6 things you need to know about 'Windows 10 S'

Windows 10 Wallpaper

Windows 10 Wallpaper (Image credit: Microsoft)

Windows 10 S is a new edition of Windows 10 built with one specific purpose: to take on Google Chromebooks and the education market. Education is an important area for Microsoft, and with Windows 10 S, the Redmond giant plans to take back the education industry by storm.

This is everything we know about Windows 10 S so far.

It's locked to the Windows Store

The biggest difference between this edition of Windows 10 and the other editions is that Windows 10 S is locked to the Windows Store for all apps and games. That means downloading programs from the web won't work on this edition of Windows, because Windows 10 will simply refuse to install software unless it's from the Windows Store.

There's no way to turn this function off on Windows 10 S, because it is designed specifically for the added security. You could upgrade to Windows 10 Pro, which subsequently would enable the ability to install programs from outside the Windows Store, but that would no longer be Windows 10 S.

Hands on with Windows 10 S

It looks and feels just like any normal Windows 10

Myerson Windows 10

Myerson Windows 10 (Image credit: Daniel Rubino / Windows Central)

On the surface, it isn't immediately clear that Windows 10 S is different than any other version of Windows 10. It looks just like any other edition of Windows 10 available on the market today, apart from the fact that it has a slightly different default wallpaper when setting up for the first time.

This isn't necessarily a bad thing, because it means users will be familiar with the Windows experience no matter what version of Windows 10 they're using. This is especially beneficial for students, who Windows 10 S is mostly aimed at.

It's a little more secure

Because app installers can't execute from outside the Windows Store, you're technically more secure. You won't get any rogue installers installing malware behind your back, because they simply don't run on this edition of Windows 10. Everything in the Windows Store is (for the most part) safe, being screened by Microsoft's own app approval system before being available in the Store for download.

It's not a 'lite' version of Windows

There's a common misconception that because Windows 10 S is locked to the Windows Store, it's technically a "lite" version of Windows 10. That's not true, because it still has the ability to run full Win32 programs much like any other edition of Windows 10. As long as the software is available in the Windows Store, it'll run on Windows 10 S.

That means if Google decides to put Chrome in the Windows Store, Windows 10 S users will be able to use Chrome. If Adobe puts Premiere Pro in the Windows Store, it'll work on Windows 10 S, too. This is a full version of Windows, the only difference is the fact that it's bound to the Windows Store for all your apps and games.

Office is a big part of Windows 10 S

Microsoft will likely push the full version of Microsoft Office 2016 on Windows 10 S, if the fact that Word 2016, PowerPoint 2016, Excel 2016 and OneNote being pinned to the Start menu by default is anything to go by. The apps aren't installed by default, but clicking the pinned tiles will take you to the Store to download them.

Considering Windows 10 S can't run programs from outside the Store, this means Microsoft will be bringing the full version of Office to the Windows Store as Centennial apps, which is super exciting. This also means you won't be limited to the "Office Mobile" version of the apps.

It can be upgraded to Windows 10 Pro

If you're not a fan of the limitations of being locked to the Windows Store, you can upgrade it to Windows 10 Pro for a small fee. In some cases, your Windows 10 S device might come with a free Windows 10 Pro upgrade too! So keep a look out for that..

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.

186 Comments
  • This IMO will be better than the chromebooks in respect tothe fact that the apps arent cloud based; specifically it'll be more useful even without internet connection.
  • ChromeOS has plenty of offline applications available, including Microsoft Office. 
  • ChromeOS is but just a toy!
  • Office Mobile running in Android app in a Chromebook is not same as full desktop Office which will be run using Centennial in Windows 10 Cloud!
  • There was a full version of Office that ran on RT and that wasn't enough to save it.  Why will this be different?
  • if the version is free for hardware vendors it will give an opportunity to pick up a full PC for a lower price...then if you want to install something else you also have the option to upgraded to a different version of widows.  Something that couldn't be done with RT.
  • And if this sells well, it will push more developer to pack theyr old Windows app for the store. Don't forget that.
  • It won't need saving since it is essentially a free version of win10 for hardware makers. If a customer wants more, then they pay for it.
  • Because that was 'Windows' RT, while this one is not. Store apps are a restriction, but it just mean that instead of downloading and installing something from a web browser, you'll need to download it from store.
    The concept is good, but it'll be more effective when we have Visual studio, SQL server and other big softwares in the store.
  • That hasnt seemed to afffect Chromebook adoption so far, but you raise a good point about apps, and the fact that Windows doesnt have a lot of the education apps already in use on CB's is again going to be the limiting factor. And before anyone says it, Photoshop and the like arent really the apps in question here.
  • You mean the adoption where the marketshare is still in the "Other" category, Linux has it beat in the number of users, and the total percentage of users is a rounding error? It even has a smaller marketshare than WP has. Imagine that! For all the doom and gloom that people such as yourself like to profess for Windows and the PC market, for all the "press" sites that like to talk about how, after the 483,918th time that the competition **finally** has something to beat Windows, ChromeBook is still a failure. I know it is anecdotal, but I have only seen one person with a ChromeBook. That was someone at work who hates anything Microsoft, and was trying to convert us to ChromeBook. It would never work, first since we write software for Mac and Windows and the last I saw, a Chromebook would be miserable building native C++, where a 24 proc Xeon machine with 64GB of memory takes an hour. Also, we are issued MacBook Pros, which are wiped and have Windows 10 installed on them. ChromeBook couldn't compare there, either.
  • That means if Google decides to put Chrome in the Windows Store, Windows 10 Cloud users will be able to use Chrome why would you remove such a nice and SINCERELY comment? TELL ME 1 reason WHY would GOOGLE support Microsoft?????? Just 1 LOGICAL reason and you can delete my comment with grace!!! Shame on you Zac Bowden! I hope you get paid for the fake propaganda :)) at least you can buy yourself a nice car?
  • Who deleted your comment? I felt the same thing, reading this article.  "...if Google decides to put Chrome in the Windows Store..." is a big IF.  I don't see any reason for them to support Microsoft, considering their track record of being anti-Microsoft.
  • Google makes their money selling advertising and collecting data for selling advertising. Chrome is their data collection tool. They could withhold services from Windows Phone because Windows on Phones never really got off the ground and they could keep it that way.
    They cant put the genie back in the bottle on PC. Windows PCs are already "Off the ground" and running, like the iPhone. Google very well may support this. It wont be a UWP app though, you can be sure of that.
  • Thankfully it doesnt need to be :). 
  • But first windows cloud has to took off and become a missing market for google... right now everybody can install chrome on Windows, so google has no reason to do anything.
  • Valid, but it points to some complications.  Until Edge is a worthy competitor to Chrome, I don't think Google is worried.  Chrome is the most used browser out there, so if Microsoft wants Cloud to succeed, they would need users to have a successful browsing experience on it.  That means, making Edge comparable, or Google putting Chrome in the Store.  Google would only put Chrome in the store if it hurts them where you said, making money. If Google doesn't put Chrome in the Store, it could hurt Cloud's success.  Why get a Cloud system when you can just get a Chromebook and use the most popular browser out there? (by the way, awesome error my first time posting this: An AJAX HTTP error occurred.
    HTTP Result Code: 503
    Debugging information follows.
    Path: /system/ajax
    StatusText: Service Unavailable
    ResponseText:
    503 Service Unavailable
    Error 503 Service Unavailable
    Service Unavailable
    Guru Meditation:
    XID: 1525011786
    Varnish cache server)
  • Google wouldnt be supporting Microsoft. Google would be supporting their customers that happen to use Windows. The same way that Microsoft supports its customers that use Android and iOS. 
  • And the way Google already gives Windows users Chrome for the desktop.
  • tell me why Google supports Microsoft to put installation pack on his website https://www.google.com/intl/en/chrome/browser/ ?
  • Chrome is available on Windows after all...
    Ask them to pull off Chrome for all Windows version. Will Google do that? Exactly. It just depends on the user base. Nothing else.
    If Google wants that all the students buying Windows S laptops should be able to get Chrome, they can easily put it in the store as a Centennial app. It won't hurt Google, instead it'd benefit them, not MS, as Chrome is already available on Windows. It'd then be available to those restricted users too.
    After that, those users can easily ditch Edge, and can use any Google's service using their browser. Google has Chrome on Windows, Mac and iOS because they are supporting their competitors? Why do Google and MS release their apps on iOS?
    Why is MS releasing apps on all platforms but w10m?
    It's not about supporting a platform, but getting users (already on a platform) use their services and become their customers. So why won't Google do that? ONLY if Windows S don't get enough users.
  • Are you a kid?
  • If it doesn't require me to have an active internet connection to simply log in to my computer, it's already better than my Chromebook.
  • I can login to my Chromebook without an active Internet connection. 
  • Oh? Maybe it's time to dust off my CR-48 again and see if things have changed.
  • Don't have Chromebook but it's ridiculous that you have been down voted
  • @Mister Burns, yeah that's what happens when someone corrects misinformation. 
  • Downvotes are fun! It means you hit a nerve, and Windows lovers are quite sensitive.
  • What a great OS to buy for kids or especially teenagers so they can't destroy the home laptop with malware and viruses
  • To be honest, knowing uwp isnt as powerful at the moment, I don't like using apps other than from the store. Idk. Maybe it's because I'm getting older and tinkering is quickly becoming a past time for me. The maintenance benefits of uwp from store for long term performance is worth it for me (where applicable of course). I think that there is an audience for people like me who aren't kids or teens who have the ability and know how to not destroy home devices with malware and viruses but like not having to think about it at all. I think this will be really beneficial for tablets too if they ever take tablet mode seriously again.
  • As someone who works in schools; no, this wont help anything. Schools are moving to Chromebooks (and more importantly but never reported; chrome boxes) because of maintenance costs, not device costs. If anything goes wrong with the software on a chrome-device you are looking at a max of a 30min process to make recovery media and loading it, where a windows re-image and update can take days. Even if you have a managed and up-to-date image of win7/10 you are still spending tens if not hundreds of hours maintaining several images for several types of computers. That is a ton of wasted time that schools can easily live without paying for. And most of the time on a Chrome device you can do a power-wash and get your system back to normal in 5min or less.
    Managing Google Admin Panel is WAY easier than GroupPolicy, and Google offers free management support for schools. In other words you can set up a cadre of teachers and staff who 'manage' google, who pretty much never touch the admin panel, but just call Google up, describe what they want done, and a google support tech will get it done for them. And if you do become competant in Admin Panel, you can zip around and make changes very easily, and it is extremely rare that a change you make will break anything, where you can absolutely push out a bad registry change in GP and brick whole groups of PCs very easily.
    Everything schools need is available as a website or extension for free or very cheap. Google Apps covers 80% of the use-case for needing MS Office, and it is far easier to set up collaborative documents than in MS Office. There is a ton of free training. Websites students use work great in Chrome where they are often broken in IE or Edge. Everything 'just works', is very simple to manage unprofessionally, free or dirt cheap software, and the hardware is typically cheap and easy to repair. Personally, I can't stand using Chrome devices, and in the districts I work in teachers will continue to need Windows PCs because of specific software requirements, but I dobut my districts will ever buy another Windows PC for student use with the exception of the rare advanced HS class, or the STEM program that needs a PC. MS does not just need to contend with Chrome OS, the real battle is between Group Policy and Admin Panel. And MS is going to loose hard and never regain market share unless they make some big moves. Schools can no longer afford to have in-house full-time employees. It just isn't pratical. Google offers a way to have off-site or very part-time tech support for hundreds of machines, where maintaining the same number of PCs would take a small team of full-time employees. Schools can no longer afford to have big expensive VLAs to cover the flexibility schools need in licencing windows boxes, where Google charges some $30 flat fee that is good for 4 years or the lifetime of the device (whichever is longer). These are just things that MS cannot deal with. Schools will always have Windows Servers, and some windows admin/staff PCs, but the student market left and is never coming back.
  • As someone who works in schools, a Windows re-image takes less than 30 minutes (I know, because I had my school tablet reimaged last week).
  • I agree that re-imaging a Windows PC can be quick, but that difference of opinion aside, a lot of what the original poster says about computers in schools resonates very strongly with me. My wife runs the in-house IT for our local Primary (Elementary) school and she definitely spends a TON of time managing Windows PC builds on a variety of different machines. She's been thinking about Chromebooks for a while, but has discounted​ them because she already has Windows and iOS devices to manage and couldn't face a third OS at the moment. But if they really are that simple to manage....I think that if nothing else the comment about the battle being about the different management systems rather than the different OSs or devices is a very good one.
  • I concur.
  • Really good idea and hope it will work. Education sector is very important. Next MS must stop charging developers for publishing their apps on Windows Store. Quite the opposite, MS should find a way to reward any new UWP apps. Then who knows, one day app gap might not be so huge.
  • Child sector works too. If they can market a cheap Windows 10 Cloud tablet or laptop for my kids, then I would be less concerned about their computers becoming compromised.
  • The school system that I am in has issued these cheap Toshiba laptops to all of the students.  It runs Windows 8.1 and runs like crap because of how weak the hardware is.  Result: students all think that Windows is crap.  My daughters see me run Windows on my laptop and are amazed at how well it runs.  There is a big PR pitfall here.
  • That actually isn't a bad idea.  They should have a "Prize program" for developers that give big cash rewards for best apps in certain catagories.  This would give a bit of incentive to build quality apps in the store not just garbage.
  • Since this is a push to get Microsoft products into schools, likely for the school year that will begin in September, I expect to see some kind of education specific application suite designed by Scholastic or a similar company to debut.  I also expect to see a new management system in place that will allow school IT personnel to control what store apps are installed on the computers, which students are authorized to use them, and the ability for documents stored on a school OneDrive account to follow the student regardless of what computer they are using. Just introducing a new laptop and a free OS isn't going to be enought to get schools to jump ship from Chromebooks.  Microsoft is going to have to offer a compelling product to convince schools to make purchases now in anticipation of next school year.
  • "Windows Store for Enterprise" exists already and is a feature that can be enabled for devices connected to a central server/schools and office sectors. It will allow the IT depts. to control which apps are allowed to install through the Windows Store.
  • There are pretty good apps to start for education like Wolfram Alpha, Office Lens, Microsoft Math, Virtual Robotics Toolkit (Lego Mindstorms), Arduino IDE, Windows IoT Remote Client and many more that will make kids using Windows 10 Cloud smarter than kids using Chromebooks.
  • Lol!!
  • This will give customers more choice. More affordable laptops and tablets that are secure and free of malware and virus threats. Easy to reset and reinstall for schools and Internet Café's.
  • Genuine question: since Windows 10 Cloud can still execute x86 code (since it supports Project Centennial apps), wouldn't that make it just as vulnerable to viruses/malware as Windows 10 Home? The malware would have to come from a Store app, but still. 
  • to my knowledge, store apps are scanned for malware on the Microsoft servers.  Execution is sandboxed into their own little environment. It would be possible for some unknown to slip through, but damage would be controlled based on their sandbox, and Microsoft would also know who it came from. :D
  • Yes and it also prevents issues like the following: A user got a new PC and wants to install chrome, so they used the default Bing search and click the first link at the top....Only that the top link was a paid for link and went to some malware. This really happened to somebody I know as Bing didn't at the time (still might not) do anything to stop somebody paying for a fake link at the top.
  • Any word on how updates are handled? One of ChromeOS's (and now Android's) greatest strengths is it has two system partitions: one active and one inactive. When an update is available, it downloads in the background and gets installed to the inactive partition. The user gets notified that an update is ready to install on the next reboot. The device reboots, and the system partition with the update installed becomes the active partition. Total downtime for users is something in the ballpark of 30 seconds. 
  • For years people have criticized Microsoft about how you need to restart every time you need to reboot. Linux was hearlded as great because you didn't need to restart. Now having to reboot ChromeBook for every system update is a good thing, and Windows should force a reboot with each update?
  • your point being???
  • Try reading the comment I was replying to, and then read my comment in context of what I was replying to. Reading is FUNdamental.
  • Windows still does reboots with major updates, and the machine is unavailable for longer because the update installs during the reboot. 
  • To summarize your argument, rebooting after installing updates is good when it happens on a Google product, but bad when it is on a Microsoft product. Not because of benefits to the user, but because of the logo on the product.
  • On Google's system, the system is off for maybe thirty seconds. On Windows, the system is off for a few minutes at best. That's a significant difference, especially in a school when students need their machine to be on and working. 
  • Windows does force a reboot, and it's also a reboot loop, and a long one.
  • Windows need restart since startup group policies install on startup
    It's by design, not a fault
  • My chromebook typically takes two reboots.  Mostly because I don't use it that frequently.  It starts downloading the update, goes to sleep before it's complete, I eventually wake it up and it completes, reboots, then checks for updates again and gets a later one.  I have to babysit it to get the second one, or else it'll perpetually be trying to get the latest.
  • As an educator, I think this is a good idea, but I wonder about the availability of Store apps. In my experience, students need a lot more than Microsoft Office. Have they considered the redeployment of Microsoft Essentials? I still know teachers who are sore about the disappearance of Movie Maker, for example. It was a great and cheap way to introduce students to non-storyboard video editing. Only if there are more apps like that, or like what we see on ipads, will this particular OS take off, in my opinion.
  • You will never get what you see on ipads because devs have abandoned Microsoft. The Store on windows will never gonna get better. Do yourself a favor and don't throw your money to the garbage by buying into another of MS's DOA projects. Fanboys here are still living in a fantasy world, don't mind them. What you see now in the Store on windows 10 it's the same you will see in the store on windows 10 cloud..same store, same pathetic app collection.
  • WINDOWS STORE APPS ARE USELESS (You can Downvote the comment but you know its true!) YOU CANT DO PROGRAMMING OR ANYTHING WITH STORE APPS (I MEANT BASIC PROGRAMMING LIKE PHP OR SOMETHING)
  • Try researching first. A simple search for the term php in the store returns multiple codes editors..!!
  • there are tons of very good code editors in the the windows app store. 
  • ...and, if you can't write code in notepad, you're not a "real" coder.
  • Thats not true, just because you cant remember all the many libraries doesn't mean you are not a real coder
  • #Code https://www.windowscentral.com/e?link=https2F%2Fclick.linksynergy.co... Sure you can. I do on the fly development on my phone all the time.
  • Sure you can. Just because you haven't a clue about how to code, because you don't understand the UWP model, because you are obviously here to troll, and because you need to use all caps, it does not mean it cannot be done.
  • The editor I have used for years is in the Windows Store, Edit+! It is a good editor. I would not be surprised if Microsoft put Visual Studio Code in the Windows Store.
  • The windows store isn't just apps. Try learning what you're talking about first kid.
  • Cheap PCs 😂 that's what comes to my mind
  • Money talks
  • The biggest reason for this neutered version of Windows to exist will be if it comes attached to cheaper hardware. Chromebooks are NOT a threat worldwide because they are NOT popular worldwide. It's downright stupid to assume the US reality applies to the entire world. HOWEVER, before they get the chance to even become remotely known to people, it's better if Microsoft launches a competitor and cuts off Chromebook's wings. That way, the entire world who doesn't buy or really give a sh*t about Chromebooks will not even be bothered by them and the very few places where Chromebooks sell will have a better alternative. But Microsoft will HAVE to ensure two things for this to work: 1 - The devices W10Cloud ships in are actually affordable for children and teens (which will be the main targets for this anyway); 2 - That those devices will NOT be US-only as is Microsoft's annoying tradition. 3 - That the Windows Store has apps! Or better yet, that the processo to upgrade to the normal version of Windows is EASY.
  • You mean like the HP Stream, priced at $200 and has been shipping for well over a year? In fact, doing a comparison on Amazon and comparing, the HP device is more powerful than the ChromeBooks for about the same price. The store has plenty of apps, and with the ability to post native Win32 apps, I think that 16+ million apps is plenty of apps.
  • I love my Streams (got three 11s) but hate the limitation on storage on it.  Yes, they have more storage than a Chromebook (32GB vs 16GB) although RAM and CPU are typically on par.  It's just that storage limit is so frustrating when trying to get Windows updates or install software.  It's easier to backup and Reset them, update them, then restore and reinstall everything.
  • 16+ milion? When you guys are gonna stop thinking that devs will simply start moving their apps to the store..just like that, because MS launches this OS? Come back to Earth will ya? The store is a pathetic empty ghost town, with barely a few apps. The "ability" does not translate into reality! And the reality is devs do not care about uwp
  • @mariusmuntean, the world is not static and developers, for the most part, put their apps where it makes sense to reach users. If there is a version of Windows that ONLY supports apps from the Store and if it's easy to port existing Win32 apps via Centennial, of course most active developers will port their apps. This doesn't mean they'll be UWP, so this won't help mobile (but the fact that many of these systems will be cheap tablets will encourage some refactoring to support small form factors and touch). It also won't help with old apps that still run but no longer have any active development. But for the majority of modern and actively supported apps, Windows 10 Cloud is a huge draw to start putting apps in the Store. The only concern with this is the classic Chicken and Egg problem we've always had -- devs probably won't port the apps today, they'll wait to see how well Windows 10 Cloud does. If customers also wait for more apps, then that's a descructive cycle and nothing changes. However, it appears that MS has a smart approach to this by focusing on specific markets where the lack of a huge selection of apps doesn't matter as long as there are enough important ones -- education and cheap consumer systems. Also, because this can be upgraded to full Windows 10 and not tied to the Store, it encourages regular customers to buy it with little risk of getting stuck with a dead end system like Windows RT. Ironically, the ability to upgrade away from Cloud and the Store may prove to be one of the biggest selling points for Cloud and apps in the Store.
  • Developpers do not need to convert their app to UWP apps before it can be deployed to the store. They only have to repackage it... O fcourse trolls like you don't know that.
  • I'm thinking Chromebooks and Windows 10 Cloud PC's will be a new category previously unavailable in schools outside US which is dominated by Apple with the iPad and Samsung with Android tablets.  Both ChromeOS and Windows 10 Cloud will show to be much better tools for our kids than tablets where students cannot use a keyboard and a trackpad.
  • If the PC's are good quality with SSD's what is the problem? Just because it does not cost $1,000 does not mea it's rubbish.
  • I think the list is about on par with expectations. Question remains though how well app support is going to be or if it will even matter?
  • It's Windows RT, just say it.
  • No, it isn't. The difference lies in the details. WinRT couldn't run Win32 apps at all (and not just because there weren't any in the Store back then. And it wasn't upgradeable to Home and/or Pro. Cloud is.
  • oh look another person who doesn't know what RT was, how fun
  • Go educate yourself, then try again.
  • Chromebooks is way too established already worldwide so why change a working method for a beta cloud OS? It will happen exactly the same as W10M.....MS will give up.
  • chrome books are only established in America, and they're barely even established here yet. if you're gonna be a troll, the least you can do is not be an ignorant one
  • I know in the UK they aren't popular in schools in general - Any article about them here will be mostly US centred where I believe they are a lot more popular. In the UK it's either cheap windows laptops or iPads. A lot of state schools in the UK can barely afford to buy exercise books and pencils
  • With 0. something %, they're as established as W10M... Or maybe even less...
  • This would be perfect for my inlaws. They still love their RT tablet. Its worked flawlessly for what they use it for.
  • I think this version of W10 has another reason of existence! I believe that with this version developers will forced to create or develop their apps for Windows OS and with the UWP the same app will work also for mobile that has very few apps, Xbox, etc.
  • Really, do you think devs will be forced to build uwp apps? :)))))) My friend, MS cannot force anyone to do anything. Devs take their own decissions and MS cannot do anything to change that! Get it through your dream fanboy minds already. Devs do not give a damn about the uwp...for real, look at the store...there are barely a few apps there.
  • If this W10 version get a huge amount of users and the only way to install Apps is the store...I think it make sense my thought that Devs will be forced to develop apps for the platform and make some money! Neither MS neither Devs are able to change the market...market (money) is changing the system!!! But talking for realism...for sure nobody can say that MS store is Application paradise but a ghost city as you mention in other post...
  • What he's saying is, there is an incentive here for devs to develop UWPS if this OS is successful, (unlike WP) which if you look at it logically and unemotionally, it should be.
    So how about dialing down the arrogance troll.
  • I am not trolling anybody...I just expressing my thoughts!!! Probably my English is not good enough!!!
  • I think nm is agreeing with you. He was talking about the other guy
  • What's the incentive to develop for the store when this will have a similar market to Windows Phone?  This is not going to be a runaway success, of any kind. Windows RT only ran Store apps...that did nothing to encourage de