Windows 8
Windows 8 is the basic edition of Windows for the IA-32 and x64 architectures. Documentation obtained from the ImageX tool and Paul Thurrott‘s book on Windows 8 also refer to this edition as “Core”.[2][3] This edition contains features aimed at the home market segment and provides all of the basic new Windows 8 features including the Start screen with semantic zoom, live tiles, Windows Store, Internet Explorer 10, connected standby, Microsoft account integration, the Windows desktop and more.
Windows 8 Pro
Windows 8 Pro is comparable to Windows 7 Professional and Ultimate[4][5] and is targeted towards enthusiasts and business users; it includes all the features of Windows 8. Additional features include the ability to receive Remote Desktop connections, the ability to participate in a Windows Server domainEncrypting File SystemHyper-V, andVirtual Hard Disk Booting, Group Policy as well as BitLocker and BitLocker To Go. Windows Media Center functionality will be available only for Windows 8 Pro as a separate software package.[6]
Windows 8 Enterprise
Windows 8 Enterprise provides all the features in Windows 8 Pro (except the ability to install the Windows Media Center add-on), with additional features to assist with IT organization (see table below).[4] This edition is available to Software Assurance customers, as well as MSDN and Technet Professional subscribers, and was released on August 16, 2012.[7]
Windows RT
Windows RT is only available pre-installed on ARM-based devices such as tablet PCs.[8] It includes touch-optimized desktop versions of the basic set of Office 2013 applications to users—Microsoft WordExcelPowerPoint, and OneNote, and supports device encryption capabilities. Several business-focused features such as Group Policy and domain support are not included.
Windows RT only runs third-party software bought from Windows Store.[9] Desktop software that run on previous versions of Windows cannot be run on Windows RT.[10]According to CNET, these essential differences may raise the question of whether Windows RT is an edition of Windows: In a conversation with Mozilla, Microsoft deputy general counsel David Heiner was reported to have said Windows RT “isn’t Windows anymore.” Mozilla general counsel, however, dismissed the assertion on the basis that Windows RT has the same user interface, application programming interface and update mechanism.[9]

Unlike Windows Vista and Windows 7, there are no Starter, Home Basic, Home Premium, or Ultimate editions.[11]

Regional restrictions and variations[edit]

All editions have the ability to use language packs, enabling multiple user interface languages.[5] (This functionality was previously only available in Windows 7 Ultimate or Enterprise.) However, in China and a small number of other emerging markets, an edition of Windows 8 without this capability will be offered.[4] In China (not including Hong Kong), a region-specific edition, Windows 8 for China, will be released, as confirmed by Steve Guggenheimer, Corporate Vice President.[12] It will be offered at relatively low price in an attempt to curb rampant software piracy in China. On emerging markets, a similar edition called Windows 8 Single Language (SL) was released as well.

Additional Windows 8 editions specially destined for European markets have the letter “N” suffixed to their names and do not include a bundled copy of Windows Media Player. Microsoft was required to create the “N” editions of Windows after the European Commission ruled in 2004 that it needed to provide a copy of Windows without Windows Media Player tied in.

Upgrade compatibility[edit]

The following in-place upgrade paths are supported from Windows 7.[4] Note that it is only possible to upgrade from an IA-32 version of Windows 7 to an IA-32 version of Windows 8; an x64 version of Windows 7 can only be upgraded to an x64 version of Windows 8. It is possible to upgrade Windows XP SP3 or Windows Vista to Windows 8 Pro. The retail package entitled Windows 8 Pro Upgrade is restricted to upgrading a computer with licensed Windows XP SP3, Windows Vista or Windows 7. Finally, there is no upgrade path for Windows RT, as it is the only version of Windows that currently supports the ARM architecture.[13]

Windows 8 upgrade path[14]
Windows 7 edition Can upgrade to
Windows RT?
Can upgrade to
Windows 8?
Can upgrade to
Windows 8 Pro?
Can upgrade to
Windows 8 Enterprise?
Enterprise No No No Yes
Ultimate Yes No
Professional Yes
Home Premium Yes No
Home Basic

Comparison chart[edit]

Comparison of Windows 8 editions[4][15]
Features Windows RT Windows 8 Windows 8 Pro Windows 8 Enterprise
Availability[16] Pre-installed on devices[8] Most channels Most channels Volume License customers
Architecture ARM (32-bit) IA-32 (32-bit) or x64 (64-bit) IA-32 (32-bit) or x64 (64-bit) IA-32 (32-bit) or x64 (64-bit)
Maximum physical memory (RAM)[17] ? 4 GB on IA-32
128 GB on x64
4 GB on IA-32
512 GB on x64
4 GB on IA-32
512 GB on x64
Secure boot Yes Yes Yes Yes
Picture password Yes Yes Yes Yes
Start screen, Semantic Zoom, Live Tiles Yes Yes Yes Yes
Touch and Thumb keyboard Yes Yes Yes Yes
Language packs Yes Yes Yes Yes
Updated File Explorer Yes Yes Yes Yes
Standard apps[a] Yes Yes Yes Yes
File History Yes Yes Yes Yes
Refresh and reset of OS Yes Yes Yes Yes
Play To Yes Yes Yes Yes
Connected standby Yes Yes Yes Yes
Windows Update Yes Yes Yes Yes
Windows Defender Yes Yes Yes Yes
Better multi-monitor support Yes Yes Yes Yes
New Windows Task Manager Yes Yes Yes Yes
ISO image and VHD mounting Yes Yes Yes Yes
Mobile broadband features Yes Yes Yes Yes
Microsoft account integration Yes Yes Yes Yes
Internet Explorer 10 Yes Yes Yes Yes
SmartScreen Yes Yes Yes Yes
Windows Store Yes Yes Yes Yes
Xbox Live (including Xbox Live Arcade)[18][19] Yes Yes Yes Yes
Exchange ActiveSync Yes Yes Yes Yes
Snap Yes Yes Yes Yes
Can connect to a VPN? Yes Yes Yes Yes
Desktop Partial Yes Yes Yes
Supported third-party apps[4][20] Windows Store apps only Windows Store and desktop Windows Store and desktop Windows Store and desktop
Remote Desktop Client only Client only Client and host Client and host
Storage Spaces No Yes Yes Yes
Windows Media Player No Yes Yes Yes
Encryption features Device encryption[b] Unavailable BitLocker and EFS BitLocker and EFS
Sideload Windows Store apps[15][22] Partial[c] No Partial[c] Partial[c]
Boot from VHD No No Yes Yes
Can join a Windows domain? No No Yes Yes
Group Policy No No Yes Yes
Hyper-V[23] No No On 64-bit versions only with SLAT capable CPU
AppLocker[d] No No No Yes
Windows To Go No No No Yes
DirectAccess No No No Yes
BranchCache[e] No No No Yes
Can be virtualized by RemoteFX? No No No Yes
Services for Network File System[26] No No No Yes
Subsystem for Unix-based Applications No No No Deprecated[27]
Windows Media Center No No Via an add-in[6] No
Microsoft Office apps bundled with OS[f] Yes No No No
Features Windows RT Windows 8 Windows 8 Pro Windows 8 Enterprise