Windows 10 S was unveiled by Microsoft back in May 2017. Ever since then, the thin client version of Windows 10 has been met with mixed reception. This is mostly because of the restrictions it puts on anyone trying to use traditional Windows programs not found on the Windows store.

Instead of allowing users to download and install whatever programs they feel like, Windows 10 S will only allow apps from the Windows 10 Store to be installed. Now, obviously traditional PC users and enthusiasts don’t really like this approach, but it actually makes sense for the right device and user – like the Microsoft Surface Go. That’s not to mention all the obvious security benefits that this approach brings.

And, now that the Windows 10 April 2018 Update has been released, Windows 10 S users have access to a ton of new features like Timeline and Focus Assist that’ll help anyone trying to get some work done on their device. That’s not to mention all the new features in the Windows 10 October 2018 Update, the next major Windows 10 revision – including a new ‘Your Phone’ app, which will let users interact with their phones on their Windows devices, without complicated software.

For more information on everything that Windows 10 S is capable of, keep this page bookmarked, as we’ll update it with any new information that comes our way.

Cut to the chase

  • What is it? Windows 10 without x86 and x64 apps
  • When is it out? Available now
  • What will it cost? Free to all schools using Windows 10 Pro

Windows 10 S release date

Windows 10 S was originally released on May 2, 2017, with devices using the OS releasing on the same day, and other devices, like the Surface Laptop, came out in the following months. And, now that Windows 10 S Mode is available, making lower-end devices far more flexible, we could be seeing many more devices using Windows 10 S in the near future.

Microsoft will soon let users switch out of S Mode through a simple UI switch, but that’s not quite here yet. If you’re looking for a quick and easy way out of S Mode, all you need to do is head to the Windows Store on your device and search for ‘switch out of S Mode’. As for when the switch will get implemented, we might see it show up when the Windows 10 October 2018 Update goes live next month.

Now, as for the reveal of Windows 10 S itself – Microsoft’s event invitation was titled ‘#MicrosoftEDU’, making no misgivings about its aims with the new OS. While Windows 10 S is not for individual sale, it is issued to IT administrators in education as well as laptops found in stores and online.

It’s no coincidence that Windows 10 S is focused on the education sector, where Google’s Chromebooks are experiencing outlandish success.

Windows 10 S price

Windows 10 S doesn’t cost a dime. Well, not to schools sporting Windows 10 Pro already, that is. The cost of the OS is, more than likely, being subsidized by hardware makers in its pricing albeit for far less than Windows 10 proper, if not for free.

In short, you won’t be paying for Windows 10 S so as much as you’ll pay for the hardware running it (with, again, whatever Microsoft’s charging its partners, if anything, to license the software baked in that price somehow, too).

Save for the new Surface Laptop, laptops running Windows 10 S start at $189 (about £146, AU$251) and cap out at around $299 (about £239, AU$396). PC makers across the board, including Dell, HP, Asus, Acer and Lenovo, have all launched Windows 10 S-powered notebooks at this time.

Premium category laptops were said to be joining the Windows 10 S family as well, but aside from Microsoft’s own Surface Laptop, they’ve been few and far between up to this point – save for Qualcomm Snapdragon 835 laptops, like the Asus NovaGo and HP Envy x2.

Now that Microsoft is aiming to make Windows 10 S Mode a thing within Windows 10 proper, though, we could start seeing additional software costs – but we haven’t seen much evidence of this happening yet. We’ll know when the switch goes live in 2019.

Though Windows 10 Home users will be exempt from this fee, Pro users will allegedly have to shell out $49 to exit Windows 10 S Mode. That said, now that Windows 10 S Mode is live, we haven’t actually seen Microsoft actually charging to exit out of it. Just note that right now it’s only one-way. You’ll have to reinstall the OS to go back to S Mode.

What is Windows 10 S?

Microsoft intends Windows 10 S to serve as a lightweight, more secure version fo Windows 10 for lower-end devices. While in “S Mode,” Windows 10 will only support apps that are downloaded from the Windows Store.

This talk of a version of Windows that can only download Microsoft-approved apps is familiar, isn’t it? Microsoft believes it has mastered this approach since the turbulent days of Windows 8 RT and Windows 8 with Bing – both of which tried to position Microsoft as the sole provider of apps through curation.

The good news is that this allows for a startup time of under 5 seconds as opposed to the 30 – 40 second startup time of Windows 10 Pro. Not only that, but configuring settings (such as Wi-Fi, webcam, etc.) across an entire classroom of students is as easy as inserting a USB stick in each of their laptops.

Being in competition with Google’s Chrome OS, Microsoft has, of course, also positioned Windows 10 S as a more secure PC operating system. However, its resilience to viruses is mostly a side-effect of the inability to install apps not approved by Microsoft. Historically, Windows viruses have tended to erupt from untrustworthy internet downloads.

Should you find a must-have app that isn’t available in the Microsoft Store in Windows 10 S you can switch from Windows 10 S to Windows 10 Home or Pro by just going to the Windows Store and searching for “switch out of S Mode”. Microsoft used to charge a fee for this service, but now it’s free for everyone.

More recently, Microsoft has also made it possible for Windows 10 Pro Upgraders to move back down to Windows 10 S – and soon it will work the other way around, as well. And, now that Microsoft is apparently working on Windows 10 Lean Mode, which will be even more lightweight and locked down you won’t need to worry about the version of Windows 10 you install on that shiny new Surface Laptop, because you’ll be able to move back and forth whatever you decide.

That said, what can you expect to see included in devices running Windows 10 S? Well, the Edge browser, OneNote and Windows Ink are all givens. The standard Movies and Groove Music apps, as well as Maps and Mail and Calendar are shoo-ins, too.

Of course, we won’t see x86/x64 program support on a Windows 10 cloud operating system until 2019 when the aforementioned Polaris is expected to touch down and implement a ‘virtualization container’ for each of your favorite legacy applications. That means that, yes, should everything work out perfectly, there will be a Windows 10 cloud OS that can emulate the .exe’s of the past.

Despite its constraints, Windows 10 S still features File Explorer, and although many of the laptops that come with the lightweight OS pre-installed may ship with smaller capacity SSDs, Microsoft’s forthcoming introduction of OneDrive Files On-Demand will make it so files can be stored in the cloud, but still viewed the same way as locally stored content.

All things considered, there are still questions looming around in regard to the viability of Windows 10 S. Fortunately, as new developments emerge to (hopefully) address those criticisms, you can count on us to cover them right here on this page.

Bill Thomas and Gabe Carey have also contributed to this article.

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