Microsoft Abandons The Unusual 'Windows 10 S'

John Lister's picture

Microsoft is ditching a special version of Windows 10 that was based around security and low costs. That said, Windows 10 S had some major restrictions on the programs it could run.

Though it will no longer be available as a standalone edition, it will now be included as an optional mode in some Windows computers. That means Microsoft is likely continuing to target schools with the option.

To many analysts, Windows 10 S was Microsoft's take on the Google Chromebook range. The distinguishing feature of Windows 10 S was that it only ran apps that were downloaded and installed from the Windows store.

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The good news was that this meant Microsoft knew exactly what demands would be placed on Windows 10 S machines and thus could make them run in a faster and more stable manner, even with lower specs and cheaper prices.

The bad news was that many high-profile programs didn't run on the computers, including iTunes and most non-Microsoft browsers. It also blocked several Windows features for advanced users, such as the command line.

The machines themselves weren't inherently limited. Anyone buying a Windows 10 S device could upgrade it to the standard version for $49. Microsoft internal figures show around 40 percent of buyers did so. (Source:

'S' Becomes Optional Mode

After the next round of system updates, Windows 10 S will no longer be a standalone system. Instead it will be treated as an optional - and default - mode on machines running the better known versions of Windows. Switching back and forth will be free of charge in most cases, though the $49 fee remains in place on the Pro edition.

Exactly how it will work isn't yet clear. It appears that on many machines the S mode will be active by default when the computer first runs. It could be that Microsoft will target these machines at schools, where having the restricted mode could be seen as a positive. More cynically, Microsoft could be hoping users don't bother enabling the full mode and are thus more likely to use Microsoft's own apps, particularly browsers.

It's also not clear whether the switching back and forth between S and full modes will be seamless or if, as is currently the case, each switch acts as a fresh system install. (Source:

What's Your Opinion?

Did the S variant of Windows 10 ever have any merit? Is Microsoft right to ditch it as a standalone edition? Should the S mode be enabled by default on some machines or only ever actively enabled by users?

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Dennis Faas's picture

I have yet to install a single Microsoft "app" on my Windows 10 machine. I have no need for it. Being locked in to a platform that is only allowed to run Windows Apps (like the Windows Phone) is a very bad idea, as most users running Windows will want to run Windows programs. Also not having your choice of browser and not being able to use the command line are huge problems. Any time I need to troubleshoot something I use the command line, 9 times out of 10.

ehowland's picture

Was researching getting a client a Surface book. last fall the only option on a surface book was this "windows 10 S" (I had never heard of it). I had to read on it, and immediately thought it sounded dreadful and KNEW it would be terrible for the client. They ended up choosing a Surface pro 4, so I did not have to deal with it, but had they got a Surface book (which has plenty fast specs) I planned on "Upgrading it" to pro (to get rid of this terrible Win 10 S).

In the article above, it is confusing. "Switching back and forth will be free of charge in most cases, though the $49 fee remains in place on the Pro edition."

If you have Pro I would think it was the edition FREE to change back and forth, is it not the Win 10 Home that would cost $49 to turn on?