How Does the Windows App Store Work?

By Andy Rathbone

In Windows 10, apps, which are mini-programs specialized for single tasks, come from the Windows Store, available with a click on the taskbar’s Windows Store icon.

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Apps differ from traditional desktop programs in several ways:

  • Windows 10 allows apps to run within desktop windows rather than consuming the entire screen as they did in earlier Windows versions. When running in Tablet mode, though, apps return to their full-screen behavior. Programs can run in windows or full screen, whichever seems most convenient.

  • Apps are tied to your Microsoft account. That means you need a Microsoft account to download a free or paid app from the Store app.

  • When you download an app from the Windows Store app, you can usually run it on up to eighty-one (yes, 81) PCs or devices — as long as you’re signed in to those PCs or devices with your Windows account. (Some apps may raise or lower that number.)

  • Newly installed apps consume just one Start menu tile. Newly installed programs, by contrast, often sprinkle several tiles onto your Start menu.

Apps and programs can be created and sold by large companies, as well as by basement-dwelling hobbyists working in their spare time.

Although desktop programs and Start menu apps look and behave differently, Microsoft unfortunately refers to both as apps. You might run across this terminology quirk when dealing with older programs, as well as newer programs created by companies not hip to Microsoft’s new lingo.