How to pick between Windows 10 Home and Windows 10 Pro

By J. Carlton Collins, CPA

Q. I'm looking to buy a new Windows 10 computer. Should I buy the Windows 10 Home edition or the Windows 10 Professional edition?

A. The Windows 10 Professional edition costs about $50 more and provides five useful features not found in Windows 10 Home edition, as ­follows.

1. BitLocker

BitLocker enables you to encrypt your computer system hard drive (or selected files or folders on your hard drive) and is a good way to protect your computer and its contents in the event the computer is lost or stolen. Once enabled, BitLocker locks the computer startup process (or the resume-from-hibernation process) until the correct PIN is entered or the correct USB-based startup key is inserted. These additional security measures provide multifactor authentication, which is important because the Windows password only prevents others from starting Windows on your computer, but does not prevent hackers from harvesting the data files from your unencrypted hard drives. BitLocker encrypts your hard drives and prevents hackers from harvesting your data files.

BitLocker installs differently depending on whether your computer contains a trusted platform module (TPM), which is also referred to as a cryptoprocessor. The TPM, found in most newer computers, prevents hackers from bypassing encryption efforts. If your computer has a TPM installed, you can install BitLocker by right-clicking your C drive (or your desired drive) in a File Explorer window, and then choosing the Turn on BitLocker command, as pictured below.

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You will then be asked whether you want to unlock your drive using a password, PIN, or USB flash drive. After that, you will be prompted through the process of creating a suitable password, PIN, or USB unlocking key.

If your computer does not include a TPM, then installation is more complicated, as follows. Log on to your Windows 10 computer with administrative privileges; search for and select the GPEDIT.MSC command; from the Local Group Policy Editor, select Computer Configuration, Administrative Templates, Windows Components, BitLocker Drive Encryption and, from the expanded list, select Operating System Devices; select the option Require additional authentication at startup; and make sure that the box next to Allow BitLocker without a compatible TPM is checked. Continue to set up BitLocker by selecting and creating your preferred unlock method(s).

2. Full Remote Desktop

The full version of Remote Desktop is a Windows tool that allows remote computers to connect to your host computer over an internet connection to access files and applications. The Windows Home version of Remote Desktop does not enable the computer to serve as a host computer. Instead, this scaled-down version of Remote Desktop (referred to as Remote Assistance) only allows users to connect to host computers running the full Remote Desktop product.

The full Remote Desktop available on Windows 10 is compatible with other Windows 10 computers as well as computers running other versions of Microsoft Windows (including Windows Mobile), Linux, Unix, macOS, iOS, Android, and other operating systems.

To use Remote Desktop, you must first set up your target computer so other computers can connect to it, as follows. On the computer you want to connect to, select Start, Settings, System, Remote Desktop, and turn on Enable Remote Desktop, as pictured below. (Make a note of the name of this PC, as you will need this information to connect later.)

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This action will walk you through several setup options, including the following:

  1. The name used to identify this computer.
  2. An option to enable remote connections.
  3. An option where you can indicate the specific users who have permission to remotely access this computer.

These options are numbered in the screenshot below.

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Thereafter, to use this tool from another Windows computer, search for and select Remote Desktop Connection, type the name of the PC you want to connect to, and select Connect (as pictured below). Enter your credentials when prompted, and your connected computer will appear in File Explorer as a network-connected device so you can access, edit, copy, or move data files, launch applications, and perform other remote activities.

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3. Hyper-V

Like the popular VMware product, Hyper-V allows you to create virtual machines on your Windows 10 computer that can run other operating systems. For example, if you want to run a Macintosh application on your Windows 10 computer, you can use Hyper-V to set up a virtual machine window where you can then install the macOS and the desired Mac application.

To use Hyper-V, your computer must have a 64-bit processor with second-level address translation (SLAT); CPU support for VM monitor mode extension; and a minimum of 4 GB of memory. Hyper-V can be enabled several ways, including via the Windows 10 Control Panel, PowerShell, or the Deployment Imaging Servicing and Management tool. (The specific setup instructions for Hyper-V are more involved than this column allows, but you can find detailed setup instructions here.)

4. Private catalog

With the private catalog feature, you can set up a list of preapproved apps that your employees can purchase or download through your company's own personalized app store. This approach allows employees to see those apps that are approved for use and prevents them from downloading or installing unauthorized apps on their computers or devices.

5. Membership in Azure Active Directory

The Azure Active Directory enables you to connect your computer to contacts in a known group, such as a business, school, or corporate network. A key advantage of this tool is that you can quickly connect with groups that already exist, without having to re-create the group's contacts from scratch.

Windows 10 Home and Windows 10 Professional were priced at $99.99 and $149.99, respectively, at Amazon.com as of June 18, 2019. In my opinion, either the BitLocker or full Remote Desktop feature alone is worth the extra $50 to purchase the Professional version. However, if you feel you don't need any of these additional tools, then the Home version should meet your needs just fine. If you purchase the Home version and later change your mind, you can upgrade to the Professional version, which is available for $99 (as of June 2019) at the Microsoft Store and for significantly less from other third-party vendors.


About the author

J. Carlton Collins, CPA, (carlton@asaresearch.com) is a technology consultant, a conference presenter, and a JofA contributing editor.

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