Windows 7 Ultimate – Worth An Upgrade From Home Premium?

This week I updated my main computer from Windows 7 Home Premium to Windows 7 Ultimate. I got a deal on a disc (legal), and wanted to try it out, specifically for the virtual XP mode and the multi language support. Question is, is it worth the update – and would it be worthwhile for YOU?

Read on…

Here’s the quick news: If you plan to update to use Bitlocker (Microsoft’s data protection system), you get a more portable solution using the Free/Open Source TrueCrypt. I already have that, so BitLocker was never a plus for me.

Languages: Logging in to other languages sounded good. I’ve promised myself I was going to translate some of my software to the Spanish market Real Soon Now, and thought this would help. Perhaps. But I thought I’d take Russian for a spin first. Turns out that, since I don’t know Russian at all, restoring the computer back to English was not trivial. I had to go through the Control Panel blindly clicking on entries one by one until I found the Language switch option that got me home.

I can hear the MS employees now: What kind of moron goes into a language he doesn’t understand? Yes, you’re absolutely right, and I felt your love and caring all the time I was cursing my computer and looking for the Language setting in Russian. I can’t believe I’m the first person to hit this black hole with no easy way out – so why not create a desktop icon to switch languages, instead of burying it in the Control Panel? After all, the people using it are probably going back and forth frequently.

Nonetheless, when it’s a language I do understand (French), it’s fun to switch into it and see the results. However, unless you’re sharing your computer with a variety of people, or translating software (my ‘reason’ for Ultimate) then I’m not sure what else this would do for you.

XP Mode: Finally, the virtual disc. Ultimate gives you a copy of XP Professional in VHD format (virtual hard drive), which you then piggyback off of for your work. It actually works from two files: The original .vhd and a difference file which is what personalizes your copy. Note that the two must remain together or you have nothing.

My original reason for getting it was to have free multiple copies of XP on my computer, and exchange virtual XP images I had set up with others (all using Ultimate, of course or Professional, both of which support this feature). Alas, I still am not sure if the drives are exchangeable, or even if you can create multiple copies. I gave up working through the XP mode version of Virtual PC (which by the way refused to work unless I uninstalled my earlier, and still useful, copy of Virtual PC 2007) because I got tired of wading through the new interface.

So then if (and it’s a very big if) you can create multiple free XP images, and share them with others, then this could be a handy way to work. Especially for clients using a test bed, setting up a whole virtual drive to manage things makes for a very portable solution (again, requiring Ultimate or Professional, but a small price to pay IF this works). I’m not optimistic, however – if the main XP mode .vhd is in any way branded to my computer, it’s not likely portable.

So in the meantime I’ll continue what I’m doing already: A licensed copy of XP on VirtualBox. While not exchangeable, the cost of a new copy of XP on a client’s computer is less than the cost of the upgrade, and the VHD is much more portable (and by the way, VirtualBox provided USB support long before Microsoft – a real shame).

So the bottom line? Unless you’re a polyglot (or a wannabe), and until someone can tell me the portability of the Virtual XP drives, then I’m thinking the cost is not worth it. Of course, I can brag (and blog) about how I now have Ultimate, but if feels somewhat hollow – specifically since I’ve been doing just about all of this with free (and better) software for some time now…

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