Microsoft has a long-standing tradition of releasing its operating systems in multiple versions. The current Windows 10 is particularly interesting because of the distinction between Windows 10 Home and Windows 10 Pro. Most pre-built PCs and budget laptops come with Windows 10 Home preinstalled, which lacks certain practical features that more demanding Windows users might miss.
So, what are the practical differences between Windows 10 Home and Windows 10 Pro? In terms of usability, appearance, and everyday use, both versions of the operating system are largely the same. Programs and games run equally well on both versions, and basic functions like the Windows 10 app store are practically identical. However, there are certain features that are exclusive to Windows 10 Pro, primarily focusing on the needs of business users. For example, the group policy editor, which is important for administrators, is only available in Windows 10 Pro. The same goes for various Microsoft software solutions like BitLocker drive encryption, the built-in virtualization solution Hyper-V, or the ability to remotely control your PC via Remote Desktop. Of course, many of these functions can be replicated on Windows 10 Home using third-party software like VirtualBox, VeraCrypt, or TeamViewer. However, if you prefer official and directly integrated solutions, upgrading to Windows 10 Pro is necessary. Microsoft provides an overview of the different features of Windows 10 Home and Windows 10 Pro on its website, where they list in detail which features are exclusive to the Pro edition.
The differences between Windows 10 Home and Windows 10 Pro are not set in stone. Additional features exclusive to the Pro version may be added at any time through the biannual feature updates. A recent example of this is the Windows Sandbox, introduced with the Spring Update 2019 (known as Windows 10 1903). The ability to run programs in an isolated and secure environment is currently exclusive to Windows 10 Pro users. On the other hand, Microsoft occasionally releases some professional features for the Home version as well. Windows 10 1903 allows Home users to pause upcoming Windows updates, albeit for only one week instead of 30 days.
So, who should consider upgrading from Windows 10 Home to Windows 10 Pro? The switch is relatively easy to do (see below), but it comes with comparatively high costs. Therefore, it is important to carefully consider whether the upgrade is truly worth it before purchasing a Pro license. Besides the previously mentioned features, the upgrade is particularly useful for users who value a comprehensive set of functions in their operating system. The group policy editor, in particular, offers many practical features for customizing Windows 10 to personal preferences, even outside of network administration. While many of these functions can be achieved on Windows 10 Home, it often requires a cumbersome workaround using the registry editor. In general, Windows 10 Pro provides a higher level of flexibility in daily usage. For example, if uninterrupted PC operation is crucial for a project, the ability to defer updates for a longer period of time is beneficial. In addition to a 30-day delay for standard updates, the Pro version allows postponing major feature updates for up to one year. On the other hand, it can be stated that the majority of Windows users can easily stick with Windows 10 Home. In other words, if you haven’t missed any of the mentioned advantages of Windows 10 Pro so far, you don’t need Windows 10 Pro.
The system requirements for Windows 10 Home and Windows 10 Pro are practically identical. If Home runs smoothly on your PC, it is likely that Pro will as well. However, certain hardware-related features like BitLocker or Hyper-V have specific requirements. For example, virtualization with Hyper-V requires a 64-bit system with Second Level Address Translation (SLAT) and an additional 2GB of RAM. Only a valid license for Windows 10 Pro is necessary for the operating system itself. Microsoft offers these licenses through its own software store, but they come with a price of around €260, and upgrading still costs roughly €150. Independent retailers often offer similar licenses at cheaper prices. Another option is to inquire with your employer, a university, or other institutions to obtain a valid license for Windows 10 Pro.
Switching from Windows 10 Home to Windows 10 Pro is a relatively simple process, as described at the beginning. It does not require a fresh installation or any other complex adjustments, but can be done directly through the system settings of Windows 10 Home. **Important:** The switch to Windows 10 Pro is permanent. If, for any reason, you later want to downgrade back to the Home version, it cannot be done easily. The only way to do so is by reinstalling Windows 10 with a Home license key. To change the Windows 10 edition, simply enter an appropriate activation key.
**Upgrade using a Windows 10 Pro product key:**
If you have already purchased a product key, follow these steps to switch the edition of Windows 10 from Home to Pro:
**Upgrade using a digital license for Windows 10 Pro:**
If you have a digital license for Windows 10 Pro, you can switch to it by following these steps within the same context menu and navigating to the Microsoft Store.