There are a number of low-cost Windows tablets and notebooks that have as little as 32GB of storage. In recent years, we’ve even seen some ship with as little as 16GB. And while that’s usually enough space to run a basic Windows experience and maybe even install a few apps and download a few files… many users of those low-storage devices have run into problems when it comes time to download and install major Windows updates.

That’s kind of a problem, since Microsoft releases about two big updates to Windows 10 every year, and usually drops support for devices running older versions after about 18 months.

Now it looks like Microsoft might be tackling that problem, not by insisting that PC makers use more storage… but by offering a stripped down version of Windows that uses about 2GB less disk space than Windows 10 Pro, and which takes up about half as much space once installed (6.5GB vs 12GB).

This week @tfwboredom (Lucan) posted images to Twitter, showing an unannounced version of Windows called Windows 10 Lean.

It’s unclear if that’ll be the final name, or if the feature set has been finalized. But so far it seems to be missing some of the features found in most other versions of Windows, including:

  • Registry Editor
  • Internet Explorer
  • PowerShell
  • Microsoft Management Console
  • MS Paint
  • MS Solitaire
  • Skype
  • Windows photos
  • Windows Apps

All told, Lucan says there are more than 50,000 files in Windows 10 Pro that are not included in Windows 10 Lean for x86 and x64 processors… although interestingly some of those files are included in the Windows 10 Lean for ARM version.

According to Windows Central’s Zac Bowden, all of that streamlining is to ensure that Windows Updates can be installed on devices with limited storage.

Windows 10 Lean is still a fully functional version of Windows that’s capable of running just about any app you can run on larger versions of the OS. This isn’t the same thing as Windows 10 on ARM (which has some limitations affecting Win32 apps), or Windows 10 S (which only runs Windows Store apps), and it’s certainly not a new Windows RT.

That said, I do wonder if its possible that users will be able to install missing features like RegEdit if they decide they need them.

It’s also possible that Bowden’s sources are wrong, and Windows 10 Lean is something else… like a new version of Windows 10 S for specific types of devices. After all, Windows 10 Lean was discovered via files included in the latest preview build of Windows 10 Redstone 5… which also includes support for telephony features. That’s prompted some folks to speculate that Microsoft may be working on the long-rumored Surface Phone that can transition between phone and tablet modes, offering both a mobile and a desktop (or tablet) experience.

Maybe that’s what Windows 10 Lean is for. Or maybe not.

With the Windows 10 April Update (Redstone 4) expected to ship in the next few weeks, and the Microsoft Build conference scheduled to begin May 7th, maybe Microsoft will just tell us what Windows 10 Lean is soon.

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16 replies on “Reports: Windows 10 Lean is streamlined for devices with just 16GB of storage”

  1. Ha ha. That’s what Microsoft said about Widnows 8, but how many 16gb Windows 8 devices are still in use? Not only that, but 32gb of storage formats down to 29gb fo useable space. Window 10 takes up 10gb and the recovery partition takes another 10gb. Then add at least 2gb for OEM Crapware and that only leaves 7gb. That’s until Patch Tuesday comes along and a major update uses half of that, leaving less than 4gb for user data. No thanks! I will not buy any Windows device with less than 64gb of storage, EVER!!!

  2. Why try to park a Zeppelin in a one car garage?

    Interesting that they shaved off 2GB. A full install of Ubuntu will fit in that. Without sacrificing included software no less.

  3. 16 GB just doesn’t cut it for Windows 10. You can install it, and it works ok, but all the big updates and some of the smaller ones will fail due to insufficient space. They don’t even give you the option to use a thumb drive or sd card for temporary storage during updates anymore. And if you got a Windows tablet for “real” MS Office, you can’t install Office 365 – there isn’t enough space on C: and they won’t let you customize the Office install to use a secondary drive/sd card/thumb drive. I guess you could pay the full price for the full version of office 2013 or 2016, but that defeats the purpose of getting a cheap 16gb tablet…

    1. I’m not even sure 32GB is enough really. And it’s sort of crazy–many/most Android smartphones are coming with 64GB of storage–why not Windows devices?

  4. “down version of Windows that uses only about 2GB of disk space.”

    That would have been great, but it is 2GB less storage, not 2GB total storage.

    1. This means that an entry level notebook with 4GB of RAM saves twice the space by turning off the currently unused legacy hibernation option.

  5. Here is an idea how to make updating take less storage space: don’t keep the old packages, only keep the configuration. All Windows Update packages are accessible on-demand from Microsoft’s servers right up to Windows 98 SE. There is no need to keep everything on the machine as long as networking works in a recovery-environment. This is also how Apple does it BTW. While we’re at it, the /windows/installer folder needs some revamping as it’s a meaningless storage-hog, the driverstore keeps 8 versions of a 600 MB ATI driver and whatnot, also completely redundant, the hiberfile.sys can be disabled by default, since old-school hibernation has been disabled since Windows 8.1, and the algorithm for virtual memory needs an overhaul, because I regularly see machines with free physical RAM, but a full SSD and out-of-memory errors. Again, these machines had free _real_ RAM and ran out of memory because the virtual memory couldn’t take any more space on the SSD. That’s total BS.

  6. Instead rip out Edge, WinRT (by whatever name they market it under today), .Net, PowerlessShell, Linoid Shell, and other cruft and re-enable the native Start Menu. Very lean, lots of people to lay off at Microsoft including those associated with the stumbling Microsoft Clip-Joint (Store).

  7. I imagine that devices sporting 16gb of storage (as, ugh… eMMC) are also “showcasing” other lower-end components, including CPU. Windows Lean is going to feel like anything but… Also wonder how much spyware/telemetry code will be shoehorned into the system – my guess, it’ll be as richly intrusive as it is on all other versions of Windows.

    Honestly… the Darklords of Tech are even trying to improve the enduser experience anymore.

  8. Without Regedit I would suspect this is for something else. The space savings from not including that is insignificant.

    1. That was my initial thought as well. The problem with Windows 10 on a 16GB system isn’t particularly what initially gets installed (which is pretty big to begin with) it is what happens when the OS starts receiving updates.

      I’ve owned more than my share of Windows 10 tablets and notebooks with 16GB (never again). After the first wave of updates there was less than 2GB of storage available… even after applying the usual tips to reduce the system’s footprint.

      The few details that we know about Windows 10 Lean seems to indicate something other than systems with just 16GB of storage.

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