Windows 8.1 with Bing is official, but what about ProfessionalStudent?

By | May 28, 2014

In one of the Windows 8.1 Update leaks we discovered two new SKUs: CoreConnected and ProfessionalStudent. As I reported here before, CoreConnected is called “Windows 8.1 With Bing” and it is a free version of Windows targeted at low-cost OEM devices. A couple of days ago Microsoft officially announced Windows 8.1 with Bing on their blog, but they didn’t mention the ProfessionalStudent SKU. What could this SKU be and when will Microsoft ever release it?

First of all, the ProfessionalStudent SKU still exists in Windows 8.1 Update RTM according to PKeyConfig and the EditionMatrix:

pkeyconfigRTM

editionmatrix8.1.1RTM

 

The EditionMatrix lists Professional as a possible upgrade of ProfessionalStudent, therefore Professionalstudent is a version inferior to Professional.

Sadly, we don’t have a ProfessionalStudent ISO, and even though we can upgrade a WIM to ProfessionalStudent using DISM we would need a CoreConnected (“with Bing”) or Starter (yes those things still exist, albeit only internally) ISO. Since we don’t have any of those available, we’ll have to use the next best thing, a leaked, pre-RTM CoreConnected build, build 9600.17024 (RTM=9600.17031).

Licence.rtf

This should really be a no-brainer. In “%Windir%\System32\en-US\Licenses\” you’ll find different license.rtf files.

The ProfessionalStudent version of the Licensing Terms refers to the edition as “Windows 8.1 Pro for education” and includes this additional section:

Who can license and use this software?

You must be a student, faculty or staff of an educational institution to license and use this software. You may use this software for academic activities only. You may not use this software for commercial, non-profit, or revenue-generating activities.

Comparing installs

To find other differences between Professional and ProfessionalStudent I started by deploying the leaked CoreConnected WIM onto a VHD, then I made 2 copies of that disk, one I upgraded to Professional and the other one to ProfessionalStudent. Then I compared both (virgin, never booted) installations using ExamDiff Pro to find out differences between the 2 editions. In total there were 354 changed files…

After removing unimportant licencing files and other files with unimportant differences (mostly branding changes) we’re left with these 14 different files:

diff

You can download all these files here to review them yourself: Pro – ProStudent differences.zip

Basebrd.dll and Shellbrd.dll

The Basebrd.dll and Shellbrd.dll files are related to OS branding, Basebrd.dll, for example controls the boot image, and Shellbrd.dll controls the logo in PC info, among other things. I don’t have any idea how I would go about comparing these. I did quickly go through the resources using a resource browser and tried a binary comparison using ExamDiff, but that didn’t reveal any important differences. If anybody knows how to do this please let me know or feel free to download the files above and try it yourself.

Tokens.dat

Tokens.dat is used by Windows to store licences for the OS, along with other licence and activation related info. I haven’t found a good way to ‘read’ this file and perform a proper comparison. The 2 files are indeed different (obviously, because of the different OS versions), the Professional version is 0.9MB larger than the ProfessionalStudent one. Once again, feel free to experiment with the files above!

Registry

The other .dat files are registry hives. I loaded them using regedit and exported them as .reg files for easy comparison. While there apparently are some binary differences between the two original .dat files, the keys in the exported .reg are 100% identical.

Conclusion

The licence.rtf files confirm what everybody expected, Windows 8.1 for Education is targeted at students and staff of educational institutions, only for academic use.

The Professional and ProfessionalStudent installs appear to be almost identical, except for some branding changes. This could mean that there will be absolutely no differences except for the way it’s licences (and priced), but then Microsoft wouldn’t have made a new SKU for it. It’s more likely that, since ProfessionalStudent is based in Professional, Microsoft just forked the Professional SKU and hasn’t implemented any changes yet.

Looks like only time will tell what Microsoft has planned for Windows for Education…