Microsoft made early Windows 11 builds available through its Windows Insider Program in the week following its first big announcement, and we spent a few hours kicking the tires. If Windows 11 gets publicly released, it’s likely a good operating system – but for now it’s an unpolished, unfinished mess.
This is of course no surprise – Windows 11 is still only available in the Insider program’s dev channel. The three insider channels are Release Preview, Beta, and Dev; Dev is roughly software alpha, and Microsoft itself describes it as “the latest code” with “rough edges and some instability”.
Windows 11 is just an upgrade (for now)
The first disappointment we experienced with Windows 11 is puzzling – it cannot (yet) be installed properly as a new operating system. To install Windows 11 Build 22000.51, you must start with a fully patched and up-to-date Windows 10 installation flight it in the dev channel, then Update Switch to Windows 11 via Windows Update. (If you’re not already using Windows 10 20H2 or later, you’ll need to do this upgrade first.)
We didn’t have any real problems updating a well-used Windows 10 VM or a brand new one. However, we strongly advise against upgrading to Windows 11 on a machine or VM that is important to you, unless you both trust and are ready to use a guaranteed recovery method. Although one of our test VMs is a “daily driver” we rely on, it sits on a ZFS dataset – and we took a manual snapshot before upgrading to allow rollback.
Ironically, the first look at Windows 11 itself is the dreaded BSOU (Blue Screen Of Updates) – after we flew our Windows 10 VM into the dev channel and did a very quick download, it restarted. During the reboot we get the usual “don’t turn off my computer” message – but in a new font and possibly on a slightly different blue background.
Although the initial download is over pretty quickly in Windows Update, the “Working on Updates” phase isn’t. This phase took about an hour on each of the Windows 10 VMs we updated – one fairly well used and one brand new.
Alpha means alpha
It took almost no time to find our first and second nasty Windows 11 bugs – the DNS resolver was strangely and inconsistently broken, and the network configuration dialog under Settings was broken too.
You can see the DNS resolver problems in the first screenshot above. We can ping
22.214.171.124– Google’s anycast DNS provider – no problem, so we know that general connectivity is fine both inside and outside the LAN. But try
ping google.com Fail! The confusion only gets worse when we use
nslookup to query our DNS server directly – it answers our queries perfectly. Try anyway
ping The same hostname fails outright, as does most attempts to browse with Edge or Chrome.
The second error occurred while trying to fix the first error. Attempting to set the IP address configuration directly from the Windows 11 Settings dialog box fails miserably with a cryptic message “Please check one or more settings and try again”. There is actually nothing wrong with the settings – the dialog is simply broken. Next question: is the control panel still there?
Fortunately, the Control Panel has not yet been abolished in Windows 11, and the tried and tested configuration dialog for network adapters works as expected. Unfortunately, this didn’t fix the original DNS problem – which turns out to be a conflict between Windows 11 and the VirtIO network driver we were using.
Changing the network adapter of the VM to an emulated Intel e1000 solved the DNS problem – just like leaving the NIC as VirtIO and only using one DNS server on the other side of a WireGuard tunnel. (WireGuard has its own virtual NIC, so technically we don’t use our “real” network card to access the DNS server on the other side of the tunnel.)
During the week we played with Windows 11, and the entire VM was blocked and required a hard reset several times. Did we mention that this is still alpha software and no one should do anything on it that is important to them?