What if the Xbox Series X, or S for that matter, could serve as your main PC?
I mean, it’s got all the components it needs to be a fully-fledged PC, right?
There’s a CPU, GPU, RAM, hard drive…
Just think: what could you do if Microsoft’s little grey tower was married with windows 10? You could download games from Steam. Answer emails. Make Games. Make Art. Program the next big Android app… The possibilities are endless.
All this dreaming got me thinking: Could you actually install Windows 10 on the Xbox Series X or S?
Excited by the prospect of turning my Xbox Series X into a gaming PC, I pulled on my best Sherlock Holmes impersonation cap and started an investigation.
This is what I found:
Can the Xbox Series X run Windows 10? No, neither the Xbox Series X or S can run Windows 10. There are a number of technical issues including driver and file system incompatibility that will stop you from installing Windows 10 on an Xbox Series console. Plus, there are a number of business reasons why Microsoft will not let you install Windows 10 on an Xbox Series x or S.
Ok, now you know Windows 10 isn’t on the Xbox Series X or S, you probably want to know why. In the following sections I’ll take at the technical and business reasons Windows 10 can’t be installed on the Xbox Series X and S. Let’s take a look.
Can Xbox Series X or S Run Windows 10?
First, I wanted to be clear on this point: There is no way for the Xbox Series S or X to run windows 10.
It can’t be installed on the Xbox’s internal SSD nor can it be installed on an external hard drive and “side loaded” onto the console.
Microsoft have, for all intents and purposes, made it impossible to use Windows 10 on an Xbox Series console.
Do not expect that to change in the future.
As you’ll see later in the article, Microsoft has strong business reasons to exclude Windows 10 from the Xbox Series X and S.
But before I look at the business reasons why, I want to take a look at some of the technical reasons why Windows 10 can’t be installed on your own Xbox Series X.
Technical reasons Why Xbox Series X and S can’t run Windows 10
Before I dive into the juicy business reasons why Microsoft won’t let you install windows 10 on your Xbox Series X, I wanted to take a look at some of the technical hurdles that will trip you up.
Xbox Series X and S have their own custom OS
Microsoft, like every other console manufacture before them, built a custom OS for their Xbox Series consoles.
This OS, we’ll call it xOS, was designed around the Xbox Series X and S’ fixed hardware. This was in an effort to extract as much performance from the hardware as possible and reduce the OS’s burden on the system. xOS is F1 car of an OS. It’s designed for doing one thing well: Speed.
On the other hand, Windows 10 is a rather hefty beast. Think of it like a pickup truck. It’s a lot more versatile than an F1 car. But versatility comes at a cost: It’s master of nothing. It’s not as quick as an F1 car. It’ can’t carry as big a load as a truck. It’s not as comfortable as a Sedan. But, it’s good enough at doing everything.
Windows 10 is the truck: Master of none, but useful in thousands of situations. It’s designed to be good at everything and work with millions of different PC hardware combinations. But it doesn’t excel at any one partuclar thing. This one-size-fits-all approach means Windows 10 is a slow, boated piece of software, by design because it needs to carry all the software to make all these possible PC combinations work. The Xbox Series X needs a more nimble OS, hence xOS is build for one single set of hardware..
Though the Xbox hardware is often compared to PC hardware, they are not the same.
Xbox hardware has multiple custom additions and components that PCs do not have. These custom additions help Microsoft extract the maximum amount of performance from what are essentially a low to medium spec PC components.
The problem is, these custom hardware additions do not have any drivers available for them to “talk” to Windows 10 and function correctly. Drivers are like software phone lines between the hardware and the OS. The driver lets the OS communicate and control the hardware. Without the drivers, the OS can’t talk to the hardware making it useless.
Xbox Series X and S are locked down
The Xbox has an extremely secure boot process.
Not only does the boot process protect the console from malicious software such as viruses and malware, it erects a wall against which any and all unsanctioned 3rd parry software bounces off, including Windows 10.
Xbox Uses a Different file system
To the best of my Knowledge, Xbox consoles use a file system called xFAT, where as Windows uses a files system called NTFS.
You’d think that these systems could easily be integrated. But Windows would need a complete re-write to get it working with the xFAT file system.
Think of it this way, imagine trying to physcially fit a filing cabinet’s worth of paper files on a a USB Stick hard drive, without digitising the files.
One file system uses physical paper, the other uses digital 1s and 0s to represent files. It’s physically impossible. You’d have to completely re-write the physical paper files, digitising them, to fit them onto the USB drive
The same is the case with the Xbox and Windows file systems.
The Real reason why Xbox Series X and S will never run Windows 10
Now, you can see there are a fair few technical issues that prevent you from installing Windows 10 on your Xbox Series X.
But hang on. Microsoft owns the Xbox Series X/S and Windows 10. Surely it would be easy for them to get Windows 10 singing on their own consoles?
Easy probably isn’t the right word. But of course it would be possible. It’s just that Microsoft chooses not to put Windows on Xbox for business reasons.
Let’s take a look at some of those reasons.
Xbox Series X and S were designed for entertainment only
Microsoft did not design their console to be used for productivity tasks. The Series X and S are first and foremost game consoles designed to play some of the best games in the world. Second they can be used as a media device to watch TV shows on Netflix and Disney Plus.
By allowing end users to install Windows 10 on its consoles, Microsoft opens the door to productivity use. This could undermine their other hardware franchises such as the Surface tablets, Surface notebooks, and all in one PCs.
Microsoft wants full control of the Xbox Eco-System
Currently, the Xbox Series X and S OS ensures that the consoles remain a closed echo system.
This means that no 3rd party software can be used on the Xbox Series X or S without express prior permission from Microsoft. Every game developer and publisher needs to get’s Microsofts approval before their software is allowed on the Xbox.
By Microsoft disabling the installation of unauthorised 3rd party apps, including Windows 10, they create a walled garden marketplace which they have complete monopoly over.
They can charge whatever they like for games and they have no 3rd party companies acting as competition to help drive down prices.
Another reason why Microsoft want this closed eco system is because they don’t make a profit from their consoles. They only make a profit from the games. So it’s important for them to control where people can buy those games and how they can access them.
Windows 10, due to its open nature, is rife with piracy. Stolen games, ripped blu-rays, and torrented music can easily be found on the Internet and wrongfully downloaded by a Windows 10 PC.
By letting users install Windows 10 on the Xbox Series X, Microsoft open their console’s vault up to pilfering and piracy.
Stop 3rd Party game stores from selling games on their console
As I touched on above, Microsoft makes most of it’s profits on Xbox Series X and S from selling games.
By letting users instal Windows 10, Microsoft would be opening their system up to 3rd party PC game stores such as Steam and the Epic game store. This is the last thing Microsoft wants to do as these 3rd party game stores could steal game sales away from Microsoft’s own online digital store.
These 3rd party stores would also add unwanted competition that could potentially force Microsoft to lower its game prices in order to compete.
By blocking our ability to install Windows 10, Microsoft controls the entire Xbox eco system and can monopolise the Xbox Marketplace. This gives them the ability to charge what they like for games without fear of a competitor undercutting them.