First Thoughts on 11

I decided it was time.

Microsoft has fixed a few of the most egregious Windows 11 launch bugs, I’d done my weekly backup, and I had a day off coming. So I went ahead and did the upgrade.

It’s been less than a week, so don’t expect a detailed catalog of everything that’s right and wrong with the latest opus from Redmond. Remember: it’s never too soon to make a good first impression.

The upgrade itself went smoothly enough, though Microsoft sucks at estimation. After ten minutes or so, the progress indicator said 70%. Ninety minutes later, it said 91%. The last nine percent took another couple of hours. Then, of course, there was the inevitable reboot, followed by more thumb-twiddling while Windows shuffled things into place.

Once my desktop appeared, it looked a lot like the old one. Some exceptions: the Taskbar can’t be at the top of the screen–my preferred location–any more, and having the icons centered instead of at the left side of the screen* looks decidedly odd.

* Windows 11 does allow you to left-align the icons, but I stuck with the default. It’s been easier getting used to than I expected, but I do have a lot of muscle memory around the Start button being in the upper left corner of the screen; there are still occasional delays while I reorient myself.

So far, I’ve only found one major annoyance. You may have heard that the Windows 10 Live Tiles (those tiny windows and icons to the right when you open the Start menu) are gone in Windows 11. It’s true. They are gone. I mean really gone.

At least three-quarters of Windows users will never notice or care–there’s a reason Microsoft got rid of Live Tiles, after all. But some of us actually used them. Clean out all the useless games links and other such nonsense Microsoft put there, and the Tile area became a convenient place to put frequently used files and programs. Anything you put there was no more than two clicks away.

Windows 11 does let you pin things to the Start Menu. It does not, however, transfer your pinned items from Win10. Instead, you get a no-doubt-carefully curated selection of useless nonsensepinned programs. Unpinning Microsoft’s choices and re-pinning mine took almost as long as installing the upgrade.

* Sources online seem to be unanimous in saying that you cannot pin individual documents–Word files, pictures, and so on–to the new Start Menu. This seems to be a half-truth. I was able to pin several spreadsheets, but Word documents and pictures don’t seem to work. I suspect it has something to do with the spreadsheets having been pinned in Win10. Further investigation seems warranted.

I could run through my list of Things That Don’t Work Right, but there’s not much point. Most of the glitches are minor-but-annoying, and can probably all be fixed with a little effort. I shouldn’t need to, mind you, but again, Win11 is new and needs some polishing. The upgrade experience should get better over time.

And now that I’ve finished playing the Upgrade Blues, Win11 seems to be working well. Anecdotally, it feels snappier than Win10. Searches are a little faster, programs feel like they’re launching more quickly, and the Windows Photos program–which used to take forever to load and display the first picture–is enormously faster.

WSL–the part of Windows that allows you to run Linux programs–finally supports graphical programs. There were already ways to run those programs, using some third-party tools. Now the functionality is there without any special setup. In theory, one can even add Linux programs to the Start Menu or Taskbar, but that doesn’t seem quite functional yet. Or maybe it’s one of those little glitches.

It’s going to take people some time to get past the whole “It doesn’t look like what I’m used to” thing, but once they do, I think the consensus will be that Win11 is an improvement over the past.

I’m still not recommending a general upgrade. There are plenty of issues that Microsoft needs to work out. Unless you have a specific need for something in Win11, stick with Win10 for now.

On the other hand, if you’re looking to buy a new computer, it’s probably going to come with Win11. Don’t be put off by it and don’t try to downgrade to Win10.

Trust me, Windows 11 will not be the horrid shock that was Windows 8.

3 thoughts on “First Thoughts on 11

  1. I just upgraded my laptop to Monterey, haven’t figured what hell that will bring on me yet, but I’m sure it’s coming.

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    • Ah, such an optimistic outlook!

      Which is not to say I disagree. There will be hell; there is always hell.

      On the other hand, it may well solve a problem or two left over from Big Sur and earlier (For instance, I’ve heard reports that the exfat support is considerably improved if you need to share media with non-Apple devices.)

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      • Well, it hasn’t solved the big problem I’d hoped it would solve, which is that I can’t connect the laptop to our primary router, only to the repeater. It keeps repeatedly asking me for the password to the primary router, and then it doesn’t connect. Other devices connect to the primary router, so it’s clearly the laptop. It is frustrating, I really don’t want to have to send the machine in now, while I am taking a photography class.

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