Windows XP - Which Edition Should I Choose?

The choice of whether to choose Windows XP Home or Professional, or any other edition, or any similar edition of Windows Vista, varies - and not always strictly according to network environment, or to intended use. Many small businesses can get by quite well with XP Home, yet many professionals wouldn't have anything less than XP Pro in their home LAN.

Based on help requests, I'd guess that the most relevant distinctions, between the various editions of XP are:

  • Choice of file sharing. A computer running XP Home will only use Simple File Sharing.
  • Domain membership. A computer running XP Home cannot join a domain.
  • Number of simultaneous incoming connections. XP Home limits you to 5 simultaneous incoming connections, while XP Pro will limit you to 10.
  • Remote access to the desktop. XP Pro provides Remote Desktop, which integrates tightly into the Windows structure. For XP Home, and for other operating systems, you will need VNC, or a similar product.
  • Remote access to the operating system. A computer running XP or Vista Home can't be managed remotely, nor can its problems be diagnosed remotely.
  • Token based access. A computer running XP Pro will use token based access. You'll authenticate once (possibly automatically) to a server, the client will setup a token, and use that token in the future. With XP Home, you'll authenticate each time that you create a connection to a server.

As always, Your Mileage May Vary.

NOTE: There is a third, odd member of the Windows XP trio. XP Media Center Edition has the XP Pro kernel. The early versions of MCE had all of the functionality of XP Pro, plus the multimedia capabilities. Starting with the 2005 version, XP MCE (KB887212): lost the ability to join a domain, though it still has many other components of XP Pro.

If you have a computer with either XP Home or XP MCE 2005, and you need it to access domain resources, please read File Sharing Under Windows XP - Windows XP In A Domain.

If you want to make a detailed comparison, and look at other decision making possibilities, you may want to read additional articles:

Identify Your Edition Of Windows XP
  • Right click on My Computer.
  • Select Properties.
  • On the General tab, look under System:. If you have Windows XP, it will say either:
    • XP Home.
    • XP Media Center (which has the file sharing abilities of XP Professional).
    • XP Professional.
    • XP Tablet (which has the file sharing abilities of XP Professional).
    • XP Professional x64.

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