Windows 10 Home: an adventure

POSTED: September 10, 2019

Last weekend I had to set up two new Asus laptops, bought from Power for a forthcoming project. Like almost all of the computers in the shop they came with Windows 10 Home pre-installed. I only had to set it up.

By the end of the process of setting up the first computer, I could not understand how someone with no previous knowledge could possibly have managed. To start with, it would not let me past the opening screen without a Microsoft account. I looked online to see how to install Windows locally and learned that the only way I could do this involved setting it up with a Microsoft online account, creating a second local user with administrative status, and then deleting the online account I had used to set it up.

This I did.

It turned out to involve more care than I had expected because Windows had also connected the account I used to Office 365, so I had to root round all the settings to convince myself that the online account had been properly deleted from the laptop.

I then went to install Firefox and couldn’t. I discovered that Windows had booted in S-Mode. It took some time to find this out, since I had never heard of s-mode. I searched online again and found that

Windows 10 in S mode is designed for security and performance, exclusively running apps from the Microsoft Store. If you want to install an app that isn’t available in the Microsoft Store, you’ll need to switch out of S mode. Switching out of S mode is one-way. If you make the switch, you won’t be able to go back to Windows 10 in S mode. There’s no charge to switch out of S mode.

You make the switch by logging into the Microsoft Store using your online account (the one I had just deleted) and asking to switch off s-mode. I did this to learn that the onboard version of the store could not do this and I needed to upgrade it. The sequence of dialog boxes this generated in the store made my head spin.

I did this and then went into a ferocious sequence of warnings that tried to persuade me not to. “Think of the children!” until finally I managed to persuade the store to let me do what I had wanted to do ever since I opened the computer.

Downloading Firefox produced more warnings. Making Firefox my default browser more or less caused the laptop to accuse me of becoming a traitor to mankind. Any of these warnings, if taken seriously, could easily have led a naive or first-time buyer to abandon their attempts at getting the computer to do what they wanted, and settle for what Microsoft wanted to give them.

All this done, I fell into the Black Screen mystery. The laptop booted into nothingness, although I could bring up Task Manager. I went online again and found that many others had experienced this. I learned about rebooting into recovery mode. I learned about all sorts of things. After thirty minutes I got it working for a bit, before it went black again and I had to repeat the whole procedure once again.

Finally I noticed that Windows wanted to download a long list of updates. Once I had persuaded it to do it now (which again meant doing things that the inexperienced would never do or think of doing) I waited and, after a reboot, all seemed well.

I then went back and finally deleted the online account (again) so that the laptop would work locally with no reference to online Microsoft accounts. I noticed that Windows had installed Office. I looked and saw no mention of a trial version. I searched online and discovered that I did have a trial version. I ignored Office, and decided to uninstall it once I had decided that the laptop now worked.

Setting up the second laptop worked in exactly the same way. The only difference? I now knew what to expect, and roughly what I needed to do, to climb over the obstacles Microsoft would throw in the way.

The next day I spoke with Dane, a tech person at Arcada, and he said that many “naive users” have started returning their Windows 10 Home computers halfway through this process and buying a Macbook instead.

I genuinely understand why, and I say that as someone who has no interest in buying a Macintosh.