What is S mode?


I’ve noticed since Windows 10 came out that there is Windows 10S and now there is Windows 11S, so what does the S mean and what does it prevent me from doing and more importantly, how do I get out of S mode?

Incidentally, S mode only works with the home edition of Windows 10 and 11, if you need to upgrade to Pro or Enterprise, you must switch out of S mode to upgrade.

Windows S mode

In Windows 10 and 11, some devices are sold with Windows in S mode, this means that you can only install apps from Windows Store.

This means they have been verified to work with your computer and more importantly been verified to keep themselves to themselves on your computer.

You cannot download and install any program from a different website, you can only install through the store.

This means you cannot install Zoom, you have to use Microsoft Teams and also means that your antivirus will be Microsoft and no other.

Why should I leave S mode?

If you are happy to use only Microsoft products and the apps that they vet as being safe for your computer, then stay with S mode. However, if you rely on third party programs and apps like free photo editors or non Microsoft office programs, then these cannot be installed outside of the store.

How do I Switch out of S mode?

Switching out of S mode is a one way process (although I suspect a factory reset will return it’s functionality) and Microsoft will claim that you won’t have the security, but you still have the same security you are used to, just not reliant on Windows Store for everything.

  • In Windows 10, click on Start then Settings cog on the left side menu. In Windows 11, click on the Start and chose the Settings cog from the pinned apps.
  • Search for Switch out of S mode. In Windows 10, you’ll find it under Update & Security ->Activation and in Windows 11, it’s under System -> Activation.
  • You will find a link that takes you to Microsoft Store that will download a tool to switch out of S mode, press the button and your computer will be out of S mode.
  • You don’t even have to sign out or reboot.

What happens next?

You are more likely to see the software your manufacturer expects you to install, which is probably a free trial for some antivirus program you don’t actually need.

I did this with a customer’s new Windows 11 laptop earlier and it gave me McAfee Security, which I declined then from Settings -> Apps I removed from the computer as Windows comes with Microsoft Security built into Windows 11.

If you are an employee, then you need Pro or Enterprise to be able to connect to a company domain, and for the necessary VPN and RMM tools be installed by your company’s technical team, none of these are available with S mode enabled.

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