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Windows 10 "S Mode" - why don't they provide VMs to run "unsupported" Win64 apps, apart from the "pristine" host OS?

VirtualLarry

No Lifer
Aug 25, 2001
51,009
6,357
126
Thinking about this.

If MS was really doing "S Mode" for Security, but still wanted to allow their end-users to run programs (Win64 applications) like Google Chrome and Mozilla Firefox, then why don't they provide a ready-made VM or instance VMs for installing those applications into, much like a sort of Windows-style (using VMs) "Docker container". They could remote the UI back to the desktop. In fact, I thought that I had read that Microsoft wanted to do that for the "future of Windows" - run every application in it's own VM.

Considering that Windows 10 "S Mode" cannot normally run those Win64 applications AT ALL, that MS would be willing to provide a workaround.

UNLESS...

MS's SOLE GOAL was to make "Google Chrome" (and by association, Mozilla Firefox) NOT ABLE TO RUN. Much like Lotus 1-2-3 on DOS. ("DOS ain't done, till Lotus won't run!")

Edit: Call it a "Win64 application condom", if they have to. (Even if they piss off certain religious people with that terminology.)
 

mikeymikec

Lifer
May 19, 2011
14,516
4,598
136
Huh. I never actually thought to check what 'S mode' meant, I just took it to mean like 'Starter Edition', because I usually see S mode on low-end kit like sub-£300 laptops with 32GB of soldered storage.

I thought it was about trying to ensure that people have Microsoft accounts by mandating one in order to install any useful apps.
 

VirtualLarry

No Lifer
Aug 25, 2001
51,009
6,357
126
Huh. I never actually thought to check what 'S mode' meant, I just took it to mean like 'Starter Edition', because I usually see S mode on low-end kit like sub-£300 laptops with 32GB of soldered storage.

I thought it was about trying to ensure that people have Microsoft accounts by mandating one in order to install any useful apps.
No, "S Mode" literally means that you CAN'T run any "Windows applications". You can ONLY run "Apps" from the "MS Store".
 

mikeymikec

Lifer
May 19, 2011
14,516
4,598
136
I wasn't trying to argue with you. I'm just surprised that 'S mode' isn't the default mode in Windows 10 full stop, if the aim truly was security related. I've personally never seen higher-end kit running S mode by default. The highest end computer I've seen was an Asus Vivobook 15 with a 10th gen i3, 4GB RAM and 256GB SSD (a laptop I ordered for a customer recently... 4GB was their preference to save money).
 

Magic Carpet

Diamond Member
Oct 2, 2011
3,333
116
106
Well, to be fair, it’s not just that. Supposedly, the S mode runs faster and consumes less resources. I have yet to test to which extent, though.
 

mikeymikec

Lifer
May 19, 2011
14,516
4,598
136
Well, to be fair, it’s not just that. Supposedly, the S mode runs faster and consumes less resources. I have yet to test to which extent, though.
I bet if MS makes that claim, there'll be a happy little asterisk at the end of it, pointing to a footnote that says something along the lines of "comparing to a system with tonnes of the usual ... stuff installed".
 
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Kaido

Elite Member & Kitchen Overlord
Feb 14, 2004
45,405
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For anyone unaware, it's very simple to switch out of S mode:


But yeah, there are options:

1. Could run a VM, especially with baremetal access
2. Could RemoteApp locally. So install your apps to a core catalog & do it Docker-style, like you mentioned
3. Could run Windows as a Hypervisor (especially with the Linux sub-system) with something like the Proxmox/QEMU/KVM stack

I know a guy who runs his company like this. All machines are locally virtualized with a skinny hypervisor. I'm not sure if he does a baremetal install & then converts it to virtual with baremetal access or what, but he has a a pretty slick backup system & can add stuff like GPU's, unRAID-style. He has some programmers on it, so I suspect it's a custom scripted system running on Proxmox's Debian base, which does both container-based & full virtualization (plus stuff like virtualized networks, clustering, etc.), because he can rewind client's Windows VM's quickly & through tons of snapshots.

tbh I'd like to see this kind of seamless sharing between systems down the road with stuff like Mac & Windows. So have like an ARM hypervisor that runs baremetal OSX & Windows 10 live at the same time, splitting the CPU, GPU, RAM, either SSD partitions or like dual soldered SSD's, an iGPU/dGPU dual-setup, etc. Then do like docker-style apps within that. Just totally isolate everything haha! That's essentially how iOS works, with each app isolated within its own sandbox, so each app is not only isolated from other apps, but from the operating system as well, which makes for a pretty secure operating system (provided you don't jailbreak it!).

Although operating systems are a bit trickier as they use more powerful tools outside of copy & paste and keychain-password sharing between apps for authorizations & logins & whatnot. With all of the various operating systems now from Apple alone (iOS, iPadOS, Watch OS, OSX), they still take independent routes per OS, but have been doing a lot to do cross-talk to seamlessly merge everything together, which is really nice because you don't have a diminished Mac laptop or desktop that runs a pared-down iPadOS system, but the iPaOS system is still a really great fit over iOS, which is bettered suited for iPhones & iPod Touches. Windows tried to do this years ago with the Windows Phone, which I will admit was a pretty cool idea, and it looks like Apple has followed suit a decade later with a more seamless experience in tow.

I've done a number of virtualization projects over the years (VMware, Citrix, Hyper-V, Parallels, VirtualBox, Proxmox/QEMU/KVM, etc.) with various hardware components (GRID cards, Tesla cards, and even HP's nifty RGS system, which I guess is now licensed software but still pretty cool over the previous PCoIP cards) & there's a lot of really neat work being done (especially in the cloud with stuff like Shadow Tech!). As Microsoft dives into the world of ARM with stuff like Win10 for ARM64, it would be interesting to see them use that idea of like their Windows Subsystem for Linux & put that at the forefront as a hypervisor with the actual end-user OS running within a baremetal VM, with realtime incremental backups, OSX Timeline-style per app VM, or something to that effect.

As of the 2019 update, you can Sandbox apps within Windows 10:


Although they're kinda limited, so it's not the same as doing like


There's also App-V for like a local version of RemoteApp:


People are doing really cool stuff with the idea you're talking about in the OP, like using GPU-passthrough to use Proxmox to do gaming in a Windows 10 guest:


And then building off that idea to do remote gaming, Shadow Tech-style, but locally:


Could be neat. Host OS isolation with App isolation, iOS-style but for Windows! Might be fun to try with the method in the above videos & then use something like Sandboxies for app isolation:


For me tho, I pretty much just use Macrium Reflect, which does automated incrementals (on the paid version) & has cryptolocker protection for your backup drive, so it's easy to restore if something goes south. I also use a VMware burner VM for opening up unknown files & testing software, as I keep a software library of all software officially-installed on my PC for rebuild purposes.

Looping back to your OP, yeah, cutting out other browsers is a real idea because Microsoft makes money from advertising on Windows 10, which is the most likely reason why the Win7/8 upgrade to 10 is still free:


And most people who are buying low-end Windows 10 S laptops are probably totally fine downloading apps only from the Microsoft Store, without ever performing the S to full-10 conversion. During the height of COVID with everyone doing WFH, I bought a ton of laptops & mini PC's for doing VPN machines for home use for various clients, and it was easy enough to pop them out of S mode, encrypt them (iirc you still need to do the Pro upgrade to use Bitlocker instead of just device encryption), throw on whatever VPN & RDP software the client's network was using, and voila - cheap laptops & mini PC's that could be plugged into monitors or big-screen TV's with wireless keyboards at home!
 

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