There have been many releases of Microsoft Windows over the years, but it’s rarely been as simple as simply upgrading to the newest release. More often than not there are also different versions to be considered, and Windows 10 is no exception.
Microsoft has named them ‘Editions’, and each one offers a different set of features. We’ve outlined them below so that you can be sure you’re upgrading to the right edition for you, and not wasting money on needless features.
Windows 10 Home
Chances are that this will the be the edition best suited to you. Despite its name, it’s actually the standard version of Windows 10 and will most likely be the most popular edition once the dust has settled.
You’re entitled to upgrade to this version absolutely free of charge so long as your current computer is running a copy of Windows 7, Windows 8 or Windows 8.1. It’s tailored for computers, tablets and 2-in-1s, and includes all of the most interesting new features that Microsoft has been showing off: Cortana (Microsoft’s voice-controlled assistant), the Edge web browser, a touchscreen-friendly mode for tablets, plus face, iris and fingerprint recognition (if your hardware allows).
Windows 10 tends to get large scale annual overhauls, such as the 2016 Anniversary Update or the 2017 Creators Update. These add new features and performance tweaks, and also tend to adapt key day-to-day features such as the Start menu.
Read our full review of Windows 10 Home
Windows 10 S
The newest edition to the Windows 10 lineup is rather an odd one - Windows 10 'S' is aimed primarily at education uses, according to Microsoft. In practice, this could see it rolled out on, say, subsidised laptops and tablets used in schools. It's a 'lighter' operating system which should work on low-powered (and cheaper) devices that don't have cutting edge processors.
Windows 10 S is a more secure version of the operating system because it has one key limitation - you can only download apps from the Windows Store. That means you can't install regular programs from other sources. While this limits the chance of a virus getting onto your PC, it also hampers you from installing software - even Google Chrome or Firefox aren't available on the Windows Store, so it's the Edge browser only for Windows 10 S users.
Read our full review of Windows 10 S
Windows 10 Pro
Windows 10 Pro offers all of the same features as the Home edition, and is also designed for PCs, tablets and 2-in-1s. It also comes with a focus towards small businesses, though. In practice, this mainly manifests itself as extra security and device management options.
It’s also suitable for ‘power users’, though – those who know what they’re doing with Windows and want to get as much as possible from it. It includes BitLocker, which allows you to fully secure your devices from potential security threats, a Remote Desktop feature, and more in-depth access to cloud technologies.
A lot of it won’t be of much use to you unless you’re running a business on it, but it could be worth a look if you’re hot on security.
If you currently run Windows 7 Professional, Windows 7 Ultimate, Windows 8.1 Pro or Windows 8.1 Pro for Students, this will be the version you are automatically upgraded to free of charge.
Windows 10 Mobile
As the name suggests, this is the flagship mobile version of Windows 10. It’s best suited for smartphones and smaller, less fully-featured tablets (basically anything that isn’t a Microsoft Surface). It still offers great synergy with desktop devices running Windows 10, and great security and productivity, but with a layout and functionality better suited for small touchscreens.
It also has the rather neat Windows Continuum feature, which allows you you use your mobile device like a fully fledged desktop machine when you connect it to a large screen.
With Microsoft keen to push Windows 10 S, and with sales of Windows phone devices and tablets paling next to Android and iPad/iPhone sales, it's highly likely that Windows 10 mobile OS could be discontinued in the future. Microsoft may, instead, focus on pushing Windows 10 S for tablet and mobile use.
Windows 10 Enterprise
This is a version of Windows 10 that you’re highly unlikely to need, so don’t feel tempted or obligated to pay for it. They key is in the name – building on Windows 10 Pro, it’s designed for large-scale businesses and operations that need super-tight security for private information over dozens of computers.
Windows 10 Mobile Enterprise
Many businesses now use tablets in their everyday running, particularly on the customer-facing side of things. This edition ensures that businesses can bring a unified experience to their customers in a secure environment. It’s probably not for you (unless you own hundreds of tablets).