Windows 10 is distributed through multiple market channels. You can acquire it as a digital download or as a retail full package product. What are the differences between the two?
Both are the same product in some respects, the only difference is the method of acquisition and installation.
- The physical retail package is stuck at build 10240, which you have to update to the latest version (14393.726) through Windows Update.
- The digital download through the Microsoft Store using the Media Creation Tool includes the latest release (14393.0), which is updated to .726 either during the installation (if connected the Internet) or through Windows Update after completing the installation.
- With the release of the Windows 10 Creators Update, the Media Creation Tool will be updated to download and install the latest version only.
The Media Creation Tool can be used to perform direct upgrades from Windows 7 or Windows 8, or you can use it to create a bootable copy on an empty USB thumb drive or blank DVD. You can also use the Media Creation Tool to also download an ISO image, which you can use to manually create a bootable copy on a blank DVD or USB using your favorite program.
The retail Windows 10 box license is the same, but the install media comes in the form of a small USB thumb drive and only in one specific edition based on your purchase (Home or Pro). When you boot from it, you will have to choose which architecture of Windows 10 you want to install (32 or 64 bit).
Another difference with the Media Creation Tool, it lets you specify which editions and architecture you want to download. In fact, you can download all architectures and edition, which you can use to upgrade a mixture of versions and editions. This normally requires a larger thumb drive.