Windows is the most famous and prolific operating system on the market.
It runs desktop computers, laptops, tablets, and now, even smartphones.
Its most current version is Windows 10.
When Windows 10 was first launched, it was billed as “free.”
However, if you look to purchase a license now, you might see that it’s quite expensive.
Why is Windows 10 so expensive even though it was initially free?
Why Is Windows 10 So Expensive? (Top 10 Reasons)
1. You Aren’t Usually Expected To Have To Buy Windows 10
This bears some explanation.
Most people won’t ever purchase Windows 10.
Computers usually come with Windows 10 pre-installed.
A Microsoft phone or tablet will always have Windows 10 pre-installed.
Thus, it’s usually already included in the cost of whatever device you’re buying.
The end user doesn’t see the cost of Windows 10, so it can be very high.
When you purchase a computer for $600, the hardware may have cost $400, and the software might have cost $200 (just as an example).
Because of this invisible pricing structure, you might be surprised if you actually go to buy Windows 10 and see how expensive it actually is.
People are used to Windows platforms feeling “free” because they’re already installed on the devices that they buy.
However, they aren’t really free.
They’re just already added to the cost of the unit.
Further, even when Windows 10 is purchased individually, it’s usually purchased by an employer.
Very few people need to purchase an operating system for their own personal use.
Once again, the consumer doesn’t really see the pricing of Windows 10 because the company is purchasing it.
That results in a lot of sticker shock the first time a customer tries to buy Windows 10 for their at-home media server.
2. A Lot Of Companies Use Windows 10
When a company purchases a software solution for all their computers, they don’t pay full price.
Rather, they pay for “seats” on a license.
A software system could be $500 individually, or it could be $2,000 for 20 seats.
Companies purchase software in bulk, so they aren’t spending as much as the average consumer would.
This has a few implications.
Foremost, consumers are going to see a price that’s far more expensive than the average corporate price, so the price is going to feel very expensive.
Second, the cost itself goes up because demand goes up.
When all companies use Windows 10 for all their computers, Windows 10 becomes non-optional.
While companies can use stripped-down versions of Windows 10 if they want to, they’re going to get the most functionality and performance from the most advanced versions of Windows.
Therefore, companies are also going to invest in more expensive licenses, and they’re going to purchase the higher-cost software.
Thus, the software becomes more expensive because it’s made for corporate use, and because companies are accustomed to spending a lot on their software.
3. More Than Just Software
When you pay for Windows 10, you aren’t just paying for the software itself.
You’re paying for access to customer support.
This is usually the truth when it comes to proprietary systems.
Open-source systems can be just as robust as commercial ones, but they don’t have support—they just have communities.
At any time, if you’re having problems with Windows 10, you can call technical support.
Technical support will assist you in fixing your problems, and if they can’t, you can walk into a Microsoft store or Microsoft repair center.
This assurance is important for those who rely upon their operating systems, such as those who use their operating system for work.
If you don’t need customer support, or you’re an advanced user, you might be more interested in systems such as Linux.
However, customer support matters for a lot of casual users and for those who don’t want to have to support their own products.
Plus, the Windows 10 ecosystem comes with support for other things, too, like Office 365.
4. You Can Use Windows 10 For Free
Windows 10 is known as being a “free” operating system.
Microsoft spent a lot of time and advertising dollars educating people on the fact that Windows 10 was completely free.
Therefore, it might be a little confusing for those who are looking up Microsoft Windows 10 licenses now and seeing that there’s a hefty cost attached.
The “light” version of Windows 10 is entirely free.
It’s optional to pay for it.
Microsoft recognizes that Windows has become both a necessity and an operating standard.
Many people can’t do their work or their studies without access to the Windows operating system.
To continue expanding their operating base, Microsoft has made it possible to download and install Windows 10 without paying a dime.
What’s associated with the cost?
First, there’s a watermark on Windows 10 that shows that you haven’t paid for it.
Second, there are a number of features that are available in the “premium” paid version of Windows 10 that aren’t available in the light version.
Consequently, the cost of Windows 10 is high because it’s truly optional.
You’re only going to pay for Windows 10 if you really need the features unlocked.
You aren’t going to pay for it if you aren’t serious about it.
Having a “free” option gives Windows 10 the ability to increase the costs of their premium version because they aren’t cutting any customers out of their demographics by increasing the cost.
Of course, you can use the free version indefinitely as long as you’re not irritated by the watermark.
Most people will never notice the limitations of the free version of Windows 10 anyway and may never know that you need to pay for a license for the “premium” version of the software.
5. Developing Windows 10 Cost Microsoft Billions Of Dollars
It cost Microsoft several billion dollars to develop Windows 10.
This is not surprising.
Operating systems are the most complex systems out there.
Not only do they need a lot of features and functionality, but they also need to be very stable and reliable.
An operating system can’t have a significant memory leak.
A memory leak will mean that the operating system stops working over time.
Operating systems also need to be extremely secure.
Microsoft needs to recover these costs.
Some of these costs are only recovered in ways that are tangential to Windows 10.
For instance, Microsoft gets a lot in subscription costs for Office 365.
By giving out Windows 10 for free, sometimes they can encourage more people to use Office 365.
However, Microsoft still does need to make some money from Windows 10, and it does so through licensing costs.
End users who are just hobbyists or non-professionals may not want to pay for Windows 10, but businesses are going to want to pay for Windows 10 because they want their users to have access to the most advanced Microsoft functionality.
Microsoft is able to recover some of its costs of development through these licensing fees, even though they may not recover all the costs involved.
6. Nearly Everyone Has To Use Windows 10
To a certain extent, Microsoft can charge what it wants for Windows 10 because it is, by far, the most common operating system for computers.
Now, it’s not the most common operating system in the world anymore.
Android has become very prolific because it’s on many Iot devices, tablets, and smartphones.
However, for laptops and desktops, most of the world is using Windows 10, even if Linux is free.
Mac OS has significantly less market share than Windows 10.
Professionals need to learn Windows 10 if they’re going to be competitive in the marketplace.
Businesses need to use Windows 10 if they want their employees to be familiar with their software solutions.
Windows 10 is integrated with practically everything from Slack to Salesforce.
This type of widespread adoption is a double-edged sword.
For consumers, there’s really no choice.
If you’re using software that only supports Windows, you’re going to have to purchase and install Windows.
If you’re running a business, it’s very likely that you’re going to need either Windows or Mac.
The Mac OS is just as expensive as Windows, if not more so, because the Mac devices are more expensive.
Most businesses and professionals end up choosing Windows because not only is it the most well-supported operating system, but it’s cheaper than the other major option.
While Linux and Unix-based systems may be less expensive, they aren’t as well-supported and tend to require a higher skill ceiling.
7. The Professional Version Of Windows 10 Is More Expensive
If you’re looking at the professional version of Windows 10, you’re probably looking at an even higher cost than normal.
Windows is a “tiered software” solution.
There are different versions depending on the features, functionality, and support you need.
The basic version of Windows 10 is completely free.
Then there’s a “home” version of Windows 10 that gives you most of the functionality that you’d ever need, but it’s still fairly expensive.
Finally, though, you’ve got the professional version of Windows 10.
The professional version of Windows 10 includes privacy tools, group policy management, additional security features, and a remote desktop.
It’s a far more robust solution.
If you need better privacy and security (e.g., if you’re working with confidential information, personally identifiable information, or intellectual property), then you’re going to need to pay for the professional version of Windows 10.
That’s going to be more expensive than any of the other versions available.
In some ways, when you pay for Windows, you pay for exactly what you need.
You can pay nothing at all if you just need the most basic of functionality, so that’s something that’s important to remember when you’re trying to reduce your costs.
It’s possible, for instance, to use the free version of Windows 10 if you’re also willing to track down open-source privacy and security software—and that could save you money vs. trying to pay for a professional license subscription.
8. Microsoft Is Still Developing New Versions Of Windows 10
When Microsoft released Windows 10, the goal was to make it the “final” version of Windows.
What does that mean? Rather than having to buy Microsoft Windows 11 or Microsoft Windows 12, users simply purchased Windows 10, and updates would continue to be forthcoming.
That also underscores the importance of paying for Windows 10, because Windows 10 includes future updates, patches, features, and functionality.
In the past, when you bought the software, you just bought support for that single version.
You bought technical support and some patches and security fixes, but now, you’re paying for advanced functionality, features, and re-designs.
This makes it possible for Microsoft to offer a smoother user experience as well.
Rather than having to get used to a completely new system each time, users are just introduced to a new iteration of the software system periodically.
Features can come and go as Microsoft releases them or phases them out, and users are able to learn more about the system as these changes occur.
It’s possible that Microsoft will release another version of Windows 10 entirely, but it’s also more likely that each new version of the software is just going to build on the base of Windows 10 moving forward.
That means less time companies and individuals will need to spend learning all new platforms (although it also means that there aren’t likely to be any radical re-designs).
9. Security Features And Updates
Windows 10 is Microsoft’s most secure platform yet, and it has to be.
The IT world, as a whole, is experiencing more attacks than ever before.
From malware attacks to DDoS attacks, pretty much every business and individual is actually under a constant onslaught.
With the right security solutions, a user may never be aware of it.
For Microsoft, a lot of time and energy has gone into authentication services, encryption, and Windows Defender.
A few iterations ago, Windows was almost never secure unless you installed another antivirus solution on top of it.
McAfee, Avast, and other malware solutions would actually ship with Windows computers.
Today, this is pretty rare.
Windows has increased the development of its security processes to make sure that it’s as secure as possible.
All development takes both time and money.
The more secure Windows 10 is, the more money has to be spent to keep it that secure.
Once Microsoft is known for being secure out-of-the-box, it also has to protect that reputation.
A lot of dollars are going into making sure that Microsoft stays a step ahead of malicious attackers and cyber-criminals.
10. Everything Is Based On A Subscription Fee Now
In the old days, Microsoft Windows licenses were a single purchase fee.
You might upgrade your licenses on an annual basis if you had a support contract, but otherwise, it was a single purchase.
You uploaded your license key and that was it.
It was a one-time cost.
That made it far more affordable.
Today, most Windows licenses and Office 365 licenses are subscription-based.
Why the change?
First, it has to do with the iterative updates that we mentioned previously.
Windows 10 isn’t a “whole” product.
It’s an ever-evolving product that’s meant to improve over time.
Because the product continues to be supported, improved, and modified, there’s a continued subscription cost to support that development.
Second, most people have become used to streaming services and other subscription services, so they’re used to paying a lower monthly cost rather than a more expensive upfront cost.
There are a lot of people who couldn’t afford a thousand dollars for a software license but who can afford a hundred or so every month.
Third, it means that users are only required to pay for subscriptions when they need them.
If you find that you no longer need the functionality of Windows Professional, you can always choose to “downgrade” to Windows Home.
In fact, you could use Windows Professional for as little as a month if you only needed the functionality briefly.
Of course, it’s also because companies make more money this way.
Many companies have found that they can continue charging individuals on a recurring basis because they forget to cancel their subscriptions.
This isn’t going to stop because it’s becoming normalized across the software industry.NEXT: Why Is Warhammer So Expensive? (Top 10 Reasons)