Power BI Free vs Pro and Premium

Power BI

By Burningsuit

Power BI Resources

Power BI is the leader of the pack when it comes to Business Intelligence tools. It has several different licence types, depending on how users want to use and interact with it.

If you’re thinking about using Power BI business analytics tools to deliver insights throughout your organisation, or if you’ve been provided a licence by your company, you’ll need to understand what these licences are, how they work and what facilities each offer.

Aug 2021


Our next public course:

Microsoft Power BI Advanced Course

At Instructor Led Online Course

View course

Update: In December 2020 Microsoft Announced their new “Premium Per User” Licence I’ve written about it here Power BI Licences, what is Premium Per User ?

Update: We cover licencing in our new Youtube Video,

Comparison table

Power BI LicenceFreeProPremium
CostFree£7.50/u/m> £3100/m/Licenced by Capacity
Data Capacity Limit10GB10GB100TB (102,400GB)
Maximum size of a DataModel1GB1GB10GB 
Create and  View Dashboards & Reports YYView Only
Share Dashboards & reports with other BI UsersNY
Power BI DesktopYY
Access via mobile DevicesYY
Consume Curated Content Packs (Dynamics, Salesforce, Google Analytics)YY
Import from Excel, CSV, and Power BI desktop FilesYY
Publish to WebYY
Export to PowerPoint/CSVNY
Publish to SharepointNY
Publish to PremiumNY
Power BI Report Server (On Premise Server)NPremiumY
Data Refresh
Scheduled Refresh8 per day8 Per Day48 Per Day
Minimum Time Between Refreshes30min30min1min
Streaming Data (per hour)1M Rows/hour1M rows/hour
Live Data SourcesNY
Access on-premises data via Gateways (Personal & Enterprise)YY
Use Office 365 Groups in Power BINY
Create & Publish AppsNYN
Consume AppsNYY
Manage access control through Active Directory GroupsNYN

Our in depth look at each shows exactly how they differ and will help you make the right decision:

Power BI desktop – free software

Before getting in to licence detail, it’s worth mentioning one element of Power BI that does not need a licence. The Power BI desktop application is a free download from Microsoft, you can get it here.

Power BI Desktop lets you create Data Models and build Reports, but does not need a Power BI licence. However, once you’ve built your Report, in order to share it with others, export it to PowerPoint or simply print the Report you’ll need a Power BI account in the cloud. To access Power BI in the cloud you’ll need a licence, either Free or Pro.

Power BI Free Licence

The Power BI Free licence is the entry-level licence for Power BI. Users can sign up for one simply by registering here. A Power BI Free licence gives the user 10GB of storage in the cloud that can be used for hosting Power BI reports, or Excel workbooks.

The maximum size of a Power BI report that can be hosted in the cloud is 1GB. These reports can be refreshed up to 8 times a day, with a minimum of 30 minutes between each refresh.

Power BI Free Limitations

Although powerful, the Power BI free licence has several limitations. The most obvious is that Free licences cannot share Reports or Dashboards with other users, neither can they view Reports or Dashboards shared from other Pro licence users.

The only method of sharing a Report open to Free licence users is to publish the Report to the Web. This makes the report publicly available on app.powerbi.com. This publish to web is great for sharing reports with everybody on the internet, but remember it’s not secure and should not be used for data you don’t want to make public, which is pretty much any corporate data, which should be kept confidential.

Other limitations mean you cannot integrate with Office 365 or export reports to PowerPoint or report data to CSV’s.

Best for

  • Small businesses and start-ups
  • Businesses with less data to analyse
  • Businesses without a budget for intelligence tools

Power BI Pro

The Pro licence is a chargeable, per user licence which is currently £7.50 per user per month. It is usually bought as a standalone or add-on licence to office 365. The office 365 E5 licence is the only office 365 licence that includes a Power BI Pro licence as part of it, all others need an add-on licence.

A Pro licence has all the feature of the free licence, 10GB of storage, maximum 1GB report size, 8 automated refreshes per day, with a minimum 30 minutes between refreshes etc. But the big difference is that Pro users can share Reports and Dashboards with other Pro users.

Pro licence holders can also integrate with Office 365 Groups and Teams, use collaborative workspaces and set up email subscriptions to Reports and Dashboards. Often called a “Creator” or “Author” licence, the Pro licence is the most common Power BI licence and in small to medium sized enterprises is it common to have a Pro licence for each user that wants to use Power BI.

Best for

  • Medium to larger businesses
  • Corporations with big data
  • Multi-site businesses

Power BI Premium

The Power BI Premium licence is not a per-user licence like a Free or Pro Licence. Instead a Premium licence provides a dedicated capacity for all users in the organisation. This dedicated capacity, a “Premium Workspace” can be used to host large datasets, up to 50GB in size and offers a total of 100TB of data storage.

It allows Reports and Dashboards to be wrapped up in an “app” and shared with users. These users then only need a free licence to view the app. It also allows Reports and Dashboards on a Premium Workspace to be shared with users having a free licence.

Multiple workspaces can be marked as “Premium” and each can be use to create apps or share with free licence users. A Power BI Premium licence is very much a “consumer” licence, allowing users with only a free licence the ability to view and interact with Reports and Dashboards hosted on a Premium workspace. To create these reports and dashboards in the first place you need a “Pro” licence.

How do you know what Licence you have?

If you want to know what licence you have for Power BI, from your Power BI Workspace on the web, click on the “Gearwheel” on the menu top right. From there click on “Manage Personal Storage” Power BI will show your login name and the licence type at the top of the screen.

Power BI Licence

To find out if you have a Premium licence, look at the Workspaces available to you. Premium workspaces have a diamond icon next to them. Alternatively, when creating a Workspace you can designate it as “Dedicated Capacity”, which is only available with a Premium licence.

Power BI Workspaces
Figure 1 Diamond Icon signifying Premium Workspace

Things to note

  • There is no anonymous secure viewer for Power BI, if you publish a report to the Web, it is made public, and anyone on the internet can potentially search and find the data. Try putting “site:app.powerbi.com burningsuit” into google to find our public reports, or worse still try “site:app.powerbi.com confidential”!
  • 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 licence users.
  • Emailing Power BI Desktop files around is not secure, the recipient gets ALL the data in the data model and can edit the resulting report. Of course, the recipient also needs a copy of PowerBI Desktop to open the .pbix file.
  • When you first sign up for Power BI free you have the option of trialling a Pro licence for 30 days without charge.
  • Internal Administrators can block signup to Power BI Free or Pro, so that they can administer the licences for the organisation.

Training for all versions

Whether you choose to go with the free or pro version of Power BI, or update to premium, we can help you get the most out of it for your business in our ​Power BI Training courses.

Our team of experts are at the cutting edge of all things Power BI, due to our close partnership with Microsoft, giving you the most up-to-date training and information of the platform.

Get in contact with our expert team to find out more or, visit our Power BI page to book your place on one of our courses.

Aug 2021


Our next public course:

Microsoft Power BI Advanced Course

At Instructor Led Online Course

View course

One Comment

  1. Hello,
    Very nice summary of this otherwise very obscure topic.

    For even more clarity, in the Comparison Table, I would break down this item:
    Share Dashboards & reports with other BI Users as follows (and you do mention this in the descript section for the Pro license):
    – Share Dashboards & reports with other BI Free Users
    – Share Dashboards & reports with other BI Pro Users
    – Share Dashboards & reports with other BI Premium Users

    Your post answered perfectly my question: Can a Pro user share content to a Free user? No.


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