Is Windows too expensive?

Do I think Windows is too expensive? Yes. Oh, you were expecting me to say more.
Written by Adrian Kingsley-Hughes, Senior Contributing Editor

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?


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