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Microsoft is right not to include Windows 10 Pro with Surface Pro – here's why

Surface Pro 6
Surface Pro 6 (Image credit: Daniel Rubino/Windows Central)

One of the recent changes to the new Surface Pro 6 and Surface Laptop 2 is one that I applauded in my review, but is causing some puzzlement: why is Microsoft shipping it with Windows 10 Home instead of Windows 10 Pro?

The joke practically writes itself conflating the "Pro" in the Surface with the OS that shares the same name. But the change is the right one, and I wish more companies would do the same for their consumer PCs and laptops. Here's why.

Windows 10 Pro should be called Windows 10 IT

Part of the confusion is what exactly Windows 10 Pro can do over Windows 10 Home. And some legitimate differences affect people like developers directly.

Here is a list of things (opens in new tab) that Windows 10 Pro has versus Windows 10 Home:

  • BitLocker to encrypt external drives.
  • Remote Desktop to access your PC while away from home or the office.
  • Hyper-V for running virtual machines.
  • Join Azure Active Directory to connect your school or business network to the cloud.
  • Join a Domain to connect your PC to a private business network.

There's more too like Assigned Access, Dynamic Provisioning, Shared PC configuration, Windows Update for Business, Enterprise Mode Internet Explorer (EMIE), but you get the point.

Of the other Pro features Hyper-V sticks out for developers who often need it for testing on other systems with virtual machines. Remote Desktop is something that some so-called power users may use, but due to the complexities of home networking and management, usually beyond what most regular folks are interested in attempting.

Windows 10 Home has drive encryption

BitLocker here causes the most confusion as many people think that it means that Windows 10 Home does not encrypt your drive, which is a huge security vulnerability were you to lose your laptop or Surface. It's just not true.

Since Windows 8.1 Microsoft includes BitLocker Drive Encryption (or just Windows Drive Encryption) for the primary internal drive. That means for Surface Go, Surface Pro 6, and Surface Laptop 2 the system encrypts the main drive automatically. The feature requires TPM 2.0 (Trusted Platform Module ) and InstantGo, both of which are found on modern Surfaces.

The catch? You need to sign in with your Microsoft Account, which is something Windows 10 prompts you to do during the out-of-box-experience. That lets the encryption recovery key to sync to your Microsoft account so that you can decrypt it if you ever need to (or the system is locked).

Consumers also get Windows Information Protection, Windows Hello support, Trusted Boot, and the Windows Device Health Attestation service (opens in new tab).

BitLocker in Windows 10 Pro is disk encryption but much more including letting companies configure which encryption algorithm to use and most importantly Remote Server Administration so that departments can manage PCs and security.

The takeaway is this: regular consumers rarely need "Pro" features, and they still get disk encryption and lots of security options. Developers and people who need Remote Desktop do need Windows 10 Pro, but they are also a small group of users by comparison.

You're paying for Pro (one way or another)

Another area of confusion I hear is that Microsoft should include Windows 10 Pro anyway. After all, it wouldn't cost Microsoft much – if anything at all – so what's the big deal? Just put it on the Surface Pro 6 and call it a day.

The reality is Windows 10 Pro – whether for Microsoft, Lenovo, Dell, or whomever – does costs more to license per PC than Windows 10 Home. Every time you buy a new PC or laptop you are paying for a license for the operating system. That price is baked into the final cost.

That is why the new Surface Pro 6 and Surface Laptop 2 were $100 cheaper compared to the same versions last year (it's also because there is no Iris Plus in the Core i7 models, which is more expensive).

Surface Pro pricing changes: 2017 to 2018

Device20172018Price difference
Core i5 128GB/8GB$999$899-$100
Core i5 256GB/8GB$1,299$1,199-$100
Core i7 256GB/8GB$1,599$1,499-$100
Core i7 512GB/16GB$2,199$1,899-$200
Core i7 1TB/16GB$2,699$2,299-$400

Switching between Home and Pro licenses is one way to hide costs. For example, The HP Envy x2 with ARM was $150 cheaper than the HP Envy x2 with Intel. But there was more to it as the cost difference is more like $250 because the ARM version technically shipped with Windows 10 Pro while the Intel one only had Windows 10 Home.

If you have ever configured a laptop from a vendor that gives you a choice between Windows 10 Home or Pro, you see this charge right up front.

Whenever you buy a laptop or desktop PC with Windows 10 Pro it means you paid an extra $30 to $100 for it whether you make use of those "pro" features or not. When you configure a PC online you often get a choice. When you buy from Amazon or Best Buy you do not.

From top to bottom: HP, Dell, Lenovo all charge extra for Windows 10 Pro.

From top to bottom: HP, Dell, Lenovo all charge extra for Windows 10 Pro.

For most consumers, this adds up to be a tax for an OS version many will not even need or use.

As for Microsoft believe it or not, they cannot just give Surfaces a free Pro license or absorb the costs. Think of the business and legal implications if you were HP or Dell and you found out Microsoft gives itself the OS for free but charges everyone else to use it. That means each Windows license that Microsoft puts into a Surface is sold, bought, and accounted for internally. Yup, Microsoft must sell themselves Windows 10 too.

If you want Windows 10 Pro then buy it

All this prelude brings us to the obvious conclusion: if you need Windows 10 Pro then pay the $99 license fee in the Microsoft Store. It's one-click, and the OS will download the necessary files and unlock to a Pro license, which gets tied to your Microsoft Account and that PC's hardware.

Some of you do need Hyper-V or Remote Desktop, which is why you can without fuss update to Windows 10 Pro. What I don't get is why as a consumer I should subsidize an entire product line for the minority of users.

And before you raise your finger in disagreement to tell me "What about schools and businesses?" I'd point out that Microsoft already has the Surface for Business (opens in new tab) and Microsoft Surface for Education (opens in new tab) programs that sell directly to both groups who need Surfaces. So instead of Surface Pro 6 starting at $899 with Windows 10 Home, it's $999 with Windows 10 Pro (opens in new tab).

Microsoft sells Surfacesw with Windows 10 Pro direct to companies and schools. Surprise, they're an extra $99.

Microsoft sells Surfacesw with Windows 10 Pro direct to companies and schools. Surprise, they're an extra $99.

Everyone is happy. Businesses and schools get Windows 10 Pro. Developers and power users can upgrade with a click for $99. And consumers get the Core i5 Surface Pro 6 with 8GB of RAM for $899 instead of $999 (plus, there's no longer a 4GB Core m3 with Windows 10 Pro, which is weird).

Microsoft probably should rename Windows 10 Pro to something like Windows 10 IT or Windows 10 Developer edition to weed out the faux "Pro users," but they already have enough naming problems.

The bigger lesson here is Windows 10 Home is what most consumers need and should be paying for – and for those who want Windows 10 Pro, well, you're not paying any more than you did last year, so nothing has changed.

Daniel Rubino
Executive Editor

Daniel Rubino is the Executive Editor of Windows Central, head reviewer, podcast co-host, and analyst. He has been covering Microsoft here since 2007, back when this site was called WMExperts (and later Windows Phone Central). His interests include Windows, Microsoft Surface, laptops, next-gen computing, and arguing with people on the internet.

133 Comments
  • If that's your /ms logic then they might as well give you an option with a trial license.
    After all that's what they've been doing with office.
    Or better yet no software.
  • "If that's your /ms logic then they might as well give you an option with a trial license."
    So, you want to go back to an OS for consumers that expires. You want to go back to that model, which will benefit who anyway - a tiny subset of consumers who are unsure if they need Hyper-V? That makes no sense. If you need Windows 10 Pro you know you need it. If you're unsure, you don't. It's that simple.
  • Well yeah. The reality is nothing lasts forever, not even Microsoft. One day you may not be able to activate Windows because the server won't be there. Trying to hide behind half OS or slim down is just confusing.
    If you tell a customer buy a PC and choose a license he'll understand.
  • "Trying to hide behind half OS or slim down is just confusing."
    If you think Windows 10 Pro is "half OS" then you're the exact person who shouldn't be talking about differences between Home and Pro, because that's absurd.
    "If you tell a customer buy a PC and choose a license he'll understand."
    You've clearly never worked retail. I'm also confident 99% of regular consumers can't tell you what Hyper-V or Azure Active Directory are, but sure, go and tell me why a consumer would need those things anyway. I'll wait.
  • True, i don't know what hyperV is, but I've had instances where i wanted to connect to my corporate network and some or other features wasn't there in home edition. Like active directory support. The customer doesn't need to know what they are, that's why he's paying them to sort it out. The OS features needs to work when it needs to.
  • "The customer doesn't need to know what they are, that's why he's paying them to sort it out. "
    But if that affects like 5% of users vs the $100 savings for 95% why are we giving the 5% users preference?
  • You know, because moneys $$$ ...
  • If your corporate IT allowed you to connect to their corporate network with a machine they didn't control they'd be nuts. They are thrilled you have Home. If they wanted you to buy your own machine and connect it to the network, they'd find a way to let you expense the $100. You'd also see, 'some settings are controlled by your administrator', much more often.
  • As a administrator for a corporate network I can tell you there is no way in .... I'd let you connect your PC to our domain if you had W10pro. Furthemore I would not even let you connect your PC to an ethernet port or WiFi tied to our internal network. If you need access to internal resources from your private computer, we have solutions for that that works regardles of OS version. But, only after a automated prerequisite check of your system. There is no reason for an regular user to have W10Pro, and everyone advanced enough to need Pro knows that they do, or they are managed by someone else who do. Let those people upgrade. We do not use eiteher, only Ent and Edu. And we can deploy that license on top of any OS, including home. So, even as a big corp. we could save money buying clients licensed with W10Home.
  • Sounds like you have a problem with me connecting my devices to my networks. Or you just have a problem with confidence.
  • Windows Home vs. the Pro version https://cdn.ndtv.com/tech/images/gadgets/windows_10_pro_vs_windows_10_ho...
  • Reunite Desktop is useful for supporting family members who live far away. Microsoft screwed this by putting this only in Pro. It wasn't always that way. Being able to encrypt external drives with Bitlocker should not be a Pro feature. I thought we were over he notion that Pivacy Security is only for Pros. Consumers will never know much if they aren't educating. Saying most don't know something is oetty bad argument. They don't know because they people in retail do a HORRIBLE job at educating then. Great job.
  • Trying out Hyper-V on your local PC is very much a thing I can say. Docker for Windows is much used in development and newer versions require Hyper-V, but if you're unsure if it will actually work on your machine you would be stuck with a $99 purchase up front with no guarantees. Hyper-V is one of those things you're not quite sure it works on your (perhaps originally consumer) hardware. I agree the upgrade is a simple process, but I would have liked a trial.
  • You'd think after nearly 40 years Microsoft would've mastered networking. Nothing actually works the way it should. 9 out of 10 times you connect to a network and it says unidentified
  • How is this related to this post, or the anything else on this page? Regardless, the statement that network connections in W10 is unstable and fails 9 ou of 10 times is jus BS. If you experience that you're either having issues with your network, or you have a faulty network adapter, or drivers written by a drunk monkey. I manage thosands and thosands of clients, and have few to none issues regarding connectivity and networking due to problemes with the OS.
  • Read and read. If your intention is to bring new information, rather post as a new comment.
  • @Hiswona. Networking especially WiFi has not been great since W7. Sometimes it would say "No internet connection", opening up a browser then navigating to a random page causes a manual refresh to show the correct state.
  • If computers shipps with Home, I see no problems with MS giving a 30 day trail from a licensing only view. If a user desides he needs to test Pro, he og she is allready an more advanced user than 98% of the user base, and would perhaps actually need Pro. The biggest concern with this is users testing Pro features and then desides not to use Pro and roll back to Home. What happens to the Pro features used. What happens if the user encrypts and external drive? There could be several issues with aborting such a trail, and all the users would blame MS.
  • The upgrade also requires a Microsoft account if done from your PC. Buying it preloaded is much easier. No everything with a Windows PC wants Microsoft's "service bloatware" along with it And with Home you have no way to stop those "update grenades." The writers here are really drinking he koolaid.
  • The author failed to mention that Windows 10 Pro also includes Client Side Caching (Offline Files Sync). I find this to be a much better solution than OneDrive when it comes to syncing media between our home's computers and across multiple MS accounts. We've got well over a Terabyte of music that is synced across our network. The syncing is massively helpful if and when our homeserver goes down. Basically I call it our "low flying cloud". Between this and Remote Desktop to manage our computers, I find Pro a necessity. Android is even compatible with Remote Desktop which comes in handy for managing and updating multiple computers.
  • True, and this is why you would upgrade to Pro. Now, if you said this to random people on the street thay would all be a big ?
  • "The bigger lesson here is Windows 10 Home is what most consumers need and should be paying for" The biggest lesson here, once again, is that you are the most dedicated Microsoft shop. You always where. For instance, Windows Phone was brilliant, absolutely amazing, until they stopped shipping because no one was using it. Typical salesman attitude. "So, you want to go back to an OS for consumers that expires. " What? FUD? The idea that whatever MS does is a matter of destiny or fatalism so we might as well understand it and take it is ludicrous. If you position a machine has a Pro machine with Pro prices, put a Pro OS on it, period!!!!!! Otherwise something is fishy in the marketing. It may be the case that none of the Surface Pro's are Pro machines. They should be called Surface Home's ... Anyway, this article is still a bit more palatable than all the Surface Go mambo jambo you wrote a month ago or so. That one, you were obsvisously joking over your readers as so far out it was from actual machine performance. This is my opinion of course. And yes I don't like the way you see things and should I say journalistic ethics? Instead of applauding you should be asking why the Pro licence fluctuates from $30 to $100. I guess that the licence is more included in the price than others right? Keep them confused .... So ... "Whenever you buy a laptop or desktop PC with Windows 10 Pro it means you paid an extra $30 to $100 for it whether you make use of those "pro" features or not. " No, it does not necessarily mean that. It may mean that MS it is rising OSs prices. In a market where most OS's are free.
  • Windows is not open source, you pay money for it. This is how it is. This might change, if people buy stuff in the store for example, but this is another discussion. If you don't like it, buy an Android slate or a barebone computer and install some Linux. Now, back the the discussion at hand. Regardless of what you feel is right, there is a price difference between W10 home and pro. Final. That's it. Furthermore, it is also true that most people do NOT use any of the extra features in W10 pro. So, you just feeling better having a OS with a pro sticker on it when you buy a computer with the same sticker does not make it the best solution. The reason for this is simple, the Pro in Software is not in any way related to the Pro in Hardware. W10Pro can be installed on pretty much any crappy computer, and you would still get a full feature set. The HW does not relate to functionality at all. There is no reason what so ever for you to buy Pro labeled hardware because you need some Pro OS features. Pro if HW are often used to diferenciate two different levels of hardware within the same product range, or HW features commonly geared towards the profecional market not commonly fond on home computers. It can also be used to defferenciate between architecture within the same product range. There is no rule. Apple made a big iPad and labeled it pro. Sure, this is marketing. But this does not change anything. Pretty much everything Danile wrote is still true. MS had Surface running ARM and Surface Pro running x86. Then they had Surface running Atom and Surface Pro running Core iX. Now they have a smaller Surface Go running Pentium and a Surface Pro running Core iX(M). This is in no way related to the OS functionality level MS choose to ship with them. MS could make another version, the Surfae Home, identical to the Surface Pro only with W10Home. Then they would need to do everything double. Logistics would double. And, people would buy the Home because the salesman should tell them they do not need the Pro. Only a few power users and people who think they are power users would buy the Pro. The sales would plummit, and the availability of the Pro would be limited. And, then comes the fun part. People buying the Surface Home that desices they need W10 Pro would upgrade the OS. So, they would then run Surface Home with Windows 10 Pro. It's just stupid. MS can't do stupid **** just because some people gets hung up on a sticker on some hardware.
  • Open source or not has nothing to do with my point. There rest is just downhill off the mark. "Pretty much everything Danile wrote is still true." Daniel not only shared facts but also his opinion on those facts. I have not argued against the facts you see. I've argued against Daniel opinion about the facts and other pseudo facts he pointed such as: "So, you want to go back to an OS for consumers that expires. " "The HW does not relate to functionality at all. " Well, actually it does, in practice. But let's not get side tracked here. "W10Pro can be installed on pretty much any crappy computer" Much like most OS's. What is your point? "There is no rule. Apple made a big iPad and labeled it pro." Yes. And?
  • "What? FUD? The idea that whatever MS does is a matter of destiny or fatalism so we might as well understand it and take it is ludicrous." You do know this is Windows Central right? Sometimes I question if they are a subsidiary of Microsoft.
  • This is the first Microsoft name change suggestion that I can get behind.
  • I agree, but it never ends with Microsoft and poor naming. I seem to remember years ago, they were going to create a group within Microsoft that would focus exclusively on what to name products and services. I guess that never happened.
  • Ah, no. It's not the reason for the price drop. It costs nothing for MS to put their OS on their own machines, Home or Pro. Moreover, there's zero reason to even have these two versions. Windows should be Windows, not 100 versions like it is today. Having said that, I agree that the surface line is not aimed for IT but to students and such, so I assume most users are not using the Pro features. Many are not using Access, WordPad or even Microsoft PDF printer. There's a hidden cost to these too, no ?
  • "It costs nothing for MS to put their OS on their own machines"
    False. I adress that specifically in the article.
  • Please add source. You wrote about it without providing proof. Even so, your claim is wrong, as it's their product and they can do what ever they wish. I'm sure they're using their access to the code to make it work better for them, to fix things faster and to gain advantage.
  • Daniel is right. MS must pay for their licenses which is partially due to GAAP rules and how you account for revenue and legal rules governing business practices. Each division in MS would essentially have there own Income and Balance Sheets to run their business. One entity dealing with another must legally account for the sale even that entity is owned and operated by the same parent company. So when Surface wants a new license it must pay the OS group for it. All this income and expense gets eliminated with consolidation but it is a sale and gets accounted for as a cost in production.
  • Thank you, well said.
  • Not really... What if they're selling both copies for $2 ? Do we have an actual source that shows how much MS pays itself for Home and for Pro ?
  • This.
  • Reaching aren't you? They LEGALLY cannot sell it to themselves at a rate that would create a competitive advantage.
  • OK, but it's still a game. You can't compare MS buying from MS to Dell buying from MS.
  • As noted above Microsoft cannot give or sell themselves Windows 10 licenses at a cheaper rate than their competitors, otherwise it's an unfair advantage akin to what Microsoft got in trouble in Europe for "blocking its competitors out of the market through anti-competitive practices". This isn't some hidden secret. All companies have to do this. You won't find anyone in this business who will dispute it. But I'll humor you: What is the motivation for dropping Pro then? If a Surface Pro with Windows 10 Pro costs $999 last year, and a Surface Pro with Windows 10 Pro costs $999 with Windows 10 Pro this year...what's the advantage/difference? Microsoft is still getting $999 for a Surface Pro with Windows 10 Pro. The one difference is Surface Pro 6 is at least $100 cheaper across the board compared to last year. That's a good thing?
  • Like I wrote above, it's still a game. Money is going from one pocket to another. As for the reason, maybe they're testing to see what the reaction will be so they could up sale ? Maybe next year it'll be $50 more expensive but still with "Home" ? Maybe they rather people not being able to pause updates ? Maybe they're about to change SKU again sometime soon. I don't know for sure yet you're so sure that the new price is because of Home, but not providing any concrete proof to it.
  • Good luck in running your own multi-billion $, international business then, as you'll just ignore the law and just ensure you screw the competition. That is until one of them file a law suit and put you out of business. But you go ahead and run your multi-billion $, international company just the way you want to... OK hun?
  • Ah, how about no?
  • Daniel it's just people who hate MS arguing with you. They have to find something bad in everything MS do. Luckily Surface and MS are performing incredibly well. Both in revenue and the tablet/ 2in1 market. Something noone saw coming in 2010 when Apple had the tablet market all to itself.
  • Richard, really ? So it's either 100% agree with everything that Daniel says or you're automatically a "Microsoft Hater" ? How old are you, 5 ? It's ok to disagree on things.
  • No. It's when every single company has to by law do as Daniel pointed. Yet these people somehow think it's only MS doing something wrong. The status a back up what Daniel is saying, if you read the article. It's like arguing the world is still flat.
  • Which we have proof for, unlike the opinion Daniel expressed in this article.
  • You're right it is ok to disagree on things, but in this case you are doing the same thing as you claim Daniel is doing. You said he was wrong and then went on to say.. "Even so, your claim is wrong, as it's their product and they can do what ever they wish. I'm sure they're using their access to the code to make it work better for them, to fix things faster and to gain advantage." Where is the proof there? Then when people start pointing out the laws, your response is that it's "still a game" and "money is going from one pocket to another." If you think there is a loophole in the law then do the research and also present the proof as you want Daniel to do.
  • Well, the original disagreement was not about laws and practices, but about the reason for the price reduction, which Daniel is 100% sure is because of the Pro/Home. He based an entire article on that assumption, without actually providing some source for the claim. People here started to take it to the "this is the law" because of my "$2 cost" comment, and Daniel too. Was it so hard to ask someone at MS the reason for the reduction ? I don't get the point of this article at all. There are dozen and dozens of things we don't use in Windows. What will Daniel ask next ? a $150 reduction for Surface with bare bones OS without apps ? As for my claim and proof, this is part a guess and part experience with past products. It's just like they tailored RT to their devices, or added functions for the Surface book screen. Also, remember that there's a difference between a comment and an article of a leading tech site. I don't think there's a loophole, and I don't need to provide a proof, because it's not my article. It just felt like a kids version of investigating journalism, without any proper backup.
  • I disagree with Dan a lot (even if i am a MS fan), but in this case it's just cold law.
  • The motivation for dropping Pro is that by having less and less consumers running Pro, you have more and more consumers who are all updated and secured. I don't think this has anything to do with saving themselves money, I think it has everything to do with having the ability to delay updates be available to as few people as possible. This is also the only thing I don't like about this move. Give Home users the ability to delay updating and this move is fine. The state of Windows update is embarrassing to say the least for a "Software Company" and the option to delay or not update should be offered in Windows Home if that's what they are pushing on consumers.