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Windows 7: The UK's definitive FAQ

Answers to the most common questions about Windows 7 in the UK are right here. Hopefully everything you've ever been confused about is answered -- if not, you're free to ask

Never have we been so perplexed over the pricing and version technicalities of a Windows operating system. Or anything, to be honest. Windows 7's many versions were just a handful of what seemed like a million issues Microsoft generated to baffle the press and consumer alike.

So here, dearest of all confused readers, are answers to the most common questions you've been asking. If you have any more questions to add, post them in the comments and we'll be able to update the article.

How many UK versions are there?

There are three main versions of Windows 7. These are Windows 7 Home Premium, Windows 7 Professional and Windows 7 Ultimate. Most home users need only look at Home Premium, as features in other editions only benefit people who use their computers in the office as well as at home. Detailed explanations can be found in our guide, Windows 7 comparison: Which edition is best for you?

I've heard I only need an upgrade edition. What's that?

If you're running Windows Vista or Windows XP, you only need an upgrade edition of Windows 7. An upgrade edition costs less, but will only work when upgrading from these two previous Windows versions -- a clean installation on a new computer is not possible. Upgrade editions will be available in all three consumer editions of Windows 7: Home Premium, Professional and Ultimate.

Cool, so how much do all these versions of Windows 7 cost?

From 1 September, the recommended pricing is as follows:

Full install versions:
Windows 7 Home Premium: £150
Windows 7 Professional: £220
Windows 7 Ultimate: £230

Upgrade editions:
Windows 7 Home Premium: £80 until 1 January 2010, £100 thereafter
Windows 7 Professional: £190
Windows 7 Ultimate: £200

What is the Windows 7 Family Pack?

The Windows 7 Family Pack lets you upgrade three computers from Windows XP or Vista to Windows 7 Home Premium. It costs £150, but you must have one of Microsoft's previous two operating systems (Vista or XP) installed on the computers you wish to upgrade.

Can I get a Family Pack for Windows 7 Professional or Ultimate editions?

No, it's only for Home Premium.

Can I upgrade from Windows XP or Vista?

Yes, both the upgrade editions and full editions let you upgrade from Windows XP and Vista. 

Can I buy Windows 7 to run on my Mac?

Yup. All editions of Windows 7 run natively on Mac OS X. You install them with Apple's Boot Camp utility within Leopard and Snow Leopard, and Apple provides all the necessary drivers on its OS X DVDs.

What's the difference between Windows 7, Windows 7 E and Windows 7 N?

Windows 7 was at one point called Windows 7 E in Europe, and wasn't going to include a Web browser. This edition no longer exists. If you see it listed for sale, it's an error and you should receive the standard version of Windows 7 if you order it.

Windows 7 N is a slightly different deal, and will still be offered by Microsoft. The N editions are identical to the normal  editions, but do not come with Windows Media Player. We've covered the N editions in detail in a previous article, Windows 7 N: The 'N' editions explained.

Can I upgrade from the Windows 7 release candidate?

Yes and no, but mostly no. Although you can upgrade from the release candidate of Windows 7, your programs and data will be dumped into a folder called Windows.old within the new installation's C drive. This saves you from having to backup data to an external hard drive before upgrading, but it does mean you're effectively performing a clean install.

I pre-ordered Windows 7 E before it was cancelled. What version will I get?

You will get a full version of Windows 7 -- Home Premium if you ordered Home Premium E, Professional if you ordered Professional E, Ultimate if you ordered Ultimate E.

I just bought Vista in a box. Can I get a free upgrade to Windows 7?

Possibly, yes. At the moment Amazon, for example, will give you a free version of Windows 7 if you bought Windows Vista between 26 June and 15 October 2009. The version of Windows 7 you'll receive will be equivalent to the version of Vista you bought. For example, if you bought Vista Home Premium, you'll get Windows 7 Home Premium.

We spoke to Microsoft about whether it was offering similar guarantees via software retailers, but it said that it was "down to a retailer at their own discretion", so we can't guarantee all retailers will offer the same deal Amazon is offering.

I just bought a Windows Vista laptop. Can I get a free Windows 7 upgrade?

Almost certainly yes, if you bought your machine after 26 June. Most major manufacturers are on-board Microsoft's Windows 7 Upgrade Option programme, but how to claim your free upgrade differs from manufacturer to manufacturer.

To help you out, here are links to some of the most popular computer makers' Windows 7 upgrade Web pages. This is where you'll need to start if you want to upgrade for free.

I just bought a Windows XP netbook. Can I get a free upgrade to Windows 7?

Almost certainly not. Officially, Microsoft's Windows 7 Upgrade program only covers people who buy Windows Vista computers. In the UK, no Asus netbooks, for example, are eligible for a free Windows 7 upgrade.

Still confused? Perhaps one of our earlier guides will help further

Want to ask us a question?

Drop your query in the comments below. We'll do our best to get you an answer and add it to this guide.

Update, 26 August: We added answers concerning Windows XP upgrades on netbooks and Windows 7 E pre-orders.