Windows 10 is available in several “editions”. More advanced editions include additional features and cost more.
When it comes to personal or small business use, the choice generally boils down to either Windows 10 Home or Windows 10 Professional.
Most new machines come with Windows 10 Home, particularly when sold to individuals. Unfortunately, Windows 10 Professional includes a couple of features I consider exceptionally convenient, even for the average home user.
It’s Windows 10 Professional that I generally recommend for everyone.
Group Policy Editor
Windows 10 Pro includes the Group Policy Editor (File, Run, gpedit.msc). Windows 10 Home does not.
This might seem like a fairly benign omission, and to be completely honest, for most folks it’s no big deal.
The problem — from my perspective — is that the Group Policy Editor provides easy access to a number of important system settings and configuration choices.
The work-around for Windows 10 Home edition involves modifying registry settings manually. Playing around in the registry is certainly do-able, but it’s error prone, and certainly more arcane than most people are interested in dealing with. The user interface provided by the Group Policy Editor is a significantly easier, more comfortable way to make common changes to your system.
The remote desktop client is present in all editions of Windows 10. That means you can connect from a Windows 10 Home machine to another Windows machine that supports the Remote Desktop Protocol (RDP) service.
Unfortunately, Windows 10 Home doesn’t support RDP, so you cannot connect to a computer running Windows 10 Home edition using Remote Desktop; you’ll need Windows 10 Professional.
This becomes significant for anyone with multiple computers in a home. (It is possible to use Remote Desktop across the internet, but it’s not easy. Ironically, that means that Remote Desktop is best used to connect to local machines … remotely.) I use it constantly to connect to computers running in my basement, for example, without needing to run up and down stairs each time.
Honestly, it’s Remote Desktop that makes Windows 10 Pro worth it for me, and Windows 10 Home significantly less useful.
The work-around for Windows 10 Home edition: third-party tools like Team Viewer or VNC (Virtual Network Connection). Some are more powerful, allowing easy connection across the internet; others are more along the lines of Remote Desktop, and most easily set up locally.
If you’re at all interested in encrypting the entire hard drive on your machine using built-in support, you’ll want Windows 10 Pro. BitLocker, Windows’ whole-drive encryption support, is available only in Windows 10 Professional.
Honestly, if you travel with your laptop, BitLocker is a pretty compelling reason to get Windows 10 Pro.
The work-around for Windows 10 Home edition: third-party tools like VeraCrypt.
Windows Update for Business
Windows 10 Pro allows you to pause updates for up to 35 days.
While most consider this insufficient control over the entire update process, it’s more than Windows 10 Home offers.
The work-around for Windows 10 Home edition: disabling the Windows Update service and then remembering to turn it back on.
Microsoft has a side-by-side comparison of Windows 10 Home vs Pro Editions.
Most of the differences not discussed above boil down to things that generally apply to corporate or specialized circumstances.
It’s the four features above that drive my selection and my recommendation.
One other difference: price
Naturally, Windows 10 Pro is more expensive than Windows 10 Home.
As of this writing, a quick check online puts Pro at a 60% premium over the Home edition, if purchasing the operating system directly. When buying a new computer, the price difference is often significantly less, plus it’ll come pre-installed.
All the “Pro” features I’ve discussed have alternative solutions that can be used on Home. Whether the hassle of setting them up yourself, or perhaps needing to purchase them, is worth it to you, or whether these are features you might not even care about, I can’t say.
What I can say is that getting Windows 10 Pro is a slam dunk for me, and it often makes my life a little easier when helping others if they have it as well.