Choosing the correct Windows 10 Edition

Choosing the right edition of Windows 10 can sometimes be harder than you think for companies. For most companies, the cost versus functionality is a consideration. But which versions are there? More than one actually thinks:

  • Windows 10 Home – No option for companies for various reasons
  • Windows 10 Professional – a frequently used version in companies
  • Windows 10 Enterprise – a widely used edition in companies
  • Windows 10 LTSB 2015 / 2016 / LTSC 2019 – If then usually misused edition in companies
  • Windows 10 Pro for Workstations – A Windows 10 edition with support for server-like hardware
  • Windows 10 Education – A variant of the Enterprise Edition for educational institutions
  • Windows 10 S – A Reduced Windows 10 Edition, only applications from the Microsoft Store can be installed.
  • Windows 10 Mobile / Windows 10 Mobile Enterprise – Might Soon Be Part of History
  • Windows 10 IoT Core – Free Internet of Things (IoT) version for the Raspberry Pi 2/3 and similar. Supported architectures: ARM and x86
  • Windows 10 IoT Core Pro – Commercial Internet of Things (IoT) version
  • Windows 10 IoT Enterprise – Special Enterprise Edition with additional features such as Container and Classic Domain Membership. Intel x86 architecture only
  • Windows 10 IoT Enterprise LTSB – Like Windows 10 IoT Enterprise only with Extended Support and partially missing features
  • Windows 10 for Microsoft Hololense – Special version for Microsoft Hololense
  • Windows 10 for Xbox One – Special version for the Xbox One game console
  • Windows 10 Team – Special version for Microsoft Surface Hub

Even if one can exclude certain edition due to the hardware requirements in enterprises mostly, it is somewhat confusing.

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Since we only want to deal with the Windows 10 editions that are suitable for companies in this article, let’s sort them out.

The Windows 10 Home Edition cannot be a member of an Active Directory domain. There are other technical reasons against using it in a company, but it is a knockout criterion.

The edition for Special Hardware (mobile phones, Xbox, Hololense and Team) does not need to be considered either, as it is only suitable for these systems and cannot be purchased separately.

There is nothing against using the IoT Edition when doing IoT projects. You are not suitable for everyday tasks in a company.

Windows 10 Pro for Workstations

So there are only 5 left in the race. If you are not an educational institution recognized by Microsoft, education will fail. If there are still 4, let’s take a closer look at the differences between the Pro versions.

Microsoft Windows 10
Professional
Microsoft Windows 10
Professional for Workstations
CPUs2 physical CPUs4 physical CPUs
Memory2 TB6TB
ReFS SupportNoYes
SMB DirectNoYes
RDMANoYes

In my opinion, the Windows 10 Pro for Workstations is only a variant for special hardware. Otherwise, you can save the extra costs unless you need ReFS on a client.

Long Term Support Branch / Long Term Support Channel

The next edition I’d like to look at is the “long term” editions of Windows 10, which again bring 10 years of support. This support life cycle is very tempting at first sight. “We’ll do this, as usual, one migration and then rest for the next 7-10 years.” Nice idea, it only has a few flaws… but before we get to the “Why not”, let’s have a look at the purpose of this edition.

The objective is to have a stable long-term platform for certain systems. Particularly in focus are measurement and control systems, laboratory systems or other systems with special hardware. What is special about these releases is that no new functions are added. Also, products or functions which are not yet “ready” from Microsoft’s point of view are not included. For example in the past the Edge browser or the calculator as Modern App. Also still other features and safety functions are missing. In principle, it is a Windows 10 Enterprise release that was trimmed down and frozen at the time of release. Only updates are created, nothing more.

That doesn’t sound very interesting, but let’s come to the flaws of the LTSB / LTSC:

  • Since it is technically 1809, 1607 or 1511, it is not guaranteed that newer hardware will work with it. Intel had already announced not to port any drivers back, so this decision should be valid for everyone. If the hardware failed after 3 years, it will be interesting.
  • Office 365 Pro Plus is not supported on LTSB / LTSC according to Microsoft. For the LTSC versions Office, i.e. Microsoft Office 2016 / 2019, no statement about the support was found.
  • Also, other software manufacturers could equip future versions of their software with functions which require newer releases of Windows 10.
  • There is no way to upgrade. The licenses must be purchased completely new. Technically, the computer must be reinstalled with the new version.

Alone all the dependencies with software and hardware compatibility I would want to avoid. It is easier to check the software for compatibility with the new Windows 10 release. Please don’t misunderstand me, for measuring systems or systems with special hardware this is exactly the right thing. Not much should change on such systems anyway. But please not on the office PC with Office.

Windows 10 Pro or Windows 10 Enterprise? That’s the question.

As an old friend of Star Trek, Enterprise sounds better, but let’s be objective. First of all, I won’t tell you which version to take, but I’ll give you decision support for your considerations.

Since the Enterprise Edition can do everything that the Professional can do, we only have to deal with the added value. All you have to do is decide whether it’s worth the extra cost.

Features in Windows 10 Enterprise Edition

There are some important features that only the Enterprise Edition has, for example:

  • Windows Defender Credential Guard
  • Windows Defender Application Control
  • Windows Defender Advanced Threat Protection
  • Windows Analytics Device Health
  • App-V (Separate licensing possible)
  • User Environment Virtualization (UE-V) (Separate licensing possible)
  • Advanced Telemetry Settings

Some group policies for customizing Windows are only effective for the Enterprise and Education Editions. There are also partially conflicting statements from Microsoft. This is because here some functions are downgraded and up-graded.

Some examples of such group policies that require the Enterprise Edition:

  • Disable all apps from the Microsoft Store
  • Allow telemetry in mode 0
  • Configure Windows viewpoint on lock screen (user-based)
  • Disable Microsoft user features
  • Force a specific standard screen for the lock and login screen.

Support-Life-Cycle

Another difference is the support life cycle. Windows 10 comes with 18 months of support by default, the Enterprise Edition of the 2nd half even gets 30 months. This provides for some relief in the IT if there are incompatibilities in hardware and software. For the current versions, the life cycle looks like this:

For many customers, the Support Life-Cycle is a very good argument for the Enterprise Edition.

Weitere Gründe

There are other reasons for the Enterprise Edition. Depending on the form of licensing, the Microsoft Desktop Optimization Pack (MDOP) is also included in the Enterprise Edition. There are also other benefits depending on your license type. The best thing to do is to ask your licensing partner.

Notes on license topics

I’m not a licensing expert! Also, the changes are so fast moving that it would hardly be possible to update the articles. Therefore, always ask your licensing consultant about licensing topics. All information in this article is without guarantee.

This article first appeared on Infrastrukturhelden.de in German.

This article is a translation of the Infrastrukturhelden.de article “Auswahl der richtigen Windows 10 Edition” from April 2, 2019. Links may refer to other Infrastrukturhelden.de articles, these may also be available in English language.

Also it can be, that I still use screenshots of German systems. However, where it is possible for me with little effort, I insert screenshots of English systems.

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Author: Fabian Niesen

Fabian Niesen has been working as an IT consultant for years. Here he writes privately and independently of his employer. Among others he is certified as MCSA Windows Server 2008 / 2012, MCSA Office 365, MCSA Windows 10, MCSE Messaging, MCT and Novell Certified Linux Administrator. Since 2016 he is also MCT Regional Lead for Germany. His hobbies are social media, blogging, medieval markets, historical songs and house building.

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