Software

A new slim version of Windows 10 called 'Lean' could be perfect for low-end PCs

The latest build of Windows 10 contains a new slimmer installation option called Windows 10 Lean that cuts out some features in exchange for saving space.

Building a slide deck, pitch, or presentation? Here are the big takeaways:
  • A new stripped-down Windows 10 build called "Lean" was discovered in the latest Insider preview of Windows 10. It lacks many Windows 10 features and has a 2GB smaller installation size.
  • Microsoft hasn't said what Lean's purpose is, but it appears to be for lower-end machines or those that need to be locked down from user tampering.

Microsoft's latest Windows Insider skip ahead build contains a new version of Windows 10 called Windows 10 Lean, which cuts the installation size by 2 GB.

Discovered by Twitter user Lucan, Windows 10 Lean cuts out several Windows 10 features: desktop wallpaper is disabled by default, the Microsoft Management Console and registry editor are missing, drivers for CD and DVD drives can't be installed, Microsoft Edge doesn't allow downloads, and Microsoft Office is missing as well.

At first glance it may seem that Windows 10 Lean is an alternative to Windows 10 S (which only allows app installation from the Windows Store), but Lucan quickly dismissed that by saying that those restrictions don't apply, as he was able to run applications normally locked to Windows 10 S users.

What is Windows 10 Lean's purpose?

The Twitter discussion growing up around Lucan's discovery of Windows 10 Lean is devoid of one important thing: an explanation as to its purpose.

Mary Jo Foley from TechRepublic sister site ZDNet speculated that it was a version of Windows 10 S for home or enterprise, but Lucan said he doesn't think that's the case. Windows 10 S, he said, is more like a set of restrictions on top of a standard Windows 10 install, which Lean definitely isn't.

Another Twitter commenter said it may be ideal for educational use, as schools often have older computers that need a smaller install. Add to that the heavy restrictions on what a user can do in Windows 10 Lean (no downloading, no Regedit, etc.) and you have a relatively resilient OS that has lower-end hardware requirements.

SEE: Securing Windows policy (Tech Pro Research)

WIndows 10 Lean could make a great OS for any systems that see a lot of user contact: Loaner machines, kiosks, sales floor demos, and other specific roles would be a great fit for Lean.

Anyone who has ever managed computers that see a lot of public contact knows they have to be locked down, and Windows 10 Lean seems designed for that particular purpose. There are a lot of things users can't do in a base install of Lean, leaving it up to an administrator to pre-load an installation with certain software or settings that would be largely unalterable.

Given the limits of WIndows 10 Lean it's likely that it's designed to save space, be a quick install, and be customized as an image prior to being installed. Lean images could be configured to suit specific roles, and users would be largely unable to damage them.

We won't know what Windows 10 Lean is really designed for until Microsoft says so, but If you want to check it out now you can do so in Redstone 5 Insider preview build 17650, available now to Windows Insider members.

Also see

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About Brandon Vigliarolo

Brandon writes about apps and software for TechRepublic. He's an award-winning feature writer who previously worked as an IT professional and served as an MP in the US Army.

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