How To ~ English PC in Japan

Getting a New English Computer in Japan

Buying an English PC in Japan doesn’t need to be a pain. Here are the options I’ve found.

Get a Mac

Yepp. The shortest way to an English laptop or an English desktop in Japan is to get a Mac. You’ll get a fashion accessory, some street cred with geeks, and a machine that supports 30+ display languages out of the box. Plug it in, go to the System Preferences/International, drag “English” to the top of the list, log out, log in, setup done. 5 minutes of your time, no extra cost, and you have an all English PC. Voila.

Budget tip: Go see it at the Apple Store if you have one nearby, then buy it online at Amazon; it’s cheaper there.

First Mac? Get a Mac Mini. It’s made for “switchers”. Use your current monitor, keyboard, mouse. Don’t forget the VGA monitor adapter if you still use an analogue monitor.
Require a laptop? Get a MacBook Air. The small one and the slightly larger one are both excellent; decide based on size requirement and budget.
For both the Mini and the Air, add an optical drive only if you require one.

Amazon tip: Click on the “Show this page in English” link towards the upper right hand corner of the screen if it comes up in Japanese.

English Windows PCs

All is not lost if you’re a stubborn masochist and require a Windows PC in English.

Go for a Dell

Give Dell a call. I heard they sell English OS PCs in Japan at no extra cost(to be confirmed – will be updated soon). That would be an English Windows 7 Home Premium, or similar, so you won’t be able to switch to Japanese later.
(Gosh I can’t believe I’ve put that brand name on my blog. Sacrilege.)

Build Your Own With Windows 7 Ultimate

I’m yet to see any English Windows versions for sale in Japan. (If you know how to get hold of one please share in the comments).
That leaves us with getting Windows 7 Ultimate. Only Ultimate and Enterprise let you switch languages. Microsoft must hate expats.

The “DSP version” is the cheapest. It’s targeted at system builders and it’s the equivalent of the OEM version in the western world. Around 20,000 yen at Amazon. It’s supposed to be bundled with hardware you’ll put inside the PC. Amazon overcomes this by throwing in a few hundred yen’s worth of hardware, such as a USB card or LAN board. Clever. Windows won’t check for that specific hardware, so don’t worry if you don’t have a use for it. Just nail it to the wall or something. It’s still substantially cheaper than the standard retail version of Windows 7, which is a cool 33,000 yen at the time of writing. The difference? The license agreement. It doesn’t let you move the DSP version to an other PC. Once installed, that’s where it stays. (Re-installation on the same machine, and hardware upgrades are possible of course.)

Of course you could just download a copy off file-sharing sites for free. I wouldn’t fault you as I believe MS is discriminating against expats and international families and they need to sort themselves out. Switching languages has been a standard feature in OS X for ages. Actually in all Unix based systems, even before that. Microsoft is like 10 (20?) years late in the game, yet they have the face to charge extra. They can eat the results of their own poor planning and marketing for all I care.
I can’t, however help you in that any further, so don’t even ask. Sort activation and the updates out yourself, K? 😉

Leave comments below! Anyone call Dell for me, I’m really procrastinating on that one!

2 Responses to How To ~ English PC in Japan

  • rob says:

    “I’m yet to see any English Windows versions for sale in Japan.” I have never seen the Chinese or Japanese versions available for sale in retail at the US or Europe either, but that goes without saying.

    At any rate, Microsoft *does* well Windows online. You can buy it for (Around $30 USD with a student discount), download the ISO file, and burn it to a CD if you have access to a working computer. (I bought the Japanese version of Windows 7 32bit, but you can also get the 64bit edition, as well as English and other languages). They will send you the license/activation code via email.

    • Sandor says:

      Every time I tried to buy Windows online the price offered was significantly more than the shelf price. I wrote it off as a Microsoft rip-off operation. Do you have a direct link to where you buy from? With or without student discount?

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