Windows S: 10 Questions about Light-Windows

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Officially, the largely unknown Windows version is now called “Windows 10 in S-mode”. What is behind it, what features, advantages and disadvantages it offers – and what became of the predecessor “Windows 10 S”?

1. What exactly was the Windows 10 S version?

Windows S is a version of Windows 10 Pro introduced in May 2017 , with which only apps from the Microsoft Store can be run. Windows S also accepts programs from the “Microsoft Store for Business”, in which companies can provide well-defined applications. It is not possible to log in to a local Windows domain, instead the machine can be integrated into an Active Directory that is hosted in the Microsoft Cloud Azure. The rest of the functionality is identical to that of the normal Windows versions.

2. Why did Microsoft develop this special version?

The reason was the great success of laptops with Google’s Chrome OS, which has already achieved a market share of more than 50 percent in American schools. Chrome-OS is based on the also developed by Google open source operating system Chromium and offers the user essentially the browser Chrome to work on. It also loads web applications like Google Drive or Google Docs; local installations are not planned. Notebooks with Chrome OS, the so-called Chromebooks, only have a small SSD, from which they load the operating system. They are significantly cheaper than models with storage volumes in the three-digit gigabyte range; however, the user requires a Google Account and an Internet connection to run the programs.

Microsoft did not want to leave this market completely to Google and brought out therefore Windows 10 S out. However, the concept of this variant is far less radical than that of Chrome OS, because it runs on the same hardware basis as the normal versions of Windows and also offers their functionality. However, Windows 10 S is significantly cheaper than the other Windows variants.

3. And what changes with Windows 10 in S-mode?

Now it is a bit confusing: Apparently, the concept for Windows 10 S did not work as desired, so that Microsoft considered something new. Instead of marketing their own operating system version, changed in the spring of 2018 with the update to Windows 10 version 1803 Windows 10 S in a special S-mode. This is available for the versions Windows 10 Home, Pro and Enterprise. The original Windows 10 S was only available for the Pro version.

The previously offered Windows 10 S has been taken off the market. Windows 10 in S-mode has the same limitations as the old S-version and otherwise corresponds in functionality to the Home, Pro and Enterprise variants.

4. What are the advantages of Windows 10 in S-mode?

This is primarily the higher stability of the operating system. Because the user can only use certified apps from the Windows Store, the risk of malware or system crashes is significantly lower. But even with the drivers there is a difference compared to the standard versions: Users can only set up certified driver software via the Windows Update. This also increases the stability. In addition, the battery life on notebooks should be extended by about 15 percent, and the computer should also start faster.

5. Do you need virus protection with Windows 10 in S-mode?

Yes. However, the selection is currently limited to the Windows Defender Security Center. This is the only antivirus software available in the store.

6. And where are the disadvantages of Windows 10 in S-mode?

Exactly with the restriction to certified software. For example, if you need an application for your work that is not available through the Windows Store, you will need to do without Windows 10 in S-mode in the future. The same applies to driver software: There should be problems, especially in connection with printers and scanners. For one thing, you can no longer use older drivers that are still written for Windows 7 or 8 by the manufacturer. In addition, these devices often come with their own tools, which are only available on an enclosed DVD or on the website of the manufacturer. These too can not be used normally anymore. As Office package, there is the subscription for Office 365 in the store.

By the way: Of the big browsers only Edge is available in the Windows Store, neither Firefox nor Chrome. The default fixed search engine of Windows 10 in S-mode is Bing. Google and other competitors can only be accessed via the input line of the browser.

7. For whom is Windows 10 in S-mode interesting?

In the first place, in fact, for educational institutions such as schools, language institutes and so on. With this version you get more control over the computers of your students and reduce the administrative effort. Cheaper are the computers with Windows 10 in S-mode but not.

8. Where can I buy Windows 10 in S-mode now?

The operating system is delivered pre-installed on some notebooks, such as Microsoft, Medion or Trekstor. In addition, educational institutions that previously used Windows 10 Education or Windows 10 Education Pro, for example, can request, test, and buy Windows 10 in S-mode through their reseller. Companies that have volume licenses receive Windows 10 Enterprise in S-mode from their contractor.

9. Can Windows 10 S be converted to normal Windows?

Yes, but there is no way back: If you left S-mode, you will not be able to reactivate it afterwards. You should be aware of this before switching to the conventional operating system.

If you still decide to do so, proceed as follows: From the Start menu, go to “Settings” and click “Update and Security -> Activation”. There you will find in S-mode the entry “Switch to Windows 10 Home” or “Switch to Windows 10 Pro”. Click on the “To store” option there. Caution: There may also be an “Upgrade for your Windows version” section. Be careful not to click on the “To Store” link there. When you have reached the store, press the button “Retrieve” on the page “Switch off S mode”. Once a confirmation message appears, the mode is disabled and you can also install software from outside the store.

The app “Switch off the S mode” or “Switch out of S-mode” is only accessible for computers and tablets with Windows 10 in S-mode.

10. Can I activate the S-mode myself?

No, that’s not officially planned. However, on the Microsoft website, there is a document for developers that describes exactly this process for PCs with AMD CPU. You can also find a kind of slimmed-down S-mode in the “Settings” under “Apps”: Under “Installation sources”, check the option “Only allow apps from the store”.

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