Microsoft Cuts Down On Windows 8 Editions

Martin Brinkmann
Apr 17, 2012
Updated • May 21, 2014
Windows, Windows 8

When you look at the number of Windows 7 editions available you may have the feeling that a computer science degree would help you tremendously pick the right edition. With Home Premium, Professional and Ultimate available in retail locations, plus Home Basic, Starter, Enterprise available as well, it is hard to make a selection.

Microsoft seems to have taken note of the issue, and decided to simplify things for their next operating system. Desktop users running x86 hardware will have the choice between Windows 8, and Windows 8 Pro. These two versions are loosely based on Windows 7 Home Premium, and Windows 7 Ultimate.

Windows 8, which has also been confirmed to be the official name of the new operating system, ships with the majority of features that Microsoft has highlighted during development. There are only a handful of features aimed at professionals and businesses that the operating system does not ship with. They are:

  • BitLocker and BitLocker To Go
  • Boot from VHD
  • Client Hyper-V
  • Encrypting File System
  • Group Policy
  • Remote Desktop (host)

The remaining feature set is identical between both versions. It is also interesting to note that Windows 7 Starter, Home Basic and Home Premium users can upgrade to Windows 8 or Windows 8 Pro, whereas Windows 7 Professional and windows 7 Ultimate users only to Windows 8 Pro.


A third edition, Windows RT, has been created for ARM hardware. The edition won't be available through retail channels, only pre-installed on ARM hardware. The feature set differs in key points:

Windows 8 RT ships with a version of Microsoft Office (Word, Excel, PowerPoint, OneNote) and a device encryption option. The edition lacks the option to install x86/64 desktop software, comes without the new storage spaces technology, and without Windows Media Player. It also lacks all the features of the Windows 8 Pro edition that it ships with exclusively.

If there is something to criticize it is the missing Windows 8 RT domain join feature which would limit the use of ARM tablets running Windows 8 in organizations.

Feature name Windows 8 Windows 8 Pro Windows RT
Upgrades from Windows 7 Starter, Home Basic, Home Premium



Upgrades from Windows 7 Professional, Ultimate x
Start screen, Semantic Zoom, Live Tiles x x x
Windows Store x x x
Apps (Mail, Calendar, People, Messaging, Photos, SkyDrive, Reader, Music, Video) x x x
Microsoft Office (Word, Excel, PowerPoint, OneNote) x
Internet Explorer 10 x x x
Device encryption x
Connected standby x x x
Microsoft account x x x
Desktop x x x
Installation of x86/64 and desktop software x x
Updated Windows Explorer x x x
Windows Defender x x x
SmartScreen x x x
Windows Update x x x
Enhanced Task Manager x x x
Switch languages on the fly (Language Packs) x x x
Better multiple monitor support x x x
Storage Spaces x x
Windows Media Player x x
Exchange ActiveSync x x x
File history x x x
ISO / VHD mount x x x
Mobile broadband features x x x
Picture password x x x
Play To x x x
Remote Desktop (client) x x x
Reset and refresh your PC x x x
Snap x x x
Touch and Thumb keyboard x x x
Trusted boot x x x
VPN client x x x
BitLocker and BitLocker To Go x
Boot from VHD x
Client Hyper-V x
Domain Join x
Encrypting File System x
Group Policy x
Remote Desktop (host) x

LeBlanc in the same blog post mentioned that Microsoft would share information about pricing and planned-promotions in the coming months. This could mean the return of the popular Family-Packs (3 Windows licenses for a reduced price for one household), and reduced pricing for early adopters.

Windows 8 Enterprise will also be available specifically for Enterprise customers.

As with previous versions of Windows, we will also have an edition of Windows 8 specifically for those enterprise customers with Software Assurance agreements. Windows 8 Enterprise includes all the features of Windows 8 Pro plus features for IT organization that enable PC management and deployment, advanced security, virtualization, new mobility scenarios, and much more.


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  1. MountainKing said on April 17, 2012 at 5:16 pm

    Seriously, Windows 8 ‘plain’ is all anyone will ever need…Its way better than the windows 7 starter crap.

    1. Martin Brinkmann said on April 17, 2012 at 5:48 pm

      This may be true for home users, but not for professionals and business users.

      1. ilev said on April 17, 2012 at 5:58 pm

        Windows 8 is missing joining domain.

  2. ilev said on April 17, 2012 at 5:57 pm

    There is a 4th edition, Enterprise. There are also local special editions like the Chinese edition.

  3. hal9000 said on April 17, 2012 at 6:30 pm

    is there a media center edition then or is that part of pro?

  4. David said on April 18, 2012 at 2:28 am

    Where is Windows Media Center?

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