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Microsoft announces Windows 11 SE built for low-cost education PCs

Windows 11 Tease
Windows 11 Tease (Image credit: Microsoft)

What you need to know

  • Microsoft has announced a new edition of Windows 11.
  • It's built specifically for low-cost education PCs.
  • It's called Windows 11 SE and features optimizations for low-end hardware.

Mirosoft has announced a new edition of Windows 11 designed specifically for the K-8 education sector, dubbed "Windows 11 SE." This new edition of Windows 11 is designed to address fundamental challenges that schools are facing day to day with improved performance, optimized resources, and simple to deploy and manage.

Microsoft says Windows 11 SE has been optimized for education focused low-cost PCs, most of which start at the affordable price of $249 and are powered by low-end Intel and AMD chips. Windows 11 SE was designed with feedback from teachers and school IT admins in mind.

Unlike normal Windows 11, Windows 11 SE comes pre-loaded with Microsoft Office out of the box, including Word, PowerPoint, Excel, OneNote, and OneDrive, which can also be used offline as part of a Microsoft 365 license. Microsoft has also limited some of the multitasking features, including reducing the amount of apps that can be snapped on screen at once to just two; side by side. The Microsoft Store app is also disabled.

Windows 11 SE also automatically runs apps in full-screen, which makes sense considering most Windows 11 SE PCs will feature small 11-inch displays. It also removes access to the "This PC" area in File Explorer by default, as it's an area most students don't need to access when working on school work. Windows 11 SE is "cloud backed" meaning it will mirror all your saved documents stored locally to the cloud.

Surface Laptop Se Render

Source: Microsoft (Image credit: Source: Microsoft)

Additionally, Windows 11 SE is also designed with Windows Autopilot in mind, with Intune for Education providing a simple and secure cloud management solution allowing IT admins to deploy and manage Windows 11 SE PCs from anywhere. Windows 11 SE devices also update silently and automatically, with policies which can be set so that these updates only take place outside of classroom hours.

Unfortunately, there's not much else in the form of optimizations taking place to the underlying OS to improve it for educational use. Unlike Microsoft's canceled Windows 10X, Windows 11 SE is still based on classic Windows and therefore has slow Windows Updates and no way to fast wipe and provision new users, two huge sticking points for IT admins deploying education PCs. Perhaps this will change in the future.

Microsoft says that there is an ecosystem of Windows 11 SE PCs launching, including its own Surface Laptop SE in addition to PCs from Acer, ASUS, Dell, Dynabook, Fujitsu, HP, JK-IP, Lenovo, and Positivo. Curiously, there are no ARM-based education PCs being announced today.

Many of these new Windows 11 SE devices will begin being available to order through education channels later this year and into 2022. Windows 11 SE is not an edition of Windows 11 you'll find on consumer focused PCs at Best Buy, it's only available on low-cost education PCs that are purchased in bulk through education channels, meaning you'll only really come across it on PCs handed out at schools.

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.

21 Comments
  • I wonder if this will have any merit to put on an OG Surface Go for example?
  • I sure hope so because my Suface Go SUCKS. Half the time I wanna throw it through the window.
  • sucks on what specifically ? define the exact moments of suckery on a word document and the specific moments of when the suckery happens and with what applications on what instances including your device specifications and the series/year of make, don't forget to state the physical condition of your hardware/device, including damage caused by any sort of "throwing through the window" or such. This will be your homework for this weekend.
  • OG first gen 2018, 8gb/128gb model bought at launch, now with Win11 on it via Insiders.
    It's slow generally, which is kinda ok and expected. (Getting a Go 2 or 3 with a top processor would help here I guess).
    The amount of swapping/struggling it does on boot is silly, coming back from standby or hibernate and Windows Hello is frequently really struggling to come to life and find my face. Often it decides it can't and gives up, sometimes leaving the camera array on for 30 seconds after I've logged in. I swear using a PIN would be quicker, although I imagine giving me the text box and letting me type would also be intolerably slow. Allegedly the 2 and later have some kind of instant start, which will help but doubtless make the amount of battery it drains while in standby even worse - I mostly hibernate it to avoid coming back to it finding it flat.
    Downloading big files to the SSD seems to clog some bus or something such that everything is noticeably slow while it's doing that.
    Battery life is weak, but again I knew that going in.
    But having the charger plugged in heats up the laptop and thus throttles it, so it can go faster (for bursts) on battery.
    And then for a few days I had to use it for work. If I was in a Teams meeting basically I couldn't do anything else, streaming my audio and other people's video caned it and throttled it to extreme lethargy. Not great for MS hardware and software seamless integration (have they ever promised that?!) but I guess we all know Teams is a bit of a hog.
    I was tempted to get a top-spec Go 3 to replace it, but I think I'm gonna assume an ARM version will show up next year and get that instead. Should do much better on speed and thermals in the same form factor.
  • The surface go isn't windows 11 certified, that means there is about a 10-20% performance hit on CPU for doing in software, what they certify in hardware. The SP4 is the same - usable in Windows 11 but much faster in Windows 10 due to that. These devices are certified for Windows 11 and the student edition is limited a bit - at 249, it seems like it would be fine fo r most use cases. I'd compare against the Gen 2 which is certified and get a feeling from that.
  • The snapping limitation is just nonsensical. I won't get into another novel about the education opportunities lost due to lack-of- foresight-bean-counter indulged decision in axing 10X and lack of WoA movement..
  • It's not nonsensical. This is a very low powered device. They're trying to make it usable.
  • Yeah, make sense. Though I wonder what happen if you docked this or have it on external monitor? I guess students deserve something of a full desktop experience. Or I guess if they really need those, they have to buy a proper laptop. What's odd for me is also not able to access This PC. So is there another location if the user connects like a flash drive? It seems like this OS have so many restrictions that I remember we didn't need when I was a kid. Though alas we never had a laptop back then and we have a computer room that runs full fledge OS to learn on. I guess curriculums change.
  • Wait... Windows 11 proclaimed it's for newer machines meeting certain specs and older machines be damned. Are you saying these SE devices will have the necessary security & hardware specs to run Win11? It's like they are marketing Win11 with made up requirements... depending on the market they need to serve.
  • I guess both sides have a point in here. BC Windows 11 SE is going to be supplied only to OEMs, won't be surprising that only new computers with certain set of approved processors will get that version. The main limitation with Windows 11 is not "old processors with low performance" but rather old processors with certain security vulnerabilities, than even a super cheap but newer processor has fixed (TPM, Spectre, etc.) So won't be surprised to see super cheap 11SE laptops running it good. THe thing with SE is mostly making it run "good enough" on 4GB of RAM. On the other side, I use a 7500U laptop that has everything perfectly in shape to run WIndows 11 (TPM, RAM, Speed, SSD, etc) Except its processor is not "8th gen" (8th gen processors also have some vulnerabilities). Yet Microsoft made a clear cut there in the official support list. But the laptop can run it perfectly as Windows Insider. On certain hardware, the "approval list" seems like a marketing ploy
  • "Are you saying these SE devices will have the necessary security & hardware specs to run Win11?"
    Windows 11 SE is locked down with app deployment only possible via Intune and Autopilot. There isn't even a Microsoft Store. The user cannot install anything and saves go to the cloud making the security concerns (compared to Windows 11) moot.
  • have you heard of a platform called MacOS! that can be installed basically on any hardware... neither have I.
  • Aiming for performance, yet disabling MS Store which offers UWP (efficient) apps. And possibly allowing installation of .exe apps. I don't understand.
  • No, you can't install anything on this machine, only the admin could push the app installation from remote dashboard.
  • Well it's not designed for regular use and for user to self manage the device. It is pretty lock down, actually too lockdown that even This PC isn't even available. I guess the education sector, at least on US, don't allow flash drives at all.
  • My School district has removed everything, including windows store. They use a proprietary app that allows us to download limited use software. Besides that we have regular false alarm emails that they send out to try and keep us on our toes. All in the name of keeping idiots out.
  • What was that cancelled product??? Windows ... X...
  • Cancelled by the very people who fund google and apple BUT NOT MICROSOFT oh no!, hell would freeze over before they actually promote a versatile and mobile friendly platform and hold on to that.. time to switch that CEO to someone who actually loves the platform and isn't kissing the shareholders on the foot for short term cash ins, nobody really wants this shtshow to go on anymore.
  • "Mirosoft" you say... mirror company of Microsoft?
    (first word of article)
  • Don't talks sht about my zac efron! I mean zacchery levi!, I MEAN! HOW DARE YOU D: !?
  • Good catch! Who's proof reading these things!?! 😆