Should you upgrade to the professional version of Windows 11?
The Professional (Pro) edition of Windows 11 offers a variety of features that are not included in the Home version. If you’re already using Windows 10 Pro, 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?
What does the professional version offer?
The vast majority of Windows 11 Pro’s exclusive features are related to remote management and configuration, as well as other business-specific needs. These are unavoidable and often necessary for companies. This is why most PCs that come with Windows 11 include Windows 11 Home.
If you are wondering if you should upgrade your personal computer to those features, the answer is almost definitely no. Either way, these features aren’t particularly useful outside of a professional or educational setting.
However, there are a few features Windows enthusiasts might find interesting.
Windows Sandbox allows you to run applications in a virtual environment completely isolated from the rest of your system. It’s no substitute for good security practices and a healthy dose of caution, but it does allow you to open suspicious files or programs with almost as little risk to your system.
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Consider the case where you download an executable that is supposed to allow you to customize the user interface of your Windows PC. Normally you’d be forced to run it through a service like VirusTotal.com, then try to install it on your PC. If it’s a new or particularly clever type of malware, it’s entirely possible that VirusTotal’s antivirus (and your PC’s) will miss it. Then you are stuck with an infected computer. Windows Sandbox would allow you to load the executable in a safe environment, run it, and then see if it’s malicious or not, with very little risk to your computer.
Windows Sandbox is definitely one of the most useful features of Windows 11 Pro, and most users could benefit from it.
Hyper-V Manager is a graphical user interface (GUI) for Hyper-V. Hyper-V is a hypervisor that creates and manages virtual machines.
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It sounds complex, but it’s really not 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 running other operating systems, tweaking their RAM, CPU cores, video memory, and pretty much 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) depends on it, and WSL performance is fast and responsive. Hyper-V Manager simply lets you monitor and control virtual machines that use Hyper-V with a graphical user interface.
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However, Hyper-V Manager is not really necessary. Many virtualization applications are available for Windows, such as VirtualBox Where VMWare Workstation Playerwhich 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 friendlier towards new users.
Hyper-V Manager is certainly a great tool if you need to work in the Windows ecosystem for some reason, but it doesn’t offer much for regular home users – even avid home users – if they are ready to use third-party tools or a Linux-based hypervisor.
Group Policy and Group Policy Editor
Group Policy and the Local Group Policy Editor, is the Swiss army knife of administration tools on 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 many to list explicitly, but it’s a fantastic utility if you want to be able to make Windows act exactly the same way. you want to.
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Ultimately, the Group Policy Editor is an incredible convenience, but it’s not strictly necessary. Almost everything you can do with the Group Policy Editor can be accomplished in other ways, such as editing the Windows Registry, although they usually require a lot more work. Whether or not the convenience is worth the extra cost ultimately comes down to personal preference.
Home editions of Windows 11 include standard Device Encryption, which encrypts a computer’s disks if a TPM 2.0 and you sign in with a Microsoft account.
BitLocker Device Encryption is a bit more complex – it gives you finer 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 essential in today’s world – we store huge amounts of sensitive information on our computers without a second thought. If your computer is stolen and someone starts poking around your unencrypted hard drive, they could very well find enough information to cause a lot of trouble. If you store copies of your taxes on your computer, that would probably be enough to steal your identity.
Is the extra control worth the premium requirements of Windows 11 Pro? 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 enhance your protection, it just lets you customize it.
There are also compelling Bitlocker alternatives that are completely free, like VeraCrypt. VeraCrypt can secure sensitive files on your PC just like BitLocker.
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Warning: By its very nature, any type of remote access program or protocol increases the vulnerability of your system. If you do not need to enable Remote Internet Access on a PC, do not do it.
If you travel frequently or have multiple PCs at home, you may want to be able to access a Windows PC from another PC instead of physically interacting with it. Remote Desktop does just that – just enable Remote Desktop on a PC, install the Remote Access Application on the control device, establish a connection and you are good to go.
Remote Desktop is only available on Windows 11 Pro, although you can use the app on any version of Windows.
It’s nice to have a remote desktop protocol and app built right into Windows, but it’s extremely hard to say “home users should pay for this feature” when there are plenty of access tools out there free remotes to connect to a PC or Mac.
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Is upgrading to Windows 11 Pro worth it?
Is it worth spending an extra hundred dollars to upgrade to Windows 11 Pro from Windows 11 Home? As always, it mostly depends on your particular situation. As it stands, the overwhelming majority of users won’t miss most of the features present in Windows 11 Pro.
Power users and enthusiasts might want some of the features, especially Sandbox, Hyper-V Manager, and Group Policy access. However, almost all of these features have free third-party alternatives or other workarounds that can accomplish the same things.
Considering the cost of upgrading and the lack of usable features at home, upgrading to Windows 11 Pro isn’t worth it for most people.
If you want to upgrade, you can do it from 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 purchase 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 that you acquired elsewhere. (However, we don’t recommend buying those cheap gray market 3rd party keys you find online.)
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