Introducing Troubleshooting in Windows 11
Troubleshooting in Windows 11
We’re living in interesting times when it comes to working in IT and providing support for end users in the business space. Having now emerged from the global pandemic of 2020 (if only there was a phrase we could have used to describe seeing it coming), many if not most companies and organizations have workforces that, to a certain extent anyway, have rather enjoyed working from home.
It certainly hasn’t been without its challenges. Many were holed up throughout repeated lockdowns in small apartments, many without even a small balcony to step out onto. Many more had children at home all day, every day, becoming more and more frustrated with being unable to see their friends, and with home workers also having to double as unqualified and unprepared teachers, using whatever resources they could lay their hands on.
Despite all of this, people found great value in working from home. Days were longer for people, and more could be done without the time spent, from half an hour to sometimes six hours a day travelling to and from the workplace. Not having to spend vast sums of money, sometimes thousands of dollars, on fuel or public transport also brought its own benefits.
When you have more time to spend with your family, or on your hobbies and interests, the reasons to return entirely to the way life was before can begin to appear unreasonable. It’s no coincidence that during the lockdown periods Microsoft saw huge spikes in the numbers of people playing games on Xbox.
So when 2022 came around and I began writing this book, many companies were finding themselves having to tactfully and diplomatically negotiate with their employees.
Apple is a good example of this. Having just spent around five billion dollars on their new California headquarters, some employees threatened legal action if the company forced them to return to the office full time, no matter how nice the new premises were.
Other companies such as Google sought to cut costs by withdrawing some employee benefits such as on-site laundry and dry cleaning and tried to make it more difficult for employees to claim free evening meals.
None of that acted as an incentive to return to the office full time. It may happen eventually, but there will forever be an aspect of hybrid work that you will be supporting.
Then there’s the cloud aspect of the change. In 2021, Microsoft released its Cloud PC offering as part of the Microsoft 365 Enterprise suite of services. Initially expensive, we can fully expect prices to drop, and no doubt for the feature to make its way to consumer subscriptions in the fullness of time.
Cloud PC enables people to run a full streamed Windows 11 desktop to any device they own, from a PC to an iPad and a Chromebook. With Microsoft’s push under CEO Satya Nadella to transition to a services company and support every operating system platform out there, you can access business services from any device again, and you’ll no doubt find yourself supporting end users, working from home, on their Google Chromebook from time to time.
How Windows 11 Came About
There’s still good reason to support and troubleshoot Windows 11 desktop PCs and laptops though, and a large part of this is the story of how Windows 11 came about in the first place. There had long been a story that Microsoft had publicly stated Windows 10 was to be the last version of Windows. This story is actually apocryphal, and the company never made a formal statement to that effect.
It was actually a Microsoft senior technical evangelist, a guy called Jerry Nixon, who at the Microsoft Ignite conference in 2015 said, “Right now we’re releasing Windows 10, and because Windows 10 is the last version of Windows, we’re all still working on Windows 10.”
It could be that this was an official Microsoft policy at the time, because it tallies with something I was told the same year by a senior Microsoft marketing official at the 2015 Microsoft MVP (Most Valuable Professional) Summit. He was talking about the naming for Windows 10, being a little odd coming as it came after Windows 8.1 (some Microsoft staffers joked the point was actually a tiny plus [+] sign).
He told the assembled MVPs in the room that there were two reasons for the Windows 10 name. Firstly, Microsoft had taken the name Windows 9 to focus groups (and Microsoft love using focus groups) who fed back that 9 didn’t make it sound like the big release that it was.
Then came the interesting bit, Microsoft had planned to just call it “Windows” and be done with it. Windows 7 was out of support and nobody was using Windows 8, so why the hell not? This is when, he said, the lawyers had got involved. Twice in recent years, they’d been sued over a name: first by Rupert Murdoch’s Sky Television network in the UK over the name “SkyDrive” and then by a German cash-and-carry company over the use of the word “Metro” to describe their design language for Windows 10.
In both instances, the names had to be changed; SkyDrive became OneDrive (which is a better name anyway if you want my opinion), and Metro became Fluent. The lawyers pointed out that if a double-glazing company in Finland (to give one random example) sued over possible confusion caused by the name “Windows,” then Microsoft would be completely unable to change the name.
The plan then became, so he told us, to call it “Windows 10,” and then when Windows 8.1 was falling out of support and Windows 10 was the only version of Windows in use, to just start calling it “Windows.” Because it would still officially be called “Windows 10,” that ought to be enough to placate the lawyers if anybody were to sue over the name (I know, it’s ridiculous when you think about it, but this apparently is what lawyers go to bed thinking about at night).
Then came Windows 10X. Microsoft’s Surface hardware group were planning to release two new dual-screen devices that they announced in late 2019. In the end, only one of the devices came to market, the Surface Duo, and by the time it had, the OS choice had changed to Google’s Android.
Windows 10X was supposed to be the next huge leap in Windows architecture and very likely would have made this book entirely unnecessary overnight had it succeeded.
When Windows 10 was being developed, Microsoft had changed the underlying architecture so that they could componentize the OS. There would be “Windows 10 Core” which included the kernel files, and then all other aspects of the OS from the desktop interface to server features could be plugged in as needed.
The overall effect was that Microsoft could produce many different “flavors” of Windows 10, from Windows 10 IoT (Internet of Things) to Windows 10 Server, Windows 10 Azure Server, Windows 10 standard (the Home, Pro, and Enterprise editions), and so on.
This componentization work continued with Windows 10X which was to take it to the next stage. For some years, Microsoft had supported completely virtualized apps and software in Windows. Microsoft Virtual Desktop Infrastructure (VDI), which later transitioned into Windows Azure Virtual Desktop and then to Windows 365 Cloud PC, has been around for some years and allows anything from an individual app to an entire desktop to be run on a client machine in a virtualized environment.
The trick with all this is that the end user would never know the difference between a virtualized and streamed app and a locally installed one, as they would both be launched from the Start Menu or Taskbar and operate identically. You might remember “Windows XP Mode” for Windows 7 that operated in exactly the same way, and this is also the same way that the Xbox game console works, with one VM for the Xbox shell and another for games.
The upshot of Windows 10X would be that everything from the desktop to installed apps and software would be containerized and run its own, distinct virtual machine (VM). Even the currently running Windows kernel would have apparently run in a VM, meaning the actual kernel could be updated and upgraded “on the fly” without the need to reboot the PC.
This would have transformed Windows forever. Completely banished would have been instabilities and incompatibilities caused by the need to support legacy software dating all the way back to DOS and Windows 95. Any app, service, or driver that crashed wouldn’t be able to take the entire operating system or other apps and services with it. The Blue Screen of Death (BSOD) would have been relegated to the dustbin of history, and yours truly would have been put well and truly out of a job.
The problem came with performance, and Microsoft eventually scrapped Windows 10X, admitting they couldn’t get it to work reliably and with decent enough performance to release it. This is a shame as (and especially as I’m heading into early retirement anyway) I truly hope they find a way to make this work as hardware performance improves over time, perhaps releasing this as Windows 12 around 2024.
Microsoft had talked extensively about Windows 10X, however, and shown many demos and screenshots of the new interface they had designed for it. This new interface garnered many positive reviews and plaudits, so when PC Makers, also called Original Equipment Manufacturers (OEMs), came to Microsoft during 2021 bemoaning a slump in PC sales and asked if Microsoft could release something new and shiny to reinvigorate the market for them, the decision was made to fold the new componentized interface into Windows 10 and create a new OS called Windows 11.
How Windows 11 Differs from Windows 10
It’s this componentization that means that underneath, Windows 10 and Windows 11 are the same core OS. They share the same kernel with each other and with Windows Server. This componentization was done primarily for reasons of cost, making it much cheaper to support one Windows core, rather than several different ones, and as the kernel was separate from all the other plug-in components, support and maintenance for them would also become cheaper.
There are some distinct differences between Windows 10 and Windows 11 though that go deeper than a slick new interface (and the interface is a subject I’ll come back to later on). These changes though are mostly focused on which PCs Microsoft deemed suitable for Windows 11 to be installed on, and they were controversial indeed.
The most controversial decision was to enforce the need for a Trusted Platform Module (TPM) 2.0 chip or support for a Firmware Trusted Platform Module (fTPM) in the UEFI firmware. Microsoft wanted to make Windows 11 much more secure than previous versions and also encourage people to use biometric security more, such as their Windows Hello features, in their drive to banish the need for passwords.
TPM chips had been mandatory for new Windows PCs since the release of Windows 8+1 (sorry, Windows 8.1) in 2013. This only applied to new PCs sold through OEMs however. It didn’t apply to PCs that gamers, pro users, and enthusiasts built for themselves, nor did it apply to new motherboards that were sold individually, though a few did come with a socket for a TPM chip anyway.
It also didn’t apply to all the older Windows 7 desktop and laptop PCs that businesses and organizations around the world upgraded to Windows 10 or purchased new for Windows 10 from manufacturers that agreed to produce older-specified machines so as to maintain full compatibility with an organization’s software and hardware peripherals.
fTPMs though were still in the planning stage in 2015 when Windows 10 was released and weren’t widely available until shortly before the release of Windows 11.
So while many businesses and organizations and even consumers had Windows 8.1 era PCs that included a TPM, this was often a TPM 1.0 chip, and Microsoft deemed this lacked important security they were requiring for Windows 11 because boot keys could be intercepted and hacked as they were transmitted unencrypted between the chip and the boot loader.
The theory, Microsoft thought, was that any PC with a TPM 1.0 chip would be very old by the time Windows 11 was released (TPM 1.0 became available in 2011, with TPM 2.0 replacing it in 2014, the year before Windows 10’s release), and everybody from consumers to corporations would be purchasing new PCs anyway.
Sadly, what Microsoft failed to factor in was the overall reliability of modern computers. Back in the days of Windows 95, computer hardware could be flaky and often expire after just three to five years, forcing people to upgrade.
Only yesterday though as I write this, a friend who works in IT and one of his colleagues found an old Dell laptop running Windows XP that booted to the desktop and worked perfectly when they tested it (see Figure 1-1).
Figure 1-1. Stephen Coombes and Laith Al-Wasity at Bournemouth School (UK)
It’s therefore possible for a modern desktop or laptop PC to work for 15 years or perhaps even longer. I’ve recently upgraded my older Surface Laptop 2, which I purchased in 2018 (so four years old by this point) with a Surface Laptop Studio. Not wanting a perfectly good laptop to go to landfill, I offered it to another friend who had previously had my cast-off Dell XPS 13 laptop (circa 2015 and now seven years old), but he told me the XPS was still perfectly good, that he really liked it, and that he felt no need to upgrade.
A few months before writing this, I wrote The Green IT Guide (Apress, 2022) in which I talk a lot about the problems of ewaste. Some 50 million tons of ewaste are created globally each year, but as I write this, only around 20% of it is recycled, with the rest of it going into landfill.
The problem with modern electronics is that they contain many metals and minerals that can heavily pollute the environment; pose health risks to people, animals, and plant life; and even be carcinogenic. In India, where ewaste recycling is in its infancy, experts say that some 80% of the country’s surface water is polluted. I won’t go on about this here, I would rather encourage you to purchase the book, but it’s a huge problem that’s not going away any time soon.
The other controversial change was that Windows 11 would require an eighthgeneration Intel processor (and equivalent generation AMD processors). This was primarily for reasons of security, with the seventh-generation Intel chips being hit by some serious malware when flaws were discovered in 2017.
These seventh-generation chips though were sold with PCs and laptops between 2016 and 2020 (the eighth-gen chips being sold from 2017 through to 2021), meaning that many Windows 10 PCs would be ineligible to run Windows 11 despite being only two or three years old themselves.
With Windows 10 ending support on October 14, 2025, though we can likely expect paid-for extended support as happened with Windows 7, this means these PCs could be as little as five or six years old when Microsoft makes them completely obsolete and insecure. From an environmental standpoint, this is intolerable, though Microsoft made a very good case for security overall.
These changes and the new interface aside, that’s pretty much it for the differences between Windows 11 and Windows 10. The old Administrative Tools have been renamed Windows Tools (we’ll look at this in Chapter 2) which will be important for you as an IT Pro and troubleshooter, the Windows 11 Start Menu no longer supports Live Tiles (we won’t miss them), and Windows 10 can’t run Android apps from the Amazon Appstore, but that’s about all.
How Windows 11 Will Change During Its Life
What is of importance though is how Windows 11 itself will change over the coming years until we get that completely virtualized Windows 12 I’m still holding out hope for around 2026 or so.
Take a look at Figure 1-2, and you’ll see the Settings panel as it appeared in Windows 10 when it was launched in 2015 and how it looked at the end of 2021 around the time of the launch of Windows 11.
Figure 1-2. Windows 10 changed considerably during its life
This was just one aspect of the operating system that changed. When Microsoft first introduced Settings in Windows 8, it was a very basic affair and didn’t even offer all the desktop personalization options of the OS. Microsoft has been on a mission though to remove the venerable Control Panel and replace it with a much more modern, and more suitable for a modern OS, Settings interface.
There are many reasons for this, and part of it is making the main interface for Windows look and operate much more like that found in Apple’s Mac OS operating system or on an iPad or Android smartphone, or even a Google Chromebook, all of which are leagues ahead of Windows for the simplicity of their settings.
This isn’t a bad thing, but it’s slow going. The primary reason for this is that there are legacy components in Windows that are still required by some businesses and organizations that date back to Windows 3.1. In Figure 1-3, you can indeed see that you don’t have to dig very hard in Windows 11 to find interface elements that date back to the early 1990s.
Figure 1-3. Some interface elements in Windows 11 date back to Windows 3.1
So what’s the reason for this, as surely Microsoft should have replaced all these interface elements with modern ones already, based on their fluent design language I mentioned earlier? The problem stems from several places. Firstly, these old interface elements have to look and work just as they did before, sometimes on mission-critical hardware that’s quite old itself (but of course isolated from the Internet for reasons of basic security).
These interface elements also have to work with scripting tools just as they did before. The second problem is that these were all written in different languages. Much of the earliest versions of Windows were written in C or 8086 assembly language. Later versions of Windows and elements of their interfaces went on to be written in C+, C++, C#, WinForms, and .NET. All in, there’s a bit of a mess with the legacy code, some of which may not even be accurately documented. Chewing through all of this to update it for a modern UI is a mammoth task that requires completely rewriting all the old code while maintaining compatibility for all the businesses and organizations that still require them.
Whereas companies such as Apple have a “clean slate” policy every few years, and Linux users can install completely different interfaces and versions of the OS, Windows PC just don’t have that luxury or flexibility.
Regardless of the scale of the challenge, Microsoft is plodding on, and this brings me to an extremely important point about the content of this book.
Where Will All the Little Applets Go?
Over the life of Windows 10 as I said, many Control Panel items were removed and folded into Settings. The Control Panel itself had 42 applets when it launched in 2015 compared to 36 in 2021, while the number of Settings categories grew during that time from 9 to 13.
Windows 11 launched with the same 36 Control Panel applets, and we can be certain that this number will decrease, and likely the number of categories in Settings will increase during the coming years.
I’ll take you through all the different control and other settings and tool panels you’ll need to troubleshoot problems in Windows 11 in Chapter 2, but I want first to address what these changes will mean for using this book and finding what you need in the OS as it evolves.
If I’m at any point talking about a Control Panel or other settings or options that you can’t find, there will be two places to look for them. Some of these applets will be folded into Settings. They could be straightforward to find, but failing that, the Settings panel does contain a search box you can type in to find exactly what you’re looking for.
The other place where Control Panel applets can be moved is Windows Tools, and this is where the administrator-focused applets are likely to wind up. I very much doubt that by the time Windows 12 is released, the Control Panel will be gone entirely, but it’s likely another ten applets would have been removed entirely (I’ll detail this in a moment) or moved to Settings or Windows Tools.
Now I just mentioned that some features of Windows could be removed entirely. It’s actually very likely with some of them, as there are Windows features that are old and no longer in development, and whether they stay or go will depend entirely on metrics Microsoft receive about how many people and businesses are still using them.
Among the features I fully expect to be removed from Windows 11 over the years though are
- Backup and Restore, which is the old Windows 7 file backup system
- File History, another deprecated file backup system
- Creating a System backup image, which is perhaps slightly less likely to be removed but has been replaced by Reset anyway
- Internet Options, as this is related entirely to the now defunct Internet Explorer web browser
- Mail (Microsoft Outlook), as it duplicates functionality in Outlook anyway
- Phone and Modem, as fewer and fewer people need dial-up Internet access
- Sync center, as it’s only for much older business file sync systems
- Storage spaces, which has been deprecated for a while now
- Work Folders, as this has already been moved into Settings
Then there are the Control Panel applets I expect to see moved into Windows Tools:
- Bit-locker Drive Encryption
- Credential Manager
- Device Manager
- Remote-app and Desktop Connections
- Turn Windows Features On or Off (currently in Programs and Features)
- Windows Defender Firewall
Lastly, there are the Control Panel applets I expect to see removed completely as they are folder further and further into Settings:
- Color Management
- Date and Time
- Default Programs
- Devices and Printers
- Ease of Access Center
- File Explorer Options
- Indexing Options
- Network and Sharing Center
- Power Options
- Programs and Features
- Security and Maintenance (likely moved into Windows Security)
- Speech Recognition
- Taskbar and Navigation
- User Accounts
This overall is a lot to get rid of, but during the lifetime of Windows 10, much of that work had already been done.
Windows 11 Editions
I mentioned earlier that Microsoft componentized Windows to make it easier to create specialist versions of the OS and to make those versions cheaper to support. Indeed, there are many more versions of Windows 11 than you might think, but while some might lack a user interface, they will all be supportable using scripting such as Command Line and Power-Shell or remote access tools such as Remote Desktop Services.
The list of Windows 11 editions includes
- Windows 11 Home
- Windows 11 Pro
- Windows 11 Enterprise
- Windows 11 Education (a variation on Enterprise)
- Windows 11 Pro Education
- Windows 11 SE (a Google Chromebook competitor for low-power PCs in the education market)
- Windows 11 Pro for Workstations
- Windows 11 Mixed Reality
- Windows 11 IoT (Internet of Things)
- Windows 11 IoT Enterprise
- Windows 11 Team (used in Surface Hub)
Indeed, there are probably other specialist editions out there too for cars, medical and industrial appliances, and such, though these are likely to be based on the IoT edition anyway.
There are differences between them too above the cosmetic. You might find yourself supporting PCs running Windows 11 Home for hybrid workers who are using their own laptop or desktop; indeed, the $3000 Surface Laptop Studio I purchased for myself recently comes with Windows 11 Home (grumble, grumble).
So what’s missing in the Home edition that could affect how you troubleshoot problems and provide support? Features that are not included in the Home edition of Windows 11 are as follows:
- Bitlocker Device Encryption, though a full disk encryption feature does exist in settings in some (but for some bizarre reason, not all) PCs with a TPM, something I hope Microsoft address in the future
- Windows Information Protection (WIP)
- Assigned Access
- Dynamic Provisioning
- Enterprise State Roaming with Azure
- Group Policy
- Kiosk Mode Setup
- Microsoft Store for Business (though this is being deprecated anyway)
- Mobile Device Management (MDM)
- Support for Active Directory (including Domain Join)
- Support for Azure Active Directory
- Windows Update for Business
All of the other editions are roughly the same with the exceptions of Windows 11 SE not supporting win32 desktop software installation and the IoT editions excluding the desktop interface components.
Windows 11 Update Channels
This reference to Windows Update for Business brings me to the subject of Windows Update Channels. The version of Windows you use will determine how frequently you receive updates, how long you can defer updates for, and how long a particular “Feature Pack” is supported.
Feature Packs are what we used to call Service Packs and are the big update Microsoft releases once a year that include a roll-up of bug and security fixes and new features for the operating system.
Microsoft changed all this with Windows 10, removing to some extent the update roll-up aspect of the Feature Pack and moving to a six-month release. This increased frequency of releases didn’t sit well with many IT Pros and companies that needed time to test new features with their own software and systems and didn’t want the additional training and support expense of teaching employees how to use a new Windows feature or taking a huge number of support calls from people all asking, “What the hell is this thing that’s just appeared on my desktop?” With Windows 11, we’re back to an annual Feature Pack, released each fall (autumn), usually sometime in October.
Note:Patch Tuesday has become the name for the day each month when Microsoft ships updates. The second Tuesday of each month is usually the day when updates are released for Windows.
So what are the differences between Windows versions with regard to Feature Packs and updates, and how long can you defer updates? First, it’s important to understand the different types of updates that Microsoft releases for Windows 11:
- Feature Updates: as I have already mentioned, are delivered once a year. These contain update roll-ups and also significant feature additions to the operating system. Note that some features are shipped at other times of the year, usually because they’re an update to an app that’s delivered through the Microsoft Store rather than Windows Update itself.
- Quality Updates: are what you might think of the more traditional Windows Updates. These include security and stability updates, critical updates, and driver updates. Updates for Microsoft software that can be managed by Windows Update, such as Office or Visual Studio, are also considered Quality Updates.
Windows 11 Home
This is the most strictly enforced version of Windows, with updates being able to be paused for up to five weeks and that’s about it. This doesn’t include important stability and security updates which will be installed anyway.
Windows 11 Pro (Stand-Alone PC)
In a non-Enterprise, stand-alone environment, updating Windows 11 Pro works identically to how it does in the Home version, with updates being able to be paused in Windows Update for up to five weeks, but important security and stability updates being pushed to the PC by Microsoft regardless.
Windows 11 Pro and Enterprise
In the Enterprise environment, PCs running Windows 11 Pro, Pro for Workstation, Enterprise, or Education versions and their offshoot versions can take advantage of Windows Update for Business. This offers system administrators additional flexibility when updates are managed centrally from a service such as Mobile Device Management (MDM) or Microsoft Intune.
When using Windows Update for Business, the different types of updates can be deferred for the following periods:
- Feature Updates for 365 days
- Quality Updates for 30 days
- Other updates, nondeferrable
Windows 11 LTSC
This brings us to the Long-Term Servicing Channel (LTSC) version of Windows 11.1 This is a special edition of Windows designed to be used with specialist equipment such as automatic teller machines (ATMs) and medical and industrial machinery. These are all devices that the end user doesn’t interact with and that doesn’t really have or need a desktop experience, but where stability and longevity are absolutely crucial.
Microsoft’s LTSC editions of Windows have a five-year lifecycle from the time a Feature Pack is released, with those packs typically being released every two years.
Note: Microsoft has been known to move the goalposts on updates for both business and LTSC. When Windows 10 first launched, the LTSC life-cycle was ten years, with the change to five years being made later.
When Windows 10 launched, I was asked by an IT company in the United States to advise a major corporation in Florida about their roll-out. This company wanted to use the LTSC edition on all their desktops. I explained this wouldn’t work and was a terrible idea, but they wouldn’t budge. Eventually, I got so frustrated I told them to “suck it up” only later discovering the company was Lockheed Martin, one of the world’s biggest arms manufacturers, which, by then, probably also knew where I lived.
Windows 11 IoT Editions
Lastly, we come to the Internet of Things (IoT) editions of Windows 11 where the support life-cycles can vary, but largely follow the LTSC channel. This is because an IoT implementation of Windows will almost always be used in a specific device, such as a home automation system or an automobile.
Windows 11 Lifecycle
Every operating system has an end-of-life date, with the date all support ends for Windows 10 being October 14 2025. This was approximately ten years after the operating system launched, so assuming Windows 11 will follow the same lifecycle, we can reasonably expect all support to end sometime in 2031 or 2032.
Each Feature Pack however has its own end-of-support date, after which it will receive no more security and stability updates. Before this happens, you should always make certain you have upgraded your systems to a more recent Feature Pack.
These end-of-life dates for Feature Packs vary depending on what edition of Windows 11 you are using. For the non-Enterprise editions, including Home, Pro, and Pro for Workstation when used in a stand-alone environment, each Feature Pack will be supported for 18 months from the release date.
In the enterprise environment, each Feature Pack will be supported for up to 36 months from the release date, though remember what I said that Microsoft has been known to move the goalposts on updating in the past.
Useful Windows 11 Features
This is a troubleshooting book, so there’s no need here for me to detail what’s new and improved in the operating system; I would encourage you to purchase my book Windows 11 Made Easy (Apress, 2022) if you want to know about that. There are some new features in Windows 11 though that could come in handy when you’re troubleshooting problems.
You might be familiar with a Windows feature called “Snap.” This was first introduced with Windows 7 and allowed you to drag a window all the way to the left or right side of the screen where it would automatically fill all of that side of the desktop space. This was later expanded to allow the four corners of the screen to be used.
With Windows 11, Microsoft acknowledges that people are now using larger screens and screens with more horizontal space as well (my own screen is an ultrawide 21:9 ratio monitor). With Windows 11 then, they introduced snap layouts, not only allowing for more and more varied snap options but making the feature more discoverable as well.
You can use snap layouts by hovering your mouse cursor over the Maximize button in the top-right corner of a window, where a selection of snap layout options will appear (see Figure 1-4). As I write this, Microsoft is testing new snap layout functionality where the layout options will also appear when you resize a window.
Figure 1-4. Snap layouts can make window management simple
We’ll look in detail at other new features of Windows 11 like the Windows Terminal and the revamped Settings panel in Chapter 2, but Quick Settings, see Figure 1-5 can be a useful way to get access to services and features you might need, including Wi-Fi and network connections and power settings.
You access it by clicking the Network / Sound icon, and if you’re using a laptop, Battery icons and a customizable panel will pop up with quick link buttons to turn Windows features on or off.
Figure 1-5. Quick Settings is a useful panel for accessing networking
The Windows Insider Program
I want to drop in a note here about the Windows Insider Program and how it might be relevant to you when troubleshooting problems on PCs. Essentially, the Insider Program is a public alpha and beta channel in Windows Update. It allows anybody that’s not had it blocked by Group Policy anyway to download and install early builds of the next Feature Update and to help Microsoft test features that might come to Windows at a later date.
The flip side of it being a public feature and of being built into Windows 11 is that you might find yourself supporting PCs that are on the Insider Program, so if somebody is having a problem with their PC, it’s always a good idea to check if they are using an Insider build.
You can check in Windows Update in Settings where Windows Inside Program is listed as an option. If the PC is enrolled in the program, then you will see it clearly detailed there (see Figure 1-6).
Figure 1-6. Windows Update will tell you if the PC is enrolled in the Insider Program
There are three different channels in the Insider Program, with each one delivering a different experience and more risk to the end user and that PC. Bear in mind though that Microsoft has changed the channel names and their content before, so this could happen again, and it’s not beyond the realms of possibility that the Insider Program as a whole could be withdrawn at some point in the future.
- Dev (Developer) Channel is for the most technical users only and should definitely not be used on a PC where you actually need to “get stuff done.” These builds will be the most frequent and will include the newest test features, but they will also be the least stable and least reliable.
- Beta Channel is where early adopters can get their fix of what’s coming next to Windows 11. These builds will be much more stable and dependable than the Dev Channel, but could still cause instabilities and crashes.
- Release Preview are the least frequent builds. These are advance copies of that year’s Feature Pack and tend to only be released a month or so the pack is on general availability anyway.
Note: If you are supporting a user who has reported a Green Screen of Death, this is a sure sign they are using an Insider build of Windows on their PC, as the crash screen has been deliberately recolored by Microsoft to differentiate these alpha and beta builds from the stable releases.
How to Use This Article
So with the formalities out of the way, how should you use this book and what should you expect when troubleshooting problems with Windows 11 and supporting the people that use it to get stuff done? If you’ve read any of my previous Windows troubleshooting books, which take me all the way back to 2010 and a lot of great memories over the years, you’ll already have noticed from flicking through the table of contents that I’m doing things slightly differently this time around.
In the past, I’ve split these books into three distinct sections, beginner, intermediate, and advanced. This time, I’m throwing you all in at the deep end (with great help and support along the way of course) and treating each subject as its own distinct thing. This avoids the repetition that crept into the previous books and, for such a large subject, will help you find and digest the information you need more quickly.
Let’s face it, speed is the name of the game now as a loss of productivity very quickly equals a loss of money for your business or organization, and there will be a lot of pressure on you to keep people working and to keep both their and your own productivity high.
In Next then, we’ll look at all the places where there are tools you’ll need for troubleshooting and configuring Windows, such as the Control Panel, Settings, Windows Tools, the Windows Terminal, Recovery Console, and a few additional tools that can be downloaded in Microsoft’s Sysinternals Suite. You might then want to refer back to Next occasionally if I later mention something that you can’t find.
Speaking of things you can’t find, it’s important to bear in mind how Windows 11 is going to change over its life. I have detailed all the places where I expect changes to happen, such as the Control Panel being stripped out and its applets being moved either to Settings or Windows Tools.
Linux on Windows
There will also be changes over the years with third-party software and tools, most likely with new ones becoming available. One of the major changes Microsoft brought with Windows 11 was the ability for third-party app stores to be plugged into the Microsoft Store.
The first examples of this were the Epic Games Store and the Amazon Appstore, the latter of which brought a paltry and pretty rubbish selection of Android apps to the Windows desktop for the first time (hey, you’ve got to take your victories where you can find them!).
In the future, however, we could see more useful tools being brought to the store, such as support for Linux apps. There is already a Windows Subsystem for Linux (WSL) built into the Pro and Enterprise editions of both Windows 11 and Windows 10. This allows you to install both scripting and GUI installations of Linux that run virtualized on the Windows’ desktop and that enable you to use Linux scripting tools such as BASH (seemingly the only short code name for a tech product to not be an acronym for anything).
This is worth keeping an eye on then, as WSL has proven hugely popular with Windows app developers, and it’s possible in the future that the subsystem could be used to port more Linux apps to Windows. Given that Linux is generally a much more “techiefied” (that’s a word, okay) operating system than Windows has ever been, you might find some of your favorite Linux tools becoming available in the future.
The Fundamentals of Providing High-Quality Support
I’ve already mentioned throughout this chapter that you’re not only supporting Windows 11 PCs but the people that use them. These people might work in your own office or remotely anywhere in the world. They could work from home, perhaps even on their own PC that’s shared with their family and used by their children.
There will be chapters in this book devoted to how you go about supporting users, especially when you want to take them with you to help ensure problems don’t recur further down the line. In Chapters 5 and 7 then, I’ll take you through how to become an effective trainer; how to recognize and work with diversity in education, background, and language; and how to manage the accessibility needs of users when providing support. Being an educator though is a skill in itself, so in Chapters 16 and 21 we’ll look at the wider implications of our uses of technology and how the connected world we live in can cause problems all on its own.
So there we have it; hopefully, this chapter has given you a heads-up about what Windows 11 is and how it is inevitably going to change over the years. You need to keep your skills relevant as the years pass, and I too need to make sure this book is as useful to you years from now as it is today.
With that in mind, we’ll jump right in, and in the next chapter, we’ll examine all the tools you’ll need to configure and troubleshoot Windows. We’ll see where you can find everything and where things that move are likely to end up, and we’ll look at some of the cool tools and utilities available to make your job simpler.