One of the curious abilities of the Surface Laptop is the ability to run Windows 10 Professional. While the marketing of Microsoft’s lightweight laptop focused on mainstream personal use, with the alternative version of the desktop OS this Surface is a pretty attractive option to Enterprise customers looking for something more ‘regular laptop’ than the Surface Pro, and something slightly cheaper than the Surface Books.
Putting aside the limited Windows 10 S version of the operating system – that locked down the operating system similar to some of the more aggressive mobile operating systems. Windows 10 S was discontinued in March 2018, but it’s still possible for a manufacture to ship with ’S mode activated, but this can be switched off by the users.
The first Surface Laptop shipped with Windows 10 S, while the updated Surface Laptop (effectively the Surface Laptop 2) ships with Windows 10 Home. Both models can be upgraded to Windows 10 Pro. The upgrade itself is easy – head into the Windows 10 settings, under the ‘Update & Security’ you’ll find the Activation section. Type in your purchased Windows 10 Pro key, acknowledge the ’save everything, this will restart your hardware’, and wait as the upgrade works through a mix of downloads, restarts, and installation procedures. On my Surface Laptop , this took around 9 minutes with a good wi-fi based internet connection.
When I reviewed the Surface Laptop in December 2018, Microsoft’s laptop was running Windows 10 Home:
Windows 10 Home is the natural choice – this isn’t a Pro machine and the main benefits of Pro (such as enterprise networking and joining domains) don’t really fit the profile of user that the Laptop 2 is aimed at. The main benefits of Windows 10 such as backwards compatibility with legacy programs and the availability of the Windows Store for new apps are still available.
Yes, the Surface Laptop is pushed towards consumers, but the underlying hardware is just as attractive to roll-outs in Enterprise. And that’s where running Windows 10 Pro is a hidden superpower of the Surface Laptop.
For the regular consumer looking for ’normal’ computing activities, Windows 10 Home will meet those requirements. Windows 10 Pro adds in many more tools that help the hardware better interact within a business setting.
First up, if you have a feature in Windows 10 Home you like, it’s going to be there in Windows 10 Pro. Pro is a superset of features compared to Home. That doesn’t mean completists should run out to get Pro just to have everything ‘just in case’, but it means that if you are upgrading, you can be comfortable in the knowledge that nothing is going to be taken away.
Three key features stand out for me in Pro, and help focus on what a Pro-powered Surface Laptop can do over the off-the-shelf Windows 10 Home edition. The first is the use of Windows Domains and Group Policies. Both are vital tools that allow a Windows 10 machine to work in a corporate environment where centralised management of machines, operating system configurations, and work in specified domains. That’s not something I need in my kitchen while looking up recipes, but it’s important to talk to printers in an office, access files on corporate servers, or be given permission to access physical resources in a space
Windows 10 Pro can act as a host for Remote Desktop Connections, allowing one machine to be accessed and used remotely by another. While Windows 10 Home has the client option built-in, Windows 10 Pro machines can be clients or hosts – again something that works perfectly well in a larger enterprise roll-out.
Then there’s Bitlocker. I think it should be self-evident why machines in a corporate environment would be interested in full disk encryption as standard. I’m increasingly of the opinion that it’s a smart thing for every user to have an option on by default, it’s one of the few arguments where individuals might want to consider a Windows 10 Pro version of the Surface Laptop.
As I noted in my initial review, the Surface Laptop is being pushed as a consumer device for a single user Just because a device is targeted at one area does not mean it is useful in other areas – the Surface Go was pitched as a great front-line terminal for enterprise but it makes for a pretty good tablet.
No doubt the teams selling the full package of software, services, and hardware are already aware that the Surface Laptop can transform into a desirable enterprise laptop as well. Yes Microsoft has been able to build up its credentials in hardware, but its strength in software is clearly on show here.