Juha Saarinen: Dare I recommend Windows 11?

OPINION:

Although I thought I would, in the end I didn’t have to upgrade manually as Windows Update offered up Operating System version 11. This while at the same time saying it’s fine to stay on Windows 10, which is very courteous and careful.

That’s why Microsoft initially went with a staggered release of Windows 11, in case some unexpected issues would pop up. Users don’t seem to have had too many problems upgrading to Windows 11 however, and the release schedule is now speeded up. Should you upgrade then? I’m tempted to say yes, if you’re curious about the new stuff in Windows.

I don’t bother to check what size updates are anymore, as it’s become an academic question thanks to Orcon’s 4 gigabit/s HyperFibre fast downloads. The installation took much longer in comparison, and halted at 35 per cent, on an out-of-date driver for a utility I didn’t recognise. This turned out to be a German-developed data traffic shaping tool that prioritises games, and which came with the MSI motherboard in the PC.

Might be useful in other markets than NZ with congested broadband but I deleted the software and restarted the Windows 11 installation. Several system restarts later, I was able to log in to the system with its new Fluent design look.

If you just want a better, more modern looking Windows with different functions moved to more sensible places, a Windows 11 upgrade won’t disappoint. Yes, the Start button and other icons in the middle takes a bit of time to get used to, but that’s a small price to pay for a desktop interface that is nice and clean, and which seems y’know, 2020’s style, with new fonts and rounded corners for app windows.

Well, mostly: for reasons that aren’t entirely clear, you still find dialogs reminiscent of Windows variants many decades ago, especially the system settings ones. Maybe sysadmins would burn down their PC fleets if the look of those dialogs changed and they had to relearn where to change settings and features, but will the old cruft ever be replaced in Windows?

The “widgets” or small shortcuts to apps and information appear on the left-hand side of the screen which feels wrong and I hope this can be changed. However, the widgets themselves are fairly useful, something I never thought I’d say. Maybe I’m getting old.

I haven’t had enough time to properly trawl through the revamped Microsoft Store with apps, games, TV and movies but no music. If you want to vibe, you’ll need for example Spotify, Apple iTunes or Amazon Music, which are available on the Microsoft Store.

One big reason to upgrade to the latest version of any software is security. As mentioned in last week’s column, Windows 11 tightens up security by using special chips in newer PCs, and won’t run on older processors (well that’s the idea at least). It’s a work in progress as this a bad privilege escalation bug that bypasses fully patched Windows 10 and 11 released this week shows, but in general, newer software from a responsible vendor is always better.

I write that, feeling a strong need to sympathise with the people with much more important jobs than mine, like healthcare workers for example. Lots of them are still stuck on relatively ancient PCs, running Windows 7 as I happen to note recently at Auckland Hospital.

Windows 7 is no longer officially supported, and Microsoft stopped selling the Professional edition in 2016, and other versions two years before that. While it’s possible to get extended support and security updates until 2023 for Windows 7, it has some fundamental flaws that are difficult to fix. Maybe there are savings to be had by not upgrading to, say, Windows 10, but I’d like our health professionals and other public servants to enjoy a more secure IT platform nevertheless, especially with serious threats like ransomware lurking everywhere.

Back to Windows 11, it feels slick, polished and actually really rather nice to use. I’d like to run it for a longer period of time on a laptop for work, but based on my experience so far, I’d give the upgrade a cautious thumbs-up. I mean what could possibly go wrong, making me regret that?

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