(2022-12-25) How Bad Is Windows 11 Anyway?

So recently for a bunch of reasons I needed to go buy myself a laptop. My budget isn't big, so my plan originally was to go to the typical used computer store that sells refurbished business notebooks that some company got rid of because they got newer ones. And I actually did go visit one such store, which offered a laptop that I thought was nice along with some memory and storage upgrades I wanted for a great price. However, I didn't buy it right then, and I planned to go buy it later. On the day I finally decided I should go out and buy a laptop from that store, I checked the online catalogue for another local store just to see what kind of laptops I could get brand new and for what price, and, damn, I saw something ah-mazing. Almost immediately I went to go get the laptop I saw and brought it home.

What laptop did I get? This post isn't a laptop review, so I won't give all the details, but I got a new modern laptop that is better than my main PC on every spec (except the GPU) for a really low price that's not much more expensive than I would have paid if I got a used laptop. And this laptop is a pretty impressive piece of hardware! The only real issues hardware-wise I have with this laptop is that the keyboard and trackpad and the speakers are kind of meh, everything else is excellent. The thing that surprised me the most is how the cooling fan, when running at full speed, while noticable, is just a dull woosh rather than a sharp whine (like laptops I've used in the past). This is definitely not the laptop I would get if I needed a great laptop and had a big budget, but I am reasonably satisfied with what I got for the price I paid. I didn't buy this laptop to replace my main PC, but I hope this laptop lasts as long as possible and I get a lot of good use out of it. Anyways, on to the software stuff.

This laptop I bought came with Windows 11 installed, and downgrading it to Windows 10 is not a great idea because it has an Intel processor with dissimilar P-cores and E-cores which needs Windows 11 (or a Linux distro with an up-to-date kernel, but I need a Windows machine here) to be able to run optimally. So I have to use Windows 11 on this laptop. I mentioned in my Linux post that I do not like the way Windows is heading, and much of that feeling comes from what I've seen about Windows 11. The fact that Microsoft forces you to sign in to Windows 11 just to activate it really irks me, and overall, it just feels like Windows 11 is a downgrade compared to Windows 10, my current main operating system. Yes, it does offer a bunch of under-the-hood improvements that make it a better OS, but I'm not sure if it's worth the downsides. However, I have seen some tech YouTubers I like and various random commenters say that they are fine with Windows 11 and it's a fine upgrade. Well the only way I can know for sure if Windows 11 is good is to try it myself. Below are my first impressions playing around with Windows 11 for a couple weeks.

When I first turned on the laptop and began setting up Windows I ran quickly into the mandatory Microsoft account login screen which shows up after you need to connect to the internet. But it's not really mandatory though. Literally since the initial release people have found ways to get past it. It was just a matter of me figuring out those tricks. One of the tricks to get past the login is to disable the internet through either task manager or command prompt, which are available through some keyboard shortcuts. However, it seems these little hacks were patched in recent updates and they did not work for me (or I am dumb and didn't follow the instructions correctly). I did find a nice trick that does work, and it's honestly a little funny. Basically what you do is put in a particular fake email address and then a random password into the login and it spits out an "people have entered the wrong password for this email too many times" error, but also lets you just click "Next" and create a regular local account without any Microsoft account login.

When I got in, at a quick glance... it was just... Windows, with a slightly different UI design. First thing I did was open the taskbar settings and move the icons from the middle to the left (where God intended them to be!). Next thing I did was try to install Firefox, and jeez, what the heck happened with Edge? I basically had to answer a riddle just to be able to use the browser. Hey, do you want to give a bunch of extra diagnostics data to us? no... Hey, do you want to sign in to your MS account? No... What about your Google account? NOO! Some other question? Go away, please. After like a minute I finally managed to download Firefox. Setting up Firefox just the way I like it takes some time and I find it annoying that I can't just import my settings, extensions (with their settings), and about:config tweaks quickly, but that's a Firefox problem, not a Windows 11 problem.

I've set up Windows 10 a few times over the past few years, and there's always some tweaks I need to make. The biggest one being disabling the Bing search results that are shown with the regular local file, app, and settings search results. In the early Windows 10 days this was just a start menu setting, but later this option was removed and you needed to use regedit or gpedit to disable Bing search. Even later, for some reason the registry hacks I tried stopped working and I had to use a special app to disable that crap. With Windows 11, I ended up in the same situation. Unless you are making relatively obscure changes like changing the "Edit" program when you right-click an image from MSPaint to something else, it's best to just use a thing called Winaero Tweaker instead of regedit, because it does most the registry changes you'd want with just a single click. This is what I did with my Windows 11 machine to get rid of Bing and make other changes, especially after I reset/reinstalled the OS (more on that later).

My laptop when I got it needed to get a bunch of updates, mostly drivers & random system stuff, but the big Windows 11 22H2 update was also included. While it was downloading all these updates it seemed to really suck up all my bandwidth, and also for some reason really lagged the system when the updates were installing. I'm not really sure what was going on under the hood, but it was annoying. Since it sucked up all this bandwidth it was also a pain in the butt using the internet on my main computer. In frustration I tried to see if there was a way to throttle Windows Update, and to my surprise there is actually a setting for this that is also included with Windows 10's updater. I set it to a reasonably low bandwidth speed, and looking at the internet throughput in Task Manager it seemed to never go above the exact speed I set, but sometimes for some reason Task Manager showed the bandwidth reaching my max internet speed. This really confuses me. Like, did Windows Update ignore the limit I set, or was something else running in the background using all this bandwidth?

This laptop fortunately came with zero bloatware preinstalled by the manufacturer. The only preinstalled stuff were some random utilities related to the hardware which are fine. One thing that is annoying about both Windows 10 and Windows 11 is that they come with all these preinstalled programs like didney pluz, which aren't technically bloatware, but sure feel like they are. I uninstalled all this stuff right away like I always do.

Changing the time format to my preferred 24 hour clock & YYYY-MM-DD format wasn't straightforward, I had to look it up and it wasn't in a spot that felt intuitive to me. On Windows 10 in contrast, this setting is in a reasonably intuitive spot that I could find right away. Another setting I changed was to make doing a triple-finger tap on the touchpad do a middle mouse click. Thankfully this setting was easy to find. I'm not sure if these are Windows 11's or this laptop's defaults, but the default time to turn off the screen and later the device if it is idle were way too low. I had to raise them after I found out this laptop basically went to sleep after like 10 minutes... plugged in. One more setting I changed is what closing the lid does. By default on I think all laptops, it just puts the laptop to sleep, but I just wanted it to keep the laptop awake. Changing this particular setting sent me to the classic Windows 7 era Control Panel, which still somehow hasn't been completely replaced by the Settings app even though this is like the third or fourth version of Windows since Windows 7.

One new thing I do not like about Windows 11 is the new context menu when you right-click on files. It's just so basic and you need to click a second time to see the old context menu that's been with Windows for a long time. Fortunately this was something you could easily fix using Winaero Tweaker, which has an option to always show the classic context menu every time you right-click a file. Another little detail that I found frustrating was a gesture I've used in Windows 10 and older, even on KDE Plasma on Linux, just didn't work in Windows 11. This was the gesture where you can drag any file or thing that can be drag-and-dropped to the bottom right corner where the show desktop shortcut is and put it on the desktop. This wasn't a deal-breaker exactly and I could work around it, but fortunately it seemed to have been fixed in the big 22H2 update after it installed. There seems to have been a bunch of little features like this which existed in past versions of Windows that weren't in Windows 11 that were "added back" later in updates.

Anyways, one final small thing I'll mention is what happened after the big 22H2 update. This update seems to be a really nice improvement compared to the previous version, although I've heard some some complaints about how some updated apps are really poorly optimized. Before I left my laptop to finally download and install this update, I reset the update bandwidth limits to be their default unlimited, and left the laptop alone to update while going outside or something. When the update finally installed, I went to go back to change the Windows Update bandwidth limit back to what I had previously only to find out that they were greyed out for some odd reason. I honestly didn't want to bother figuring out how to fix this problem, and my settings and programs were still pretty vanilla, so I just used the "reset this PC" setting to reinstall Windows. This fixed the problem, but I had to go through the setup process and answer Edge's riddles again 😒.

I have other little things I can complain about, but this is all I'll share for now. All-in-all, thus far, Windows 11 has been... okay? Other than the annoying update shenanigans, it's just another version of Windows that so far hasn't resisted me molding it to fit what I want from an operating system. Though for me to really understand Windows 11 I will have to use it long-term and experience all of its quirks and features. On my main computer I'll still continue to use Windows 10 until it no longer receives updates in 2025, but I guess having to update to Windows 11 won't be a huge pain unless Microsoft somehow manages to ruin it further. I'll still keep an eye on alternatives like desktop Linux and MacOS of course.

Thanks for reading. If you have any experiences with or thoughts about Windows 11, please do share them.

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