Windows 10 S Now Available to MSDN and Visual Studio Subscribers for Testing; A Closer Look

Windows 10 S Now Available to MSDN and Visual Studio Subscribers for Testing; A Closer Look

Ever since Microsoft held their education event earlier this year and unveiled Windows 10 S as the installed operating system on the new Surface Laptop, Windows enthusiasts have been wanting to explore this unique implementation of the OS.

We learned very quickly that the main differentiator for Windows 10 S would be that only allowed apps from the Windows Store to be installed on any device running the OS.

In fact, in order to try and make it a viable system for some commercial customers, Microsoft converted their Office 365 suite of programs into a collection of Windows Store apps using their Project Centennial Desktop Bridge.

Once the Surface Laptop was available in retail channels this past June, users finally got to experience Windows 10 S and see how that app only lifestyle worked for them. It was not surprising that the response leaned heavily towards it being untenable overall.

The one saving element of Windows 10 S for any users who can not live within the confines of an app only existence is that it can easily be upgraded to Windows 10 Pro with a fee of $49 that is paid through the Windows Store. That same upgrade can also be done using a valid Windows 10 product key however, until the end of 2017, Microsoft is offering the upgrade at no cost to users. That purchase and licensing will be tied to a Digital Entitlement on the users hardware and Microsoft Account.

So after a couple of months watching others use Windows 10 S on Surface Laptop, there is finally an opportunity to test the OS in the wild with the release of an ISO for Windows 10 S that can be downloaded by MSDN and Visual Studio eligible subscribers.

I grabbed the Windows 10 ISO last night and proceeded to install it on a Lenovo Miix-720 for testing purposes. I went with a bare metal install because I wanted to deal with needing to update drivers for some of the hardware. This would not have been as challenging going straight into a virtual machine. After creating a Recovery Disk for the Miix-720, I copied the Windows 10 S ISO over to the devices desktop and mounted it to begin the installation process.

At this point nothing in the installation of Windows 10 S is any different than when you install Windows 10 on any other device via ISO except I had to enter the product key to continue. When the install is complete you are then taking through the Out Of Box Experience (OOBE) with Cortana talking you through the various steps.

The Miix-720 obviously had inbox drivers for its Wi-Fi and audio because I was able to hear Cortana and connect to my local Wi-Fi network for setup.

After I added a Microsoft Account and completed the setup, I was greeted with the same Hi that we all see after a system upgrade/install. Once the desktop was presented to me the first place I went was to check the status of the system hardware in the Device Manager.

Device Manager After Windows 10 S Installation

As you can see, I had several hardware items on the device that were marked with bangs or alerts that there was an issue with the device. This was not unexpected because not all devices have a corresponding set of drivers in Windows Update although Microsoft can support that in coordination with the OEM.

So I went off to Windows Update for a quick check for drivers that would activate these items but I came up empty.

So the next step is to grab the OEM drivers for this hardware and use those drivers to get things working. However, most of those drivers are housed inside of executable files and those files can not be used on Windows 10 S due to the system restriction to only run apps out of the Windows Store.

There is an easy work around for this road block and all you have to do is get on another device and extract all of these OEM drivers there. For the most part, OEMs package the raw driver files inside of these executables and then use a startup program, also an executable, to install the drivers. I just kept the folders intact and copied them over to the Miix-720 and then used the driver update process for an item in the Device Manager and then pointed it to the USB drive containing the extracted driver files. Windows 10 S searched those sub-directories, found the drivers, and installed them successfully.

After going through this process my Device Manager now looked like this:

Windows 10 S Clean Device Manager on Miix-720

Clean and ready to go!

Of course, these drivers may not be optimized for Windows 10 S to take full advantage of some of the under the hood improvements this OS has received but they do allow me access to all features of the device.

Earlier today, I started poking around Windows 10 S and continued to set the device up as I do my other systems. This included installing my go to apps and now Office 365 from the Windows Store on Windows 10 S.

I put my morning of touring around the OS into a Twitter Moment that you can take a look at to see what I discovered about Windows 10 S.

Expect to see more about the app only existence on Windows 10 S over the next few weeks.


But, wait...there's probably more so be sure to follow me on Twitter and Google+.

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