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Will Windows 11 Break Microsoft's Pattern of Good/Bad OSes?

Progress isn't a straight line. In fact, when it comes to Microsoft operating systems, it's more up-and-down.

Since the days of Windows 95, the general consensus among IT pros is that desktop Windows releases adhere to a good/bad cycle. The idea is that some versions of Windows are really good, while others are terrible -- and the good and bad versions seem to alternate.

While I do not fully agree with the list below, this is how a number of IT pros have summarized the Windows release history:

  • Windows 95: Good
  • Windows 98: Bad
  • Windows 98 SE: Good
  • Windows ME: Bad
  • Windows XP: Good
  • Windows Vista: Bad
  • Windows 7: Good
  • Windows 8: Bad
  • Windows 10: Good
  • Windows 11: ?

Like I said, though this list reflects the way a lot of people view Windows releases, I don't totally buy into the idea of a good/bad release cycle. In fact, there are a few things about the list I take issue with.

The most glaring issue is it completely ignores some Windows versions. For example, Windows 2000 does not appear on the list, nor does Windows 95 OSR2. The list also ignores the idea that major changes were made to some of the Windows releases in the form of service packs. Windows XP Service Pack 3, for example, addressed numerous security problems.

This brings up another point. Windows XP is regarded by many as the best Windows operating system that Microsoft ever made. While I do think Windows XP was great, people seem to have short memories. If you search the Web for reviews that were written at the time of the Windows XP release, you will find many were absolutely scathing. Reviewers took issue with things like Windows activation (Windows XP was the first version to require activation), the hardware requirements and Windows XP's slow performance compared with Windows 2000. As time went on, Windows XP also became known for being extremely susceptible to malware infections.

Again, I do think Windows XP eventually became a great operating system -- but it didn't start out that way.

Another thing I take issue with: Windows 8 seems to be universally regarded as a terrible operating system. I realize I'm in the minority, but I have always thought of Windows 8 as being a good operating system plagued by a poorly designed user interface. After all, Windows 8 was the operating system that first gave us USB 3.0 support, Secure Boot, the Windows Store and more. It also booted more quickly than Windows 7 and required fewer update-related reboots.

Regardless of where you stand on the idea of good/bad release cycles, I think we can all agree that some versions of Windows have been better than others. This, of course, raises a few questions. Which version of Windows was the best? Which was the worst? Will Windows 11 ultimately be considered a good or a bad release?

In my opinion, the worst Windows release of all time was Windows ME. When Windows ME was released, I installed it on a number of systems. Unfortunately, the operating system ended up being super unstable with constant crashes becoming the norm. I ended up downgrading every single one of my Windows ME PCs and reverting back to Windows 98.

I'm hard-pressed to choose which version of Windows I consider the best, because most versions have included things I really liked. Given a choice, I would probably have to go with Windows XP, with Windows 10 being a close second place. The only reasons why I chose Windows XP over Windows 10 is because Windows XP did not force constant updates (and update-related reboots) or nag you with ads the way Windows 10 sometimes does.

Simply put, Windows XP gave you slightly more control over your PC than what Windows 10 allows.

So what about Windows 11? I think it's too early to say for sure, but my guess is that Windows 11 is going to be a solid operating system. Even so. there are obviously a few things I wish I could change about it. For instance, I would like to have total control over the widgets rather than having certain information included whether I want it or not. As it stands right now, for example, you can't remove news headlines from the widgets.

Of course Windows 11 has not yet been officially released -- that'll come early next month -- so this may eventually change.

Only time will tell how Windows 11 is ultimately regarded. Who knows? It may end up being the operating system that finally breaks the curse of good/bad release cycles.

About the Author

Brien Posey is a 20-time Microsoft MVP with decades of IT experience. As a freelance writer, Posey has written thousands of articles and contributed to several dozen books on a wide variety of IT topics. Prior to going freelance, Posey was a CIO for a national chain of hospitals and health care facilities. He has also served as a network administrator for some of the country's largest insurance companies and for the Department of Defense at Fort Knox. In addition to his continued work in IT, Posey has spent the last several years actively training as a commercial scientist-astronaut candidate in preparation to fly on a mission to study polar mesospheric clouds from space. You can follow his spaceflight training on his Web site.

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