Microsoft is offering a like-to-like upgrade scheme for Windows 10, which is due to end on 31 July 2016. This means you can't decide which version you want during the upgrade. We’ll explain the difference between the versions so you’ll know which one you’ll get if you're elegible for the free upgrade in our Windows 10 Home vs Pro comparison.

Updated 15 June.

See also: Should I upgrade to Windows 10

Windows 10 Home vs Windows 10 Pro: summary of differences

 

Home

Pro

Create and join a domain (work network)

No

Yes

BitLocker

No

Yes

Group policy management

No

Yes

Remote Desktop

No

Yes

Hyper-V (virtualisation)

No

Yes

Assigned Access

No

Yes

Enterprise Mode Internet Explorer

No

Yes

Windows Store for Business

No

Yes

Trusted Boot

No

Yes

Windows Update for Business

No

Yes

Max. supported RAM

128GB

2TB

If most of these are meaningless to you, that's no surprise: most people don't need the extra features in Windows 10 Pro.

Windows 10 Home Vs Windows 10 Pro: What are the differences?

While Windows 10 Home is focused firmly on the consumer, Windows 10 Pro is more for power-users, and those running small to medium businesses. This can be seen in the advanced security features found in the Pro package.

BitLocker

BitLocker is encryption software which allows security conscious users to fully secure their drives from potential hackers. In Windows 10 Pro Microsoft has made some fine adjustments to the service. 

‘With BitLocker,’ explains Joe Belfiore, the Corporate Vice President of Microsoft’s Operating Systems Group, ‘the end user  faces an all or nothing decision for the entire drive to be encrypted, and it doesn’t provide for very much flexibility in the way files move around. We’re solving those problems.’ 

The new iteration of BitLocker allows users to encrypt individual files and keep them alongside unencrypted ones.  Plus they can now be used in the same way on USB sticks, improving the way in which files can be shared between those with the proper clearance to read them.

Remote Desktop Connection

Both Windows 10 Home and Pro can start Remote Desktop Connection sessions, but only PCs running Windows 10 Pro can be remotely controlled. Windows 10 Home machines can only be assisted remotely, and this is mainly for an expert to show a home user how to change settings, for example.

Windows Update for Business

In Windows 10 Pro you get the option to defer updates, but this option doesn't really exist in Home. Microsoft forces patches and updates to Home machines automatically. You can stop them for a few hours, but that's it.

It's designed to prevent buggy updates from affecting business PCs, and updates can be put off for several months.

Hyper-V

Virtualisation is another benefit of Windows 10 Pro, although few will want to use it. It's like having a built-in VirtualBox, although you'll still have to install Hyper-V on Windows 10 Pro manually. You'll also need to have a CPU which supports virtualisation.

Business features

Group Policy Management and access to the Windows 10 Business Store are other features reserved for WIndows 10 Pro. Microsoft also lists the ability to join Azure Active Directory, with a single sign-on to cloud hosted apps.

Only Windows 10 Pro support joining (or creating) a domain, which allows PCs to be added to a corporate network. With Windows 10 Home, you can't do this and you're pushed to use a Microsoft account rather than a local user account.

Assigned Access lets a sysadmin restrict a Windows tablet to run only a certain app (a very specific benefit which will apply to only a few).

Windows 10 Home vs Windows 10 Pro: Which version am I entitled to? 

You have the chance to be upgraded to a version of Windows that's equivalent to the one you’re already running. So if you have a copy of Windows 7 Starter, Home Basic, or Home Premium on your PC, then upgrading will give you Windows 10 Home. Those running Windows 8.1 will also move to Windows 10 Home. Windows 10 Pro replaces Windows 7 Professional, Windows 7 Ultimate, Windows 8.1 Pro, and Windows 8.1 Pro for Students.

For all packages Windows Media Centre will be removed, as Microsoft seems to see it as superfluous to the future of Windows, and you’ll also need to download third-party software if you want to watch DVDs on your machine. For a list of other features that will be retired in Windows 10 read our Worst Windows 10 Sacrifices guide. 

Windows 10 Home vs Windows 10 Pro: What do they have in common?

For the majority of users the differences between Windows 10 Home and Pro will be negligible, as both provide pretty much everything they need for everyday computing. The main differences affect business users.

All versions of Windows 10 come with Cortana, Microsoft’s virtual assistant, that can make calendar entries, take dictation, open applications and local files, search the web, and give directions, all from voice commands on your PC. This feature could become quite key in the future, as Microsoft has recently announced the upcoming release of Cortana apps for Android and iOS phones, alongside the full integration it enjoys on Windows Phone. You can read here how to use Cortana in Windows 10.

Windows 10 Home Vs Windows 10 Pro

The Microsoft Edge browser is also available on both versions. This break from Internet Explorer is an interesting one, and Edge certainly has enough features to make it a worthy adversary to Chrome, Firefox, and Opera. The new offering comes complete with a stripped down Reading Mode to declutter articles online, an Instapaper/Pocket style Reading List for saving articles you don’t have time to read there and then, plus the ability to annotate and share web pages. For more information check out our guide for how to use Edge browser in Windows 10

As Windows continues its voyage into a touch compatible future, Microsoft has made some significant adjustments to the user interface on both Home and Pro. Gone is the overbearing and oft confusing Windows 8 touch-first layout, replaced instead with a modern take on the  Windows 7 desktop. This doesn’t mean touch has been left behind; instead Windows can now detect the type of hardware you are using and offer the appropriate interface. This feature is called Continuum and should make the new Windows far more attractive to the majority of users, most of whom don’t own a touchscreen laptop or Windows tablet.

A welcome addition to Windows 10 is a fully integrated version of Virtual Desktops. This feature has been around in past iterations of Windows, but always required additional software to get it going. Now you'll be able to create different workspaces on your PC very easily thanks to a new Task View option. You can also drag and drop open applications onto different desktops, making the whole process smooth, fast, and simple. To learn more about this helpful feature read our How to Use Virtual Desktops in Windows 10 guide.  

The other main upgrade to Windows that can be found of both Home and Pro is that of universal apps. This idea is a simple one, in which any universal app you buy from the Windows Store will work on any of your devices, be they PC, tablet, phone, or even the Xbox One. You can read our How to Use Universal App in Windows 10 for more details on how these new apps really work. 

 

Conclusion

Windows 10 Home edition will suffice for the vast majority of users who just want to browse the web, do a little work, and manage their media files. There’s certainly a few benefits for the Pro version, with its focus on security and compatibility, but of course the value of these features will come down to whether you actually intend to use them or not, and most home users won't.