What is Power BI Desktop?

Also known as Power BI Free, Power BI Desktop is a free desktop application you can install right on your own computer. Power BI Desktop works cohesively with the Power BI service by providing advanced data exploration, shaping, modeling, and report creation with highly interactive visualizations. You can save your work to a file, and publish your data and reports right to your Power BI site to share with others.

Power BI Free is included in all Office 365 Plans, and you can sign up for Power BI Free any time you like.

So what do you get with Power BI Desktop? Just like paid versions of Power BI, Desktop allows you to connect to data sources to Power BI, with no limits or restrictions other than the total amount of data you can feed in, and how much you can upload at a time. Desktop users get 10GB of total storage in the Power BI cloud, and can upload data 1GB at a time.

Desktop will cleanse and organize data, and you can create as many visualizations as you want; Desktop gives you full access to Power BI’s library of visualization templates. You can also export data and reports to Excel. Using Power BI Desktop, you can refresh your reports up to eight times every day, either on the hour, or the half-hour.

The “catch” with Power BI Desktop is that you can’t share anything with your peers. You can publish reports to the web, but these reports will then be made public, which isn’t ideal when you’re dealing with proprietary business data.

What is Power BI Service?

Power BI Service (usually known simply as Power BI) is the full version of Power BI, and is hosted on Azure, Microsoft’s cloud platform. There are two ways to license Power BI Service; Power BI Pro and Power BI Premium.