Windows 10 Home vs. Windows 10 Pro

Is the upgrade worth it for you?

Microsoft 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. Windows 10 Pro.

Windows 10 Home vs Windows 10 Pro

Overall Findings

Windows 10 Home
  • $139 to purchase.

  • Additional $99 to upgrade to Pro.

  • Windows Store for home use.

  • Can join a workgroup.

Windows 10 Pro
  • $199.99 to purchase.

  • Windows Store for Business.

  • Additional security features.

  • Administrative and enterprise tools.

  • Can join an Azure Active Directory Domain.

Knowing your needs for an operating system helps in your decision between Windows 10 Home versus Windows 10 Pro. If you're a home user, Windows 10 Home will take care of your computing needs. If you need complex features, such as a network domain or the ability to manage group policies on several computers (such as a small office), Windows 10 Pro has these advanced features to make management easy and centralized.

If your networking needs are less complicated or you have a single computer, Windows 10 Home should be sufficient for an operating system. If you're on a budget, the lower price should help. If you find out later that you need more advanced features, Microsoft charges $99 to upgrade rather than buying a new license.

Features: Windows 10 Pro Has More Features

Windows 10 Home
  • Remote desktop support requires a third-party app.

  • Requires a third-party app for a virtual desktop.

  • Windows Store for home use.

  • Updates occur through Windows Update.

Windows 10 Pro
  • Enterprise Mode Internet Explorer.

  • Remote desktop.

  • Client Hyper-V.

  • Group policy management.

  • Enterprise state roaming with Azure Active Directory.

  • Assigned Access.

  • Dynamic Provisioning.

  • Windows Update for Business.

  • Shared PC configuration.

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

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

Based on that key, Windows makes a set of features available in the OS. The features average users need are present in Home. Pro offers more features, but this refers to the built-in functions of Windows, and many of these functions are tools used only by system administrators.

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

Security: Windows 10 Pro Has Additional Security Features

Windows 10 Home
  • Requires a third-party app purchase for encryption.

  • Windows Defender Antivirus.

  • Windows Hello.

Windows 10 Pro
  • Built-in encryption (BitLocker) and management.

  • Windows Defender Antivirus.

  • Windows Hello.

  • Windows Information Protection.

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

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

Fundamentals Features: Windows 10 Home Doesn't Have Windows Fundamentals

Windows 10 Home
  • Requires a third-party app for a virtual desktop.

  • Remote desktop support requires a third-party app.

Windows 10 Pro
  • Domain Join.

  • Azure Active Directory Domain Join.

  • Enterprise Mode Internet Explorer.

  • Remote Desktop with central management.

  • Client Hyper-V.

Windows Fundamentals includes some features that have been present in Windows for some time, 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 that 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 and printers.
  • Azure Active Directory Domain Join, with Single Sign-On to Cloud-Hosted Apps: Remembering your credentials to access enterprise apps can be burdensome for you, and maintaining 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. 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 updating 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 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 advantage 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, use Oracle VirtualBox to run Ubuntu on Windows.

Management Features: Windows 10 Pro Has Management and Deployment Features

Windows 10 Home
  • Windows updates occur through Windows Update.

Windows 10 Pro
  • Group policy management.

  • Enterprise state roaming with Azure Active Directory.

  • Windows Store for Business.

  • Assigned Access.

  • Dynamic Provisioning.

  • Shared PC configuration.

  • Windows Update for Business.

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 pay 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 such as password complexity and whether users can access network resources or install applications.
  • Enterprise State Roaming with Azure Active Directory: This allows users to synchronize important settings and application info across devices through the Microsoft 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 purchase 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 can only 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 and disable features, set up the user and device on the corporate domain, and install applications. Dynamic Provisioning allows the admin to create a profile on a USB drive. When starting a new machine, the admin inserts the drive and the PC auto-configures with whatever the admin desires.
  • Windows Update for Business: This is also an enterprise-focused counterpart to Windows Update. It allows admins to control the updates, such as when and how PCs update.
  • Shared PC Configuration: A mode suited to setting up more than one individual on a PC, such as for temporary workers.
  • Take a Test: Like 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.

Final Verdict: Choose the Version for Your Needs

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

  • Price: If you go with Home, you'll pay $139 if you buy from Microsoft. Pro is $199. However, 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 straightforward. When you upgrade, the Pro license supersedes the Home license.

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

If you plan to 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.