​'Safe and predictable' Windows 10 S won't run Linux, says Microsoft

Microsoft wants to clear up confusion about Windows 10 S and Linux distributions available on the Windows Store.
Written by Liam Tung, Contributing Writer

Windows 10 S and Linux will not mix, according to Microsoft senior program manager Rich Turner.

Image: Microsoft

Just because Linux distributions are coming to the Windows Store, it doesn't mean they will work on laptops running Microsoft's streamlined Windows 10 S.

Microsoft wants to clear up any confusion over two recent announcements. At the beginning of May it unveiled Windows 10 S, a fast-booting, locked-down version of Windows 10 that can only install apps from the Windows Store and is restricted to Microsoft's Edge browser.

Windows 10 S ships with Microsoft's $1,000 Surface Laptop, as well as with forthcoming third-party Windows laptops that will be priced from $189 to take on the Chromebook market.

Microsoft subsequently announced that popular Linux distributions, such as Ubuntu and SUSE Linux, will be available to download from the Windows Store with the promise that users will be able to install them alongside Windows.

Apparently the two announcements led to the assumption that Windows 10 S could run Linux, which might, for example, appeal to computer-science students.

But Linux and Windows 10 S will not mix, according to Microsoft senior program manager Rich Turner.

"Just because an 'app' comes from the Windows Store does NOT automatically mean that it's safe and suitable for running in Windows 10 S. There are some apps that are not allowed to run on Windows 10 S, including all command-line apps, shells and Consoles," he wrote on Microsoft's developer blog.

That restriction includes "Windows Console, Cmd/PowerShell, or Linux, Bash, or Windows Subsystem for Linux instances".

Turner offers a reminder that Windows 10 S is aimed at non-technical people and students "who don't typically want to spend time and effort futzing with their PC" and who just expect their computer to work safely, quickly, reliably and efficiently.

"To deliver this experience, Windows 10 S users can only install apps from the Windows Store. This enables Microsoft to help ensure a safe, predictable, easy-to-use experience by preventing malicious and/or inefficient apps from getting onto users' machines and wreaking havoc with their data and resources," Turner said.

Although Windows 10 S is a poor fit for people Turner categorizes as app developers and hackers, admins and IT pros, it still may be useful to students interesting in building code.

Windows 10 S can be used to build code that runs elsewhere, such as on the web, IoT devices, or a remote virtual machine. Such software is permitted on Windows 10 S since it doesn't require access to the deeper levels of the OS, such as the filesystem.

The other source of confusion may be due to Windows 10 S being designed to run only Universal Windows Platform (UWP) apps. The Linux distros are available from the Windows Store UWP app package (APPX), but they're an "exotic type of app" that, once installed, run as non-UWP command-line tools. That is, they run outside the UWP sandbox, which isn't permitted under the Windows 10 S security model.

"This is why Linux distros don't run on Windows 10 S. Even though they're delivered via the Windows Store, and installed as standard UWP APPXs, they run as non-UWP command-line tools and this can access more of a system than a UWP can," explained Turner.

However, Surface Laptop owners can still run Linux distros. They just need to pay $49 to upgrade to Windows 10.

Read more on Windows 10 S

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