Living with Windows 10 S: Now You Can Too (Sort of. Maybe)

Posted on August 12, 2017 by Paul Thurrott in Windows 10 with 7 Comments

Living with Windows 10 S: Now You Can Too (Sort of. Maybe)

Microsoft error message. Always helpful.

Those curious about making their own Windows 10 S experiment can now do so. Sort of. Maybe.

As you may recall, I called on Microsoft last month to open up Windows 10 S, its limited new Windows 10 product edition, to the public via the Windows Insider Program. The idea is that this system was developed in secret, without any feedback from actual customers, and that it needs to be adapted to real-world needs.

Less than a week later, Microsoft took a step in that direction by opening up Windows 10 S to developers and education customers. As a confidential source at the firm told me, Microsoft currently views Windows 10 S as a beta, and that it does intend to roll it out to more customers over time and, yes, adapt it based on feedback. But I still felt then, as now, that Windows 10 S needs broader scrutiny.

Brad and I were able to obtain Windows 10 S downloads and product keys, so I set out to write this series about my experiences. And for the past two weeks, coincidental to my home swap in Barcelona this summer, I’ve been switching between Windows 10 Pro on a Surface Book and Windows 10 S on a new Surface Pro each day.

But as Leo found during this week’s episode of Windows Weekly, Microsoft actually does provide an essentially unpublicized public download of Windows 10 S. And that means—maybe—that you can run Windows 10 yourself.

As always, there are some caveats. So please consider carefully before going down this path.

Most important, the public download is designed to “test Windows 10 S on existing Windows 10 education devices.” That means a few things:

It’s not an ISO download. So you won’t be able to use this to test Windows 10 S in a virtual environment like Hyper-V as developers now can using the MSDN-based download.

It’s a standalone installer. It appears to convert your current Windows 10 Pro (or higher) based PC to Windows 10 S. I’ve not yet run it, as I’m traveling, but Microsoft says this will not work if you are using Windows 10 Home. And this system must be activated: If you do not already have an activated version of Windows 10 Pro (or higher) on the PC, the Windows 10 S install will not be activated either.

Back up first. All the usual warnings about backing up your crucial data and so on apply, as you should expect. As Microsoft notes, “Back up all your data before installing Windows 10 S. Only personal files may be kept during installation. Your settings and apps will be deleted.”

All existing Win32 applications and data will be deleted. No surprise here, as Windows 10 S cannot run any desktop applications that are not provided with the OS.

It supposedly only works on a select set of PC hardware. The Microsoft document lists the set of PCs on which Windows 10 S will supposedly run successfully. I suspect it will run just fine on many more PCs than those in the list, but … you never know. Also, if you actually click any of the PC maker names in that list, you’ll get mixed results.

It works with some Surface devices. The Microsoft Surface link on that page is valid: You can run Windows 10 S on the new Surface Pro (as I am), Surface Pro 4, Surface Pro 3, and Surface 3. Note that Surface Book is not supported. (Because of the GPU, I bet, which I wrote about recently in Living with Windows 10 S: Games.)

Microsoft Office is not included. Despite the note about installing Office applications using a Set up School PCs app, that app is for administrators who want to create custom installs of Office for multiple PCs. I’ve not yet figured out a way to get to the Office 365 Personal or Office 365 Home installers in the Store that are available from Surface Laptop.

Put simply, you need to really know what you’re doing here, most specifically around recovery. If that’s not the case, please don’t do this.

But if it is, have fun. And let me know how it goes: I would totally do this if I were home, but I’m working with a reduced set of PCs while away, and I don’t want to screw either one of them up.


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