What's the difference between Windows 10 / 11 Home and Pro? When you're building or buying a PC.
Microsoft has offered a Pro version of Windows since the XP days, bringing with it additional features for power users that Home doesn’t offer. While many of the extra features of Windows 10 Pro are clearly designed for business use, like group policy management and domain binding, there are other features that an enthusiast might not be able to live without. Here's a breakdown of the most useful features that you get with Windows 10 Pro, as well as free alternatives, when applicable.
With Windows 10 Home, you're still able to start Remote Desktop Protocol (RDP) sessions, but you can't remotely control your PC from another device on your network natively. Fortunately, there are many free options like TigerVNC and TeamViewer that offer the same functionality and even some additional features that RDP doesn’t offer. You could also try RDP Wrapper as a free alternative.
If you’re concerned about security and want to protect your data from intruders, Bitlocker provides full disk encryption so you can keep your data safe from hackers. The latest iteration of Bitlocker also allows for the encryption of individual files for more flexibility than the all-or-nothing approach of previous versions. Again, other software can accomplish similar encryption, but it's not built into the OS. Be sure to get an SSD (or HDD even) that supports the necessary hardware acceleration for Bitlocker if you don't want to lose performance.
Trusted Boot protects your PC from rootkits and works in conjunction with Secure Boot to help keep your system malware free and in your control by checking every component of the startup process before loading it. While it may provide peace of mind to any user, it’s another feature aimed at businesses where security is a top priority.
Normally, we'd just say don't run any suspicious files, but some people are curious. Does that anonymous download that claims to fix performance actually work? Or is it malware masquerading as a useful program? You could install a virtualization solution and run the program in a sandbox so it won't actually cause harm, or if you have Windows Pro you get that feature as part of the OS.
Hyper-V is a Windows-only hypervisor used for running virtual machines on CPUs that support virtualization. If you plan on running VMs, this feature might be worth the cost of Pro, but if virtualization is all you need, there are free products like Virtualbox that offer more features and work with multiple operating systems. While Hyper-V is included with your Windows 10 Pro license, it needs to be downloaded and installed separately.
Memory Limits and Business Features
Aside from the above features, there are some other differences between the two versions of Windows. Windows 10 Home supports a maximum of 128GB of RAM, while Pro supports a whopping 2TB.
The Managed Services angle
Other features like group policy management, Assigned Access, and the ability to join a domain are unlikely to be very useful outside of the workplace. Assigned Access allows an admin to lock down Windows and allow access to only one app under a specified user account. Group Policy meanwhile allows you to restrict access to any number of Windows features and configure any setting within the operating system. While this is great from an admin perspective and a good way to set a co-worker's wallpaper to something fun remotely, it’s very useful if you will use Managed Services environment from an IT company.
Windows Update for Business allows an admin to control and force when a system is updated and defer updates that may cause incompatibilities with legacy software or impact the business in some other way.
FYI: Windows 11 Home Will Require a Microsoft Account For Initial Setup
When you first install Windows 11 Home, you’ll be asked to sign in with a Microsoft account during the initial setup process. The installation won’t proceed unless you’re connected to the internet and you link a Microsoft account with Windows 11. Presumably, you’ll also have the option to create a new Microsoft account in case you don’t already have one.
Unlike with Windows 10 Home, you won’t be able to get around this requirement by disconnecting from the Internet before running the setup on your computer.
Microsoft makes more money if you use a Microsoft account. That account is your passport to buying apps in the Microsoft store, purchasing Microsoft 365 subscriptions, subscribing to cloud services such as OneDrive, and much more. Also, Microsoft gains valuable information by tracking your behavior across various Microsoft services.
Of course, this policy isn’t ideal for some people because having your every activity and purchase tracked and linked to a single account has deep privacy implications. Thankfully, it looks like Microsoft will be providing a few ways to get around this requirement.
You’ll still be able to create a local user account after getting through the initial install process with a Microsoft account.