Is Windows too expensive?

Is Windows too expensive?

Summary: Do I think Windows is too expensive? Yes. Oh, you were expecting me to say more.


Question from today's mailbox:

Do you think that Windows is too expensive, especially given that Apple is now offering OS X upgrades for $30?

Do I think Windows is too expensive? Yes. Actually, for such a short question, we can actually break down the answer into three different categories.

Let's break down the answer.

Windows on a new PC

Most people get a Windows upgrade when they buy a new PC. The cost of the operating system is bundled in as part of the purchase price. In fact, it's hard to find out how much that copy of Windows on your shiny new PC has set you back. Microsoft and the hardware OEMs keep this sort of information secret, hiding it behind NDAs (Non Disclosure Agreements).

I've been shown numbers off the record that suggest consumer operating systems, such as Windows 7 Home Premium, adds between $50 and $90 to the price of a new PC, depending on the sale price of the system. Considering that you can pick up a new PC for around $250, Windows accounts for a fair bit of the cost.

It's hard to find a big name PC OEM that sells systems without Windows pre-installed. I can find outlets in the UK that sell PCs without operating systems (for example, Novatech), and there Windows 7 Home Premium adds some £75 excluding tax (or around $120) to the price of a new PC. But remember, this is the base desktop version of Windows and upgrading to higher versions can skyrocket your OS costs.

So yes, Windows on a new PC is expensive, and as PCs get cheaper, the amount that you're spending on the OS will increase as a proportion of the total system price.

Upgrade versions

If you think that a pre-installed copy of Windows on a new PC is expensive, wait until you try to upgrade. An upgrade copy of Windows 7 Home Premium (this is for people who have an existing eligible upgrade product) costs a whopping $120 (shop around and you'll get it with a few bucks off).

A System Builder copy has the same recommended retail price as an upgrade, but if you shop around you can pick it up for around $100.

Note: I know that there are rules surrounding the use of System Builder versions, but as long as they remain on sale in places such as Amazon and Newegg and are available to all, people will continue to buy and use them.

So yes, buying upgrade versions of Windows is expensive.

Full versions

If you don't have an eligible upgrade product then expect to pay out serious money. A full version of Windows 7 Home Premium is an eye-watering $200 (again, shop around). If you want to push the boat out and go for the Ultimate package that will set you back an unbelievable $320.

So yes, buying the full versions of Windows is expensive.


Bottom line, yes, Windows is expensive, especially if you're thinking of grabbing a copy without buying a PC at the same time. Upgrades look especially expensive when you consider that Apple charges $30 for an upgrade that you can install on up to five systems. However, you do need to factor in the fact that Microsoft will provide you with updates for a long time (Windows 7 will see security updates until 2020).

Note: Compare Microsoft's support policy to that of Apple, which only supports the two versions of the operating system at any one time.

Do you think Windows is too expensive? How much do you think Microsoft should charge?


Topics: Windows, Hardware, Microsoft, Operating Systems, Software

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  • You hit the nail on the head

    ....when you said that Microsoft provides updates far longer for Windows than Apple does for OS X. When you factor in the cost of a Mac, the relatively short support lifecycle, and lack of upgrade options outside of that support lifecycle because they put artificial blocks into the OS that prevent installation on older machines, Windows looks cheap by comparison. I could run Windows 7 or 8 on an 8-year old P4 machine assuming it had enough RAM and half-decent video card. Try to run Mountain Lion on a 4 year old Mac and you're SOL though.

    Run a cost comparison between support lifecycles and cost of entry for hardware, and Windows will come out cheaper every time.
    • Mac is supported for a while

      I've got a Powerbook G4 that I use as a File server at home. Bought in 2005, so it's coming up on 7 years old. It's got Leopard on it and I get security updates. so, yes it is supported.
      • You missed the point

        But you cannot put Snow Leopard or Lion Or Mtn Lion on it EVER because Apple dropped support for their "G" Processors. Apple does this all the time. Ends support of using newer software on machines that some consider not that old. So when Mac OS 10.6 came out it left it's customers that had only a 4 - 5 year old computer in the dark with an "Oh Well" and "Too Bad".

        What astounds me is that people will cry and complain if the new version of Windows does not make drivers for their 3rd party printer that is 10 years old but seem content when Apple cannot even support their own hardware that may only be 4 years old. "Oh you want the latest MacOS or iOS?... Then buy new hardware"
      • How did they end support?

        Sure, I can't upgrade. Same as I can't put windows 7 on a first generation Pentium....

        But Apple is SUPPORTING THE PRODUCT WITH PATCHES. That's all that matters.
      • @"itguy"10

        Leopard was released in 2007 - only two years later. There is no upgrade option for Snow Leopard. I rest my case.
      • RE: windows 7 on a first generation Pentium.

        That comment is ridiculous even for you. You are comparing a G4 series processor based machine from 2005 to an Intel Based machine from the 90's?

        That being said you can, however, install Windows 7 on a Pentium 3 computer running at 1Ghz technically or essentially a machine about 12 years old. Probably wouldn't run all that well but it would work. Also Microsoft supports their 2001/2 Operating system still for another couple years so what is your point?

        You are obviously too clueless to realize that when Snow Leopard came out in 2009 it stopped support for Macs with G-Series processors made up until about 2006(ish). So people with a 3 - 4 year old Apple computer were left out. That is what is meant by support was discontinued. Not that you could not get security updates. I don't know why I am bothering but I am pretty sure you were one of the Anit-Microsoft crowd complaining when Microsoft would not support IE9 and some other newer features on XP which is an OS released in late 2001 and here you are praising Apple because all they still give you is security updates. You cannot use any of the new technologies like iCloud, Facetime, App Store that Apple advertises and is basically shifting everything too. Pretty soon your G-series computer will be practically useless all thanks to Apple.
    • I'm running the Lion OSX on my early 2008 MBP...

      No hardware upgrades whatsoever. It's slow..but it's doing the job.
      • You can consider yourself lucky...

        ....if your 2008 MBP will run Mountain Lion because few 2008 machines made the support list.
    • Don't hit your finger

      But the problem is because MS thinks it has to reinvent the wheel everytime, many hardware devices don't have drivers because the suppliers don't want to waste the time supporting hardware that is sometimes only four years old. I know, because I have a laptop that is only four years old and I couldn't even get the wireless working on it in Windows 7. At least with Apple, you know if it will work with your Mac or not.
  • Question:

    When was the last time Apple released an entirely new OS? Every single release since the introduction of OSX has been upgrades. How much does a full version of Mac OSX cost off of the shelf?

    You say that Apple charges for upgrades to their OS? Microsoft does not charge for upgrades to their OS. I've never had to pay for a service pack.

    You need to compare Apples with Apples not Apples and Oranges.
    • You'll never hear him say

      "Are Macs too expensive"?

      I agree - Windows 2000, Windows XP, Windows 7, Windows 8 are all different OS's.

      If you look at Apple's OS it's OS X "tiger", OS X "Leopard", OS X "Lion" - All variations of [b]OS X[/b]. The last major upgrade of the OS happended years ago, going from OS 9 to OS X.

      These latest ones aren't upgrades at all, they're service packs, IMHO. If it was a true upgrade then it would have been OS XI, OS XII, ect.
      William Farrel
      • Several overpriced serivce packs to Windows come to mind

        Windows XP was a service pack (NT 5.1), Windows 7 (NT 6.1), is also an expensive service pack. If you're going to claim it on one side, claim it for all.
        Jumpin Jack Flash
      • That's untrue, to be honest

        Windows XP was not a service pack, nor was Windows 7.

        Claiming it is doesn't make it so.
        William Farrel
      • Macs are not expensive whan you compare them.

        @William Farrel
        "Windows XP was not a service pack, nor was Windows 7.

        Claiming it is doesn't make it so. "
        Just like claiming all upgrades to OS X are service packs isn't true, but that doesn't stop the Windows fanboys from saying it.
        Jumpin Jack Flash
      • Ummm, no

        Wow. Seriously? During that time, they switched arches, added hardware rendering, added the whole Core system, and changed looks I don't know how many times.

        I don't own a single piece of Apple equipment, consumer or otherwise, and I _still_ know you're way off base.

        Windows XP was 2000 with service packs, and that's all MS put out for seven years. Win7 is just Vista with fixes. That's, what, going to be another 5-6 years? Windows 8 will be Microsoft's first real desktop arch switch ever, including the DOS days. (Yes, they supported Alpha and Itanium poorly on servers, but they weren't serious about either.)
    • Get Your Apples Right

      You need to understand the difference between an upgrade and an update. Yes, MS ALWAYS charges for upgrades, as outlined above, and as the rest of the world is very familiar. Service packs are updates, bug fixes, mia culpa for unexpected behavior, but NEVER upgrades.
    • MS charges for version upgrades, as does Apple

      Neither charges for version updates.

      Apple release cycle is more often than MS, but the upgrade price is significantly less.

      Few would claim the wait for Vista (a disaster) from XP was a good thing. Really it was a wait for Win7 before it got any traction. The delays MS had in bring out a new version (the result of untangling their spaghetti code-base) forced the extension of support for older versions.

      Your post is uninformed.
      Richard Flude
  • Cost of OSX

    Is ALWAYS baked into the hardware. You can't run it (legally) on anything but Apple hardware, which comes at a premium.
  • Is this a 'looking for click money' article, Adrian?

    [i]Upgrades look especially expensive when you consider that Apple charges $30 for an upgrade that you can install on up to five systems.[/i]

    Wrong, what you should have said was [i]install on up to five [b]Apple[/b] systems.[/i]

    I can't install that $30 OS on a Dell, HP, Acer, Lenovo, ect. Of course Apple can charge you $30 for an OS, when the profits from those 5 Macs [b]far[/b] exceedes any loss they may get from charging only $30 for the OS.

    By leaving that out it changse the whole dynamic of what you're "attempting" to say.
    William Farrel
  • Microsoft is in the business of making money

    Comparing them to Apple is silly, seeing as how Apple is making hand over fist in profits from the hardware (i.e. all those shiny things that you have to have before that 30 dollar OS works.) Microsoft's only income is from software. You can't really compare the costs because of this.