Upgrade Windows 7 Starter to something better

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Jinadasa Katulanda has a netbook computer running Windows 7 Starter. He asked about upgrading it to the Home Premium edition.

The Windows 7 Starter edition is the cheapest, least-powerful version of Windows 7. It was never sold retail, and is only available pre-installed on inexpensive, low-power netbooks.

But here’s the funny thing: Starter isn’t significantly faster than other editions of 32-bit Windows 7. They all have the same minimum hardware requirements.

[Have a tech question? Ask PCWorld Contributing Editor Lincoln Spector. Send your query to answer@pcworld.com.]

To justify the low price, Microsoft removed a lot of features that can be found in other Windows 7 editions. It lacks Aero Glass (which has since been discontinued in Windows 8), multiple monitor support, and Windows Media Center. And if you don’t like the desktop background (what used to be called wallpaper), you’re out of luck. You can’t change it.

If you upgrade to another 32-bit edition of Windows 7 (the 64-bit ones won’t work), you’re unlikely to see any performance hit. PC World Lab tests from 2009 showed no significant difference. (The tests were for this article, although Starter results didn’t end up in the final copy.) The Lab ran its WorldBench tests on the same PC running Starter, Home Basic, and Home Premium. Starter won, but in a statistical dead heat of 31 to 30. You’d need a stopwatch and quick reflexes to notice that difference.

If you do the upgrade and notice a performance hit, turn off Aero. It’s the likely culprit.

You might also consider upgrading to Windows 8 (again, 32-bit). It might actually improve performance. But run the Windows 8 Upgrade Assistant before you put down any money. It will tell you if your hardware is compatible.

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