Windows 10 S is a new, stripped down and hardened version of the popular operating system. This is a great option for computer users who mostly use computers for searching the web and reading email. The only applications that will run in Windows 10 S are those that can be downloaded from the Windows Store. This is effectively a type of application whitelisting that we have recommended to our readers in previous articles.
Microsoft is touting this version as perfect for students, teachers, and schools. I would add to that most consumer users as well. In limited environments, it may work for business computer fleets as well. If you do everything in a web browser (Firefox, Chrome, Edge, Internet Explorer), then Windows 10 S is your ticket to cybersecurity sanity.
You will be navigating the web using the Edge browser, and using Bing for search. You can read your email in the Edge browser, or use the Mail app from the Windows Store. In a company email environment, it would be Outlook Web Access. The operating system is integrated with OneDrive, you files you create or pictures your store on your computer are automatically synchronized to cloud storage in OneDrive. If you can do your work exclusively with a web browser, using cloud services or applications from a server, this can work for your business, too.
What don’t you get? Well, for starters, you are limited to using Microsoft’s new Edge browser. You will not find downloadable versions of Firefox and Chrome in the Windows Store (surprise!). If you need the Microsoft Office suite of productivity products, such as Word, Excel, and PowerPoint, you need to be satisfied with the capabilities of Office Online. In other words, you will be using Edge to write your Word Document. Need other applications such as QuickBooks. It would have to be QuickBooks Online.
It is not possible to install any other applications. If what you need is not in the Windows Store, then it just won’t install. That means that malware you may pick up via email or the web also will not install. This is actually a pretty effective strategy, and one that Google has been using for years with their Chromebook. We have been recommending the Chromebook as a secure option for online banking for several years. With the added security feature in Windows 10 S, I you should be safer doing online banking and shopping at sites such as eBay or Amazon.
If you find you cannot live without installed applications, you need to upgrade to Windows 10 Pro. The good news it that the hardware that Windows 10 S comes on will support that upgrade.
I can see the value for most consumer users, and the utility for maybe half of most office workers. So I am going to look for this version in my Action Pack subscription, and install it on a laptop of my own. We will return with more information about this operating system as we gain some experience with it. But for now, I am giving it a qualified thumbs up.
- Introducing Windows 10 S – Microsoft.com
- Windows 10 S FAQs
- ZD Net – Ransomware-proof Windows
- Sophos Naked Security