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How to upgrade from Windows 10 S to Windows 10 Pro

Microsoft’s Windows 10 in S Mode (or Windows 10 S) is Microsoft’s answer to Google’s Chrome OS: a secured, walled garden allowing only approved apps from the Microsoft Store. That’s fine for classrooms and family PCs, but eventually you’ll want to switch from Windows 10 S to Windows 10 Home. Here’s how.

With most Windows 10 S devices reserved for closely managed classrooms, there’s arguably only one current Windows 10 S device where the transition from Windows 10 S to Windows 10 Pro becomes an important decision: the Surface Laptop Go, which follows the original Surface Laptop and the original Surface Go as Microsoft’s mass-market devices that used Windows 10 S. 

Your PC will likely refer to Windows 10 S as Windows 10 in S Mode, or Windows 10 Home in S Mode. They’re all the same. In any event, switching from Windows 10 S to Windows 10 Home is free. Just realize that your path from Windows 10 in S Mode goes directly to Windows 10 Home, and that it’s a one-way street.

Microsoft Surface Laptop Go primary experiment 1 Mark Hachman / IDG

Microsoft’s Surface Laptop Go, which ships with Windows 10 in S Mode installed.

What is Windows 10 S again?

Microsoft designed Windows 10 S to accompany students from elementary school all the way through college, ready to graduate to full-fledged Windows PCs. The operating system and its small flock of laptops are designed to shoulder Chromebooks out of the market, where Google’s ecosystem currently dominates. 

Windows 10 S is simple enough: Users are presented with an OS that appears to be almost identical to Windows 10. Microsoft prevents users from downloading apps from anywhere but the Windows Store, however, and secures those apps inside a sandboxed container. That means that certain Windows apps won’t run, either, including PowerShell and the Command Line, as well as Windows Defender. In fact, there’s really no antivirus support at all within Windows 10 in S Mode, though Microsoft would argue that its required approval of every app means nothing can sneak in. (You can pin a Web app, like Facebook, to the Start menu or Taskbar as an “app,” however.)

Because of the additional security surrounding Windows 10 S, the operating system actively blocks any attempts to sideload apps from the Web or other sources. (This includes other browsers like Google Chrome, for instance.) Instead, Windows 10 S  may pop up a notice warning you that your app is forbidden, and refers you to the Windows Store for alternatives. 

To support Windows 10 S, Microsoft orchestrated two hardware ecosystems around it: a collection of sub-$300 rugged clamshell notebooks for younger students, and the handful of Surface devices that we’ve mentioned above. The Surface Laptop Go creates the most confusion, because it’ll likely be used in classrooms where others are using full-fledged Windows 10 machines. If a teacher wants their students to use a non-Store app, those students will be forced to switch to Windows 10 Home.

Where can I buy a PC with Windows 10 S?

Though Microsoft likely hopes that Windows 10 S PCs will be handed out by educators in the classroom, you’ll more commonly find some inexpensive PCs sold with Windows 10 with S Mode at major retailers like Amazon. Chances are that Windows 10 in S Mode will be called out in the product description, such as in this HP laptop with S Mode

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