Windows 11, the gift that keeps on giving

Updated: May 24, 2024

Every time I think Windows 11 cannot surprise me with nonsense anymore, buzzer, bzzzzzzz, wrong. There's always something new. But hey, anger and fresh material for articles, winning. As it happens, a few weeks ago, I powered on my IdeaPad 3 laptop for some dual-boot testing, Plasma 6 and all. Once I was done with that, I thought I should boot into Windows 11, and do some basic maintenance, updates and such.

Like the opening sentence of the War of the Worlds musical, no one would have believed ... that I would find myself behind the keyboard for a good few hours, fuming, tweaking, trying to get the operating system in order, yet again. The exercise from six months ago, repeated, with interest. Let's talk.

Teaser

No updates

What makes me rub my whiskered chin like a proverbial philosopher about to write some wild theory on how to control the masses, I noticed that the machine didn't really have any updates. Or rather, it did, a very old set. There was nothing new. This can happen for two reasons: 1) you have pinned Windows to a major version, which will stop it from receiving an upgrade and at some point even the security patches 2) you are up to date, which couldn't be the case as I've not used the system for several months. Indeed, the system was stuck at a rather ancient 21H2. I realized that something big had gone wrong.

Windows 11 Installation Assistant

Say what you will about Microsoft and their UI choices, at the very least, they provide you with a lot of tools to get the system working should something go wrong. The best tool for the job is the Installation Assistant. You can use this utility to upgrade your operating system (say from 10 to 11), or fix the current one. Download, run, start the upgrade. This took a good couple of hours, but the process completed without any issues.

Assistant

After the upgrade, a wealth of pointless

Once Windows 11 booted into the new and updated environment, I noticed a few big, fundamental changes. Notably, the system area reverted to the "new" grouped thing. Using Winaero Tweaker, I had set the separate network, volume and power icons, but now, they were all back to the one widget that controls them all. The specific tweak no longer works.

Similarly, the old Windows Explorer - the fast, non-tabbed one - also no longer works. You get the "new" one, which takes a good second to render, every single time, be it a new window or a new tab. You can still invoke the old Explorer through a one-time trick (via Control Panel), but that's hardly convenient. There's no permanent solution. The new Explorer also does not respect your accent color, and always renders either light-themed or dark-themed, which is absolute ergonomic nonsense, as there's no separation between foreground and background windows. Stupidity at its best, or rather, worst.

Windows 11 had restored Windows Defender, which I had fully and completely deleted - so I booted into the Linux instance and had it deleted again, both folders under Program Files and ProgramData. I'm not interested in running a real-time anti-virus. This also makes your system more responsive, ever so slightly. But you can imagine a scenario - forced and locked BIOS, BitLocker on, and you can't use this trick, so you're forced to endure pointless 90s era software protection mentality in your computer.

Removed Defender

No more Defender, thank you very much.

Winget seems to be utterly broken. The error message is ridiculous:

Winget broken

If you press the Print Screen (PrtScrn) key on your keyboard, Windows wants to invoke its own screen capture app. Another pointless thing that wastes mouse clicks and time. If I hit the button, I'm done, the screenshot is made, and I can save it through whichever image viewer or editor. Here, you're expected to drag a rectangle to select an area and only then save the image (but through which program, aha). Basically, another attempt to "lure" you into using inferior new touch-inspired apps. This new nonsense is actually invoked through Accessibility > Keyboard. Why would this be preselected if the person does not use Accessibility tools? Shouldn't Accessibility be strictly used to actually help the end-user? This mega-load of fail breaks the very fundamentals of what accessibility actually means.

Print Screen key

Windows also removed Open-Shell and reinstated its low-IQ menu. So I had to reinstall the superb alternative yet again. I also offset its Y position by 10 pixels to make it fully aligned with the left corner, and reset the system's theme. In turn, this made the taskbar black, and I changed the accent color to a nice dark gray to make everything look a bit more suave. Entirely subjective to one's taste, of course.

Open-Shell, blue color

Accent color

Open-Shell, gray color

What about settings, privacy, anything changed?

Interestingly, not really. By and large, Windows preserved pretty much everything. I tried O&O ShutUp10++ to diff the changes before and after. After I wrote my guide on how to tame Windows 11, a bunch of you pinged me and asked me to test this tool. Now, I may do a full, proper review soon, but at the moment, in this particular case, the emphasis is on the differences, before and after.

Changes 1

Changes 2

Notably, Windows 11 re-enabled telemetry, speech synthesis (even though all the other permissions were retained, so on its own, the change is meaningless, even more so as I run with a local account), plus the peer-to-peer update option, which I find odd and mostly pointless slash harmless. The MRT submission change isn't actually a result of the update, but something that I deliberately changed. Perhaps worth bringing this up in a separate article.

For my own user, it was input personalization, Cortana and synchronization of data. The last two won't work with the local account anyway, but they seem to emphasize how much Microsoft wants people to use online accounts and "digital" assistance tools. Meh. However, all in all, very little was altered, though still enough to warrant my Risitas & Windows 10 clip, of course.

On the app side, no new apps were installed, and no new ones reinstalled. Great.

Conclusion

Once I was "satisfied" with my work, I tested the basic functionality, stability and speed. The system didn't throw odd errors, nothing crashed except winget, and the speed is okay except Windows Explorer. The big issue is the futility and wasted energy. It's like doing work meetings to agree on something that takes exactly three lines of email to do. An unnecessary activity just so that people of diminished capacity can say they participated in important decision making.

On the plus side, my system was in a damaged state - no idea how or why, but I'm quite certain it wasn't due to my tweaking as the one thing I never touched on this system was the Windows Update functionality - and the Assistant fixed it. Windows 11 didn't ruin my privacy state, either - just a wee bit, but way less than I expected, and way less than in the past. Considering how many things I've changed, this is almost okay.

Of course, one cannot just casually forgive or dismiss the problems with Open-Shell or winget, or the bad UI decisions. The best way to summarize it all is - much ado about nothing. Really, I mean, what's the point. Where's the added value for the end user? Anyway, this is the latest piece in my sweet life series. I'm pretty sure it won't be the last. To wit, see you later. Enjoy this article, if you can. Oh, I guess we will get some "AI" nonsense soon, so that should provide. Indeed, a gift that keeps on giving. Stay tuned.

Cheers.