Edition

A lightweight edition for netbook computers. Netbooks are low-powered computers specifically designed for lightweight tasks such as web browsing and emailing. In this edition, Windows 7 will lack more advanced features such as Media Center, Aero Glass, fast user switching, multiple-monitor support, DVD playback, and multitouch support. This edition is geared toward replacing Windows XP on inexpensive computers such as netbooks, a market that is currently dominated by Windows XP. This edition will likely be available only as a preinstallation by OEMs.

Home Basic

This edition is designated for emerging markets only; it is for customers who are looking for an inexpensive entry-level Windows experience (limited Aero support, no features such as Windows Media Center or multitouch support).

Home Premium

This edition is designed for home users and will include features like Media Center, multitouch support, the Aero Glass UI, and so on.


This edition is designed for home workers and small businesses, and will include features like advanced network backup and the Encrypting File System.


Includes everything that Professional includes and adds BitLocker protection. It will have the option to encrypt USB flash drives and external hard disks. It also includes DirectAccess, which allows remote workers to access a company network securely without using a VPN, and federated search.


Includes all the features available in Windows 7.


Windows 7 Ultimate edition is really the same as the Enterprise edition. The key difference is that the Enterprise edition will be sold through volume licensing to companies, as well as through the Software Assurance program. The Ultimate edition, however, will be available to retail customers.

One key thing to note about the different editions of Windows 7 is that each higher edition is a superset of its lower edition. That is, all the features available in Starter Edition will be available on the Home Basic edition, and the Home Premium edition will include all the features of Home Basic, and so on. This is different from Vista, where Media Center was included in the Home Premium edition but not available in the Business edition.

Though there are six different editions of Windows 7, Microsoft will focus its marketing effort on just the Home Premium, Professional, and Ultimate editions. This is very similar to Windows XP, in which you have only two main editions—Home and Professional. As a quick rule of thumb, Windows 7 Home Premium is targeted at consumers and Professional is targeted at small businesses.

System Requirements

If you are currently running Windows Vista, the good news is that you are ready for Windows 7. Tests performed by various parties have consistently confirmed that Windows 7 outperformed Windows Vista on a similar hardware configuration.

If you are coming from previous versions of Windows (pre-Vista), take note of the following suggested hardware requirements:

  • 1 GHz or faster 32-bit or 64-bit processor

  • 1 GB RAM (for 32-bit) or 2 GB RAM (for 64-bit)

  • 16 GB of available disk space (for 32-bit) or 20 GB of available disk space (for 64-bit)

  • DirectX 9 graphics device with Windows Display Driver Model 1.0 or higher (for Aero—the graphical user interface and default theme in most editions of Windows 7)


Though it is suggested that you have at least 1 GB of RAM, Windows 7 runs perfectly on my old trusty Dell Inspiron 5150 notebook (a 3 GHz Pentium 4 processor with 640 MB of RAM). The suggested requirements are necessary to experience all the features of Windows 7 (such as Aero Glass effects), but Windows 7 will still function on lesser hardware.

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