How is Windows 10 on ARM different from the now defunct Windows RT?

After what seems like forever, Microsoft is finally working on a version of Windows 10 for ARM hardware, and it’s quite different from Windows RT. For those unaware, Windows RT is a version of Windows 8 that powered the first Surface device from Microsoft.

Consumers did not gravitate towards Windows RT because it wasn’t the full version of Windows 8, despite. However, with Windows 10 on ARM, consumers will get the full version of Windows 10 with the ability to run traditional desktop apps as long as they are downloaded from the Windows Store.

Why is Windows 10 on ARM a great idea

PCs based on the x86 architecture are great, but ARM-based computers have their advantages. For example, they have better battery life and LTE cellular connectivity built-in. Furthermore, the hardware is less expensive. Intel has been trying for quite some time to compete with ARM where battery life and pricing is concerned, but the company is yet to gain a significant advantage.

The latest processors from Intel are great, and while they have done wonders for Windows 10 2-in-1 PCs where battery life is concerned, pricing is still too steep.

ARM processors are not as quick, but they provide quality battery life, and that’s something Microsoft is unable to bypass.

Windows 10 on ARM supports x86 programs

When it comes down to downloading and installing x86 apps from outside the store, this is not possible. Well, it is feasible to download these x86 apps, but installing them is another matter. As stated above, users must venture to the Windows Store in hopes of finding their favorite x86 app.

As of right now, the Windows Sore is mainly home to regular apps, so we wouldn’t recommend purchasing an ARM-based laptop with Windows 10 for those who use x86 programs on a regular basis.

Here’s the thing, x86 emulation runs entirely in software so that computer users might come across problems in the long term. Yes, Microsoft demoed Windows 10 running on ARM with the desktop version of Photoshop as the main showcase.

That’s great, but fans should expect slowdowns, especially with demanding programs. Keep in mind, Qualcomm processors are not as powerful when compared to what Intel and AMD are bringing to market. Performance issues are a given when using x86 apps via 100 percent software emulation.

Possible issues with older drivers

While Microsoft figured out how to power Windows 10 on ARM, there’s no way the company will be able to fix the problem of driver support the easy way. Most drivers today were built with x86 and x64 processors in mind. They simply won’t work with ARM hardware unless companies create a separate driver from scratch.

Windows 10 for ARM will ship with Windows 10 S OS

Windows 10 S

For those who might be wondering, the Windows 10 for ARM will ship with Windows 10 S operating system, which is not designed for ARM processors only. The Surface Laptop runs Windows 10 S with x86 hardware, which means, users can easily upgrade to Windows 10 Pro if they’re missing the old way of doing things.

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Vamien McKalin possesses the awesome power of walking on water like a boss. He's also a person who enjoys writing about technology, comics, video games, and anything related to the geek world.


  1. ReadandShare

    Wonder how many legacy x86 apps will make their way to the Windows store?

  2. Serpentbane

    “Windows 10 on ARM is called Windows 10 S”

    This is not true. As you wrote Windows 10 S also runs on X86 hardware, Windows 10 on ARM does not.

    In short, Windows 10 S is a Version of Windows 10 running Microsoft Store apps only. Windows 10 ARM with x86 emulation is not limited only to the Microsoft Store.

    Now, there might be Windows 10 S on ARM at some point, but S and ARM is not the same.

  3. Serpentbane

    There are tons of differences, but lets make it easy and say WinRT and Win10S shares the same purpose and look at what’s most important for the consumer.

    Win10S and WinRT are both Microsoft Store only builds, and are only able to install applications from the Store. For some this could be considered a limitation, for others it equals a safer OS as damaging code are largely limited or unable to execute at all.

    The most noticeable and important difference is while WinRT really was a “lighter” OS, Win10S is not. W10S is limited from executing Win32 applications and in some other ways, removing the need for a registry for these applications etc. Depending a little on the HW you’ll see slightly to noticeable faster boot times and longer lasting battery.

    This leads us to another important difference in how Win10S is upgradeable to full Win10 only by changing the license should you feel limited.

    When WinRT was released people were not used to the new interface, they were not used to the concept of having a store in Windows, everyone failed to see past what WinRT was not and nobody tried looking at what WinRT was good at, and developers were slow in adopting the new OS. AKA the never ending story about the Microsoft Store and the lack of developer support. With Win10 this is about to change. Although Microsoft Store is not comparable to the other app stores the number of apps are increasing, and so is the quality. Adobe have said they are focusing on UWP development, and there are several “desktop” games in the store as well. People choosing Win10 stores are not as lost as WinRT might have felt.

    I’d also like to point out the hardware availability, with a high number of devices from different manufacturers available and coming.

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