The pros and cons of Microsoft’s newest operating system
When Microsoft Windows 10 was released in July 2015, there was a decent amount of speculation that it might be the last fully discrete version ever released of the ubiquitous operating system. Whether that meant sustained Windows 10 updates until the end of time or the adoption of the “software as a service” subscription model for future PC users, no one was sure.
The official announcement of Windows 11 came almost exactly six years later in June 2021 and features several obvious improvements as well as a couple more obscure changes that some users will love and some would probably rather do without.
What’s going on with Windows 10
First off, don’t panic and think you need to upgrade right away for security purposes. Windows 10 will continue to receive security updates until Oct. 14, 2025. So while you will eventually have to make the switch, you still have plenty of time.
More broadly, Windows 10 has seen a massive number of improvements in the six years it’s been released and a great deal of the performance, compatibility and security concerns it once had have been fully patched by now. Windows 10 continues to be the leading operating system in terms of compatibility and, in many cases, overall performance.
Why should I stick with Windows 10?
Change can be great, but it can also be intimidating to learn a redesigned operating system. For that reason, a lot of users will opt to wait on upgrading, which is totally reasonable. More importantly, Windows 11 has some ambitious changes that not all PCs can take advantage of, so not everybody will see a huge benefit aside from the newly streamlined graphical user interface (or GUI).
The biggest reason, however, for some people to avoid the upgrade is that a great deal of older PCs will simply never support Windows 11 because of a certain security requirement that we’ll get into shortly.
Windows 10 cons
As far as negatives go, the only major one is that you’ll miss out on the vast majority of enhanced features if you don’t upgrade to Windows 10
Another more minor issue with continuing to use Windows 10 is that it’s currently 100% free to make the upgrade, and that offer will almost certainly be rescinded at some point — although Microsoft has yet to divulge exactly when that will be.
Why make the switch to Windows 11?
Aside from the fact that you’ll eventually have to anyway, there are some good reasons to consider upgrading your system as soon as possible. Of course, “as soon as possible” means something different for every system, as the operating system is being rolled out in phases and it won’t be until mid-2022 that every compatible PC will be eligible for the upgrade.
What’s new in Windows 11
Understandably, a new OS release comes with a ton of changes as compared to the older version. The most noticeable is a redesigned GUI that promises to be significantly more streamlined and is supposedly engineered to be more touch screen-friendly. If some of the changes to the interface prove too frustrating for you, there are also ways to customize the operating system’s appearance to make it more similar to the version you’re used to.
But there are also some changes under the hood that many users will appreciate. One is the ability to run native Android apps like those available on the Google Play Store, which opens up an entirely new world of software compatibility on a desktop PC.
Part of Microsoft’s efforts to streamline Windows 11 on touch screens includes subtle improvements like a reorganized taskbar and dialogue boxes big enough for comfortable touch control. There are other important aspects, too, like enhanced voice control and greatly improved pen control, all of which are increasingly important as laptops get more powerful and more portable.
The new OS adds a pair of high-tech features introduced by the Xbox Series X. Windows 10’s high dynamic range implementation was in dire need of a reworking, and Windows 11’s Auto HDR function is just that.
Windows 11 also sees the PC introduction of the DirectStorage standard, which allows high-speed NVMe SSD storage to communicate directly with a system’s graphics card without having to route information through the CPU first. In layman’s terms, DirectStorage frees up a considerable amount of bandwidth in both the CPU and the motherboard’s framework in general, which allows some games to load frame data or even entire levels with surprising speed.
If you read tech blogs or watch review videos, you’ll probably see some harsh criticisms arguing that the new OS isn’t more streamlined or easier to use. Take those with a grain of salt. Keep in mind that every single new Windows version receives plenty of backlash like this, and a great deal of said backlash can be chalked up to people not wanting to relearn how to use their computers. That’s understandable. Most people come around once Microsoft has released a handful of quality-of-life updates that take the headache out of learning the new software.
Who shouldn’t (or can’t) upgrade to Windows 11
With all the improvements, upgrading to Windows 11 might seem like a slam dunk. Unfortunately for a lot of users, that’s far from the case. Many PC owners will never, ever be able to install Windows 11 on their computers because of a handful of requirements that are pretty restrictive.
First and foremost is the new CPU requirement. Almost zero CPUs released before Intel’s 8th-gen Core CPUs are compatible with Windows 11. Those eighth-generation Intel Core CPUs have only been around for four years. Indeed, there are retailers around the world still selling new devices with 7th-gen CPUs, even while Windows 11 has started to roll out. This requirement alone has caused somewhat of an outcry, and it’s not even the only such requirement.
Almost as unfortunate as Windows 11’s CPU requirement is the need for a relatively recent Trusted Platform Module or TPM chip. Modern laptops will have some version of the TPM chip, but Windows 11 calls for TPM 2.0 and no earlier. A good deal of laptops and prebuilt desktops in use today — computers that are otherwise perfectly capable of running Windows 11 — are outfitted with a TPM chipset that’s older than version 2.0.
Some prebuilt desktops let you upgrade the TPM chip, but not all do. Unfortunately, some laptops without the TPM 2.0 chip may be stuck with Windows 10 forever, as it’s significantly harder to upgrade the components inside most laptops. Furthermore, if you built your PC on your own from scratch, you may have difficulty finding a TPM 2.0 chip that matches your specific motherboard, that is, if you’re able to install one at all.
There are some other reasons that some users might avoid Windows 11, but they’re mostly just small and obscure features that have been integrated into other parts of the operating system. By far, the biggest obstacle to upgrading your PC is whether or not it meets the requirements.
Should you upgrade to Windows 11, or stick with Windows 10?
As of today, you might not have a choice because most systems are still waiting on the rollout to become available. Once Windows 1 sees widespread adoption, Microsoft will have plenty of user feedback on how to further improve their latest OS. Early adoption of both hardware and software can take a bit of bravery, as you’re abandoning the system you’re used to and jumping into something with several unknowns.
If you’re not comfortable relearning an entire OS right now, don’t feel pressured to upgrade. You’ll still have the opportunity to get Windows 11 for free, likely for another year or more. If you want to increase productivity on a compatible touch-enabled laptop or Windows tablet or take advantage of enhanced high-end gaming features, consider making the jump to Windows 11 once Windows Update notifies you that it’s available.
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Chris Thomas writes for BestReviews. BestReviews has helped millions of consumers simplify their purchasing decisions, saving them time and money.
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