Building a PC – Choosing the Operating System
When it comes to choosing an operating system for your new PC, an edition of Windows is often the only practical choice. Other operating systems are available but they are only suitable for very specific configurations. If you plan to run a wide selection of software or computer games, Windows is the only option. There are many different editions of Windows, however. Deciding which one is right for you depends on your own requirements as well as the hardware you have.
Windows XP, Vista and Windows 7
Windows Vista and Windows 7 are the most popular operating systems in use. Windows XP, particularly the later-released 64-bit edition, is still popular amongst many enthusiasts due to its simplicity and high performance. For maximum compatibility, future support and new features, Windows 7 wins hands down. If you already have a Windows Vista license, however, it is probably not worth the expense of upgrading to Windows 7. Both Windows Vista and Windows 7 are very similar.
Different Editions of Windows Vista and Windows 7
Both Windows Vista and Windows 7 are available in several different editions. The cheapest and most basic version of Windows 7 is the Starter edition, though this is normally only obtained pre-installed on very cheap mobile computers. The Home Basic edition is often supplied in a similar manner. Generally, you will be choosing between the Home Premium and Ultimate editions. The Professional and Enterprise editions are aimed at the commercial market.
For almost all users, the Home Premium edition is perfectly adequate and provides all of the features that most people are ever likely to use. By contrast, the Ultimate edition provides all of the features of Windows 7 including advanced features such as support for language packs and Windows 7 Ultimate Extras. Windows 7 Ultimate costs around 70% more than the Home Premium edition and is rarely worth it for most users.
32 or 64-Bit
Since almost all CPUs currently on the market are 64-bit, there is less reason than ever for installing a 32-bit operating system. Up until a couple of years ago, 32-bit was still preferable for many users due to the compatibility issues associated with 64-bit. These compatibility issues are very few and far between these days. 64-bit has very much become the new standard. All editions of Windows from Windows Vista Home Basic and upwards are available in 64-bit versions. Indeed, the next major release of Windows will only be available in 64-bit.
A 64-bit edition of Windows provides one major advantage over the 32-bit version. This is the ability to address more memory. With Windows Vista or Windows 7 64-bit, your computer can support up to 16 GB of memory with the Home Premium editions and 192 GB with the Ultimate editions. Due to technical constraints, the maximum memory that will ever be usable in a 32-bit system will be about 3.2 GB. As many games and applications are now being optimized for 64-bit systems, further performance gains can often be experienced. Windows 64-bit is also perfectly capable of running any 32-bit program. 16-bit programs will not run on a 64-bit operating system, but this is very rarely a problem for the vast majority of users.
Other Operating Systems
You may choose to go for an operating system other than Windows. If all of your hardware and software is compatible with a different operating system as well, then you may want to consider it. Popular alternative operating systems include the many Linux-based ones and the more user-friendly Ubuntu operating system. Ubuntu is also available for free. If you choose to go for a different operating system, you will need to think about it carefully. The majority of games and programs on the market are only available for Windows, though some programs can be emulated in certain operation systems. If you are interested in experimenting with alternative operating systems, it is best to have a dual boot configuration running both Windows and another operating system on your computer.