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What is Windows 10 S?

By Martin Pratt

Windows 10 S is designed to be more user-friendly and safer than regular versions of Windows 10. Read our expert guide to Windows 10 S, including how to get it and how it differs from Windows 10 Home.

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Windows 10 S is designed for schools, students and anyone who wants a low-cost, simple-to-use computer. Think of it as a stripped-down spin-off of Windows 10. It keeps the look and feel of Microsoft’s main operating system, while being safer and more streamlined, at least according to Microsoft. The key difference is it only gives you access to applications and software from the Windows Store.

The operating system will come pre-installed on a range of laptops from leading manufacturers such as Acer, Asus, Dell, HP and Toshiba, with prices currently starting at $189 (£146), as well as Microsoft’s own (far pricier) Surface Book.

Windows 10 S computers will compete with Google’s range of cheap Chromebooks, which have their own app store much like the Windows one.

Whether you're after a Windows, Apple or Google laptop, you can see all the top-rated models on our list of Best Buy laptops.

Windows 10 S: pros

The S operating system is less taxing than Home or Pro versions of Windows 10. This means it should run better on less-powerful laptops. Windows 10 S could be the ideal operating system for cheap laptops that don’t have the processor and Ram to cope with Windows 10 Home or Pro.

Microsoft claims that the streamlined operating system is quick and efficient, too. As well as battery life improvements, Microsoft has said you can be on your home screen, ready to work, just 15 seconds after you’ve hit the power button. 

Apps and programs will only available to download from the Windows Store. This means you won’t be able to inadvertently download software from websites that could install viruses and malware onto your computer.

Windows 10 S: cons

Only being able to download apps from the Windows Store could help to keep your laptop virus-free, but it’s also limiting. Some popular software won’t appear on the store, or may not get permission from Microsoft in the future.

The Windows Store has been around since 2012, but iTunes and Spotify were only added to it in May 2017. This isn’t a problem if you’re running Windows 10 and can download them from a website. But on Windows 10 S, where the store is your only access to programs, then the potential absence of popular apps could be a concern.

Currently, Microsoft Edge is the only browser available for Windows 10 S. While Chrome and Firefox could appear on the store at a later date, there's no guarantee that they will. Anyone familiar with Chrome may be more drawn to Google’s range of low-cost Chromebooks, which work in a similar way to Windows 10 S machines by only letting you access applications from the dedicated store.

Windows 10 S vs Windows 10 Home

How you access programs and applications is the key difference between the two operating systems. On Windows 10 S PCs, you’ll be limited to what's available on the Windows Store. On Windows 10 Home PCs, you can download software from websites.

Windows 10 S will come with BitLocker encryption installed. This handy software makes your files inaccessible in the event your laptop is lost or stolen. Not all versions of Windows 10 have this software.

If you find you can’t get the software you want from the Windows 10 Store, you can upgrade a Windows 10 S machine to Windows 10 Pro for a one-off payment of $49.99 (£39). Be warned, though, if you find your laptop or desktop computer can’t cope with the added strain of Windows 10 Pro, then there is no way to roll back to 10 S.

What devices will Windows 10 S run on?

Windows 10 S is designed to run on low-cost computers, and is claimed to deliver good speed and battery life even on less-powerful hardware. For the time being, the operating system is limited to new models only. But, in the future, it’s possible that you will be able to install Windows 10 S onto your existing computer.

The first device to run Windows 10 S will be Microsoft’s own Surface Book, which is due for release on 15 June in the US. It’s not cheap at $999 (£775), so clearly Microsoft feels Windows 10 S has potential beyond low-cost laptops.


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