Microsoft

Windows 10 S Mode U-turn: Unlocking PCs will be free, says Microsoft

"All editions" of Windows 10 will be able to run in S Mode, a setup Microsoft believes will help prevent novice users from clogging up machines with crapware.

Building a slide deck, pitch, or presentation? Here are the big takeaways:
  • It will be free to switch any version of Windows 10 out of S Mode, which locks the OS to only running apps from the Microsoft Store.
  • Windows 10 PCs in S Mode will be available in stores following Windows' next big feature upgrade, expected in April.

Microsoft appears to have reversed an earlier decision to charge users to unlock certain Windows 10 PCs to run apps from outside the Microsoft Store.

Joe Belfiore, Microsoft's corporate VP in the operating systems group, confirmed it will now be free to switch any edition of Windows 10 out of S mode, which locks the OS to only running apps from the Microsoft Store.

This move seems to be an about-turn from when Microsoft revealed Windows 10 S as a new edition of the OS last year. At that stage, Microsoft said users of Windows 10 S machines would eventually be charged $49 to switch to an unlocked version of Windows 10 Pro.

Belfiore confirmed that "all editions" of Windows 10 will be able to run in S Mode, a setup that Microsoft believes will help prevent novice users from clogging up their machines with software that slows performance or that poses a security risk. It will also offer admins of corporate PCs another option for controlling how staff use their machines.

SEE: Windows 10: Streamline your work with these power tips (free TechRepublic PDF)

Following the next big feature update to Windows 10, which appears to be the Redstone 4 update due around April, Belfiore said "customers can choose to buy a new Windows 10 Home or Windows 10 Pro PC with S Mode enabled, and commercial customers will be able to deploy Windows 10 Enterprise with S mode enabled".

While Microsoft initially sold Windows 10 S as a new edition of Windows 10, it more recently emerged that Microsoft planned to offer the locked-down S Mode across all Windows 10 editions.

Yesterday, Microsoft also released a preview of new features heading to Windows 10 later this year, when it updated the 'Skip ahead' build of the OS available under the Windows Insider Program.

Key among these new features in the build is Sets, which will mark quite a departure for Windows by introducing support for tabbed windows. The feature will allow users to group together related apps, documents, files and websites, by keeping them in separate tabs in a single desktop window.

Apps that will initially support Sets' tabbed interface will be File Explorer, Mail & Calendar, OneNote, Notepad, Windows Command Prompt, PowerShell, MSN News and the Edge browser.

SEE: Windows 10 S: A cheat sheet (TechRepublic)

The new build also features a range of other fixes, which you can read about here, and carries a warning that it may cause issues for users of Windows Mixed Reality features.

Sets and other upcoming features in this latest build are expected to be rolled out to all Windows 10 users from about October this year, when the Redstone 5 feature update is made widely available.

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Image: ZDNet

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About Nick Heath

Nick Heath is chief reporter for TechRepublic. He writes about the technology that IT decision makers need to know about, and the latest happenings in the European tech scene.

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