Surface Duo gets one step closer to running full Windows 11 on its dual screens

Surface Duo 2020
Surface Duo 2020 (Image credit: Daniel Rubino / Windows Central)

What you need to know

  • Gustave Monce posted some new videos and photos of full Windows 11 running on the original Surface Duo.
  • The big break in its development has the OS running independently on both displays simultaneously.
  • There are still many things that don't work, including LTE, touch, and some driver issues.

In late January, we reported on a small independent project by developer Gustave Monce to try and get Windows 11 running on the original Surface Duo. Monce is no stranger to such projects, having brought Windows to old Lumia smartphones for those who like to live on the Edge.

That project for Surface Duo has now hit a significant milestone by getting Windows 11 to run on both displays simultaneously, akin to a dual-monitor setup. It's been no small feat to accomplish such a task. In a video shared by Monce, he noted that performance is better than expected (especially compared to a Lumia 950 XL, calling the performance gap an "ocean"), and even thermals are "very good."

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In the video, Monce controls the OS via Bluetooth mouse (USB works too), stating that, critically, there is no support for touch just yet, but that may be fixed "soon."

In a follow-up clip, Monce demonstrates shaders and even the Adreno GPU are all working well.

Of course, while the project is impressive, there are still many problems that need to be solved for this to be something we could recommend. Touch is the biggest issue, although it seems like that is something solvable given some time. Support for LTE is another, in addition, to support for all the sensors like hall (to detect open and closing power states), gyroscopes for rotation, and the camera. The good news is that these don't seem impossible but require some more experimentation.

Currently, there's no support for any of this work on Surface Duo 2.

The bigger question is will this be useful to regular people? Probably not, as there is not a lot you can do with a tiny Windows 11 PC, even with dual screens, no matter how cool it is to see. Still, if it can be configured as a dual-boot option, running Windows 11 as an option could be a fun experience at the very least and make the $400 price for Surface Duo a worthy investment for those who like to tinker and push the boundaries.

Interestingly, Monce teases, "You know what OS we're trying next," which hints at trying to get "Andromeda OS" to run on Surface Duo, as was the original plan for the dual-screen computer back in 2018. Monce helped our senior Windows editor Zac Bowden get Andromeda running on a Lumia 950, so it looks pretty probable he'll want to try to get it on Duo's actual hardware this time. That could undoubtedly be more exciting, even if that OS was never actually finished.

For more information about this Windows on ARM project, you can head to GitHub to learn how to get Windows 11 on your Surface Duo, but, as noted above, you may want to wait until more work is completed first.

Daniel Rubino
Editor-in-chief

Daniel Rubino is the Editor-in-chief of Windows Central, head reviewer, podcast co-host, and analyst. He has been covering Microsoft since 2007 when this site was called WMExperts (and later Windows Phone Central). His interests include Windows, laptops, next-gen computing, and for some reason, watches. Before all this tech stuff, he worked on a Ph.D. in linguistics, watched people sleep (for medical purposes!), and ran the projectors at movie theaters because it was fun.

23 Comments
  • This is impressive. There maybe some utility in using the SD on a full monitor, keyboard, and mouse setup, using Miracast or a direct USB-C cable to a monitor. Your phone will truly do everything in this capacity, including me trying to run Visual Studio from my phone. 🤣 I'm not kidding though, that would be awesome if the SD becomes powerful enough to do decent software development work with wherever I go without needing a big bulky laptop.
  • “I'm not kidding though, that would be awesome if the SD becomes powerful enough to do decent software development work with wherever I go without needing a big bulky laptop.” So, you are going to carry around a monitor, keyboard, mouse, dock plus cables and power supply? Instead of a “big bulky laptop”? Or are you going to depend on the kindness of strangers to supply you with all of this stuff everywhere you go?
  • Lol your correct that there are some logistical issues with that.
  • As usual Naddy, the pessimistic luddite. The world is not as stupid as you paint it lol! There are plenty of utility for this device. If there weren't the damn thing wouldn't exist in the first place. For enterprise users:
    With remote working now the norm for many as well as hybrid working. It's more feasible to ship a single device, along with a mouse and keyboard to an employee then a full desktop set up. However with a duo you could effectively just ship a dock and have the employee connect it to their TV. With duo acting as mouse + keyboard inputs as well the main computational device. For prosumers, you could replace your laptop, tablet docking solutions with a more refined setups with a just miracast dock like the HD-10. That's few examples on the hardware front. In terms of Software, finally there would be a third mobile ecosystem providing Apple and Google competition. Since they have no competition they have engaged in.overt monopolistic practices i.e shutting certain services (Apple), slowly trying to have all internet traffic go through Google's servers. So, if you actually care about your privacy and open internet standards you would be pushing hard for as many mobile ecosystems possible. But since only Microsoft has all the elements for a mobile ecosystem - they are the only logical choice for a third mobile ecosystem. But, yeah there is a tonne of money to be made here Microsoft just need to get their act together. The amount of office 365 subs they can sell to not just enterprises.
    There is also Windows 365 subs and azure contracts. So, yeah alot of revenue potential.
  • As usual TechFreak1, the eternal optimist. The world is not as stupid as YOU paint it. "But since only Microsoft has all the elements for a mobile ecosystem - they are the only logical choice for a third mobile ecosystem." Good one. Exactly what elements does Microsoft have for a mobile ecosystem? They have no mobile OS and a horrible history of mobile failure. Why do we even need a third system? Remember, history has clearly shown that two is plenty. Back in the Bad Old Days of "personal computers", we had way too many. There was Apple, who at one point was selling 4 incompatible systems (Apple //, Apple ///, Mac and Lisa). We had Radio Shack, also selling multiple incompatible systems. We had CP/M systems from dozens of vendors, all of which were incompatible with each other due to differing disk formats. Then IBM came along and made an Actual Standard. Only Apple survived with the Mac. All of the other systems are long gone. So, for desktop we now have Windows and Mac. Linux never made it. For phones we now have Android and Apple. Microsoft and Blackberry didn't make it. Two is plenty. Because developers don't want to target many different systems. Way too much work for way too little return. Which helps explain why PWAs went nowhere. 2 versions of your app today covers everything. No one wants to create/test/support dozens of versions for all browsers on all Operating Systems. All of which means that for MS to succeed, one of the others will have to fail. Then we will again have two. There are market forces involved here that MS knows - from history - that they cannot overcome. Which explains why MS is now selling an Android phone. Since iOS was not an option, Android was their only choice. Even MS realizes that a 3rd mobile system is not needed.
  • I'm not sure TechFreak was talking about "mobile ecosystem" in the sense that it's an OS built for phones and other portable devices. I think the implication was around the portability of a full blown desk top OS. Continuum was actually pretty decent even though it was half baked. You were still using a Windows Mobile device with a Windows mobile OS. I think if this experiment continues and gains traction what you'll have is a fully functional desktop version of Windows 11 in the palm of your hand. I like the idea of using the Duo as a peripheral link to a larger screen like a TV or monitor via a mini doc. If you could dual boot both Android and Windows 11, that would be even more intriguing. The realm of possibilities are endless. I for one choose optimism over pessimism only because you gravitate towards hope more than despair.
  • It'll be similar to how Samsung Dex works, except I'll actually be able to run VS in this case.
  • Dex? No, way better. You haven't used continuum I presume?
  • Wait, what? Andromeda OS is out in the wild?
  • Love the Duo as it is right now. No need for the replacement of Android with Windows. The Microsoft Launcher and all other Office 365 tools like OneDrive and Teams make it a good experience for productivity. The target audience doesn't care about the underlying OS. It just needs to be productive and get the job done.
  • Compared to the version for regular Android devices the Launcher for the Duo is anemic to say the least.
    And I add that this is, at least for me, absolutely incomprehensible: The Launcher is like the business card of the device and MS keep neglecting to, at least, bring it to the same level of the "standard" one.
  • So sorry but the target audience is or should be 'Windows underlying OS' folks. There's no normal person who would choose this device over a Samsung, Apple or Huawei. Microsoft don't have the technical ability to make this bezel less or seamless fold or even choosing modern materials.
  • It's interesting to see windows on this device, if only to fulfil the dual screen andromeda legacy, but after 5 years of using Android, I've come to depend greatly on a handful of banking, security and medical apps that won't be appearing in the Windows or Amazon app store anytime soon. Before getting a Duo, I was staunchly of the opinion that it should be running Windows, but four months in and I'll admit that I didn't know what I was talking about. The Duo is a mobile first device, and needs apps to be useful. PWA's and a Windows store that hasn't improved much won't do the trick. In the deepest recesses of my fan boy mind, I'd still like to see a windows version of the Duo, maybe an enterprise version, and if it ever came to market, I'd be keeping a very, very close eye on it. Daniel, is there even a suggestion of a windows duo back at MS HQ? Are there decision makers in the business who'd want to see such a thing make it to consumers?
  • For those questioning the availability of apps (or loss there of) by putting Windows on the Duo, remember that Win 11 has (or will have) access to the Amazon app store. So there's that. Is it optimal? Likely not. But it's also no longer the excuse that it used to be. For those that have the time and resources to tinker, more power to you! It's this kind of thinking that creates new roads, interesting opportunities, and actionable ideas.
  • UWAs scale regardless of screensize. In regards to android apps, it's not going to be easy as they have to run both sandboxed and be still be completely functional. Android apps are malware magnets. One of the reasons why W11 requires such draconian hardware security measures. As Microsoft has zero control over what apps go into the playstore or Amazon Android app store let alone what gets compiled into an apk (let's face it, people will want to sideload apks because it's novel feature). Sure, Windows has it share of vulnerabilities and zero day exploits. But, Microsoft can patch these and get rid of nefarious apps in the Windows store. But for apks? Nope, they got nuthin'. So, the only thing that they can do is secure the o/s and hardware as much as possible. Once the novelty of running mobile apps on a desktop wears off. People will realise - they serve zero purpoae on a desktop other than to play mobile games from the playstore. But even then, why would you? Most monitors and laptops don't have touch screen capabilities. Not mention the massive scaling issue. Sure, Android 12L will address that to a certain degree but only for tablets. Monitors and laptops are far larger than tablets. Sure, most games support controllers but now you are asking devs to support a platform that the games were not designed to run on. Then again, with xcloud and other game streaming services there is not much need for mobile games anyway. The key difference with UWA and Android apps is the former scales as it was designed for multiple form factors. Android apps were not. Additionally, Microsoft will never get Google to allow playstore apps on Windows officially without strings attached. If they could have, then Microsoft would have gone with playstore integration instead of the Amazon app store.
  • Why do people have to do this on the free time when there is a company that should done this in the beginning.
  • Well having Windows 11 on Surface Duo and making it work are the easy part, it is the UX that needs to be done to be that usable, and all other underlying architecture to further optimize this. Current Windows 11 UX don't really work well in this kind of form factor. Desktop UI isn't meant for smart-hone like devices.
  • @Kristian Hansson there are “reasons”, too numerous to count. Typing it all up will take aeons.
  • Installing it with Andromeda OS would be really cool project. Hoping that will work well.
  • Oh, yeah!
    Andromeda o/s running on the duo, definitely looking forward to that! I so want a duo running W11 / W10X.
  • Again, I stand by my statement that a theoretical Surface Neo should just run windows 11 on ARM. If you can shove it on a Gen 1 Duo... you can shove on newer Arm based silcon with a bigger screen and have it just as thin as the original Neo was
  • If Windows ran on a Duo and had phone capability, I'd be all over it. I buy nothing running Android.
  • What do people legitimately think they could achieve on the Duo if it had windows that can't be done with Android?