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Surface Go: How to switch out of Windows 10 in S mode

Microsoft Surface Go
Microsoft Surface Go

The Microsoft Surface Go comes pre-installed with Windows 10 Home in S mode (formerly known as Windows 10 S). This mode locks installation of apps only from the Microsoft Store versus downloading potentially dangerous .exe apps via a web browser.

Long-term, Windows 10 in S mode is supposed to deliver a better experience as apps from the Microsoft Store won't damage or slow down your Surface Go over time. Nonetheless, sometimes you just need that one app and it's not in the Store or you hit some other known limitations of the special mode.

Luckily, switching out of Windows 10 in S mode is super easy. The whole process won't take you more than a minute and you don't even need to restart your Surface Go. Here's how to do it.

How to switch Windows 10 Home in S mode to Windows 10 Home

A word of caution: If you do switch Windows 10 in S mode to just Windows 10 Home the process is one way. There is no easy way to roll back or undo the change. You can reinstall a factory image of the OS from Microsoft, but that requires a USB drive, some patience, and a few more steps (plus you lose all your data).

Additionally, if you switch from Windows 10 Home in S mode to just Windows 10 Home you can buy a Windows 10 Pro license through the Microsoft Store and upgrade to Pro after for $99.

Switching from Windows 10 S mode though is free to just Windows 10 Home.

To initiate the switching process:

  1. Press the Start button located at the bottom left of your screen.

  1. Select the Settings icon, located just above the power icon on the Start menu.

  1. Select Update & Security in the Settings app.

  1. Select Activation, and then select Go to Store.

  1. Select the Get option.

  1. Then hit Install when ready to proceed.

  1. The process to switch out of S mode is seconds (maybe about five to be exact). You do not need to restart the PC for it to take effect. You can just continue on and start installing .exe apps now in addition to apps from the Microsoft Store.

And that's it. While Windows 10 in S mode is built for security and performance it's not for everyone. Microsoft at least gives you the choice as to which version you prefer.

Unfortunately, it's not easy to go back to S mode without wiping the entire Surface Go, so give it a good think over before you hit that button.

You can read more about Windows 10 in S mode at the Microsoft FAQ.

Daniel Rubino is the Executive Editor of Windows Central, head reviewer, podcast co-host, and analyst. He has been covering Microsoft here since 2007, back when this site was called WMExperts (and later Windows Phone Central). His interests include Windows, Microsoft Surface, laptops, next-gen computing, and arguing with people on the internet.

16 Comments
  • In Step 4 the screenshot says "Switch to Windows 10 Pro". I expected that to say "Switch to Windows 10 Home". Is that because you guys bought (got) the system with Pro license out of the box?
  • Just a mix up, it's fixed
  • People who switch out of S mode have no right to complain about battery life or slow performing programs. The machine is designed to run best in S mode with apps that are available in the store. Too often I hear people complaining about battery life when, in fact, they have switched out of S mode. I also hear people complaining that they can not run some huge photo editing or CAD/CAM software package. Quit being so cheap and buy a more powerful computer rather than blame the computer vendor for being too slow.
  • It entirely depends what you run. Switching out of S mode does not suddenly increase battery drain for kicks. I have a small atom tablet with full W10 and I can absolutely confirm there's no battery issues with the full OS on my tablet. You can certainly find store apps that will suck away a tonne of battery power. The store you use is not the governing factor. It's the software you choose.
  • Part of the anecdotal increase in battery drain is likely due to the glut of background processes that are/can be installed once you get out of S Mode. First thing many are going to do once they enable full Win 10 is install Chrome, and there you go.
  • And also rubbishes in the registry and file systems will gradually slow down your machine too. Also, no win32 does clean uninstall I'm afraid.
  • With all these Surface Go articles,, sometimes I feel us fans are compensating for the lack of Andromeda goodies from news, leaks, and MS😂😂😂😂
  • I'm all for it, though. Anything to build that Surface name is good.
  • Is it advisable to do a clean install after upgrading, as with going from W8 to W10? Just curious. I don't have a Go but I am interested when they bring out the folding version of their small tablet so I'm interested in how all this works.
  • Probably depends on how much you have done, or how long you have had the tablet. In this case that can't be very long. With the short time it takes to upgrade, it's pretty clear that a virtually pristine version of Win 10 bits are there already, you just need to turn them lose. No reason to replace them unless you have really schmutzed up your tablet.
  • It's a puzzle that switching from S mode takes a mere 5 seconds and the reverse takes hours!!!???
  • I assumed Microsoft thought that once someone switches out of S mode, they wouldn't want to switch back. So, they never implemented away to easily switch back.
  • "(plus you lose all your data)" You only lose the data you haven't backed up somewhere.
  • Pro mode all the way, too many .exe's I just love to use! :-)
  • You know what's gonna happen 75% of people will not switch out of s mode.
  • Where is this wallpaper coming from that looks like a child's night time mobile?