Windows 10X leaks: Hands-on with Microsoft’s new, simplified OS

Microsoft’s Windows 10X has leaked, and it’s boring.

Well, it’s designed to be boring. Simple, really—uncomplicated, straightforward, without the fuss and clutter of “traditional” Windows. We wrote last year that Windows 10X now appears to be the new Windows 10 S (Windows 10 in S Mode); after spending some hands-on time with the leaked build, we believe those impressions have been confirmed.

We’d like to say that Windows 10X has been graphically overhauled, with a variety of new features. However, the fact is that if you read our early Windows 10X coverage a year ago—when Microsoft was visualizing Windows 10X as the future of dual-screen devices—little has changed. (Here’s our original Windows 10X hands-on video for reference.) Well, there’s been one major tweak, of course: Windows 10X is now designed for single-screen PCs.

The leaked build, version 20279, can be run only under one of Microsoft’s Hyper-V virtual machines for right now. While a virtual machine allows the OS to be isolated, or sandboxed, away from the rest of the operating system, the tradeoff is speed. Windows 10X ran extremely slowly on a VM on a Surface Laptop 3, as you should expect from a beta build run on a virtual machine.

Remember, you probably won’t have an opportunity to download and install Windows 10X yourself. The OS is expected to be shipped preinstalled on low-cost PCs, most of which would presumably be designed for education or corporate environments.

Starting up Windows 10X

The theme of simplicity begins with the setup experience. There’s no Cortana to assist you. Windows 10X opens with a brief flourish of the Windows logo before getting right to it.

If you’re a fan of local accounts, don’t buy a system with Windows 10X—the OS asked for a Microsoft account, and wouldn’t take no for an answer. You do have the option of specifying whether Windows 10X will be used for home or business, however, seemingly implying that you’ll be able to buy a Windows 10X machine at retail.

Microsoft Windows 10X personal or business Mark Hachman / IDG

Windows 10X allows you to choose whether the PC will be used for home or business.

Windows 10X actually goes to some pains to advise you of what data it collects, and allows you to select among a variety of privacy options available for Windows 10X, such as permitting targeted advertising. At least on our build, there seems to be none of the usual stalling while Windows checks for subsequent updates. Once you choose your privacy settings, Windows 10X ushers you into the main screen.

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