What's the difference between running a localized version of Windows and running Windows with that user interface language?

by Michael S. Kaplan, published on 2007/12/17 10:16 -05:00, original URI: http://blogs.msdn.com/b/michkap/archive/2007/12/17/6784443.aspx

A very common question I get (and which I have received several times by different people over the last few weeks via the Contact link -- from Deborah, Kurt, and Phil!) is:

What's the difference between running a localized version of Windows and running Windows with that user interface language?

I talked a bit about a similar question in If you had gotten there first, you might have staked your claim too! a few months ago, where I talked about the many issues inherent in answering:

What's the difference between running a localized version of Vista and running Vista with that user interface language?

but asking the broader question (not specific to Vista) is really due to three potential causes:

So, having no excuse whereby I could call the question unreasonable crap unworthy of coverage here and with the reality of a bunch of people recently asking me a question that at least six butt-loads of people have asked previously, I figured I should answer the broader question. :-)

Believe it or not, the answer is almost identical, but moreso!

All of the previous versions that also include MUI have that same notion of there being a specific advantage to getting there first.

Now prior to Vista, that first language (in the case of MUI) usually1 had to be English. And the underlying resource storage was not as completely modularized as it is in Vista, since Vista is the first release where English is just another language. But the behavior was essentially the same, with the first language on the box controlling a great deal of the future destiny of the particular installation of Windows (from file paths to account names and so on).

And the bulk of the issues I brought up also still apply related to marketization issues, potential content inconsistencies in help which tends to assume that the language of help itself is that initial install language (even when it isn't), and so on. So that topic is still very relevant.

So what changed?

Well, the underlying process by Windows is built is where the most changes happened, as what could be best thought of as the "hack of an MUI build" became the feature of the essential way that Windows is built. Which is crucially important to the Windows team inside of Microsoft, but not so much to people outside (other than IHVs trying to get their drivers in the box!).

But the answer to the original question is that first language installed has special privileges, everybody else is equally slightly less important but otherwise identical.


1 - In the case of some languages, starting in XP, the base language was sometimes allowed to be something else (discussed in Microsoft, you giving us some LIP?)


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# Mihai on 17 Dec 2007 12:38 PM:

"first language installed has special privileges, everybody else is equally slightly less important but otherwise identical"

People are usually interested in this for testing: can I test my application on a MUI Windows instead of installing 30 different Windows versions?

And I would say that usually the answer is: no (at least for everything before Vista).

Beyond the "special privileges", the first language will determine the name of some folders ("Program Files", "Common Files", "My Documents", etc.) or user/group names (Administrator/Administrators, Guest, Everyones, etc.), and even some registry keys.

# Michael S. Kaplan on 17 Dec 2007 12:46 PM:

Even in Vista, the same rule applies for those special things that never change -- MUI vs. localized is different for certain features, identical for everything else....

# Michael S. Kaplan on 17 Dec 2007 12:48 PM:

Though one thing you can do in Vista -- any other language as the root language and English as your UI language -- testing THAT configuration gives you the best of both worlds here!

# Peter Karlsson on 18 Dec 2007 8:19 AM:

The problem I have with localized Windows is that, at least for the consumer-versions, you always need to install one single localized version. I speak Swedish and my girlfriend Norwegian, and on both OS X and Linuxes we can have the OS display its GUI in our respective languages when we log in, but with Windows its always either-or.

Or is the multiple-localization version of Vista easier to get hold off? IIRC, for XP you had to have a special OEM version that cost a fortune.

And how about Office?

# Michael S. Kaplan on 18 Dec 2007 10:31 AM:

Both Office and Windows have lower cost options in Vista to get MUI with multiple UI languages available....

referenced by

2011/01/12 Adding a whole new DISMension to an old issue

2008/06/12 The SID, and the name, and the SID

2008/05/06 By some accounts, the names can be changed

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