Installing Windows 11 onto a new virtual machine required about 25 minutes or so, including installation, reboots, and updates
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The time in which Windows 11 will install depends on a few factors: whether you’re performing an upgrade or a clean installation, the speed of your PC, whether your PC has an SSD or a hard drive, the speed of your Internet connection, and so on. As always, we’d recommend backing up key files and so on (either locally or in the cloud) before upgrading your operating system.
Microsoft smartly uses the installation process as an opportunity to familiarize you with some of the key new features in Windows 11 while the process completes. When it’s done, you’re dropped into Windows 11 proper.
If you’re still a little nervous, Windows 11 provides a second introductory app, called Get Started, which happens to be the only “Recommended” document in the Start menu after Windows 11 is installed. Get Started is surprisingly good, offering you another overview of what’s new-a pointer to OneDrive, for example, or a list of suggested apps in the Microsoft Store-but Microsoft doesn’t promote it at all, at least in the builds we tested. We’d recommend clicking through Get Started, and then opening up the Tips app if you need further instruction. All in all, there’s quite a bit of help within Windows 11 if you need it.
(We haven’t yet seen the popup Windows 11 tips that Microsoft informed us of, but there’s a control in Settings > Accessibility > Narrator > Verbosity that may control it.)
During our in-person demonstration of the Microsoft Surface Laptop Studio, Microsoft’s corporate vice president of Surface, Pete Kyriacou, said that the laptop’s camera now can distinguish you and log you in even with a hat, glasses, or even a surgical mask. Kyriacou calls this Windows Hello 2.0. As far as we know, Windows Hello 2.0 may be limited to that particular device. Still, Windows Hello was one of the standout features of Windows 10, and the very first way in which you interact with Windows each morning. Now, Microsoft may be readying its successor for Windows 11.
Finally, there’s an intriguing option that you can manage within Windows: Device Usage, which is controlled via the Settings app. In Windows 10, you had the option of telling Windows what you were going to use it for. This is now formally part of Windows 11, and you can select one or more of a number of use cases for your PC. These generally control what sort of suggested apps and tips you’ll see. In certain cases, such as gaming, you may be presented with special offers such as a month of Xbox Game Pass.
Out of the box, you’re faced with the most significant UI change in Windows 11: the updated Start menu and Taskbar. Both feel like a step backward, robbing the user of some functionality as well as visual appeal.
Let’s take the Taskbar, for example. Your first glimpse of Windows 11 is a row of attractive, minimalist icons centered at the bottom of your screen. In Windows 11, you can hide the Taskbar, but you can’t resize or move it elsewhere on the screen-a potentially significant issue on low-DPI screens found on cheaper laptops, where screen space is a priority. Want to use smaller icons? Windows 10 allows this; Windows 11 does not. Within Windows 10, you have the option to use labels instead of taskbar icons; Windows 11 eliminates this, forcing you to parse the new icons blindly. Other small annoyances include locking the clock to the Taskbar on only your primary display, leaving you to wonder why Microsoft thinks it necessary to leave a large swathe of your desktop untouched on your secondary monitors.