Most common Windows 11 problems and how to fix them

A screenshot of the Windows 11 desktop and its Start Menu
(Image credit: Microsoft)

Although Microsoft has spent many years refining its operating systems, there are still plenty of Windows 11 problems that users may encounter.

When the operating system first launched, users reported a number of compatibility problems when trying to upgrade from Windows 10. The good news is that the majority of these issues have been ironed out. The bad news is that there are plenty errors and bugs plaguing Windows 11 itself, many of which were common Windows 10 problems.

Thankfully, many of the most common Windows 11 problems, whether that's bugs or errors, are relatively easy to fix, and we've detailed below some of the steps you need to take to get the OS back to working order.

1. Can’t upgrade to Windows 11

One of the most frequent Windows 11 problems users encounter is being unable to upgrade to the new OS. This can happen for a variety of reasons, but the most common problem is that the hardware they are running does not meet the Windows 11 minimum requirements.

Microsoft imposed strict hardware requirements on systems in order to be eligible for the Windows 11 upgrade. One of the most important ones is the need to have a modern processor - roughly post-2018 - and with a TPM 2.0 chip. This means even if you have a high-power processor that was bought as little as five years ago - one that drives power-hungry workloads daily with no issues - it may still be the reason you’re unable to upgrade to Windows 11.

Screenshot showing available options for installing Windows 11

In the early months after its October 2021 release, Windows 11 was also unavailable to some users simply because the free upgrade was rolled out in a staggered way, meaning even those with new, compatible hardware wouldn’t have the option to upgrade.

Today, most eligible users should have the option available to them in the Windows update panel, but a forced update is also available for those still being made to wait.

Make sure to complete a robust backup for everything on Windows 10 before attempting a Windows 11 upgrade.

2. Windows 11 is slow or frequently freezes

Screenshot of a PC utility app scanning for software issues on Windows 11

Windows 11 is Microsoft's flagship operating system with plenty of cool new features, but that doesn’t always translate to a good user experience. Performance issues are a common Windows 11 problem, especially for those that are using the same machine that once ran Windows 10.

If Windows 11 is running slowly, of if your PC is frequently freezing, there are a few things to try.

First, perform driver updates to make sure that key components such as graphics cards have the latest software and not the old Windows 10 drivers. Most of the major PC manufacturers now ship with a utility with their PCs, such as Lenovo Vantage or Dell Update, that will check for new component drivers. Fire that up and apply any updates.

Alternatively, open the Windows 11 Settings menu, select Windows Update, Advanced Options and check for Optional Updates there. This is another way of bringing troublesome drivers up to date.

If you’ve upgraded from Windows 10, it could be software incompatibility that’s slowing down your system. In that same Advanced Options menu, you’ll see an option to Reset your PC under the Recovery menu. This will let you wipe the system, as if it were a fresh Windows 11 install, but let you keep all of your files intact. The downside is you’ll have to reinstall any Windows applications, but we’ve seen a reset breathe new life into many a clogged-up PC.

We have a step by step guide on how to reset Windows without losing data, with the process being almost identical between Windows 10 and Windows 11.

Make sure to perform a full backup first, just in case something goes wrong.

3. Windows 11 can’t find a printer

Screenshot showing a list of available printers on Windows 11

One of the more frustrating Windows 11 problems can be found in the way the OS manages printers, particularly business printers.

Windows 11 occasionally has trouble installing printers when connected to a shared network. Normally drivers are downloaded automatically for such printers, but there is a known bug that is preventing drivers downloading correctly.

In a business environment, your IT department should be able to install the relevant drivers on your machine for you. For everyone else, you’ll need to visit the printer manufacturer’s website support section and look for an option to download drivers for your device.

4. Snipping Tool isn’t working

Windows 10 had a pretty decent screenshot app that has carried over to Windows 11, allowing you to manually capture screenshots using marquee tools and save them to specific folders.

Unfortunately, the Windows 11 app was broken for a time due to an expired certificate, and attempts to use the tool resulted in an error message.

An error message users will see when trying to use the Snipping Tool

Microsoft eventually released a patch to fix this issue on most of the broken widgets and apps, but some users still report having trouble with the Snipping Tool. If you are having issues with the new widget, it's best to revert back to the old method of pressing the Print Screen button, and pasting in the image into Paint, or a similar app.

There are some guides online that suggest a few workarounds to address the problem - although most of the ones we tested failed to fix the issue. This includes finding the version of Snipping Tool in your old Windows files and copying it over to your new Windows installation, as well as forcibly uninstalling the app using PowerShell and reinstalling it from the Microsoft Store.

5. Windows 11 PC is short on disk space

If you’ve performed an in-place upgrade from Windows 10, you might find you now have less free disk space than what you had prior to the upgrade. This is because Windows keeps the old Windows 10 files for a while, just in case you decide you want to revert to the older operating system.

This is one of the easiest Windows 11 problems to fix, as Microsoft now only gives you ten days to change your mind about the upgrade. After the ten days have expired, the old Windows 10 files will be automatically removed from your Windows 11 PC, freeing up the space in the process.

If you're happy with Windows 11 and need the space back immediately, you can manually delete the old files at any time. To do this:

  1. Open the Windows 11 Start Menu
  2. Type "disk"
  3. Click to run the Disk Clean-Up tool
  4. Select the drive that needs to be cleaned (will be C: if you only have one drive)
  5. Click Ok
  6. In the new window, find "Previous Windows Installation(s)" and tick the box
  7. Click Ok

If you still need more disk space, open Windows settings, choose Apps, then Apps & Features, and sort the list of installed apps by size to show you which programs are hogging the most disk space. Remove any you no longer need.

Other quick ways to clear space include emptying the ‘Downloads’ folder and the ‘Recycle Bin’.

6. Windows 11 search isn’t finding my files

Screenshot showing Windows 11's Indexing Options menu

The new search menu – available by clicking on the magnifying glass or Windows key + S – should search for almost anything on your computer, including apps, files and photos.

If you find it’s not picking up files that you know are on your computer, you can force Windows 11 to rescan the PC, which should solve the problem.

The first thing to note here is that it takes a while for Windows 11 to build a search index, particularly if you’ve got hard disks full of files. If you’ve only just completed the Windows 11 upgrade, give the index a few hours to complete, as the process runs in the background.

If you’ve had Windows 11 for a couple of days and it’s still not finding your files, do the following:

  1. Open the Start Menu
  2. Type 'Index'
  3. Click on Indexing Options
  4. Click Advanced
  5. Click Rebuild

Now click the button to Rebuild the search index. After a few seconds, you’ll see a screen showing the progress of the rebuild. You can carry on working while it does its thing in the background.

7. Distracting notifications

Screenshot showing Windows 11's Focus Assist menu and options

With many people still working from home, distractions are already an occupational hazard. You probably don’t need Windows 11 notifying you of Slack chats or emails about forthcoming Amazon deliveries when you’ve got a report due the next day.


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Microsoft has upped its notifications game in Windows 11 to make them less distracting than previously, thanks to a new mode called Focus Assist. If you click on the icons in the bottom-right corner of the screen containing the battery/Wi-Fi/volume indicators, a pop-up panel will appear allowing you to switch on Focus Assist. There are two modes to choose from here: Priority Only or Alarms Only.

Alarms Only, as the name suggests, only allows pre-set alarms to interfere with your work. Priority Only brings more nuance, allowing messages from certain apps or people to get through - although the people filters are less than perfect.

So, if the boss often calls from Microsoft Teams, for example, add that application to the Focus Assist Priority list by clicking on the Notifications icon in the bottom-right corner (it will turn to a moon icon if Focus Assist is on) and selecting Focus Assist settings.

Barry Collins

Barry Collins is an experienced IT journalist who specialises in Windows, Mac, broadband and more. He's a former editor of PC Pro magazine, and has contributed to many national newspapers, magazines and websites in a career that has spanned over 20 years. You may have seen Barry as a tech pundit on television and radio, including BBC Newsnight, the Chris Evans Show and ITN News at Ten.