by Carl James | BLOOMINGTON, IN | July 30, 2022
My work laptop is a recent Dell Latitude model, not a lot of frills, but a decent performing computer for general office tasks. My workplace is very much a Microsoft heavy consumer. We use Microsoft 365 (M365), Sharepoint backed OneDrive, Teams, and Exchange Online for email. This computer is centrally managed with Microsoft's System Center Configuration Manager (SCCM) and runs Windows 10. I have volunteered to be an early adopter of Windows 11 in our environment. I have a personal laptop I have upgraded to Windows 11 so I have some prior experience, but the Enterprise can have differences.
While I am an IT Pro with my organization, my role does not include central computer management. I do have an administrator account that I can elevate with, but my hope is that I will not need to employ that in the upgrade cycle. I am running this upgrade as if I was a regular, non-IT user of the PC. I'm looking to see if this is something a non-IT user would be able to do well on their own.
I'm willing to jump in partially because all of my data lives on the cloud. I have setup my system and I operate out of cloud folders and always have my files auto-save. Since I do this, I'm not too worried about borking my computer. If the Windows 11 update were to cause errors, I could use a back-up computer quickly without losing a great deal of time as my laptop were rebuilt. Hopefully that is not something I will have to face, but as an early adopter I especially need to be concerned. That being said, I recommend that anyone have important data synced to a cloud provider. I never treat a single local drive as reliable storage. You should always have a backup solution.
I have logged onto my computer with my regular (non-admin) account and joined the company VPN as I am at home. I have plugged the laptop into a power outlet. It is always advisable to not rely on a battery alone when performing software updates, especially operating system upgrades. SCCM is accessed by the user via a Windows application called "Software Center". Within Software Center there is a notification in the tab for "Updates". There are two updates. One is the Windows 11 update the system admin has pushed to my device, the other is a feature update to M365. I elect to perform the M365 update now so my current Windows 10 environment is at a good baseline before migrating to Windows 11. A major M365 update could take some time. I will note the time and result in the next section.
Now the Windows 11 Upgrade is the only update listed. I select to install and I get a warning that this is an operating system upgrade and it will "migrate" my user files to the new OS. I agree and proceed. Within a few minutes the download status is already 56% complete. Not much for me do to other than wait and observe.
The download completed a while ago. It has been in the "installing" status for a while now. This is not unexpected. Software Center is a very minimal application, it doesn't provide any significant UI to provide a status on large installations like a software upgrade. I opened up the Task Manager applet to see how resources were being used. I sorted by drive use first as that was nearly 100% when installation started. After about 10 minutes this switched to processor being the largest used resource. A service named "Modern Setup Host" has been taking up some significant resources so I am guessing that is related, but I am not sure. I found an article that would seem to back up that guess. I am also occasionally seeing a service called some sort of "extractor" which would make some sense in regards to the OS upgrade. As a side note, "Anti-malware Service Executable" has been a very resource eater during this upgrade process.
Another process has been climbing the Task Manager's charts of processor usage. dismhost is bouncing between first and third service using the most processor resources at this point. there is (as expected) a lot going on in the background as the Windows 11 upgrade proceeds.
Modern Setup Host is now the top service running in Windows. I also check the main drive and 22GB of drive spaces have been eaten up since I started this process. I am hypothesizing that as more files get written to the drive, the Anti-malware Executable has to scan those new files and that gets a loop going that slows down the overall upgrade process.
As with any update that requires Windows to restart, my PC made a notification sound and Software Center is saying that a restart is required. Now to begin the restart...
The PC restarted and quickly got to 73% complete "working on updates" and seem to stay at 73% for a few minutes. As soon as I started typing this that number went up and quickly the computer restarted. Now I have what looks like a Windows 11 default lock screen with the time and date. Now to login.
After logging in I get a black screen with floating blue clouds in the background and a message that, "This might take a few minutes." Then a request to "Keep your PC plugged in" just as I mentioned earlier in this blog. That only took another minute to get me into my user profile. My customer desktop background (a photo I took of the College World Series statue at Charles Schwab Field in Omaha, Nebraska) is still in place but the desktop taskbar icons are all centered per the new Windows 11 user interface (UI). The task tray had an indication from Software Center of another needed restart. I opened that notification and elected to restart immediately.
This restart and update cycle went by quickly. Once back into my profile I noted that the 22GB of my system drive that had been used earlier was down to 13GB. If past processes are the same there is something like a Windows.OLD file that holds onto the information needed to reverse the whole process for a couple of weeks but will eventually be purged. I certainly see no reason to go back. I open all of the core applications I use daily and play around. Outlook, Teams, Microsoft Edge, and Mozilla Firefox all operate just like before. My personal and organizational OneDrive sync programs are operating just as they did before. This was a remarkably smooth transition.
I also have been using the relatively new Windows Subsytem for Linux (WSL) on my Windows laptops. Even this has transitioned to Windows 11 without a hitch. I was able to open an Ubuntu terminal and perform standard actions without difficulty. I also started VSCode and was able to interact with files in both the Windows and Ubuntu environments. The only hitch I saw was that VSCode had seemed to forget which Python virtual enviroment I use for one of my web apps. I pointed to it easily and it worked great after that. The code was being run on Ubuntu in WSL and the web browser was native to Windows as was VSCode itself. At this point I really can't say enough about how great WSL is. I prefer to deal with my Python applications in Ubuntu. My desktop PC at home runs Ubuntu but I still prefer Windows on laptops and I definitely need that for my work laptop. Having WSL gives me the flexibility to use my work laptop for a bit of coding if that's what I have handy. And I can do it with the bash commands and not having to learn how to do it in PowerShell and deal with the variations that Windows has. I can use the best of both worlds and that is fantastic.
So far so good. I already liked Windows 11. Now it looks like it is something I can use on my work computer.