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Microsoft announces upcoming changes to Windows 10 S, and it's good news

Windows 10 Cloud Wallpaper
Windows 10 Cloud Wallpaper (Image credit: Microsoft)

Microsoft has officially announced Windows 10 S Mode, an evolution of Windows 10 S as an idea. When Windows 10 S was announced last year, it was released as a standalone edition of Windows 10 that was available alongside Windows 10 Home, Windows 10 Pro, and Windows 10 Enterprise. Now, however, Microsoft is making Windows 10 S a mode that runs on top of Home, Pro, Education, or Enterprise, instead.

Today, Microsoft further detailed this change. Based on feedback from partners and customers, Microsoft says the decision to make Windows 10 S a mode instead of a standalone edition of Windows 10 is to help minimize confusion between the separate editions. Windows 10 S is designed to keep your PC secure and fast, which should be applicable to all editions of Windows 10.

As such, Microsoft is opting to allow partners to load new devices with Windows 10 Home or Pro, and optionally have those devices ship with S Mode enabled. S Mode is exactly the same as what Windows 10 S was when it was a standalone edition, except now it runs on top of Home or Pro instead. What's more, Microsoft says that S Mode devices will be able to switch to their respective full editions for free, even if the device ships with Windows 10 Pro in S Mode.

We expect the majority of customers to enjoy the benefits of Windows 10 in S mode. If a customer does want to switch out of S mode, they will be able to do so at no charge, regardless of edition. We expect to see new Windows 10 devices ship with S mode, available from our partners in the coming months, so check back here for updates.

That's a huge deal, and is excellent news for everybody. No longer will people buying Windows 10 S machines be required to pay for an upgrade to the full edition of Windows 10 if they need to install a program from outside the Store. That upgrade is now free, forever, meaning the user won't feel forced to do it if the upgrade is free for a limited time. It'll be there to switch to whenever the user needs it, which is a much better.

Microsoft says these changes to Windows 10 S will be put into effect with the next update to Windows 10. It's not clear if this will be with Redstone 4, or Redstone 5 however. Existing Windows 10 S users will be automatically moved to Windows 10 Pro in S Mode, meaning existing S users won't be missing out on any of the benefits Windows 10 S provides.

Zac Bowden
Senior Editor

Zac Bowden is a Senior Editor at Windows Central. Bringing you exclusive coverage into the world of Windows 10 on PCs, tablets, phones, and more. Also an avid collector of rare Microsoft prototype devices! Keep in touch on Twitter: @zacbowden.

46 Comments
  • Spiffy
  • 👍👏🤩😎
  • It would be great if you could toggle s mode at will.  Select s mode, reboot and voila, you're safe.  Toggle it again, and it's back to pro mode.
  • You can.
  • Nonstore programs wont work in s-mode. So turning s-mode off and on makes little sense.
  • +1
  • There's a difference between the setting in the app settings and S Mode. S Mode does that with an additional security like drivers only coming from WU.
  • A great idea. Too bad it's another classic example of failed execution by MS. Should have made it a toggle from the start and people would not have reacted so violently to Windows  S on launch. 
  • Windows 10 S was very much an experiment, but also to get something out quickly to compete with Google, (that seems to be working). Extending it to all versions, will ensure a vast number of PCs to ship with S Mode installed, if a person needs something outside of the store they can simply switch to Pro.
  • "Reacted so violently"? Seriously??!
  • Seriously right? It wasn't a hit, but this new model makes a lot of sense and should mean not much confusion for average users. Just call it Windows 10
  • Windows 10 Spring Creator's Edition 2 S Mode v2 has a better ring to it.
  • Violently is so wrong. According to Microsoft 60% of people stayed in S mode.
    S mode is not for you but it is perfect for many others. Was there big reaction? Not so much.
  • 60% of what? They didn't give actual numbers for a reason.
  • 60% of people who actually bought systems with windows 10 s pre-installed.
  • This whole S mode thing is so weird. There has always been a setting in Windows 10 (at least the past year or so) to limit program installs to those from the Windows Store. When this was turned on, Windows was essentially transformed into S mode. MS, for some reason, thought having this restriction enabled from the factory justified an entirely new version of the OS. Of course this caused confusion; IT departments at both businesses and schools were probably enabling this restriction long before Win10 S was actually a thing. And I still really don't know how this new implementaiton is going to make things a lot better. Yes, it's an improvement, but there still lacks a clear incentive for your average user to restrict themselves to S mode, when they otherwise wouldn't. I can understand certain cases where you would want to prevent the tech illiterate (some children and seniors, etc)  from inadvertantly installing malware, but those kind of users are not going to be the ones that drive any significant growth to the Windows Store, which is what this whole push by MS is about. There needs to be some clear incentive (financial or otherwise) for a user to choose and remain in S mode. Maybe MS could offer $5 a month for each user that stays in S mode (I'm only half joking here.)   btw, I am surprised Zac would think this new change was good news. He was full of praise when Windows 10 S originally debuted, and I figured he would be against any deviations from it.
  • that you only lockout outside store install. W10S now do a lot more than lockout outside store install.
  • Care to list what those things are? I am genuinely curious.
  • S mode also locked start up programs for prevention of performance degradation
  • you can't open gpedit, you can't open regedit etc. etc.
  • Windows 10 S has more than just store-only installs, like faster boot and slightly better battery life.
  • This sucks, at least for the future of windows the point of S was that it was the start of the transition away from legacy, eventually dumping old code and reducing the size and old baggage from windows. Microsoft has tried numerou ways to make this happen, and apparently has failed again. Win32 and all the other legacy code is going to kill windows. Long live android/chrome OS since this guarantees their domination of all things computing. 
  • Actually the point was to compete with chromebooks. Stuff 12 year old use in school. Etc.
  • and it seems to be working :-)
  • This is the part I don't understand of having it as a mode. So you'll basically have a computer with tons of code that takes up space and runs, but won't be used? I'm not familiar with the details of how the OS runs, but it doesn't seem to make Windows smaller or faster, it just prevents the user from installing unintended programs that could slow it down. I feel like S mode should have all of this stripped out, and if you choose to disable S mode it downloads those parts as if it were downloading and installing an update.
  • The way you explain it is the way to go, for sure. Exactly what I was hoping for. Let's hope we're both right:)
  • It cannot be stripped out as Windows store now has win32 apps.
  • The Windows Core OS is coming before long.  Andromeda is the mobile expression of WCOS and it will come out first.  Polaris is the desktop expression of WCOS and will come out next year.  Polaris will combat ChromeOS head on without any legacy code.
  • These announcements are very much to prepare for Polaris. S Mode is very much a middle ground between Polaris and legacy Windows. The more S Mode PCs the better Polaris will be in.
  • Microsoft actually has WCOS Windows Core OS for that purpose. That will remove legacy code, enabling Windows to be lighter and more nimble, able to run well on low-end hardware. Andromeda will be the first, followed by Polaris, Oasis, etc..
  • Smode.
  • This is called expansion of S to every Windows 10 offering.
    Expansion, not a killed.
  • Well that was fast
  • Microsoft finally did the right thing with Windows Mobile Apps, they offered it to those who want it, and let others be
  • This is what Windows S should have been from the start. A mode that can be turned on to full edition devices once the user needs to install outside of the store. No-one wants to buy a "Windows" device that's limited to store only, Android and iOS are much better for "store only" devices, but S "mode" enabled by default would have at least brought about plenty of app downloads to Windows 10, better development and had people (casual users) realise that they maybe don't even need non-store listed apps (iTunes being a key app that needs to be listed IMO).
  • What's the point when the store is rubbish? Microsoft again locking the stable door after the horse has bolted. Not to mention the sheer lunacy of having an enterprise pc that can only run one browser.
  • Technically, the window store is not rubbish. It is up to the developers to package win32 apps for the store. Kodi is a classic example. Businesses can do the same. And not all companies want their IT department spending countless hours bothering about the security of thier employees devices. S mode just makes it easier.
  • Can someone please explain how this reduces any confusion, and how this is any better? Unless MS is going to be giving Windows 10 Pro & Home away for free, won't the cost of that be included in the purchase price of the device?
  • Yes, you'll be paying for those licenses up front, as always. Presumably you paid less up front before, if you only wanted an S machine. Thanks to all the complaining, that discount will no longer be available.
  • I don't see why this is such a big deal!
  • Other than the fact that they won't charge you $50 to remove S mode (yes, charge you to take something away, like Trash) I don't see where the good news is. If you are an Enterprise or small business and need to run a browser other than Edge, you're going to disable S mode and now you are wide open again. If you are a consumer and run games, 99% still will come from either Steam or some other publisher store, and again you are going to have to disable S mode. There are still numerous apps and utilities (iTunes, anyone?) that are not available in the Store, and likely never will be. MS believe their 60% of people who stayed with S mode is their 'test' with primarily education users, is going to be true for the entire population of Windows users. I think they are going to find out something very different. And its going to cause a lot of confusion and frustration for many long-term users. For this to work, the majority of manufacturers are going to have to ship new machines with S mode on. If they start getting pushback from their customers (e.g. every gaming PC company, most enterprises) then they'll either have to ship with S mode off by default, or ship two different SKUs and make sure they order/ship the right one. I don't believe Dell, HP, Lenovo etc. are going to be very happy about that. The whole thing is marketing backwards. This shouldn't be 'switch off S mode' it should be 'switch on compatibility mode'. It should be something you opt in to, not have to opt out of (like, say, the collection of personally identifiable marketing data).
  • They weren't charging you to take something away. They were charging you to upgrade to a Pro license. Now you'll just be paying for the license up front, whether you want it or not.
  • If we turned S mode off can we turn it back on? If yes, will it remove all non-store installed applications?
  • Not removed... My guess is that win32 apps get disabled until you switch the S mode off again...
  • So the S isn't for this using on lower power machinss anymore then as it's full windows 10, what's the point then who will use it
  • It was never intended for low powered machines only, hence the Surface Laptop.