Windows 10 Home vs. Pro vs. S Mode: Microsoft offers 12 versions of Windows 10, unbelievably. You’ll find laptops and desktops that pack Windows 10 Pro, Windows 10 Home and Windows 10 S modes for the mainstream market.
What are the differences between Windows 10 Home & Pro? What is Windows 10 in S Mode, and what are the differences between Windows 10 Home and Pro? Which is best for you?
What about Windows 11, Microsoft’s latest operating system? What are the differences between Windows 11 and Windows 10?
Let’s compare them to see what makes them different so that you can make an informed decision about which PC you want, or whether your OS needs to be upgraded.
Windows 10 Home
The standard Windows 10 Home version is designed for users who use Windows at home. This version includes all core features that are targeted at a wide consumer market such as Outlook, OneNote and Cortana voice assistant. While Home is compatible with Windows Insider, it limits the number of security and group management features that are available to other versions.
Windows 10 Home offers all the features that will be most useful to general users. Voice commands, pen sketches and touch displays are all supported. Windows Hello login is also available. Windows 10 Home includes embedded device encryption by default. However, don’t confuse it with BitLocker’s much more powerful encryption service (see below).
Windows 10 Home does not usually include the complete Office suite (Word Excel PowerPoint PowerPoint), but it is often installed with Windows 10 Home. It does include a 30-day trial of Microsoft 365 subscription in the hopes that new users will sign up after the trial ends. You also have access to Microsoft’s OneDrive cloud storage with automatic setup through your Microsoft Account. You can access additional storage with the Microsoft 365 subscription. The free version offers 5GB.
Windows 10 Home supports the Xbox app, Xbox streaming, Xbox controller support and game DVR for gamers.
Windows 10 Home has very few professional features. However, it does offer mobile device management. This might be useful for families or individuals who want to manage apps and security settings on connected phones.
Windows 10 Pro
Windows 10 Professional includes many additional features specifically designed for business users. This version includes virtually all the features of Windows Home plus additional security and management tools. Companies and schools often purchase this version of Windows 10, though it is possible to add it to your laptops or desktops.
Home and Pro share the same basic features but the extras in Pro are not necessary for most home users. You have the powerful BitLocker Encryption, which can be configured to protect your data, and Windows Information Protection that allows you to control access.
There are also many customizable packages available for educational and business purposes. Windows Sandbox is a feature that allows you to run untrusted applications in a virtual environment.
Windows 10 Pro gives you access to Microsoft services for business, such as Windows Store for Business and Windows Update for Business. Enterprise Mode browser options are also available. These versions offer additional features for bulk uploading and buying content. Virtualization options include Remote Desktop compatibility and Client Hyper-V. Shared PC configuration is also available. Azure Active Directory is another option.
Despite this, Windows 10 Pro’s additional features are useful for IT administrators but not for the average PC user.
Microsoft 365 combines elements from Office 365, Windows 10 and Mobility and Security features. It is a repackaging of all Windows services. Packages such as the E5, E3 and F1 plans come with Windows 10 Enterprise for no extra cost.
Windows 10 in S Mode
Windows 10 in S mode, a version that Microsoft designed to run on smaller devices, offer better security and allow for easier management, is Windows 10. Microsoft surrounds the “S” with words such as security, streamlined and superior performance.
Windows 10 in S mode doesn’t mean another version of Windows 10. It’s not another version of Windows 10. Instead, it is a special mode that significantly limits Windows 10 in a number of ways to make it more efficient, longer-lasting, safer, and easier to use. This mode can be turned off and you can revert back to Windows 10 Home/Pro (see below).
S mode provides the same basic services that the Windows 10 license does. Microsoft is targeting schools specifically and wants teachers to be able to manage classes. S mode, however, removes significant capabilities that could lead to these results.
Windows 10 in S mode allows apps only to be downloaded from the Windows Store. This is the first and most important difference. Microsoft can detect and remove malware faster and maintain app quality. However, it limits the number of apps that people can download.
Microsoft Edge is the default browser for S mode. You can’t change it. Microsoft has greater security control. Similar to the above, Bing is used for S mode activities as the default search engine.
S mode is generally more efficient for startup times and app activity, which is a positive. The S mode is faster because there are no legacy Windows apps that slow down things. S mode works well as long as you don’t use too much RAM. OneDrive automatically saves files to the cloud, which reduces the amount of space on smaller hard drives. Windows basics like Cortana and Windows Hello facial recognition are still available.
Windows 10 S mode can be used on any PC. You will need to ask the manufacturer to ship your PC in S mode.
Currently, a few PCs come with Windows 10 in S Mode. The Windows 10 on ARM notebooks, such as the HP Envy x2 or Asus NovaGo, come with S mode ingrained. S Mode is also available from many manufacturers. Two notable examples are the Acer Spin 1 and Asus VivoBook Flip 14. You can also buy Microsoft’s Surface Laptop in out-of-the box S Mode. Windows 10 S is available on premium devices such as the Samsung Galaxy Book S.
Windows 10 S mode switching
The Windows 10 S mode comes with many limitations. You can’t use Microsoft Store apps and Edge is restricted. This mode is not ideal for everyone, so it’s important to know how to change to the default mode.
Step 1: Type Settings into the Start Menu’s search bar. Select the result to open a window. Select Update & Security and then proceed to the Activation section.
Step 2: You will now see the heading Switch to Windows 10 Home and Switch to Windows 10 Pro. This is depending on which version you wish to enable on your device. Select the option below that that says “Go to the Store”.
Step 3: A Store window with the option of switching out of S mode will open. Select Get to begin the update and confirm. This may require admin access.
This step can sometimes be difficult for many. Usually, errors are caused by an out-of date OS. After a few hours, update Windows 10 and then try again.
You can’t turn off S mode and your phone won’t have it back. This procedure should only be used if you do not want S mode.
Windows 10 Home, Pro, and S feature summary
It can be difficult to navigate through all 12 Windows OS options in order to choose the one that is best for you. These three main versions should be your best options for school or general computing.
Windows 10 Home Windows 10 Pro Windows 10 S Mode
Cortana Yes Yes Yes
Windows Hello Yes Yes Yes
No Bitlocker encryption Yes Depends on the
Xbox gaming Yes, Yes
Virtualization services No Remote Desktop
The Shared Computer Depends on the
Windows Store Apps
Third-party Windows Store
Only third-party Windows Store
Different versions of Windows 11
Windows 11 is still being beta tested, but it comes in the same flavors of Windows 10. Although Windows 11 is still in beta testing, it comes with the same flavors as Windows 10.
The differences in Windows 11 editions are minimal. All of the above applies to Windows 11’s new operating system. One exception is made.
Microsoft requires that you use a Microsoft account to login to Windows 11 Home. You can remove this account after you have set up your PC. However, it will still be required when you first start up the computer. A Microsoft account gives you many additional experiences such as cross-device sync and the ability to download apps directly from the store. If you are interested in learning more about Windows 11, check out our hands-on.