Microsoft Windows 7 Professional review

22 Oct 2009

The most disappointing of the new versions, Windows 7 Professional omits what we consider to be key encryption features - most businesses should choose Windows 7 Ultimate or Enterprise if they can. Extra features such as Windows XP Mode do lift it above Home Premium, however

Price when reviewed: 
160inc VAT
4

As its name suggests, the Professional edition of Windows 7 is primarily targeted at businesses, but it also contains some features that will appeal to home enthusiasts thanks to a range of new features that can be fully exploited by those looking for more power than Home Premium.

The full version of Backup and Restore Center allows you to back up both personal and system files, and schedule backups (Home Premium only allows for manual backup of personal files). Meanwhile, the Encrypting File System, which adds another layer of protection for sensitive files, now offers more complex algorithms that are almost impossible to hack.

Windows XP Mode

Perhaps the most interesting feature, however, is Windows XP Mode. This is an ingenious virtual machine that goes one step beyond running a copy of Windows XP alongside Windows 7 on your desktop. You’re able to do that if you so wish, but it's able to share Windows 7's Start menu and share file types, too. Just bear in mind that, if you're running Windows 7 Professional, you'll have to download Microsoft Virtual PC separately to use Windows XP Mode.

Also note that the key advantage Windows XP Mode holds over software such as VirtualBox and Vmware is that it includes a licence for Windows XP.

Corporate users will be pleased with other features, too, including Presentation Mode, which can reset your desktop wallpaper to a default image, specify a pre-set volume level and prevent your screensaver from appearing – a one-stop shop to set up your PC for use in the boardroom.

Unlike Windows 7 Starter and Home Premium systems, a Windows 7 Professional PC can also join a domain (a necessary feature if your computer is centrally managed by an IT department using a domain).

Every feature that was introduced in Windows 7 Home Premium is included here, including Aero, multi-touch functionality for those with touchscreen displays, Media Player 12 and (in a departure compared to Vista Business) Windows Media Center. Couple this with Windows XP Mode and a raft of technical, security and networking enhancements and it's clear that, if work is on your mind, the Professional edition is the way to go.

Except that it isn’t. Because we’re actually disappointed by Windows 7 Professional, as we don’t believe it offers enough to small businesses – especially those that deploy laptops to their users.

The first omission is BitLocker; the second BitLocker To Go. BitLocker is the full-disk encryption technology first introduced with Windows Vista Ultimate and Enterprise, with the idea being to encrypt the whole hard disk in hardware: this means you can’t access data on the hard disk unless it’s plugged into the laptop, and you enter the password (which you set up).

BitLocker To Go offers encryption for external USB drives. Once encrypted, the drive can only be accessed by entering a lengthy password or (if your company supports them) swiping a smart card. You can set your encrypted drive to work on your regular work PC without entering the password each time, and the drives can also be read on Windows XP and Vista systems (they can only be written to by Windows 7 systems).

Less crucially, perhaps, you also miss out on features such as DirectAccess: this allows users to access the company network remotely, similar to a virtual private network (VPN). Similarly, the application-control tools offered by AppLocker are only available in Windows 7 Ultimate.

Details

Price ex VAT £139
Price inc VAT £160
Overall rating 4
Ease of Use rating 6
Features & Design 4
Value for Money 3
Software subcategory Operating system

Requirements

Processor requirement 1GHz Pentium or equivalent

Operating system support

Other operating system support N/A