Have you come across Windows 10 N and KN versions and wondered what they were? You’re not alone. Many people are still not aware of these special editions of Windows even though they have been around since Windows XP.
There are actually 3 special editions:
- Windows 10 N
- Windows 10 K and
- Windows 10 KN
There isn’t just one version of each of the above special Windows 10 either. Instead there are “N” and “K” and “KN” versions of the regular Windows 10 editions. So, you can find Windows 10 Home N, or Windows 10 Professional KN, and so on. You may find one or more of these editions on your Windows 10 installation media.
So, do these editions contain anything special? Are you missing out by not using them? Or can you continue to ignore them every time?
Let’s discuss exactly what they contain (or lack) and talk about the backstory that prompted their creation in the first place.
The Windows 10 N, K and KN Editions
Windows 10 N is a special edition of Windows that is available in Europe. In this version of Windows, Microsoft has deliberately removed its proprietary multimedia features. So, on Windows 10 N, you won’t find stuff like Windows Media Player, Windows Media Center, Windows DVD Maker, Groove Music, Voice Recorder, Movies & TV, or Skype.
Windows 10 K is also a special edition of Windows but it is available South Korea. It has links within it to other software utilities that compete with Microsoft’s proprietary multimedia software offerings. So, while it includes Microsoft’s multimedia software like Windows Media Player and others, it also comes pre-installed with links to other competing instant messaging and media player software.
Windows 10 KN is a special edition of Windows that combines the features of both Windows 10 N and Windows 10 K. It does not include Microsoft’s multimedia software like Windows Media Player and Windows DVD Maker. Going further, Windows 10 KN includes links to other instant messaging and media player software that compete with the proprietary offerings from Microsoft.
There are probably a few other differences here and there since some other promotional apps from Microsoft may not be installed by default on the special Windows 10 versions. But the key differences are as outlined above.
Do I Lose Anything By Ignoring These Special Windows Editions?
No. You don’t lose anything by choosing to ignore the Windows 10 N, K, and KN versions. If anything, in the case of the Windows 10 N and KN versions, you actually “gain” the default multimedia features that Microsoft provides. I actually recommend that you avoid these special versions if you’re not legally obligated to get them. You will save yourself a bunch of headaches.
You may want to note that even if you live in Europe, you don’t have to buy the “N” version. Standard Windows 10 editions are still available for purchase in Europe. And the “K” version is available in South Korea which comes with everything by default (and only includes links to competitor apps).
However, if you purchase a laptop that comes pre-installed with Windows 10, it is quite possible that you may find one of the special Windows 10 editions (with limited features) pre-installed. This can cause some issues, especially if you’re working with apps or browsing websites that have been built to make use of the default Windows multimedia codecs and suite of software.
Many apps, like Microsoft Office and some PC games rely on built-in Windows video playback features. These features may not function properly in such applications. The applications may even crash completely.
Other apps that will experience issues because of missing Windows multimedia features include: Cortana, Microsoft Edge (PDF viewing feature), Windows Hello, etc. And multimedia features may not work at all in any Windows Store apps.
See here for Microsoft’s detailed list of features that are excluded from Windows 10 N (applies to Windows 10 version 1803 – you can also find the excluded features for other Windows versions on Microsoft’s website).
The good news though is that there’s an easy fix for the missing Windows multimedia codecs issues (see below).
Why Did Microsoft Make These Special Windows Editions?
Legal reasons primarily. As previously mentioned, these special editions have been around since Windows XP.
In 2004, Microsoft was forced by the European Commission to start maintaining versions of its operating system that did not come bundled with Windows Media Player and other multimedia software. The European Commission found that Microsoft had violated European antitrust law by abusing its monopoly position to squeeze out rival audio and video makers, and prevent competition in the low-end server market. Besides being sanctioned to produce a less competitive operating system, Microsoft was fined €500 million.
Microsoft had no option but to comply or take Windows off the shelves throughout Europe. That’s how the “N” version of Windows was born. Now, PC manufacturers and consumers can choose this version of Windows and then install their own favorite multimedia applications.
For similar reasons, in 2005, the South Korean Fair Trade Commission (KFTC) also sanctioned Microsoft to produce a version of Windows that did not come bundled with Windows Media Player and proprietary multimedia software. Again, they said that bundling these programs within Windows gave Microsoft an unfair advantage and they should be removed. This time, Microsoft was hit with a fine of €32 million and the result was the “K” and “KN” Windows versions.
The main difference between the “N” and “K” versions is that Europe allowed Microsoft to sell the standard edition alongside “N”. But South Korea did not. So if you live in the South Korea, the only legitimate versions you have access to are the “K” or “KN” editions.
How To Fix Multimedia Issues That Arise On Windows 10 N and KN Editions
Since the “K” version has all the official Microsoft multimedia apps installed be default, it shouldn’t experience any of the issues described above. But if you have the “N” or “KN” versions, you can easily fix the multimedia issues by just downloading and installing Microsoft’s free Media Feature Pack.
The whole point is that, the consumer deliberately chooses to download this feature pack on the “N” and “KN” Windows versions instead of being forced to have them by default.
While I don’t recommend Windows 10 N and KN versions, it is actually a good thing to see authorities enforcing anti-trust laws like these. I actually wish there would be more of it. Otherwise, our markets will be more dominated by huge monopolistic businesses than they are already.
I’m not sure how much Windows multimedia competitors (like RealPlayer) benefited from the decisions made by the European Commission and the South Korean Fair Trade Commission. Maybe they were just making a point rather than doing anything practical. In any case though, I think such regulation is necessary and I wish there was more of it these days.