Thursday, 1 March 2007

Ultimate only features

Out of a list of 101 features from the different Vista editions, there are only 4 that can only be found in Ultimate (all four are also available in the Enterprise edition, but that one is only available to enterprises with a special agreement with Microsoft)

  1. Windows BitLocker Drive encryption.
  2. Support for simultaneous installation of multiple user interface languages
  3. All worldwide user interface languages (36 total) available
  4. Subsystem for UNIX-based applications

All four are, by Microsoft, classified as targeting an audience of IT professionals.

Windows BitLocker Drive encryption

This is a feature that allows the user to encrypt the OS partition on a system. In order for this to work, you would need either a computer with TPM enabled, or a motherboard that can detect USB devices before the OS is loaded. The pros are that in the event someone stoles your computer, or tries to access it without your permission, they will most likely not be able to access the data on the OS partition. This is an important point for enterprises, with sensitive data on their hard drives. But for a home user? Or if the data is not on the same partition as the OS?

If someone stole your computer, all they have to do is to replace the hard drive and the PC will be fully functional, albeit without your family photos.

If your sensitive data is not on the C drive (I routinely move all Documents, Pictures and Music folders to another drive, for example) it will not be protected.

Once the OS is booted, the data is no longer protected, so this is no protection against attacks from the network/internet. Many power users have their machines turned on 24/7. If you are one of those, BitLocker won't do a thing for you.

If you forget your password, you have very effectively locked yourself out of your computer and there is NO way you can get access to that data again, ever.

Lastly, you have to prepare your hard drive for encryption before you install the OS.

Conclusion: If it is important to you that no one boots your computer without your permission or steals the hard drive for the express purpose of reading the data on your system partition, you might need this feature. There is no other reason whatsoever for this feature, no matter if you are a home or a professional user.

Support for simultaneous installation of multiple user interface languages & All worldwide user interface languages (36 total) available

Pretty self explanatory to what it does. The languages are available as Ultimate Extra downloads. The settings are per user and in the context of one user account are system wide. That is one user account can have only one language for that account, but you can have as many user accounts as you want with whichever language each of them wants. Each user can change the language for any other installed language at will, they would need to log out and log back in again for the changes to apply, but no reboot is needed. Once a language is chosen, that language will be applied to all windows apps, so you can't have Help in French and IE in English.

I do use this feature and find it very useful, because I provide support for people that have other than English as an OS language, and I need to know what menus and commands are called in their language. Do you need this feature? Is it worth the price difference?

Subsystem for UNIX-based applications

Compiled any Unix program lately? Need to make NFS mount points appear as Windows shares and vice versa? Other things this feature can do for you described HERE.

Basically if you are not a developer or IT Pro, you really, really, don't need this.


If you don't need any of these features, can you write off Ultimate and start looking at another edition of Vista? Not quite. There are 14 features available on Business but not on Premium, and 9 available in Premium but not in Business. I will detail them in upcoming posts.