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How Does Windows 11 S Mode Work?

Security and privacy are valid concerns on any operating system, which is why Microsoft provides a security and privacy-centric mode on its Windows operating system, termed S Mode. If you’re using a Surface laptop from Microsoft or some entry-level laptop model, you might come across the term Windows 11 in Safe Mode.

The feature was introduced on Windows 10, with Microsoft making adjustments to make it work even better on Windows 11. Here’s everything you need to know about Windows 11 S Mode and how to get rid of it.

Windows-11-S-mode

How Does S Mode Work?

S Mode is not a Windows feature that you can turn off/on at will. It ships with any PC that has it. You can think of it as a safety mode, as it prevents you from downloading or installing apps from sources other than the Windows Store. 

With Windows 11 S Mode, the confines get even more rigid. It prevents you from setting any browser other than Microsoft Edge as your default. And you can’t set the default search engine in the browser from Bing to Google or any other one of your choice.

Similarly, suppose you attempt downloading and installing an app/game from another browser. In that case, you’ll get a pop-up warning on the screen that reads thus:

"For security and performance, this mode of Windows only runs Microsoft-verified apps."

Yikes! So much for security and performance. Speaking of performance, however, it’s about the strongest argument you can make for the S mode. Yes, many computers experience a dip in performance when they begin to get clogged up with resource-suckling apps, coupled with startup tasks and junkware.

You’d barely experience these on a computer in S mode because Microsoft verifies everything you install on your computer via the Store, but that’s not to say some apps from there don’t drain resources too.

Also, S Mode, to a great degree, mitigates auto-run apps working in the background when booting up your PC. Most importantly, it optimizes the apps you install on your computer, attenuating the risks of getting spyware or malware that slows down your PC and reduces your battery performance.

Lastly, if you’re a parent and you want to ensure your child’s safety on the internet, the S Mode is the way to go. Since your child cannot download software from the Windows Store, you can be sure of their safety. 

The default browser, Microsoft Edge, also has some built-in security features to restrict access to websites deemed unsafe for your child. However, there’s only so much you can do in this regard since disabling S Mode is not rocket science.

A high-schooler could quickly figure it out just by reading or watching a few online how-to guides. But it’s good to have such a feature present, and you can stipulate a time to remove the S Mode as your child’s tech need increases.

What Are the Disadvantages of S Mode?

Windows 11 S Mode undoubtedly has some drawbacks, most of which you can live with if you’re not a power user. Let’s discuss them below:

Unavailability of Code Editors or Command Line

If you’re into IT and need to tweak Windows 11 backend, you might want to jettison the S mode, as Windows Terminal or Powershell is unavailable in it. These utilities function outside the confines of what makes S mode secure against harmful malware and junkware.

If you’re an IT person looking to harness the developer tools of Windows 11, the S Mode is not for you.

No Windows Registry Editor

If you’ve used Windows Registry Editor in the past, living without it becomes excruciatingly difficult. The Registry Editor lets you alter Windows 11 to your taste beyond the conventional settings. It houses a robust database that administrators can make the most of.

However, altering the wrong setting in the Registry Editor can crash the operating system, which is why Microsoft has made it off-limits to S-mode users.

Can only install MUWP Apps

Windows-11-S-Mode

Apps installation in S mode is limited to apps under the Modern Universal Windows Platform (MUWP), the ones created or directly verified by Microsoft developers themselves. Even some apps with Microsoft third-party licenses are unavailable to S Mode users in the Microsoft Store.

How to Leave S Mode on Windows 11

The good thing about the S mode on Windows 11 is that you can always leave whenever you feel it’s just not cutting it. But keep in mind that it’s a one-way thing. Once you leave, there’s no way to come back unless you use some highly complex workaround that involves backing up your preceding Windows state.

That being said, there are two ways to leave Windows 11 S mode, but first, you might want to confirm if you’re actually in S mode. To do this, 

  • Open the Settings app from the Start menu or press Windows key + I on your keyboard
  • In the Settings window, click System and the About
  • You’ll see your Windows build information, indicating that you’re in S mode

Now that you’ve confirmed that you’re in S mode, use the following steps to get out of it:

  • Open the Windows Store app on the target PC

Windows-11-S-Mode

  • Click the search button at the top right and type Switch Out of S Mode in the search box
  • Follow the prompts in the store to disable S mode
  • Alternatively, open the Settings app
  • In the Settings window, click System and then Activation
  • Locate and click Upgrade your edition of Windows
  • Follow the prompts on the screen to complete your transition to a standard version of Windows 11

Related: How to Fix Snipping Tool Issues on Windows 11

Bottom Line

And that’s all you need to know about Windows 11 S Mode. But should you buy a PC that ships with this strict mode? The S mode is not enough reason not to consider a PC that ticks all the boxes. Given that you can always leave whenever you want, you can use the S mode for a while to test the waters and leave if it’s unsatisfactory.

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