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Understanding Windows 10 Enterprise Licensing

In today’s Ask the Admin, I’ll explain the different options for licensing Windows 10 Enterprise edition.

Windows comes in several editions aimed at different markets and audiences. For instance, Windows 10 Home and Pro are intended for consumers and SMEs, respectively. Home cannot be joined to an Active Directory (AD) domain, while Pro supports AD, but doesn’t have all the bells and whistles of Enterprise Edition, which includes application control (AppLocker) and Credential Guard, amongst other enterprise-class features.


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What Features Are Unique to Windows 10 Enterprise?

Quite a few features are unique to Windows 10 Enterprise, and some features that were previously available in Pro are now available only in Enterprise. Here’s a complete list of features that require Windows 10 Enterprise:

  • Long Term Servicing Branch
  • Windows To Go
  • AppLocker
  • Group Policy consumer experience settings
  • Application Virtualization (App-V) and User Environment Virtualization (UE-V)
  • Device Guard
  • Credential Guard
  • DirectAccess
  • BranchCache

Microsoft is gradually pushing small businesses, which in the past opted to use Pro editions of Windows, to Windows 10 Enterprise by removing features that enable organizations to restrict users’ access to the Windows Store, advertising, and customization features. For an overview of these changes, see Microsoft Cuts More Features From Windows 10 Pro To Push Businesses To Enterprise Edition on the Petri IT Knowledgebase.

How to Get Windows 10 Enterprise

Enterprise editions of Windows used to be only available through Volume Licensing. Software Assurance (SA), a subscription that included upgrade rights and the Microsoft Desktop Optimization Pack (MDOP), was also part of Volume Licensing.

Software Assurance is now known as E3. E5 is the same as E3, but includes an additional security service called Windows Defender Advanced Threat Protection (ATP), which uses behavioral analysis and machine learning to protect Windows if antivirus fails to stop a threat. For more information on Windows Defender ATP, see Advanced Threat Protection Service for Businesses is Coming to Windows 10.

Windows 10 Enterprise E3 and E5 can be purchased as Software-as-a-Service on a monthly subscription plan from Microsoft Partners that participate in the Cloud Solution Provider (CSP) Program or via Volume Licensing. Additionally, there are two bundles, Secure Productive Enterprise E3 and E5, that include Office 365, Enterprise Mobility + Security, and Windows 10 Enterprise. For more information on Enterprise Mobility + Security, see What is Microsoft Enterprise Mobility Suite? on the Petri.

Until recently, one drawback of the purchasing E3 via a CSP Partner was that you needed to already be on Windows 10 Pro to make the upgrade to Enterprise, because E3/E5 licenses are assigned to users via Azure Active Directory (AAD), and Windows 10 Pro would automatically be upgraded to Enterprise edition.

But as Brad Sams recently reported here, ‘Microsoft is allowing anyone with a Windows Enterprise E3 or E5 subscription as well as Secure Productive Enterprise E3 and E5 to upgrade Windows 7 and 8.1 machines at no additional cost’. Microsoft is providing customers with a perpetual Windows 10 Pro license, along with Volume Licensing media, so they can install Windows 10 Pro and then upgrade to E3 or E5 via CSP.

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IT consultant, Contributing Editor @PetriFeed, and trainer @Pluralsight. All about Microsoft, Office 365, Azure, and Windows Server.

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