What is Windows 11 S Mode?

Microsoft caters this extra secure version of the operating system to users who don’t need much power

There’s not generally any confusion when talking about the Windows Operating System. Things are pretty straightforward, but there are always exceptions. Windows 11 S Mode is one such head-scratcher for a few. What exactly is this anomaly?

Windows 11 S mode is what you get when you put Windows 11 in secure lockdown. Security – that’s probably what the S stands for since it’s a more secure version of the OS. However, it’s not only streamlined for security but performance as well. If you’ve ever heard of Windows 10 S, i.e., S mode, Windows 11 S mode is a lot similar with just a few changes here and there.

What is S Mode?

The S mode limits what the user can do on the system. How does it do that exactly in Windows 11? For starters, it only allows you to install apps on your system from the Microsoft Store. This means you cannot install just any application that you want from the internet by getting the installer packages, as you can on normal Windows. But that increases security tremendously as any app can’t install junkware to spy on you or any other malware to steal your information.

S mode not only provides more security but also improves performance. Since you can’t install any applications other than those approved by Microsoft, there’s no chance of accidentally installing an application that’ll slow down the boot process.

Another limitation it puts on the user includes the web browser. Windows 11 S mode makes Microsoft Edge the default browser on your system. Now, here’s how it differs from Windows 10 S. In Windows 10 S, you cannot install any browser other than Microsoft Edge. Windows 11 provides some leeway in this area.

You can install other browsers, like Chrome and Firefox as long as they’re available in the Microsoft Store, on your Windows 11 S device. But, and that’s a big but, you cannot make any of them your default browser. Edge safely takes up that mantle; it will always be your default browser, come what may.

It also makes Bing your default search engine and you can’t change that either. To use other search engines, you have to navigate to their web address. For example, you can use Google as your search engine by navigating to google.com

Using Windows 11 S Mode

Most of the experience of using Windows 11 S mode is the same as normal Windows 11. But there are a few restrictions.

For starters, anti-virus. Currently, the only anti-virus known to be compatible with S mode is the Windows Defender Security Center. But since S mode is already secure, it proves to be more than enough. If you do want to use any other anti-virus, contact the provider to see if their program is compatible with S mode.

Another restriction you may experience is with hardware peripherals. Although S mode is designed to run without any hardware restrictions, there can be a compatibility issue when using third-party devices because the drivers have to be signed by Microsoft. It will be a rare occurrence since Microsoft works with manufacturers to get most accessories working in S mode. If you encounter a problem with a device that isn’t working or working with limited functionality, you’ll have to contact your accessory manufacturer.

How to Get Windows 11 in S Mode?

Windows 11 S mode was built for low-powered devices and as such comes pre-installed on such devices from the manufacturer. Most of these laptops have limited resources, and Windows 11 S mode allows them to run more efficiently.

Windows 11 S mode could come shipped on laptops using any of the processors – Intel, AMD, or Qualcomm Snapdragon processors. The S mode comes enabled on all devices based on ARM processors.

Another way to get Windows 11 S mode is to upgrade from Windows 10 S mode. But there are a few limitations in this category. Windows 11 S mode only works on the Windows 11 Home edition. So, you can upgrade from Windows 10 Home edition in S mode. But if you have Pro, Enterprise, or Education editions of Windows 10 in S mode, you can’t upgrade to Windows 11 without switching out of S mode.

There can be certain circumstances when you can’t switch out of S mode. For instance, if your device belongs to your organization and your admin disables the option to switch out of S mode. In this case, you’d need to contact your administrator.

Windows 11 S mode should not be confused with Windows 11 SE. Windows 11 SE is a different edition of Windows 11 released by Microsoft for students, specifically for K-8 classrooms. While Windows 11 S mode laptops are available readily for consumers, Windows 11 SE laptops are only available through special channels for an education environment.

Can you Switch Out of S Mode?

If you want to install any apps from outside of the Microsoft Store, you can switch out of S mode. Even if you try to install an app from the internet while in S mode, Windows will stop the installation but show you how you can install the app, i.e., by switching out of S mode.

Switching out of S mode to normal Windows 11 is completely free. But you can’t switch back to S mode once you turn it off, at least officially. There are workarounds that can work, though. But you should take them with a grain of salt and decide if you want to switch out of S mode after serious deliberation.

As mentioned above, there is a reason S mode comes installed on certain systems. It is the best choice for them, considering their limited resources.

Is Windows 11 S Mode Right for you?

Wondering if Windows 11 S mode is the right Operating System for you? It depends on your requirements.

If you’re a basic user who doesn’t need their system to do much beyond the everyday tasks, then S mode might be the best fit for you. Apart from the Microsoft 365 apps, there’s a whole roster of apps available in the Microsoft Store.

For students who don’t have much heavy usage for their system, but only need to use their system securely for studies, Windows 11 S mode is a great choice. It’s also a great choice for older users who need their system for basic stuff like checking emails, browsing the internet, and watching videos on YouTube, without worrying about internet security.

Moreover, the list of apps and hardware compatible with S mode continues to grow over time. So, before you decide to leave S mode, you should give it a fair chance and try it out.

But for advanced users who need more power, Windows 11 S mode won’t be the right fit for you. In this case, the question is rather about whether you should buy a laptop that comes with S mode if you need that much power.

But if you only want to use a few other apps from the internet without the need for advanced apps that need a lot of resources, like editing software, you can buy a Windows 11 S mode device and switch out of it.


Windows 11 S mode offers more security and power but at the cost of freedom. There are many apps and some hardware peripherals that you can’t use on the Operating System. In the end, whether or not it is the right choice for you is a question of your requirements.