By Delia / Last update January 18, 2022

Not long ago, Microsoft launched Windows 11 SE. This cloud-first version of Windows is uniquely designed for education customers and only comes pre-installed on low-cost devices like the Surface Laptop SE. And while the system is not open for purchase to the average user and cannot be installed on the device itself, it does provide the functionality and reliability of Windows 11 and relieves IT administrators of the burden of configuring Windows 11 SE devices for their schools in a few simple steps with Microsoft Intune for Education.

windows 11 se

How does Windows 11 SE work

Unlike Windows 11, the target audience for Windows 11 SE is the education community, not the average consumer or individual, which means you cannot find Windows 11 SE devices for purchase through Microsoft's own consumer store, though the limitations are not absolute and you can still purchase Windows 11 SE devices through Microsoft partners.

Typically, education customers use cloud-based tools, such as Microsoft Intune, to configure Windows 11 SE devices for students. With this configuration, administrators can load Microsoft-approved Win32 and Microsoft Store applications for student use. In addition, the Windows 11 SE experience is limited to pre-installed applications such as Edge, Office, Flipgrid, and Minecraft for Education. there are also a few select system applications such as Groove, Photos, Paint, Calculator, News, and To Do.

windows 11 se pcs

While Windows 11 SE supports Microsoft-approved Win32 Microsoft Store applications, you cannot install these applications on your own through Windows 11 SE itself. There are no Microsoft Store apps either. Intune is the way to get everything done. You can see how it compares to the other Windows versions above.

However, without Intune configured, logging into a Windows 11 SE device with just a Microsoft account is fine, but the experience will be limited. With no Intune, you will face application and management issues. Microsoft even warns that if you use a Windows 11 SE device for personal use, it may be "too restrictive". However, from the point of view of Microsoft fans and consumers, it is these limitations that make Windows 11 SE unique.

Windows 11 SE vs Windows 11

No Widgets

A major change in Windows 11 SE that applies to all users, whether they use Intune or not, is the omission of Widgets, one of the signature features of Windows 11 that gave people quick access to news, weather, and other content.

However, in Windows 11 SE, Microsoft removed it for educational users to create a more distraction-free environment. Pressing Windows + W does nothing, and the icon is missing from the taskbar. Even the gadget settings are missing from the taskbar settings.

windows 11 se personalization

File Explorer behavior

The behavior of File Explorer in Windows 11 SE is very different from that of Windows 11. Instead of opening in windowed mode, it opens in full screen by default. This allows you to see more on the screen and minimizes distractions. All applications also respect this behavior and will load full screen by default. This makes sense for students as it can help improve concentration.

Snap Layouts changes

Another signature feature of Windows 11 is the Snap layout. With this feature, you can stack your windows in six different ways to increase productivity. However, in Windows 11 SE, the Snap Layout is limited to two side-by-side options. This reduces complexity for students and again helps them focus.

Note that Snap Layouts is limited to two layouts, even on larger monitors. The size of the resolution does not affect the limitations of Snap Layouts and it appears to have been integrated into Windows 11 SE itself.

windows 11 snap layouts

Application limitations

There are also restrictions on those applications. While IT administrators can load Win32, UWP, and Microsoft Store apps onto Windows 11 SE devices through Intune, there are some limitations. there are only 6 approved app types for Windows 11 SE.

Content filtering applications

Testing solutions

Assistive technology

Classroom communication applications

Basic diagnostics, management

Support applications

Any applications that do not fall into these categories cannot be installed on Windows 11 SE. Microsoft says Windows 11 SE supports a carefully curated set of applications that were selected based on feedback from educators and IT administrators and is willing to support new applications upon request.

Other system limitations

Windows 11 SE is focused on education, and it locks end users out of some of the features of Windows 11. We've already mentioned the lack of a Microsoft Store, and the installation of Win32 applications, but there's more. For example, you can't get to Command Prompt. in addition, you can't even get to the traditional Control Panel. It is listed, but clicking on it leads to an error message.

Some of the features of Windows 11 SE are reminiscent of the "S Mode" that comes with some Windows 10 or Windows 11 computers. In an FAQ, Microsoft says there is no way to switch from Windows 11 SE to a different version of In an FAQ, Microsoft says there is no way to switch from Windows 11 SE to a different version of Windows.

However, it also says that if you want to use a Windows 11 SE device for personal use, you can buy a license for the version of Windows you prefer and delete all your data, but note that there is no way to go back to Windows 11 SE.

Windows 11 SE vs S mode

Windows 10 or Windows 11 in S mode is a more restricted and locked down Windows operating system. On Windows 10 in S mode, you can only install apps from the App Store and you can only browse the web using Microsoft Edge.

In contrast to S Mode, Windows 11 SE is optimized for institutional use first and foremost, not available to consumers. This is the most critical difference between the two.

Also, Windows 11 SE has a more simplified user interface, no Microsoft Store, and no way to switch to regular Windows 11. Microsoft also says that Windows 11 SE has built-in enhancements to optimize performance on low-end hardware.

Also, Windows 11 SE is cloud-first, so it requires less memory and uses less space than traditional Windows Pro, so it can perform faster. All of this suggests that Windows 11 SE is more of an improvement on the original version of Chrome OS from Microsoft.