Windows 10 Home vs. Pro vs. S Mode

There is now special mode of Windows for buyers to consider to go along with the two different versions: In addition to Windows 10 Home and Windows 10 Pro, there’s now Windows 10 in S mode.

Which is right for you? Let’s compare all the versions of Windows 10 to find out. Check out what makes each version unique before you buy.

Windows 10 Home

windows 10 adoption slowing home screen user

Home is the standard version of Windows 10, the baseline package designed for the individual user primarily using Windows at home or for take-home schoolwork. This version contains all the features that Microsoft aims at the broad consumer market, such as the Cortana voice assistant, Outlook, OneNote, and Microsoft Edge. Home is still compatible with the Windows Insider program, but it does limit the security and group management services that other versions of Windows have access to.

Windows 10 Home includes all of the features that are likely to be important to a consumer PC user. You’ll find support for all of Windows’ device features, including voice commands, Pen sketches, touch displays, Hello login, and more. While Windows 10 Home doesn’t usually come with a permanent version of the full Office suite (Word, Excel, PowerPoint, etc.), it does — for good or bad — include free trials for the subscription service Office 365 in hopes that new users will stay subscribed after the trial ends. Office 365’s standard rate is $69 for the one-person Personal version and $99 per year for the five-person Home version. If you don’t like this model, there are still options to buy permanent, individual licenses for a Home/Student version of Office.

In addition, Windows 10 home includes basic device encryption that’s turned on by default, but don’t confuse that with the much more powerful BitLocker encryption service (see below). The Xbox app, game streaming, Xbox controller support, game DVR, and other gaming features are all supported with Windows 10 Home, and there’s also access to the individual version of the cloud storage system OneDrive (with the free version limited to 5GB compared to Office 365’s 1TB), with automatic setup via your Microsoft Account.

Generally speaking, Windows 10 Home is light on professional features, bit it does include Mobile Device Management. That might be helpful for individuals or families that want to control apps and security settings for connected phones.

Windows 10 Pro

Windows 10 Pro

The professional version of Windows 10, as you may have guessed, includes many extra features designed for businesses. It has essentially everything offered by Windows Home, plus extra security and management services. This version of Windows 10 is typically purchased in bulk by companies or schools, although sole proprietors and freelancers may also be interested in buying it.

However, Pro doesn’t have much to offer the average at-home user.To begin with, there’s the powerful and configurable BitLocker Encryption and Windows Information Protection, which helps with advanced access control. These and similar features are valuable to IT administrators. In addition, you’ll find more customizable packages for education and enterprise (particularly large companies) purposes.

Windows 10 Pro includesa ccess to business versions of Microsoft services, including Windows Store for Business, Windows Update for Business, Enterprise Mode browser options, and more. These versions include extra features to buy and upload content in bulk. Options for virtualization, including Remote Desktop compatibility, Client Hyper-V, Shared PC configuration, and more are also on hand.

Note that Microsoft is transitioning to a convergence model for business services called Microsoft 365, which combines elements of Office 365, Windows 10, and larger enterprise packages. This is still a relatively new re-packaging of Windows services, but it may eventually alter how Windows 10 Pro is offered and what services are included. We will update the list if we see significant changes.

Windows 10 in S mode

Asus NovaGo review
Mark Coppock/Digital Trends

Windows 10 in S mode is a new mode of Windows 10 that Microsoft designed to run on lighter devices and to provide better security and easier management. That ‘S’ doesn’t have a specific designation, but Microsoft generally surrounds it with words like security, streamlined, superior performance … you get the idea. Windows 10 in S mode isn’t another version of Windows 10 — in fact, it can be enabled for wither Windows 10 Home or Pro — but rather it’s a special mode that essentially limits Windows 10 in a variety of ways to make it run faster, provide longer battery life, and be more secure and easier to manage. The idea is that PC manufacturers can ship devices in S mode and make them more competitive with Chromebooks in educational environments and for organizations that need higher security and easier maintenance.

Functionally, S mode supports the same basic functionality as the underlying Windows 10 version. Microsoft is aiming this mode at schools in particular and wants educators to have the necessary tools for class management. However, S mode also removes some significant capabilities to get these results.

The first and most significant different is that Windows 10 in S mode only allows apps to be installed from the Windows Store. This limitation allows Microsoft to root out malware more easily and ensure a certain level of app quality, but it does limit what people can download and use. Note that this limitation also applies to any proprietary software companies may have developed and any security software outside Windows Defender, which makes things very difficult for some businesses.

Next, Microsoft Edge is the default browser in S mode, and that can’t be changed. In theory, if other browsers have Windows Store apps you could use them, but this hasn’t happened yet, and links will always default to Edge. Again, Microsoft’s reason for this is greater control over security. Similarly, Bing is the default search engine for S mode activities.

Startup times and app activities are generally faster on 10 S because there are no Windows legacies apps to slow things down, as long as you aren’t eating up too much RAM. Files are automatically saved in the cloud via OneDrive, similar to how Chrome works on Chromebooks: This helps save space on smaller hard drives. Basic Windows features like Cortana, Windows Hello facial recognition, and Windows Ink for stylus use are still included.

Compatible devices

HP Spectre x360 versus the Microsoft Surface Laptop

Any PC can be compatible with Windows 10 in S mode. The biggest difference is that you’ll only get S Mode if the manufacturer ships it that way. And, all such PCs can easily be switched out of S Mode by visiting the Windows Store and selecting that option. Once the switch is complete, then the PC will be running either Windows 10 Home or Pro depending on the underlying license.

A few PCs are being shipped with Windows 10 in S mode, notably Windows 10 on ARM notebooks like the HP Envy X2 and Asus NovaGo. In addition, a number of manufacturers make low-cost notebooks running in S Mode, such as the Asus VivoBook Flip 14 and Acer Spin 1, and Microsoft’s own Surface Laptop can be purchased this way.

Feature Summary

Windows 10 Home


Windows 10 Pro Windows 10 S Mode
Cortana Yes Yes (including O365 integration) Yes
Windows Hello Sign-In Yes Yes Yes
Bitlocker Encryption No Yes Depends on underlying version
Xbox Gaming Yes Yes Yes
Virtualization Services No Remote Desktop, Client Hyper-V, Shared PC Depends on underlying version
App Availability Windows Store and Third Party Windows Store and Third Party (subject to administrator control) Windows Store
Browsers All available All available Edge

Microsoft takes up to $330 off of Surface PC bundles in Black Friday promo

'Tis the season for savings at Microsoft. The Surface-maker is offering some nice Black Friday deals on its Surface Pro 6, Go, and Laptop 2 hardware. You'll also find deals on notebooks from HP, Dell, and Lenovo.
Virtual Reality

Is the Vive Pro better than the original Vive? Our answer might surprise you

HTC Vive vs. Vive Pro, which comes out on top? That's the subject of our latest comparison, which looks at everything from tracking solutions, to controllers, and the brand new headset that could set a new standard for VR.

The Mac mini's price has crept into iMac territory. So how do they compare?

Apple announced a long-awaited update to the Mac mini. Thanks to the updated specs and increase in price, it's begun to creep up to the base model iMac. In this guide, we now put up the specs on the newest refreshed Mac mini against the…

Google, Samsung, OnePlus, and Huawei face off in an Android battle royale

The good news is that there are some great options in the Android smartphone market right now. The bad news is that too much choice makes it tough to decide. We compare the Pixel 3 XL, the Galaxy Note 9, the OnePlus 6T, and the Mate 20 Pro.
Smart Home

Google Home Hub vs. Amazon Echo Show

The Google Home Hub vs. Amazon Echo Show: which is better? Both are smart displays that control your smart home, but that's where the similarities end. We compare design, features, price and more to find out which is right for you.

Over a million veterans now eligible for Comcast’s Internet Essentials program

Comcast's low-cost Internet Essentials program, which provides internet access for just $10 per month, has expanded to include U.S. veterans. One million veterans now qualify for the service.

An IP address vulnerability took down some Google services for 1 hour

It might have been for just a brief hour, but some of Google's services went down on November 12. Caused by an improper rerouting of IP addresses and traffic away from usual western sources, Spotify and Google Cloud were impacted.

How to Install an SSD in a PlayStation 4 or PS4 Pro

SSDs are much faster than mechanical hard drives, which is what the PlayStation 4 and PlayStation 4 Pro come with. Here, we show you how to replace it with an SSD, which will allow you to boot to the OS faster and load games quicker.

Google’s Squoosh will get an image web-ready with in-browser compression

Google's latest web app development is an image editing and compression tool, Squoosh. In just a few clicks, it can take a huge image and make it much lighter and web-friendly, all in your browser.

The best HTC Vive games available today

So you’re considering an HTC Vive, but don't know which games to get? Our list of 25 of the best HTC Vive games will help you out, whether you're into rhythm-based gaming, interstellar dogfights, or something else entirely.

Should you buy the affordable MacBook Air, or is the MacBook Pro worth the price?

Though they both share Retina Displays and similar keyboards, there are still some specs differences and other changes which distinguish the new 2018 MacBook Air and MacBook Pro. In this guide, we stack the two up against each other.

Want to save a webpage as a PDF? Just follow these steps

Need to quickly save and share a webpage? The best way is to learn how to save a webpage as a PDF file, as they're fully featured and can handle images and text with ease. Here's how.

Installing fonts in Windows 10 is quick and easy -- just follow these steps

Want to know how to install fonts in Windows 10? Here's our guide on two easy ways to get the job done, no matter how many you want to add to your existing catalog, plus instructions for deleting fonts in the process.

After a month of bugs, the Windows 10 October 2018 Update is finally here

After more thoroughly investigating and resolving all bugs and related issues, Microsoft is announcing the Windows 10 October 2018 is again rolling out to consumers starting today, November 13.