Microsoft offers four main versions of Windows 8, but you’ll probably want only one: the aptly titled “Windows 8” version. Small businesses will choose Windows 8 Pro, and larger businesses will want Windows 8 Enterprise.

The Four Flavors of Windows 8
The Version of Windows 8 What It Does
Windows RT Designed for long-battery life, this version only comes preinstalled, mostly on touchscreen tablets and laptops. It runs the Start screen and apps, but its limited desktop won’t run your own Windows programs. To compensate, Windows RT includes versions of Microsoft Word, Excel, PowerPoint, and OneNote.
Windows 8 Aimed at consumers, this version includes the Start screen, apps, and a full-featured Windows desktop that can run most Windows programs.
Windows 8 Pro Aimed at the small business market, this version features everything from the Windows 8 version, as well as tools used by small businesses: encryption, extra networking features, and similar tools. If you buy a Media Center Pack upgrade, Windows 8 Pro can record TV shows through a TV tuner with Windows Media Center, as well as play DVDs. (To upgrade Windows 8 to Media Center, buy a Windows 8 Pro Pack.)
Windows 8 Enterprise Microsoft sells this large business version in bulk to large businesses.

Each version in the table contains all the features of the versions preceding it. Windows 8 Pro contains everything found in Windows 8, for example.

Here are some guidelines for choosing the version you need:

  • If you’re considering a tablet with Windows RT, make sure you realize that it can’t run regular Windows programs. You’re limited to its bundled Office programs and any apps you download from the Windows Store.

  • If you’ll be using your PC at home, pick up Windows 8 or Windows 8 Pro.

  • If you need to connect to a domain through a work network — and you’ll know if you’re doing it — you want Windows 8 Pro.

    Want to play DVDs or record TV shows with Windows Media Center in Windows 8 Pro? Then pull out your credit card and upgrade online for the Media Center Pack. (To upgrade the consumer-oriented Windows 8 with Windows Media Center, buy the Windows 8 Pro Pack.)

  • If you’re a computer tech who works for businesses, go ahead and argue with your boss over whether you need Windows 8 Pro or Windows 8 Enterprise. The boss will make the decision based on whether it’s a small company (Windows 8 Pro) or a large company (Windows Enterprise).

Most computers let you upgrade to a more powerful version of Windows 8 from the desktop Control Panel’s System area. (Reach for your credit card before clicking the Get More Features with a New Edition of Windows link.)

For more information about Windows 8 and its features, explore Windows 8 For Dummies, available online.