What Windows 11 could do to solve Windows 10’s worst problems

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Microsoft is expected to launch Windows 11 this Thursday, and with that comes the hope that the new version will address some of the biggest problems with its predecessor, Windows 10.

Our hands-on with the leaked Windows 11 build gave us an idea of what the new operating system might be like. But if that leaked build was, as we were later told, an early, incomplete version, there’s likely more to come with Windows 11’s official unveiling. It’s also likely that Microsoft will still be working on Windows 11 for weeks and even months to come, providing an opportunity for yet more improvements. So now’s the time to add a few last items to the docket. Here’s a (short, incomplete) list of problems we’d like to see fixed in Windows 11. 

1. Leave local user accounts alone

Signing in with a Microsoft account (MSA) offers numerous benefits. Favorites and passwords sync within Microsoft Edge, Windows can pre-install and validate Microsoft 365 apps like Excel, and documents can be shared across PCs via OneDrive. But at Microsoft, there’s an ever-growing reluctance to allow Windows 10 users to sign in with a local account—sometimes flatly refusing if you’re connected to the Internet.

You could argue that the more services are tied to an MSA, the more valuable the ecosystem becomes. But if we value our privacy online, why can’t we value that same privacy on our PC?

Windows 10 evil monologue Microsoft account Mark Hachman / IDG

Sometimes Microsoft will offer the option of a local account within Windows 10…and sometimes it won’t.

2. Streamline the installation even more

From what we’ve seen of the Out of the Box Experience (OOBE) in setting up a new Windows 11 PC, the startling “HI! I’M CORTANA!” exclamation is a thing of the past. But the process could be even simpler. I don’t mind signing in with my MSA. But what I’d like to do is simply establish a network connection (wired or otherwise), sign in with my MSA, authenticate via an app or security key, then walk away. Ad preferences, keyboard settings, Office logins—I’d like those stored in Microsoft’s cloud and applied automatically. If someone wants to log in with a local account, let them—it’s at that point that they can be asked for their preferences.

3. Leave your settings alone after a major update

This annoyance usually floats at or near the top of the list for most people. At this point, I’m simply resigned to the possibility that a feature update may unexpectedly reset one of my preferences. (Here’s how to manage Windows 10 updates.) Windows 11 just raises those concerns anew.

4. Rein in OneDrive placeholders

I thought OneDrive file and folder placeholders were fantastic, until my folder count kept climbing and climbing. I despise how OneDrive wants to back up my desktop, so I turn that off. But what I can’t turn off is the various placeholder folders that clutter my OneDrive—folders that I want, but hate scrolling through so I can add yet another folder for a review or other project.

I’d love an option to back up my documents or photos to the cloud automatically, but also toggle placeholders on and off so I can have the best of “local” files as well as the cloud. By definition, downloading those placeholders should require just a few kilobytes here and there, right? Toggling them on and off shouldn’t be any problem for a modern PC.

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