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Law Practice Magazine

The Big Ideas Issue

The Why and What of Windows 11

Catherine Sanders Reach


  • All versions of Windows 10 will no longer be supported as of October 2025.
  • Windows 11 offers improved performance and productivity features, making it essential for Windows 10 users to start planning their upgrade.
The Why and What of Windows 11

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Have you upgraded your Windows operating system from Windows 10 to 11? Have you avoided it because you worry that it could be unstable, or that your old software or drivers won’t work? Are you worried that your older computer will not have the required specifications to do the upgrade? These are all legitimate concerns. Microsoft is rolling out a major campaign to get users to migrate or upgrade to Windows 11. One reason for you to listen is that Windows 10 end of support is coming. You should start planning now to reduce frustrations and unexpected expenses.

Microsoft’s latest operating system, Windows 11, was launched in October of 2021. According to Statcounter, Windows 11 has a 32 percent market share in the United States as of May 2024, versus Windows 10, which has 65 percent of the market share. Moving to a new operating system is not without a few headaches, and many users may wonder what would compel them to switch from a perfectly stable operating system.

End of Support

Microsoft has announced that all versions of Windows 10 will no longer be supported as of October 2025. That means that the operating system will no longer be updated. Security patches will no longer be issued. Lawyers who choose to use unsupported and unpatched operating systems should re-read the ABA Model Rules of Professional Conduct on Competency. Almost every state followed the ABA’s updates from 2012, which suggests in the comments that “To maintain the requisite knowledge and skill, a lawyer should keep abreast of changes in the law and its practice, including the benefits and risks associated with relevant technology.”

If you choose not to update your operating system there is an option to purchase Windows 10 Extended Security Updates. There will be different pricing for business, consumer and educational extended support. Microsoft notes that extended security updates (ESU) are not intended to be a long-term solution and they do not extend technical support. If this is the route you choose, ESU licenses for Windows 10 will be available starting in October 2024. The price will double every consecutive year for a maximum of three years. Depending on the method you choose to receive the ESU, the first year for business users could cost between $61 and $45 per user––with a lot of caveats. Windows 10 users accessing Windows 11 Cloud PCs through Windows 365 will automatically receive security updates.


If you choose to upgrade to Windows 11 from Windows 10, first you will need to identify whether your current machine can handle the specifications to run Windows 11. The easiest way to do that, if you don’t have an IT person or managed IT service to help, is to go to Windows Update (Start > Settings > Update & Security > Windows Update) and look for a link to upgrade in the right-side panel. Alternatively, to see if your computer can run Windows 11 you can start with the Microsoft “Get Windows 11” website. If it turns out that your device cannot be upgraded and you need to buy a new one, Microsoft even has developed a shopping site to help find your next PC.

If your computer is eligible for the upgrade, you can run the installation. It is always a good idea to note license keys for installed software and make a backup of anything that is saved directly on the computer. You will also need administrative rights on your computer to install Windows 11. The process of upgrading your operating system takes a while so don’t start until you have at least an hour to monitor the progress because once you start you cannot turn off the device.

When the installation is complete go to Windows Update in your Settings and search for updates to make sure you install the latest build of Windows 11 called 23H2, any driver updates and cumulative security patches.

Getting Back to Normal

Windows 11 has some positive features. It is faster and has better performance than Windows 10. But even minor changes can throw users. The Windows 11 UI (user interface) moves the Start button to the middle of the screen. The widgets menu replaced tiles. Some icons look different. However, it is easy to make changes to get back to the more familiar layout. For instance, you can move the Start button from the middle of the taskbar back where you are used to seeing it. If you want it to align it to the left, go to Settings > Personalization > Taskbar > Taskbar Behavior > click the drop-down menu on the Taskbar Alignment and choose left.

The tiles are gone from the Start menu. You can pin apps to Start as well as group them into folders, like your smartphone app layouts. Search has a magnifying glass icon or a search box, and you can see recently visited files and run searches that explore your computer, your apps, the web and Microsoft 365 repositories like Teams and SharePoint. Widgets are available in the taskbar. Widgets come with some predefined settings, or you can add your favorites. If you want to change something, open the Widgets and click Settings (gear icon, upper right corner) to see your options. For instance, if you want to remove the MSN newsfeed, click Settings and scroll down to "show or hide feeds" and toggle it off. Voila, no more newsfeed.

File Explorer

Windows File Explorer looks different, and it has a few new features and a few frustrations. When you open File Explorer there are more panes to negotiate, but you can quickly customize it to work for you. For instance, the Home button shows recent files, files you have added to the Favorites section and folders you have pinned in the Quick Access area. Pin a folder to Quick Access by right clicking on it and choosing the option. Add a file to Favorites by right clicking and select the star to Add to Favorites.

File Explorer now has tabs like a browser. You can click on the plus sign at the top of the screen to open a file or folder in another tab. This is handy for keeping default folders like Downloads open so you can remember to move files to the right place. Once you close File Explorer the tabs close.

In the File Explorer toolbar click on the ellipses (. . .) and choose Options to change default settings and choose which folder opens by default in File Explorer, view for files and folders and more.

When you right click on a file or folder you see a lot of new options. To see the more familiar options click on Show More Options at the bottom of the list. Some integrations, like right clicking to convert or combine files in Acrobat, have moved to this menu. If you want to rename a file or folder without scrolling through menus click F2.

If you want the full text of your files to be available to Windows search open File Explorer, then right click on the drive for which you want to enable the file content indexing and select properties. In the General tab, check the option “Allow files on this drive to have contents indexed” in addition to file properties.

New Features

Focus Time

In the taskbar you will find Widgets. You can add or remove widgets, like the widgets on your smartphone. You can display weather, get a quick glance at your calendar or To Dos, see your Microsoft productivity app feed for recently accessed documents, add a little music to your day with the Spotify widget and much more.

One widget that is particularly useful is the Focus widget. You can set a timer for a certain amount of time and during your Focus session the tool will silence all notifications. If you set the timer for longer than 25 minutes it will automatically add breaks, though you can check the box to skip breaks. If you have the Spotify widget you can also add your favorite music to play during your focus session. The Focus widget is designed to let you use time management principles like the Pomodoro Technique to let you reduce distractions and multitasking behavior. You will also get a daily progress report if you expand the widget so you can see how well you are doing. You can set your daily goal and measure performance.

You can find more widgets by clicking on the gear icon in the Widget panel available in the taskbar. Click on Discover More Widgets and then at the bottom of the menu choose Find More Widgets. This will open the Microsoft Store. In addition to the games, you can find productivity widgets like a feed reader, a quick launch tool, a notes sidebar and an e-reader that lets you highlight, annotate and read e-books aloud. Not all widgets are free, so check pricing and reviews.

Multiple Desktops

Windows 11 makes it easy to create multiple desktops. In the taskbar click on the icon that looks like a white box on top of a gray box to get started. You can create multiple desktops and toggle between them. For instance, you can create a desktop that has all your communication tools open, like Outlook and Teams. You can create a desktop for deep work, with your practice management tool open and desktop shortcuts to your document templates. You can create a desktop for focusing on professional development and marketing with your social media, bar association communities, Google Analytics and customer relationship management.

You can give each desktop a name, as well as change the background images to make it easier to tell which desktop you are using. To change the background or name of each desktop, mouse over the desktop icon in the taskbar, hover your mouse over a desktop and right click to see a menu of options.

Each desktop you create is saved and available even after you shut down or reboot your machine.

Windows AI Copilot

Windows 11 version 23H2 comes with Windows AI Copilot. This is the same technology that powers the Edge browser version of Copilot and Copilot for Microsoft 365. The Copilot icon appears in the taskbar at the bottom right. With Windows Copilot you can query your computer, a document and automate tasks.

Task Scheduler

Windows 11 (and Windows 10) comes with a task scheduler. You can turn on or off your PC at a certain time and automatically launch specific programs. You can schedule an email to go out or reminder to appear at a specific time. Launch Task Scheduler by searching for it. If you are a Microsoft 365 subscriber, you can enhance these basic scheduled tasks with Power Automate.

Snap Layout

Prior to Windows 11 if you were in an application, like Microsoft Word, the upper right options allowed you to close, expand or minimize the window. In Windows 11 the options include snapping multiple windows into place. Simply click the stacked box icon (maximize) in the upper right corner and you will see options to open multiple windows and snap them to the screen. Need to see your browser, a Word document and email all on one screen? No problem! This feature is especially handy when screen real estate is limited or if you are using a single giant monitor.  In addition to Snap layouts there is Snap Assist and Snap Groups.


Windows Backup is designed to make it easier to move to another PC. You can backup your desktop, documents, pictures, videos, settings and apps.

Paint has also gotten an upgrade with AI. You can now remove backgrounds from images, add multiple layers and use Paint Cocreator AI to generate images based on text prompts.

Snip has replaced Snip and Sketch. You can capture a screenshot, a part of a screen in a single moment or a motion. Then you can edit the capture with highlighting and the pen tool. Type Snipping Tool into the search bar and then you can add a delay, capture a screen or screen portion, and then annotate, crop, grab text via OCR and even redact! Click Edit in Paint for even more options.

Windows 11 is now stable and available. The operating system has some new features that help with productivity and ease of use. If you are using Windows 10 it is time to explore whether your current machines will support Windows 11 and begin the migration process. Upgrading a device is a painless process and your apps, software, documents and email all survive the switch. If your current device does not support Windows 11 it is time to start budgeting, so you won’t have to contend with sticker shock and migration woes.