Windows 10X will run most, but not all, Win32 programs

Surface Neo
Surface Neo (Image credit: Microsoft)

What you need to know

  • Windows 10X will run most Win32 programs without issue.
  • Programs that manipulate system data or install drivers likely won't work.
  • Microsoft will work with developers where necessary to ensure apps that should work, do.

Microsoft has started sharing more information around its upcoming Windows 10X operating system for dual-screen and foldable PCs. It's a new version of Windows 10 built on a modern core that strips out legacy components in favor of a lightweight and streamlined user experience. Because of this, legacy programs must run in a container that virtualizes the legacy components required for those programs to run.

Naturally, this means not all Win32 programs will be compatible with Windows 10X. This isn't as bad as it sounds, however, as most Win32 programs will run just fine. Microsoft tells us that it expects most programs will work on Windows 10X without any additional work by the developer. There will be some instances where some apps don't work for whatever reason, but Microsoft is open to working with those apps to ensure they do work in the future.

Containers 10x

Source: MicrosoftHow containers work on Windows 10X. (Image credit: Source: Microsoft)

But there are some types of apps that Microsoft is outright disallowing on Windows 10X, primarily because of how Windows 10X is built. It's a much more locked down platform compared to Windows 10, meaning things like accessing system files and program data isn't possible by the end-user. Because of this, programs that manipulate OS system data, or have capabilities such as formatting and partitioning hard drives, will not work on Windows 10X.

In addition, Microsoft isn't allowing manual drivers installations either. All drivers will be handled via Windows Update on Windows 10X, meaning if you're looking to install an older driver from your OEM, you won't be able to do so. This is because Microsoft doesn't expect this to be something that users will need to do on a device that runs Windows 10X, and for security reasons, is disallowing it.

Microsoft anticipates that most customers will not run into any app compatibility issues when running Win32 programs on Windows 10X. Pretty much all mainstream apps, such as Spotify, Office, and web browsers, will run without issue. It's just apps that edit system files, and drivers from outside Windows Update, that Microsoft says won't run on Windows 10X.

Zac Bowden
Senior Editor

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