Don’t Buy Windows 10 Home

Don’t Buy Windows 10 Home
Image: Getty Images

Windows 10 is a great operating system. It’s well suited to the needs of users and has a bunch of great features that make it a truly 21st century-ready OS for the masses. But that suitability really depends on whether you’ve got the Home or Pro version. Here’s why you don’t want Windows 10 Home (and how to upgrade to Windows 10 Pro for free.)

Microsoft’s insistence on maintaining this relic from its past — several different versions of its operating system – creates confusion for users and must make things more complex inside the development and sales teams. And besides, the Home version lacks important features that should be part of any operating system.

It’s worth noting that while I’m focusing on the dichotomy between the Home and Pro versions, there are actually nine different editions of Windows 10 currently in production and another three that have been dropped.

The full list of current Windows 10 editions is:

  • Home: for use in PCs, tablets and 2-in-1 PCs. It includes all consumer-directed features.
  • Pro: all features of Windows 10 Home plus support for extras like Active Directory, Remote Desktop, BitLocker, Hyper-V, and Windows Defender Device Guard.
  • Pro for Workstations: geared towards high-end hardware for intensive computing with support for up to four CPUs, 6 TB RAM and other features
  • Enterprise: all the features of Windows 10 Pro, with additional features to assist with IT-based organisations.
  • Education: distributed through Academic Volume Licensing with fewer features than Enterprise.
  • Pro Education: introduced in July 2016 for hardware partners on new devices purchased with the discounted K–12 academic license and does not include Cortana, Microsoft Store suggestions or Windows Spotlight.
  • Enterprise LTSC: (Long-Term Servicing Channel) is a long-term support version of Windows 10 Enterprise released every 2 to 3 years that includes security updates for 10 years after its release.
  • IoT: specifically for use in small footprint, low-cost devices and IoT scenarios.
  • Team: device-specific version for Surface Hub.

But, for those of us heading to a local store to buy a PC, the choice lies with Windows 10 Home and Windows 10 Pro. The other editions aren’t likely to be on our radar.

One of the key determinants when you shop for a computer is price. What you’ll find when shopping for a PC is that the most affordable systems, despite the hardware they’re running, come with Windows 10 Home pre-installed. If you want to upgrade, you’ll need to stump up $99 to pay the one-time upgrade fee which unlocks the Pro features.

You won’t need to install a new operating system. All the features are already there. Microsoft has simply locked them away in a secret compartment and $99 buys you a magic screwdriver to unlock the box.

How to upgrade to Windows 10 Pro for free

If you don’t want to pay the upgrade fee, there is a way around it.

If you have an old product key from Windows 7 Pro, Windows 7 Ultimate, or Windows 8/8.1 Pro you can use that to upgrade from Windows 10 Home to Windows 10 Pro. That covers you either for a fresh installation, if you’re setting up a new system, or to enable the upgrade on an existing rig. Chances are, if you have an older PC hiding in a cupboard, that you could have such a key lying around.

Once you’ve upgraded, that new license for Windows 10 pro “sticks” to your computer.

Don’t Buy Windows 10 HomeImage: Microsoft

Why you don’t want Windows 10 Home

I think there are two key reasons to update from Home to Pro; security and virtualisation.


Pro users get two important security benefits. Bitlocker is Microsoft’s hard drive encryption tool. When enabled, it means your data is protected even if someone steals your computer, physically removes the hard drive or SSD and tries to read it with another device. It is unfathomable to me that a modern computer ships without hard drive encryption available. It ought to be enabled by default.

In macOS, FileVault isn’t turned on by default but users must actively disable it during the set up process. A user needs to choose NOT to enable it.

Bitlocker needs to be available to Home users.

Windows Defender Device Guard combines the Windows Defender malware protection tools, which are pretty good in my view, with protection for code integrity. This allows your system to ensure that protection is enabled at a very early stage of the system boot-up process. While it’s not quite as robust as Apple’s hardware-based approach with its T2 Security Chip, it’s a strong level of protection that ensures malicious code can’t be injected into your computer’s operating system.

Again, this level of security should be baked into every operating system. Bad guys are getting smarter at evading end-point security software. Raising the bar for all users is a good thing.


Virtualisation is a very useful tool. While Hyper-V remains a challenger when it comes to enterprise virtualisation, it’s a very on desktop and notebook computers for end-users. For example, if you have an app you use that needs to be run in a particularly secure environment, you can create a VM for it with a limited set of rights. For example, you can limit its internet access or access to memory and storage. It’s a great way to test new apps before allowing them to “pollute’ your main system.

If your kids play a game on your computer, you can use a VM for their game so, if it goes screwy, it won’t break the rest of your system.

This is one thing that Apple has done well is keep things simple. There’s just one version of macOS.

Microsoft could learn from this. There’s no need to make the software different just because you have different licensing models for different groups of customers.

This story has been updated since its original publication.


  • Cannot agree. For the vast majority of users, Home is absolutely fine.

    The average user has no need for Hyper-V. If you’re worried about your kids screwing up your PC, don’t give them administrator accounts.

    Bitlocker, while useful, is overkill for most home user desktops, only really useful for laptops.

    Device Guard isn’t what you think it is, and it is not in the Pro version either, AFAIK it’s only in Enterprise and Education SKUs. It locks down the machine so that it can *only* run trusted code, which is to say, only off the Windows Store, specific allowed software or signed Line of Business applications. If that’s actually what you want, then get a device running Windows 10 S.

    The main things that Home cannot do which Pro can are:
    – Hyper-V
    – Joining the machine to a domain
    – Remote desktop (you can remote desktop *from* a Win10 Home machine, just not *to* it.)
    – Bitlocker drive encryption
    – Some very specific stuff around deployment and provisioning that is only really interesting to system administrators.

    The only thing that’s particularly interesting to an average home user is BitLocker, but the upgrade cost is high enough that you can probably find some perfectly good drive encryption software for less.

    • Not saying you’re wrong, but that remote access scenario sounds arse about. The normal scenario is “help I’ve got a problem can you remote to my machine and fix it”. Which would logically require a “pro” to connect to your PC not the other way round.

      Also, did they change it or are the forced upgrades still “better” on Windows Pro than Home? It used to be that you got more options to delay installation of upgrades on Pro than Home. But that may have changed over the last couple years.

      • RDP isn’t designed for that, it’s designed for accessing the functionality of another desktop or server. A typical home user has no need of that and there are plenty of remote access tools available (plus allowing RDP through the Internet is another procedure; it’s only setup for the local level out of the box).

      • Remote assistance is what you want in that case. It let’s a remote user control your mouse and keyboard. That’s in all versions.

        Remote desktop is for letting people remotely log into your machine and use it and is very much not something the average user needs to do.

    • Completely agree. I’m not even should it’d be sensible to make Bitlocker available in Home. I mean, if my mother-in-law were to use Bitlocker to protect her priceless collection of cat photos and memes, she quickly lose access to said photos and means.

    • Do you think that ‘absolutely’ fine is more fine than ordinary fine and that adding absolutely makes you sound more knowledgeable than than the average person, when the opposite is obvious..

  • “It is unfathomable to me that a modern computer ships without hard drive encryption available. It ought to be enabled by default.”

    I’m guessing you’ve never tried to copy data off a typical end-user’s computer.

    This article is all well and good for more advanced users, but for 99% of end users, it’s asinine. Extremely few end users require RDP and fewer would even know what a virtual machine is, much less how to set one up (not to mention, you still legally require a license of the Windows version you are installing).

    Also, you are technically encouraging a violation of the EULA by telling people to just activate an OEM license from another computer. I don’t like Microsoft’s licensing arrangement, as much as the next guy, but *that* OEM license legally belongs to *that* hardware.

    • “I’m guessing you’ve never tried to copy data off a typical end-user’s computer.”

      Yup. If encryption were to be easy in Windows 10 Home, then encryption would probably become the leading cause of data loss.

      “Hi, hon, it’s mum. You dad did switched on that Lockbitter thingy and now we can’t get into the computer. Can you help.”

      “No. You’re fucked.”

  • The police can still access a Bitlocked drive. It also makes your PC slower (noticeable on old laptops) as it has to encrypt/decrypt files when you open them.

  • Pro has *partial* active directory support, IMO. Certain group policy functions are disabled, seriously reducing the usefulness of Pro in a business scenario. They did this on purpose to encourage the sale of enterprise to small businesses that were previously happy to use OEM supplied Pro preinstalled.

    • Not sure which Group Policy functions are disabled, but I have recently been through this exercise with my work. The new Surface Pro 6 comes with the Home license unless you specifically order one for Business. The problem is that for small business, it is generally much more economical to buy through a local retailer than ordering the Business version through the MS online store. Here in Oz, the cost to upgrade from Home to Pro is $169.
      Annoyingly the only way to purchase this is to use a personal Microsoft Account, and you cannot use a corporate Office 365 license account to register a new MS account.

  • ovcourse this is in my news feed on my nokia 8 android. ill take microsoft over google any day. ive never felt controlled untill using android phones and google services. google sounds stupid its not even a real word. pro search? no that would be to easy and sound to profesional. bring back real blackberrys please so i can kick it old school. dum guy here thats over the net. peace out homies????

  • I feel like we consumers don’t have a choice at all, because most non-diy PCs come with Windows 10 Home already. There is probably a deal even between M$ and high-end PC manufacturers the target user of which can majorly be advanced users.

    Besides, hasn’t M$ closed the channel for free upgrade? There was once a channel for people with disabilities but I assume it’s gone for months?

    • They’ve stopped advertising it, but Windows 10 will accept a Windows 7/8 key at any point. I’ve just resold a heap of old laptops from work that had Windows 7 keys and plugged them into a fresh 10 install.

  • You forgot OEM versions, I always buy an OEM version of Pro for any new build. Matter of fact I just built a new PC very recently and picked up an OEM Pro CD from eBay for under $100.

  • I’d just like a Microsoft product to actually work. My surface go’s cursor jumps all over the screen, rendering it almost unusable. The October update has broken my machines ability to connect a NAS and Microsoft have said “we’ll fix it sometime in 2019. Not good enough!!! Security doesn’t matter a pinch of sh*t if none of their hardware or software works….Microsoft needs to start firing people

  • I also cannot agree. An encrypted hard drive is a recipe for disaster for the average user who may want to recover some files from a failing drive.

    Also, what games are you going to play on a VM? Certainly not one that requires things like a graphics card as this is virtualised. The easiest solution to stopping your kids from breaking your pc, as has already been mentioned, is to not give them admin access.

  • I lasted ten minutes on Windows 10. All my machines run Linux now; Mint, Ubuntus of various flavors (MATE is best), KDE Plasma, MX. I’ve tried different distros over the years and they’re all good. Hasta la Vista, Microsoft!

  • I think this should be updated even more… Windows Home S is the one people should watch out for. Just bought a laptop for my son at school and had to make sure that it was Windows 10 Home and not Windows 10 Home S.

    The S version should stand for “Sucks”. It is a massive limitation to only be able to install from the MS Store.

  • Yes do not buy windows home. Buy the pro version for the features you will never even need or use for your home laptop. Meanwhile, Windows messes up with the updates irrespective of the version you buy. Using a Windows with more features is gradually turning like having more features which can fail. Seriously though, bitlocker encryption is only useful for enterprises and companies. Virtualisation might be useful for the odd virtual image which you want to play with but that is it.

  • Lifehacker has gradually been creating more and more of these “not terribly well thought out or well researched articles”
    This is badly written, inaccurate, unfact checked (is that a word? 🙂 ) and basically fundamentally ludicrous.
    My strongest one is the reason an OS “FOR HOME” is not encryption enabled by default has been pointed out multiple times, and they are correct.
    I think the reason MacOS is encryption enabled unless you deliberately switch it off is the fact that the “average mac home user” will buy a laptop and the average mac laptop has soldered in storage. Now the lifeboat connector has also been removed (thanks Apple), you may as well as encrypt because your screwed if your motherboard dies (look at Louis Rossmann on Youtube) whether its encrypted or not. So its not Apple being ‘better’ than Microsoft its just that they know there’s no difference.

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