Full Disclosure: Your Take on Windows' Worst Irritations

Illustration by John Cuneo.
Illustration: John Cuneo
Windows annoyances? Readers, you've seen plenty. Back in the June issue, I mentioned several personal pet peeves and urged you to name yours--in the interest of alerting Jim Allchin, the man in charge of the forthcoming "Longhorn" Windows upgrade. You responded in force. And in this special annoyances issue, I'm reporting back.

One group of gripes fell in a category I call "Why can't Windows do windows?" How come it forgets the window positions and sizes you like for your favorite programs? How come it insists on displaying icons when you've specified the Details view, or arranging lists by name when you've requested sorting by date?

Of course, insecurity is a huge annoyance. Bob Stearns of Miami says his copy of XP resembles "an inner tube with so many patches and hot fixes that the original rubber is barely visible." Many readers squawked about Windows Update's flakiness and its reliance on the ever-insecure Internet Explorer. Dial-up users urged that patches be smaller, and transferrable via disk from PCs with fast connections. Readers also pointed out missing security measures, such as a system-level way to truly destroy data when "deleting" it. Oh yeah, reliability seems to be missing too; the Blue Screen of Death is not dead.

Other issues stemmed from XP's refusal to give you total control over what gets installed. Readers blasted the Registry, the need to edit it, and the lameness of XP's Regedit tool. All this underpinned another common complaint: the inability to easily move programs, not just settings and files, from an old PC to a new one.

More pointed questions: Why doesn't Windows have a better emergency repair tool? Why aren't the system settings all in one place? Why does each Windows upgrade disable still-serviceable peripherals?

Other Win XP beefs? Price (high). Product activation (obnoxious). Error messages and help (unhelpful).

You also want fewer services enabled by default and faster startup and shutdown. And as Carleton Eastlake of Beverly Hills, California, says, Windows "should tell us when it has actually, honestly, completely finished loading all startup programs."

I also urged you to weigh in on two of my personal gripes: the doggie in XP's search function, and the idea that Longhorn might kill the "Classic" interface that's been around since Windows 95.

Did you ever! Although 16 dog-lovers thought I was being unfair to man's best friend, more than 170 of you urged the pup's demise. Many pushed for major upgrades to the lousy search system as well. And support technician "LanMan" in North Carolina rued being dispatched to help a user who complained that the doggie wouldn't bark.

As for Classic View, more than 700 of you demanded its survival--as opposed to 3 who liked the new Windows XP look. Many complained about XP's "Fisher-Price interface" and noted that the first thing they do on any XP machine is switch back to Classic View. I wholeheartedly agree.

As promised, I'm forwarding all this mail to Mr. Allchin. Maybe it will help Microsoft buy a clue about what real users want to see--and what they don't--in the next version of its product.

Contributing Editor Stephen Manes has been writing about technology for two decades.

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