What Will Windows 7 Cost You? It Depends

A man looks at a Windows 7 display. i

Robert Patriarca shops for the new Microsoft Windows 7 operating system at a Best Buy in Altamonte Springs, Fla. Matt Stroshane/Getty Images hide caption

itoggle caption Matt Stroshane/Getty Images
A man looks at a Windows 7 display.

Robert Patriarca shops for the new Microsoft Windows 7 operating system at a Best Buy in Altamonte Springs, Fla.

Matt Stroshane/Getty Images

So, Windows 7 is out and you're thinking about upgrading. How much are you going to pay?

That's a really good question. With its multiple editions (Home, Professional and Ultimate), multiple "versions" in some of those editions (there are student and OEM-system builder versions), separate upgrade and full-installation versions, cut-rate deals for multiple-PC licenses, ultra-cheap prices for students and half-price deals for some people who ordered the product in advance, figuring out the cost of upgrading to Windows 7 is more elusive than you might imagine.

For people who just buy a typical retail copy, the cost won't be hard to figure out: The home premium upgrade is running about $120, and the full edition runs about $200. But if you build your own computers, Microsoft carves about $10 off that price for its OEM-system builder package — although that comes with additional license restrictions.

But wait! There's more!

If you ordered Windows 7 during the summer when Microsoft was offering a pre-ordering deal (like I did), you probably paid $50-60 for the home premium upgrade. If you're a qualifying college/university student, you might be able to get the same edition for as little as $29.99 (that's 25 percent of the retail price!)

And then there are people who can get it for free! If you purchased Windows Vista, or a PC that came with Vista after June 26, you're eligible for a free upgrade through Microsoft or the PC manufacturer.

To summarize: Looking at just the home premium version, you could pay approximately:

  • $200 for the full retail version
  • $120 for the upgrade version
  • $110 for the system builder-OEM version (which is more limited in flexibility than the retail editions)
  • $50 if you ordered during the summer pre-order window
  • $30 if you're an eligible student
  • Free if you purchased Vista or a Vista PC after June 26

Now, toss in the fact that there are three major Windows editions (although not every "edition" is available in every "version") and you've already got all sorts of different price points.

But wait! There's still more! Microsoft has yet still more iterations. There's a starter edition aimed at netbooks and emerging markets. There's an enterprise edition aimed at the workplace. There are editions that let you upgrade from, say, "starter" to "home premium."

In the end, most upgraders will probably stick with the most popular versions from the most popular retailers. But pricing a new version of Windows is getting oddly close in experience to pricing a new car with accessories.

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