Dear Lifehacker, I bought a Dell Inspiron 1545 in 2009 which came with Windows Vista Home Basic, and I'd like to upgrade it to Windows 7. Is there any way I can upgrade to Windows 7 without paying full price? My initial research suggests that I can't buy an "upgrade version" because of the conditions that apply to Home Basic.
I'm also a full-time student; does that help?
Thanks, Windows Upgrader
Windows licensing can be complicated and confusing, but in this case your choices are fairly clear. If you're running Windows Vista Home Basic, you can upgrade it to either Windows 7 Home Premium or Windows 7 Ultimate, as this chart points out. You'll pay around $170 for an upgrade copy of Home Premium at retail outlets.
As a student, you can score a very cheap complete copy of Windows 8 for $69.99. Microsoft doesn't have any current student offers for Windows 7, and in practical terms, if you're going to pay for an upgrade it may as well be to the most recent release. (Despite Windows 8 sporting the Metro interface, once you hit the desktop it runs Windows apps somewhat better than Windows 7.)
That said, there are some good reasons to resist making this choice. In particular, the 1545 is a fairly low-powered machine, with just 3GB of RAM in its basic version. So you're not likely to see any performance gains from making the shift.
The bottom line is this: there's not much logic in spending any large amount of money to upgrade for a machine that is now approaching four years old. Save that money and wait until you can afford to buy a newer model, even if it is a simple sub-$500 entry-level notebook. If you really feel you need a newer version, the student pricing for Windows 8 is your best bet.
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