What is Windows 11s? Should You Use Your PC in S Mode? Some low-cost Windows PCs and tablets ship with Windows 11 Home in S Mode (also known as “Windows 11 S”) as a way to secure the PC and prevent the use of unauthorized applications by restricting access to Windows Store software alone. There is a quick, easy, and free way to upgrade to a full-fledged Windows 11 Home experience, however, which can be completed in a matter of minutes.
Like Windows 10 Home in S Mode (or Windows 10 S), the chief advantage of preserving Windows 11 S is to limit the number of apps available to the user. Microsoft bans all apps that aren’t available from the Windows Store, preventing users from downloading and installing dodgy apps from any number of sources. Microsoft has also argued that Windows 10 S extends battery life, though we haven’t seen any evidence of this in the devices we’ve tested over the past few years. We doubt it’s a factor in Windows 11 S, either.
If you try to run an unapproved or unverified third-party app in Windows 11 S, an error message will pop up to encourage you to seek out an app from the Windows Store. There’s also a small link to “see how” to run unverified apps. (Remember, an “unverified” app may be any app that’s not actually in the Windows Store, such as a popular game like Call of Duty that’s sold at most digital storefronts.)
What is Windows 11s?
S Mode is a feature that Microsoft created to give users a secure, smooth experience with the Windows operating system. When you use Windows 11 in S mode, your computer only gets access to basic resources and drivers. More notably, S mode freezes all other apps that hog your RAM and processes that may task your CPU. These changes in your user experience of Windows S mode will sound very familiar if you have used a Chromebook.
Should You Use Your PC in S Mode?
It depends on your security and privacy goals. Here are four reasons you may consider using a PC in Windows S Mode:
You Want to Ensure Your Child’s Safety
S mode restricts the applications that can run on the computer to Microsoft Store applications only. So, your child cannot download software from third-party sources. Also, they can only browse the web on Microsoft Edge. The Windows native browser has additional online security to prevent them from visiting unsafe websites. However, Edge does not exactly block access to all sites. So, you should consider other parental control options for PC.
You may also want to get a standard PC for your child and put it in S mode if you don’t want to buy a Chromebook for almost the same price. You may then take the computer out of S mode as their tech needs and ability to handle more responsibilities increase. But remember, deactivating S mode is quite easy, and your school-age child may learn to bypass parental controls.
You Handle Sensitive Documents
Window S mode prevents users from installing third-party apps. This restriction means your chances of installing malware on your computer reduce significantly. So, if you are a businessperson who routinely handles documents containing company secrets, you may use your personal computer in S mode.
Remember, you cannot use in-house or proprietary software in S-mode. So, if your company developed an app for its business, running S mode will prevent you from using it. Using your Windows 11 Home in S mode is only helpful pending when you get a company laptop running Windows Pro or Enterprise.
You Want to Do a Digital Detox
If you find yourself needing an escape from digital noise but can’t avoid your main PC entirely, consider getting a PC in S mode. Games on Microsoft Store aren’t the most exciting. And many handy third-party apps aren’t there either. So, you will be using only the apps necessary for your productivity.
However, remember that S mode is a one-way street. There’s no leaving S mode and going back. So, if you need to install a new non-Microsoft Store app for work, you’ll have to leave S mode. The alternative would be using a separate computer or web-based version of the app, if available. If these options sound like a hassle or you don’t want to buy another PC, you can always dual-boot another operating system instead.
You Want the Chromebook Experience
S mode gives you a similar experience to what a Chromebook gives. So, you can get a high-end PC and try S mode for several days or weeks. This way, you can decide if you want all that power or if the basics work for you. More importantly, you retain the option to leave anytime you want—something you don’t get in Chromebooks.
Your Computer Boots Faster
If you have been using a Windows computer for a while, you’ll know notice how booting takes longer as you install more apps. This lag is because some autorun apps start working in the background once you turn on your computer. Third-party software and malware, especially, cause this lag. S mode lets you use apps optimized for Windows and reduces your risks of getting malware that slows down your computer.
What Are the Drawbacks of Using S Mode?
Your computer works the way Microsoft intended for it to work: safely and efficiently. However, there are drawbacks:
You Can Only Get Apps From the Microsoft Store
As seen on this Microsoft Dev Blog, users of Windows S can only run Modern Universal Windows Platform (UWP) store apps. These are apps that Microsoft developers directly created or verified. Other types of apps delivered through third-party licenses to the Microsoft Store will be unavailable in S mode.
You Can’t Use the Command Line or Code Editors
S mode is not for you if you are a developer, hacker, admin, or IT person managing a network of company computers. S mode prevents users from using the Windows Terminal or PowerShell. You can’t use Linux either. The main reason is that these apps run outside the safe environment that protects the operating system from malware. So, VS Code, other code editors, and developer tools are off the table.
The Windows Registry Is Off-limits
Like the command line and code editors, the Windows registry is also off-limits to users in S mode. The registry is a powerful database of configuration settings that lets power users customize Windows to their taste—beyond the regular settings. However, tinkering with the Windows registry can harm your PC, something the clamshell of S mode is designed to prevent.
How to Activate S Mode in Windows 11
You can’t activate S mode; it comes pre-installed or shipped with the OS. So, when you get a new laptop, you’ll have the option to use it in S mode when you’re setting it up for the first time. Some computers, like the Surface, come shipped with S mode only, and you don’t get that option to try S mode first.
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