How the hell is Microsoft already screwing up Windows 11 at this point?


I was really excited for Windows 11 for about an hour. As screenshots of the new operating system leaked, I was ready to see how Microsoft built on the generally excellent foundation it has with Windows 10. I was ready for rounded edges. and new icons and even a new version of the Start menu. This enthusiasm lasted until Microsoft released the unnecessary Windows 11 PC Health Checker tool which told just about everyone their PCs were not compatible without explaining why. Microsoft’s oddly short list of compatible processors surely wasn’t complete, right?

It’s been two messy months since that initial confusion on the day of the announcement. Microsoft has tried to clarify what you’ll actually need to run Windows 11, but only made the actual minimum requirements more confusing. He has failed to justify why his demands are so strict. And Windows 11 is now slated to launch on October 5, a date that seems comically rushed, given how many people still aren’t sure if they’ll be able to use it.

How do you ruin the launch of your biggest product at this point before it’s even released?

Windows 11 testers seem to do very well with unsupported hardware

Given the surprising rigor list of supported processors and an uninformative PC health checker tool, it was inevitable that people would sign up for the Windows 11 Insider program and install the operating system on untrusted hardware. And what do you know: apparently it went really well. If you make a few registry edits to bypass the system requirements checks while installing Windows 11 Insider, you could be using a much older processor, even as old as one. 2008 Intel Core 2 Duo!

Microsoft warned users ahead of time that unsupported hardware would end up being excluded from Insider testing, so it’s not like they’re pulling the rug under the testers. But the fact that these testers were able to use the operating system without significant problems proves that the “minimum requirements” are not about performance at all. So what are they talking about? Security? Maybe, but Microsoft has explained this wrong.

The big deal: the list of supported processors just isn’t trustworthy

As Linus points out in the video above, Microsoft’s official CPU compatibility lists don’t stand up to scrutiny. The oldest officially supported Intel processor for Windows 7 was released in 2015… five years after Windows 7 was released in 2009. Similarly, Windows 10 does not officially support processors like the Haswell i7-4790K, yet i have a pc with one in my house right now that is running windows 10 perfectly fine.

Security requirements are opaque and the few figures Microsoft released on stability are vague

With Windows 11, Microsoft made a lot of noise about security to justify its TPM 2.0 requirement, but it didn’t adequately explain why, say, Intel’s 7th Generation Core processors are too insecure to be included. while 8th generation processors are. It was also quite suspicious when the only 7th generation mobile processor that Microsoft decided to add to the list turned out to be installed in the $ 3,500 Surface Studio 2 it is currently selling.

A recent blog post on Windows 11 says Microsoft has used “over 8,200 billion signals from Microsoft threat intelligence, attack reverse engineering as well as input from leading experts like the NSA, UK National Cyber Security Center and the Canadian Center for Cyber ​​Security to design a security foundation in Windows 11 that addresses the growing threats that software alone cannot cope with. ”Sorry, but the invocation of many and the NSA don’t really convince me that one processor against another is going to make my PC virus-proof.

Later, the article cites that all Windows 11 processors should support HVCI, or code integrity protected by the hypervisor, and virtualization-based security (VBS), which is mandated within the US department. Defense (ooh, fancy!). We now discuss some security features that may differ from one generation of processor to another. If you remember the Specter and Meltdown CPU vulnerabilities discovered in 2018, you might also remember that some of the fixes could significantly slow down the performance of older processors. VHS and HVCI, which Microsoft wants to enable by default on most Windows 11 PCs, may perform much better on newer processors. But no one really comes to explain it.

Specter Vulnerability

(Image credit: Natascha Eibl and Intel)

As Andrew Cunningham of Ars Technica writes, Windows 11’s compatibility list mostly includes processors that support something called “Mode-Based Execution Control” – all you really need to know is that MBEC is what makes processors more capable. recent to manage these security features without slowing down. This makes sense, but Microsoft doesn’t explain it anywhere, and good luck finding technical details from Intel or AMD explaining the security features of their processors across generations.

All of this is impenetrable to the average user, which I’m sure is why Microsoft has taken the “trust us, it will make your PC safer” route. But without real clarity on these security capabilities, it’s hard to believe they’re really crucial. My laptop probably doesn’t need to meet Department of Defense security standards. And as Cunningham points out, there are actually processors that aren’t on the list that support MBEC, and some processors on the list that don’t.

Then there’s this statistic from Microsoft: “Devices that did not meet the minimum system requirements had 52% more crashes in kernel mode. Devices that meet the minimum system requirements had a crash-free experience of 99.8%. But isn’t it yet… 99.7%? Without further context, a figure that Microsoft wants to scare – 52% more crashes! – does not seem at all convincing.

Security requirements are therefore opaque and the few figures published by Microsoft on stability are vague. No wonder the cynical assumption is that Microsoft is just trying to get people to buy new PCs instead of letting people install Windows 11 on their pristine four-year-old machine. I don’t think that’s Microsoft’s plan at all, but I to do thinks this would work well for hardware vendors, in part so they don’t have to continue supporting their old hardware.

Are they really just drivers?

Windows 11

Going back to Linus’ video above, watch for a few minutes and he’ll talk about Windows 11’s new driver model, which promises to be more reliable than the old one. If Windows 11 requires a new driver model (or strongly recommends it, and at some point old model), it means motherboard suppliers and manufacturers of USB devices, etc., need to update their drivers for the new operating system.

It really sounds like a pain in the ass if you’re talking about hardware that is five years old or older, eh? Certainly, Asus, Gigabyte, and MSI don’t want to create new drivers for hundreds of motherboard models. My motherboard, released in 2017, received its last BIOS update in 2018.

But that’s not really a smoking gun: Asus, for example, released a brand new BIOS specifically for Windows 11 for its Z270 ROG Strix 2017 motherboards. This four-year-old motherboard, which supports Intel Core processors Gen 7 systems that aren’t on Microsoft’s compatibility list, shows that older systems could very likely get the support they need.

Again, however, Microsoft has been extremely vague about the severity of the new drivers, the number of older drivers that would need to be updated to be compatible, and whether driver instability is actually a real issue. That’s another reason why its minimum requirements aren’t convincing and easy conspiracy theory fodder for those who assume they’re nothing more than a ploy to sell new PCs.

You can install Windows 11 on an unsupported PC… but you might not get the updates?

Checking the status of Windows 11

(Image credit: Microsoft)

Along with this blog post citing vague data on Windows 11 reliability, security, and compatibility standards, it seemed, for a brief moment, that Microsoft could finally clear up the confusion over who can and can’t install this. new Windows. But no: they actually made things more confusing and then folded in to create a mess.

Microsoft told The Verge that its minimum requirements aren’t really the minimum requirements, after all; these are just the requirements for getting an automatic upgrade from Windows 10 to Windows 11. If you want to put a Windows 11 ISO on a flash drive and install it yourself, forget about that TPM 2.0 and processor created in over the past three years. Sit far away!

Except, like. Microsoft clarified to The Verge This Saturday that if you go this route, “unsupported PCs will not be eligible to receive Windows updates, and even security and driver updates may be denied.” In other words: of course, you can install Windows 11 against our advice, but its proper functioning is not our problem.

It’s a bad look. And it appears Microsoft has deliberately ignored reality to get to this moment, designing an operating system around ambiguous security demands that its most vocal users cannot match. A month after launch, the people most keen to get started with Windows 11 on day one spent weeks unsure whether they would be able to run it without a good answer as to why.

Security is important, but it would never have been realistic to limit Windows 11 to such new PCs. People will install it and use it anyway. If Microsoft really cares about security, preventing these systems from getting security updates will just mean a bunch of more vulnerable PCs around the world ready to spread phishing schemes and DDOS attacks, etc. They will be Microsoft’s problem whether the company likes it or not.

With a month remaining, Microsoft could expand its compatibility list to a few more years of hardware that people will be using anyway, and make it clear which security features each generation supports and how their performance may suffer compared to newer technologies. . This transparency would go a long way in fixing what has so far been a messy and disappointing deployment.

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