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No, Windows 10 Home isn’t ‘good enough’ for the Surface Pro 6

Microsoft Surface Pro 6

Sometimes I despair for the PC industry.

Microsoft has, somehow, convinced people – even arguably sane industry pundits – that Windows 10 Home is “good enough” for its latest PCs, which is to say the Surface Pro 6 and the Surface Laptop 2. As best I can tell, you can’t even order a new Surface Pro 6 or Laptop 2 with Win10 Pro – you have to get Win10 Home, and then upgrade to Pro.

[ Further reading: How to handle Windows 10 updates ]

(If you already have a license for an earlier “Pro” version of Windows, you may be able to upgrade using that license. See Ed Bott’s primer on ZDNet.)

The fact that Surface Pro now ships with Windows Home hasn’t escaped the notice of many. But the “nothing to see here, carry on” response in blogland drives me up a wall.

Microsoft adds a few features to Win10 Pro, compared to Win10 Home – Join network domains, group policies, remote desktop, BitLocker – but all of those fade in comparison to the one feature that every Win10 user needs: The ability to block updates.

Microsoft’s official comparison list doesn’t mention the fact that Pro includes update- and upgrade-blocking settings (which are occasionally “accidentally” ignored). Home doesn’t have any.

With Win10 Pro, you stand a fighting chance of keeping Microsoft’s mitts off your machine until you’re good and ready to apply updates or upgrades. With Win10 Home, you only have three ways to fend off forced updates:

[ Got a spare hour? Take this online course and learn how to install and configure Windows 10 with the options you need. ]

  1. Set your internet connection to metered;
  2. Disable the Windows Update service, wuauserv;
  3. Use a third-party update blocker.

Each of those approaches has problems.

  1. The metered connection kludge isn’t documented anywhere. Microsoft has not committed to refraining from updating or upgrading metered machines. This approach is simply an observation of the way Windows 10 Update has worked in the past; there’s no guarantee it will continue to work that way in the future. 
  2. Disabling wuauserv is a scorched-earth approach that may have unknown and unintended consequences. I know that many of you have disabled the update service, and I respect the decision, but wonder if you’re cutting off your nose to spite your face.
  3. Third-party update blockers have mushroomed in recent years. With more than a dozen to choose from, many of them highly rated, they may be the best alternative for Win10 Home (and even Pro) users. I still hesitate to recommend them because they’re programs from a source other than Microsoft that, quite intentionally, sit between you and your security patches. The risks for screwing things up – both intentionally and unintentionally – are enormous.

Windows 10 Home leaves you open to the vagaries of Microsoft’s forced patching algorithms – Windows gets updated according to Microsoft’s schedule, not yours. If you’ve been following along, you know very well how that’s turned out. July and October were particularly egregious.

If the Windows patches were marginally competent, we wouldn’t be having this discussion. Month after month, though, we’ve seen how premature patches mess things up. I routinely hear conversations among muggles about how Windows bit their butts. And I never, ever tell non-combatants that I watch Windows updates.

Win10 Home occupies an important niche in the Windows ecosystem: Cannon fodder. If you want Microsoft to control your machine, stick with Home. It’s good enough for you. And your screams help us in the peanut gallery figure out where the bugs lie.

Is Win10 Home “good enough” for Surface Pro 6? No!

If you’re going to spend $1,000 on a new machine, set aside an extra $100 to upgrade to Win10 Pro. Better to pay the piper now.

Watch the watchers on the AskWooody Lounge.

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