Nothing in life really comes for free, and Windows 11 is a great example of that. While Microsoft’s latest operating system is offered as a free upgrade for many users (previous moves from older versions of Windows to newer ones would require you to pay for the privilege), behind the scenes, there are plenty of ways you end up ‘paying’ to use Windows 11.
This includes sharing increasing amounts of data with Microsoft – something that the company was forced to make clear during the setup process. Microsoft is also using Windows 11 to push you towards its own services. For example, you’re now asked to have a Microsoft account, which usually involves signing up for a Microsoft-owned email account. You’re also encouraged to use Microsoft’s OneDrive cloud storage, rather than alternatives like Google Drive or iCloud.
And this is all before you even use Windows 11 for the first time. Once you actually boot into the operating system, things get worse. Microsoft’s Edge browser is installed by default, and while it’s come a long way since it first debuted in 2015 with Windows 10, many people (myself included) prefer to use other web browsers.
However, searching for and installing a different browser in Windows 11 using Edge results in numerous popups and messages from Microsoft pleading with you to give Edge a try. It’s annoying, and a little bit cringey, to be honest.
Still, you can at least ignore those, install your web browser of choice, and make it the default – which Microsoft has at least made easier to do after pressure from users.
While annoying, it was something I didn’t mind putting up with to use Windows 11, which is ‘free’, after all. However, Microsoft has been getting increasingly desperate – and even greedy – when it comes to trying to force its services on me, and it’s making me start to dislike the operating system.
Helping itself before it helps you
A particularly egregious example of this happened the other day. I’m one of those cool kids who still prefers to use a desktop PC, and I noticed that all of a sudden, my computer was losing internet access every 20 seconds or so.
Now, as a tech journalist, this led to me overthinking the problem. My PC is connected to my modem via an Ethernet cable and powerline adapters, so my first step was to restart and reconnect the adapters, which had caused a similar issue in the past.
When the problem persisted, I looked to disable then re-enable my network adapter in Windows 11. In previous versions of Windows, this was a pretty straightforward process, but Microsoft has now buried the option under several different settings screens – another annoying feature of Windows 11.
I then decided to try the built-in network troubleshooting tool. Again, in previous versions of Windows, this was easy to find, and as part of the troubleshooting process the operating system would disable then enable the network adapter, which has fixed similar issues in the past.
Using the Settings app, I found what I thought was something similar called ‘Troubleshooting network connection issues’. However, on clicking it, I discovered what was possibly the nadir of Microsoft’s greed when it comes to forcing its products and services on Windows 11 users.
Instead of launching the troubleshooting application like I’d hoped, Edge opened – despite not being my default web browser. This has been an annoyance of mine for a while now, as even if you set a different web browser as your default, Microsoft will regularly ignore that and use Edge instead.
Edge then loaded up Bing – Microsoft’s pretty much unloved search engine – and searched for ‘Troubleshooting network connection issues’, which brought up a Microsoft webpage.
Now, there’s a pretty glaring issue with forcing people to search the internet for solutions to their network connection issues, and that became apparent when I tried to click the link. Rather than showing the page, Edge told me I was offline, as it coincided with a time when my PC had lost connection.
Most people who are suffering from network connection issues cannot access the internet because of those very connection issues they are trying to fix, so making them have to go online to search for an answer is pretty ridiculous.
Because my network issues were intermittent, I was able to wait until my internet connection came back, then refresh the page to see what Microsoft suggested. If my network connection issues were severe enough to prevent me from connecting to the internet at all, I’d have never got to see the page.
As it turns out, that wouldn’t have been an issue, really, as the webpage was pretty useless, offering just vague suggestions that mainly centered around Wi-Fi connection problems – so nothing that applied to my situation.
In the end, I figured it out myself: I got down on my hands and knees and checked behind my PC. The Ethernet cable had been pulled out slightly. Pushing it back in solved the problem.
However, this little escapade didn’t just prove that I am an overthinking idiot, but also that it feels like Microsoft cares more about helping its services and products then it does its users. The only reason for getting people to go to a Bing search via Edge for network connection troubleshooting is to make people use those products. It doesn’t help fix any issue that the user may have with their network connection.
It left me feeling annoyed by Microsoft, and far less fond of Windows 11 and the general direction the operating system is going in. Microsoft’s desire to get more people to use its services is understandable, and in some ways is the price we pay to get Windows 11 for free, but the heavy-handed way it’s going about doing this smacks of greed and a disregard for its users’ needs.
This has got to change, otherwise even when free, Windows 11 will not be worth it.