Windows 11 is now available as a free upgrade
from Windows 10. Should you jump on board, or sit tight for now?
We're currently recommending most people wait to install Windows 11, with
the emphasis on most. That article explicitly lays out our
reasons for that recommendation, but it really boils down to this:
While Windows 11 offers some excellent new features, it also has
plenty of rough edges, and it actually removes some key
functionality you might have used in Windows 10.
In the spirit of that mixed reception, here are three things we
love in Windows 11—and three things we hate.
Here's how to get Windows for cheap (or even for
Nearly a decade after the new Settings menu appeared in Windows
8, Microsoft has finally made a real effort in not only filling out
the Settings menu with more options, but also organizing it well.
Microsoft has done away with the home screen of the Settings menu,
relying instead on a left-hand nav bar. A breadcrumb navigation
system has been added to the top, so you can skip back and forth
inside of a particular directory. Search exists, too, of course.
Finally, each page of the Settings provides dense information
without being overwhelming, with drop-down menus and graphics to
assist you. It's quite useful.
For years, Microsoft's Windows Settings menu has wrestled with
the legacy Control Panel. If you need to do something, where should
you look? In Windows 11, you'll find most of what you're looking
for inside the Windows 11 Settings.
Yes, Microsoft removed the lively Live Tiles. But the real crime
is simply the poor organization of it all. In Windows 10, you can
click on the Start menu and see your grouped app icons and
documents next to an alphabetical list of your apps. In Windows 11,
apps are first dropped into the secondary All apps overflow menu.
From there, you can then add them to the main Start menu, a.k.a.
Windows 11 Start
certainly looks intriguing, but the functionality certainly takes a
step back from Windows 10.
Those pinned apps can be moved around, but they can't really be
grouped. While Live Tiles could be resized to add visual weight to
an app, Windows 11 apps can not. Windows 11's Start menu now feels
lifeless and less functional. Yes, it's pretty, but it's simply a
poorer experience overall.
We love: The Out of
the Box experience
You may only see the Out of the Box Experience (OOBE) once while
you're setting up a new Windows 11 PC, but it's a triumph. Setting
up a Windows 11 PC takes just a few minutes, and Microsoft uses
those to its full advantage, taking you on a virtual tour of
Windows 11's key features, including ones that you may not
encounter without some poking around. It's clean and professional—p
erhaps a bit too professional—but it's a night-and-day improvement
over the Windows 10 experience, which wasn't bad to begin with.
Microsoft steps you
the best features of Windows 11 as part of its OOBE experience.
Mark Hachman / IDG
When the OOBE completes, hunt down the Get Started and Tips
apps, too. Microsoft doesn't do a great job pointing you in the
direction of either app, but they provide some additional
supplementary help that you'll find useful.
We hate: The lack of
If you already use a Microsoft account to log into your Windows
PC, this won't apply to you. (Logging in with a Microsoft account
requires you to put in a personal Microsoft email address and
password such as email@example.com, uniquely identifying your
PC.) But if you're the type of person who prefers (or perhaps
demands) to use a local or offline account with an anonymous login,
you won't be able to do that with Windows 10 Home. And no, the old
router trick doesn't work, either.
If you prefer using a
local or offline account, you'll need to use Windows 11 Pro. And
yes, even offline accounts can access the Internet. This is just
Microsoft playing head games with you.
Mark Hachman / IDG
Instead, only Windows 10 Pro users who upgrade to Windows 11 Pro
will be able to use a local or offline account. If this matters to
you, you'll need to upgrade from Windows 10 Home to Windows 10 Pro
first, for an extra $100, and then upgrade to Windows 11 Pro.
I'm warming to Windows 11's Widgets. Widgets, the ginormous
panel that slides out from the left-hand side of your display,
contains all sorts of useful information: local weather, your
calendar, photos that you took on this day a few years ago, and so
on. Yes, there's a lot of fluff, as the overriding Microsoft Start
service will feed you a lot of gossip and other extraneous news if
you don't configure your settings appropriately.
Microsoft's Windows 11
Widgets pane is configurable, so you can adjust it how you want.
The Widgets Settings are available via your account picture in the
upper right-hand corner.
On the other hand, I've criticized Windows 11 for its lack of
life, and Widgets (and the updated Xbox app, complete with cloud gaming for Xbox Game Pass
Ultimate subscribers) is where the fun lives.
We hate: The lack of
Many people use the built-in Edge browser. Many more users,
however, use Google Chrome, Firefox, Vivaldi, Opera, Brave, or the
other niche browsers that we've covered in our best browser roundup. Yes, you can download
Chrome and use it as you wish. But if you want to make Chrome the
default browser on your PC, that one-click set as default
option that was available in Windows 10 has vanished.
Trying to choose
Google Chrome as your default browser brings you to the choice on
the left, where there's simply an unmanageable selection of
Mark Hachman / IDG
Instead, you're presented with one of the most obtuse options
screen Windows has ever presented, which asks you to set your
browser choice by individual file type. No, there's no option to
select all. If you'd still like to switch file types, Microsoft
will then ask you, yet again, if you'd like to try Edge instead.
It's clingy and extraordinarily passive-aggressive, and it
absolutely tarnishes the entirety of the operating system.
What's reassuring is that, whichever operating system you
choose, your choice isn't a bad one. Both Windows 10 and Windows 11
offer their own advantages!