Windows 11 SE: Microsoft’s answer to the distance learning problem

Surface Laptop SE is a Windows 11 SE compatible device for K-8 classrooms.


Microsoft introduced Windows 11 SE, its new student-focused operating system, on November 9 after the rollout of Windows 11 in October. Windows 11 SE was designed with students and teachers in mind and aims to provide a simple, distraction-free environment for kids, according to Microsoft.

It is not the first operating system designed by Microsoft for students. Windows 10S was Windows 10‘s student-focused mode, but Microsoft said this version of Windows 10 only blocks certain apps from downloading, like Parental Controls. Conversely, Windows 11 SE is a separate operating system with particular emphasis on remote management.

After many schools across the United States began distance learning during the pandemic, access to reliable hardware and software was crucial for many school-aged children to continue their studies. Microsoft designed Windows 11 SE with this in mind.

What is Windows 11 SE?

Windows 11 SE is a cloud-based operating system designed for K-8 classes, with a streamlined design and controlled application installation, according to Microsoft. Since the software is class-oriented, you probably won’t find it in stores. Instead, Windows 11 SE comes preloaded on some Microsoft devices that Microsoft plans to sell to educational organizations.

Can you install Windows 11 SE on your personal laptop?

Unfortunately no. You cannot install Windows SE on your laptop like you would upgrade from Windows 10 to Windows 11. But conversely, if you need it, you can purchase another version of Windows and install it on a Windows 11 SE compatible device after the device has been wiped by an IT admin. However, the device will not be able to revert to Windows 11 SE, so be careful before taking this step.

What apps work on Windows 11 SE devices?

Microsoft Office, Teams, Minecraft for Education, and OneNote all come preloaded on Windows 11 SE, and apps like Google Chrome and Zoom can be downloaded. However, only admins can download and manage other apps through Microsoft Intune for Education. Microsoft has given this list of the six types of apps that can be downloaded:

  • Content filtering applications
  • Testing “solutions”
  • Accessibility apps
  • Effective communication applications in the classroom
  • Essential diagnostic, management, connectivity and support applications
  • Browsers

Apps like Spotify and Messenger haven’t made a difference. This means less distraction on Windows 11 SE devices. However, Microsoft has said that apps that run in a web browser will still work.

You also cannot change the operating system settings. Like apps, only admins can edit them. Administrators will also have the ability to wipe the device remotely.

How does Windows 11 compare?

The main difference between Windows 11 and Windows 11 SE is that Windows 11 was designed for personal use, while Windows 11 SE was designed for remote management in computer or classroom environments. The different intents affect how users can get the operating system and what applications can run on the systems. You can upgrade to Windows 11 from Windows 10, and Windows 11 has no app limitation. On Windows 11 SE, only admins can add apps, and even then from a limited selection. Otherwise, the systems look and function the same.

If you are interested in Windows 11, you can read more about the The best features of Windows 11, or you can learn more about the operating system multitasking features that can help you increase your productivity.

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Steven L. Nielsen