23rd September 2023

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Technology and Computer

The good and bad about Windows 11

Recently on Askwoody.com, someone asked what’s wrong with Windows 11. The resulting comments got me to thinking about the pros and cons of Microsoft’s latest desktop operating system.

To start with, like many Windows users, I’m having to buy my way into Windows 11 because of its particular hardware requirements. Most of my computers at home and in the office cannot be upgraded. Sure, I could use any number of ways to bypass the hardware requirements, but that’s something I would only do on spare machines and on non-business systems. In fact, while you might want to do this on at least one home machine as a test, you probably shouldn’t do so if you only have one computer.

I did try this tactic on an older Surface device not supported on Windows 11 and while the system received normal security updates, I had to manually upgrade it to Windows 11 22H2 using the Windows 11 installation assistant. Microsoft does warn that “If you proceed with installing Windows 11, your PC will no longer be supported and won’t be entitled to receive updates. Damages to your PC due to lack of compatibility aren’t covered under the manufacturer warranty.” That said, my device wasn’t under warranty anyway, and it did get security updates automatically.

The bottom line is this: Windows 11’s hardware requirements keep many users out of the Windows 11 ecosystem.

Microsoft is clearly listening more to user feedback. Right-mouse-click options changed. File Explorer changed. And Microsoft recently unveiled more changes in Build 23475: “Now that File Explorer is powered by Windows App SDK, we are introducing a modernized File Explorer Home powered by WinUI. Recommended files for users signed into Windows with an Azure Active Directory (AAD) account will be displayed as a carousel and support file thumbnails, which is coming soon. Quick Access folders (available by default for users signed into Windows with a Microsoft account), Favorites, and Recent also bring in an updated experience with WinUI. We are also introducing a modernized address bar and search box to File Explorer. The new address bar intelligently recognizes local vs. cloud folders with built-in status. For OneDrive users, you’ll notice the address bar now contains your OneDrive sync status and quota flyout.”

We may not be able to easily move the task bar to the top or the right, but we are getting more changes to items that annoy users. Windows 11 has changed since its original release.

The bottom line here: Windows 11 shows Microsoft does listen to feedback, albeit slowly.

One thing to note about Windows is the vast ecosystem built up around the platform. Many users complain Microsoft isn’t moving quickly enough to modernize File Explorer. But if it moves too fast, too many things that rely on File Explorer will be affected. Think back to 2001, when Apple totally revamped its desktop OS and released Mac OS X; the platform was changed so drastically that even important apps like Microsoft Word didn’t work, drivers were late in coming and many peripherals had to be replaced.

Because so many businesses have standardized on Windows, making drastic changes just isn’t in the cards. Businesses still see Windows as the backbone of their desktops and workstations. Sure, web servers for businesses run Linux and Apple’s macOS is now seeing more use in the enterprise. But the vast majority of employees still use Windows.

Therein lies a rub — migrating all of these Windows 10 platforms by time support ends in October 2025 is going to be hard. (It’s one of the reasons I predict that Microsoft will offer some sort of transition process before that 2025 deadline.)

Another downside: Businesses can’t afford to replace all of their Windows 10 machines by October 2025.

Lately, I’ve seen a lot of users on social media say they’re beginning to get used to Windows 11, that it’s even growing on them. As I’ve started to deploy Windows 11 in the office, I’ve been surprised to find that changes that annoyed me — revamped mouse-clicks and Task Manager tweaks — are being embraced by users. While some think of Windows 11 as the “Vista” release of Windows, meaning it’s a transition release before we get to a version of Windows we really like, on the right hardware and with workarounds that bypass the revised menu system, people in my office actually like it. Just as Vista worked well on the right setup, Windows 11 is just fine on the right hardware, and once you customize it the way you want it to be, the platform can grow on you.

This gets us to my final point: Ultimately Windows 11 is Windows. Its menus and file explorer can be customized and it still runs the Windows apps users are familiar with.

Therein lies the ultimate reason most people stay with Windows: there is a familiarity about it. We wax poetic about past versions, but each of those faced similar issues and we all adjusted. Ultimately, what’s good (or bad) about Windows 11 depends on each user. So, what do you think is  good or bad about Windows 11. Join the conversation online and let me know.

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