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A deep dive into Windows 8 Pro features

You don't need a complicated matrix to understand the differences between the base version of Windows 8 and Windows 8 Pro. The Pro-only feature list is short and straightforward. Here's what to expect.
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Most of the Pro-only features are available for immediate use. Some, however, require a bit of advance preparation, Hyper-V virtualization, for example, has a short list of system requirements and must be enabled manually.

For a full discussion, see What exactly do you get with Windows 8 Pro?

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Only Windows 8 Pro can join a Windows domain and take advantage of the dozens of new group policies that are exclusive to Windows 8.

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BitLocker Drive Encryption offers strong encryption for entire drives, with the encryption secured by a password or a smart card. To encrypt the system drive, the PC must have a Trusted Platform Module. BitLocker To Go is ideal for USB flash drives and doesn't require any extra hardware.

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BitLocker To Go was previously only available in Ultimate and Entrprise Windows editions. With Windows 8 it will be available with the mainstream business SKU, Windows 8 Pro.

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If you forget the password for a flash drive protected by BitLocker To Go, your data is lost for good. Unless you can come up with a recovery key, that is. Windows 8 builds in the option to save the recovery key to your SkyDrive account, where it's secure but readily accessible.

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When you plug a BitLocker-encrypted flash drive into a Windows 8 PC, this Metro style dialog box prompts you to enter the necessary credentials to unlock the data. (BitLocker To Go is also compatible with Windows 7.)

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Creating a virtual hard disk takes literally seconds. Windows 8 adds a new VHDX format and the ability to mount the VHD file by double-clicking.

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After creating a 20 GB VHD flle and mounting it, the virtual disk appears to Windows just like a physical disk. After attaching this drive, I installed Windows 8 on it. The setup program automatically added the new installation to the boot menu.

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Hyper-V was previously a server-only feature. In Windows 8, this powerful feature replaces the wimpy virtualization tools that previous Windows desktop versions had to suffer through. This installation has installations of Windows 7 and 8. You could also run a server version of Windows, resources permitting.

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The best thing about virtualization is that a virtual hard disk can be copied from PC to PC and attached to new VMs using this wizard.

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The wizard makes it relatively easy to set up a new VM. Use this extremely dense settings dialog box to fine-tune memory, hard disk, network, and other settings.

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Just as with previous versions of Windows, the ability to set up a Windows 8 PC as a Remote Desktop host requires the Pro version.

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