Various Windows 11 laptops

Want a good Windows experience? Focus on the hardware first

Recently someone asked me which version of Windows I would recommend deploying to the system. They noted the different Windows editions available, including Enterprise SKU, Windows 10 Professional, and Windows 10 Home. For most small and medium businesses (SMBs) and home users, I recommend Windows 10 or 11 Professional — which you can go with even if you initially purchased Windows 10 or 11 Home. Professional gives you more control over updates and exposes local group policies so you can control more things in the operating system.

Another important point is to make sure that the computer you buy has the right hardware. In particular, this means the presence of a solid state drive (SSD).

The other day, I helped someone set up a new PC with Windows 11 and once again realized how important an SSD is. After booting, the mechanical hard drive was attached to the computer with 100% disk usage and the system was basically unusable. I opened Device Manager and confirmed my suspicions: it wasn’t an SSD drive. I let the system sit for a while – too long – until disk usage became reasonable. While the laptop has enough RAM, it obviously doesn’t have the proper hard drive for Windows 11 (or even Windows 10).

Another issue when buying computers right now has to do with supply chain constraints; Some companies have to buy devices with Which Windows version then upgrade.

Most likely, you’ll only find systems running Windows 11 Home, not Windows 10, in stores. While Windows 11 remains a work in progress, it can be tamed through the use of third-party tools like Start11, which reverts the menu system back to what it’s like in Windows 10. If you decide to keep the Windows 11 central menu system, be aware that Microsoft is in the process of making more changes to Start menu system and task management in response to feedback. Once you purchase Windows 11 Home, you can easily purchase an upgrade to Windows 11 Professional, which makes it easier to delay feature releases, pause updates, and set update settings instead of having to use registry keys or other workarounds.

If you’re deploying Windows 11 as an SMB business or for a home office, you may encounter issues with older devices such as home NAS devices that rely on SMB version 1 file sharing. In the future, Windows 11 will ship with SMBv1 disabled, which means you may need to get rid of SMBv1 devices. Old NAS – and probably not supported now – or finding a way to enable SMBv2 or SMBv3 to continue using them. My advice: Find a community forum for your NAS and you should get real-world advice on whether it’s best to stop the old system or remove it from your network.

If you are a small business with 300 users or less and need a license for an Office suite, I suggest looking into Microsoft Business Premium. It includes the latest version of Office hosted email and, most importantly, several tools to allow for additional protection and support. In particular, it includes Azure AD p1 which allows you to set up conditional access based on device or location and group status. (This is useful for setting policies for multi-factor authentication that starts when someone logs in from a risky location or performs risky actions.) It includes Defender for Business, an endpoint detection and remediation tool that expands on Microsoft Defender Antivirus; It actually tracks actions on the workstation and sends alerts about any malicious activity.

In addition, it also provides executable tasks to increase network security, such as ensuring that third-party software is patched on my network and enabling Attack Surface Reduction (ASR) rules. ASRs can provide additional network protection, making your system more resilient to attacks. If you represent a company with more than 300 users, Microsoft offers two additional Enterprise licenses, E3 or E5. These versions provide more security features. You can purchase an operating system license alone or combine it with a Microsoft 365 license suite to provide additional protection for Office.

To reiterate: Choosing the best version of Windows depends on the additional security features you want. It’s generally easy to upgrade or downgrade to an older version of Windows that best meets your needs after your hardware is in place. But it’s not always easy to upgrade hardware, and buying the wrong laptop or PC can trap you in an unsatisfactory computing experience. So, before you get too busy about which version of Windows you need, choose the best hardware you can get. Then you will be well prepared to run any version of Windows 10 or 11 you want.

Copyright © 2022 IDG Communications, Inc.

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