Q. What are the differences in the new Windows Vista versions that are about to come out? -Jeremy
A.The final phase of Microsoft’s launch of Windows Vista, which is focused on the general retail customer, is slated to occur on Jan. 30.
And in their classic ambiguous and confusing style, Microsoft is releasing four different consumer versions that are labeled as follows: Home Basic, Home Premium, Business and Ultimate.
The Home Basic version is designed for very simple use (casual e-mail and Web surfing) and does not have any of the fancy new graphics capabilities, Media Center options or document-sharing support for their productivity applications such as Word and Excel. The suggested retail price for the full retail package is $199 while the suggested retail for the upgrade is $99.95.
The Home Premium version, which is the most likely version for most households, adds support for the new “Aero” desktop graphical experience (it will look cooler); the Windows Media Center home entertainment functions for working with music, video and pictures on your big-screen TV; and document sharing with Windows Meeting Space. The suggested retail price for the full retail package is $239 while the suggested retail for the upgrade is $159.
The Business version is designed for what it sounds like: business users. It removes the home entertainment components (Media Center) and adds business-related features such as business backup services as well as a hardware diagnostic “warning” system. The suggested retail price for the full retail package is $299 while the suggested retail for the upgrade is $199.
The Ultimate version is for those who want all of the business features with all of the home entertainment features. It also is the only consumer version that incorporates its “BitLocker” Drive Encryption technology, which is very helpful for those who have to comply with data privacy regulations such as doctors and dentists. The suggested retail price for the full retail package is $399 while the suggested retail for the upgrade is $259.
An additional consideration for those who want to upgrade their existing computers is the current version of Windows that you are running. Not all previous versions of Windows will qualify for an in-place upgrade, which means you will have to wipe out the entire hard drive and start from scratch.
Windows XP Home users are pretty safe in that you can perform an in-place upgrade with any of the new versions of Windows Vista. But those running Windows XP Pro can only perform an in-place upgrade with Vista Business and Vista Ultimate.
If you have XP Pro and want to install Vista Basic or Vista Home Premium, you will have to perform a clean install (remove the existing version of Windows).
If you have anything other than Windows XP or Windows 2000 (that is, Windows 98, ME, NT) you will also be required to perform a clean install.
If you currently run Windows XP Media Center Edition, you can only perform in-place upgrades with Vista Home Premium or Vista Ultimate.