Power BI

Power BI Licensing Guide

Understanding the different types of Power BI licenses is a fundamental aspect when it comes to using this powerful business intelligence platform. If you have just started using Power BI, you should know that access to some features is only available with a specific type of license, subscription, or authorization.

The features you can access depend on three things:

  • The type of license you are using
  • The type of workspace where the content is stored
  • Roles and permissions assigned to the workspace

In this article, we will explore the various types of licenses available in Power BI, from the Free version to the more advanced ones, to help you understand which one is right for you.

Power BI Free License

To start creating visualizations and developing dashboards, you can download Power BI Desktop for free from the Microsoft website.

Users with a Free license can:

  • Connect and import data from over 70 different types of sources, both cloud and on-premises.
  • Prepare, transform, and integrate data using Power Query, a tool familiar to millions of Excel users.
  • Create the data model.
  • Use the same visualizations and advanced filters as Power BI Pro.
  • Create Dashboards and publish them on Power BI Service.

Power BI Desktop is completely free, and no license is required to use it.

However, if you want to start publishing your content on Power BI Service, you will need a Free license. Power BI Service is the SaaS platform dedicated to visualizing and sharing content developed in Power BI Desktop, and more.
For more details, see Power BI Service.

To obtain a Free License, you need to click the “Try free” button on powerbi.microsoft.com and register. To create an account, you must use your organization’s email address. Email addresses provided by services like outlook.com, hotmail.com, or gmail.com are not accepted.
For more information on how to sign up using a business email, and if you don’t have one, an alternative procedure is described.

Once you have created your Free account, you can access Power BI Service and publish your dashboards in your personal workspace. This way, you can use the features of Power BI Service.
The major limitation of the Free License is that it does not allow the use of Power BI’s sharing and collaboration features, so you will not be able to share your content with other users.

Therefore, the Free license is perfect for those who want to develop dashboards using all the features of Power BI Desktop and do not need to share them with other users.

Power BI Pro License

The Power BI Pro license is aimed at users who need to share reports and collaborate with other users more efficiently through Power BI Service.

This license is distributed on a per-user basis: if 20 users in your company need access to all the sharing features of Power BI Service, 20 Pro licenses will be required (one per user).

Users with a Pro license can:

  • Share content and collaborate with other users.
  • Schedule automatic updates (up to 8) for the data that make up each report (dataset).
  • Create data models of up to 1 GB (per report) and 10 GB of total storage space (per user).

Only users with a Pro license can share or access other users’ content, unless a Power BI Premium capacity hosts such content, but we will delve deeper into this point in the next section.

If you need to share your reports and collaborate with other users, the Pro license is what you need.

Premium Capacity License

The Premium license is the most expensive level of Power BI currently available.
With the Premium License, all the features of Power BI Pro are included, and more.

Users with Power BI Premium Per Capacity licenses can:

  • Increased storage space (100 TB)
  • Higher frequency of updates for Power BI datasets (48/day)
  • Up to 400 GB for the data model
  • Artificial Intelligence features (AutoML, Impact Analysis, Cognitive Services)
  • Ability to use deployment pipelines (very useful for quickly moving from data quality to production data).
Resource Limits for Each SKU

To discover all the Premium features.

With the purchase of a Premium License, you gain access to a dedicated capacity. With other types of licenses, the capacity of the environment used on Power BI Service is shared with other users. However, with a Premium license, you get exclusive use of an environment (with dedicated resources).
The capacity is a set of resources reserved for exclusive use. Each capacity offers a selection of SKUs, and each SKU provides certain levels of memory and computing power.

Below is a table describing the resource limits for each SKU.

Premium capacity also allows access to the content on Power BI Service without the need for an additional Pro license for each user in the organization.

The person creating content in Premium capacity still needs to purchase a Pro license to connect to the data source, create dashboards, and save them in a workspace within the Premium capacity to share with other users. Essentially, there is no need for additional licenses for content viewers, while a Pro license is required for developers (those who create and share content). Finally, if you have a Premium capacity license, you have access to all Microsoft Fabric resources.

The capacity license can be advantageous for medium to large companies (500+ employees), in cases where most users only need to view dashboards and do not need to create or share their own reports.

Premium Per User (PPU) License

The Premium Per User (PPU) license provides the same functionalities as the Premium Capacity license, but it is distributed per user rather than per capacity.

Access to these features is limited to the holder of the PPU license and colleagues who also have a PPU license.

Users with Power BI PPU Licenses can:

  • Share content only with other users who have a PPU license, unless that content is specifically placed in a workspace hosted in Premium capacity.
  • Use up to 100 GB for the data model and 100 TB of storage space.
  • Update data up to 48 times a day.

This type of license was introduced specifically to allow even smaller companies to use premium features without having to purchase an entire capacity.

The table below describes the different features available depending on the License:

Licenses and Associated Features

Premium Capacity License (Fabric SKUs)

The latter is a capacity-distributed license that provides access to Microsoft Fabric in a unified product experience.

Microsoft Fabric is a SaaS solution that brings together various Data Analytics services (data warehousing, data engineering, business intelligence, data science, etc.).

Microsoft Fabric
SKU Fabric

Just like the Premium License, this too is purchased on a capacity basis, meaning a set of dedicated resources. These resources include CPU, Memory, etc., within the Microsoft Azure environment.

However, in this case, the pricing is based on pay-as-you-go and can be dynamically scaled.

Fabric SKUs are available in a much wider variety of resource levels (from F2 to F2048), and are considered consumable resources. So, every time you create a pipeline or a data flow, you utilize these capacities. With this license, there is greater flexibility in using the resources provided by the SKUs.

Unlike the Premium Capacity license, sharing content with users who do not have a per-user license is only available with Fabric SKUs F64 and higher.

The main advantages of Fabric are as follows:

  • With a single purchase, you gain access to various data analytics services.
  • You have the ability to dynamically use capacity resources where they are most needed, without the need to pre-allocate these resources.
  • It is possible to monitor usage and costs through a centralized dashboard.


As we have seen, Power BI offers a wide variety of options for accessing its features and resources. The different types of licenses vary not only in the functionalities offered but also in the distribution model.

The choice among the different licenses should consider not only the total size of the company but also the number of staff that need to access the full functionalities of Power BI (data connection, report creation, sharing, etc.) and the number of users who only need access to dashboard viewing. For example, for a large company where most users only need to view reports rather than create them, Power BI Premium might be the most cost-effective choice. On the other hand, if there are more users who need to be able to create reports compared to those who just need to view them, the per-user license model might be the more suitable option.

Discover our Power BI Solutions

By your side from consulting to training to data visualization solutions.

Visualitics Team
This article was written and edited by one of our consultants.

Share now on your social channels or via email: