Since Microsoft officially took the wraps off of Windows 11 earlier this year, the response has been mixed. The most divisive aspect of the new interface is the massively changed Start Menu. In the past versions of Windows, we have had a semi-consistent experience. Windows 8 introduced Live Tiles and highly customizable geography for them. That continued into Windows 8.1. The concept followed into Windows 10, but the Menu aspect returned, rather than a Start Screen (though you could use a full-screen option).
Windows 11 has done away with every aspect of that Start Menu evolution and, instead, has changed the paradigm entirely again. First, the Start Menu defaults to the center of the screen, which is neither attractive nor functional. Fortunately, you can fix it in the settings. The menu is also oddly structured, somehow managing to take up more physical screen real estate while feeling too small to be useful. A lot of this feeling comes from the "Recommended" area, which takes up almost half of the popover. You get 3 rows of 6 apps, but also get 3 rows of recommended files. You can turn off this feature, but you do not get that real estate back. Instead, you get a reminder that it's turned off.
On the positive side, Windows 11 has worked hard to unify the interface. Windows 10 had a mixed experience, with large parts of the operating system still looking like Windows 7 (File Explorer), some parts looking like Windows 8 (media controls), and some looking like Windows 10 (Settings app). Windows 11 has worked to bring all of it into a single design style, with File Explorer, the media controls, and the Settings app all getting overhauls. In fact, even Microsoft Paint got its own new coat of paint for the first time in years.
In addition, Avram's favorite new feature is the Snap Assistance. Mousing over the maximize button on the titlebar of a window will bring up a collection of options for Snap. In Previous versions, you could drag a window to the edge of the monitor and half-screen snap. But, in Windows 11, you get a lot more choice, including 3 sections, quarters, and more.
If you've decided that it is time to upgrade, it might be a challenge. Microsoft is rolling out the upgrade over several months, so you might not immediately get the "offer." But, you can get the Upgrade Assistant and upgrade right now. There is another issue at hand, though - the strict upgrade rules. If your computer is not running entirely supported hardware, there is still a way to install Windows 11.
It is important to note, though, that following these instructions can cause issues. Microsoft has said that unofficial installations will not receive official support. As of right now, we don't entirely know what that means, but there has been suggestion that Windows Update will not work and services like Microsoft Defender might also fail, so take these steps with consideration.
Scott is a developer who has worked on projects of varying sizes, including all of the PLUGHITZ Corporation properties. He is also known in the gaming world for his time supporting the rhythm game community, through DDRLover and hosting tournaments throughout the Tampa Bay Area. Currently, when he is not working on software projects or hosting F5 Live: Refreshing Technology, Scott can often be found returning to his high school days working with the Foundation for Inspiration and Recognition of Science and Technology (FIRST), mentoring teams and helping with ROBOTICON Tampa Bay. He has also helped found a student software learning group, the ASCII Warriors, currently housed at AMRoC Fab Lab.
Avram's been in love with PCs since he played original Castle Wolfenstein on an Apple II+. Before joining Tom's Hardware, for 10 years, he served as Online Editorial Director for sister sites Tom's Guide and Laptop Mag, where he programmed the CMS and many of the benchmarks. When he's not editing, writing or stumbling around trade show halls, you'll find him building Arduino robots with his son and watching every single superhero show on the CW.
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Yes. So welcome to the age of Windows 11. Because as of October 5th, you can that -Windows 11 is an official operating system. Now if you've been following along, either with our show or just with the news in general, you know that people have been able to use Windows 11 as a beta product. If you were in the Windows Insider Program, anyone could get it since June. But it is now if you've been holding out, it is now officially official. It is final. However, that does not mean that everybody who has an eligible PC and eligible get- a one second, an update, can automatically update right now, or will be offered an update right now because Microsoft is rolling it out over a period of months, and has said that some folks won't get the offer to upgrade until you know till 2022. Now, there's a way around that where you can get it today. And I'll talk about that in a second. First of all, what do you, let's talk about what you need to run Windows 11. And then we'll talk about whether you should run Windows 11. So first of all, what do you need to run Windows 11? You need, at least you need a dual-core CPU that supports TPM 2.0. security, which realistically means because they have a list of supported CPUs, you need an Intel 8th Gen CPU or newer, or an AMD Ryzen 2000 series CPU or newer. You need a- you need at least up at least I think 8 gigs of RAM and 4 gigs you need at least 4 gigs of RAM 64 gig of storage. And the CPU requirement is,I think. the tougher one to meet. So if you meet all those requirements, and if you're not sure there's a PC health check app you can run. But if you meet those requirements, you can look in your Windows 10 settings right now and it will probably tell you, "hey you're eligible for the upgrade" and it may or may not say you can download the upgrade right now or you have to wait. You do not have to wait if you really want Windows 11. There is something called the Windows Upgrade Assistant- update assistant that you can download from Microsoft.com. Run that and it will force an update right away provided that your system meets all the requirements. But let's get to the heart of the matter. Should you even, should you do it? So let's take, for those who haven't been keeping up, let's take a quick look. And I will share my screen. And you can see what, what Windows 11 looks like. So, this is the default screen for Windows 11. This stuff on top is because I'm running this in a virtual machine. That means it is running on top of my regular Windows so I can show it to you without interfering with my regular computer. And obviously, you notice that it has the taskbar here. To start centered, you have the start menu here, which does not have live tiles anymore. Got to click through to see all your apps. Besides that, we have context menus that have been shortened. And if you want to see all the options, you’ve got to right-click and see a few more options. You have a widget, you have multiple desktops as you had before in Windows 10. You have this widget module which allows you to kind of, it's basically the homepage of MSN. You have the Microsoft Store which has been given a sort of fresh coat of paint, which may or may not load as I tried to show it to you, but it's the Microsoft Store nothing too exciting. You have Windows look a little bit different, they're a little more rounded. And you have these snap options which are kind of neat, to help you kind of figure out "Oh, I want this layout of that layout". Of course, this all is assuming you've got multiple windows open. It handles multiple windows and desktops a lot better than it used to. Because if you're connected to an external monitor, let's say on a laptop, and then you disconnect, instead of just automatically moving your windows over and opening them on the having to take a space on the laptop screen, it will be minimized to reconnect again or move them. So it handles some of that stuff better. But it does some things a lot worse. First of all, you have a lot less control over the taskbar. You cannot move it. I mean, there's hacks that I can talk about that will let you move it but officially, you cannot move this, you cannot resize it, what you can do is you can make the icons aligned to the left. If you want officially, you know with the settings menu, you can do that. I can go to Taskbar behaviors and I can set it to left. But you cannot ungroup the icons. So if you want to have, let's say you've got multiple windows open, in previous Windows, you could say "oh yeah, I'm gonna make sure that each of these has its own icon" -can't do it. So you can't easily- there's just not as much control and customization over a lot of things that you had control over custom and customization over. I also personally hate the Start. These are the search menu on Windows 10. You had it in the bar. Here, you got to,I mean, I guess it's effectively the same number of clicks, but you got to, you got to click to see it. The Start Menu takes up more space but actually seems to have less of it without you clicking. So there's pluses and minuses and then it's time to talk performance. So there have been a couple of stories that have come out about Windows 10- Windows 11 performance. And one of them from one of them, AMD themselves, said we have to issue a patch later this month because we've seen performance slowdowns in Windows 11 on our processors, and pretty much all of their modern-day processors, even you know 1st Gen Ryzen. Second, almost all of the processors anyone would have from AMD, slowdowns of up to 15%. And that is so, that so that's pretty bad if you're on AMD. Another thing that has come out is that our colleagues at PC Gamer wrote a story where they said, "holy cow, Microsoft's new security setting, which is known as HBCI or memory isolation can slow down gaming up to 25%". Now, there, we did our own study of Tom's Hardware and we actually found it to be more like 5 to 7% there they tested with an older generation processor, and let's also keep in mind that memory isolation is not on by default. So, it's a little bit of an overhyped problem. It will slow the way that memory isolation. And ultimately, as Parson called VBS Virtualization Based Security works is that it makes sure that there's this kind of a secure enclave in your memory that not all apps can get access to. So as to protect some of your data. If protected, even if you've got malware incoming breach, it couldn't breach into that part of your memory. So the while Microsoft is recommending that OEMs turn VBS and memory isolation on by default, on some systems that qualify for it. And by qualify for it, we mean those with like the latest 11th Gen processor, or latest Ryzen- the very latest, it's still you can- it's still a lot of OEMs are not going to turn it on. We've talked to some including MSI, who told us that they're not going to turn because it does have a performance impact. So that one might be a little bit overhyped. We have a story on how to tell if you have GPS-enabled, which you probably don't, and disable it if you wish. But the AMD thing is really unfortunate. And I guess I come back to this, you do not have to upgrade to Windows 11. There is not a really compelling reason to upgrade to Windows 11. The best features that have been talked about, there are mostly UI features, which you can love or hate. Personally, I don't like them. I don't like the less control over your taskbar, a bigger Start Menu that's more in your face with less information on it, and context menus that make you click twice to see the same information that you saw with one click in previous versions of Windows. Now granted, visit our site if you do want to run Windows 11, because, on Tom's Hardware, we have stories about how to use registry hacks to get your start- to get your context menu back to be a full context menu to or to change the taskbar out so that you can do some more things with it like to move it to the top of the screen, to change your Start Menu. So there are hacks, but if all you got going for you is "I've got to hack this stuff so I get it to be more like the operating system I upgraded from" -that's not very appealing. Some of them I mean, highlight the best new feature is this Snap In My View is the snap feature. And honestly, it's not like you couldn't snap before, the highly touted ability to run Android apps and Windows is not there. So and Windows 10 is going to continue to receive support and updates till at least 2025. So there's not a really great compelling reason to upgrade to Windows 11. Unless you really like the look of the new Start Menu. And I guess I can say it to each their own. We certainly have a lot of advice on Tom's Hardware for people wanting to upgrade. But for people asking me "Should you upgrade or not?" My answer is unless you really like the look -don't bother.
Yeah, and you know, we talked in previous episodes about, you know, some of the issues with the appearance, particularly the start menu. And it's- I don't like the fact that I can't- you can turn off the suggested documents or whatever that section is called. But you don't gain that space back.
Yeah, it's the recommended space.
Yeah, you can turn that feature off but you don't get that space back. It will continue to be dead space with a "Hey, did you know you turn this off?".
Yeah, they want you to use- it's you know, the other thing is I just find the whole widgets thing completely useless. So they have that widgets menu that I showed. What that's just basically the homepage of MSN that flies out- that flies out in you. Okay. By the way, if you change Oh, one thing I didn't mention, it's more difficult to change your default browser in Windows 11. We have a story on how to do it, though. It's not that difficult.
And Piltch Point episode on how to do it.
Yes, that's right. We talked about it. So yeah.
We've been getting a lot of traffic on that this week.
Yes, yes. So I mean, look, people are gonna want to have the latest and greatest. As someone who works in this industry and has to keep up, I'm running it on my laptop and not my desktop. And I'm running it on a virtual machine so I can do my research on it and tutorials on my desktop. And eventually, I will have to switch because I’ve got to keep up with what the latest is, so I can be aware of what's going on. But for everyone else who just wants to use their computer, there's not really a great compelling argument to be upgraded.
Yeah, and I will concur with that. I've got you know, obviously, everybody knows we've got tons of computers around here and only one of them's running it. And that's because I had to have something running it.
You know Microsoft probably doesn't care that much about the upgrades, to be honest. I think they're much more concerned about this as a way for OEMs to kind of push new PCs. So to a certain point, very soon, probably every new laptop that you buy or desktop that you buy will have 11, not 10.
Yeah, probably. I mean, while watching content on the BBC, I definitely saw commercials for their electronics retailers that were all showing laptops running Windows 11 and talking about it pretty hard. So they're already pushing it hard. So I don't know. But like you said if you people are really interested in it. You guys have a lot of support information.
We have dozens and dozens of articles on Windows 11 on tomshardware.com. Check us out. We have a review of it. We have How To Upgrade Now. We have How To Avoid The TPM Requirements. You can get around those requirements, although you won't necessarily get updates for that. So that's purely experimental. But if you want to know how to do something on Windows 11, there's a very good, especially get around some of its annoyances. Right now I'm actually working on an article that sums up some of the stuff called the 11 Worst Features Of Windows 11 and How To Fix Them. So a lot of things that I just named are on the list. But beyond that, we have it all. We have a lot of Windows 11 information so come check us out at tomshardware.com.
Very good. Well, as always Avram, I appreciate it, and I look forward to what we talk about next.