english computer

How To ~ Make Your Current Computer Speak English

Making Your Existing PC Speak English

Bought a computer in Japan, and having second thoughts? Tired of the kanji? Want to understand at least the error messages? Here’s how to change the display language to English.


Windows World


Windows XP

If you’re on XP and you have a Japanese or other language version, the only way to make it display the menus and everything else in English is to install an English version of XP. It can’t be done as an upgrade or a “refreshment”. You’ll have to back up your hard drive, wipe everything, re-install XP from zero, and then put all your programs and data back again. Hassle.
Further, XP is not commercially available anymore. Microsoft is pushing everyone towards Windows 7. However, if you want to stick with XP it’s not that difficult to track down a legit copy online. eBay is a good place to start or you can go for a less then legit one on an other “bay” (without my support).

If your computer can handle it, Windows 7 may be the best way to go. Software support for XP is slowly but surely diminishing. Luckily Windows 7 runs on all kinds of cr@p, including netbooks and other abominations. It doesn’t really require anything fancy in terms of processing power. What it does like to have is a lot of RAM memory.

Here’s a few “rule of thumb” guidelines.


  • 1GB RAM (Microsoft says 512mb is the minimum. I say don’t even think about it, for anything beyond playing solitaire.)
  • 1Ghz or faster CPU

For everyday office/browsing use I recommend the following:

  • 2GB RAM
  • dual-core CPU for efficient multi-tasking
  • DirectX 9 compatible graphics card for the aero interface and video playback

It will run OK without a dual-core CPU but you’ll be limited in multi-tasking performance. It will also run without a DirectX9 compatible graphics card, but you won’t get the see-through effects, the window preview on the taskbar, and the fancy task switching. The really annoying bit is video playback; it will happen slowly and without smoothing, so videos will look grainy.


Windows Vista

Vista is a mistake and you should get rid of it. It hogs resources and eats up RAM memory like nothing else. You should upgrade to Windows 7. Your computer and your sanity will both be thankful. If your machine came with Vista, it can run Windows 7 too. Read on below for Windows 7 tactics.


Windows 7

Vista introduced switchable display languages. These remain in 7. There are many flavors of Windows 7. Starter for netbooks and emerging markets, Home Basic for cheapskates, Home Premium for the home user (duh..), Ultimate for those who want it all, and Enterprise for big corporations, just to name the main ones. The language options are only available in Enterprise and Ultimate, bless Microsoft. I’ve often imagined how the meeting went when that was decided.

Big Boss: We want more money.

Everybody: Right.

Droid #1: I have an idea. Anybody has relatives in other countries?

Everybody: You mean abroad? Hell, no! What are you getting at?

Droid #1: Just a sec. Anybody speaks any foreign languages here?

Big Boss: What, you mean a non-English language?

Droid #1: OK, so why don’t we make those multi-lingual losers pay extra. Let’s have them buy Ultimate too!

Everybody: Brilliant!


You can’t buy Enterprise as an individual. Ultimate is the only option, whether you need all the other bells and whistles or not.

If you have a Japanese Home Premium, like most users in Japan, there is no way to “switch” it to English.
You can do one of 2 things.


  1. Wipe it and install an English Home Premium on it. Purchase online from Microsoft at http://www.microsoft.com/windows/buy/default.aspx for $199. Also available on Amazon USA for $189. Amazon.co.jp has it sometimes too but it’s either overpriced or it disappears quickly. If you know a stable source within Japan, let me know in the comments.
  2. Turn your Japanese Home Premium into Ultimate using Microsoft’s “Anytime Upgrade” pack. Around 13,000 at amazon.co.jp. Pricey but you get a legit Ultimate, and the process is quick and painless. The upgrade used to take ages under Vista, now it’s done in 10-15 minutes. Your data and installed software is not effected. Once you have Ultimate you can install English or your other preferred language packs through Windows Updates. Language packs are under “optional updates” and are NOT offered by default.


Please leave comments below. Let me know if you know where to get a legal English Windows 7 Home Premium in Japan.

Who Am I?

Hi, Sandor here. Thanks for visiting. Computer trouble in Japan? You've come to the right place!

I am 34 years old, and have been fixing computers since 1994, since before I finished high school. Then I got a degree in Computer Science, had my own PC shop, worked at a top laptop maker in England. Then I came to Japan; it's what I always wanted to do.

I pride myself in providing the best service possible and by being honest about my work. I now service all of Japan by a simple mail-in system. Use the "Contact Me" tab on the top menu to get in touch.

Contact Me


Sandor is the best! If you are someone, like me, who needs to have computer stuff explained ‘like you are a 6 year-old’, then you have come to the right guy! I was having trouble with my wireless modem hookup and also needed to upgrade my RAM memory….Sandor very carefully explained what I needed to do, he even found me some videos on YouTube to help me along. If he thought my questions were silly, (and believe me, I’m sure they were!!), he was very polite and made me feel not so naive in the ways of the computer. Thank you so much Sandor…..I will share your name and this site with anyone who needs the help!! Debbie Kuroiwa, Nagasaki City, Japan

Hey Sandor thanks for the Mac advice and for getting me the hard to find parts for my iMac G4 so quickly. You really saved the day. Thanks again. /RF/ Kanagawa Prefecture, Japan

Hey Sandor: Just a quick note to say thanks for diagnosing fixing my computer so effectively (and so cheaply). I am writing you from my computer now, and it is still running strong! Much gratitude.

Doug Colbert from Anjo, Aichi, Japan

As a truly satisfied customer - I heartily recommend the services of Sandor to anyone having PC related issues. Of all the people I have dealt with regarding PC related issues in Japan – he is the best. Not only is he an expert in his field – but he aims for the most cost effective solution. I have truly benefitted from his good advice & constant updates and genuinely admire his integrity. What more can I ask for ?

Anirvan Mukherjee ( Vice President - Nomura Securities Ltd, Tokyo )

Hi Sandor! I must to say, we have never met as good computer expert as you are! You were the first, who solved our problems as we wanted to, as we needed to. Your work was always quick, professional and practical. And: you never wanted to organize our computer liking yourself! :-) Since you moved to Japan, we all the time hope, some time you will go back to Hungary!

Ági and Gábor from Budapest, Hungary

...He worked well within the team and his attitude and performance was of a very high standard. He was a very honest and reliable member of the team.

Neil Chauhan, my former boss at Rock Direct, UK

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