There are two popular versions of Windows: Home and Professional (Pro). Whichever you are using, you get the same Windows 11 or Windows 10 operating system, but which one should you buy? Our quick answer is either, depending on the features you value and the money you’re willing to spend, but our Windows Home vs. Pro comparison can help you make an informed decision.
Windows Home vs. Pro: How Similar Are They?
As the name suggests, Microsoft considers Windows “Home” a suitable fit for consumers who intend to use their PC or laptop at home, mainly for casual surfing, videoconferencing, Xbox gaming, and Office applications. Likewise, Windows “Professional (Pro)” is aimed at corporate users who need more advanced collaboration, encryption and security features.
However, with the right third-party application, both Windows versions can be scaled for any user requirement. The lines of demarcation between Windows Home and Pro are quite blurred now. Whichever you prefer, there are absolutely no differences in core features, Start menu, system settings or the overall appearance.
What Is Missing From Windows Home?
Almost all of the essential features of Windows Pro are present in the Windows Home versions. These include multiple desktop widgets, Windows Hello, Device encryption, UEFI Secure Boot, Windows Defender security, Battery Saver, Control Panel options, and Taskbar extras.
As a Pro user, however, you will benefit from a few additional features that cannot be found in Home.
1. BitLocker Drive Encryption
BitLocker Drive Encryption is perhaps the strongest suit of Windows 10 and 11 Pro editions, as it helps you encrypt any hard drive on your PC, including removable media. This way, your files and folders are protected from unauthorized access, which is really helpful if your laptop gets stolen.
The BitLocker Drive Encryption menu is easily accessible from the Windows search bar as well as Control Panel’s “System and Security” setting.
To work with BitLocker in Windows Pro editions, you just have to turn it on for the C: drive, D: drive, or any USB flash drive inserted in your device. (In that case, it is called “BitLocker To Go.”) BitLocker further requires you to secure your drives using a password that contains uppercase and lowercase letters, numbers, spaces, and symbols. To unlock the drive, you can also use a portable Windows smart card with a PIN.
BitLocker offers such a high degree of security because it is integrated with Windows PC’s Trusted Platform Module (TPM 2.0) and has a security function chip enabled on the motherboard.
You may wonder why Microsoft didn’t include this handy application in Windows 11 Home. Although you get a limited version of BitLocker called “Device encryption” in Windows 11 Home, it’s not the same thing.
2. Hyper-V Manager
Hyper-V Manager is an administrative tool used in the Windows 11 and 10 Pro versions to create and import virtual machines to your device. For example, you can save virtual machines on a Windows development environment, your default operating system, or use an ISO as the installation source. However, the easiest way is to import an existing virtual machine, which can be downloaded online.
While Windows Home can create virtual machines using external software, such as VirtualBox, Hyper-V Manager is native to the Windows environment and works closely with the PowerShell and DISM tools.
This advanced virtualization feature was initially a part of Windows Server environments. From Windows 10 onward, it’s been available for all Pro and Enterprise users.
Although Hyper-V is the default in Pro editions, if you’re a first-time user, you’ll need to enable it using “Turn Windows features on or off.”
First, check all the boxes for Hyper-V Management Tools and Hyper-V Platform, wait for the PC to restart automatically, then access the application.
3. Local Group Policy Editor
Since Windows Pro is designed for a corporate work environment, it offers an advanced user control feature called “Local Group Policy Editor.” The app’s purpose is to configure a group policy for many users in a closed network. As a result, it is a great application for system administrators.
The Local Group Policy Editor app is searchable from the Windows search bar. You can also open it by pressing Win + R, typing
gpedit.msc and pressing Enter. You’re allowed to create new policies on the go.
Here are a few highlights of Group Policy Editor:
- Granular settings for software and Windows environments
- Name Resolution Policy
- Password and account lockout policies
- Local policies for any device in the network
- Software restriction and application control policies
The following image shows the maximum password age policy for a device set to 42 days. This restriction forces the user to change their password after the security window expires.
As the Local Group Policy Editor has a clear administrative role, most Windows Home users are unlikely to need it for their daily tasks. However, some Group Policy settings find frequent use in Windows troubleshooting, so they’re worth a try. Of course, if you’re a parent, you can always use a parental control app to monitor and restrict your children’s activities on the PC.
4. Dynamic Provisioning
Another Microsoft administrative feature, Dynamic Provisioning, allows enterprises to set up different permissions and security for multiple devices in one click from a USB drive. This saves network administrators the time and effort of uploading custom images for each device.
Such a bundle of policies is known as a “provisioning package.” To create custom provisioning on a device, you need to choose an option called “add or remove a provisioning package.”
Most provisioning packages require an external tool, such as Azure Active Directory (Azure AD), or Mobile Device Management (MDM) services, such as Microsoft Intune. It has to be imported via a USB drive, then the entire network can follow the rules and security settings.
Like Group policies, provisioning is an advanced feature that affects many devices on a shared network. As a result, it is outside the scope of a Windows Home user’s needs.
5. Assigned Access
Windows Pro editions allow you to set up assigned access for many users who have shared data in a local network machine. Think of all the Intranet and shared folders hosted in a central machine. Assigned access accounts require you to have multiple accounts registered on your device. For each account, you can restrict the apps a user is allowed to access.
While Windows Pro has its Assigned access, even Windows Home users can achieve similar restriction controls using a local user account feature, which is accessible via “netplwiz,” one of the most useful Windows Run commands to know.
To run this command, start the Windows Run dialog using Win + R, type
netplwiz and hit Enter.
6. Miscellaneous Windows Pro/Enterprise Features
The above are some of the most prominent Windows Pro features absent from Windows Home. Apart from these, a few more have enterprise-centric applications and require advanced technical skills far beyond the scope of Windows Home users.
- Windows Sandbox: it is a lightweight, disposable desktop environment that helps run desktop applications in relative isolation. It erases the applications as soon as the user exits Sandbox. Unfortunately, not all Windows Pro devices support the Sandbox application, which has a few requirements.
- Mobile Device Management (MDM): some Pro editions support mobile devices, which is a helpful way to access multiple devices in the Cloud. It works with Microsoft Intune, which needs to be supported by your Pro device hardware for the MDM feature to be available.
- Microsoft Store for Business: it can serve Store apps to multiple devices at once.
- Support for Active Directory and Azure Active Directory: these are enterprise-centric features used to manage multiple accounts and users in one place.
Windows Home vs. Pro: Which One to Buy?
For Windows Home users, it is important to know whether they must upgrade to Pro, which is definitely more robust because of extra security and management features. However, in some respects, Home is actually better than Pro.
For example, except for BitLocker, Hyper-V and Group Policy Editor, most Pro applications are not needed by Home users, if all you have to manage is your own PC and maybe one to two more devices. It makes Windows Home slightly lighter, as there are fewer system tools to bother with. Currently, a vast majority of Windows users are on Home versions in both Windows 10 and 11.
Besides, Windows Pro is slightly more expensive than the Home edition. A new Windows 11 Home license costs you $139, whereas the Windows 11 Pro license stands a bit more at $200. The retail prices of Windows 10 Pro and Windows 10 Home licenses are exactly the same as the corresponding Windows 11 versions.
However, if you’re planning to upgrade to Windows Pro as a Home user, it will cost $99 extra, which can be processed internally from any Windows Home device. In fact, you can jump directly from Windows 10 Home to Windows 11 Pro at this same price, provided your device hardware and software meet the minimum requirements for an upgrade. Still, going through a Home to Pro upgrade is more expensive in the long run.
As a Windows Home user, if you seek to benefit from the secure encryption of BitLocker, the troubleshooting of Group Policy Editor, and are going to have a use for Hyper-V virtual machines, it is worth upgrading to a Pro License. Otherwise, you can continue with Windows Home. If you’re already on a Pro license, all Windows Home features are already present on your device. There is no need to switch back to Home.
Frequently Asked Questions
Can I get Windows 11/10 Home or Pro for free?
Most commercial licenses for Windows 11/10 Home and Pro are available from Microsoft at a cost. Outside Microsoft websites, you can get any Windows operating system version cheaper (or even free) from third-party websites and resellers. However, if you purchase the latest laptop or PC, chances are it may have already come bundled with a Windows 11/10 Pro or Home edition. You won’t have to pay for a separate Microsoft license.
Is Windows Pro faster or slower than Windows Home?
While Windows Home is somewhat lighter than Windows Pro because of fewer system tools, from a speed comparison perspective, Pro and Home are the same for any given Windows operating system – Windows 11 or Windows 10. Their speed depends on RAM, SSD usage, the processor, and other related factors, not on the Windows version.
Can I use Office Home with Windows Pro and vice versa?
Yes. As Microsoft Office and Microsoft 365 are just software applications, they do not depend on which Windows version you are using. You can easily use Office Home with Windows Pro and Office Professional with Windows Home, provided you have the right kind of Microsoft 365 subscription.
Image credit: Joachim Pressl via Unsplash All screenshots by Sayak Boral
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