This is why I don’t use Microsoft Windows any more

I love offices. I spend a lot of my free time looking at how different companies set up their offices and also looking at offices in my local area that I could one day occupy. Microsoft have some pretty awesome offices, and it makes sense, considering they had $98.5 billion in income in 2015. It seems as though they can facilitate good offices for their staff.

What it seems they can’t facilitate is a good operating system. Don’t start a flame war with me — I’m not saying Windows is crap. There are definitely some fantastic parts to it, but as a whole it’s getting tired, bloated, and old.

I work in IT as a software developer, and my previous career was an IT support career. I know Windows better than most people but some of the things it does baffles me.

The other day I had to reinstall Windows on a customer’s PC. The PC had gotten a virus, and I couldn’t remove it without a reinstall. No biggie. This is a recount of the experience I had with reinstalling Windows.

It started off pretty good. I booted off a bootable Windows 7 USB that I had made that day, accepted the user agreement, and the install was under way. The install mostly completed, but then I noticed it was stuck on “Configuring Windows” — one of the last stages of the install. I left it for about 30 minutes before deciding something must be wrong. I pressed Shift + F10 to open an administrator command prompt in the installer and opened Task Manager to see what was going on. Not much.

What stunning offices

So I restarted the PC, started the install again, and this time the OS installed.

Once Windows had booted I had to install the network card driver. I booted up Windows on my Mac, but had to wait 20 minutes while it finished installing a service pack. Once that was done I downloaded the network driver, put it on a USB stick and installed it on the fresh Windows install.

Time to run Windows Update. The first time I checked for updates Windows Update crashed and I had to restart it. The second time it sat there looking for updates for 5 minutes seemingly doing nothing, so I restarted the PC. On boot it installed some updates, so when it had finished booting I re ran Windows Update. This time, it sat there for 20 minutes and it was getting late in the day so I thought I’d leave it over night.

To my surprise, in the morning it had installed a huge bunch of updates and restarted itself. That was good news, because I was worried it was going to be stuck on checking for updates forever.

I ran Windows Update again to check for more updates, and this time it installed them instantly. The PC had to restart so it could finish installing them and when it booted back up, it sat at Configuring Updates — 32% for 15 minutes — seemingly doing nothing. It then completed and had to restart itself.

Microsoft must spend some serious cash on their interior designers

After it had rebooted, the screen was black and I waited 5 minutes to see if anything would come up. Nothing. After 5 minutes I pressed Ctrl + Alt + Delete a few times, and the display came on and the PC restarted.

After that the display worked and I was able to use Windows. The company which uses this computer has some security camera software they use which is written for Internet Explorer 9, so I had to emulate IE9 because Windows had updated IE to version 11. I pressed F12 to open the developer tools (which allow you to emulate different versions of IE), but there was a Javascript error in the developer tools, and they wouldn’t load. I re ran Windows Update, and there was an update for IE, which after being installed, fixed the problem.

I then installed all the usual business software such as Office, Adobe Reader and copied the user’s data back. Luckily this went as expected.

“That PC must be really messed up” you say. Well no. I reinstall Windows a lot, and sadly, this is what I typically experience. This install was particularly bad, but it never happens without a hitch.

Contrast this to an install I did on a 2009 MacBook I did around the same time. I booted off the OS X 10.11 El Capitan USB, formatted the disk, clicked install, and 30 minutes later the OS booted. I setup the user account, connected to the WiFi, installed updates once, and I was done.

A 2009 MacBook took absolutely no effort, no Googling and no stress, compared to a 2012 PC which had me Googling error codes, editing the registry and leaving it overnight to complete something that should happen instantly.

Microsoft, you have absolutely stunning offices, and I’d love to be able to afford an office of that calibre for my own company. But you can’t continue monkey-patching your OS every time you release a new version. You need to start again with a separate product (lets call it Microsoft Doors), and slowly migrate your user base over to it. You need to cannibalise Windows with your new product. Apple do it all the time, and that’s how they keep their technology modern, fast, and stable.

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