Microsoft released Windows 11. But should you upgrade?

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# 1: The Go-Getter. Excited to see what Santa Satya and his merry elves have brought, you smash that update button faster than a Whac-A-Mole champion.

# 2: The put-It-Off-er. Like it’s a trip to the DMV, you delay – sometimes for years – until you know it’s safe to change this monumental life. (I’m looking at you, Windows 7 recalcitrant!)

Well, with Windows 11, which arrived on Tuesday, it’s better to put it off, at least for a few months. At launch, Microsoft’s latest looks more like Windows 10.5 than the company promised in its big announcement in June. And if you have an older PC, you might not be eligible for an upgrade, or even want one.

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Do not mistake yourself. I’m a fan of the visual makeover and new productivity tips, but the coolest features, including support for Android apps, third-party widgets, and universal mute control, are nowhere to be found. Also, I came to the conclusion that Windows 11 is mostly about Microsoft MSFT 2.00%

and its hardware partners selling more computers, not to breathe new life into your current computer.

Windows 11 brings the Start menu to the foreground on the taskbar.


Photo:

Joanna Stern / The Wall Street Journal

In fact, the minimum hardware requirements for Windows 11 are higher than for Windows 10. You can download Microsoft’s PC Health Check app to see if your computer is selected for the team. Microsoft takes a phased approach, slowly rolling out updates to eligible devices. You can check if your device has it by going to Settings> Update & Security> Windows Update. (Microsoft will continue to support Windows 10 until October 2025.)

My Windows 11 testing on three laptops from different years had a predictable result: a 2019 Dell XPS 13 performed slowly while a similarly aged Microsoft Surface Laptop 3 performed fine, although it needed some tweaking; and the all-new Surface Laptop Studio at $ 1,600 and above designed for Windows 11 worked as if it was designed for Windows 11.

I predict that eventually Windows 11, like Windows 10, will be perfect for all of its users, but for now, even if you are eligible for an upgrade, you should think about potential issues. I’ve mapped my experience with the new features to help you decide.

Windows 11 is loaded with new features, including a new Start menu that has been moved to the center and a Microsoft Store with Android apps. In an exclusive interview, WSJ’s Joanna Stern spoke with Microsoft CEO Satya Nadella about the software, the influence of the pandemic, and its strategy to compete with Google and Apple. An earlier version of the captions incorrectly transcribed Mr. Nadella’s name. Photographic illustration: Alex Kuzoian / The Wall Street Journal

A centered overhaul

Think of Windows 11 as your favorite restaurant after a renovation. It has a new coat of paint, a redesigned bar (that is, taskbar), new polished tables, and shiny new silverware. But the food you love stays the same. Everything from icons to menus has been given a modern feel, although sometimes you may see a context menu or settings that may not have been touched since George W. Bush was in the White House.

Sometimes you come across parts of Windows 11 that haven’t been modernized.


Photo:

Joanna Stern / The Wall Street Journal

The biggest aesthetic difference? The Start button and other taskbar icons have been moved to the bottom center. People coming from macOS or ChromeOS might appreciate this, but fear not, you die-hard left-corner fans: you can easily move it to the settings menu on the taskbar. You can also, luckily, remove the new predefined taskbar icons (ahem, Microsoft Teams Chat). You can continue to pin your favorite apps. As you add more, the Start button moves to the left.

An increase in productivity

Hover over a window’s Maximize button and the operating system will allow you to position it and other open windows in different layouts.


Photo:

Microsoft

My absolute favorite feature, Snap Layouts, allows you to easily organize multiple windows on the screen. Hover over the Maximize button and you’ll see different window layouts depending on the size and orientation of your screen: two side by side, a grid of four, etc. When you click an option, the tool places the current window in a location, and then suggests where other open windows should go.

Instant success for external monitor users: Windows 11 remembers which windows you had and where. When you unplug your monitor, they all minimize instead of piling up on your remaining screen. And when you reconnect, each window returns to its place.

The first version of Windows 11 still lacks one of Microsoft’s most touted features – the universal mute button. This is supposed to stop everyone’s favorite game “Cannot find mute button” and allow you to mute your mic at the system level. Microsoft has announced plans to add this feature at a later date.

Some widgets

A new widget icon on the taskbar launches this interface.


Photo:

Joanna Stern / The Wall Street Journal

I have long called widgets “apps for the lazy”. Instead of having you open an app or, God forbid, search the internet, the widgets are always there, providing information at a glance. They can be great. Here, however, they are not.

There are basics like weather and stocks, but I wanted those related to apps I use frequently, like Spotify or Twitter..

Microsoft has announced plans to start opening widgets to third parties at a later date. Plus, current Microsoft options are half-baked. The ones I’ve tried, including OneDrive, have taken me to websites rather than apps. And, despite the customization options, the new recommendations were pretty bad. (Maybe some version of me wants to read that pandas are too lazy for sex.)

A promising App Store

Microsoft Store’s TikTok app is actually just a website.


Photo:

Joanna Stern / The Wall Street Journal

For Microsoft, the new store is more than a place to get apps. Last June, CEO Satya Nadella positioned his store as an open market, unlike those operated by Apple and Google. Unlike them, it will be open to web apps, there won’t be any discount if the apps use their own payment systems, and it will even host third-party app stores. Amazon‘s

Android Appstore and Epic Games Store should be the first.

The new store makes it much easier to find apps and search is improved. Yet it is a confusing place. For example, I downloaded TikTok only to realize that this is just the TikTok website in its own window. There is no note explaining this in the store, unless you count the angry reviews. I came across this website situation with other apps including Instagram and Reddit.

Microsoft is announcing that Android apps will arrive on Windows 11 in the coming months. It would be nice to see clear labeling of the different types of apps, so you know what you are downloading.

A few hiccups

As my laptop testing history becomes clear, I have had mixed results with Windows 11 on a trio of PCs. A Dell XPS 13 just felt slower, despite its 10th generation Intel processor and 8 gigabytes of RAM. Even when I closed Slack, which was eating RAM like a hungry, hungry hippo, the computer still wasn’t as dynamic as it was in Windows 10. If your old computer is still running fine on Windows 10, you might think about it. twice before upgrading.

The Microsoft Surface Laptop Studio has a single display that can tilt forward and then fold back over the keyboard.


Photo:

Microsoft

I had a much better experience on a Microsoft Surface Laptop 3 with similar specs. Everything was fast and most of my stuff was right where I left it, with the exception of the microphone and speaker settings. On this one and the Dell the audio just wasn’t working until I used it.

When the Surface Laptop Studio came into my life, I had a much better understanding of what Microsoft wants Windows 11 to look like. With an 11th-gen quad-core Core i7 processor, Nvidia graphics, and 32GB of RAM, my $ 2,700 test machine runs like a Lambo on a freshly paved road. Everything takes place on its 14.4-inch, 120Hz touchscreen, which you can fold over the keyboard to turn it into a tablet. The biggest downside? The machine is a little bulky to transport.

This is really my take-home point: Windows 11 works great on crazy new laptops, and promoting them seems to be Microsoft’s central focus. The pandemic has kept people on their PCs longer than ever. What better way to keep people away from their old machines than with a fancy new operating system designed for fancy new hardware?

“We want people to have choice in their IT journey. This is why Windows 10 is here today and why Windows 11 is moving you forward with the technology you need right now, ”Panos Panay, Microsoft’s chief product officer, told me, adding that he would tell him. 89 year old father pressing the update button. on his Windows PC as soon as it appears.

He’s a user who won’t regret his decision, especially since his son is, you know, in charge of Windows. But for everyone else with a Windows 11 qualifying machine, maybe it’s best to be a put-it-off-er, at least until the issues are resolved and all the promised features are there to explore. .

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Write to Joanna Stern at [email protected]

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