TLDR: Okay, before we jump in, if you merely wanted to know what S mode is at the surface level, it simple gives you a more secure system.
Okay so now we have that information out the way, let’s dive in a big further!
You can read my other Windows content here
This read is also on my Medium page, in case you prefer reading on Medium.
What Is Windows 11 S Mode?
When this feature is enabled, Windows will create a smoother and safer experience for the user. It does this by only allowing basic access to resources and drivers. Along with this, S mode freezes all other apps that might take up a lot of RAM and CPU resources. All of this comes together to create a much smoother user experience, akin to something like a Chromebook.
Why Should I Use S Mode?
This of course, depends entirely on the setting and user of the system. Lets run through some common cases below:
Since S mode restricts which applications can be run on the system. Limiting installs to only those available on the Microsoft Store, this greatly increases the safety of the system as children can’t accidently install malicious software.
Only Microsoft Edge can be used, this again limits the ‘footprint’ of the system to help prevent vulnerabilities. Since only Microsoft Edge can be used, Microsoft has increased the security parameters whilst ran in S mode. Increasing the amount of sites that won’t be accessible due to insecure ratings.
This can be an area for controversy however, since you could just purchase a regular system and then enable S mode, instead of buying a system with S mode activated out the box. This would allow S mode to be disabled as the needs of the user change.
So at the end of the day, it might be better to use a regular system with parental controls. Especially, since the S mode can be quite easily bypassed.
If you handle sensitive documents, workflows or your machine is just in a fairly insecure place such as a showroom floor, using S mode can be a great help.
Since S mode prevents the installation of third party applications, it can also prevent malware installs. This would prevent a dodgy file or a malicious person physically connecting media to install malware since S mode would prevent the installation.
However, this can backfire since it would prevent you from installing any company developed programs required for work. You could get around this by using a webapp or PWA however, since that technically wouldn’t be a third party install.
Detox or Chromebook experience
S mode could also be helpful if you want to have a more streamlined version of Windows to prevent procrastination. Or if you merely want a simpler user interface, say if you came across from a Chromebook.
This would lock you down to games only available on the Microsoft Store, which are just terrible. Absolutely terrible.
This is quite an extreme way of achieving this however, as switching into S mode adds more restrictions than just blocking games. If you do most of your work in Chrome, you’ll find that it’s no longer available so bookmarks etc will be inaccessible.
You could also use this mode to test if a Chromebook would be a good option. You could enable it on a system you already have and see if the functionality allows you to achieve everything you need to.
The last benefit I could find was boot speed. Since your computer isn’t loading any bloated third party apps, you might find that it boots up faster and overall performance is improved. Of course, you could just uninstall any apps that you don’t use or remove them from the auto start menu in Task Manager.
Why Shouldn’t I Use S Mode?
Okay so we’ve discussed the potential benefits of using S mode, but there are certainly a lot of drawbacks to using it. Lets have a look at the list I’ve made below and discuss the points:
If you use anything apart from web browsing and simple apps, you’re likely out of luck completely.
No CMD or Code Editors
If you’re a developer, admin or IT strong user, them S mode likely isn’t for you.
This also prevents using the Windows Subsystem for Linux or WLS.
Continuing the story of increased security and lack of access, the Windows Registry system is also completely off limits.
It’s obvious as to why this is disabled in S mode, the Registry is a database of all the most basic settings and instructions for the Windows operating system and base apps. Changes can have severe consequences for the entire system.
How To Active S Mode?
Unfortunately, you can’t just activate S mode.
It needs to come pre-installed or selected with the OS prior to installation. So when you’re ordering a new laptop for example, you’ll need to tell it you want to use S mode when you first power it on.
How To Deactivate S Mode?
Seriously, once it’s deactivated, you can’t enable it again. This is a one-way operation and can’t be undone.
If you do want to continue, you can first check if your system is running in S mode by checking the below location:
Windows -> Settings -> System -> About
Windows -> Settings -> System -> Activation -> Upgrade your edition of Windows
Then you can follow the on-screen steps to complete the deactivation of S mode.
So there you have it, everything you need to know about the Windows S mode. You can certainly see how it might be useful for a select few users.
With severe limitations aiding much improved security, it’s easy to see the necessity for some use cases.
Remember: once deactivated, it cannot be activated again.
Hope this helps you decide!