Just a few months ago, I asked when Windows 11 would stop screwing up the little things. Obviously, it was a rhetorical question because hatred alone can’t fuel immediate change, even if one wishes it so. (Maybe that’s for the best, given the wide and wild application of human emotions.)
But one change in Windows 11 particularly drives me up a wall: The gutting of the WIN + K keyboard shortcut to quickly connect Bluetooth devices. Maybe it bothers you, too. Here’s the problem, and some workarounds.
In Windows 10, WIN + K gave quick access to your wireless displays and devices. Many people used it to connect to paired Bluetooth accessories. (Hi, that’s me.) Whether a headset or a mouse, it took minimal effort.
In Windows 11, the shortcut is gone. Oh, its husked-out shell exists—hitting WIN + K brings up wireless displays you can connect to. But the useful part for most people has been stripped out. To connect to your paired Bluetooth devices, you must instead navigate a longer, more circuitous route to the Windows Settings app. (Microsoft doesn’t care about muscle memory or repetitive stress injuries, apparently.) This process now involves a discrete window you have to close out after you’re done, too.
It may seem like a small thing, but similar to hearing the drip of a leaky faucet, it causes much irritation over time. I’m not the only person who finds this annoying, either—not if the comments on PCWorld’s YouTube channel are any indication.
The solution (kind of)
If you also find the change to WIN + K aggravating, there are a few workarounds you can try. They don’t have the same speed or fluidity as the Windows 10 version of the keyboard shortcut, but they do make accessing the Bluetooth & devices part of Windows 11’s Settings app faster.
The first option is as close as you’ll get to the original; the other two are for people who prefer using a mouse instead of a keyboard.
Hit Win + K on your keyboard, then ENTER.
(Yes, this is as bad as Microsoft making us click on Show more options in File Explorer when you right-click on an icon. Why the extra input? Well, apparently the designers thought, “Why not?”)
In the right-hand part of your taskbar, click on the caret symbol to see your hidden system icons. Drag the Bluetooth icon onto the taskbar.
You can now double-click on the Bluetooth icon, and it’ll jump you immediately to Bluetooth & devices> Devices in Windows 11’s Settings app, where you’ll see a list of your paired devices to connect or disconnect from.
On your desktop or in a File Explorer window, create a new shortcut. (Fastest way to do this: Right-click, then choose New > Shortcut.)
For the location of the shortcut, copy and paste this text: %windir%\explorer.exe ms-settings:bluetooth
You can then pin this shortcut to your taskbar for high visibility. (Right-click, then choose Show more options > Pin to taskbar.) You may also want to change the icon on the shortcut so you can more easily recognize it at a glance. (Click on the shortcut and hit ALT + ENTER on your keyboard, or right-click on the shortcut and choose Properties > Shortcut. Then choose Change icon.)
Seriously, what the heck
When it comes to software, the best offer more ways to execute a command, not fewer. (See: Opera.) It’s a much friendlier and more inclusive approach that Microsoft seems to be eschewing—and with no clear reason for why.
Does Microsoft think that taking away options (rather than adding them) is progress? What an baffling approach to a user base that includes people of all backgrounds, experience levels, needs, and preferences.
Alaina Yee is PCWorld's resident bargain hunter—when she's not covering software, PC building, and more, she's scouring for the best tech deals. Previously her work has appeared in PC Gamer, IGN, Maximum PC, and Official Xbox Magazine. You can find her on Twitter at @morphingball.