There are now three different versions of Windows 10 for buyers to consider: Home, Pro, and the newer 10 S. Which is right for you? Let’s compare Windows 10 Home vs. Pro vs. S to find out: Check out what makes each version unique before you buy!
Windows 10 Home
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. Notable features include:
- Device features are supported — in other words, your voice commands, Pen sketches, touch screen, Hello login, and other capabilities are all compatible with Home.
- Windows 10 Home does not usually come with a permanent version of the full Office suite (Word, Excel, PowerPoint, etc.). Instead, Microsoft is pushing 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 $99 per year. If you don’t like this model, there are still options to buy permanent, individual licenses for a Home/Student version of Office.
- Basic device encryption is included, but don’t confuse this with Office 365’s more professional encryption services.
- The Xbox app, game streaming, Xbox controller support, game DVR, and other gaming features are all supported with Windows 10 Home.
- Home includes access to the individual version of the cloud storage system OneDrive, with automatic setup via your Microsoft Account. However, the free version is limited to 5GB. Office 365 subscriptions expand this space, and you can choose other plans with more storage as necessary.
- While light on professional features, Home does include Mobile Device Management, which may be helpful for individuals or families that want to control apps and security settings for connected phones.
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. Highlights include:
- Encryption includes Bitlocker and Windows Information Protection, which helps with advanced access control. These and similar features are valuable to IT administrators.
- More customizable packages for education and enterprise (particularly large companies) purposes.
- Access 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, etc.
- 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 S
10 S is a new version of Windows that Microsoft designed to run on lighter devices: That ‘S’ doesn’t have a specific designation, but Microsoft generally surrounds it with words like security, streamlined, superior performance … you get the idea. This is a version of Windows 10 with a lighter footprint, which allows it to work faster on cheaper laptops (thus competing more directly with Chromebooks, a key purpose of Windows 10 S). This makes 10 S an alternative for individuals and companies that can’t afford to spend a lot on expensive laptops or tablets but still need Windows 10.
Functionally, 10 S has the most in common with Windows Home, plus a few editions from the Pro version like virtual desktop support and increased security. Microsoft is aiming this selection at schools in particular and wants educators to have the necessary tools for class management. However, 10 S also removes some significant capabilities to get these results. Important facts to note:
- As rumored, you can only buy apps from the Windows Store and cannot use apps that aren’t available from the 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.
- Microsoft Edge is the default browser. 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 10 S activities.
- Startup times and app activities are generally faster on 10 S, 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.
|Windows 10 Home
|Windows 10 Pro||Windows 10 S|
|Cortana||Yes||Yes (including O365 integration)||Yes|
|Windows Hello Sign-In||Yes||Yes||Yes|
|Virtualization Services||No||Remote Desktop, Client Hyper-V, Shared PC||No|
|App Availability||Windows Store and Third Party||Windows Store and Third Party (subject to administrator control)||Windows Store|
|Browsers||All available, including Edge, Firefox, Chrome, Opera, and Safari||All available||Edge|
There is an important divide between devices that come with Windows Home/Pro and devices that come with Windows 10 S, so let’s clarify.
Surface Pro 4, Surface 3, and Surface Book devices can support either Windows Home or Windows Pro, but they can’t support 10 S.
The only device directly from Microsoft that supports Windows 10 S is the Surface Laptop. However, Microsoft announced a series of other inexpensive laptops that will house 10 S: This includes the HP Stream 14 Pro, the Acer Aspire 1, the Acer Swift 1, and the Lenovo V330. For now, 10 S is only supported by these five computers, although more are on their way. Note that you can upgrade 10 S to Windows Pro, but it’s important to have a computer that can handle Pro first.