Microsoft is working on the next major update to Windows 10, but if you’re a member of the Windows Insider Program you don’t have to wait for the Windows 10 Creators Update to be released to try some of the new features.
Almost every week Microsoft releases a new preview build of the operating system with bug fixes and new features… although some of those features may not make it into the final release.
Some folks have found a hidden feature in the latest update: an option to block installation of programs that aren’t downloaded from the Windows Store.
Spotted by Vitor Mikaelson and confirmed by MSPowerUser the new option is disabled by default. But if you turn it on you have the ability to either block installation of any apps that come from sources other than the Windows Store, or to just bring up a pop-up warning message that has an “Install Anyway” button.
The change could make Windows function a bit more like Google’s Android operating system, which blocks installation of apps from “unknown sources” by default, but which allows you to check a box in your device’s settings if you want to be able to install apps that don’t come from the Play Store.
The difference is that Google’s Play Store-only policy is opt-out, while it looks like the Windows Store-only feature is opt-in… at least for now.
Wondering why you’d want to block installation of software on a Windows computer? In a word: security. In another two: automatic updates.
Windows Store apps have a few advantages. Many are designed to run across a range of devices including tablets and PCs and sometimes phones and Xbox game consoles as well. And when you buy a Windows Store app on one device you should be able to download it on other devices linked to your account. Purchases are also tied to your default payment method.
But Windows Store apps also hook into the operating system in different ways than legacy software, sometimes called Win32 programs. That can help protect you from accidentally installing malware on a PC.
Software downloaded from the Windows Store can also be updated automatically through the Store, so when developers release a security or feature update it will be pushed to your computer automatically.
On the down side, there are a lot of programs that aren’t available in the Windows Store, and some software may not ever really be suitable for distribution through Microsoft’s app store since some programs rely on Windows features that aren’t available to Store apps.
Microsoft has been pushing its Universal Windows Platform pretty hard over the past few years and the company probably wouldn’t mind if developers updated all of their software to utilize the new platform so that those programs could be sold in the Windows Store. But some Windows users will probably continue to rely on Win32 software for the foreseeable future… including enterprise customers who may have mission-critical software that is not and may never be Windows Store-ready.
So I doubt that Microsoft will ever make this feature non-optional… for desktop and notebook PCs with Intel chips. But I wouldn’t be surprised to see apps from unknown sources blocked on upcoming versions of Windows 10… like maybe that new version that’s going to be able to run on devices with ARM-base processors like Qualcomm’s Snapdragon 835 chip?