When it comes to Windows, out with the old, in with the…what?

The arrival last year of Windows 11 has prompted a lot of Windows users to think about upgrades — and what can actually meet their technology needs. Some thoughts on what works and what doesn’t.

thinkstockphotos keyboard question mark

My Computerworld colleague Steven Vaughan-Nichols last month opined that Windows 11 will be the end of the old-school Windows desktop and argued that Windows 11 is a pointless upgrade. While I agree that Windows 11 leaves me wondering exactly why I need to upgrade to it, I’m not sure it marks the end of desktops. (It might play a  role in piquing interest in tablets, however — more about that below.)

In fact, we may already be seeing Windows 10 as the last of the old-school desktop operating systems.

Along with nearly every other business, small and large, I’m struggling with the high cost of upgrading to Windows 11. (I’m not talking about the software; it’s the hardware mandate of TPM chip and processor that’s going to be my biggest blocker to upgrading since I must purchase new hardware if I want the bulk of my office to upgrade.) Even at home, I only have one machine — Microsoft’s recent Surface Pro 7 — that can handle the upgrade. My other computers — another laptop and a home-built desktop – can't make the jump, nor do I want to use workarounds to get around the security requirements.

Given that software vendors are still dragging their feet in offering updates for Windows 11 — case in point, Sage Accounting software doesn’t appear to officially support Windows 11 — it's not surprise that at the six-month mark there’s still not a huge push to migrate to 11.

Side note: When I use Windows 11, the newly centered menu isn’t a major problem. I’ve purposely left it in the center to see how it affects my routines, from the changes to the task bar to the menu system. I’ve found that after years of clicking on the left-hand side of the screen to start a menu option or shut down the computer, it clearly will take some time for my brain to be retrained if I plan to keep it this way. For those for whom this is a major issue, there are a number of third-party tools and workarounds to move that menu and make Windows 11 a bit more friendly to longtime Windows users:

  • Start11 – If you already own Start8 or Start10 you can upgrade to Start11.
  • Github tool to make the taskbar match Windows 10 behavior.
  • Explorer patcher, another way to make the Windows 11 taskbar work more like Windows 10.
  • OpenShell for Windows 11, which gives you the Classic menu.

On the Askwoody.com forums, I’m starting to see more people ask what laptop they should buy to replace their trusty, old hardware. Often, while they have an older desktop that works just fine with Windows 7, 8 or 10, they want a laptop while on the go. But after they’re asked about specific needs, their answers point to some sort of tablet, not a laptop, as a perfect device to search and read news and answer emails while mobile. There are truly only two platforms: iPads or various Android tablets. As a past owner of several Surface devices (and as a current owner of a Surface Pro 7), I can say they are wonderful portable units for IT admins; they allow me to efficiently and effectively work remotely, and log into other workstations, servers, cloud platforms, etc. But if I’m waiting in the doctor’s office, I’m more apt to surf on my iPhone than bring along a laptop.

When the pandemic hit two years ago and we had to ensure that people could work from home, I quickly found that some people in the office had no computer or laptop at all — they used a tablet to surf the internet and check email. Recently, I loaned a Chromebook to a friend who still uses a flip phone. (She needed a device for Zoom meetings with her doctor.) She found that she didn’t need a Windows laptop at all; the Chromebook provided her with a supported browser and a webcam and that’s all that was needed.

So if you need a portable device and in the past you would have gone to the store and bought a laptop, reconsider your needs. Ask yourself: What do I really want to do with this device?  Do I want something  easily placed in my purse or carried with me? Do I want to be able to entertain myself while in waiting rooms and doctor’s offices? Do I plan to travel more now and don’t want to have to remember so many power cords and converters? If you’ve ever travelled and realize you forgot the charging cable for your laptop, you find quickly that each manufacturer annoyingly used unique power supplies that make it nearly impossible to find a matching cable in the hotel gift shop or nearby technology store. Travelling with a tablet, however, makes it much easier to find a USB cable that will fit.

Bottom line, if the technology “thing” you love the most needs replacement, stop and think about your technology “need” instead. Replacing it with a newer version of what you have now may not be what you need going forward.

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