Windows Vista Editions - Do you know the differences ?

Martin Brinkmann
Dec 4, 2006
Updated • May 22, 2013
Windows, Windows Vista

I was asking the question to myself the other day. Windows Vista will come out in many, and i mean many, editions and it can be quite confusing for customers to find the right product.As a short test, try and name the known Vista editions in their correct order. Did you get them right? You probably know that there will be a Vista Home and and Vista Ultimate but what about the others and how do they differ ?

Imagine you want to buy a new computer and you have the choice between a cheaper one with Vista Home Basic and a more expensive one with Vista Home Premium. Which one would you take  Let me walk you through the different Windows Vista editions and explain how they compare in functionality and pricing.

Windows Vista Differences:

It all starts with Windows Vista Starter which will not be sold in North America and the European Union but in countries like Russia and Brazil. This one can also be named Vista light because it has a physical memory limit of 256 megabytes and support for older cpu's only. If you travel much and see a cheap Windows Vista Starter don't buy it, it is useless for high-end computers.

Microsoft Windows Vista Home Basic and Microsoft Windows Vista Home Premium are the editions that will most likely be added if you buy a new computer. Home Basic is mostly for users who do not need advanced media capabilities such as HDTV support or DVD authoring. Home Pro does support this which makes up the biggest difference.

windows vista differences

Home Basic has a limit of 8 GB of physical memory, Home Pro of 16 GB.

The next two in line are Microsoft Windows Vista Business and Windows Vista Enterprise. Vista Business replaces Windows Xp Professional and includes all features of Vista Home Premium with the exception of Windows Media Center and related features such as Parental Controls. Added features are fax support and IIS-web server.

Vista Enterprise will not be available on the free market, it has the same features as Microsoft Windows Vista Business and adds a multilingual user interface, drive encryption and Unix support.

Last but not least there is Microsoft Windows Vista Ultimate which combines Windows Vista Home Premium with Windows Vista Enterprise and ships with additional extras like a game performance tweaker.

You may purchase Vista Home Basic N and Business N in the European Union which is basically the same as the normal Vista editions but ships without the media player because of anti-trust laws.

The difference in pricing is 200$ between Vista Home Basic and Vista Ultimate. I personally think that this many editions will be confusing for the customers. I sometimes work tech support and it is already difficult to get customers to spell out the operating system they are using, let alone its version.

The biggest advantage of Windows compared to Linux was in my opinion the ease of choosing the operating system. If you wanted Windows you went to a store and bought it. (XP Pro and Home changed this a bit already). With Linux you have millions of different distributions and beginners simply do not know which to choose. The exactly same problem will arise with Windows Vista.

The most common questions in the coming months on the internet will probably be " does Vista Edition X support Y, will I be able to use Z on Edition A?"


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  1. Dude said on May 11, 2008 at 8:55 pm

    the difference is probably retail and oem versions. Oem is kinda locked against ur computer and has some limitations towards reuse and part exchange. Also i think u have less rights towards support directly from microsoft with the oem version :D
    this exist with windows xp aswell

  2. hussein said on April 16, 2008 at 10:19 pm

    well somthin weird i found out is that a home basic edition is sold out 82 US dollars in the market and in the online windows store its like 159 dollars, now i am confused i heard somthin have to do with OEM or somthin could u please clairify for me more abt such a thing thanx

  3. Martin said on December 5, 2006 at 8:28 am

    Thanks for the links bondurant. I mentioned Suse because I had some troubles locating important directories at first. Did not take long though ;)

    I agree with you that linux is a great choice if you love to build your system, just like building your computer. Choosing the right parts to make it perfect.

    But most users, the normal ones, don’t like it but get frightened by it. They prefer a “if it is installed and running it’s fine” distribution.

  4. bondurant said on December 5, 2006 at 7:50 am

    Yes ,SuSE is an independantly developed system,-not based on knoppix / Redhat etc- but uses standard file systems -Ext2,Ext3,Reiserfs,Xfs.
    You get to choose which file system you want on install , I use Reiser which is slower at boot but is better at saving your files in the event of a crash/power outage.-I like to break things !
    There’s a lot of debate about which one is best,it comes down to what you’re using your box for :
    There’s now a driver which enables you to read/write to ntfs partitions from linux,still in beta but works fine for me:
    Best thing for me is the Kde desktop , limitless configuration options/addons & multiple desktops.
    Spoilt for choice ?
    Probably ,but i’d rather have choice than pay for an o/s I don’t want when I buy a new computer.It’s like you can buy any make of car you want but you HAVE to have a microsoft engine in it.
    Rant over hehe

    Lookin forward to reading your first impressions Martin.

  5. Martin said on December 4, 2006 at 8:06 pm

    To be honest, I really don’t know yet. I will take a look at Ubuntu simply because it is one of the more popular distributions out there. I’m also thinking of Suse because my dedicated server is running that OS.

    Apparently Suse has a different structure for some directories / files than other distributions..

    I know that the comparison was a bit unfair because you can’t directly compare linux and windows. I still think that the “normal” user is overwhelmed by the amount of distributions that are out there. The same could hold true for choosing the right Vista edition. Most users on the other hand will not choose the Vista edition by themselves but get one while buying a new computer.

  6. bondurant said on December 4, 2006 at 6:31 pm

    A good attempt to clarify things Martin, I wonder what the price differences will be between all these different ‘models’ of vista.
    Not that I’ll be buying vista , I’ll be sticking with my SuSE linux :)
    A bit unfair re linux distros, yes there are over 100 to choose from but you forgot to mention that the support forums & people in the linux community in general are very helpfull & all too willing to give noobs a hand.
    A good place to start is here for anyone considering the switch to Linux or a dual boot
    Which one are you going to install martin ? :)

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