Windows 10 S is a streamlined version of Windows that only runs apps downloaded from the Windows Store. Microsoft says the operating system was designed with the education market in mind, where it will compete with Google’s Chrome OS (which is popular due to a combination of performance, security, management features and the relatively low price of many Chromebooks).

But the first device to ship with Windows 10 S is actually Microsoft’s high-priced Surface Laptop, which sells for $999 and up. And now that it’s available, some folks are starting to dig into Windows 10 S to see what else is new.

As it turns out, quite a bit. ZDNet’s Ed Bott discovered the the inability to run any apps from outside the Windows Store is just the tip of the iceberg.

First up, a little clarification: Windows 10 S isn’t limited to running Universal Windows Platform apps. But apps do need to be signed by the Windows Store. In other words, apps like iTunes and Spotify which are distibuted through the store will run even if they’re just slightly modified Win32 apps. This helps set Windows 10 S apart from the now-defunct Windows RT, which could not run Win32 apps.

But while you could sideload any supported app onto a Windows RT device without going through the Windows Store, that’s not true with Windows 10 S. It really does only run Windows Store apps.

Since certain types of apps aren’t allowed in the Windows Store, here are a few things you won’t ever be able to run on Windows 10 S (unless Microsoft changes its policies):

  1. Web browsers that don’t use the same HTML and JavaScript engines built into the OS (and used for the Edge web browser)
  2. Anti-virus software
  3. Disk backup applications

In other words, you can sync your data to OneDrive and use Windows Defender and you can like it. If you’d prefer to use Carbonite, CrashPlan, MalwareBytes, or Norton, you’ll have to switch operating systems.

The default search engine cannot be changed, nor can default apps. What’s more, you can’t run a bunch of Windows utilities that have long been used by power users, including:

  • bash.exe
  • cmd.exe
  • msbuild.exe
  • powershell.exe
  • rcsi.exe
  • reg.exe
  • regedt32.exe
  • wscript.exe

In other words, say goodbye to the command line, registry editor, and a bunch of other tools.

But here’s an interesting thing about Windows 10 S: It’s basically Windows 10 Pro with a bunch of restrictions in place. Those restrictions area a feature, not a bug.

This isn’t an operating system for power users. It’s for people who don’t want to accidentally mess up their computer by installing an application or deleting a file only to find that their system won’t boot. Among other things, Microsoft says that a Windows 10 S computer shouldn’t get slower over time the way that many Windows computers do after you’ve installed and uninstalled dozens of applications.

Don’t like those restrictions? There’s an escape hatch. If you buy a Surface Laptop Microsoft will let you “switch” to Windows 10 Pro for free through the end of the year. Notice Microsoft calls it a switch rather than an upgrade, because the company is suggesting that one operating system isn’t better than the other. They’re just different.

That said, the “switch” is expected to cost $49 starting in 2018.

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16 replies on “A few more things Windows 10 S can’t do”

  1. If the difference between 10 S and Pro is just a bunch of doors Microsoft closes, but leaves latent in the OS. I’d say its only a matter of time before somebody finds a way to open them and essentially upgrade to Pro for free. All Microsoft is doing is trying to nudge people into a closed app ecosystem. I doubt they’re going full darth vader any time soon… but they need to have an offering on the table for those who want a closed system with no obvious vulnerabilities.

  2. I think I can count on one hand the people I know that need a feature 10 S doesn’t provide. Many small businesses would be better vs their existing workgroup environment.

    This seems like a solid product for the overwhelming majority of people.

  3. of course it won’t get slower when you cannot install applications at all (only a few from the store). I don’t like this. OS shouldn’t allow to delete essential files for regular user

  4. I think it serves its purpose.
    Clearly, good to get rid of the clutter and just run a few apps. Education and staff will mostly use to search wikipedia, browse the web, run microsoft office, emails… and that’s about it. And I think if it is affordable as the chromebook, might works!

  5. So the same bloated, hybrid-OS with toggles limiting it’s functionality but not it’s surveillance and data-sharing. Lock it down to Edge and Bing… what’s not to like. This is truly the golden age of technology…

  6. Windows 10 S is designed for a specific use. It’s not replacing any other Windows 10, why does everyone keep making a big deal of this? Run Windows 10 Pro if you need it.

    1. I think the problem is that people can’t imagine the proper use case for this type of system. If intended for the education market, I can’t imagine this being used outside of elementary schools. What kind of career prep could possibly be done on so limited an operating system? I can’t imagine a potential employer being “wowed” by an applicant’s skill at using the Edge browser. For them to launch an operating system like this on a device that cost $1000, and then to tout it as being intended for college use, is borderline absurd. They would have done better to go head to head with Chromebooks in the K-12 market using a cheaper device.

      1. I think the market is K-12, maybe K-8 would be better. There are sub $200 devices announced. Remember Google had a $1000 Chromebook at one time.

        1. The education market is 7-12 (grades) for chromebooks. Jr High and High school. School laptops need to be locked down and have intranet cloud access. It doesn’t matter if they are chromebooks with a chrome browser or windows_s with an edge browser. “Infinite Campus” can run in either cloud from what I have seen.

  7. Please change the title of this article to “A few more things Chromebooks and iOS can’t do.”

    1. sounds like you’re trying to justify an ill conceived opinion on a doa platform.

    2. In Chromebooks and iOS you can install backup programs, change default search engine and install several antivirus programs. As far as I know, some chromebooks can use Android apps. So Windows 10S can do fewer things.

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