What is Windows 10 or Windows 11 in S mode?

Surface Go 3, which ships in S mode.
Microsoft

Some computers running Windows 10 or Windows 11, such as Microsoft Surface Go 3, comes with “Windows 10 in S mode.or “Windows 11 in S mode.” PCs in S mode can only install apps from the Microsoft Store. But you’re free to leave S Mode, if you wish.

Update: We originally wrote this article for Windows 10, and not much has changed for Windows 11. If you have a Windows 10 PC in S mode and you upgraded to Windows 11, your PC will now be running Windows 11 in S mode S.

What is S mode?

Windows 10 Store

Windows 10 or Windows 11 in S mode is a more limited and closed Windows operating system. In Windows 10 in S mode, you can only install apps from the Store, and you can only browse the web using Microsoft Edge. In Windows 11 in S mode, you can install other browsers from the Microsoft Store – but Edge will always be your default browser.

Microsoft promotes security, speed, and stability here. Since Windows can only run apps from the Store, malware from the web won’t be able to run. You can’t install apps from the web, so they can’t install startup tasks that slow down the boot process or unwanted programs that hide in the background and spy on you.

S Mode also pushes the Bing search engine. While in S mode, the web browser uses Microsoft Edge Bing as its default search engine. You can’t change Edge’s default search engine to Google or anything else without first leaving S mode. You can still use other search engines in Edge, for example by going to Google.com.

Windows 10 in S mode. Command line shells cannot be used Like PowerShell, Command Prompt, or Bash too. Many other developer tools are also blocked. You don’t have direct access to the Windows registry via Registry Editor either.

If all the apps you want to run are available in the Microsoft Store, S Mode is a safer experience. That’s why Microsoft initially introduced S Mode to schools. You can play Microsoft Edge, Microsoft Office, and anything else available in the Store, including apps like Apple iTunes and Spotify.

A bit like Apple’s iOS on your iPhone or iPad, which only allows you to install apps from the App Store. But S Mode limits you to the Windows apps that are available in the Microsoft Store.

S mode is optional

Windows 10 Start Menu

S mode in Windows 10 is optional, and so is Windows 11. Most Windows 10 and Windows 11 PCs come with standard Windows 10 Home or Windows 11 Home operating systems that let you run programs from everywhere. Computers that come with S Mode will say they use “Windows 10 Home in S Mode” or “Windows 11 Home in S Mode” in their product specifications.

Even if you buy a PC in S mode, you can leave S mode for free. It doesn’t cost anything, but it’s a one-time decision – once you take your computer out of S mode, you can never put it back into S mode.

We don’t know why Microsoft makes this process one-way. But that’s what Microsoft did. (I see Official S Mode documentation from Microsoft to confirm it).

How to check if you are using S mode.

You can check if you are in S mode by heading to Settings > System > About. On the About page, scroll down to the Windows Specifications section.

If you see the words “In S Mode” to the right of the Version entry, you’re using an S Mode computer. If you don’t, you are not using S Mode.

"Windows 10 Pro in S mode." Displayed in the Windows 10 Settings app.

Should I buy a computer with S mode?

Since it’s so easy and free to leave S Mode, there’s no downside to buying a Windows 10 or Windows 11 PC that comes with S Mode. Even if you don’t want S mode, you can switch from it easily.

For example, Microsoft only sells a Surface Laptop in S mode. But that’s fine — even if you want a Surface Laptop running a standard Windows operating system, you can just buy it and remove it from S mode for free.

Should I use the computer in S mode?

S mode seems limited, and that’s the point. If you only need a basic Microsoft Edge web browser, Microsoft Office apps like Word, and anything else available in the Microsoft Store, you should try using your computer in S mode. S Mode restrictions provide additional protection against malware.

Computers running in S mode can also be ideal for young students, business computers that need only a few applications, and less experienced computer users.

Of course, if you need software that is not available in the store, you have to leave S Mode. But you can try using your computer in S mode for a while and see how well it works for you. You can leave S Mode at any time.

Remember: While you can leave S Mode whenever you want, your choice to leave S Mode is a permanent decision. Once you leave S mode, you can never return the computer to S mode. It will use the standard Windows 10 Home or Windows 11 Home operating system. However, you can choose to only allow apps from the Store on Windows 10 or Windows 11.

How do you leave S mode?

To leave S Mode, open the Store app on your PC and search for “Switch out of S Mode”. The Store will guide you through getting your computer out of S mode.

The "Switch from S mode." Page in the Microsoft Store.

How is S Mode different from Windows 10 S?

Starting with the April 2018 Update, “S Mode” in Windows 10 replaced Windows 10 S. Windows 10 S worked similarly, but technically it was a separate “version” of Windows 10 instead of “Mode”.

Most editions of Windows 10 can be placed in S mode. You can buy PCs running Windows 10 Home in S mode or Windows 10 Professional in S mode, and organizations can use Windows 10 Enterprise in S mode. However, only a PC manufacturer can put it in S mode. Most Windows 10 PCs don’t charge in S mode.

Microsoft also lets you leave Windows 10 S Mode without spending any extra money. So, if you need software that is not available in Microsoft Store, you can get it without spending any money. Microsoft planned to pay a $50 fee to leave Windows 10 S.

Any PCs running Windows 10 S will be converted to Windows 10 Professional in S mode when the April 2018 Update is installed.

Related: What is Windows 10 S, and how is it different?

What about Windows 10 on ARM?

Microsoft is now shipping Windows 10 PCs that use ARM processors (and Windows 11 PCs that use ARM processors, too). These computers have an emulation layer that allows them to run traditional Windows programs.

While these ARM PCs may ship in S mode, you can also choose to leave S Mode free on these PCs. This will allow you to install 32-bit desktop applications from everywhere, although many of the required applications and games do not work well in the emulation layer.

Many computers in S mode have Intel processors. A PC with any type of hardware can be configured in S mode, and Windows 10 on ARM PCs don’t have to use S mode.

Related: What is Windows 10 on ARM, and how is it different?



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