Windows 10 S Mode release date, news and features

Launched back in May 2017, Windows 10 S mode has found itself its own niche in the computing world, despite being lightweight and receiving its fair share of criticism in the beginning. In fact, this lightweight version of the Windows 10 operating system has been instrumental in getting the popular OS more than 825 million installs.

Especially in the education sector, Windows 10 S mode makes a lot of sense for the right kind of user and device. Windows 10 S mode offers better security than all the other versions of Windows 10. It allows a lower-powered computer to run and stay fast. And, it still benefits from Windows 10 updates – from the Windows 10 May 2019 Update, for example, Windows 10 S mode got clever features like “Light Mode,” useful storage space tools, and the possibility of playing Xbox One games natively.

Windows 10 S mode has proven so successful, in fact, that Microsoft is now allegedly working on Windows Lite to expand on the lightweight nature of the OS and contend with the best Chromebooks.

However, it must be said that Windows 10 S mode is not for every user. To find out if it’s the operating system for you, let’s dive in and discover everything this lightweight version of Windows can do.

Cut to the chase

Windows 10 S release date

Windows 10 S mode originally launched on May 2, 2017. Fast forward to 2019 and Windows 10 S is bigger than ever, with devices using it still filling the shelves and making such lower spec Windows 10 devices more versatile now than ever before.

Eventually, there will be a UI toggle that’ll let Windows 10 users switch in and out of S Mode (this was not available at the original time of this writing). Unfortunately, switching out of the Windows 10 S Mode is currently a one-way street and permanent. Though if you need more than what this light OS can offer, you can get out of S Mode easier than you think – simply go to the Windows Store and search for “switch out of S Mode”.

Currently, to get Windows 10 S mode, it’s mandatory to have the qualifying devices that are already enabled in S mode. You can also ask your computer manufacturer to see if you can get it installed in a new device you are buying.

Windows 10 S is not for individual sale, but it is issued to IT administrators in education as well as laptops found in stores and online. It’s no coincidence that Windows 10 S is focused on the education sector, where Google’s Chromebooks are having unprecedented success and popularity.Windows 10 S mode is free for users. Microsoft subsidizes the cost of the OS to hardware manufacturers, assuming they’re not getting Windows 10 S for free. Basically, as a user, you don’t really pay for Windows 10 S Mode. Instead, you’re paying for the hardware running it.

You can find devices running Windows 10 S Mode starting at just $189 (about £146, AU$251) and cap out around $299 (about £239, AU$396) – with the exception of premium devices like the original Surface Laptop, of course. PC makers across the board – including Dell, HP, Asus, Acer and Lenovo – all have Windows 10 S Mode-powered devices in their stables.

However, now that Windows 10 S Mode is a thing, it’s a toggle that won’t cost you extra. Both Windows 10 Home and Pro S Mode users are able to go to the Windows Store and opt out of S Mode. Though bear in mind that the conversion only works one way – out of S Mode. Currently, at least.

There might be a switch in the settings app of a future build that will let users go back and forth. So far, however, opting out of it is permanent.

Windows 10 S price

Windows 10 S mode is free for users. Microsoft subsidizes the cost of the OS to hardware manufacturers, assuming they’re not getting Windows 10 S for free. Basically, as a user, you don’t really pay for Windows 10 S Mode. Instead, you’re paying for the hardware running it.

You can find devices running Windows 10 S Mode starting at just $189 (about £146, AU$251) and cap out around $299 (about £239, AU$396) – with the exception of premium devices like the original Surface Laptop, of course. PC makers across the board – including Dell, HP, Asus, Acer and Lenovo – all have Windows 10 S Mode-powered devices in their stables.

However, now that Windows 10 S Mode is a thing, it’s a toggle that won’t cost you extra. Both Windows 10 Home and Pro S Mode users are able to go to the Windows Store and opt out of S Mode. Though bear in mind that the conversion only works one way – out of S Mode. Currently, at least.

There might be a switch in the settings app of a future build that will let users go back and forth. So far, however, opting out of it is permanent.

What is Windows 10 S?

Microsoft intended Windows 10 S mode to be the lightweight yet more secure version of Windows 10 for lower-powered devices. By lightweight, that also means that in “S Mode,” Windows 10 will only support apps that are downloaded from the Windows Store.

This talk of a version of Windows that can only download Microsoft-approved apps is familiar, isn’t it? Microsoft believes it has achieved this approach since the turbulent days of Windows 8 RT and Windows 8 with Bing – both of which attempted to position Microsoft as the sole provider of apps through curation.

The great thing about this, though, is that it allows for a startup time of under 5 seconds, as opposed to Windows 10 Pro’s startup time of 30 - 40 seconds. Moreover, configuration settings (such as Wi-Fi, webcam, etc.) across an entire classroom of students is as effortless as inserting a USB stick in each of their laptops.

Windows 10 S mode competes with Google’s Chrome OS,  so Microsoft has, of course, also positioned it to be a more secure PC operating system. However, its resilience to viruses is mostly a side-effect of the inability to install apps not approved by Microsoft, since Windows viruses tend to come from untrustworthy internet downloads.

Should you find a must-have app that isn't available in the Microsoft Store in Windows 10 S, you can switch from Windows 10 S to Windows 10 Home or Pro simply by going to the Windows Store and searching for “switch out of S Mode”. Microsoft used to charge a fee for this service, but now it’s free.

Microsoft will also let users that upgrade to Windows 10 Pro to move back down to Windows 10 S. And now, Microsoft is rumored to be working on a Windows 10 Lean Mode, which will be even more lightweight and locked down.

Strangely enough, the shiny new Surface Laptop 2 now ships with Windows 10 Home, not in S Mode like the prior model.

That said, what exactly can you expect to see included in devices running Windows 10 S mode? Well, the Edge browser, OneNote and Windows Ink are all givens. The standard Movies and Groove Music apps, not to mention Maps, Mail and Calendar, are obvious choices as well.

Of course, we won’t see x86/x64 program support on a Windows 10 cloud operating system until sometime in 2019 when Polaris is anticipated to come out and implement a ‘virtualization container’ for each of your favorite legacy applications. This means that, yes, should everything work according to plan, there will be a Windows 10 cloud OS that can emulate the .exe’s of the past.

Despite its limitations, Windows 10 S mode still offers File Explorer. And, while many of the laptops that come with the lightweight OS pre-installed may ship with smaller capacity SSDs, Microsoft’s upcoming introduction of OneDrive Files On-Demand will permit users to access files stored in the cloud and view them the same way as you would locally stored content.

We know that many still have questions concerning the practicality of Windows 10 S mode. Hopefully, we have answered some of your questions, and helped you decide whether or not it’s the right operating system for you.

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