Arbitrary: Switching to Windows as a writer – Update 1

Microsoft Surface Book 2
The Surface Book hardware is a marvel, but Microsoft doesn’t seem to understand that its flaky operating system and broken updates are ruining the experience. They’re eroding my trust in my computer’s basic ability to both work and not lose my data.

For all my years of using a Mac, I can’t say I’ve ever actively feared for my data. I’ve never much worried about my computer randomly crapping out on me due to something completely beyond my control. Maybe this is what the computing version of privilege looks like? Maybe this is why I spent extra on Apple systems for years? Beyond the style and general build quality, they’ve been reliable devices. Modern-day shitty keyboards that get disabled by errant dust or crumbs notwithstanding.

So here I am, writing this on what is supposed to be Microsoft’s equivalent of a MacBook Pro, worrying that a Microsoft-issued update I installed earlier this week may result in a blue-screen-of-death (or BSOD for short). This isn’t some four-year-old Asus laptop I bought from a dude named Chad on Kijiji that Microsoft may not have tested their Windows update on. This is Microsoft’s own goddamned hardware.This is their flagship computer. Yet here I am, making extra backups and transferring things to OneDrive so that if my computer is affected, I’ll be able to pick things up on my former production system – the still quietly humming MacBook Pro.

This has been a bad couple of months for Windows, and I’m starting to appreciate the level of frustration of the Windows community at having to put their faith in Microsoft’s quality assurance process when that trust is clearly misplaced.

In case you don’t follow nerd news, Microsoft was forced to pull their latest operating system from the market last month because, well, it had taken to deleting personal files on some computers that it was installed on. Imagine updating your operating system using an official Microsoft tool only to discover that it had decided that you didn’t really need all those baby pictures anyhow. Or your journal. Or your university thesis. Or your NaNoWriMo masterpiece. Whoops!

It doesn’t matter that the issue was relatively isolated. That fact that it could happen at all spooked a whole lot of people, and it has undoubtedly burned through a lot of user goodwill. While they eventually fixed the problem and re-released the operating system, the reputational damage was done.

I don’t get it. Is this normal for longstanding Windows users? Are they used to this sort of thing happening? Microsoft updates randomly breaking things? I’d assumed – falsely –that by buying a Microsoft computer, I’d be insulated from any flaky issues with the operating system not playing nice with the hardware. I was wrong.

Do I still love the keyboard on my Surface Book? God, yes. It’s brilliant. And overall, the hardware is fantastic. I still can’t get over the touchscreen, with its aspect ratio that favours people who write and create, not just watch movies on their laps.

But the system software. Sweet Jebus, Microsoft. Windows is such a pain, and you so clearly don’t care about getting it right. If you cared, it wouldn’t suck this much. You wouldn’t release half-baked, under-tested software to your userbase and instead invest your time and money in PR crisis management when said shoddy software threatens to render their computers inoperable.

More than anything,Microsoft’s laughable quality control process is causing me to worry about my data, and to be extra vigilant and prepared in case something goes wrong. Because in Windows, it feels like a distinct possibility. And as a long-time Mac user, I’m not used to that.

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