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What is Windows 7 Starter Edition?

Welcome to Windows for Netbooks

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Most people who have been following news about Windows 7 know that there are three primary editions -- Home Premium, Professional and Ultimate -- to choose from. But did you know there's a fourt edition, known as Windows 7 Starter? It's not well known, but as people explore Windows 7, they're starting to wonder if this edition is for them. Read on to find out.

For Netbooks Only

The most important thing to know is that Windows 7 Starter edition is exclusively for use on netbook computers. You can't get it on a standard PC (nor would you want it, in most cases.) It is currently offered as an upgrade on a number of netbooks, including the Dell Inspiron Mini 10v and the HP Mini 110. On both systems, it's a $30 upgrade from the base operating system (OS), which is Windows XP Home edition for both.

What it Doesn't Have

Windows 7 Starter is a significantly stripped-down version of Windows 7. Here's some of what it's missing, courtesy of a Microsoft blog posting:

  • Aero Glass, meaning you can only use the "Windows Basic" or other opaque themes. It also means you do not get Taskbar Previews or Aero Peek.
  • Personalization features for changing desktop backgrounds, window colors, or sound schemes.
  • The ability to switch between users without having to log off.
  • Multi-monitor support.
  • DVD playback.
  • Windows Media Center for watching recorded TV or other media.
  • Remote Media Streaming for streaming your music, videos, and recorded TV from your home computer.
  • Domain support for business customers.
  • XP Mode for those that want the ability to run older Windows XP programs on Windows 7.

One feature that will be most missed is the ability to change your desktop look. Don't like the background you get? Sorry, Charlie; you have to live with. Note that you also can't watch DVDs. But if you can live without those features and want the stability and strong performance of Windows 7, it's an option worth considering.

Upgrade Options

Also, think about upgrading that netbook to a regular version of Windows 7. One thing the Microsoft blogger referenced earlier is the ability to run a non-Starter version of Windows 7 on a netbook. That's a good choice, if you have the money to upgrade; first, however, be sure to check out the netbook's system specs and compare it to Windows 7's system requirements. If you can run it, I would recommend upgrading, since Windows 7 is a huge improvement over Windows XP.

One important misconception some have about Windows 7 Starter is that you can't open more than three programs at once. This was the case back when Windows 7 Starter was still in development, but that limitation was dropped. You can have as many open programs as you want (and your RAM can handle).

Is Windows 7 Starter Edition a Good Option?

Windows 7 is very limited, there's no doubt about that. But, for the main uses of a netbook, which normally revolves around surfing the Internet, checking email and the like, it will do the job just fine. I would recommend shelling out the extra $30 for it. If you need your OS to do more, upgrade to a regular version of Windows 7 or consider moving up to a non-netbook laptop. They're coming down a lot in price, and offer small size and more bang for the buck than ever.

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