Written By Rick de Groot

Rick is the founder of BI Gorilla. He believes learning is one of life's greatest pleasures and shares his knowledge to help you improve your skills.

The Power BI licenses you use have a big impact on which features are available to you. When starting out, a basic user a Free License may work, but once you start sharing content you will quickly have a need for more.

You then likely end up with a Pro or Premium Per User license, or perhaps even Premium Capacity. So what do the different licenses offer? The following chapters should help you in creating a licensing strategy for Power BI.

Table of contents

Power BI Licenses

A quick overview should help in understanding the differences between Power BI licenses. The below table summarizes the most important differences.

Power BI Licenses overview

Below you will find more detailed information per license.

Free License

To get started with Power BI desktop you need absolutely nothing. That’s right, Microsoft allows you to work with Power BI without paying anything. You can simply download Power BI Desktop and start working on your reports with a free license.

The free license is meant to let you create and interact with your own content. It includes capabilities like

  • creating reports (.pbix files) in Power BI Desktop
  • connecting to 100+ data sources
  • publishing your report to the private My Workspace in the Power BI Service
  • installing a personal gateway
  • publishing your reports to the web (for everyone to see)

The key is that a free user can only connect to data and create reports in My Workspace. Free users can’t view content shared by others or share their own content with others.

So why would Microsoft let you do all this for free? Well, it’s a low-barrier way to find out whether the product is for you. It is really meant as a tryout.

And when you are ready to get serious with Power BI, you will soon need more functionalities. Sharing content with colleagues is only possible with either a Pro License or a Premium Per User (PPU) license.

Worth mentioning is that if your company has Premium Capacity, users with a free license can still collaborate and view content residing in a Premium Workspace.

Pro License

Once you start getting serious about using Power BI, you need at least a Power BI Pro license. You purchase these licenses on a per-user basis. They cost $9,99 per user per month and offer attractive pricing for small to medium-sized companies.

With a pro license, you can:

  • collaborate with Premium Per User (PPU) or Pro users by creating and sharing content.
  • share content through Apps and App workspaces
  • use analyze in Excel and dataflows
  • configure incremental refresh
  • promote or certify datasets
  • use email subscriptions, dashboards, data alerts, commenting
  • and much more….

Bigger companies often resort to Premium Capacity which can be more cost-effective with a larger user base.

Premium Capacity

Companies can also purchase Premium Capacity. What differentiates Premium Capacity from other licenses? For a full list of features, you can look here, but the most important ones are:

  • Dedicated capacity makes sure that your tenant has its own computing resources. This prevents the noisy neighbour effect that can exist with licenses using ‘shared capacity’.
  • Get up to 48 scheduled refreshes through the user interface per day
  • Use Paginated Reports and Hybrid tables
  • Unlimited Content Sharing with Free users (also outside the organization)
  • Configure deployment pipelines
  • Get premium features for dataflows
  • Get XMLA read/write permissions

When content resides in a Premium Capacity workspace, Power BI Pro and PPU users can distribute content to all Power BI users, regardless of the license. In this situation, free licenses gain capabilities to view and consume content.

And this is exactly the business case for Premium Capacity. Organizations with high quantities of users often have big cost benefits when a high number of free users can interact with content.

Premium Per User

Early 2021, the Premium Per user licensing became available for $20,- per month. PPU makes Premium Features available to users without the Premium Capacity pricing.

It’s good to be aware of the following. Content created by PPU users and published to a Premium Per User Workspace can only be shared with other PPU users.

Any content you publish to a Regular Workspace can also be shared with other Pro users.


Hopefully, this gave you an idea of the main differences between Power BI Licenses. There are many other aspects that are important for choosing your licensing strategy.

For help in this area, you can reach out to me and I’ll see how we can help through consulting.

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  1. Hey Rick. Thanks for the article. I was looking for this simple comparison between the licenses so that I can explain it to my clients who are looking to adopt Power BI as their reporting tool. This one clearly serves my purpose!


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