Windows 10 Pro vs Enterprise: Business OS Compared. Windows 10 business edition

Windows 10 Pro vs Enterprise: Business OS Compared

Windows 10 Pro and Enterprise are two outstanding operating systems. Of the two, Windows 10 is the more familiar operating system. It was launched in 2015, and offers more support and stability than the latest OS. Enterprise was released the same year.

Both operating systems have their own specs, pricing, features, and pros and cons. Windows 10 Pro vs Enterprise, which one should you pick?

Let’s see how these versions stack up with a full side-by-side comparison of features, must-know facts and key differences and similarities. Stick around to find out which Windows OS comes out on top.

windows, enterprise, business, compared, edition

Windows 10 Pro vs Enterprise: Side-by-Side Comparison

Windows 10 ProWindows 10 Enterprise
Mobile Device Management yes yes
Azure Active Directory yes yes
Mobile Application Management yes yes
Shared PC Mode yes yes
Microsoft Store for Business yes yes
Windows Hello Management yes yes
Kiosk Mode yes yes
Windows Store Access Management no yes
Customer Experience Management no yes
Cortana Management no yes
Microsoft Dynamic Management no yes
Application Virtualization no yes
User Environment Virtualization no yes

Windows 10 Pro vs Enterprise: Key Difference?

Market

When deciding between Windows 10 Pro vs Enterprise, you have to compare their management features to see what they can do. Windows 10 Pro is designed for smaller-scale business use and comes with handy features for managing your business, but not everything.

Windows 10 Enterprise, on the other hand, is designed for enterprise use, with no holds barred. If you are the chief technical officer at a large company, you’ll have access to powerful features that let you manage the tech side of the business more effectively.

While you could go with another operating system, such as Linux, you will miss out on features that are only native to Microsoft Windows.

Security

Modern threats like viruses, spyware, and crypto locker viruses are key security concerns for business owners. You don’t want your business to have a back door or easy access for cybercriminals. The choice of Windows 10 Pro vs Enterprise comes down to your security concerns. Windows 10 Enterprise has some useful security features you won’t find on Windows 10 Pro.

Windows 10 ProWindows 10 Enterprise
Conditional Access yes yes
Windows Hello yes yes
Bitlocker yes yes
Windows Information Protection yes yes
Direct Access no yes
Direct Guard no yes
Credential Guard no yes

Increasing cyberattacks make security paramount for large and midsize companies with enterprise teams. Windows 10 Enterprise comes with various security-focused features. One top feature is Application Virtualization, which allows you to separate the application environment from the OS to create a secure environment.

Sometimes you want computer users to save their application-specific settings, appearance, and even language. User Environment Virtualization, only found on Windows 10 Enterprise, lets users do this using different company-approved devices. Personal data is saved in a centrally managed network file, not a local machine like in Windows10 Pro.

Some of the other features only found on the Enterprise version of Windows 10 are Credential Guard and Direct Guard, which are all for virtualization-based security systems. With these features, you can more closely monitor and control access to critical settings and parts of the system. You can grant users privileges in your system or restrict program access.

Task management

Windows 10 Enterprise users have access to Cortana management, which allows them to manage their schedules and tasks. This feature is absent in Windows 10 Pro but is available for teams under Enterprise.

Service and Support

Windows 10 Pro and Enterprise provide extensive service and support. One thing that you’ll only find with the Enterprise version is LTSC. Short for Long-Term Servicing Channel, the LTSC is a function of Windows 10 Enterprise which allows you to operate PCs or laptops without having to deal with new feature upgrades for years to come.

It’s helpful for your business, especially if you value security and stability over new features. Feature updates are still available, but you can choose to receive them with new releases every 2 to 3 years, and not every six months. Overall, both Windows provide fantastic support for critical threats.

Pricing

One of the most significant differences between Windows 10 Pro and Enterprise is how the licensing works. The pricing structure is noticeably different between the different versions, and for a good reason. Extra features on Windows 10 Enterprise come with added costs. The licensing structure is also different.

has a simple one-time fee, usually between 150 and 250. The fee depends on where you buy the software. This option makes the most sense if you are a home user or business owner.

Why? You can buy the operating system once and for all. There are numerous benefits to this pricing structure, especially if you don’t want to sign up for a subscription service. Sometimes, Windows 10 Pro comes preinstalled with a new PC or laptop.

On the other hand, Windows 10 Enterprise is available for a flexible, per-user subscription. You need to commit to a monthly or annual subscription. It can be an E3 or E5 license.

That’s why Windows 10 Enterprise is known as an “Operating System as a Service,” another way of saying subscription. You scale up or downgrade depending on your needs. This model can work for you if you have several computers, as the pricing structure saves you money as you scale up.

Windows 10 Pro vs Enterprise: What are the Similarities

Mobile device management is one of the first features you’ll notice in Windows Pro and Enterprise. Many companies use mobile devices, and having the ability to monitor and manage all of the company’s portable gadgets is highly advantageous.

Additionally, Windows 10 Pro and Enterprise have a helpful feature known as mobile application management. It allows company employees access to sensitive company data on their devices to control data more efficiently. What’s more, this feature restricts users from copying business data from Office apps to their individual apps.

Another useful management feature in Windows 10 Pro and Enterprise is the shared PC mode, which allows IT administrators to configure one computer for multiple users. It’s invaluable to any organization with many users but not a lot of PCs to go around. It’s widely used in schools and large companies.

Windows 10 Pro vs Enterprise: Which one is right for you?

If you are a regular user or a gamer, the Windows 10 Pro vs Enterprise debate is irrelevant. You can get by with a Windows 10 Home, although Windows 10 Pro does offer some advantages in terms of a higher level of control and precision. On the other hand, Windows 10 Enterprise is perfect for large organizations with multiple PC users.

Windows 10 Pro или Home? Что установить? Отличия для игр и работы

The costs are also not advantageous if you are a home user, with Windows 10 Pro being much more expensive than the home version. Windows 10 Enterprise runs on a subscription model, which also does not make sense if you are a home user.

If you find yourself running a business with a large number of computers and a complex network, then Windows 10 Enterprise starts to make more sense.

In closing, Windows 10 Pro vs Windows Enterprise all comes down to the number of computers your business has and whether you prioritize security and device management.

windows, enterprise, business, compared, edition

If these aspects of the operating system are fundamental to you, then Windows 10 Enterprise is the way to go. However, Windows 10 Pro remains a good choice for small businesses.

Next Up…

Last update on 2023-05-23 / Affiliate links / Images from Amazon Product Advertising API

Windows 10 Pro vs Enterprise: Business OS Compared FAQs (Frequently Asked Questions)

Is Windows 10 Enterprise good for home use?

Windows 10 Enterprise is designed for use in large-scale business operations, so it does not make a good operating system for home use.

Is Windows 10 Pro secure?

Although it doesn’t come with as many security and management features as Windows 10 Enterprise, Windows 10 Pro is still very secure and has many security features that make it more secure than the home version.

When did Windows 10 Pro come out?

Windows 10 Pro was officially released on July 29th, 2015.

How much does a Windows 10 Enterprise license cost?

Windows 10 Enterprise has a per-user subscription fee of between 7 and 15/month. Costs depend on the type of license you purchase.

About the Author

Tyler Von Harz

Tyler Von Harz is a writer with a passion for computers and technology. When he isn’t writing about graphics cards, processors, and computers, he is working in his computer store, where he builds and repairs PCs. Outside of working on computers, Tyler also enjoys creating coding tutorials and sharing stories about what it is like to run a computer store on his blog: tylerthetech.com

Windows 10 Pro vs Home: what’s the difference?

Here’s the full breakdown of the features you get from Windows 10 Home and Pro.

What’s the difference between Windows 10 Home and Pro? When you’re building a PC, you’re looking at a lot of expenses, particularly if you hope to game at higher settings and resolutions. Our build guides include all the hardware you’ll need, but there’s still the choice of operating system. Unless you plan on using Linux or upgrading to Windows 11 on compatible hardware, you’ll need either Home or Pro versions of Microsoft’s OS.

Retail versions cost 119 for a Windows 10 Home license or 199 if you go with the Pro version—OEM keys that are bought with a hardware purchase cost 109 and 149. That’s a 40-80 difference that could be put towards a better video card or more memory, but only if you don’t need the additional features Windows 10 Pro offers.

It’s worth noting that Windows 11 is a free upgrade from Windows 10 but if you own neither right now you’re still going to need to pick up a key.

Microsoft has offered a Pro version of Windows since the XP days, bringing with it additional features for power users that Home doesn’t offer. While many of the extra features of Windows 10 Pro are clearly designed for business use, like group policy management and domain binding, there are other features that an enthusiast might not be able to live without. Here’s a breakdown of the most useful features that you get with Windows 10 Pro, as well as free alternatives, when applicable.

Remote Desktop

With Windows 10 Home, you’re still able to start Remote Desktop Protocol (RDP) sessions, but you can’t remotely control your PC from another device on your network natively. Fortunately, there are many free options like TigerVNC and TeamViewer that offer the same functionality and even some additional features that RDP doesn’t offer. You could also try RDP Wrapper as a free alternative.

Bitlocker

If you’re concerned about security and want to protect your data from intruders, or you’re coming from MacOS and want something comparable to Apple’s Filevault, you’ll want to spend the extra money on Pro. Bitlocker provides full disk encryption so you can keep your data safe from hackers. The latest iteration of Bitlocker also allows for the encryption of individual files for more flexibility than the all-or-nothing approach of previous versions. Again, other software can accomplish similar encryption, but it’s not built into the OS. Be sure to get an SSD (or HDD even) that supports the necessary hardware acceleration for Bitlocker if you don’t want to lose performance.

Windows 10 Pro vs Windows 10 LTSC 2021. Speed Test

Trusted Boot

Trusted Boot protects your PC from rootkits and works in conjunction with Secure Boot to help keep your system malware free and in your control by checking every component of the startup process before loading it. While it may provide peace of mind to any user, it’s another feature aimed at businesses where security is a top priority.

Secure Boot is available on both Pro and Home versions of Windows.

Windows Sandbox

Normally, we’d just say don’t run any suspicious files, but some people are curious. Does that anonymous download that claims to fix performance actually work? Or is it malware masquerading as a useful program? You could install a virtualization solution and run the program in a sandbox so it won’t actually cause harm, or if you have Windows Pro you get that feature as part of the OS.

Hyper-V

Hyper-V is a Windows-only hypervisor used for running virtual machines on CPUs that support virtualization. If you plan on running VMs, this feature might be worth the cost of Pro, but if virtualization is all you need, there are free products like Virtualbox that offer more features and work with multiple operating systems. While Hyper-V is included with your Windows 10 Pro license, it needs to be downloaded and installed separately.

Memory Limits and Business Features

Aside from the above features, there are some other differences between the two versions of Windows. Windows 10 Home supports a maximum of 128GB of RAM, while Pro supports a whopping 2TB. However, unless you’re running dozens of virtual machines, you’re not going to exceed the memory limits of Home any time soon.

Other features like group policy management, Assigned Access, and the ability to join a domain are unlikely to be very useful outside of the workplace. Assigned Access allows an admin to lock down Windows and allow access to only one app under a specified user account. Group Policy meanwhile allows you to restrict access to any number of Windows features and configure any setting within the operating system. While this is great from an admin perspective and a good way to set a co-worker’s wallpaper to something fun remotely, it’s not very useful in a home environment.

Windows Update for Business allows an admin to control when a system is updated and defer updates that may cause incompatibilities with legacy software or impact the business in some other way. But unless this is absolutely necessary, it’s best to keep Windows up to date.

Windows 10 Pro vs Home, which should I go for?

For the majority of users, Windows 10 Home edition will suffice. If you use your PC strictly for gaming, there is no benefit to stepping up to Pro. The additional functionality of the Pro version is heavily focused on business and security, even for power users.

With free alternatives available for many of these features, Home edition is very likely to provide everything you need.

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Windows 10 Pro vs. Home: which you should buy?

Are you building a PC for home or gaming and don’t know if Windows 10 Home or Pro is right for you? In this guide, we’ll help you understand the differences and pick the right edition.

When choosing between Windows 10 Pro or Home, they are both the same advanced and secure operating system. However, the choice will come down to the features you need and the price you are willing to pay. The best edition for you will be based on what you need to do on your computer. Usually, if you need to use Office and similar applications or want to build a gaming PC, Windows 10 Home is the best choice for you.

On the other hand, if you need to connect the device to a corporate network, change advanced system settings, and access features like Remote Desktop or Hyper-V for virtualization, then Windows 10 Pro is the better choice.

Whether you choose Windows 10 Home or Windows 10 Pro, you will be getting the same operating system, which Microsoft supports with the same monthly and feature updates. The only difference is the features available in each edition, and the information below will help you understand the differences between the two editions and which one to pick.

Windows 10 Home

The “Windows 10 Home” is for everyday users and gamers. This edition includes all the features you need to browse the internet, check emails, stream media, and play games even in 4K.

The operating system also comes with robust built-in security, including Windows Security, which protects your device and data against virtually any kind of malware and hacker attacks using the Microsoft Defender Antivirus and Microsoft Defender Firewall.

Windows Hello is another feature that allows you to sign in to the device using biometric authentications, including fingerprint, facial recognition, or passcode, making your machine more secure. Many devices come with Windows Hello built-in, but you can also get accessories to manually add this security method to your device. For instance, you can get a keyboard with a built-in fingerprint, a standalone USB fingerprint reader, or a webcam with facial recognition camera built-in.

If you have young members in the family, Windows 10 Home connected with a Microsoft account can also offer robust parental controls to set screen time and restrict access to apps and content online.

This edition of Windows 10 also includes a collection of built-in apps that connect with your Microsoft account for a cross-device experience and make you more productive. Some examples include Microsoft Edge, Mail, Calendar, Photos, Calculator, etc.

Of course, you can always install any app you need from the Microsoft Store or other sources, including your popular apps, such as Netflix, iTunes, Photoshop, Google Chrome, Mozilla Firefox, Steam, and more.

If you are a gamer, Windows 10 Home includes the latest technologies and capabilities to play any game with the newest version of DirectX and support for 4K.

Although this version doesn’t come with BitLocker, if the device includes a Unified Extensible Firmware Interface (UEFI) and Trusted Platform Module (TPM) version 2 chip, you can enable the “Device Encryption” feature to add an extra layer of security to protect your data. (Usually, devices like Surface laptops and tablets include this feature.)

The Windows 10 Home license costs 139, and you can purchase it from the Microsoft Store.

If you use the device at home, Windows 10 Home is for you. Windows 10 Pro primarily targets are businesses that aren’t using the enterprise volume license. It does unlock more features, but they are unnecessary for home users. However, if you are an advanced user, you may still benefit from the Pro edition.

Windows 10 Pro

“Windows 10 Pro” includes everything available for the Home edition and many other features to connect the workstation to a corporate network, enterprise-level data protection, enhanced security, virtualization capabilities, the ability to work remotely, and more.

Similar to the Home edition, Windows 10 Pro includes built-in security, including the Microsoft Defender Antivirus and Microsoft Defender Firewall, to protect the device against malware and hackers. Windows Hello is also available to add biometric authentication to login into Windows 10.

Connected with a Microsoft account, the Pro edition of Windows 10 offers parental control and a cross-device experience using the built-in apps. You can also install any app you need from the Microsoft Store or any other source, and you can use the operating system for gaming as it comes with support for DirectX and 4K gameplay.

Unlike the Home edition, Windows 10 Pro also includes the ability to connect to a corporate or school network using Active Directory or Azure Active Directory, and there are options to manage devices over the internet. If you need to set up a kiosk device, this edition has a feature to lock the device to use it with a single application. You can also access the Group Policy Editor to manage advanced system settings. Also, if you need to access apps and files remotely, Windows 10 Pro comes with Remote Desktop to connect remotely within the network or across the internet.

Windows 10 Pro comes with BitLocker, which also offers full device encryption to protect your data from unauthorized access, but with extra management tools. Hyper-V is a hypervisor that allows users to run virtual machines with any version of Windows or Linux alongside Windows 10. And Trusted Boot is another feature included with Windows 10 Pro that works with Secure Boot to protect the boot process from malware.

If you need to test untrusted applications without affecting your current installation, you can use Windows Sandbox. It works just like a virtual machine, but it’s a tiny installation of Windows 10 enough to install and run untrusted classic applications isolated from the main installation.

Microsoft Defender Application Guard is another security feature with the same idea as Windows Sandbox. However, it’s intended to create an isolated (virtualized) instance of Microsoft Edge to navigate untrusted websites.

Another difference between Windows 10 Pro and Home is the memory limit. Windows 10 Home supports a maximum of 128GB of RAM, while Windows 10 Pro supports up to 2TB of RAM.

The Windows 10 Pro license costs 199, and you can purchase it from the Microsoft Store.

Windows 10 Pro for Workstation

Also, Microsoft offers another variant known as Windows 10 Pro for Workstation, which is technically Windows 10 Pro, but with some extra server-grade features. For instance, the ReFS (Resilient File System) is the default file system in this edition instead of NTFS, adding fault-tolerance, optimization for large data volumes, and automatic error correction.

Microsoft also includes support for non-volatile memory modules (NVDIMM-N) for persistent memory, which means that writing and reading speeds will always be the fastest possible. In addition, your files will still be there even after switching the computer off.

Using SMB Direct, Windows 10 supports Remote Direct Memory Access (RDMA), which enables compatible network adapters to run at low latency without impacting the processor performance.

Finally, Windows 10 Pro for Workstation includes support for server processors (Intel Xeon and AMD Opteron), with up to four physical processors per device and up to 6TB of memory. Windows 10 Pro is limited to two processors and up to 2TB of memory.

The Windows 10 Pro for Workstation license costs 309, and it’s available through the Microsoft Store.

Windows 10 Pro vs. Home features comparison

Here’s a complete list of features comparing Windows 10 Home vs. Windows 10 Pro and vs. Windows 10 Pro for Workstation:

FeaturesWindows 10 HomeWindows 10 ProWindows 10 Pro for Workstation

Windows 10 Pro vs. Home answers

Can I upgrade from Windows 10 Home to Pro? Yes, you can always install Windows 10 Home, and then if you need the advanced features, you can upgrade to Windows 10 Pro.

How much does it cost to upgrade to Windows 10 Pro? If you’re already running Windows 10 Home, you’ll need to pay 99 for the license to upgrade.

Do I need Windows 10 Pro if I only need virtualization? No, you can always use third-party virtualization tools, such as VirtualBox (free) or Vmware Workstation (paid), to use virtual machines. However, if you must use Hyper-V, you will need to upgrade to Windows 10 Pro.

Which is faster, Windows 10 Home or Pro? They both offer the same level of performance because they are the same operating system. The only difference between them is their set of features.

Do I need Windows 10 Pro? No, if you are a home user, Windows 10 Home includes all the features you need. Windows 10 Pro offers more features, but they are meant for business and security. Also, many times, you overcome the limitations using third-party tools.

Do I need Windows 10 Pro for gaming? No, if you plan to build a gaming PC, you don’t need Windows 10 Pro. Windows 10 Home includes all the technologies to play any game, even in 4K resolution.

Windows 10 Pro vs. Home which one to buy

Usually, Windows 10 Home is the right choice for most users, even when you are planning to build a gaming PC. However, if you are an advanced user and you need the extra features, such as Remote Desktop, Hyper-V, BitLocker, Windows Sandbox, etc., and you want to have the ability to manage advanced settings through Group Policy. Windows 10 Pro may be the edition you should buy if this is the case.

If you work in a business environment, then Windows 10 Pro is the right choice, hands down, even if you think you won’t need the extra features because you will need them in the future.

We’re focusing this guide on the Home and Pro editions of Windows 10. However, Microsoft includes other variants of its desktop operating system, such as Windows 10 Enterprise, Education, IoT, Long-Term Servicing Channel (LTSC), etc. However, these editions are organizations, you won’t get any additional benefits, and you won’t be able to get them through retail channels.

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Yes, you can still get a free Windows 10 upgrade. Here’s how

Microsoft’s free upgrade offer for Windows 10 ended more than six years ago, but no one told the people who run the Windows activation servers. As a result, you can still upgrade to Windows 10 from Windows 7 or Windows 8.1 and claim a free digital license for the latest Windows 10 version, without being forced to jump through any hoops.

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That upgrade is more important than ever with support for previous Windows versions officially ending in January 2023. And it turned out to be a great relief to household budgets when the pandemic made working from home (or going to school via remote sessions) suddenly popular. In the past three years, millions of people have taken old PCs out of storage and gotten up to speed quickly, thanks to these free upgrades.

You can also still upgrade Windows 10 Home to Windows 10 Pro by using a product key from a previous business edition of Windows 7, 8, or 8.1 (Pro/Ultimate). That can save you as much as 100 in OEM upgrade charges if you buy a new PC with Windows 10 Home preinstalled. (For details, see “How to upgrade from Windows 10 Home to Pro without hassles.”)

Every technique I describe in this article works the same for Windows 11 as well, although most older PCs will be blocked from upgrading to Microsoft’s newest operating system by the stringent Windows 11 hardware compatibility requirements. For those PCs, Windows 10 remains a viable option until at least October 2025.

In this post, I’ll cover the basics of how to install Windows 10 as an upgrade on older hardware. I’ll also talk about the licensing issues involved, which are (as always) confusing.

I wrote and published the first version of this post in early 2017, shortly after Microsoft’s initial free upgrade offer ended. When I downloaded the Windows 10 upgrade tool and ran it on an old Windows 7 PC, I fully expected that the upgrade would fail activation and I’d be asked for a product key.

Imagine my surprise when, instead, I was greeted with this screen.

For the past five-plus years, I have repeated those steps on test PCs at regular intervals and confirmed that the free upgrade tool still works. I continue to receive email messages regularly from readers offering firsthand reports that their free upgrades were successful, with no purchase or product key required.

A small number of readers have reported that the upgrade fails because of a Setup error or a compatibility block. For details on how to troubleshoot these errors, see “This free Windows 10 upgrade offer still works. Here’s why. and how to get it.” For help decoding setup errors, see “Windows 10: Use setup log files to troubleshoot installation problems.”

Want your own digital license to the latest Windows 10 version? Follow these instructions.

How to upgrade an old PC to Windows 10

If you have a PC running a “genuine” copy of Windows 7/8/8.1 (Windows 7 Home, Pro, or Ultimate edition, or Windows 8.x Home or Business, properly licensed and activated), you can follow the same steps I did to install Windows 10 as an upgrade.

Before getting started, I recommend a few preliminary tasks that can head off potential problems:

  • Confirm that your copy of Windows is activated. This is especially important if you recently reinstalled Windows.
  • Check for any recent driver updates, especially for network and storage hardware.
  • Download and install any available BIOS updates for your hardware; this step is especially important for systems that were originally designed in 2017 or earlier, when hardware makers were still shaking out issues with Windows 10.
  • Back up your data files to an external hard drive or Cloud storage (or both). Consider doing a full system backup to an external hard drive using the Windows 7 backup program, which is also available in Windows 8.x and Windows 10. Just run the command Sdclt.exe, and then choose the Create A System Image option.
  • Temporarily uninstall third-party security software and low-level system utilities that can interfere with the upgrade. You can reinstall those programs after the upgrade is complete.
  • Finally, disconnect any unnecessary external devices, especially USB flash drives and external hard drives. (Several common installation errors can be traced to the Setup program being confused by these additional drives.)

With those preliminaries out of the way, go to the Download Windows 10 webpage and click the Download now button. After the download completes, double-click the executable file to run the Media Creation Tool.

If you’ve downloaded the Media Creation Tool on the machine you plan to upgrade, and you plan to upgrade that PC and only that PC, you can choose the Upgrade This PC Now option. That option installs the most recent version of Windows 10. It typically takes about an hour, depending on your hardware. (Having an SSD as your system drive is the best way to speed up the process.)

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If you know you’ll want to upgrade to Windows 10 on more than one PC, or if you just want more flexibility in the event that the instant upgrade fails, choose the second option and save the installation files to a USB drive or as an ISO file. The download takes a little time but when it’s complete, you can run the Windows Setup program manually to install Windows 10 on any PC running any supported Windows version (sorry, this won’t work with PCs running Windows Vista or Windows XP). The exact steps depend on which download option you chose:

  • USB flash drive Insert the USB flash drive you just created into a free USB slot on the PC you want to upgrade. Then open File Explorer (Windows Explorer in Windows 7) and double-click Setup to install Windows 10. Note that you cannot boot from the newly created USB drive or DVD to perform an upgrade to Windows 10. You must run the Windows 10 setup program from your currently installed and activated copy of Windows.
  • ISO file After the download is complete, you’ll need to mount the ISO file and open it in a Windows Explorer/File Explorer window. On a PC running Windows 8.1 or Windows 10, you can double-click the ISO file to open it as a virtual drive. On a PC running Windows 7, you’ll need to install a third-party utility such as the free, open-source WinCDEmu. After mounting the ISO file, double-click Setup to start the install process.

Then just follow the prompts to complete the upgrade to Windows 10. You will not be asked for a product key, and when the upgrade is complete and you’ve connected to the internet, you’ll have a digital license that is valid for the most recent Windows 10 version, which you can confirm by going to Settings Update Security Activation. All your apps and data files will be available.

The digital license is associated with that specific device, which means you can reformat the disk and perform a clean installation of the same edition of Windows 10 anytime. (If you’re thinking of upgrading your old system drive to an SSD, perform the upgrade to Windows 10 on the old hardware; after confirming that the new Windows 10 version is properly activated, install the SSD and then either restore from a backup image or boot from the USB flash drive to do a clean install. You won’t need a product key, and activation is automatic.)

Is your license valid?

And now the big question: If you avail yourself of this upgrade to Windows 10, is the resulting license valid?

The entire “free upgrade” offer was always accompanied by language that was, to put it politely, a bit squishy. And the language around the end of that offer was similarly vague. For example, see the answers I’ve highlighted here on Microsoft’s Windows 10 Upgrade FAQ :

And unlike the weaselly “Genuine Windows” label on older upgrades, the activation screens for a Windows 10 upgrade specifically confirm the existence of a “digital license.”

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Anyway, the free upgrade offer was extended briefly, at least for people who use assistive technologies. The FAQ on a separate page even called it a “free upgrade offer extension” and pointedly noted that it was not limited to specific assistive technologies. (I regularly use the Magnifier utility in Windows, which is indisputably an assistive technology.)

Of course, I’m not a lawyer, and this column isn’t legal advice. But I will say that I am personally confident in the activation status of any PC upgraded using the tool on that page during the eligibility period.

This extension was, I think, a very large nod and a wink, designed to make it easy for those who wanted a Windows 10 upgrade to still get it while placating the OEM partners who were none too happy about the year-long emphasis on upgrades rather than new PC sales.

Alas, I say “was,” because the extension (which was itself extended) officially ended on Jan. 16, 2018. The page that formerly ran an Upgrade Assistant now returns an error message.

The big question now is whether Microsoft will ever turn off the code on its activation servers that dispenses digital licenses after an upgrade from an earlier Windows version. I’ve continued to test that scenario, and I can confirm, long after the end of support for Windows 7 and Windows 8.1, that it still works.

I continue to hear from readers sharing their experiences. If you’ve used this technique on a PC, send a note to edbott (at) realworldwindows (dot) com to let me know how it went for you.

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