Windows 10 Home vs. Pro

Is the upgrade worth it for you?

Windows 10: Home and Pro Versions

 Microsoft

Microsoft's offers Windows 10 in two versions: Home and Professional. It's easy to understand on a conceptual level what this means: Pro is for people to use at work, and Home is for personal machines. But what's the real difference? Let's take a look at Windows 10 Home vs Pro.

Windows 10 Pro Has More Features

The bottom line is Windows 10 Pro offers more than its Home counterpart, which is why it's more expensive. There's nothing Windows 10 Home can do that Pro can't. They're largely the same operating system.

The difference, then, is based on whether the license you activate is for Home or Pro. You've probably done this before, either when installing Windows, or setting up a new PC for the first time; you reach a point in the process where you enter a 25-character Product ID (license key).

Based on that key, Windows will make a set of features available to you within the OS. The features average users need are present in Home. Pro offers more features, but this refers to built-in functions of Windows, and many of them are tools only system administrators would be interested in.

The question is, what precisely are these additional things in the Pro version features, and do you need them?

Windows 10 Home

  • $139 to purchase.

  • Additional $99 to upgrade to Pro.

  • Requires a third-party app purchase for encryption.

  • Can join a workgroup.

  • Remote desktop support requires a third-party app.

  • Requires a third-party app for virtual desktop.

  • Windows Store for home use.

  • Windows updates occur through Windows update.

Windows 10 Pro

  • $199.99 to purchase.

  • Built-in encryption included.

  • Domain Join.

  • Azure Active Directory Domain Join.

  • Enterprise Mode Internet Explorer.

  • Remote Desktop.

  • Client Hyper-V.

  • Group policy management.

  • Enterprise state roaming with Azure Active Directory.

  • Windows Store for business.

  • Assigned Access.

  • Dynamic provisioning.

  • Windows update for business.

  • Shared PC configuration.

  • Take a Test.

Windows 10 Pro Has Additional Security Features

In addition to the various user account management features, Windows 10 Pro includes Bitlocker, Microsoft's encryption utility. It can secure either the disk with your OS (i.e. the C: drive) or removable media like thumb drives.

While there are other disk encryption tools available, Bitlocker will integrate with your company's infrastructure, meaning your admin can secure your machine without you having to worry about it.

Windows 10 Home Doesn't Have Windows Fundamentals

Windows Fundamentals includes some features that have been present in Windows for some time now, going back to when it was originally separated into Pro and Home versions.

The below examples of these have been bumped up to become Pro version "upgrades," or features Home users can't use until they upgrade to Pro.

  • Domain Join: The Windows Domain is one of the basic building blocks of business networks, and controls access to network resources such as file drives or printers.
  • Azure Active Directory Domain Join, with Single Sign-On to Cloud-Hosted Apps: Remembering your credentials to access the many apps of an enterprise can become burdensome for you and maintaining all those accounts is difficult for administrators. Single sign-on is a way to maintain one username and password and use it to authenticate everywhere you need to. Microsoft offers its Active Directory service (running from its Azure cloud) to allow organizations using Windows 10 Pro to take advantage of this.
  • Enterprise Mode Internet Explorer (EMIE): Many web-based business applications were originally built against older versions of Internet Explorer. Rather than having to update to newer browser versions and break their apps, many companies instead keep their employees on these older versions. They may not benefit from the latest and greatest web technology, but the programs they need to do their jobs will work. This feature allows users with a newer version of Internet Explorer to load websites and web pages using the engines from these past iterations. Users can then take advantages of better security, and still enjoy compatibility with older company apps.
  • Remote Desktop: Remote control of your home computer is an example of a feature that almost any user would love to have. However, the built-in Windows Remote Desktop functionality is limited to Windows Pro users.
  • Client Hyper-V: Users must have Windows Pro to use Microsoft's virtual machine solution, Hyper-V. While this is a built-in function, you can replicate with other programs. For example, using Oracle's VirtualBox to run Ubuntu on Windows.

Windows 10 Pro Has Management and Deployment Features

Some Windows 10 Pro advantages won't be as important to the personal computing enthusiast. Nonetheless, it's worth knowing some of the business-focused functions you'd be paying for if you upgraded to Pro:

  • Group Policy: Group Policy allows administrators to limit what users can do using a centralized set of roles. This includes security elements like password complexity, whether they can access network resources, or install applications.
  • Enterprise State Roaming with Azure Active Directory: This allows users to synchronize their important settings and application info across devices via Microsoft's Azure cloud. This doesn't include documents and files, but rather how the machine is configured.
  • Windows Store for Business: This is like the consumer-facing Windows Store, except this one allows business users to make purchases of apps at volume. They can also manage those purchases or subscriptions for all users in the organization.
  • Assigned Access: Assigned Access allows administrators to create a "kiosk" out of a PC, meaning users will only be able to access a single app, typically a web browser.
  • Dynamic Provisioning: In the past, getting a new PC ready to use within an organization was a big undertaking. Administrators needed to enable/disable features, set up the user and device on the corporate domain, and install applications. Dynamic Provisioning allows the admin to create a kind of profile on a USB drive. When starting up a new machine, the admin can simply insert the drive, and the PC will auto-configure itself with whatever the admin desires.
  • Windows Update for Business: This is also an enterprise-focused counterpart to the usual Windows Update. It allows admins to control the updates, such as when and how the PCs will update.
  • Shared PC Configuration: A mode suited to setting up more than one individual on a PC, such as for temp workers.
  • Take a Test: Like to the above-mentioned Shared PC and Assigned Access setups, Take a Test is focused on the educational market and allows users to sign in to take an exam.

Choosing Windows 10 Home vs Pro

You'll need to choose between Home and Pro when you buy your machine, or when you buy your copy of Windows in a store or online. And you should take a moment to give it some thought before you make your purchase, for two reasons:

  • Price: If you go with Home, you'll be paying $139 if you buy from Microsoft; Pro is $199. But, if you want to upgrade Home to Pro later, it's $99 — making your total cost $238. Going the upgrade route is more expensive in the long run.
  • Upgrading from Home to Pro: On the other hand, upgrading from Home to Pro is very straightforward; when you do so, the Pro license supersedes the Home license.

If you buy Windows 10 Pro, but later realize you only need Windows 10 Home, you'll have to buy a license for Home and activate it on the machine with Pro. This will leave you with an unused Pro license.

If you know you'll use the machine for business purposes at some point, or if you're not concerned about cost, go with Windows 10 Pro. However, if you don't believe you need the enterprise features of Pro, your best bet is to get Windows 10 Home.