If you have visited a computer news website or watched a YouTuber who makes videos on computers recently, you may be aware that there was a build of Windows 11 leaked in the Spring. This was later followed up with an announcement by Microsoft that a new version of Windows called Windows 11 is indeed on the horizon, scheduled for release between late 2021 and early 2022. A build of Windows 11 was then made available to Microsoft insiders on the Dev channel. I did mess about with this build of Windows 11 in July (I did not note the build number … whoops), but had to go back to Windows 10 when I found that Street Fighter V ran slowly. Unfortuantely I needed that game working for a session of a gaming group called AAD RetroFest (a Retro Gaming group that is run by Aberdeen Action on Disability) that took place in late July..
Since then, a build of Windows 11 has been made available on both the Beta and Dev channels of the Microsoft Insider program, which has the build number 22000.132.
I decided that while I would like to beta test this build of Windows 11, I felt I should do so on another drive, so I decided to purchase an NVMe SSD from Crucial to install Windows 10 to with Windows 11 running on my pre-existing S-ATA SSD. I was successfuly able to obtain a Windows 11 ISO from UUP Dump so that I could create a clean install of Windows 11. If you decide to do this, I would recommend using Rufus to transfer this image to a USB stick, as I had issues when I used BelenaEtcher (which is my normal installation flash drive creation tool).
Once I re-wrote the Windows 11 image to a flash drive using Rufus, I was able to install Windows 11 without incident. I was able to clean install Windows 11 on the S-ATA SSD alonside a Windows 10 installation which was installed to the NVMe SSD, and this created a boot menu which would allow you to choose whether to start Windows 10 or Windows 11.
So with Windows 11 newly installed, it was time for me to meet the new Out Of The Box Experience (OOBE). So how was it? Firstly I was presented with an animated version of the updated Windows logo in blue against a white background which would then fade out to reveal the Out Of The Box Experience wizard.
The updated Windows logo greets you when you start Windows 11 for the first time.
As for the rest of the initial Windows 11 setup, it is very much the same as Windows 10 in terms of what it asks. You will be asked which keyboard layout you wish to use, whether you would like to use a Microsoft account to sign into Windows, if you would like Windows apps to be able to use your location, whether you would like to enable Find My Device, if you would like programs to use your advertiser ID and whether you would like to share your computer’s diagnostic information with Microsoft. Of course Windows will check for updates during this Out Of The Box Experience phase.
There are differences between the OOBE in Windows 10 and Windows 11. Firstly the OOBE in Windows 11 is more colourful with multicoloured images that correspond with what step you are currently at in the wizard. There is also the option to give your computer a network name while in the OOBE. As someone who specifically names their computers in order to identify them on a network I appreciate being able to give my computer a name during the setting up phase.
Once you have given Windows 11 the relevant information it will set up your computer. The screen that is shown while this is taking place has been upgraded to show a blue spotlight effect. After this, you are presented with the Windows 11 lock screen.
Like Windows 10, Windows 11 will pull lock screen images down from Bing Images by default. If it can’t pull down an image it will show what appears to be a close up of the elegantly crumpled up piece of fabric which features on Windows 11’s new desktop background. Speaking of desktop background images, Microsoft seems to have pushed the boat out, because the choise of default desktop background wallpapers that come with Windows 11 are beautiful. I hope they will be carried through to the final RTM build of Windows 11.
Once you log into Windows 10, you will be presented with the Windows Desktop and the new redesigned start menu open and coming from the middle of the taskbar, where the buttons now reside by default. They can be moved back over to the left, but the taskbar itself can no longer be moved.
So, how is Windows 11 to use? Since initially installing it alongside Windows 10, I realsied that I just wasn’t using the Windows 10 install so I decided to re-install Windows 11 on the NVMe drive as despite it being a budget drive, it is quicker than the S-ATA SSD by quite a way. Overall I have found build 22000.x of Windows 11 an absolute pleasure to use. As far as I know, the Amazon App Store has not yet made an appearance on Windows 11 so I cannot install Android apps, but the Windows apps that I use work well. I have tested Street Fighter V, Grand Thef Auto 5, Red Dead Redemption 2, Golf With Your Friends and PC Building Simulator with Windows 11 and they all run ewell (despite GTA Online crashing once while I was driving).
So how is the accessibility in Windows 11? It has seen some improvements. Firstly, you can easily change the size of the fonts used in the Windows UI using the Accessibility control panel.
Accessibility features like the magnifier, narrator, colour filters, mono audio and stickey keys can be turned off from the Action Center in Windows 11, which can be accessed by pressing the Volume button. The Action Center in Windows 11 will also offer transport controls for media that is currently playing (even if that media happens to be a YouTube video in Vivaldi…)
You may have also noticed that Microsoft have changed the Accessibility icon from their take on the wheelchair user symbol to the person standing icon. This brings Windows in line with other operating systems that use this icon such as macOS and many Linux distros. I welcome this change, as I find that the traditional wheelchair symbol further perpetuates the idea that only wheelchair users have disabilities.
Another change I welcome, which has resulted in me using the Windows 11 beta as my primary OS is that the Windows Magnifier once again works with the voice chat client Mumble. From Windows 10 build 2004 onward, the magnifier would often freeze when it was run and cause Windows to become sluggish if Mumble was running. At the time of writing this post, this seems to have been fixed in Windows 11.
If Windows 11 continues to work this well once it RTMs, it will be a very attractive upgrade. There are some issues that I feel I need to discuss however.
At the time of writing, when Windows 11 was announced, it was stated that you would need a TPM 2.0 module in order to run it, and that it would only run on 8th generation Intel Core or 2nd gen AMD Ryzen CPUs. This will cause a large number of perfectly capable computers to become obsolete overnight. I for one do not appreciate this as we already have a huge problem with e-waste as is, and not everyone can afford to buy new computers, especially with the current economical situation and the ongoing chip shortage.
Another issue I would like to discuss is that in recent years it seems that Microsoft’s Quality Assurance has been somewhat lacking. All too often Microsoft would roll out updates that could break previously working installations. This coulpled with the fact that you can only pause the installation of updates rather than prevent them entirely caused a lot of problems for a lot of people. I personally would like to be able to pick which updates I would like to install like you could in Windows 8.1 and below, but Microsoft seem intent on taking control away from the user (including Enterprise users, thereby making it difficult to provision Windows 10 PCs in a corporate environment).
Microsoft say that they will release a major upgrade to Windows 11 once a year rather than twice a year like they currently do with Windows 10. Hopefully this will give them more time to ensure the new features work as intended.
So what about Windows 10 users whose computers will be unable to upgrade? Microsoft says that Windows 10 will be supported until 2025. That said, they will likely want to encourage people to move to Windows 11, so the number of updated applications that are available for Windows 10 will no doubt dwindle as the 2025 end of support date nears.
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