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ISSUE 19.12.F • 2022-03-21

In this issue

WINDOWS 11: Is Windows 11 ready? Are we ready?

Additional articles in the PLUS issue

LANGALIST: Help for trouble with peer networking and ransomware protection

PUBLIC DEFENDER: ‘Matter’ wants to talk to all your devices. Should you talk back?

HARDWARE: BitLocker and the dead: The story of a successful transplant

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Is Windows 11 ready? Are we ready?

Susan Bradley

By Susan Bradley

We are a few weeks away from an event that most of us in technology consider a bellwether for any software — its six-month birthday.

On April 5, Microsoft’s Windows 11 will reach that milestone. Six months in software typically means that the bugs have been worked out, the polish is going on, and the new software is finally starting to look like a cute, cuddly puppy. But just like a puppy, it’s still annoying us, chewing up shoes and Kleenex, and doing all those other things that remind us that it’s not yet housebroken.

We’re still getting reports of performance issues that haven’t been fixed, specifically with AMD Ryzen processors with a Firmware Trusted Platform Module (fTPM) enabled. The issue is present on both Windows 10 and 11 — so, in fairness, our older Windows 10 dog is impacted along with the Windows 11 puppy.

Windows 11 folder preview

But there are signs that Microsoft is still training the puppy to behave itself. An example I’ve been harping on is folder preview images, a top request from users. This is not something new; folder icons that give some sort of visual hint as to the folder’s contents have been around for a couple of decades. But somehow they got lost in the shuffle, turning into plain folders (left, top). What I (and many others) expect is a visible icon (left, bottom).

One thing I immediately missed was the previews of album-cover art from folders containing music. Apparently, the Windows 11 puppy thinks everyone streams music and doesn’t have anything stored on the device. And what about the gazillion photos, perhaps stored on external storage or network-attached drives? I’m not the only one with digital assets.

Microsoft is still fooling around with the updated task bar, moving things around. There doesn’t seem to be a clear rationale. While users complain about its being centered by default, and with no options for placing the taskbar just about anywhere (as in Windows 10), Microsoft is busy putting “News and Interests” in it instead.

Should I update now?

One of the questions I keep getting is “Should I update now to ensure that I’m not forced to set up a Microsoft account?” My answer is no, there is no need to update now. Even when Microsoft starts strongly demanding that we set up a Microsoft account during a clean install, it will continue to respect your existing account setup during the upgrade process from Windows 10 to Windows 11.

It’s hard for me to justify the requirement of a Microsoft account for home users, except in two situations.

The first is being a subscriber to Microsoft 365. If you are such a subscriber, you do have a Microsoft account — just by signing up, you get an account. Complete access to all 365 features, especially OneDrive but also including all the collaborative features, is simpler and easier to manage if you use the MS account to log in to Windows. Yes, of course it’s by design.

The second reason for a Microsoft account on a consumer or home computer is BitLocker. As Ben Myer’s article today makes abundantly clear, there may be a time when you need to recover your data from a drive protected by BitLocker after its PC has failed. You can certainly make a paper copy of the recovery key and keep it in a lockbox, but it’s much simpler (and probably safer) to have it stored with your Microsoft account — where it can be retrieved on any PC, especially the PC you’re using to get at the protected data.

If you’re a consumer user of Windows and want to use BitLocker, I strongly recommend that you configure your PC to log in with your Microsoft account.

If you need to purchase a new computer today, don’t let my reservations about Windows 11 stop you. Frankly, it may be the only option available for consumer devices. Some PCs intended for business use still offer Windows 10 as an option, but they are usually more expensive.

What’s your Windows situation today?

This is a good time to be asking that question and coming up with the best answer for yourself. For example, are you deeply dependent on Windows-based applications that are not available on any other platform? Or are you just using it because, after 25 years, you’re so familiar with it? Can you use another device that meets your needs — one you might like better than a Windows PC, due to price, convenience, or aesthetics? I think that if you own an iPhone and are thus already in the Apple ecosystem, alternatives such as iPads and even Macs can be cost-effective alternatives. Although Apple prices can be high, these are powerful systems, even at the entry level — especially with the advent of Apple silicon (M1) across the product line. You’d become familiar with an iPad or Mac quickly, and the Mac will even have icons centered on its task bar!

For many consumers and home users, a Chromebook can be a good alternative as well. I gave a slightly out-of-date Chromebook to a friend to see whether she could use it effectively. An important need was the ability to conduct telehealth appointments with her doctor. She discovered that the device worked well for everything she needed and thus made the decision to purchase a newer device. (The older unit would become obsolete when the telehealth software stopped supporting my donor device.)

I do have a couple of points you should consider if purchasing a new Windows 11 computer. I no longer recommend rotating disk storage —  make the leap to SSD. Both Windows 10 and 11 are much nicer to use with this much faster mass storage. Along these lines, don’t be stingy. More is better. Buy as much SSD storage as you can afford: 200GB at the absolute minimum. I know many regular readers may remember when I bought a device that never should have been sold in the first place — a Windows 10 laptop with 32GB of storage space. I don’t need to explain how bad a move that was!

Likewise, buy as much RAM as you can afford. There are two reasons for this. 8GB used to be plenty for Windows, but I don’t consider it enough today. Buy at least 16GB. But the other reason may be more significant. Today, an increasing number of systems come with memory that is part of the motherboard or even built into a system on a chip (SoC). These are not expandable — you can’t add memory later. You must buy enough at the outset to last the expected lifetime of your device.

Recommendations for business users

For those of you with business needs, you are probably like me. You will buy your way into supporting Windows 11. The vast majority of current business PCs will not support the hardware requirements of Windows 11, so new hardware is the only choice. I strongly recommend that you not attempt to bypass the higher hardware bar. And it’s time to get started; I do recommend begin testing Windows 11 and, in particular, deployment methodologies.

As Michael Niehaus points out, most of the changes are superficial and impact the end user the most. Lance Whitney recently provided some useful tweaks that can be applied to Windows 11 to make it efficient and pleasing to any power user.

Microsoft is still making changes

It’s clear from watching the feedback items in the Insider forums, as well as the Microsoft blogs on the topic, that Windows 11 is still very much a work in process. In recent surveys, most IT Pros indicated it would be probably a year before they would start major deployment of Windows 11. I agree with that assessment, both personally and professionally — I’m a broken record when it comes to making the product a public beta test. Like many other IT professionals, I won’t be placing Windows 11 on any business machine for production work, only for testing.

If you have already purchased a laptop or computer with Windows 11, don’t worry. It’s stable enough and will be a functional computer with or without third-party menu tools. Your local account, if you’re using one, will continue to be honored, no matter when you upgrade. And if you want to wait for Microsoft to complete work on Windows 11 Sun Valley 2 (aka version 22H2), that’s another option as well.

Bottom line: Windows 11 is getting cuter, better behaved, almost housebroken but still needs a bit of training. And, of course, if you currently have Windows 10 and want to wait until the puppy is a little older, don’t forget the registry keys to keep Windows 11 from installing. When you’re ready, you can easily remove the block.

Talk Bubbles Join the conversation! Your questions, comments, and feedback
about this topic are always welcome in our forums!

Susan Bradley is the publisher of the AskWoody newsletters.

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Fred Langa

Help for trouble with peer networking and ransomware protection

By Fred Langa

In this week’s first reader-submitted question, a subscriber’s peer (serverless) network simply will not allow his three PCs to share files, despite there being no obvious flaws. Why won’t it work?

In the second, a different subscriber wants to enable Windows’ excellent, built-in ransomware protection (via “Protected folders”) but is prevented from doing so by other elements of his setup. Here’s the fix!


Brian Livingston

‘Matter’ wants to talk to all your devices. Should you talk back?

By Brian Livingston

The most exciting development coming in wireless connectivity this year was quite the rage at the Consumer Electronics Show (CES) in January. Since all the cool names were already taken, the new technology is called simply “Matter,” and it promises to unite the devices in your home or office that you can talk to — and which may even talk back.

The platform isn’t the brainstorm of some garage startup. It’s being brought to the market by heavyweights such as Amazon, Apple, Google, and many other household names.


Ben Myers

BitLocker and the dead: The story of a successful transplant

By Ben Myers

The CPU is the heart of a laptop, but we do the brain transplants here. BWA! HA! HA! HA!

Recently, a long-time client who had moved several towns away called me in a panic. A two-year-old Lenovo Yoga laptop had failed.

When I got my hands on the computer, I surmised that the probable cause was the third-party charger, which had blown out a circuit inside the laptop when the charger itself had failed.

You’re welcome to share! Do you know someone who would benefit from the information in this newsletter? Feel free to forward it to them. And encourage them to subscribe via our online signup form — it’s completely free!

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