Why Windows 10 S won't run Linux distributions

In a recent blog post, Microsoft explained why it won't be allowing Linux distros on its new stripped-down systems.

Image: Windows/Linux

If you were wondering whether or not you'll be able to run a Linux distribution on Windows 10 S, the answer is a resounding "No!"

In a Thursday blog post, Microsoft senior program manager Rich Turner explained that Windows 10 S wasn't created to be used as a primary tool for hackers and IT pros. In fact, he wrote, it's aimed at non-technical users, and command-line apps, shells, and Consoles aren't allowed to run on the platform.

SEE: Securing Linux policy template (Tech Pro Research)

In early May 2017, Microsoft announced that certain Linux distros would be coming to the Windows Store and Windows Subsystem for Linux (WSL). Because Windows 10 S only works with apps from the Windows Store, this prompted many users to ask if the distros in question would be made available on Windows 10 S, Turner wrote.

Windows 10 S has been "deliberately constrained" to prevent certain types of tasks from running, Turner wrote. And that limits the abilities of certain developers and admins who may need access to particular local machine features or to run certain scripts.

Still, Turner wrote, "Windows 10 S can be used for building code that runs elsewhere - on the web, on IoT devices, on a remote VM via ssh, etc. Such scenarios don't require the user access/modify a local machine's system, settings/registry, filesystem, etc."

Regarding the ability of Windows 10 S to only run apps from the Windows Store, Microsoft makes a distinction among the type of apps that are available. Modern Universal Windows Platform (UWP), which runs in a secure sandbox, and Desktop Bridge apps, which have broader OS access but are vetted by the publisher, will both work fine. However, Linux distro store packages are a different type of app package altogether, Turner's post noted.

Once these distros are installed, he wrote, they are treated as command-line tools and cannot run in the same type of secure environment. As such, they cannot run on Windows 10 S.

So, if you want to run a Linux distro, the only option if to upgrade to the full version of Windows 10.

The 3 big takeaways for TechRepublic readers

  1. Windows 10 S users will not be able to run Linux distros, even though some are available through the Windows Store.
  2. Windows 10 S is created for non-technical users, and command-line apps, shells, and Consoles aren't allowed to run on the system.
  3. Users who want to run Linux distros will have to upgrade to the full version of Windows 10.

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