Windows 11 and Continuing Disruptive Change

In the past as new communication technologies have become available, there has been a period where the new technology has an opportunity to “ bed in”  before the next significant change takes place.  For example the advent of the printing press in 1450 was followed by its spread through Europe, but, apart from improvements in the technology, no new communications technology was present until the development of the electrical telegraph system by Samuel Morse, Joseph Henry and Alfred Vail in 1836.  Effectively, there had been a period of almost 400 years for the printing press to become accepted as a new means of communication.  The telegraph system addressed the tyranny of distance and was followed by Marconi’ s long distance radio transmission in the last decade of the 19th century.  That was followed by developments in radio and within a short time thereafter, the development of television. 

It can be seen from this very brief overview that the time between new technological developments in communications has shortened.  Nevertheless, there has been a “ breathing space”  between each one.  The advent of digital technologies and particularly the rise of the Internet has meant effectively that breathing space has gone and continuing disruptive change is a reality.

The nature of this change has been described in another context as “ The Long Blur”[1] In the 1990’ s the United States economy, the most developed in the world, experienced the longest period of sustained growth for a generation possibly for the entire period of the twentieth century.  One of the characteristics of that period was extraordinary change.

Accompanying this economic change were changes in work habits and attitudes.  The concept of secure lifetime jobs vanished along with associated concepts of loyalty to an employer and a recognition of the loyal employee.  Although many new high paying jobs requiring exceptional skills and intelligence exist, most new jobs will be in what are effectively service industries of which, in some respects, the law may be considered one.

It has been suggested that the Information Revolution which began to become apparent through the 1990’ s is making the same difference to our society, institutions, professions and employment as the Industrial Revolution did over the last 200 years.  As a result, forms of employment such as stock brokers, insurance clerks, bank clerks, etc will look nothing like they did 30 years ago and may simply cease to exist (except in a minor marginalised sense) 30 years from now.  And the significantly disruptive change brought about as a result of Covid 19 has seen changes in the way that people work. Working from home rather than in the highrise office has become the norm and is encouraged. Even the Courts, reluctant to do away with “in person” hearings, has deployed technology to enable remote hearings.

Dealing with computers and software makes one aware of the reality of continuing disruptive change. Version 1.0 of software is rarely the only version. Software often goes through a number of iterations. Similarly with hardware. Software developers continually make demands upon hardware systems often necessitating necessitating upgrades to parts of the hardware configuration (a video card) or indeed a full motherboard replacement.

I have become used to these continual changes. I started my computing life with a TRS-80 Model 1 and taught myself to code, gradually upgraded as new models became available, developed programs and utilities to assist me in legal practice and finally shifted from the Z-80 environment to the Intel one with an IBM PC close and MS-DOS 6. Since then the operating system environment has changed with the introduction of Windows, first as an interface and later as an Operating System (OS). The hardware scene has developed as well to the point where my son and I used to build our own systems mainly because what we wanted was not available “off the shelf”.

This has continued through to today. I have a system which has the componentry I need. Because I enjoy gaming I have a high-spec video card. In fact when I decided to try out “Assassins Creed- Valhalla” I had to drop a new card into the system and found that the motherboard would not support it so I replaced the motherboard as well. Examples of the impact of continuing disruptive change.

I always thought that Windows XP was a stable and reliable OS. It was a bit sad that Microsoft decided on new flavours of Windows and I upgraded to Windows 7, avoided Windows and now have Windows 10 – again a stable and reliable OS. I have a subscription to Office 365 having started word processing with MS Word and have stuck with it. Once again, a reliable and highly useful suite of software tools coupled with a 1 tb Onedrive which allows me to put stuff in the Cloud.

That said I have a large quantities of research data accumulated from over 50 years in the law along with other materials both for my Masters and PhD together with the research for the various books that I have written. This material is available on my desktop system and easily located using Copernic Desktop Search or X-1 recommended by my good friend Jim McMillan of the National Centre for State Courts.

So now Windows 11 has come along and here is where the tyranny of “continuing disruptive change” manifests itself because to upgrade to Windows 11 – which looks like a pretty cool OS – I virtually have to replace my entire system. Now this is going to get a bit technical but bear with me because I hope to be able to send a warning to others who may be thinking of upgrading and I would like to send a message to Microsoft – can we have a flavour of Win 11 that does not require some of the significant hardware changes and consequential software and systems changes that the current flavour requires.

I shall step through the story.

I though I would look into upgrading to Windows 11 and it was suggested that I check my system for compatibility issues using a tool called PC Health which is available here.

I felt pretty comfortable. I have a fairly high-spec machine – an Intel i9 3.6ghz processor with 48 GB RAM and a Nvidia GEForce RTX 2060 Super graphics card.  The motherboard is a Gigabyte Z390 UD. I thought running a check like this would be a formality and I could start to think about moving to Win 11. It was not to be.

The PC Health program advised that my system did not meet Windows 11 system requirements. I was advised that my machine had to support secure boot and that TPM 2.0 had to be supported and enabled on the machine.

What did this mean.

Secure Boot. Most modern PCs are capable of Secure Boot, but in some instances, there may be settings that cause the PC to appear to not be capable of Secure Boot.

These settings can be changed in the PC firmware. Firmware, often called BIOS (Basic Input/Output System), is the software that starts up before Windows when you first turn on your PC.

In essence I needed to change my PC boot mode from “Legacy” or CSM BIOS to UEFI/BIOS (Unified Extensible Firmware Interface). This meant drilling down into the BIOS system before I could execute any changes in the software.

That did not seem to be a problem and I had a look at the BIOS settings by interrupting the Boot sequence by holding down the <DELETE> key while starting. Sure enough the Boot system was a “Legacy” one but that could be turned off and the UEFI system could be enabled. That did not seem to be too hard.

But I did not save the settings and it is just as well. Before making any changes as significant as a Boot system I thought I would do a bit of background and I found some really helpful explanations and guides for achieving what I wanted to do.

There was one problem. If I changed from the CSM BIOS to UEFI then the machine would not boot. This is because the disk is what is called an MBR (Master Boot Record) disk and when Windows boots fin UEFI it must have a GPT (GUID Partition Table) disk.

The changeover from an MBR to GPT disk is complicated. There are a number of ways of doing it and they can be found here but whatever way it is done requires deleting a removing data or backing it up so that it can be restored to the GPT disk.

This is really complicated because my boot drive contains Windows 10 and all of the settings and other data that I need to run my operation. It all seems to me to be a bit too much to try and accomplish on my own because it will involve using boot systems from other media and so on during the conversion process and a restoration of the backup and a clean install of Windows 10 and upgrade to Win 11 from there.

The TPM system in the BIOS seemed relatively simple to enable but it would require either enabling before a clean install of Win 11 or after a reinstall of Win 10 before the upgrade to Win 11.

I thought about all of this and a handy guide of steps and enquiries BEFORE trying to upgrade to Win 11 might be helpful. I am assuming that you are using Win 10 as the OS.

  1. Download PC Health available here
  2. Run PC Health.
  3. It may be that your machine is UEFI capable. You can ascertain this by Run Settings > Update & Security > Recovery and select Restart now under Advanced startup.  From the next screen, select Troubleshoot > Advanced options > UEFI Firmware Settings > Restart to make changes.  

It may still be necessary to access the BIOS and check if you are running Legacy CSM or UEFI

  • Assuming that your machine is NOT UEFI capable, check the BIOS and ascertain if you can switch off CSM and enable UEFI.
  • Exit the BIOS but DO NOT SAVE any changes you may have made while carrying out your checks.
  • If UEFI is NOT available you may need to think about another machine if you are going to upgrade to Win 11 or at least get a new motherboard (if you have a desktop)
  • The next thing is to check the status of your disks. There are a number of ways of doing this.  One way involves using the Command screen. Press the Windows Key + R and type “diskpart” in the box (no inverted commas) and hit ok. At the diskpart command line that will appear type “list disk” (no inverted commas) and hit <ENTER>. You will get a list of your drives. On the far right will be a column headed GPT. If there is a * next to your boot drive then GPT is already enabled. If there is NOT a * then your disk is an MBR disk.
  • If your disk is a GPT disk then you can go and make your alterations to the BIOS settings and there should be no problem.
  • Once the setting have been changed if you run PC Health again you should find you are OK for Win 11.
  • HOWEVER if your boot drive is MBR you should give some thought to having the changeover and accompanying data management done by a professional

I emphasise – these are my own thoughts and analysis. If you have any better solutions please post them as comments. I should be very grateful.

[1] Jim Dator, Futures Volume 33 No. 2 March 2000 page 181 – 197