Microsoft Windows 8/8.1 Editions Explained

What to know about the different editions of Windows 8 and 8.1

As with other versions of the Windows operating system, there are several editions of Windows 8 available. We compiled an overview of the different options to help you pick the right one for your needs.

TV showing the Windows 8 logo

As of January 12, 2016, Microsoft ended support of Windows 8 with the option to upgrade to 8.1. Mainstream support of Windows 8.1 ended on January 9, 2018, with extended support ending on January 10, 2023. We recommend upgrading to Windows 10 to continue receiving security updates and technical support. We retain this historical content for people who cannot upgrade Windows.

For Consumers: Windows 8/8.1 Standard

Windows 8/8.1 is the consumer version of the OS. It excludes many business-related features such as drive encryption, group policy, and virtualization; however, you have access to the Windows Store, Live Tiles, Remote Desktop Client, VPN Client, and other features.

For Small Businesses: Windows 8/8.1 Pro

Windows 8 Pro is made for businesses and technology enthusiasts. It includes everything found in the standard edition plus features such as BitLocker encryption, PC virtualization, domain connectivity, and PC management. It's what you'd expect from Windows if you're operating in a professional environment.

For Large Scale Corporate Deployments: Windows 8/8.1 Enterprise

Windows 8/8.1 Enterprise includes everything that Windows 8 Pro has, but it is geared towards enterprise customers with Software Assurance agreements. This version is no longer supported by Microsoft and has been supplanted by the enterprise edition of Windows 10.

For Mobile Users: Windows 8/8.1 RT

Windows 8/8.1 RT (also called Windows Runtime or WinRT) is specifically designed for ARM-based devices. ARM is a processor architecture used in devices like mobile phones, tablets, and some computers.

The nice thing about Windows RT is that it offers device-level encryption and the touch-enhanced Office suite as part of the operating system, so you don't have to buy a copy of Office or worry about data exposure. The downside is that Windows RT runs a hobbled version of the desktop that can only run the Office suite and Internet Explorer.

Can I Upgrade to Windows 8?

Windows 8/8.1 can be installed as an upgrade from Windows 7 Starter, Home Basic, and Home Premium. Users who want to upgrade to 8 Pro need to have Windows 7 Professional or Windows 7 Ultimate. If you have Windows Vista or XP, chances are you probably need a new PC anyway. Newer PCs come packaged with Windows 10, which is probably a better choice than Windows 8.1.

If you recently upgraded to Windows 10 from Windows 7 or 8, you may have the option to switch back to the older version within 10 days.

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