Which PC edition of Windows 10 should I buy?

You're interested in upgrading or making the switch to Windows 10, but you're not sure which edition is right for you. The answer isn't actually as complicated as it once was — Windows 7 had six different PC editions to choose from — but you still need to know a few things.

There are four main Windows 10 PC editions out there, each offering the same core features plus some different extras focusing on specific users — including you. Here's a breakdown of each edition and what it has to offer to help you decide which PC edition of Windows 10 is best for you.

Do you need a 64-bit version or a 32-bit version of Windows 10?

Before choosing an edition of Windows that suits your needs, you must determine what bit version is right for your PC's hardware, and the primary determinant there is the processor. Microsoft offers the option of 32-bit and 64-bit versions of Windows 10 — 32-bit is for older processors, while 64-bit is for newer ones. Essentially, if your computer was made after 2007 it more than likely has a 64-bit processor in it. The 64-bit architecture allows the processor to run faster and more efficiently, and it can handle more RAM and thus do more things at once.

While a 64-bit processor can easily run 32-bit software, including the Windows 10 operating system, you'll be better off getting a version of Windows that matches your hardware.

Here's how to check if your PC can run a 64-bit version of Windows:

  1. Right-click the Start button.
  2. Click System.
  3. Verify the System type line; it will tell you which operating system you're currently using, and what type of processor (64-bit or 32-bit) you're using.

    • If it says that you have an x86-based processor, then your computer has a 32-bit processor.
    • If it says that you have an x64-based processor, then your computer has a 64-bit processor.

      Click System. Verify the System type line.

Windows 10 core features

All editions of Windows 10 PC have the same core features that really make Windows what it is. These features include:

Cortana is Microsoft's version of a digital assistant. She will set reminders, give information, and help you write text messages and emails — she also knows a joke or two.

Windows Hello is a biometric security system that uses facial recognition or a fingerprint scan to log you into Windows 10 and authenticate Store purchases. Some apps have also begun including Windows Hello integration, a step in the secure direction.

Virtual Desktop allows you to create multiple desktops that you can switch between with the click of a button. Move windows between desktops and easily keep track of multiple ongoing projects.

Edge browser is Microsoft's signature web browser and Internet Explorer replacement. It's designed for the modern internet user. With extensions now available after the Anniversary Update, there's no telling how far Edge can go.

Windows Defender is software that protects your computer from viruses and malware. It runs full-time and will let you know if anything suspicious is happening or if it thinks you're about to do something unsafe. Choose to scan your computer for infections at any time, or let it set a schedule that works around you.

Windows Firewall is a simple but effective piece of security software that blocks any unwanted connections to your computer. Any incoming connection requests will prompt Windows Firewall to ask you if it should allow the connection.

Windows 10 Home

Windows 10 Home edition is perfect for anyone who wants that familiar, streamlined Windows experience everyone loves. Users not super concerned about the security of business data and who do not have a ton of devices to manage will not feel there's anything missing from Windows 10 Home.

For the gamers out there, Windows 10 Home allows you to sync Xbox Live accounts, giving you full access from your PC. If you own an Xbox One, you'll even be able to stream and play games on any PC in your local network.

Included in the Home edition are familiar productivity apps like Calendar, Mail, Maps, Movies & TV, and Photos. Windows 10 Home is a one-time purchase currently priced at $119.99.

Bottom-line: Windows 10 Home edition has everything a standard PC user wants, and will deliver a familiar Windows experience.

See at Microsoft Store

Windows 10 Pro

If you're running a small business and feel you need an assistant, why not hire Windows 10 Pro? You're getting the same core features and productivity apps as Windows 10 Home has, plus you're getting a bunch of extras that professionals love.

Perhaps most notable is Windows Update for Business, Microsoft's free service available also for Windows 10 Enterprise users. Within are a bunch of added security tools perfect for professionals, including multi-layer protection — device, identity, application, and information — and a rigorous update program that prevents devices from falling behind on proper security.

Apps like Device Guard and Secure Boot, both exclusive to Windows 10 Pro, ensure that your devices aren't hijacked by malware and other malicious software no matter the user, and provide some valuable added security for lone users.

Speaking of devices, Windows 10 Pro is ideal for businesses using Choose Your Own Device (CYOD), a program that allows employees to choose from a list of varying devices — smartphones, tablets, and PCs — that have been pre-approved by the company.

Windows 10 Pro is a one-time purchase currently priced at $199.99.

Bottom-line: Windows 10 Pro edition is geared toward small businesses and PC devotees, but standard users can also use it without bothering with the added features.

See at Microsoft Store

Windows 10 Enterprise

Windows 10 Enterprise is an upgrade from Windows 10 Pro that features Microsoft's Windows Update for Business, plus access to Long Term Servicing Branch (LTSB) updates. LTSB allows organizations to update Windows 10 security measures without changing the function of Windows 10. This is ideal for situations where teaching a large group of employees how to use a new tool isn't feasible.

There are two versions of Windows 10 Enterprise available for purchase: E3 and E5. Enterprise E3 comes with features mentioned above, as well as the Microsoft Desktop Optimization Pack which allows employers to virtually manage employees' PCs. Enterprise E5 has everything Enterprise E3 has, plus access to a beefed up version of Windows Defender known as Windows Defender Advanced Threat Protection.

Businesses interested in Windows 10 Enterprise must first purchase Windows 10 Pro, then must pay a licensing fee to upgrade to Enterprise. For this reason, Enterprise is designed for medium and large businesses only, and pricing is based on volume.

Bottom-line: Windows 10 Enterprise edition is designed specifically for medium to large businesses and organizations — its volume licensing and security features are not designed for lone users.

See at Microsoft

Windows 10 Education

Windows 10 Education builds on the security and update foundation found in Windows 10 Enterprise, but focuses explicitly on providing tools for students, teachers, and administrators. One notable difference from Windows 10 Enterprise is the lack of ability to join Microsoft's Long Term Servicing Branch (LTSB), the security-over-function update method.

Windows 10 Education is available only through academic licensing, and pricing is again based on volume. Where Enterprise was an upgrade from Windows 10 Pro, Education is an upgrade from Windows 10 Home.

Bottom-line: Windows 10 Education edition is geared toward academic institutions. Volume licensing and focus on education apps and utilities are not for lone users.

See at Microsoft

Wild-card: Windows 10 IoT Core

Are you someone who loves to tinker with electronics? Maybe you're in the business of building consumer ease-of-use gadgets. Whatever your niche, Windows 10 IoT Core (IoT stands for "Internet of Things") is a customizable Windows platform that can be applied to many different scenarios.

Want to program a robot you created from scratch? Use Windows 10 IoT Core. Want to retrofit your old radio with internet access? Windows 10 IoT Core. The possibilities are nearly endless when you combine Arduino's open-source community and development boards like Arrow DragonBoard 410c and Raspberry Pi 3.

Windows 10 IoT Core is free for all users and can be downloaded from Microsoft's website now.

Bottom-line: Windows 10 IoT Core is for advanced users and inventors — or anyone who just wants to mess around with a neat tool.

See at Microsoft

Your Windows 10 choice

Which edition of Windows 10 do you use on your PC? Let us know in the comments section below!