Windows 11
written by Sue Kayton
www.suekayton.com
updated October 13, 2021


DO YOU NEED WINDOWS 11?

Windows 11 has been officially released.  I do not recommend installing it on your main computer now.  Windows 10 will be supported through at least the year 2025.  There's no need to rush to install Windows 11, and you likely will never need to install it on your current computer.  The hardware requirements to run Windows 11 mean that it will not run on computers that are more than about 5 years old.  New computers being shipped now will still come pre-installed with Windows 10 (unless you special-order them direct from the manufacturer), but starting in late 2021, some new computers in stores will come pre-installed with Windows 11. By next spring, all new PCs will come with Windows 11 pre-installed, unless you specially request Windows 10 or buy a discontinued model. 

The vast majority of changes in Windows 11 are cosmetic - such as rounded corners on the windows and rearranged layouts, and do not affect usability.  Some users may find it difficult to adjust to the new layouts. 

In about two years, a few software manufacturers will start releasing software that will only run under Windows 11.  I have tested some truly ancient software and so far all the programs that run under Windows 10 will still run under Windows 11.  Please email me if you find software that works on 10 but doesn't work on 11. 

SHOULD YOU INSTALL WINDOWS 11 NOW?

If you must install Windows 11 on your main computer, I recommend that you wait a few more months until the bugs get worked out of it.  But if you want to install it on a spare computer, keep reading.   

REQUIREMENTS TO INSTALL WINDOWS 11

There are official requirements about what computers will support Windows 11.  However, it will run on a much older machine than what the official list requires.  I have successfully installed Windows 11 on a ten-year-old laptop.  Windows 11 officially requires a computer with 64-bit architecture, with UEFI Secure Boot, and TPM 1.2 ( or newer) activated in the BIOS. For the computer to run fast, you'll want a solid state drive (SSD) instead of a spinning hard drive. Various internet sites claim that you can tweak stuff to get Windows 11 to upgrade on a computer without UEFI (Unified Extensible Firmware)or TPM (Trusted Platform Module), but so far none of those methods I have found work on the actual release version of Windows 11.  Most computers with an i5 or newer processor meet the system requirements for Windows 11.

Not sure if your computer uses UEFI or legacy boot or has Secure Boot turned on?  You can run msinfo32.exe (built into Windows, run from elevated command prompt) or use the Windows PC Health Check tool.  Either tool will report what your computer is currently using.  Run TPM.exe to determine if TPM is installed and activated.  If not, it is possible that these features are available, but are turned off in the BIOS.  You can safely turn on TPM and activate it without disturbing an existing Windows installation - the computer will still boot.  If you are using UEFI and secure boot is disabled, you can safely enable secure boot without disturbing an existing Windows installation.  You can access the BIOS to check if these three features are available.  Each manufacturer has a different method for accessing the BIOS.  On a Dell, it's always F2.  Newer Lenovos use the Enter key, and newer HPs use the Esc key.  Most non-brand-name computers will use the Del key.  You have to hit these keys immediately after you turn on the computer - very early and often - to get into the BIOS.  If your computer is using UEFI, you can also access the UEFI setup program from Windows, by holding down the shift key while restarting the computer, then select Troubleshooting / Advanced / UEFI settings.

Windows uses two different methods for partitioning a hard drive.  MBR (Master Boot Record) partitioning is compatible only with Legacy boot, GPT (General Partition Table) partitioning is compatible only with UEFI boot.    If your computer is booting in Legacy mode, that means that your boot drive is partitioned using MBR.  If you are booting in UEFI mode, that means that your boot drive is partitioned using GPT.  If you change boot methods (from Legacy to UEFI or the reverse), your hard drive will no longer boot, unless you change the partitioning of the hard drive to match the new boot method.  Secure Boot (which is required by Windows 11) only works if you boot using UEFI, which means your hard drive has to be partitioned using GPT.

If you are currently using Legacy boot, and you want to change to UEFI boot so you can install Windows 11, then you will need to either (1) jettison your existing Windows installation, change to UEFI/Secure Boot, install a clean copy of Windows, and then install your programs and copy your data onto it, or (2) image your existing Windows installation onto an external disk, change to UEFI/Secure boot and restore the image, or (3) use a partitioning tool like Easeus Partition Manager to change your existing disk from MBR to GPT, then switch to UEFI/Secure boot.  CAUTION - if you choose this method (changing the drive from MBR to GPT), make sure to back everything up in case this method fails and you cannot boot from the drive.  Easeus has a free trial version which does not include the capability to change from MBR to GPT - that capability is only available in the paid version. 

CLEAN COPY OR UPGRADE INSTALL?

Installing a clean copy of Windows 11 takes less than 10 minutes on most computers with a solid state drive (SSD).  Upgrading from Windows 10 to Windows 11 takes about an hour on most computers, and does not always succeed.  Installing a clean copy also has the advantage of a much speedier computer when you are done, because you won't have years of clutter and tons of unused programs clogging up the machine, and will get rid of any viruses that might have crept into your computer.  If you do a clean install of Windows 11, it will take up about 38 GB of space, so you could easily install it on a drive as small as 60 GB.

You can download the Windows 11 installer directly from Microsoft. 

A clean install will erase all information stored in your computer, so make sure to back up your files and make sure you have a current, complete list of all of your usernames, passwords, and favorites / bookmarks.  If you use Google Chrome as your default browser and you have a Google (or Gmail) account, then you likely will have turned on the sync feature which will have copied your bookmarks to the cloud (and your passwords if you asked Chrome to save them).  Once you log back in to your Google (or Gmail) account after installing Windows 11, this synced information will automatically be retrieved.  Of course, you will need to know your Google username and password to log in to Google (or Gmail). 

If you want to do a clean install, make a list of all the software you will need to re-install, and make sure you have the installation files, serial numbers, keys, and/or login information to your online accounts to download and install the software.  You can download the latest version of many freeware programs from www.ninite.com.   If you are doing a clean install of Windows 11, you will need a Windows installation key from Windows 7, 8 or 10.  On a computer that came pre-installed with Windows 8 or 10, the Windows installation key is stored in the computer's BIOS/UEFI and the computer will likely have a sticker like one of the four below, at the left.  If this is the case, the computer will automatically get the installation key, and will know if you have the Home or Pro version.

 

On an older computer, there's usually a sticker with the installation key like the one above, at the right.  The sticker will specify whether the computer is running the Home or Pro version of Windows.  You will need the key on this sticker (and the information Home/Pro) to do a clean install.  If there is no such sticker, or if you cannot read the installation key and you are doing a clean install, run the built-in program msinfo32.exe to see if you are currently running Home or Pro before starting the installation.  If there's no sticker and the computer did not come pre-installed with Windows 8 or 10, you can retrieve the Windows key using Belarc Advisor.

If you think your computer should be able to run Windows 11, but the installation program claims it doesn't meet the requirements, try installing these two registry tweaks, which will definitely fix the problem if it's the processor, and might fix the problem if it's for some other reason. 

MICROSOFT LOGIN v. LOCAL LOGIN

Installing a clean copy of Windows 11 Home requires you to connect to the internet and set up (or log into) a Microsoft account, including creating a PIN login shortcut for your Microsoft account.  If you create a PIN, write it down on your list of usernames and passwords since the computer will ask for it each time you log in.  Once Windows 11 Home is installed and the computer is logged in to your Microsoft account, you can change from the Microsoft boot to a local boot.  If you are installing a clean copy of Windows 11 Pro, do NOT connect an ethernet cable during installation and when it asks you to connect to the internet, click on "I don't have internet" and then on the next screen click on "Continue with limited setup."  Not connecting to the internet when installing Windows 11 Pro allows you to skip the step of creating a Microsoft account and go directly to a local login.  Once the local login is created, then you connect the computer to the internet. Using a local login instead of a Microsoft login makes troubleshooting much easier and protects your privacy. 

ENABLING SAFE MODE

Make sure to enable Safe Mode in case you ever have trouble starting the computer.  Under Windows 11, by default you cannot use F8 during boot to enter safe mode.  To enable easy and reliable access to safe mode, open an elevated command prompt and type in the following three lines, one at a time. 
     bcdedit /set {bootmgr} displaybootmenu yes
     bcdedit /timeout 3
     bcdedit /set {default} bootmenupolicy legacy

MAJOR FUNCTIONAL CHANGES FROM WINDOWS 10

Most of the changes are cosmetic.  But here are some of the functional changes will probably affect you.

1)  The Start button has moved to the bottom center.  If you are looking for the list of apps, click on Start, then look at the upper right of the window that popped up.  Do you want the old Windows 10 style start menu back?  Here are instructions

2)  To access the Windows 7-style list of programs, go to c:\ProgramData\Microsoft\Windows\Start Menu or c:\Users\yourusename\AppData\Roaming\Microsoft\Windows\Start menu.  To access the Windows 10-style list of applications, click on the Start button, then at upper right select All apps.

3)  When you right-click on some files or icons, the list of options no longer includes Copy, Paste, Cut, Rename, Delete.  Instead, there are little icons at the bottom of the right-click menu that perform these functions. 

4)  To shut down the computer, the location of the Shut Down button has moved.  When you click on the Start button, look at the bottom right - you can right-click on the Power button to select Shut Down, Restart or Log Out.

5)  Microsoft has promised that Windows 11 will be able to run Android apps, but that feature isn't quite ready yet

6)  It's harder to get to the jump lists of recently-used documents accessed from a program- you'll have to right-click on the program shortcut instead of just pointing to it with the mouse.

7)  The list of optional Windows updates is much harder to find.

8)  In File Explorer, the option to show hidden files and show extensions is now buried under Show More at the bottom. 

9)  To view the list of available WiFi networks, when you click on the WiFi icon in the system tray (at bottom right), you do not see this list.  You need to click on the arrow to the right of the WiFi symbol instead.

Do you have more operational changes to report that should be added to this list?  Email Sue Kayton to report them.