You don’t need to buy a new lap­top to try Win­dows 10 S. Wayne Wil­liams ex­plains how to run it

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Get it WITH­OUT buy­ing a new lap­top

Win­dows re­mains by far the most pop­u­lar desk­top op­er­at­ing sys­tem, but it faces in­creas­ing pres­sure from ri­val soft­ware. Chrome OS, Google’s browser- based op­er­at­ing sys­tem, is used a lot in schools and is spread­ing its in­flu­ence in busi­ness en­vi­ron­ments, not least be­cause the Chrome­books that Chrome OS runs on are se­cure and cheap, which makes them es­pe­cially pop­u­lar with stu­dents and IT de­part­ments.

Win­dows 10 S– a locked- down ver­sion of Win­dows 10 – is Mi­crosoft’s at­tempt to chal­lenge Chrome OS. In this Week­end Project, we ex­plain how to try it with­out need­ing to buy a new lap­top.

What is Win­dows 10 S?

Win­dows 10 S is, es­sen­tially, a more se­cure ver­sion of Win­dows 10 that can only run apps from the Win­dows Store. In other words, you can’t in­stall reg­u­lar Win­dows pro­grams on it. This might seem like a strange idea but the rea­son­ing be­hind it is sound – by con­trol­ling what soft­ware can be in­stalled on the op­er­at­ing sys­tem, Mi­crosoft is safe­guard­ing users from ev­ery­day threats. Win­dows 10 S is, for ex­am­ple, im­mune to most mal­ware, in­clud­ing ran­somware.

Where can you get Win­dows 10 S?

The new op­er­at­ing sys­tem is cur­rently only avail­able pre-in­stalled on se­lected de­vices, such as Mi­crosoft’s Sur­face Lap­top. This is bound to change in the fu­ture but for now, you can’t sim­ply down­load and in­stall it on any PC you like.

How­ever, that’s not strictly true. Mi­crosoft re­cently made Win­dows 10 S avail­able for de­vel­op­ers on the MSDN net­work to down­load in ISO for­mat, and then re­leased an installer (aimed at the ed­u­ca­tion mar­ket), which lets any­one take the new OS for a spin.

If you want to try Win­dows 10 S but don’t want to splash out on a new lap­top, the eas­i­est so­lu­tion is to in­stall it in a

vir­tual en­vi­ron­ment. The process is a lit­tle more con­vo­luted than nor­mal and takes a while longer as a re­sult, but it’s easy enough to do.

What you need to know be­fore you start

Un­less you have the de­vel­oper ISO (from the MSDN net­work), the only way to try Win­dows 10 S cur­rently is to in­stall it over a copy of Win­dows 10. You don’t need to own or run Mi­crosoft’s op­er­at­ing sys­tem to do this be­cause it’s easy to get a free (and per­fectly le­gal) copy to use. This is the main rea­son why the process of in­stalling and run­ning Win­dows 10 S in a vir­tual en­vi­ron­ment takes so long – you first need to in­stall Win­dows 10, then “up­grade” it to Win­dows 10 S, which isn’t a quick process.

There are some other re­stric­tions to be aware of. First, it’s not rec­om­mended to in­stall Win­dows 10 S over Win­dows 10 Home be­cause you won’t be able to ac­ti­vate it. You’ll also need to be run­ning the Cre­ators Up­date (1703) or later, which is cur­rently only avail­able as a Win­dows In­sider Pre­view build.

While you can in­stall a new ver­sion of Win­dows 10 and con­vert it to Win­dows 10 S with­out a key, you won’t be able to ac­cess all its fea­tures – in­clud­ing the per­son­al­i­sa­tion op­tions – with­out ac­ti­vat­ing it. If you plan on ac­ti­vat­ing the in­stal­la­tion, you’ll need to ac­ti­vate Win­dows 10 be­fore start­ing the up­grade. Win­dows 10 S may ac­ti­vate once in­stalled but if it doesn’t, you’ll have to click the trou­bleshoot op­tion on the up­grade page to do this.

Get a Win­dows 10 ISO

If you don’t have a copy of Win­dows 10 to hand (ei­ther on a DVD or a dig­i­tal down­load), you’ll need to get one. In some coun­tries, you can down­load a Win­dows 10 ISO di­rect from Mi­crosoft, but in the UK you need to down­load and use the com­pany’s Me­dia Cre­ation Tool. Go to­iso431, then down­load and run the pro­gram. Agree to the terms and select the op­tion to ‘Cre­ate in­stal­la­tion me­dia.’ Select the ver­sion of

the OS you re­quire.

If you’re run­ning Win­dows 10 al­ready, the pro­gram will au­to­mat­i­cally select the same ver­sion for you. If that’s not suit­able (per­haps you’re run­ning Win­dows 10 Home but want an ISO for Win­dows 10 Pro), then untick ‘Use the rec­om­mended op­tions for this PC’ and select the ver­sion you want. Click Next and select ‘ISO file’, then down­load this to your hard drive.

What’s new or dif­fer­ent in Win­dows 10 S

You can down­load soft­ware from out­side the Win­dows Store as nor­mal but if you try to in­stall it, you’ll be greeted with a mes­sage stat­ing ‘For se­cu­rity and per­for­mance Win­dows 10 S only runs ver­i­fied apps from the Store’.

The OS only al­lows you to use the Mi­crosoft Edge browser. You can’t in­stall Firefox or Chrome be­cause Mi­crosoft’s browser is the fixed de­fault and there’s (cur­rently) no way to change it.

Mi­crosoft sees this as a ma­jor bonus, be­cause Edge is de­signed to work very closely with the op­er­at­ing sys­tem, but if you’re used to a dif­fer­ent browser, Edge will seem rather alien and many of the ex­ten­sions you might rely on in your reg­u­lar browser won’t be avail­able to you.

Win­dows 10 S is tied to Mi­crosoft prod­ucts, so when you search the web in the op­er­at­ing sys­tem you’ll be us­ing Bing (un­less you browse to man­u­ally).

One good point about Win­dows 10 S is it’s much faster than Win­dows 10 be­cause it isn’t bogged down in any way. This means it can run on lighter hard­ware. It can boot in around 15 sec­onds and, when in­stalled on a lap­top, de­liver sig­nif­i­cantly bet­ter bat­tery life. You won’t no­tice this kind of dif­fer­ence so much in a vir­tu­alised en­vi­ron­ment, though.

You don’t need to ac­ti­vate Win­dows 10 S but if you want to, and can’t, then the trou­bleshoot­ing op­tion should solve your prob­lem

The Me­dia Cre­ation Tool lets you down­load a Win­dows 10 ISO file to use in Vir­tu­al­box

10 S in­stalls on any ver­sion of Win­dows 10. Run the installer to see this mes­sage

Win­dows 10 S looks and be­haves much like Win­dows 10, but starts quicker

Win­dows 10 S blocks you from in­stalling soft­ware from out­side the Win­dows Store, and points you in the di­rec­tion of ‘safe’ down­loads

Edge is the de­fault (and only) browser that you can use in Win­dows 10 S

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