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: @zacbowden.

  • > Microsoft isn't allowing manual drivers installations either. It would be interesting to see what qualifies as a 'driver' under this restriction -- hopefully things, built on top of the Microsoft's Transport Minidrivers (USB, Bluetooth, I2C, etc.) are *not* considered 'drivers' or this would be a *very* short-lived mobile platform indeed. Before you think that this does not apply to the 'normal user' think of Logitech Unifying Software configuring Unifying receiver to use different keyboard or mouse or the piece of software you use to talk to your OBD.
  • Good point, I would guess though that they already had WOA to test & fix some of those issues.
  • I don't think WoA prohibits third party driver installation, mini- or otherwise... does it? Did you mean W10S?
  • So... Basically Windows 10 Mobile + Win32 support?
  • Well, that and being optimized/designed for dual-screens.
  • Whatever that even means at this point.
  • It's obvious what that means.
  • Here's hoping it isn't like how Windows 10 was optimised/designed for tablets.
  • I can see it now, Engadget's review of the Surface Neo will be based the fact that it can't run some app they use in all reviews but that no actual customer ever does. And the Verge will hate the Neo for similar reasons but then later reconsider and love the Neo but still tell readers to never, ever buy it anyway.
  • It competes with Windows 10 Pro first. If it doesn't have a solid advantage, a reason to be, it is going to be tough to recommend. Windows 10 Pro is really good at running Windows apps and doing Windows things. If 10X is just another way to do Windows things, it better have some clear advantage.
  • inb4 Rubino comes at you with "Well, that and being optimized/designed for dual-screens." lol
  • > it better have some clear advantage Half decent tablet interface? Pretty please... :)
  • Windows 10X isn't being designed to replace Windows 10. That has been made pretty clear. It is for new categories of devices and, eventually, will probably be preloaded on some laptops and more traditional devices that are not marketed to mass audiences. You will still be able to buy a PC with Windows 10 just as you can now if that is what you prefer.
  • Sure, I get it, but it competes with Windows 10 regardless. When you go to buy one of these, it is good to be instead of a laptop.
  • Claiming that W10X is "competing" with W10 Pro is like saying Surface Pro 7 "competes" with dedicated CAD Workstations from HP, or saying Android 10 "competes" with Windows Server Enterprise 2019.
    Two totally different systems intended for two totally different usage scenarios.
    They are complimentary, not competitive.
    Dual-Screen devices like the Duo are not intended to run SQL Databases or Visual Studio, or CAD software. If you want to do that, you can use the Duo as a TERMINAL and RDP into a Cloud system (or local hardware) running a dedicated CAD image, or a SQL server.
  • This feels like Microsoft transitioning Windows from the legacy, all encompassing OS to one that will offer more consistency and stability across various platforms. It almost feels like a direct notch in the IoT belt and could be a bit of a Raspberry Pi shot. Along with offering that next generation of devices that only efficiency can bring (thin and light).
  • This feels like marketing-speak.
  • Percent of marketing execs who have ever uttered the phrase "Raspberry Pi": zero. Way too nerdy.