Windows 11’s best new feature comes with a big catch

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Microsoft has announced a powerful new feature for Windows 11 that can protect users from malicious apps and downloads – but to enable it, you’ll have to deal with a pretty big catch: a total reinstall of Windows 11.

The Smart App Control feature aims to keep your PC protected from malicious apps, and as PCWorld reports, this “major enhancement to the Windows 11 security model,” as Microsoft calls it, will be baked into Windows 11, with every new app you run checked to see if it may be a virus – or worse.

It appears to be based on similar tech to SmartScreen, which is included in the Edge web browser, but will go much further in checking apps you run on your PC, including ones you download using other browsers.

This increased level of threat protection is great to have, and will be of particular use to businesses and enterprises that want to ensure their devices are protected. However, it comes with a pretty big caveat: existing Windows 11 users will need to reinstall Windows 11 completely. This means wiping your entire PC and starting again, and that could be a real pain for many users.

Analysis: is it worth it?

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As Microsoft explained when it announced the feature, “Devices running previous versions of Windows 11 will have to be reset and have a clean installation of Windows 11 to take advantage of this feature.”

For new Windows 11 devices, this shouldn’t be an issue, as hopefully they'll ship with the latest version of the operating system which includes this feature. However, if you're already running Windows 11 you’ll be faced with a dilemma: do you wipe and reinstall Windows 11, or miss out on added security?

Performing a fresh install of Windows 11 is not a minor task. Although it’s certainly easier than with previous versions of Windows, you’ll be erasing all your apps, documents and settings. You’ll need to make sure all your important documents are backed up before you do this, and then spend time re-downloading and installing your apps and games, and tweaking your settings.

This is a time-consuming process on a single device, but for businesses that have a large number of Windows 11 PCs already it could cause major logistical issues.

Despite this, it’s advisable for many people to perform the reinstall to get the new feature, as any additional protection against online threats is worth having, especially if that protection is baked-in at a system level, which should minimize any impact on performance.

For people who download a lot of programs from the internet, and businesses for which the protection of devices and the data they hold is of the utmost importance, this is an inconvenience that's worth enduring – and the earlier you do it, the less impact it should have.

Matt Hanson
Managing Editor, Core Tech

Matt is TechRadar's Managing Editor for Core Tech, looking after computing and mobile technology. Having written for a number of publications such as PC Plus, PC Format, T3 and Linux Format, there's no aspect of technology that Matt isn't passionate about, especially computing and PC gaming. Ever since he got an Amiga A500+ for Christmas in 1991, he's loved using (and playing on) computers, and will talk endlessly about how The Secret of Monkey Island is the best game ever made.