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Power BI license types explained

If you still haven't found the version of Power BI most suitable for your needs and the scale of your operations, don't panic. In this blog post, we'll compare them against one another and see how they rank to help you find your perfect match.

“Hey, what’s your Power BI license type?”

To start off, there are three main versions of Power BI you should know about:

  • Power BI Free or Desktop
  • Power BI Pro
  • Power BI Premium

Power BI Free or Desktop

As the name suggests, Power BI Free is the basic and free version of the application for use on your desktop/system and to introduce the Power BI suite to first-time users.

It works alongside the main cloud-based application. Even though it is intended for first-time users, it still allows connecting with over 70 data sources, examining data, publishing to the web, exporting to excel, and other varied functions. We’ve already spoken about the difference between Power BI dashboards and reports.

Since Power BI Desktop is free, you don’t need a Microsoft Office 365 subscription to use it. You can get it in one of two ways: directly downloading the installation package or installing the application. To learn more, check out our step-by-step Power BI installation guide.

Power BI Download Free

Power BI Pro

A simple thing to remember about the Power BI licenses is that they scale up according to user needs and complexity.

Therefore, if Power BI Free is intended for first-time beginners, Power BI Pro is meant for experienced users who require a wider array of features and services.

Power BI Pro is the next stage in the Power BI ecosystem and is licensed per user.

Unlike Power BI Free, Pro costs $9.99 per month, allowing data collaboration, data governance, building dashboards with a real-time view, and publishing reports anywhere.

Follow the steps below to get a subscription to the service:

  • Go to and launch the Microsoft 365 admin center.
  • On the left navigation pane, go to and select Billing > Subscriptions.
  • In the upper right corner of the Subscriptions page, pick Add subscriptions.
  • Find the subscription offer you want.
  • Under Enterprise Suite, choose Office 365 Enterprise E5.
  • Office E5 subscription.
  • Under Other Plans, choose Power BI Pro.
  • Hover over the ellipses (. . .) for the wanted subscription, and pick Buy now.
  • Select Pay monthly or Pay for a full year, depending on your payment preference.
  • Under How many users do you want? Choose the number of required licenses, and then choose “Check out now” to complete the process.
  • Confirm that the purchased subscription is now showing up on the Subscriptions page.
  • Purchased subscription.
  • To increase licenses after the first purchase, select Power BI Pro from the Subscriptions page and select Add/Remove licenses.

Power BI Premium

Power BI Premium is not an individual user-based license, unlike the previous two. Instead, the Power BI Premium license is purchased by a company or entity at large to provide a dedicated capacity unit for all its users/employees.

This dedicated capacity is also called a Premium Workspace. It can hold datasets of varying sizes up to 50 GB while offering a total storage capacity of 100GB via the cloud.

Your organization can use Power BI Premium’s dedicated capacity and hardware instead of relying on Microsoft’s shared capacity. You must accurately gauge and measure your needs and requirements to ensure that your chosen capacity can handle your reporting and analysis targets.

A Power BI Premium plan is priced at $4,995 per month for each dedicated cloud computing and storage resource. However, this will not include costs for Pro or Free licenses for any users in your organization.

Power BI Report Server

A neat feature of Power BI Premium that we must mention is Power BI Report Server.

It is a server physically located on your premises/location that your business will use to build its BI initiatives on its hardware. You can also use it to publish and share Power BI reports and traditional reports created with SQL Server Reporting Services from within your organization’s firewall.

Also called Power BI On-Premise, the service will suit your needs if you’re planning to set up a reporting infrastructure for your business in its physical location and have it operate according to your policies and requirements.

Main differences explained

The main difference between the three Power BI licenses ultimately boils down to core functionality and data processing/handling capacity.

There is a difference in handling capacity between Power BI Free and Power BI Pro. Meanwhile, Power BI Pro and Power BI Premium differ in data capacity.

Another difference between them is report generation options and features. Since Power BI Pro is a more advanced offering, it naturally has more options and improves collaboration quality compared to Power BI Free.

One thing you should keep in mind is that Power BI Premium is not a substitute for Power BI Pro – it has a different purpose and lacks some Pro features.

Instead, if you have a Premium license and Pro licenses for some users, they will be able to access the following improvements:

  • Unlocking increased capacity with larger storage sizes
  • Unlocking higher limits for aspects such as refresh rates, isolation, and others

Respective advantages

Each Power BI license comes with certain advantages. If you jump from Free to Pro, most of them will jump along, while Premium offers its advantages. Read the full list of advantages per license type below.

Power BI Free

  • Connecting and importing data from more than 70 cloud-based and on-premises sources
  • Vibrant visualizations and filters
  • Auto-detect that finds and creates data relationships between tables and formats
  • Exporting reports to CSV, Microsoft Excel, Microsoft PowerPoint, and PDF
  • Support for Python
  • Saving, uploading, and publishing reports to the Web and the full Power BI service
  • Storage capacity of 10GB for each user

Power BI Pro

  • Apart from the advantages mentioned above, Power BI Pro offers additional benefits and services:
  • Facility to embed Power BI visuals into apps (PowerApps, SharePoint, Teams, etc.)
  • Natural integration with other Microsoft products and services (Azure Data Services)
  • Sharing datasets, dashboards, and reports with other Power BI Pro users
  • Creating App Workspaces and peer-to-peer sharing
  • Ability to securely share a Report: a Pro user can share with another Pro user or place the Report on a Premium Workspace and share it with Free license users.

Power BI Premium

As previously said, the main advantage that Power BI Premium brings to your organization is its dedicated capacity. In practice, it means easier access for those that need to consume data and reports.

Respective drawbacks

After we’ve covered the advantages, it’s important to note some drawbacks and limitations to two of the Power BI licenses, Free and Premium.

Power BI Free

  • Inability to share generated reports with non-Power BI Pro users
  • Does not include App Workspaces
  • Does not include API embedding
  • This does not include email subscriptions
  • Does not facilitate peer-to-peer-sharing
  • No facilitation to analyses in Excel within Power BI Desktop

Power BI Premium

Power Bi Premium doesn’t replace Power BI Pro, it adds value to it.

Therefore, it is not a standalone application that can work independently of Power BI Pro. Premium allows users in an organization to view and consume reports but not create them, which Pro is for.

Thus, your users responsible for creating and generating reports will need Power BI Pro subscriptions of their own, which is an added but necessary cost.

Determining which license type is best for you

Ultimately, the license type best for your organization depends on your needs.

Power BI Free is best intended for people and users such as small-scale business owners and individual professionals who might just want to look at data and gain insight from it instead of engaging or creating it.

On the other hand, Power BI Pro aids organizations and users who need to create and engage with data and reports. If your organization has 10 or more employees, then at least one Pro license will be a safe bet.

However, suppose you belong to a large organization where all employees need to look at relevant data and reports. In that case, a Premium license will be optimal, along with Pro licenses for some specific users.

The best value from your chosen Power BI license will come after you accurately gauge your needs and choose the license that best aids your organizational capacity.

Protecting your Power BI data

No matter which license type you’ve chosen, Power BI can compromise the security of your sensitive data if accessed by the wrong set of eyes.

With Syskit Point’s Power BI inventory and permission reports, IT admins get instant and accurate insights into facts, such as which data is exposed to whom, together with the intelligence of published reports and the corresponding time and data sources.

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