Windows 11… what’s the point?

About a month ago I built myself a brand-new PC. When I was making my plans and getting ready for the build, one of the choices I had was that of the operating system. With the exception of some very early lessons at school using a BBC Micro, and playing a few games on a Commodore 64 owned by a friend, I’ve always used Microsoft products. My first ever PC ran Windows 95, and I’ve used every version of Windows since, either for school, work, or at home. Although I’m not an expert by any means, I consider myself a pretty experienced Windows user!

Microsoft initially promised that Windows 10 would be the “final” version of their landmark operating system, with updates and tweaks but no replacement. This is what Apple has been doing for over twenty years with macOS (formerly known as OS X) so it seemed like something Microsoft could do as well. That promise lasted barely six years – less if we assume that Windows 11 must’ve been in development behind-the-scenes for a while – and before we go any further it’s worth acknowledging that. The broken promises surrounding Windows 10 will have quite understandably soured some people on Windows 11 before they even got started.

The first PC I owned ran a different version of Windows!

I found Windows 10 to be okay, but it had some issues. There were graphical bugs that only afflicted 4K screen resolutions, an unnecessarily complex set of menus and settings, lag on some Bluetooth devices, and more. I reported a few of these issues to Microsoft not long after upgrading to Windows 10… but they ignored all of them. If nothing else, I felt that upgrading to Windows 11 would at least simplify the experience, getting rid of the multiple settings menus and finally allowing me to display extra-large icons.

But alas, Windows 11 has to be the shoddiest “upgrade” I’ve ever come across. Windows 11 isn’t even akin to the upgrade from Windows 8 to Windows 8.1, and practically all of my complaints and criticisms about Windows 10 remain in the operating system. At time of writing, Microsoft charges £120 for the Home version and £220 for the Pro version of Windows 11 – and there is no way in hell that it’s worth the money. You’re better off sticking with Windows 10 in the short-term.

Windows 11… it has TikTok!

As 4K screen resolutions have become more common, you’d think that Microsoft would allow Windows users to take full advantage of a good-looking display. Heck, Microsoft sells its own Surface products with 4K screens – and yet for some reason, incredibly basic things like extra-large icons don’t work with a 4K screen resolution. This issue was reported to Microsoft as early as 2017 – a full five years ago. Throughout the lifetime of Windows 10 they did nothing to fix it, and I’d given up on ever being able to use extra-large icons on Windows 10. But you’ll forgive me for thinking that such a basic, simple thing could’ve been included when a brand-new operating system was released.

Control Panel and Settings menus are also a major area of complaint. As early as Windows 8, Microsoft saw fit to include not one but two settings menus: the classic Control Panel and a new Settings menu. These two menus often overlap, and it can be exceptionally frustrating to be spending ages looking for something only to realise you can’t do it from the Settings menu and you have to go back to Control Panel – or vice versa. How difficult would it be to roll both menus into one? This is now the fourth operating system in a row to have this problem, and I know I’m not the only one bothered by it.

The Control Panel still exists… and still clashes with the Settings menu.

To me, the examples above show just how little care and effort Microsoft put into the development of Windows 11. There are a handful of new features – like the ability to install certain apps from Android, for instance – but nowhere near enough to justify the cost, nor even enough to justify calling Windows 11 a wholly new OS. It’s Windows 10.1 – a basic shell with a few new shiny features slapped carelessly atop Windows 10.

And that isn’t actually the worst part of it. Some of the “features” that Windows 11 has introduced has made the day-to-day experience of using the operating system significantly worse. One of the most basic features that I’ve used for years in Windows is the ability to see my scheduled calendar events at a single click. Click the bottom-right of the screen to pop open an expanded calendar, then click on a day to see what events are on the agenda. Windows 11 has taken away this phenomenally useful feature, forcing me to open the full calendar app.

The Widgets menu.

This is part of a trend that you’ll notice with Windows 11 from the very beginning: every feature, every useful little app, every widget… they’re all designed to push users to sign up for Outlook and OneDrive accounts. Even if you have a full Microsoft account – and using Windows 11 without one is pretty difficult, as basic things like changing to dark mode aren’t available to you in that case – Outlook and OneDrive are basically required to make the most of many Windows 11 features.

Want to see a slideshow of photos on the Photos widget? Tough luck, you need OneDrive for that. Want to check your schedule on the calendar without having to open the full app? Screw you, sign up for Outlook. This is Microsoft’s approach. To the corporation, it isn’t good enough that you’ve bought the OS; in order to use many of its most basic features they want to fully rope you into every Microsoft account, ecosystem, and most importantly, every possible subscription.

Windows 11 offers a lot of apps… but to take advantage of them you’ll need subscriptions and accounts.

Atop that there are some unnecessary cosmetic changes and menu changes that have again made doing everyday tasks complicated. Right-clicking now brings up a new, smaller menu, one which has replaced basic options like “Copy” and “Paste” with stupid little icons. In order to access really basic options that have been part of Windows for decades – like “Print,” for example – you need to right-click, then click to open a second options menu. Unnecessary menus hidden inside of menus seems to be one of the hallmarks of this underwhelming operating system.

Installing Windows 11 was not a smooth experience, either. Despite not actually being much more complex than Windows 10 in many respects – an OS that can run on most computers made in the last 15 years – Windows 11 has one of the biggest barriers to entry of any Microsoft release to date. By requiring a Trusted Platform Module (or TPM) Windows 11 is effectively off-limits to any PC more than four or five years old. Even pretty expensive PCs with good-quality components don’t comply with this requirement.

This is the screen that greeted me when I first tried to set up Windows 11.

One of the strangest bugs I’ve encountered so far is in the Event Viewer. While tracking down a particularly annoying problem that came about when I built my new PC, I noticed that the Event Viewer is completely flooded with the same message over and over and over again. At time of writing, my PC – which is less than two months old – has more than 20,000 instances of the same “DistributedCOM” warning. Microsoft’s official advice? That’s fine – it’s supposed to look like that!

Microsoft currently plans to end support for Windows 10 – a widely-adopted OS in light of the corporation’s promises that it would be the “final” Windows version – in late 2025, which is only three-and-a-half years away at time of writing! This cynical attempt to pressure users to upgrade is just disgraceful; previous versions of Windows lasted far longer after their successor systems were released. Support for Windows 7, for example, only ended two years ago, and Windows 8 and 8.1 are still supported at time of writing.

Windows 11 reminds me of Windows ME.

So that, in my experience so far, is Windows 11. It’s as if a team of some of the best software experts in the world sat down to create an operating system designed from the ground up with the sole objective of pissing me off – and they succeeded beyond their wildest expectations.

Windows 11 will be my operating system from this point forward – but only by default. Just like when I had Windows ME, Windows Vista, and Windows 8 and 8.1, I’ll begrudgingly tolerate it. But as soon as there’s a better OS available, I’ll take it. Windows 11 is, in my view, comparable to those failed experiments from Microsoft; the best thing I can say about it is that it may prove to be an incremental step on the way to something better.

We can but hope, right?

Windows 11 is available to purchase now. Windows 11, Windows, and all other properties mentioned above are the copyright of Microsoft Corporation. This article contains the thoughts and opinions of one person only and is not intended to cause any offence.

So Windows 11 is happening…

I avoided covering the rumours and so-called leaks a few weeks ago, but it turns out that Windows 11 really does exist and will begin being rolled out later this year or early next year. I was surprised to hear that Microsoft planned to release a whole new operating system so soon after Windows 10’s 2015 launch; Windows 10 was billed as the “final” version, with the prospect of updates and tweaks but no replacement. A mere six years later – or fewer, assuming that the new OS has been in development for a while – and Microsoft is ready to abandon that pledge.

Windows 10 is far from perfect. It’s an improvement over past versions of the operating system, of course, but it has its problems. For me, though, the worst thing about Windows 10 has been Microsoft’s lack of care. Bugs and issues which were reported to Microsoft more than five years ago – such as 4K displays not being able to use extra large icons – are still in the OS and it seems Microsoft just opted to ignore them.

Windows 11 is coming. Prepare yourself!

An update to Windows has been needed for a while, not just to address some of these bugs but to give the whole OS a bit of a refresh. But does it need to be a completely new operating system? Though Windows remains dominant across the PC space, a lot of people were initially sold on the upgrade to Windows 10 based on the promise that it would be the final version of the OS. Windows 10 had a solid launch because people were keen to upgrade from Windows 7 and Windows 8 on that basis – something that was helped by the upgrade being free at first.

To abandon that promise so soon after making it is going to sour at least some people on Windows 11 – even more so if the new upgrade won’t be free. I can’t find any information on that, by the way, so watch this space. Windows 10 has, over the course of the last few years, come to eclipse Windows 7 and 8 as the most-used operating system around the world, and with a renewed growth in the PC market partly thanks to lockdowns and working from home, I would have argued that Windows 10 is well-placed to ensure Microsoft’s continued dominance of the PC space going forward.

An example of a Windows 11 desktop.

Windows 10 will be Windows 11’s main competitor, at least in the first few months and even years of the new OS’ life. Apple Mac is its own walled garden, and Linux, despite some attempts to make “user-friendly” versions, is still a niche, enthusiast product. So Windows as a whole has no major competition in the PC realm – but Windows 11 will have to stand up against Windows 10, an OS with a built-in userbase that numbers in the billions.

Windows 11 will have to strike the right balance between offering improvements and changes but without being so different as to discourage users familiar with the basic Windows interface. Moving the Start button to the centre of the taskbar instead of leaving it in its familiar left-hand position is one of those dumb aesthetic things that’s likely to prove costly. Windows isn’t Mac, and shouldn’t try to imitate everything Apple does. Folks need familiarity, especially considering the prevalence of Windows in the business world, where many users aren’t as tech-savvy and just want something that they know how to use.

Does Windows need to copy Mac?

If Windows 11 can smooth some of the rougher edges of Windows 10, perhaps it will see success. And in the longer term, unless we get a repeat of the Vista problem followed in short order by another upgrade, I think Windows 11 will, simply by default, gradually roll out to more and more devices. As noted above, there simply isn’t a viable alternative for most PC users.

There are some concerning elements, though. I mentioned Vista, and that greatly-disliked operating system brought some elements to Windows that seem superficially similar to Windows 11. Widgets for the taskbar and desktop are the most notable. And from Windows 8, which was also considered a major disappointment, Windows 11 is bringing back the “multi-device” design, with the new OS supposedly being able to work on phones, tablets, touch-screens, and laptops as well as PCs.

Gaming was mentioned as part of Microsoft’s Windows 11 presentation.

One thing Windows 10 got absolutely right was its return to a focus on PC and standard keyboard and mouse input devices. I’m not convinced that enough people want a Windows 11 tablet or laptop to make building the entire OS around that concept worthwhile. Doing so risks making the desktop PC experience worse for users – and considering 99% of folks who use Windows do so on a desktop PC or laptop, that’s a mistake Microsoft can’t afford to repeat.

All that being said, I’ll give Windows 11 a shot when it’s ready. I like to stay up-to-date, and the newest version of Windows is an inevitability for someone who uses a PC daily. Might as well get in at the ground floor and start getting used to things – that’s been the attitude I had with every version of Windows since I first owned a Windows 95 PC!

I’ve been using Windows for a while now…

One point to note is that Microsoft’s current policy is to continue to support Windows 10 “through October 14, 2025.” That’s a scant four years away, and if it should happen that support for Windows 10 ends on that date, as Microsoft seems to be implying, then everyone will need to upgrade to Windows 11 at that time. If there’s a free upgrade offered for a limited time, as there was with Windows 10, it would make sense in my opinion to take it.

Despite lofty promises in 2015 about kids being able to grow up with the ever-present, unchanging Windows 10, six years later Microsoft is ready to ditch it in favour of a new operating system. It looks to offer some superficial visual changes, and while I’m hopeful it’ll fix some of the problems with 4K displays that Windows 10 has suffered from I don’t know that for sure. It feels unnecessary, but as Microsoft is utterly dominant in the PC realm, anyone with a Windows machine should think seriously about taking the upgrade when it rolls out in the months ahead.

When the official Windows 11 upgrade or launch happens, I hope you’ll check back for my full thoughts on the latest version of the operating system. Until then, all that’s left to say is I hope it’s a success along the lines of Windows XP, and not a disappointment like Windows 8 or, god forbid, Windows Vista.

Windows 11 is being released in late 2021 or early 2022 by Microsoft. Windows 11, Windows 10, and all other properties mentioned above are the copyright of Microsoft. This article contains the thoughts and opinions of one person only and is not intended to cause any offence.