Tobold's Blog
Friday, October 23, 2009
What Windows 7 version for gamers?

So Windows 7 was released yesterday worldwide, to replace the much maligned Windows Vista. Now you might innocently walk into a shop to buy a copy of Windows 7, at which point the shop assistant will ask you "Which version?". Your options include Starter, Home Basic, Home Premium, Professional, Enterprise, and Ultimate. Each of these might or might not be available in both 32-bit and 64-bit, and might be available as either upgrade or full install version. On some markets there are alternative versions, like the European "N" version replacing the previously planned "E" version, not containing additional Microsoft programs like the Internet Explorer or Media Player for anti-trust reasons. At this point the average computer user is seen running screaming from the store, suffering from being unable to decide due to information overload. So, if you are an average PC gamer, which version of Windows 7 should you buy?

My choice would be Windows 7 Home Premium 64-bit full install.

You certainly shouldn't get less than the Home Premium version (and actually in many countries you can't get less if you want the full install and not an OEM version). You might be tempted by the Windows XP virtual machine compatibility mode of the Professional edition, but I doubt you really need that one. Enterprise and Ultimate are just overkill for a home computer. You should definitely take the 64-bit version, because the 32-bit version would limit you to 3 GB of RAM, which might still be sufficient today, but will certainly be not enough in a year or two. Given how often I did complete re-installs of previous Windows versions, I'd recomment the full install, because that will be a lot easier to apply after you formatted your hard drive.

The full install version of Windows 7 Home Premium is sold in a pack that contains both the 32-bit and the 64-bit version, and costs $200, or £115, or €120 on Amazon.

So of course the big question is whether you actually need Windows 7 right now. I'm not convinced. While Vista was a catastrophe at launch, it actually runs well enough now, with service pack 2. To get the full advantages of Windows 7, I would need to go and buy 2 copies, one to replace my Vista, the other for my wife's computer to replace Windows XP. That would make creating a home network very easy, but do I really want to spend 400 bucks on that? The alternative is to keep using what you are currently using, and get a copy of Windows 7 included the next time you buy a new computer. That also saves you the hassle of reinstalling your games after having changed operating systems.

Are you going to buy Windows 7 now, or only later with a new computer? Do you agree with my choice of version for gamers, and if not, what version would you have picked?

(And as we recently discussed comment moderation policy, I think it is obvious that your "Windows sucks, buy a Mac / Linux" comment will go straight to /dev/null.)
Home Premium is probably not only for gamers the best choice. The other options are clearly aimed at small and large business.

If the 32 bit edition is included in the 64 bit package, it is probably a good idea to get this one.

But I am on the fence if I really need it. Especially if I need it NOW. As you already pointed out, if you have a modern system and Vista is running well, you might not need the extra speed and eye candy plus some new features of Windows 7 right away.

I think it is a good idea to wait a few months before upgrading. Let some other people test Windows 7 before. While it seems to be pretty good, I do not really want to be the first to experience that some applications or games might have issues.
I have been running Windows 7 since build 7000 (retail is build 7600). I am VERY impressed with it and agree with the majority of comments saying that 7 is as important of a milestone as Windows 95 or Windows XP.

As for versions, I would recommend Home Premium 32-bit Retail. Home Premium SKUs for Windows 7 contains everything most home users will need; a few of the higher priced SKUs have free alternatives of their features. The upgrade versions are a pain in the ass - they require an ACTIVATED previous version of Vista or XP rather than simply a valid install disk. It is worth spending the extra money on a retail license than an upgrade license due to the hassle. A retail license will allow you to deactivate one install on a computer and use your license on a different computer with minimal hassle.
Why 32-bit? Better software support. 64-bit operating systems are currently better for power users who know WTF they're doing. The 32-bit operating system is much easier for the inexperienced user to work with, plus they're more likely to run less than 4 gigs of memory, where a power user is more likely to run 4 gigs or more of memory. As for drivers, Microsoft implemented a new series of driver signing requirements with Vista in regards to their 64-bit SKUs. This continues with 7. It is much more likely the common user will have a legacy piece of hardware which does not have a 64-bit driver available to it where the power user is unlikely to have legacy hardware, at least in their primary or secondary machine.
I agree with your recommendation. I wont be buying W7 in the immediate future. On my current machine Vista (64) runs pretty smooth, no complaints really, and still enough for my gaming and business needs. I just dont see the added value of W7 right now. And since my "upgrade each year to get the bleeding edge, state of the art hardware for a crazy premium price" years are long gone, it may be a while before i get W7.
If you know a student you might be able to get a cheaper version. I can get the ultimate version for €60 through my sister.

As for upgrading. I'll wait a bit. We'll convert to Win 7 at work which will give me a chance to see if it offers a lot more then Vista. And it will take some time until the Direct X 11 games are coming out.

As for 32-64 bit. The only difference will be driver problems. Once you get that working (shouldn't even be a problem with a new pc) you're on. Pick 64 bit! Any pc these days should have 4 gigs (cost: around €80...). It's a waste to not use it all.

Of course, that's just for gamers. If you don't play a lot of games or just World of Warcraft go and download Ubuntu. It'll be cheaper!
Running Windows 7 Ultimate (retail) now. Still the same problem with WoW as with the beta/rc. Have to run it in Vista compability mode to avoid freezes. Guess it's something Blizzard have to fix soon
You're actually listing the Vista versions of the OS. With Win7 they discovered that there were too many versions so they cut them down to 3. See this link for the versions available of Win7.

I'm not really sure if I should upgrade my current computer with Windows 7 or wait a while and buy a new one with Windows 7. I'll wait and see what I decide, but I will probably get it one way or another at some point.
I'm not so sure you want to dismiss XP compatibility mode. I vote Win 7 Pro.
Just FYI, Windows 7 comes with both 32bit and 64bit on two disks, so you pick your poison. If you were lucky and pre-ordered it ahead of time, you could have gotten the upgrade version for $49.99. So for myself, two copies were right at $100 pre-ordered through Amazon.

I would say go ahead and put the 64-bit version on, I haven't run into any game it won't run, as it seems very well at recognizing to run it in a 32-bit mode. For example, I've run EVE, WOW, AoC, Warhammer, EQ2 on it. Some of them do take advantage of the 64-bit, but most do not. In all cases though, they ran great.

I put a fresh upgrade install on a blank hard drive, it did not even blink about needing an active copy of Vista or having me insert my old Vista disk.
While W7 does feel much faster and the UI more refined than Vista's, a lot of the benefit is due to Windows developers finally starting to learn that their software should run with non-admin privileges, and thus UAC is less of a hassle nowadays. And you don't need to upgrade from Vista to W7 to benefit from that.

But if you run XP now, it's time to upgrade. Windows 7 does have plenty of good improvements, like fully integrated, categorizable, fast search with libraries, notification bar cleanup, better context menus for taskbar items, seamless backups, automatic defrag and so on. However, it will take some time for developers to take advantage of the new features. For example, only IE 8 and Windows 7 itself can currently render progress bars (like downloads) on the taskbar.

Personally, I picked the Ultimate version (which arrived today), because I use my home computer for both work (Remote Desktop & BitLocker) and for leisure (Media Center). Also, it seems Microsoft learned from the 32-bit vs 64-bit debacle, and at least my version contains both. I had been running RC earlier, and the vast majority of my games had no problems whatsoever (World of Goo being the only exception). Even Shattered Horizon and Prototype, which refused to work on Vista, worked fine.
I totally agree with Dan on this. I have been running win 7 since 7000 as well and even if you have vista stable win 7 will beat vistas performance by miles. My advice is if you are thinking about getting a copy DO IT :) Installation procedure is child easy. Also I would not recommend running a upgrade but installing a fresh copy. You dont need to fear fort lost files doing so since Win7 creates a windows.old folder and puts all you installed apps, user documents and etc in there so you can just copy them over.
I nearly pulled the trigger on a pre-order of Windows 7 a few weeks ago. And yeah, I would have chosen Home Premium like you. My mouse pointer hovered over the button on as I mentally debated the merits of paying a couple hundred bucks for new visual bling vs "if it ain't broke..."

I decided to delay my decision. Where's the hurry? A new Windows OS is usually still a beta until at least SP1 anyway. I did a reinstall of XP instead and it's nice and snappy again. (Haven't reinstalled for three years.)

I was pleased with my decision to hold onto Windows 98 until the ME era had passed. Now I'm glad I ignored Vista. Windows 7 looks like it'll be decent, and I'll upgrade eventually, but there's no need to rush. It can wait until I build a new computer or encounter a game/program that I really want which requires it.
Just as you pure and simply said. "Do we need it now?".


I love windows 7, I think its amazing after testing it and other insights-- but I like XP.

The operating system I use right ow is Windows XP and it has everything I need, so i'm not upgrading, theres no point.

Im content, I don't lag, everything runs smooth, why would I?

But as soon as XP does have problems, or I get a new computer, I shall be jumping on the Windows 7 train faster than you can say "macintosh".
@Dan, I wouldn't be comfortable recommending a 32 bit operating system to a gamer. We all know that the first thing you need to upgrade is memory and I note that even a €399 bargain desktop from Dell already comes with 3Gb of memory. This is already at the practical limit of use-able memory for a 32 bit version of windows. I really think more memory will be needed for future gaming.
I have been planning to upgrade my computer for a few months. I was waiting for Windows 7 to go live. I'm definitely going for 64-bit (to get at a full 4GB RAM). RAM is a major factor in computer speed, and you don't want to gimp your machine right out of the box.
@MagrothJ: No, there are definitely more versions of Windows 7 available than just 3. Have a look at Wikipedia for confirmation. But not all versions are available in all countries and by all distribution channels. So while your list for example doesn't have Windows 7 Starter on it, that version does exist, and will soon come delivered preinstalled with various netbooks.
bought and installed Windows 7 Home Premium 64 bit yesterday, on my gaming machine, and loving it.

was on Vista Home Premium 32 bit before, and if only for the extra addressable RAM of a 64 bit, Win7 x64 was fully worth the purchase.
You forgot the step where upgrading to Windows 7 breaks a bunch of stuff.

I can guarantee you that to happen. It will break things you haven't expected. Wise men let other people pay that price.
I'm sticking to XP until I eventually get a new desktop. It's as simple as that. I'm glad XP was still available when I got my desktop (though it is getting old) and as long as it works well... If it ain't broken, don't fix it!
I won't be upgrading to Windows 7 in the near future either. Why?

Actually I run with an XP operated P4 3Ghz, and with hardware contemporary or that kind of processor. So I think it would be pretty pointless to put W7 on that kind of computer. Am I right?

Also, I'm planning to buy a new one. I plan on making it happen around the time Cataclysm gets released. So I will just be getting W7 at this time.

Ah, I stand corrected then. :)

Yes, I saw the starter edition actually as a link on that page I linked after posting it. But as you say, some editions are not available everywhere.
Whatever version of Windows 7 it is, it will be 64bit. Since my next box has 6GB, it just doesn't make sense otherwise.

If you have a lot of boxes at home, 3+, then I would recommend getting yourself a Microsoft Technet subscription for a year, you get request a key for 32 or 64 bit of each version, plus all the OS's they have. Plus the server software if that's your bag.

Hell buying a shop version of ultimate would cover all the costs nearly. Keys are valid beyond the life of the subscription, before you ask.
Just a heads up for students here, you can get either Home Premium or Pro versions of 7 for $30 at Just need to provide proof of being a student (they require a .edu email or you have to fax/mail them a photocopy of your student ID).

That being said, Home Premium 32bit will be more than enough for most gamers out there, but I would up to 64bit if you have more than 4GB of RAM (or plan to upgrade sometime soon). XP Mode really isn't worth the extra 80 as most of the programs that don't work are niche programs that haven't been updated in years.
For Windows 7 info a nice round up is

As for my personal opinon, I've been using it for 2 months and I think it was worth the upgrade from XP, sure not everything is perfect, homegroup is useless and UAC can still be a pain but there's great stuff too like the improved driver crash protection, new taskbar, window management, etc.

Still if you're happy with what you got there's no reason to change.
I've been playing with beta release builds at work so we know what we'll eventually be needing to do when my company upgrades.

For home, I've actually been holding off on buying a new PC in order to let W7 come out 1st in order to save me the hassle of having to upgrade the hardware, reinstall my games, and then reinstall them again anyway once W7 came out and I upgraded to that.

I thought this was a pretty interesting article about version numbers.
Oddly enough, Windows 7 is apparently a marketing name, but the actual version number is 6.1 (Vista is 6.0). Go figure. As long as it keep working so much better as I've seen it do on the boxes I've been monkeying with it, they can call it Eleanor Gatz for all I care.
There is no reason to upgrade to Windows 7 if you already have Vista. Atleast from a home computer stance. I wouldn't upgrade yet no matter what though, let it have some time in the market to see how well it works with various programs.
I agree, Win7 Home Premium x64 is the only way to go.

If you aren't running a 64-bit multi-core CPU and 4GB of RAM, your system is pretty out of date for today's games.
I'm they type who only gets a new OS when I purchase a new computer. I have XP on the old PC and vista on our laptop. I hate Vista so much its not funny. To find simple folders that were so easy to locate in XP, is the equivalent to pulling out my front teeth in Vista. I'm very afraid to fiddle with anything with Windows, even the child easy set up, I would probably screw up.
I'd grab the OEM version if I were you unless you have an objection to it. The only difference is that you aren't entitled to Microsoft support and it's tied to one motherboard, but you can always get around that when you have to call for activation. Buying OEM would cut your price tag in half.
I agree on both fronts: Home Premium and 64-bit.

64-bit is especially important for gamers, because in Vista/Win7 your video memory also counts against your 4G limit.
I have been using the Windows 7 Release Candidate for a few months now. WoW runs well with it. My human senses cannot really detect a difference between XP and 7 in terms of WoW performance.

My system is a pretty standard Dell laptop circa 2006. Intel Core2 CPU @ 2.00GHz. 2 GB RAM. A dedicated video card (GeForce Go 6800). I can't claim to get 60 frames per second everywhere, even with pretty minimal game settings, but it does the job.

I do have a lot of the fancy Aero tricks turned off and am using Readyboost with a 2 GB USB flash drive.

I pre-ordered Windows 7 at a discount and am looking forward to receiving it. I am not looking forward to reinstalling everything on my computer, but oh well.
I won't ever buy a computer again, so I won't be getting a pre-installed version of Windows 7 - my computer has 4gb of RAM, so I guess when I do upgrade from XP I'll be using the 64bit version, as my existing (new) PC is only using 3.25gb of RAM at present.

I do quite like the idea of a new OS, but cost, and the bug issues will delay for at least a few months more.

PS if you are brave enough, building your own PC is definitely the way to go!
I scanned for it, but didn't see it commented here, apologies if this has been mentioned before - you can purchase a 'family pack' of three upgrades for a lot less than the price of even two upgrade boxes.

Here's the US version:
A couple of things, first it's 4GB of ram not 3GB of memory if you use the 32 bit version. And since no game exists that uses more than about 1GB of memory, 4GB will do any gamer fine. Take a look at the steam OS breakdown and you'll see that the vast bulk of gamers have not shifted to 64 bit yet. Game developers will not write games that require more resources than the bulk of their player base physically owns. So I’d suggest the 32bit version for nearly everyone who is not already using the 64bit version. As a happy aside you’ll avoid any problems with older games not working with the 64bit version.

Of course that doesn't account for the people using fancy modeling packages that really do need large amounts of memory, but they should know who they are.

And second, it’s already been said, but they don’t have that many versions of windows 7. Home Premium will work fine for nearly everyone who doesn’t have a domain at home. The XP virtual machine thing is silly, won’t work right with games anyway and if you have an XP license you can get for free anyway.
A couple of things, first it's 4GB of ram not 3GB of memory if you use the 32 bit version.

Wrong! Technically it is 4 GB of *address space*. But as your graphics card and every other memory chip on your motherboard use up some of that address space, you end up with just 3 GB of useable RAM. Believe me, I put 4 GB in my previous 32-bit system and ended up with one bar of memory doing exactly nothing.
Going with the 64-bit professional myself. The day I get my upgrade in the mail I'll be nuking Vista off my PC, reformatting, and putting W7 on it (and yes, I've confirmed that the "upgrade" is actually a full install).

Vista is a beast, and despite my new PC with all sorts of features and buckets of memory, it runs as smooth as an old country road. I shouldn't be longing for my former PC with XP as I do.

I decided the small cost upgrade (was $10 when I did it) to Professional was worth it for the XP mode alone. While I've not had anything specifically bounce on my PC yet, I also haven't loaded much on it besides LOTRO and MSOffice stuff, and getting compatibility bumps back when XP was released used to bug me.
Isn't home edition limited to just 16 gig of ram? Not really a concern, as of yet, but...

= # # =
you can purchase a 'family pack' of three upgrades for a lot less than the price of even two upgrade boxes

Yes, but the family pack strangely is only available in the upgrade version, not the full version.
I'm still running XP here and I seriously doubt I am going to pay to upgrade this PC to Windows 7. In fact the only way I can see myself getting Windows 7 on this PC is if I acquire it via other not so legal methods but thats another discussion entirely...

Anyhoo I will most likely just grab Windows 7 when I purchase my next computer which should be an a year or two. As far as the version goes I would agree with you, Tobold, and get the Home 64 bit version.
Hi everyone
i would like to ask for a bit of help. Im using XP and plan to upgrade to Windows 7. But im unsure about 32 vs 64 bits. My RAM is only 2 GB so, are the security benefits of 64 worth the potential problem with old prgramms? Thanks for the help
I'm waiting for the next time I need to upgrade my computer, which will be awhile (my computer purchases usually last 4-5 years and I only just got my current set-up last year).

I think Home premium is the best choice for most normal consumers, as anything less is not worth the price and anything more is only needed for small business or more. (in other words I agree with longasc).

So since I'm waiting, I guess I'll be buying a computer with the 64-bit version installed since at that point I'm going to need it to last until 2019.
While there are quite a few versions listed there, with your analogy, someone walking into a shop to buy Win7 will only get 2-3 options; home premium and ultimate with maybe Pro. You're not going to be able to buy and install Starter (only pre-installed on netbooks) or Enterprise (only volume licensed) at that shop. The shop assistant will ask "is this for home or business?" to see if if the customer belongs with Pro or Home/Ultimate and then ask "Do you want to spend a lot more to Remote Desktop in or use Bitlocker?" to weed out anyone who really needs Ultimate.

(Of course, YMMV for versions for Europe & other places that have to deal with the Oh-Noes-It-Can't-Come-With-A-Browser-or-Media-Player-Because-No-One-Can-Download-Competitors-From-The-Internets versions. That's not quite Microsoft's choice to muddy the water with those versions though.)

Absolutely agree that you'd want to install 64bit if you're on a modern machine so you can use 4GB or more of RAM. If you're going to be replacing that machine soon or you're not using a modern machine, why would you want to install Win7 now? Just get the 64bit Win7 flavor you desire preinstalled with new hardware. You won't be able to upgrade from 32bit to 64bit Win7... You'd need to do a new install anyway, so just start with 64bit instead.

As for the flavor... I don't think any particular version will make a difference with gaming. If you want to Remote Desktop in, join a domain or use XP mode, get Pro or Ultimate. If you want to do all of the above and use Bitlocker too, go with Ultimate. If you don't care about any of that and want to save enough to buy a couple more games instead, go with Home Premium

Oh, and either do a clean install, with a full back up, a new hard drive or dual-boot Win7 with your Vista/XP install. Any of those gives you a way to go back if you hate it.

As for me, I've been using Win7 RC Ultimate for a few months, though not with a lot of heavy-hitting games; LOTRO, Oblivion and the like. I am leaning towards Ultimate currently, though I have wavered some days. I am going to stay Win7; I dual boot between Win7RC and Vista Ultimate on my laptop and desktop and haven't booted into Vista at home for more than a few minutes over the last few months.
I upgraded to Windows 7 Home Premium 32-bit (hardware limitation) yesterday and thought I'd share my experience.

The upgrade process was finished after about 2 hours. There were no errors. Everything went smooth and, from what I've seen, there are no negative effects on my hardware functionality or performance.

Actually, with regard to performance, Windows 7 uses less system resources than Vista Home Premium did. I took notes from my task manager before the upgrade. Vista, at startup, was running 48 processes and using 28% of my 3GB of system memory. Windows 7, on the other hand, uses 24% of that memory and runs 44 processes at startup. I was pleasantly surprised.

What's especially important for Vista users considering an upgrade to take into account is how video memory is allocated in this newest version. Vista, by some strange design decision, uses video memory for every program running on your machine that displays a graphic even when they're running in the background. That means your desktop, internet, what have you, all use your video memory while you're running a game in Full Screen mode. Seven, on the other hand, only uses memory on what you're actually seeing, which can result in performance increases for your games if you're limited on video memory/onboard memory.

I've tested Aion, Fallen Earth, and LotRO with the new OS. All of them perform almost identically in FPS to how they did before the upgrade. I've noticed slightly less hitching in graphics intensive settings and wide open areas where a lot needs to load.

I'm a bit of a memory fiend, so knowing that my system requires less of the same hardware is satisfying. Whether it's worth the cost of an upgrade right now... well, that's depends on what you're expecting to get. In most ways, it's a lighter weight, more functional, and better to look at Vista.

For those players concerned about hardware issues, check Microsoft's Compatibility advisor. Hardware conflicts are exceedingly minor, however, as 7 is based explicitly on the same driver framework as Vista. So, in the vast majority of cases, if your hardware works with Vista, it will work with 7. Still, check to be sure.

I'd also like to point out that if you're considering it but are on the fence, don't wait too long. Digital River is running an upgrade sale to current college students with active .edu email addresses. You can get a digital upgrade to either 32 or 64-bit for $29.99 and back up disks for an optional $13 extra.
OS - Windows 7 64 home premium.
Backwards compability - vmware player(its free)
Just installed windows 7 Ultimate on a brand new pc i've built. 64-Bit as i'm running a pretty high spec rig here.

3.4 ghz quad core
8gb ram
an SSD

you get the point. I've jumped straight from xp having never used vista on a machine of my own after never getting along with it on other peoples computers. Been running 7 only for a few hours so far so i'm still sort of installing key programes getting used to it etc etc. First impressions are that its awesome. so many things that would normally needs setting up in xp just work instantly. for example my 2nd monitor i just plugged it in and it came on, no having to change any settings or resolutions it just worked.

Its certainly got many ups over vista but i'm not sure it would be worth upgrading really. I would just hold out until you feel its time to upgrade the entire rig and get it then.
From what my guildies have told me, they pretty much agree with what Dan said.

32 for the casual buyer, 64 if you know what you're doing computerwise. If you don't there is a good chance you don't have your computer set properly to take advantage of it.

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