Windows 7 Professional is £70 more expensive that the Home Premium Edition of the OS. To ensure your wallet doesn't take the strain, we show you how to use freeware to get the Windows 7 professional functions.

The excitement surrounding Windows 7 is huge at the moment, but with the Professional Version costing £219.99 - £70 more than the Home Premium edition that will  cost  £149.99 – is it really worth forking out for anything other than the Home edition?

We don't think so, not when you easily replicate Pro's features using software that costs you nothing. So we've listed the best ways to boost the functionality of your Windows 7 Home Premium OS to match the pricier Windows 7 Professional. Ready?

Windows 7 Pro: Encrypting file system

Admittedly, Windows 7 simplifies the process of keeping your files out of the hands of other uses on your machine.

To encrypt files so that only those with the proper encryption key can read them - which doesn't automatically include a user with super-level access to the system, like an administrator - all you have to do is right-click on a file or folder, hit 'properties', click the 'advanced' button on the general tab and then select 'encrypt contents to secure data'. Easy.

While it doesn't natively build this action into the operating system, the freeware application TrueCrypt is an excellent program for concealing your contents with a wide variety of powerful encryption algorithms. The program uses containers - seemingly innocent files that can be made to look like any other file on your OS - as the basis for its protection.

When you mount a container file, TrueCrypt pulls up the file's associated virtual hard drives, which function like network-mapped storage.

They'll appear as disks in your Windows Explorer menu, where you can access your encrypted area to drag-and-drop files or decrypt media files on-the-fly. But that's just a taste of what this program offers. Its free functionality surpasses anything offered by Windows, and is far more customisable than its file-properties-based alternative.

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  1. Mirror Windows 7 Professional using freeware
  2. Backup and restore center
  3. Windows Virtual PC and Windows XP mode