Microsoft has announced that only Windows 8 and Windows 8 Pro will be available for conventional desktop and notebook PCs. The third version, Windows RT, is only for ARM-powered devices.
Here are some of the unique features of Windows 8 Pro:
(1) Domain Join and Group Policy
This is the checklist item, the pair of quintessential features that have always differentiated consumer versions of Windows from their business counterparts.
The ability to join a Windows domain and access Active Directory resources is key to a managed Windows environment. The Group Policy editor has a slew of new, Windows 8-only policies that system administrators would welcome.
(2) BitLocker and BitLocker To Go
Both of these features offer strong encryption that’s tailor-made for protecting data on portable devices.
BitLocker enables whole-drive encryption, making it possible for you to securely protect the data on a hard disk. If a notebook PC is stolen, BitLocker makes it impossible to steal your data.
BitLocker To Go is an exceptional security benefit if you carry valuable data in your pocket on a USB flash drive. The encryption process doesn’t require any special hardware, and if you lose the flash drive a potential thief won’t be able to read its data. A new feature for Windows 8 lets you backup the encryption key to your SkyDrive account so you can unlock the drive using your online credentials if you forget the BitLocker To Go password.
(3) Boot from VHD
Boot from VHD eliminates the hassle of dual booting. Instead of messing with hard disk partitions, you create a virtual hard disk (VHD) file. When you attach the VHD file to your existing copy of Windows, it acts exactly like a physical drive.
The VHD-based Windows installation isn’t a virtual machine—it has full access to all hardware resources. It’s an ideal test bed if you want to try a new app without compromising the integrity of your existing system, or if you need to do a demo. You can back up the entire installation by copying the VHD file, and when you no longer need the second Windows installation, you can blow it away by simply deleting the file and removing its entry from the boot menu.
(4) Client Hyper-V
Hyper-V is a full-strength hypervisor, essentially identical to the Hyper-V platform in Windows Server editions. If you know how that platform works, you’ll be right at home with Hyper-V in Windows 8. You can run any 32-bit or 64-bit Windows version—desktop or server. You can spin up a Windows domain controller or web server quickly. This is very useful to developers, IT pros and security researchers.
(5) Encrypting File System (EFS)
EFS is for locking down directories. It’s reasonably strong and a good alternative if you want to avoid the risks of BitLocker’s whole drive encryption. It’s worth noting that there are plenty of free encryption alternatives.
(6) Remote Desktop (host)
There are lots of ways to connect to a PC across a network or over the Internet, but Remote Desktop does it fast and smooth. Setting up a Remote Desktop host takes only a few clicks, and Remote Desktop clients are included with every Windows version and are also easy to find for non-Windows platforms.
(7) Windows Media Center
Windows Media Center will be an optional add-on in Windows 8. You’ll need to pay extra for the media pack, and it will only work with Windows 8 Pro.
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