Windows 11: Microsoft’s pointless update

Sometimes, Microsoft has no choice but to upgrade Windows. Windows Millennium Edition, aka Windows Me, was awful. Its successor, Windows XP, was much better.

XP’s replacement, Vista, was lousy. Microsoft made us forget about Vista with Windows 7, which to many people — I’m one of them — was the best version of Windows.  Microsoft then tried, and failed, to replace it with the dismal Windows 8 and 8.1. Then, the company got it right again with Windows 10. That should have been the end of it.

While Windows continued to get major updates, such as Windows 10 version 21H1, the brand was still Windows 10 until it wasn’t. So it is that we now have Windows 11.

Do you notice a pattern here? Microsoft seems to alternate bad and then good operating systems releases. If Windows 10 was good, Windows 11 is going to be a poor successor.

After working with Windows 11 for a few weeks, I wouldn’t call it bad. Instead, I find it  pointless.

Yes, the Windows 11 security updates are good — if you have the right hardware. But  as I pointed out recently, you can already use those security updates if you’re running the Windows 10 20H2 release (Windows 10 October 2020 Update). So the point in upgrading from Windows 10 to 11 is…what, exactly?

Some people think it looks nice. That’s a matter of taste. To me, it’s “Meh.” It’s Windows 10’s face with some cosmetic “improvements” such as a taskbar with all your icons centered by default. The Start menu has returned and now comes with pinned and recommended apps. Windows 7 style widgets have also made a comeback. I don’t use them, mind you, but they’re there. Oh, and Live Tiles, buh-bye! (Did anyone ever use those?)

Upgrading an existing PC to Windows 11 is still something of a crapshoot. Some otherwise-fast processors can’t run it. And without Trusted Platform Module (TPM) 2.0, you’re going nowhere. Out of the half-dozen Windows 10 systems I or my partner owned in 2020, not one could run Windows 11. Before you even think about moving to Windows 11, you must run Microsoft’s PC Health Check app.

Updating a Windows 10 PC to 11 is also time-consuming.  My main Windows 11 test system is a Dell XPS 8940 Special Edition tower PC. This unit came with an 11th-Gen Intel Core 2.5GHz i7-11700 processor; AMD Radeon RX 5700 8GB GDDR6 graphics; 32GB of RAM, a 512GB PCIe M.2 Solid State Drive (SSD), and a 1TB SATA 7200 RPM HDD; and it’s connected to the Internet with a Gigabit connection. In other words, this is one fast machine. And it still took me more than an hour to upgrade it.

This is just me in my office, so that’s no sweat. But, if I had to upgrade dozens, or hundreds of machines, that’s a lot of expensive time for your IT staff and your workers twiddling their thumbs.

Oh, and did I mention that Windows 11 slows down AMD Ryzen CPUs by 10% to 15% on demanding applications? Or that Windows 11 doesn’t play nicely with Intel Killer and SmartByte networking software? Microsoft promises both problems will be fixed by Oct. 12.

Maybe all will be well soon. But what worries me is that these issues are pretty easy to spot, and they’re fundamental problems with AMD and Intel hardware. I mean, who runs Windows without AMD or Intel processors? How could Microsoft not have spotted and fixed these bugs long before the Windows 11 final release saw the light of day? What other problems with more obscure hardware or software might wait out there for you to stumble over? 

Oh, and here’s a problem I didn’t see at first because I run Windows 11 Pro. It turns out

If you’re using Windows 11 Home, you must have both an Internet connection and a Microsoft account to run Windows 11 at all. No, Internet, no Microsoft account, no Windows 11. You can’t set up a local user account or use your PC at all.

Sure, there aren’t a lot of people in that situation, but they are out there. I know. I burned an hour troubleshooting what looked like a failed Windows 11 installation when I finally stumbled over the Windows 11 Home hiccup.  Thanks, Microsoft.

Here’s my bottom line. I don’t see enough good in Windows 11 to make it worth your time to upgrade. Windows 11 doesn’t bring me one iota closer to anything I love. It’s just a dull, mildly annoying update that I can happily skip.

Pointless really is a good word for it.

Stick with Windows 10 for now. Eventually, you’ll have to buy a new PC with Windows 11, but there’s no need to rush into it. If you really feel like you want something different, and potentially better, might I suggest Linux Mint, a Chromebook, or Windows 365 Cloud PC?