Windows 10 S vs Windows 10 Pro: what's the difference?

A new version of Windows has some changes you should know about.

Credit: Microsoft
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Recently, Microsoft announced a new version of Windows. Aimed at inexpensive laptops and education, Windows 10 S presents some new advantages and some disadvantages as well. It's set to compete with ChromeOS, a simplified operating system that has limited app selection and that's mostly based around Google's Chrome browser.

This new wave of affordable Windows laptops should give consumers plenty of choices when they don't have a whole lot of money to spend. That said, Microsoft's upcoming Surface Laptop will also have the new Windows 10 S software pre-loaded, giving you a top-shelf option to choose from as well.

What is Windows 10 S?

Windows 10 S is a cut-down version of normal Windows 10.

Wait, how many versions of Windows are there?

Previously, there were two Windows flavors for everyday use: Home and Pro. Windows 10 S the new third option, although I wouldn't be shocked if Microsoft discontinued the Home version in favor of S eventually.

What do I give up by picking a laptop with Windows 10 S?

Windows 10 S is more secure due to the way you install apps. Instead of allowing for any program from the internet to install to a Windows 10 S computer, users will only be able to install apps available on the Windows Store. Each app in the Store is vetted by Microsoft.

This means that exploits and malware won't be able to glom onto your computer, and complex applications will install and uninstall cleanly without leaving detritus on your system long after you're done with the program.

Windows Store
Credit: Microsoft
The Windows Store is the only place where you can get apps for Windows 10 S.

What apps can I get from the store?

Even though Microsoft doesn't have many popular apps in its store, there are loads of everyday programs that will be in the store by the time Windows 10 S computers are on store shelves. Software like Photoshop Elements, Microsoft's Office apps, and Twitter, Facebook, and even Instagram are all there today. Microsoft has announced that Spotify and iTunes will be in the Store later on this year.

Are there any popular apps I can't get?

Plenty of apps are nowhere to be found, so make sure your favorites are available. The Windows Store has been a little slow to grow, and even now it's nowhere near as good as the iOS app store, Mac App Store, or even Google Play.

Some third-party browsers like Firefox or Google Chrome are unavailable from the Store. Tweet It

For instance, some third-party browsers like Firefox or Google Chrome are unavailable from the Store. As it stands, Windows 10 S will likely only have one fully-featured web browser available for it: Microsoft Edge (with Bing set as the only search provider). Personally, I think Edge is fine for most users, but if you rely on a Chrome plugin for your job, or just prefer a different browser, you're going to be out of luck.

Is there a way to install apps that aren't in the Windows Store?

Yes, but there's a catch.
Since Windows 10 S PCs are identical in most ways to normal computers, you'll be able to purchase a $50 upgrade to full Windows 10 Pro. The upgrade unlocks the features in Windows 10 S, so you don't need to reinstall anything.

Can Windows 10 S get viruses?

Maybe, but it's unlikely.

Since Windows 10 can only get its programs and apps from the Store, you're unlikely to install malware, even inadvertently. That said, there may be other exploits that could infect your system, but using Store apps, and running the built-in Windows Defender antivirus software should keep you safe.

Can Windows 10 S play games?

Yes, but not with Steam.

Steam isn't in the Windows Store, and it's doubtful it ever will be. There are some popular games already in the Store (for instance, Halo Wars 2, Forza Horizon 3, and Minecraft are all there), but if you want the latest and greatest PC games, Windows 10 S probably isn't for you.

Microsoft Surface Laptop
Credit: Microsoft
The Surface Laptop is a premium laptop with Windows 10 S, but most will be around $200.

What else does Windows 10 S omit that Windows 10 Pro offers?

Microsoft has left in some of the best features, but Windows 10 S still isn't as fully-featured as Windows 10 Pro. For instance, even though it has Azure Active Directory support, BitLocker encryption, and other business and device management features, there's still stuff you can't use. For instance, the new Windows Subsystem for Linux and Hyper-V virtualization are not available.

What laptops will be available with Windows 10 S?

Mostly, we'll see low-end models with this version on Windows on-board. That said, Microsoft's premium Surface Laptop is going to be among the first around that carries a price that starts at $1,000. It was announced that Windows PC makers will have 10 S laptops for as little as $189. Brands that have announced Windows 10 S laptops so far include the usual suspects: Dell, HP, Lenovo, Fujitsu, Samsung, Asus, Acer, and Toshiba.

Our editors review and recommend products to help you buy the stuff you need. If you make a purchase by clicking one of our links, we may earn a small share of the revenue. Our picks and opinions are independent from any business incentives.

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Our editors review and recommend products to help you buy the stuff you need. If you make a purchase by clicking one of our links, we may earn a small share of the revenue. Our picks and opinions are independent from any business incentives.
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