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windows 8 versionsWe’ve already covered how to get Windows 8 for just $40 How To Get Windows 8 For The Lowest Possible Price How To Get Windows 8 For The Lowest Possible Price Whether the mixed reviews of the preview releases of Windows 8 have influenced pricing or Microsoft are simply taking a leaf out of Apple’s book isn’t quite clear, but the price of a new copy... Read More  — or $15 if you’ve just purchased a new PC. But if you’re interested in upgrading, you’ll also need to know which Windows 8 version is right for you. The good news is that Microsoft has simplified the different editions of Windows in Windows 8 – gone are the Starter, Home Basic, Home Premium, and Ultimate editions. The list of available Windows 8 editions is actually fairly short. If you’re new to Windows 8, don’t forget to check out our Windows 8 guide.

There are only four editions of Windows 8 – three editions for most home users. If you ignore the edition designed specifically for ARM tablets, there are only two PC editions of Windows 8 to choose from – much simpler than the confusing amount of editions offered with past versions of Windows.

Windows RT vs. Windows 8

Windows RT is the most confusing edition of Windows 8. We’ve covered this before What's The Difference Between Windows 8 & Windows RT? [MakeUseOf Explains] What's The Difference Between Windows 8 & Windows RT? [MakeUseOf Explains] With the Surface tablet announcement a few weeks ago and the final release of Windows 8 looming ever closer, some people are understandably going to be confused about the various versions available. I'm here to... Read More – in short, Windows RT is a special version of Windows 8 for ARM computers, particularly tablets. Windows RT won’t run your existing software – if you buy a Windows RT tablet, you’ll have to use Metro applications. There’s a desktop, but it will only run Microsoft applications such as Microsoft Office 9 of the Best Free & Low-Cost Alternatives to Microsoft Office 9 of the Best Free & Low-Cost Alternatives to Microsoft Office Microsoft Office has dominated the market of text documents, spreadsheets and slide shows for years, and for good reason – it’s one of the very best. However, there’s one drawback and that is the price.... Read More  – Microsoft won’t allow third parties to write applications for the Windows RT desktop.

Windows RT’s name is a bit odd – it isn’t even called Windows 8, it’s technically just “Windows RT.” It was named after Windows Runtime (WinRT), which is the new development platform used for Metro-style A Brief Guide To The Secrets Of The Windows 8 User Interface A Brief Guide To The Secrets Of The Windows 8 User Interface For most users, Windows 8 will come as something of a surprise when it is released, thanks to the unusual implementation of the Metro UI. If you’re not inclined to make use of whatever methods... Read More apps. However, both Windows RT and Windows 8 can run WinRT apps.

This is all quite confusing, but you don’t really have to worry about it too much. It’s impossible to buy a boxed copy of Windows RT – Windows RT is only available preinstalled on ARM tablets. If you’re buying a tablet, be sure to check whether it runs Windows 8 or Windows RT – the first version of Microsoft’s Surface tablet What We Know So Far About The Windows 8 "Surface" Tablet What We Know So Far About The Windows 8 "Surface" Tablet In Los Angeles on Monday, Microsoft pulled a surprise out of the bag in their Windows 8 strategy - a Microsoft manufactured and branded tablet, called the Surface. It's a sleek device to rival the... Read More will run Windows RT, so you can’t use it to run your favorite Windows desktop software. Surface Pro, which will be released several months after the initial Surface tablet, will run Windows 8 Pro instead of Windows RT.

windows 8 versions

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To learn more about the difference between Windows RT for ARM computers and Windows 8 for Intel x86 computers, read this article: What’s The Difference Between Windows 8 & Windows RT? [MakeUseOf Explains] What's The Difference Between Windows 8 & Windows RT? [MakeUseOf Explains] What's The Difference Between Windows 8 & Windows RT? [MakeUseOf Explains] With the Surface tablet announcement a few weeks ago and the final release of Windows 8 looming ever closer, some people are understandably going to be confused about the various versions available. I'm here to... Read More

Windows 8 Editions

With Windows RT out of the way, Windows 8’s editions are actually pretty simple. There are three primary editions:

  • Windows 8 – This is the main edition of Windows 8, which is targeted at home users. It’s most similar to the “Home Premium” edition of Windows 7. With Windows 8, you get all the features you’d expect – the Windows desktop 6 Ways Microsoft Is Killing The Traditional Desktop In Windows 8 [Opinion] 6 Ways Microsoft Is Killing The Traditional Desktop In Windows 8 [Opinion] The traditional desktop is still around in Windows 8, and it’s probably the best Windows desktop yet (aside from not having a Start menu.) But Microsoft is setting it up for the kill. The writing... Read More with support for traditional Windows desktop programs, the new environment formerly known as Metro, and other features designed for home users. Most people will be happy with this edition of Windows 8.
  • Windows 8 Pro – The Pro version is targeted at businesses and enthusiasts. It includes the kind of features traditionally included in professional editions of Windows: group policy support, remote desktop server capabilities, Windows domain support, encrypting file system, virtual hard disk booting, and BitLocker. There’s one feature that might interest some of you here, though – you can only use Windows Media Center Why I'm Done With Windows [Opinion] Why I'm Done With Windows [Opinion] Microsoft made an announcement this week that has really just tipped me over the edge. It's the last in a string of moves actually; but that's it. I'm done. I'll switching all my Windows machines... Read More on Windows 8 Pro. It’s available as a free add-in, but only for the Pro version of Windows 8.
  • Windows 8 Enterprise – This is the traditional enterprise edition of Windows, available to organizations with volume licenses. It includes all of Windows 8 Pro’s features (aside from support for Windows Media Center) and a few other ones, such as Windows To Go, which can install Windows 8 on a USB stick. The USB stick can be connected to any computer and Windows 8 can be run directly from the USB stick.

windows 8 versions list

There are also some N editions (such as “Windows 8 N Edition”). These versions ship without Windows Media Player and are designed for the European market, where Microsoft was forced to offer them by the European Commission.

If you buy the basic edition of Windows 8 (which most computers will come with) and decide you want the Pro edition later, no problem – you can use the Add Features to Windows 8 control panel (known as “Windows Anytime Upgrade” in previous versions of Windows) to purchase the Windows 8 Pro Pack, which upgrades your Windows 8 to Windows 8 Pro.

The Short Version

Here’s all you really need to know:

  • If you’re buying a boxed copy (or digital download) of Windows 8, there are only two versions you need to worry about – Windows 8 and Windows 8 Pro. Windows 8 is designed for home users, while Pro offers features more useful for businesses and enthusiasts. However, if you want Windows Media Center, you’ll need the Pro version.
  • If you’re buying a tablet What You Need To Know Before Buying A Tablet What You Need To Know Before Buying A Tablet Tablets are starting to mature. Android’s new 4.1 release includes tweaks that dramatically improve the user experience. Apple’s iPad is now on its third iteration and continues to dominate the market. And Microsoft is about... Read More with Windows 8 preinstalled, check its edition – if it contains Windows RT, you won’t be able to run Windows desktop apps (aside from Microsoft Office and other Microsoft apps). In the future, some laptops and other types of computers may also use the ARM architecture and may ship with Windows RT, without support for Windows desktop apps.

windows 8 versions

There’s some other good news if you’re building your own computer – Microsoft has removed the (generally ignored) restriction on using OEM versions of Windows for your own computer 10 Ridiculous EULA Clauses That You May Have Already Agreed To 10 Ridiculous EULA Clauses That You May Have Already Agreed To Let’s be honest, no one reads EULA's (End User Licensing Agreement) - we all just scroll down to the bottom and click "I Accept". EULAs are full of confusing legalese to make them incomprehensible to... Read More . Previously, although many stores sold OEM versions, you weren’t supposed to install them on your own computer, even if you built the computer yourself. The license stated that a computer with an OEM version installed must be sold to someone else or you were running a “non-genuine” Windows 8 version and might as well have pirated Why The Campaign Against Piracy Is A Farce [Opinion] Why The Campaign Against Piracy Is A Farce [Opinion] DMCA, SOPA, MegaUpload shut down, piracy becoming a religion in Sweden - not a week goes by without some shutdown, anti-piracy laws or shocking statistics about torrents - and I have to ask myself, is... Read More your copy of Windows. This restriction has now been removed, so feel free to buy an OEM version if you’re building your own computer. However, OEM versions are still tied to a single computer – if you build a new computer, you’ll need a new OEM copy of Windows 8 for it.

Which version of Windows 8 are you planning on purchasing? Leave a comment and let us know!

  1. albert scavetta
    June 20, 2016 at 9:01 pm

    can you use windows 8.1 pro for home use

  2. Brajabandhu Nath
    June 8, 2016 at 2:07 pm

    I forgot my windows 8 product key how can i find it ?

  3. Brajabandhu Nath
    June 8, 2016 at 2:06 pm

    I forgot my window 8 product key how can i find it

  4. Hunbuhbhuygb Ygygbgybygb
    December 11, 2012 at 6:48 am

    Why dosnt microsoft let us have windows to go?it not fair!

  5. muniyasamy
    December 1, 2012 at 8:17 am

    For me Windows 8 pro is better, its avail everything in the pro version,
    thanks for your full details and your efforts,

  6. Anas
    November 14, 2012 at 8:30 am

    would windows 8 pro support all d game......
    which are installed on my pc....
    like crysis 2, dead space 2, etc....
    i m using 2nd intel i7 2600k processer 1gb ddr5 graphic card and 4gb ram

    • Chris Hoffman
      November 29, 2012 at 6:10 pm

      Yes, it should!

  7. Ehsan
    October 17, 2012 at 7:13 am

    i am using sony vaio notebook having registered windows 7 ultimate.i want to update it to windows 8 pro.can i do this?

  8. James LaBarre
    September 28, 2012 at 3:44 pm

    For *my* needs, a stripped-down, "starter"-type version would be best. Something I can buy for $25.00 and lets me run the one or two Windows apps that have to run in the actual OS (can't be run in Wine due to needing USB, etc). I can then load it in VirtualBox under Linux, and be able to run a *real* operating system for the rest of my computing needs.

    • Chris Hoffman
      September 30, 2012 at 3:19 am

      You can actually buy a new "upgrade version" for $40, assuming you already have a legit copy of Windows. That's pretty convenient.

  9. Raymond Beets
    September 25, 2012 at 6:57 am

    I'm a full time developer and serious gamer, so I rely on a lot of third-party software and tweaks. As with any new software that's bound to have a large impact on my work / leisure activities, I'm going to hold off on Windows 8 until all of the kinks are sorted out. I'm definitely purchasing Windows 8 (Home Basic equivalent) though once I am certain I will be able to transition without too many hassles apart from learning the new interface and operating procedures.

    • Thomas Kolakowski
      September 28, 2012 at 8:10 pm

      I've been running the x64 Enterprise edition in a VM on my PC. I would suggest the Pro version as the price point makes it worth getting the additional features. So far it runs great (even in a VM) and the only issues I have seen is that some of the apps aren't fully implemented yet as it is only a test environment for now.

  10. bonioloff
    September 19, 2012 at 5:56 am

    Windows 8 looks not that great for me..
    Haven't trying it yet, because not interested...
    Will there any good review about the Windows 8 here in makeuseof.com?
    Like performance and feature...?

    • Chris Hoffman
      September 30, 2012 at 3:19 am

      We've definitely covered a lot of features. Haven't done any performance benchmarks though; that could be interesting.

  11. Michael Jan Moratalla
    September 18, 2012 at 2:40 pm

    really only 3 version for desktop? not 8? Because in a tech video channel in youtube that I watched he said that's its 8, correct me if I'm wrong.

    • Thomas Kolakowski
      September 28, 2012 at 8:03 pm

      The person on YouTube may have misstated by referring to Windows 8 as version 8. There are only three Win8 products, but they do come in both 32-bit and 64-bit versions. If you download Win8 you choose the version. Boxed are supposed to have both. New PC's will come with the appropriate version for your CPU.

      • Chris Hoffman
        September 30, 2012 at 3:18 am

        Yes, it's a much more simplified line-up than previous versions. (Starter, Home Basic, Home Premium -- yuck, how confusing.)

  12. David Yaroshevsky
    September 16, 2012 at 7:18 pm

    I was thinking of just getting the Home edition, but I kind of like to use Media Center...

  13. Rich Mc.
    September 15, 2012 at 7:36 pm

    I am looking forward to the new OS 8, I am glad they decided to trim down on the OS we had to choose from

  14. James Graham
    September 15, 2012 at 3:39 pm

    I'll get a full version when it's out. I've been testing it on laptops and netbooks for awhile and it's not bad...just a few annoyances.

    I want the Start Orb back ( Stardock crashes on some of my systems ). I'd like an option to boot straight to desktop ( I think this will be a deal breaker for business adoption ). Even with resolution trickery the WinRT apps won't run on some Netbooks.

    I can't get the Media Center to work decently...but my TV card is an old PCMCIA so maybe it's time to upgrade :)

    The hybrid hibernation for quick startup is great and I like the built in PowerShell ISE. Runs better than Win 7 on an Atom netbook with 2GB RAM.

    Overall I put it in the plus category.

    • Chris Hoffman
      September 30, 2012 at 3:17 am

      Give me an option to boot straight to desktop and ignore Metro entirely and it'd be the best version of Windows yet.

  15. Priyansh
    September 15, 2012 at 1:55 pm

    since, I have a genuine copy of windows 7, I am eligible for a upgrade to windows 8 pro. So, I will be upgrading to the pro version.

  16. Samit Tandukar
    September 15, 2012 at 11:59 am

    i have tested windows 8 release preview in my laptop....it is very fast and very easy to work.....yeah initially, it will take time to get used to....but once you are through you will love it....i am upgrading to windows 8 pro for sure...

  17. muotechguy
    September 15, 2012 at 10:07 am

    test

  18. Timothy Liem
    September 15, 2012 at 9:35 am

    too much variants. confusing. filthy interface. what more do you expect from Windows? more malwares destroying your computer?

  19. susendeep dutta
    September 15, 2012 at 7:52 am

    Good job! You have done a good research and your article has cleared some of the doubts that was waiting to creep up into my mind in future.A much needed article.

  20. venkatp16
    September 15, 2012 at 6:01 am

    is there any tool that can upgrade windows7 directly to 8??

    • Chris Hoffman
      September 30, 2012 at 3:16 am

      I believe a Windows 8 disc can perform an upgrade, just like previous Windows versions could.

  21. Jim Spencer
    September 15, 2012 at 3:59 am

    It's beginning to feel like we are watching Apple come out with a new version of the iPad six months after the revolutionary introduction of the current version! Were there that many flaws in the present one that I am willing to rush out to spend another $700 on the "latest" model? Dang, I'm just now really getting to enjoy Windows 7, Microsoft has worked out the kinks finally and they are ready for me to spend my hard earned money on "another" new version? Just saying................

    • Chris Hoffman
      September 30, 2012 at 3:16 am

      I suppose we'll just have to get used to it. They don't want another post-Windows-XP delay.

      • Anonymous
        October 1, 2012 at 11:20 pm

        Well, Microsoft has given itself a black eye over the years with its business tactics, so I am dubious each time I see Microsoft do anything! Don't get me wrong, Microsoft had a great beginning, then unsettling news started to trickle out about how they stymie the competition with God knows what tactics! How about Microsoft simply building a very good, very dependable base operating system, then allowing users to upgrade to the next "revision" with a reasonable upgrade price, instead of throwing the baby out with the bathwater! Is Windows 8 backward compatible, is it seamless when it comes to my Windows 7 Ultimate programs when it is integrated in? Just basic questions...................Is Microsoft consumer driven, or is Microsoft Microsoft driven?

  22. Jacob Twitchel
    September 15, 2012 at 3:00 am

    I am still debating whether I should buy Windows 7 for my gaming PC or Windows 8. But If I decide to go with Windows 8, I think I will buy Windows 8 Pro. But I highly doubt I will get Windows 8 because I don't really like the idea of the OS being based off a UI for a phone. If I have a gaming PC with 4.3 GHz Quad core processor and 16 GB of RAM I want to be 100% sure I will be able to have an OS that I know will be able to do anything I want with the highest performance possible! Does anyone know if Windows 8 will even support 16 GB (or more) of RAM? I know that some versions of Windows 7 couldn't support more than 16 GB of RAM and I will not want an OS that won't let me get a RAM upgrade.

    • Chris Hoffman
      September 30, 2012 at 3:15 am

      For all the problems with Windows 8, performance isn't one of them. It does perform better than Windows 7.

      • XtremWize
        January 14, 2013 at 4:46 pm

        It seems that Microsoft has paid you well...

  23. julien croy
    September 14, 2012 at 11:27 pm

    does anyone know how much ram windows 8 pro surface will have?

    • Chris Hoffman
      September 30, 2012 at 3:15 am

      Don't believe they've announced it yet.

  24. gio
    September 14, 2012 at 9:34 pm

    this is good news. but i have one question . can i start windows 8 in my computer is it's system components are such:
    raiting 4.3
    processor: pentium (r) dual-core CPU E5700 @3.00GHz 2.99 GHz
    RAM - 2GB
    system type : 32-bit operating system

    • how_1
      September 15, 2012 at 12:42 am

      http://windows.microsoft.com/en-US/windows-8/download

      Above is Microsoft's recommended requirements.
      Yes, I am pretty sure you can :)

      • Eng Waleed
        September 23, 2012 at 8:22 pm

        thanks

    • Suga
      September 15, 2012 at 9:40 am

      ya u can, ur specs are good.

    • Noman Fayez
      September 16, 2012 at 12:02 pm

      you can but do not switch on w8... if you have w7 then it is good... quite good... good enough to not switch on w8.... if you have win XP genuine license then you can upgrade to w8 with little cost.....my suggestion is not to switch from w7

    • Chris Hoffman
      September 30, 2012 at 3:14 am

      Windows 8 should be more lightweight than Windows 7, which was more lightweight than Vista before it. That's one good thing about the tablet focus with Windows 8.

    • Hunbuhbhuygb Ygygbgybygb
      December 14, 2012 at 1:23 am

      U should upgrade your processor lol

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