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.

@vitorgrs

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?



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13 replies on “Windows 10 might soon let you block non-Windows Store apps from installing”

    1. Could be. I wouldn’t be surprised if MS was planning something to compete more directly with Chromebooks, and for low-end devices.

  1. OSX has been doing this for years, expect people moaning about this but it’s a good feature and nothing changed in OSX.

  2. This seems a little different from what Android does. Windows already has options that are similar to Android that restrict people from “sideloading” store apps.

    This on the other hand looks like it’s restricting desktop (exe) apps which I don’t think Android has an equivalent to.

    I think it’s a good move as long as it’s kept optional. I know there will be a lot of complaining about it though. Valve/Steam and Adobe among others have their own distribution systems that use exes. I doubt they would like this feature even if it’s optional.

  3. At this point I hope someone at MS considers, that unlike Android and iOS, Windows is used in business and professional pusposes too, not only for watching Netflix and browsing Facebook. It’s bad enough Apple forgot this some time ago and constantly makes OSX harder to use for professionals (since when did OSX not support PPTP VPN for example? Just found out a few days ago, and I’m raging over this!), we don’t need MS do the same. If AVID and the Adobe suite would be available on linux, many professionals would change today without a second thought, and if both MS and Apple keeps pushing us away, one day Adobe might decide it’s time to release the linux binaries, and that wold be a black day for these two.

    1. You’re overreacting. MS isn’t going to start forcing corporate customers and their software suppliers to work through the Windows Store. No doubt MS would love that, but that horse bolted decades ago. I have no issue with this change, and I don’t believe it’s the start of a slippery slope, either.

      1. Taken alone, yes, this change doesn’t represent the beginning of a Windows walled garden. But, as I think zdanee is saying, this is part of a larger trend of focus on the consumer market, with professional use being more of an afterthought. I am in the same bucket, that it is only these Win32 programs that is keeping me on Windows. If certain software was supported on Linux/BSD, I would switch immediately and never look back.

  4. Playing devil’s advocate here. They might not implement this on business devices as mentioned, but I can see in the future a “starter” edition for new devices coming with this as mandatory, maybe even spreading to the home edition on new devices (though if it happened the backlash would most likely make then change their minds like with some of their Xbox choices).

  5. Some glimpses of the future they have planned for you:

    Of course it will be optional, ok, it will eventually be the default but that is exactly like Android. Knowledgeable users will not be impacted and everyone else will be protected. Think of the children!

    Ok, Starter and Cloud no longer let you disable it but you got a great deal so don’t complain, and you can use Anytime Upgrade to fix it anyway.

    Only legacy corporate apps still need that unsafe legacy stuff, so Business keeps the option to enable it and Corporate enables it out of the box.

    Welcome to XBox, please input your XBox Live account credentials to begin using your new XBox Business Edition.

  6. But Windows Store apps also hook into the operating system in different ways than legacy software, sometimes called Win32 programs

    There’s nothing legacy about win32. Stop repeating Microsoft marketing spiel. Win32 is not going anywhere and UWP will never be adopted. Even Gaben acknowledged this. This is a war Microsoft cannot win.

  7. I wouldn’t mind the complete opposite, having a way to block windows store apps from being installed, but this kind of thing doesn’t belong on a desktop OS.

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