Windows

Windows 10 Home vs. Pro: Do You Need to Upgrade?

Ben Stegner 24-02-2020

While Windows 10 offers many editions for specific use cases, home users only have two main choices to worry about: Windows 10 Home and Windows 10 Pro. This has likely led you to wonder what the differences are between Windows 10 Home and Pro.

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We’ll walk you through this in our Windows 10 Home vs. Pro comparison. Let’s look at what Pro offers if you upgrade, how to make the switch, and whether it’s worth it.

Windows 10 Professional vs. Home: A Summary

Before we dive into specifics, here’s a quick summary of the differences between Windows 10 Home and Pro:

  • Windows 10 Home offers all the standout functionality of Windows 10 that the average user will enjoy. This includes Windows Hello logins, the Windows Defender antivirus, Cortana, pen and touch support, the Microsoft Store, and much more.
  • Windows 10 Pro includes everything in Windows 10 Home, so you don’t miss out on anything by using the Professional edition.
  • Windows 10 Pro adds several advanced features, including Hyper-V for virtual machines, BitLocker device encryption, Remote Desktop for remote access, and a suite of features intended for business use.

Let’s look at how to check which version of Windows 10 you’re using, then examine some of these exclusive features more closely.

Windows 10 Edition Basics

If you upgraded to Windows 10 from Windows 7 or 8, your edition of Windows 10 matches the prior version. For example, Windows 7 Home Premium would upgrade to Windows 10 Home, while Windows 8.1 Pro would upgrade to Windows 10 Pro.

Those who bought their PC new with Windows 10 probably have the Home edition. Some high-end systems are sold with Windows 10 Pro, but it’s not as common.

You can easily check which Windows 10 edition you have. Open the Settings app and go to System > About. At the bottom of the page under Windows specifications, you’ll see an Edition line.

Windows 10 Edition Info

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What’s the Difference Between Windows 10 Home and Pro?

Is Windows 10 Home enough, or should you pay for Pro? Let’s look at the most important Windows 10 Pro-exclusive features to find out.

1. Windows Remote Desktop

Windows has included its own Remote Desktop tool for some time. This allows you to connect to your PC using another device and control it like you were sitting in front of it.

With Windows 10 Home, you can’t use Remote Desktop to connect to your own PC from other devices. You need Windows 10 Pro for anywhere access. On Windows 10 Pro, head to Settings > System > Remote Desktop to set up this feature.

Windows 10 Remote Desktop

If you have Windows 10 Home, you can easily replicate this feature using alternative remote access software The 7 Best Screen Sharing and Remote Access Software Sharing your Windows screen has many benefits. Use these free tools to share screens or gain remote access to another computer. Read More . Tools like TeamViewer are free for personal use and work on all editions of Windows.

2. BitLocker Encryption

BitLocker Windows 10

Did you know that even if your computer is password-protected, someone with access to your hard drive could read all the data saved on it? This is where encryption comes in—it scrambles all the files on your computer and makes them unreadable to anyone without the key.

BitLocker is Microsoft’s built-in encryption software for Windows. It’s a Windows 10 Pro feature that you’ll find under BitLocker Drive Encryption in the Control Panel (search for it on the Start Menu for easy access).

This is a great tool for simple and powerful encryption, and convenient since it’s integrated into the operating system. However, Windows 10 Home users have other choices for disk encryption. Check out how to protect your data using VeraCrypt How to Encrypt and Protect Your Data and Files Using VeraCrypt VeraCrypt is a free, open source encryption tool that you can use to encrypt and protect your valuable personal data in Windows. Read More for a full guide on a great free tool.

3. Hyper-V Virtualization

hyper-v quick create virtual machine

Hyper-V is a virtual machine (VM) manager that allows you to run virtual operating systems on your computer. These are great for test-driving other OSes or installing software in a safe environment without risking your actual system.

Newer versions of Windows 10 also include a handy related tool called Windows Sandbox. You can use the Windows Sandbox to open a clean copy of Windows 10 that resets when you close it. Compared to a traditional VM, this doesn’t take as much time to set up and is easier to maintain.

However, like both of the above functions, Windows 10 Home users have free alternatives. Hyper-V is a fine tool, but for the casual VM user, VirtualBox will do the trick just fine. See our full user guide to VirtualBox How to Use VirtualBox: User's Guide With VirtualBox you can easily install and test multiple operating systems. We'll show you how to set up Windows 10 and Ubuntu Linux as a virtual machine. Read More for everything you need to get started.

4. Deferring Updates for Longer

For some time, Windows 10 Home users didn’t have any way to put off Windows Updates, as they were all automatic. Now, Windows 10 allows Home users to pause updates for up to 35 days. Visit Settings > Update & Security > Windows Update > Advanced Options and you can choose to Pause updates until a future date.

Windows 10 Defer Updates

This prevents all Windows updates from installing during the period you select. However, once that date hits, you must install current updates before pausing again.

Windows 10 Pro goes a step further and lets you defer both feature updates and security updates for a set number of days. Feature updates are the major revisions to Windows 10 that launch approximately twice per year and add new features. Quality updates are Windows 10 patches that fix bugs and security issues.

If you feel strongly about controlling updates, you may wish to use Windows 10 Pro to gain more control.

5. Enterprise-Focused Features

Some Pro features clearly aimed at businesses can still have appeal for home users, but not all of them.

One of these is Enterprise Mode for Internet Explorer, which lets you emulate IE 8 inside of IE 11. This is for ancient websites that don’t work in modern browsers, which are usually internal business sites.

Another tool that might find more use with normal users is Assigned Access, a Pro-only feature that lets you lock down an account on the machine to using a single app. It’s designed for kiosks or other restricted environments, but it could be a great way to kid-proof your computer. Letting your child play a game while knowing they can’t access the web is a nice feature.

Windows 10 Pro is also required for other business features, like joining your computer to a domain What Is a Windows Domain and What Are Its Advantages? What is a Windows domain and what are the advantages of a computer joining one? Let's look at how domains work and why they're so useful. Read More and Active Directory support. These are critical for corporate environments, but pretty much useless for normal users.

Reasons Not to Upgrade to Windows 10 Pro

While the features above might tempt you, let’s conclude with some reasons why the Windows 10 Pro upgrade isn’t worth the cost for most people.

1. You Already Have the Features You Need

Windows 10 Home doesn’t inhibit your daily usage or take any major features away; chances are that it includes all the functionality you want. Cortana’s voice assistance, the revamped Start Menu, native virtual desktops, and the Edge browser are all fully available in Windows 10 Home.

Some people ask specifically about Windows 10 Home vs. Pro for gaming. While some of the Pro features could come in handy for gaming systems, there’s no particular advantage to using Windows 10 Pro for gaming. You’ll do fine with whatever edition you chose.

In the end, the features above either have a free alternative or are unnecessary for everyday use. Why pay for what you aren’t going to use?

2. It’s Expensive

A final, but important facet of the Windows 10 Home vs. Pro discussion is the cost. For a new system, Windows 10 Home costs $139, while Windows 10 Pro is $199. If you want to upgrade from Windows 10 Home to Pro, you’ll need to pay $99.

While this upgrade price isn’t outrageous, you could better spend it elsewhere on premium desktop software, a subscription, or something similar. If you do decide to upgrade, head to Settings > Update & Security > Activation.

Windows 10 Pro Activation

Here you’ll see an Upgrade your edition of Windows section. Click Change product key if you bought one already. Else, choose Go to the Store to buy a license from Microsoft.

Windows 10 Home Is Enough for Most

As we’ve seen, Windows 10 Pro packs some solid features, but they’re mostly unnecessary for home audiences. Use the alternatives listed above and save your cash for something more useful. Windows 10 will continue to add new features in major updates that will come to all users, so those using Home won’t miss out.

For more on this, take a look at all the different Windows 10 editions on offer Every Single Windows 10 Version You Must Know About Windows 10 comes in over 10 different versions. We compare them all and explain what they're for and who their intended users are. Read More .

Image Credit: Joana Lopes/Shutterstock, Denis Vrublevski/Shutterstock

Explore more about: Buying Tips, Windows 10, Windows Upgrade.

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  1. Frederic
    July 3, 2017 at 9:17 pm

    I'm a home user and an office user, like most people. However I like to play on the safe side, even at home (for me, my home security is as important - if not more - as the organization's security I'm professionally working for) : I need a VM capability as a sandbox for testing applications (I'm always looking for latest and top pieces of software, which invariably involves having to deal with crippled and bogus applications), or for working with some types of sensible documents via a Linux VM (where for instance I can control all the trails the simple fact of opening a document can leave in Windows)... If not for adding variety to my personal computing experience like using Kubuntu rather than Windows from time to time - especially for listening to music, since most free Linux Audio applications are simply excellent. Thus, Windows 10 Pro will be my upgrade... But only when Windows 7 will get ditched.

  2. Lora
    June 8, 2017 at 3:08 am

    Go to Google to search "vinhugo" to get 100% genuine key, fast delivered, great price, and of course works like a charm!

  3. Dan
    June 6, 2017 at 5:46 pm

    This is an old article, but you forgot to mention that 10 Pro allows for multiple language support for the OS.

  4. jensrobot
    May 23, 2017 at 12:13 pm

    My upgrade from HOME to PRO cost 180$ it says in windows store. Every online source with pricing says 99$, but microsoft only lists the price inside the store (via updates/security).
    Sucks, what am i doing wrong? Did they raise the price?
    Im using danish version, it lists 1.199 dkr which is roughly 180$

  5. Richard
    July 2, 2016 at 11:52 pm

    I don't mind paying for software, especially crucial software I use on a daily basis like Windows. However, I'm not yet ready to upgrade. Doubtless, I will be forced to somewhere down the line, but I'm sticking with windows 8.1 pro for as long as I can before that eventuality comes.
    I really don't like windows 10, but of course I said the same thing about windows 8 before I finally got used to it. I guess I'll just pay my due when upgrade time finally comes around the corner.

    • Ben Stegner
      July 16, 2016 at 4:29 pm

      The corner is close! You should reserve your upgrade to W10 now and you can go back to 8.1 if you like. If you don't reserve it by July 29th, it won't be free anymore.

  6. Anonymous
    June 30, 2016 at 12:49 pm

    Most home users don't need those features in Pro and so the home version works just fine and $99 is expensive to add a few features

    • Ben Stegner
      July 16, 2016 at 4:28 pm

      Yep, that's how I felt, too. Pro is definitely aimed at businesses.

  7. Anonymous
    June 30, 2016 at 9:45 am

    Windows 10 is much easier to navigate

    • Tina Sieber
      July 2, 2016 at 5:22 pm

      But does it make a difference whether you're using Windows 10 Home or Windows 10 Pro?

  8. Joseph
    June 30, 2016 at 5:30 am

    I've already updated to Windows 10.

    After the deadline and MS charges for Windows 10. Can I still wipe it and install Windows 7 again BUT THEN later if I want to go back to Windows 10 because Windows 7 will no longer be supported in the future, then I still get it for free again?

    • Tina Sieber
      July 2, 2016 at 5:26 pm

      Joseph, if you have a Windows 7 product key, you are free to downgrade.

      Yes, you will be eligible to upgrade to Windows 10 on that same computer after the free upgrade period expires because the activation is tied to your motherboard; it's called digital entitlement. You won't be able to transfer your Windows 10 license to a new computer.

      We've covered all of this in our Windows 10 Activation & License FAQ in case you'd like to know more.

  9. Anonymous
    June 30, 2016 at 4:09 am

    I'm pretty sure Bob Boudreau is mistaken about being able only to use Win 10 Pro once. The upgrade should retain the license of the OS to be upgraded. I upgraded from Win 8 Pro (full retail) to Win 10 Pro while retaining my files and settings. Later I clean installed Win 10 Pro but had trouble getting it to activate. Eventually I chose to do a PC Refresh of Win 10 Pro using my Win 8 Pro product key which worked fine.

  10. Anonymous
    June 30, 2016 at 1:24 am

    Does Mircosoft still give Win 10 to insiders, because if they do then it is usually Win 10 pro. I have Win 10 pro on two laptops that still have Win 7 & 8.1 home on other partitions. Like having your cake and eating it. Too bad I have to spend so much time trying to update though, not like Ubuntu where a couple months of updates only takes a hour on DSL speed.

    • Tina Sieber
      July 2, 2016 at 5:28 pm

      They do, Colin and I can confirm your input. I'm on Windows 10 Pro thanks to the Insider Preview. My laptop originally came with Windows 8.1 Home, which is still installed on another partition.

  11. Phil N
    June 29, 2016 at 10:08 pm

    I don't know why so many people are trying to avoid the free update. It's like the giveaways that I do on YouTube and the winners never accept the prize.

    • Anonymous
      June 30, 2016 at 4:20 am

      If it's anything like the old codger who sits at the lunchtable, he'll try it for a few minutes, do a whinge, and then roll back to the OS that came his the PC... ...which is Windows 8.1.

    • Ben Stegner
      July 16, 2016 at 4:27 pm

      I don't understand it either, truly. People complained that Windows was too expensive for years; now they complain when it's free. Doesn't make sense to me.