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Windows 10 S: What IT Professionals Need to Know

By - Source: Toms IT Pro

Editor's Note: Microsoft recently announced that Windows 10 S will cease to be a standalone operating system. Instead, it will become an optional mode for Windows 10. 

Microsoft recently announced Windows 10 S, an operating system geared toward education, and a Surface Laptop ($999) that will run that OS straight out of the box. There will be other laptops available from partners that include Acer, ASUS, Dell, Fujitsu, HP, Samsung and HP. Microsoft hinted that those could start as low as $189. This move basically throws a stone at Chromebooks and Apple simultaneously. Those IT Pros at an educational institution will need to know how this simplified OS will help or hinder you. Here’s what you need to know.  

How to Get It

Starting this summer, teachers (or admins) will be able to update existing Windows 10 Pro machines to Windows 10 S at no extra cost. The Set Up School PC app in the Windows Store will allow you to set up a classroom of 10 S laptops using a USB, just like you’ve done in the past with Windows 10. The Windows press release says the process for 10 S will take as little as 30 seconds per device, which, if accurate, is a boon.

MORE: Windows 10 for IT Pros: Tutorials, Tips & Tricks

Once the download process is complete you (and other approved admins and teachers) will be able to switch back from 10 S to 10 Pro, but at that point it’s a one-way street and you can’t toggle back and forth between the two, which is unfortunate because Windows 10 S is a pretty locked down OS. On the upside, Windows is making the upgrade from 10 S to 10 Pro free until March 31, 2018, so you have until then to decide if the new OS meets your needs.

Security Features

There are handy security features built into the OS that prevents students from being able to download certain types of apps. Plus, the only place anything can be downloaded while running Windows 10 S is from is the Windows Store. That means you won’t need to constantly monitor and uninstall unapproved downloads.

But you might want to mention this feature to teachers before you make the switch because this security measure also prevents downloading and using certain free alternatives to paid apps. School districts that rely on free apps that are not in the Windows Store for teaching purposes should probably not make the switch from Windows 10 Pro because those apps won’t be available at all.

In addition to the added security, the stripped-down design of Windows 10 S makes for a much faster first-time boot of 15 seconds. This is a marked improvement over Windows 10 Pro, which takes around 30 seconds to load.

Intune for Education

Starting today you can use Intune for Education to make your life a little easier on the config and management side of things, and you can continue using it even if your school switches to 10 S. Intune for Education is a robust tool that allows admins to set up and manage user groups, deploy apps based on groups of users and manage group settings remotely. Such tools as Intune for Education make it much simpler (and faster) to create individualized experiences on shared machines. It should be noted that Intune is an add-on product and as such carries additional charges.

Office 365 for Education

Office 365 for Education debuts today (at no charge for teachers and students) and has many familiar features from Office 365 for Business as well as some new tools that are education specific. The OneNote Class Notebook and Learning Tools will likely be popular with teachers. It includes tools that can help struggling students learn to read and write. And it supports students with different abilities.

Microsoft Teams is the real game changer for education. Teams is a chat-based workspace that helps teachers maintain their lesson plans, share information with their students, and facilitate online discussions. Students will use Teams to work on group projects, complete homework and share study materials. There’s also a Professional Learning Communities component for teachers and school administrators.

Bottom Line

Chrome OS no longer has a monopoly on the super-cheap laptop market targeting education. Schools that are in the market for a new fleet of computers should seriously consider Windows 10 S machines. Great security and easy admin management combined with the familiarity of Windows 10 make for a great combination with an almost unnoticeable learning curve. Windows 10 S laptops can run any browser available in the Windows Store (unlike Chrome OS) and you can even download apps. The only real downside comes if you want to run software that’s not in the Windows Store because in that case you’re still stuck with the non-education version of Windows.

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