Windows S Mode puts your computer on complete lockdown. Once activated, S Mode lets you enjoy the highest level of security Microsoft can offer. However, there are limitations.
These limitations, in themselves, wouldn’t bother you if you are not a power user or want your child to use technology safely. You will also like S mode if you are a businessperson who handles sensitive documents.
However, if you are a power user or an adult who prefers the flexibility of making your own choices, you should get the complete picture before you get a computer in Windows 11 S mode. So, let’s explore what it is and if it’s for you.
What Is Windows 11 S Mode, Exactly?
S Mode is a feature that Microsoft created to give users a secure, smooth experience with the Windows operating system. In this 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. Windows S mode will sound very familiar if you have used a Chromebook.
Should You Use Your PC in S Mode?
It depends. Here are four reasons you may consider using a PC in Windows S Mode:
1. 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, with additional online security to prevent them from visiting unsafe websites. However, the browser 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 increase. But remember, deactivating S mode is quite easy, and your school-age child may learn to bypass parental controls.
2. 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 computer in S mode is only helpful pending when you get a company laptop running Windows Pro or Enterprise.
3. You Want to Do a Digital Detox
If you find yourself needing an escape from digital noise, but can’t avoid your PC entirely, consider a PC in S mode that can help. 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.
4. 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.
5. 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 slow 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:
1. 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.
2. 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 Window 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.
3. 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 exactly 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.
How to Leave S Mode in Windows 11
Before you begin, note that leaving S mode is one-way. You can’t leave and come back.
That said, the first step is to check if your PC is running S mode in the first place. You can do this by navigating Windows > Settings > System > About. Your Windows specification will show if you’re running Windows 11 Home in S mode.
If your PC is indeed running Windows 11 Home in S mode, you can leave by navigating:
- Windows > Settings > System > Activation
- Click Upgrade your edition of Windows
- Follow the on-screen instructions
Window S Mode: Fast, Secure, but Limiting
S mode takes the responsibility of maintaining your cybersecurity off you. You also get a snappy performance from your hardware. This nature makes S mode better suited for people who don’t want to tinker with technology. If you can’t decide still, the good news is you can buy a regular PC and try out S mode. The snag is you can’t go back once you decide to take charge.