The Professional (Pro) edition of Windows 11 offers a variety of features that aren’t included in the Home version. If you’re already running Windows 10 Pro, then you don’t have to worry about anything — you’ll automatically get Windows 11 Pro. But is the $99 upgrade worth it for anyone else?
The vast majority of exclusive features in Windows 11 Pro are related to remote management and setup, as well as other business-specific needs. Those are compelling—and often necessary—for businesses. That’s why most PCs that come with Windows 11 include Windows 11 Home.
If you’re wondering if you should upgrade your home PC for those features, the answer is almost definitely no. Those features aren’t particularly useful outside of a business or educational setting anyway.
There are a few features that Window enthusiasts might find compelling, however.
Windows Sandbox lets you run applications in a virtual environment that is completely isolated from the rest of your system. It isn’t a substitute for good security practices and a healthy dose of caution, but it does allow you to open suspect files or programs without nearly as much risk to your system.
Consider the case where you download an executable that is supposed to let you customize your Windows PC’s user interface. Normally, you’d be forced to run it through a service like VirusTotal.com, then actually try installing it on your PC. If it is a new or particularly clever kind of malware, it is entirely possible the virus scanners on VirusTotal (and on your PC) would miss it. Then you’re stuck with an infected computer. Windows Sandbox would let you load the executable into a safe environment, run it, and then actually see if it is malicious or not, with very little risk to your computer.
Windows Sandbox is definitely one of the most useful features in Windows 11 Pro, and most users could benefit from it.
That sounds complex, but it really isn’t that bad — virtual machines are just ‘fake’ computers that run on your real, physical computer. You can do all sorts of things with them, like run other operating systems, tune their RAM, CPU cores, video memory, and basically any other attribute you want. There are a million and one uses for virtual machines, and they’re really only limited by your imagination, creativity, and needs.
As virtualization programs go, Hyper-V is pretty good — the second iteration of the Windows Subsystem for Linux (WSL) relies on it, and WSL’s performance is snappy and responsive. Hyper-V Manager just lets you monitor and control the virtual machines that use Hyper-V with a graphical user interface.
However, Hyper-V Manager isn’t really necessary. There are plenty of virtualization applications available for Windows, like VirtualBox or VMWare Workstation Player, that are excellent and free. Proxmox and EXSi are both good choices if you’re looking for something more sophisticated to run “bare metal” on a server. Between the two, Proxmox is probably more friendly towards new users.
Hyper-V Manager is definitely a great tool if you need to work within the Windows ecosystem for some reason, but it doesn’t offer much for regular home users — even enthusiast home users — if they’re willing to use third-party tools or a Linux-based hypervisor.
Group Policy, and the Local Group Policy Editor, is the Swiss Army Knife of administration tools on the professional versions of Windows. It gives you direct control over a ton of different behaviors, including automatic Windows updates. The other potential uses are too numerous to list explicitly, but it is a fantastic utility if you want to be able to make Windows act exactly the way you want.
At the end of the day, the Group Policy Editor is an incredible convenience, but it isn’t strictly necessary. Almost anything you can do with the Group Policy Editor can be accomplished in other ways—like by editing the Windows Registry—though they typically require significantly more work. Whether or not the convenience is worth the extra cost is ultimately up to personal preference.
Windows 11 Home editions include regular device encryption, which encrypts the drives on a computer if it has TPM 2.0 and you sign in with a Microsoft account.
BitLocker Device Encryption is a bit more complex — it gives you more granular control over how your device’s encryption works. You can encrypt specific drives or removable media devices with Bitlocker To Go. You can also control whether the entire drive is encrypted or just the used space on the drive—among other settings.
Encrypting your hard drive is critical in today’s world — we store enormous amounts of sensitive information on our computers without a second thought. If your computer is stolen and someone starts rifling through your unencrypted hard drive, they might very well find enough information to cause a lot of trouble. If you store copies of your taxes on your computer, it’d probably be enough to steal your identity.
Is the extra control worth the premium Windows 11 Pro demands? Probably not. The regular device encryption offered by Windows 11 Home is enough to keep your information safe from thieves, and the extra control offered by Bitlocker Device Encryption doesn’t improve your protection, it just allows you to customize it.
Warning: By its very nature, any kind of Remote Access program or protocol increases the vulnerability of your system. If you don’t need to enable internet remote access on a PC, don’t do it.
If you frequently travel or have multiple PCs in your home, you might find yourself wishing you could access one Windows PC from another PC instead of physically interacting with it. Remote Desktop allows for exactly that — just enable Remote Desktop on one PC, install the Remote Access App on the controlling device, make a connection, and you’re good to go.
Remote Desktop is only available on Windows 11 Pro, though you can use the application on any version of Windows.
It is nice to have a remote desktop protocol and application built right into Windows, but it is extremely difficult to say “home users should pay for this feature” when there are plenty of free remote access tools for connecting to a PC or Mac.
Is it worth the extra hundred dollars to upgrade to Windows 11 Pro from Windows 11 Home? As always, the mostly depends on your specific circumstances. As it stands, the overwhelming majority of users will not miss most of the features present in Windows 11 Pro.
Power users and enthusiasts might want a few of the features, especially the Sandbox, the Hyper-V Manager, and access to Group Policy. However, nearly all of those features have free third-party alternatives or other workarounds that can accomplish the same things.
Given the cost of the upgrade and how few features are even usable in a home setting, the upgrade to Windows 11 Pro is not worth it for most people.
If you do want to upgrade, you can do it from within Windows 11 Home. Head to Settings > System > Activation and use the options under “Upgrade your edition of Windows.”
The “Open Store” button will open the Microsoft Store app, where you can buy the upgrade from Microsoft. It costs $99 in the US.
You can also use the “Change” button to change your system’s product key if you have a Windows 11 Pro or Windows 10 Pro key you acquired from elsewhere. (However, we caution you against buying those cheap gray-market third-party keys you find online.)
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