Which version of Windows 10 do I need?

Alex Kidman 29 July 2015

Windows 10 will be available in seven different versions. Which one will you need -- and will you be able to get it for free? We explain your options.

Windows 10 officially launches on July 29 2015, although Microsoft is taking a rather interesting interpretation of "launch" in this case. Where previous Windows launches have seen the software become available to everyone at the same time -- presuming you could either download it fast enough or score a boxed copy -- Windows 10 will launch first to the "Windows Insider" community of early testers, and then be gradually released to those who have registered for an upgrade to their existing Windows system.

WindowsVersion

Windows 10 is designed to run across multiple platforms, from desktops to laptops to tablets and even smartphones, replacing Microsoft's existing Windows Phone platform along the way. For existing users of Windows 7 or Windows 8.1, this is a free upgrade, although the version of Windows you have will determine which version you're eligible to upgrade to.

If you don't have a qualifying copy, or want to upgrade to a superior version to your existing release, you'll have to lay down some cash to do so. We'll keep you posted on what those prices are when Microsoft announced them.

Windows 10 Home

Windows 10 Home is, as its name suggests, the version of Windows 10 intended for home use, with many of the explicitly enterprise-centric features stripped out. If you're buying for home use, or just buying a cheap Windows 10 tablet, it's most likely going to ship with Windows 10.

What devices will it run on?

Windows 10 Home should run on any PC currently able to run Windows 8 and most Windows 7 PCs. Microsoft's system requirements suggest a minimum 1 gigahertz (GHz) or faster processor, 1GB of RAM, either 1GB or 2GB of hard drive space depending on whether you're installing the 32-bit or 64-bit version, a DirectX 9 capable graphics card and a display capable of a minimum resolution of 1024x600.

What features does it include?

Windows 10 Home offers what Microsoft refers to as the "core" experiences of Windows 10, including the customisable Start menu (restored after being banished in Windows 8), Cortana voice assistant, Windows Hello facial recognition (on systems with suitable webcams), screen snapping for up to four display windows at a time as well as virtual desktops and Microsoft's new Edge browser, which is replacing Internet Explorer.

What features is it missing?

What you don't get with Windows 10 are a lot of the enterprise-centric features, such as Bitlocker encryption, Remote Desktop, Client Hyper-V, Applocker, single sign-in to Azure directories and Windows Update for Business.

Do I need to care about it?

If you're a home user, or you use your Windows PC entirely outside of corporate networks, this is the version of Windows 10 that is most applicable to your needs.

Can I get it for free?

If you've currently got Windows 7 Starter, Home Basic or Premium, or Windows 8.1, you qualify for a free upgrade to Windows 10 Home as long as you apply for it within the first calendar year after July 29 2015. Other versions of Windows 7 or Windows 8 may qualify for other Windows 10 variants, but owners of earlier Microsoft operating systems aren't eligible for the free upgrade.

Windows 10 Pro

Windows has long offered a separate version specifically for the business market. For Windows 10, this is Windows 10 Pro, a version of the operating system with key business tools baked in.

What devices will it run on?

Like Windows 10 Home, the specifications for Windows 10 Pro are relatively modest, requiring a minimum 1 gigahertz (GHz) or faster processor, 1GB of RAM, either 1GB or 2GB of hard drive space depending on whether you're installing the 32-bit or 64-bit version, a DirectX 9 capable graphics card and a display capable of a minimum resolution of 1024x600.

What features does it include?

Windows 10 Pro features the core Windows 10 Home feature set along with additional features tailored for business use, including Bitlocker Encryption, Enterprise Mode Internet Explorer, Remote Desktop, Client Hyper-V, Azure Directory Access, the Business Store For Windows 10, and Enterprise Data Protection,

What features is it missing?

Windows 10 Pro isn't quite the full service version of Windows, and skips some higher-level Enterprise features such as AppLocker, BranchCache, Group Policy for Start Screen or Credential and Device Guard.

Do I need to care about it?

As the name and pitch suggests, Windows 10 Pro is the Windows 10 variant for the business crowd. If you're working in a heavily networked environment with moderate need for encryption and information management tools, it's the version of Windows 10 to seek out.

Can I get it for free?

If you are currently running Windows 7 Professional, Windows 7 Ultimate, Windows 8.1 Pro or Windows 8.1 Pro For Students, you qualify for a free upgrade to Windows 10 Pro as long as you apply for it within the first calendar year after July 29 2015. Other versions of Windows 7 or Windows 8 may qualify for other Windows 10 variants, but owners of earlier Microsoft operating systems aren't eligible for the free upgrade.

Windows 10 Education

Windows 10 Education serves two functions. As the name suggests, it's Microsoft's play for the schools and universities market with features otherwise found in the Pro and Enterprise variants. It's also the upgrade path for Windows 10 Home if you're after the Enterprise-level features from an existing Windows 10 licence.

What devices will it run on?

Like Home and Pro, Education is designed to more or less mimic the system requirements of Windows 7, requiring a minimum 1 gigahertz (GHz) or faster processor, 1GB of RAM, either 1GB or 2GB of hard drive space depending on whether you're installing the 32-bit or 64-bit version, a DirectX 9 capable graphics card and a display capable of a minimum resolution of 1024x600.

What features does it include?

Windows 10 Education is, from a features perspective, Windows 10 Enterprise with different name badging at the end. As such, it runs the full gamut of features found in Windows 10 Home and Pro, alongside enterprise-specific features such as Direct Access, AppLocker and Long Term Servicing Branch option.

What features is it missing?

Windows 10 Education is, like Windows 10 Enterprise, the Windows 10 version "with the lot".

Do I need to care about it?

The primary market for Windows 10 Education is schools with large licensing obligations already in place. If you're a student or educator you may end up using Windows 10 Education over time, but for most general consumers you're not likely to spot the differences unless you want to upgrade from Windows 10 Home

Can I get it for free?

Windows 10 Education isn't in the upgrade path for Windows 7 or Windows 8 users, so it will be a paid product only via volume licensing, although it's possible some educational institutions may make it available for "free" to their students or staff for machines upgrading from Windows 10 Home.

Windows 10 Enterprise

Windows 10 Enterprise is aimed at enterprise users who need the full suite of security and networking technologies.

What devices will it run on?

Windows 10 Enterprise is designed to more or less mimic the system requirements of Windows 7, requiring a minimum 1 gigahertz (GHz) or faster processor, 1GB of RAM, either 1GB or 2GB of hard drive space depending on whether you're installing the 32-bit or 64-bit version, a DirectX 9 capable graphics card and a display capable of a minimum resolution of 1024x600.

What features does it include?

Like the Education version, Windows 10 Enterprise is the Windows 10 version with everything on board. As such, it offers the full gamut of features found in Windows 10 Home and Pro, alongside enterprise-specific features such as Direct Access, AppLocker and Long Term Servicing Branch option (which is basically a way for businesses to keep using Windows versions that aren't officially supported).

What features is it missing?

At launch, Windows Enterprise has several features, such as the Windows 10 Business Store and Enterprise Data Protection that still sit in the "coming soon" basket. Windows 10 Enterprise will eventually support them, but not immediately.

Do I need to care about it?

Windows 10 Enterprise is the high-end business variant of Windows 10, sold under licensing agreements for larger fleets of devices. As such, you're unlikely to need to worry about it unless you're actively involved in provisioning or purchasing large numbers of devices, or upgrading existing device fleets.

Can I get it for free?

Like the essentially feature identical Education version, Windows 10 Enterprise doesn't have a free upgrade path from any existing Windows version -- though some licensing agreements will incorporate it.

Windows 10 Mobile

Windows 10 Mobile is the update to Microsoft's smartphone and tablet operating system, Windows Phone 8.1. If you're running a Windows Phone 8.1 device, or you're interested in shifting to Microsoft's mobile ecosystem, this is the version of Windows 10 you'll be running.

What devices will it run on?

Windows 10 Mobile is intended as the upgrade path for existing Windows Phone 8.1 devices, as well as new phone and tablet devices to be announced.

What features does it include?

Windows 10 Mobile is intended to bridge the gap between Windows 10 devices and the smartphone/tablet world. As such it carries a set of Windows 10 features, such as the updated Action Center and settings menu from Windows 10 in a display size suitable for smartphone use. Microsoft's Edge browser will be the default gateway to the Internet, and there will be a new version of Microsoft Office included with the OS suitable for smartphone usage.

What features is it missing?

Windows 10 Mobile is intended to bridge the mobile/desktop gap with the ability for Windows Runtime apps to be easily ported to the operating system. As such, while some apps may appear quickly, that's not the same thing as running "full" Windows 10.

Do I need to care about it?

If you're after a theoretically seamless Windows experience and you're happy to either change smartphone operating systems or upgrade your existing Windows Phone device, then it's the relevant version of Windows 10 for you. Note that Microsoft will continue to support its other applications for other mobile operating systems such as Android and iOS, so you don't have to make the switch.

Can I get it for free?

Windows 10 Mobile will be a free upgrade for devices running Windows Phone 8.1 right now, but Microsoft hasn't revealed the precise release date for Windows 10 Mobile, aside from confirming it won't be available directly alongside the desktop version of Windows 10. It will almost certainly rely on carrier approval in each market it's released prior to delivery to suitable devices, but once that hurdle is passed, it should be a free upgrade. If you're running older Windows Phone hardware, you'll have to buy an entirely new device; Windows 10 Mobile will not be sold as a standalone product.

Windows 10 Mobile Enterprise

Businesses with an interest in fleets of Windows Smartphones have their own, slightly different version of Windows 10 Mobile.

What devices will it run on?

Like Windows 10 Mobile, Windows 10 Mobile Enterprise is designed for smartphones or tablets running Windows Phone 8.1.

What features does it include?

The key difference with Windows 10 Mobile Enterprise over the standard version of Windows 10 Mobile will be in the provisioning and delivery of software upgrades, with enterprises able to more finely tune when fleet handsets are upgraded.

What features is it missing?

Like Windows 10 Mobile, while Windows 10 Mobile Enterprise is intended to work within the Windows 10 ecosystem under the "Continuum" umbrella, it's not a "full" Windows 10 operating system. Not every Windows 10 app will run, as they'll require porting to the operating system with specific attention paid to the different inputs of a smartphone.

Do I need to care about it?

It's an enterprise-level tool, so unless you're managing fleets of existing Windows smartphones, or plan to, you're unlikely to ever even see it.

Can I get it for free?

Windows 10 Mobile Enterprise is part of Microsoft's Volume Licensing operations, and would be subject to whatever deal an enterprise struck with Microsoft itself. To the end user it may appear "free", but there's no upgrade path without a paid licensing deal in place.

Windows 10 iOT Core

Windows 10 iOT Core is Microsoft's operating environment for developers producing Internet Of Things devices -- that is, objects like sensors that don't require full computing power.

What devices will it run on?

Because iOT devices are intended to be simple networked machines, the specifications of Windows 10 iOT Core are quite a bit lower than other Windows 10 operating systems, from 400Mhz processors to 256MB of memory, presuming no active display.

What features does it include?

Windows 10 iOT Core is primarily designed for iOT App development, so the focus is on development tools within the wider Microsoft development space.

What features is it missing?

A lot of what you might think of as "Windows 10" isn't present, but then Windows 10 iOT Core is primarily just a development platform.

Do I need to care about it?

If you're not developing iOT apps, it's entirely irrelevant.

Can I get it for free?

Windows 10 iOT Core (and the ARM and Intel-specific iOT mobile and iOT enterprise variants) are royalty-free for device makers.

Ask a Question

You are about to post a question on finder.com.au

  • Do not enter personal information (eg. surname, phone number, bank details) as your question will be made public
  • finder.com.au is a financial comparison and information service, not a bank or product provider
  • We cannot provide you with personal advice or recommendations
  • Your answer might already be waiting – check previous questions below to see if yours has already been asked

Disclaimer: At finder.com.au we provide factual information and general advice. Before you make any decision about a product read the Product Disclosure Statement and consider your own circumstances to decide whether it is appropriate for you.
Rates and fees mentioned in comments are correct at the time of publication.
By submitting this question you agree to the finder.com.au privacy policy, receive follow up emails related to finder.com.au and to create a user account where further replies to your questions will be sent.

3 Responses to Which version of Windows 10 do I need?

  1. Default Gravatar
    Tom | August 6, 2015

    Do I need extra security? such as McAFee for windows 10

    • Staff
      Brodie | August 7, 2015

      Hey Tom,

      We have a whole page on that topic here. Windows 10 offers minimal security with Windows Defender and SmartScreen, but you may want to bolster security by downloading some additional security software once they become available for Windows 10.

      Thanks,

      Brodie

    • Default Gravatar
      Tom | August 7, 2015

      Thanks for that Brodie.

      Tom

Ask a question
feedback