Windows 11 Is Here – It’s Time to Upgrade! Or Is It?

Microsoft released Windows 11, to relatively little fanfare, on October 5th 2021 and as expected, most techies will have rushed to download and install the latest and greatest OS from Microsoft (myself included).

So the big question is: Should you be rushing to roll it out across your organisation?

Before I answer that question, just what are the main things that Windows 11 brings to the table?

While there’s a multitude of behind-the-scenes tweaks and improvements, the main headline items generally talked about are fairly well summed up on this Microsoft page:

Below is a simplified version from the Microsoft article.

  1. A simpler way to stay in touch.
    With Chat from Microsoft Teams, you can connect to friends and family from your PC regardless of what computer or phone or tablet they are using.
  2. Intuitive navigation, easy organisation.
    With Windows 11, the user experience has been simplified. It’s a clean, fresh design that is new, yet immediately familiar. Front and centre is the ability to search for anything, anywhere. It’s streamlined, intuitive, and revolves around you.
  3. Bring balance to your desktop.
    You can group and organise open windows and easily pivot between them with the ground-breaking multi-tasking tool, Snap Assist.
  4. Wonderful world of widgets.
    Your favourite photos, weather, the world news, stocks, and more.
  5. Innovative devices and features.
    New Windows devices are more versatile, more capable, and easier for you to use.

If you read through those above five points from Microsoft, I’ll forgive you for thinking it’s a fair amount of marketing waffle, and from an IT Pro/Business standpoint it mainly is.

New UI Changes introduced in Windows 11 – including a new central Start Menu

Not many organisations are going to be rushing to deploy Candy Crush or TikTok from the Android enlightened App Store, Widgets (at the moment) seem very pointless unless you can’t look out the window to see the current weather…

The new window snapping, I’ll hold off on full judgement until I have an ultra-wide monitor to test with but on my laptop I’ve noticed little difference and on my dual monitors I’ve actually cursed it a few times as it can, at times, be overly aggressive in suggesting snap points when moving windows around.

The Teams integration… now this was the most interesting to me as I spend all day every day in Teams collaborating, chatting and attending meetings. However… at present this only supports personal accounts so again, I’ll have to hold off commenting on it until Microsoft support (I hope they will!) business accounts.

Known Issues

No new OS is ever going to be bug free on release, Windows 11 was no exception with a raft of bug fixes and security updates (38 according to my checks) being quickly released in October shortly after general availability launch.

While most are now resolved, except at the time of writing, a compatibility issue for users of Oracle VirtualBox, it’s worth bookmarking the following page and regularly checking.

Supported Hardware

One of the biggest changes, and possibly fly-in-the-ointment for your deployment plans, centres around the hardware requirements Microsoft have introduced for Windows 11.

The following blog explains Microsoft’s rational behind this.

I can personally see Microsoft’s stance on this. The best in-depth security features in the OS (as they were in Win10) are tied to hardware requirements across CPU and TPM. Therefore, to ensure an OS can be best protected, it’s time to move the hardware minimum bar.

Supported CPUs:

Whether or not you agree, the limitations are there and especially by the servicing method, upgrades will be blocked.
If you’re using Intune to manage your environment, then you’d be well served by visiting the Endpoint Analytics part of Reporting and checking the “Work from anywhere (Preview)” report, specifically under the Windows tab.

Bonus tip: Export the data to Excel and do your analysis there, or better still throw it into Power BI and link it to the Intune Data Warehouse to get an even more detailed report to support planning activities.

Endpoint Analytics reports can be used to identify machines not capable of running Windows 11

Deployment and Management

Now here’s some good news. All the regular tools such as Microsoft Endpoint Manager Configuration Manager and Intune can continue to be used to manage Windows 11 as well as provision or deploy the OS, depending on your usage of Autopilot or Task Sequences. Obviously with ConfigMgr not being a cloud service, you’ll need to make sure you update it to at least the 2107 release to get support. Intune being a cloud service was ready on Day 0.

A quick example of management, the ability to turn off the Widgets in Windows 11 is available in the settings catalogue in Intune, as well as GPO if you’re still managing that way (hint… you shouldn’t be.)

Intune already had support for managing the configuration of Windows 11

Time to upgrade?

Currently, in my personal opinion, no.

There are not enough compelling reasons to rush upgrading end users to the new OS, if nothing else, the new UI appearance could cause some confusion without a strong communication plan in place first.

But that doesn’t mean you shouldn’t start planning. There are a few activities that you should be considering planning for and testing now, just like for any WaaS Lifecycle update.

  • Infrastructure and Management Toolset Upgrades
  • Application Compatibility Testing
  • Hardware Compatibility and Driver Testing
  • Security and Configuration Updates and Testing

There are lots of resources out there to help you with this, and Microsoft are updating their documentation all the time. However, if you would like additional support to help you shape your strategic approach and ongoing Windows management, we are here and happy to help.

If you’re interested in finding out more about our services and how it can help your organisation, get in touch with our team today.

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