No, Microsoft is not going to block your desktop apps from installing on Windows 10

It's a security feature that many of us are excited about, especially on devices aimed at Enterprise or Education, but some reports incorrectly titled this news as if Microsoft were forcing this feature onto users, rather than giving them a choice. Here's what you need to know.

The reality is, it isn't even a choice that you have to make. It's just a feature that's hidden in Settings and it is off by default. You need to know about the feature to even be able to turn it on in the first place, so reports that claim Microsoft is planning to block your desktop apps on your PCs and laptops are wrong. Now, what's actually happening is Microsoft is building a new, optional security feature into Windows 10 that will stop unauthorized apps from installing on your machine.

It's just a feature that's hidden in Settings and it is off by default.

When phrased like that, it doesn't sound all that bad right? That's because it isn't. If you own a current Windows 10 machine, your device isn't going to change behavior when it comes to installing apps from outside the Windows Store unless you specifically change the option that's buried in the Settings app. What's more, there are two levels to the "block," which make for an even more customizable feature.

Customizable security, with options

The first level will just warn you before installing an app from outside the Windows Store. When launching an installer, Windows will say "Careful!" with an option to search the Windows Store for the app instead. If you want to install the app, just hit "install anyway." The second level will block apps from installing from outside the Store completely, with no override option.

It's incredibly unlikely that Microsoft will enable these by default in the future either, and here's why.

Microsoft is actually building an entirely new edition of Windows 10 specifically for that, separate from the Home and Pro editions we all use on our PC's today. Windows 10 Cloud is the new edition in question that's aimed at laptops designed to take on Chromebooks at the low-end of the market. The selling point of Cloud is that it's a much more secure version of Windows 10 as it acts similarly to Windows RT did, where apps would only install if they came from the Windows Store.

This is where Microsoft will be enforcing any "app block" on Windows 10. It won't affect any Windows users already using PCs, laptops, and tablets. If you're on Windows 7 and are looking to upgrade, you'll continue to be able to install desktop apps if you wish. Same goes for users on Windows 8 or Windows 10. Microsoft is not changing anything for users who currently use Windows unless the user wants to change the setting themselves.

This "enforcement" will only come about when shopping for a future low-end device that ships with Windows 10 Cloud. If you buy a Windows 10 Cloud machine, installing apps from outside the Store will be blocked, and you'll be required to purchase a license to Windows 10 Home or Pro to unlock that capability. As noted, what's important here is Microsoft won't be enforcing the same block for Windows PCs currently on the market, in fact, it won't even be on by default. If your PC is running Windows 10 Home or Pro, you're fine.

It's incredibly unlikely that Microsoft will enable these by default in the future either.

And before you ask, it's incredibly unlikely that hardware makers will want to ship flagship devices with Windows 10 Cloud. This new Cloud edition of Windows 10 is essentially the same as Windows 8.1 with Bing, which only shipped on cheap, low-end devices. This is the same ordeal, so you won't be buying powerful desktops and ultrabooks in the future with a version of Windows that's locked to the Store. They'll still ship with the "unlocked" versions of Windows 10.

It's also worth noting that the "block" is only for apps that are being installed from outside the Store. If the app is in the Store, whether it be a Win32 or UWP app, it'll install just fine. This is because Microsoft's Store team has checked the files for malicious code. Windows 10 Cloud and normal Windows 10 machines running Home and Pro with the block enabled will be protected from harm.

Don't panic!

I'm personally incredibly excited to see Microsoft bringing this security feature as an option to Windows 10, as I own several Windows 10 devices in which I only install apps from the Windows Store. Devices like my HP Stream 7, which I use primarily as a tablet, I don't need apps from outside the Store, so being able to block them from installing is beneficial to me. It will also be a boon for less tech-savvy users to protect them from obnoxious programs.

So there's no reason to panic, Microsoft isn't evil, and they're not going to take away your precious desktop apps from outside the Store on your current Windows machines. You'll still be able to install Steam, Google Chrome, Premiere Pro and whatever other programs you love using on your Windows 10 desktops and laptops from wherever you found them on the web, no questions asked.

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.

116 Comments
  • Knew this was bogus anyway as Microsoft would be shooting themselves in the foot with that feature. Imagine all the VFX artists (I'm one) and Graphic Designer's that would have been forced to abandon Windows if that were true. ANY 'job' that required proprietary software, etc.
  • Very true. Whilst I fully expect this block to be enabled by default at some point in the future, there will always be a dev mode option to unlock it for advanced users. That said, this cloud version is a bit limiting. Win8 with Bing came on my tablet and was a full version of W8 with a link to Bing added. This cloud version sounds like an attempt to bring back RT. Who, on buying a small tablet, will be up for paying around the £100 mark (my guess) to get full Windows? Better to spend the money on a better (probably bigger) device with full Windows. That will effectively knacker MS in the smaller, cheaper device market as RT would have done if MS had not offered the full alternative in the same form factor. I can't see this working out well.
  • Don't think of it as similar to windows rt think of it more like windows 7 starter or basic edition where the OS was nerfed but had the option to gain more features through and upgraded license. That's what Windows Cloud is. Windows RT was limited at a hardware level whereas this is limited at a software level and can be changed so that you have the full windows experience with legacy win32 program support.
  • I had W7 starter on my netbook. That was a bit annoying but I could fill in the holes because I could install any third party software I liked to cover for the gaps left by MS (mind you the biggest gap was no Media Centre, and since MS have taken that out of all builds now we're all kind of on Starter equivalent anyway these days...). If the new cloud version was like that then it might be OK but it's not. Instead it blocks apps like RT did. Who cares if it's software or hardware that's the problem. There's still no point buying it and upgrading the OS (at great expense) when you can just add that upgrade cash to your initial stake and get a better device with full Windows from the outset. Starter failed. RT very much failed. This seems rather similar.
  • @AndyCalling, at least 3 big differences and possibly 4 between Cloud and RT: 1. You're right that it doesn't matter to a user if the limit is hardware or software. That's because what a user cares about is access to the programs they want to use. The reality is that this ends up making the hardware vs. software distinction critical: there's nothing to stop Adobe or Corel or Intuit or any other major publisher from releasing their apps through the Store. It's not like with RT, where they would have had to expend substantial efforts to re-code them to run on ARM processors, and why bother -- the much lower-performance ARM hardware would ensure a bad experience and lots of customer complaints, which helped to keep the apps away. Now it's almost a straight business decision (still some small amount of effort). 2. Cloud is mainly intended for groups that want it -- education (and to a much lesser extent enterprise, but that's really where the new optional feature in this article comes in, so Enterprise can just lock down the Pro or Enterprise editions of Windows through Group Policy settings on the Windows Server). For them, they want dirct cheap tablet-style systems they can buy and provide to students. Their IT people don't always run domains with Group Policy control, and have been turning to Google Chromebooks for the simple security management. Windows 10 Cloud addresses that. 3. Cloud is upgradeable to full Windows 10. Unlike with RT, this is possible because it's a software difference rather than hardware. This won't matter to a lot of people and most probably will never upgrade, but it's an important relief option. If you buy a system ignorant about any of this and it comes with Cloud, the solution is to pay an upgrade fee and you can install anything. That's still frustrating to the person who didn't know, but that customer will know it was a super-cheap purchase and still a reasonable deal even after paying the upgrade price. These are probably going to be mostly sub-$200 or $300 systems. Even though that user may grumble a little, it's still much better than RT, where in that same situation, the user would be at a dead end. This led to the general theme: avoid RT, because you might be stuck with a system you can't use. No such concern with Cloud. 4. (possible) There are already a lot more apps today in the Store than when RT came out. If Microsoft's strategy works, and the option in this article and Cloud both contribute to it, more developers will release their apps through the Store. Eventually, there will be a tipping point where a significant number of users will look first at the Store before looking elsewhere for their apps. At that point, there will be few major apps that are not available through the Store. If that happens (might not, which is why I've only listed this #4 as a possible), then Cloud isn't much of a limitation. This isn't a fundamental difference between the systems like the 3 above, but would reflect a change in customer behavior from the RT days where Store-only apps becomes a fine, barely noticeable limitation.
  • This is exactly how Mac OS has worked for years. By default only store apps install without a warning, you just enable non-store apps in one click when you go to install one
  • Exactly and mobile phones do as well. MS won't close the system off completely and even if they made it a default option in the distant future, I'll put money on those new to Windows will have no problems figuring out how to install legacy applications.
  • Thank God. For a while I thought MS was going in for a closed system like Mac OS which would have been unfortunate.
  • This got me thinking...is there a way to properly access a UWA's launcher? I use my keyboard to launch a few programs, and wanted to do the same for Edge? However, I found it unwilling/unable to launch itself from the file explorer.
  • The UWP apps database is separate from the standard Start menu shortcuts (.lnk files), but you can create standard shortcuts to UWP apps by drag'n'drop from the start menu to a filesystem folder. The resulting .lnk contains the canonical name for the app and can be used to launch it like any standard app shortcuts file.
  • That doesn't really help with my question, though. The macro software lets me choose to do a few things. One of those is launching and application, which requires a launcher. However, opening a file (essentialyl what the .lnk means) is not possible, which is disappointing.
  • If the keyboard software is unable to launch .lnk files, that's a limitation of the software, not the platform. I tested and can confirm that the ShellExecute​ API function with such a shortcut launches the app just fine. You might want to ask the keyboard manufacturer to update their software. After all, Windows 10 have been available to consumers for a year and a half, maybe it's time manufacturers start testing their softwares with it ?
    I'm not joking, some only start paying attention when their customers start complaining, otherwise they keep the "no one uses that new version of Windows yet" excuse as long as they can.
  • Yes, it's a limitaiton of the software, but it's still a limitation of the platform as well. That I can navigate to a launcher in the File Explorer, and the thing literally does nothing, it not the fault of Steelseries, it's the fault of Microsoft's implementation. It's just like Ryzen--it's not AMD's fault Windows 10 doesn't understand how to handle its SMT implementation, even though Windows 7 does. I don't think it's sensible for Microsoft to implement desktop programs that don't actually launcch when you click on them. Don't put the files in an easily found portion of the file system, if you're not going to make them useful.
  • Could you launch a batch script with it? That would be a simple workaround.
  • I wouldn't consider that a "simple" solution. A simpler solution would be to stop using Edge, really.
  • @Keith Wallace, I use the Shortcut Key feature built into Windows to set quick launch keys, to launch UWP apps like Calculator. I press Ctrl-Alt-C and Calculator launches. I've also assigned that a macro key on my keyboard, so it pops up with a single keypress. Is that similar to what you're trying to do? If so, just put a shortcut for Edge on your desktop, right click and select Properties, and assign it a Shortcut Key on the Shortcut tab. Once that's done, you can use pretty much any macro program to trigger your Shortcut Key combination and launch Edge (or any other UWP or traditional desktop app).
  • That might be an option, I'll have to try it out. Far from graceful, but better than...well, not having any option.
  • This would be as disastrous as the decision to end the free upgrade to Windows 10.
  • How was the free upgrade disasterous? What facts can you base this off of?
  • http://www.arnnet.com.au/article/615169/windows-7-share-decline-stalls-h... Windows 10 is barely growing now. If that isn't an issue, not sure what is!
  • Growth, or lack there of, is not the only definition of disaster. By that definition Mac OS and Linux are both disasters. Where's any stats on revenue generated by W10? Then again, you know nothijg but your own opinion anyway.
  • Windows isn't Mac. Its success is based on growth, especially if they want UWP to be adopted by developers. For Windows 10 to not be growing, even in relation to other versions of Windows, it most certainly not a good sign.
  • Literally nothing you said makes a point. (Per usual) Windows is not Mac or Linux, but in comparison their lack of growth is not considered a disaster. As for windows success being based on growth, who decided that metric? I haven't seen anything that says the only way Windows will be cibsidered a success is through growth. I dont have a business degree, but I'd say success would be based on profit. Something MS has been doing well.
  • Linux is a disaster. Mac is whatever. Apple makes some money off of it since it is all high end devices, but even they don't seem to care about it. Why would they when iPhone is an abosolute juggernaut? Windows doesn't compete with these systems, or more like, these systems are completely irrelevent. That is why I basically ignored that comment. Windows competes with iOS and Android. It is 2017, not 2006. Windows as a whole is getting is outsold by iOS, let alone Android. If they are not growing, it is not a good sign. It could most definitely be called a disaster when you see that Windows 10 isn't even growing in relation to Windows 7! If Linux and Mac sales is the argument you are trying to make, you are the one with no point or who completely missed the point.
  • Microsoft aren't a charity, they are a business and businesses are out to make money. People were informed about the free upgrade ending and if you missed it then that's not their problem.
  • Your logic won't stop Tim Sweeney from spreading FUD around about Microsoft! 😛
  • Tales, how does the article address anything as to what Tim has suggested?  Tim has said that he believes Win32 will basically be hamstrung by MS, basically making it a redhead stepchild... cooking the frogs slow so they don't know they are being cooked.   Matter of fact, many users that comment on these type of articles sometimes believe that MS is doing exactly what Tim has suggest, but they had no idea that this has been suggested to be potentially bad.   I would say Tim is correct, in that it is the plan to hamstring Win32 and the open platform... now I am not saying they will be successful.   Cooking the frog slowly is the only way... as I mentioned I doubt the frogs even get in the pot.   Of course, Tim was not the first to publically disclose that the idea of MS wanting a closed system, Gabe came out prior to Win8.   Why wouldn't they?   This site is nothing but a big ad site so... when I see comments like "Don't Panic" in their articles I kind of laugh.   This site is good for at least one "Windows Phone isn't dead article a week", so thinking they have some type of insight is kind of funny.   Either way this is an example of what Tim is getting at, whether it gets there... meaning a closed system is neither here or there... I believe MS will fail as they have constantly failed as far as consumer products over the last 10 years.
  • And which apologist advertising sites do you like to visit? AndroidCentral? iMore?
  • I don't like closed systems... so no I don't visit Android sites.   Probably not what you wanted to hear. (but I have to admit I still come here once or twice a week for laugh... some of these articles are laughable... my guilty pleasure)  Either way, the hamstring of Win32 will probably continue... they are justing hoping a frog will jump in and they can continue to slow cook.   I don't see this working out... which I would bet even they would say in secret it is a longshot.
  • You still have not said what you like, which ass you kiss, what and who you have whored yourself out to.
  • Nohome, unlike you I don't kiss ass.   I do have windows on desktop/tablet, and some of my customers rely on iOS on phones and tablets... all my backend stuff has been moved over to various Linux builds... no more Windows on the server side.    You getting mad probably isn't going to really change anything... I am always puzzled by the fanboy defense leagues.   You are strange bunch.
  • First off, it is nohone, a reference to a literary character. Second, what would I have to be mad about? You using iOS (which you never complain about the restrictions there) and Linux makes absolutely do difference to me. The only one here that seems to be mad is you, who spams every article attacking others, expressing your hate and anger towards Microsoft. But that is OK, everyone here sees though your comments and see you as the usual, run of the mill Apple/Linux user who is insecure in their life choices and needs to take it out on somebody.
  • So Apple or Linux?
  • Well for a guy who likes to laugh you sure ain't funny, Mako. If anyone is a "frog" being slowly cooked it's Apple fan boys. I still can't understand why someone would pay so much for technology that's 2 or 3 years behind? How does such a company with such a small market share make so much? Really think about it. 17% of the mobile market, iPad and computers dropping but yet still making more money than Samsung?
  • Apple consumers want to be frogs and they don't care about being frogs... they don't need to be cooked slowly... they were already burned to a crisp all at once.   I am not one of them either way.    Windows iOS is not for me and yes, that is the goal... I am not saying they will be successful, my "guess" they fail once again. 
  • "Tim has said that he believes Win32 will basically be hamstrung by MS, basically making it a redhead stepchild... cooking the frogs slow so they don't know they are being cooked." And how would this be any different from DOS apps being "hamstrung" by Win16 ones and Win32 apps doing the same with the latter some 20+ years ago again? First, Win32 isn't this symbol of freedom some people are making it out to be, it's actually a very old, late 80s to early 90s development platform that simply isn't designed with modern OS and programming paradigms and technologies in mind - it's still based on a procedural paradigm with millions of functions like CreateWindowEx, for example, in a world where everyone and their mother moved to an object-oriented one. Win32's deprecation has been a long time coming, and no one would be making a fuss about it if not for the Windows Store and those very optional OS flags that prevent you from sideloading apps. Second, there are a couple of reasons why Microsoft will not dare lock people to the Windows Store, none of which are faith-based: 1) the backlash would be enormous not only from consumers, but also and more importantly from their business partners and enterprise customers, and 2) they'd once again be facing antitrust lawsuits from the US and EU. Finally, if you think Windows Central is just an ad site with no credibility what the hell are you coming here for? To troll?
  • First, Win32 isn't this symbol of freedom some people are making it out to be, it's actually a very old, late 80s to early 90s development platform that simply isn't designed with modern OS and programming paradigms and technologies in mind - it's still based on a procedural paradigm with millions of functions like CreateWindowEx, for example, in a world where everyone and their mother moved to an object-oriented one.
     You realize the UWP is just a framework on top of Win32, correct?
  • ^ This!
  • Yet still I wish all our apps came from the store. Currently all apps on my laptop and pc come from the store apart from IDM.
  • Same here. By that I mean every Win32 app I normally use I wish I could just get in the store. Having it all in one place and auto-updating and with the extra sandboxing would be very convenient indeed.
  • However, you may have to wrap your keyboard in tin foil in the future.
  • Are you people still using Windows phone? 😭
  • why yes Henry, would there be a problem?
  • You people still here trolling? Aren't you too busy telling everyone ChromeBook, Mac or Linux has finally taken over and Microsoft is doomed to history?