Microsoft’s next version of Windows, Windows 11, is fast approaching, and the company has already put out a ton of detail about the latest version of its OS. As Windows is one of the most-used operating systems for personal computers around the globe, there’s a lot of reasons to brush up on what’s coming. From new features to security, and even a refreshed design, Windows 11 is poised to be a notable upgrade.
While it won’t look entirely different from Windows 10, it will look different enough to be eye catching. And if you’re a Windows user yourself, it’s important to know what to expect. That’s why we’ve put together this handy guide. Which details all the notable and important aspects of the operating system changes on the horizon.
If you want to learn more about Windows 11, from price to features to release date, check out the guide below.
When is Windows 11 releasing?
Windows 11 is releasing in 2021. More specifically, Microsoft has now announced that the Windows 11 software upgrade will begin rolling out on October 5. The update will start with new eligible Windows 10 PCs, and then continue on from there. Microsoft says PCs shipping with Windows 11 will also begin hitting the market on the same day.
So instead of upgrading, you could buy a Windows 11 PC if you wanted to. The update is also not hitting all devices at the same time. Instead, Microsoft is handling this as a phased and measured rollout. Though it does expect all eligible PCs to receive the update by mid-2022.
Update: October 5, 2021
As of October 4, Microsoft released Windows 11 one day earlier than planned. Some users have already received the upgrade to the new software, while others will be getting access to it as part of a phased rollout, continuing into 2022. Consumers should also start seeing laptops and prebuilt PCs with Windows 11 pre-installed hitting the market.
For example, Razer just announced the new Razer Book and Razer Blade 15 Advanced now come with Windows 11 out of the box.
How much will the Windows 11 upgrade cost?
For everyone, the upgrade will be free. That is if you’re upgrading from Windows 10. If you’re on an older version of Windows, then you may have to buy Windows 10 to get the free upgrade to Windows 11.
If you’re already on Windows 10, then the upgrade won’t cost you anything, and your PC will need to meet the requirements for the software. Microsoft has a PC Health Check app that you can use to see if your machine is compatible. So you’ll want to do that before the software comes out down the road.
Having said that, the PC Health Check app is not currently available to download. As Microsoft pulled it offline a little bit earlier this year. The company will however be putting it back up sometime before Windows 11 launches this Fall. So you should still have plenty of time to use it and see if your PC meets the requirements, before the software arrives.
What are the biggest features and changes in Windows 11?
Windows 11 promises to bring more than a few new features and changes to the table. But not all of them are going to matter to everyone. And heck, some of them people likely won’t even notice unless they’re told that they’re there. Here are some of the biggest changes that you can expect with the upgrade when Microsoft releases it.
A refreshed look
The first thing you’ll notice is of course the design changes. Since the visual component is literally the first thing you’ll see when you boot up the OS for the first time. Microsoft didn’t drastically change the design this time around. In fact a lot of things still look similar enough that you might think there weren’t any changes at all.
But there definitely are. Even if they’re more subtle. For starters, the corners of windows will now have rounded edges. Some windows and the task bar will also now have more of a frosted glass look. Similar to the Aero design from Windows Vista. So you’ll be able to see through them slightly. It won’t necessarily look like this for every single window you have opened though. And it may depend on the theme you choose.
The new design also includes a new home for the start menu. The Start button will now live in the center of the task bar (which Microsoft is now calling the Dock) and the menu will pop up just above it. This new centralized location is meant to deliver ease of use.
New, more dynamic themes
Themes are nothing new but the themes in Windows 11 will be more dynamic and they appear to have more of an impact on the style and overall look of your own personal Windows experience. Some of these themes will apply the Aero look mentioned above. And in addition to each one having a specific color associated with it, there will be themes for both light and dark modes.
Android apps on PC
This is definitely one of the biggest changes with Windows 11, though really only if you’re an Android user. Microsoft has confirmed that Android apps (some of them) will work on Windows 11 devices. So you’ll be able to launch Android apps on your PC and use them natively without the need for any additional software. Such as Bluestacks.
However there is one big caveat to this. Apps can be found in the Microsoft Store, but downloading them will actually happen via the Amazon App Store. So the Android apps you want to use on your PC will have to be listed in the Amazon App Store. If they’re not, then you won’t be able to use them on Windows 11 natively. In which case, a third-party software like Bluestacks would still be extremely useful.
Snap groups is another cool new feature to look forward to. While you can already snap windows in Windows 10, In Windows 11 they’re getting even more usability. This is because Microsoft is making it possible to switch back and forth to different currently running apps without having to snap them to their location again.
You can move back to your snapped windows from the dock, and they’ll snap back into place as if you never left. So everything more or less happens automatically. For multitaskers, or those that just always have a lot of apps open all the time, this will be a major benefit to productivity and efficiency.
A revamped Microsoft Store with improved content curation
Windows 11 will introduce an improved experience with the Microsoft Store that includes better curated content. It will also now include improvements to managing purchased content like movies and TV shows, games, apps and more.
Microsoft says all apps, books, movies, games, etc. will be easier to search for because of the curated stories and collections. So finding more of what you really want to download will be easier than it’s ever been.
Get fast information through the new personalized ‘Widgets’ Feed
Microsoft is introducing a new information feed with Windows 11 called ‘Widgets.’ Which the company is hailing as a personalized feed that brings you more of the news you care about and less of what you don’t. Widgets will live in the dock and be accessible from there at all times.
Microsoft also designed it to be non-obtrusive. So as soon as you open it it’ll slide to the left or right of the screen so it’s out of the way. Microsoft says it “slides across the screen like a sheet of glass,” which gives it a slick and elegant design. Widgets is also powered by artificial intelligence and the “best-in-class browser performance from Microsoft Edge.” So expect it to get smarter at delivering relevant content to you while also performing rather smoothly. You can also add widgets on your own for an even more personalized feel.
Connect much more quickly with the new Chat feature
Microsoft has integrated a new ‘Chat’ feature right into the dock so people can more quickly access all of their most important connections. This will let you access text, chat, video calls, and voice calls with all of your personal contacts. And it’s more or less platform agnostic.
So if you’re on Windows 11 and they’re on Android, iOS, or Windows, it won’t matter as you’ll still be able to contact them.
Will Windows 11 be good for gaming?
Naturally. In fact, Microsoft is confident that Windows 11 will deliver the best PC gaming experience to date. Though how that actually works in real-world scenarios with everyday users remains to be seen. On paper, things seem pretty impressive. And as someone who plays a lot of games on PC, that sounds all too enticing.
According to Microsoft, the PC gaming experience on Windows 11 will include awesome features like Direct X 12 Ultimate. Which is supposed to enhance gaming with things like support for super high frame rate. While also delivering visuals that are amazing and immersive.
Microsoft is also touting faster load times thanks to DirectStorage. So you can spend less time waiting for your games to boot up and more time actually playing and enjoying them. Of course there’s also the newly revamped Xbox Game Pass app. Which has a more streamlined design and user interface navigation system so all of your favorite games are at your fingertips. And new ones that are waiting to be discovered are never more than a click or two away.
The new app will also have better game management. So you can buy games right from this app. And also easily remove titles you no longer want to play from your library and uninstall them with ease if you need to open up some space. While you have to currently download the Xbox app on Windows 10, Windows 11 will have it baked in. So if it’s not already on your PC now, it will be once you upgrade.
Improved experience for touch and multiple methods for input
Microsoft has made some big improvements to touch support in Windows 11. Making it even easier to navigate the UI. Not to mention all of the apps or tools you might use on a daily basis.
Input methods have been improved too. Allowing you to input anything you want typed up by actually typing. Or by using voice, or touch inputs with new keyboard themes and touch typing actions, like swipe typing.
In regards to the touch experience, it will now be easier to drag and expand or drag and shrink your windows while using touch input. There are even multi-finger gestures for swiping away apps and opening Task View.
What are the minimum specs required for Windows 11?
Chances are, if you’re on a device that’s already running on Windows 10, it’ll be compatible with Windows 11. That being said, Microsoft does have a list of minimum specs that are going to be required. Which should be no surprise to anyone that’s already a Windows user, or a user of any computing platform for that matter.
For Windows 11 to work on your machine, it will need to meet the minimum required specs listed below.
- Processor: 1GHz or faster with a minimum of 2 cores. Must also be a compatible 64-bit processor or SoC, as 32-bit processors will not be supported
- RAM: 4GB
- Storage: 64GB
- System Firmware: UEFI, Secure Boot capable
- TPM: Trusted Platform Module 2.0
- Graphics Card: Direct X 12 or later with a WDDM 2.0 driver
- Display: 720p, 8-bit per color channel, and a minimum of 9-inches diagonal
- Internet Connection/Microsoft Account: You will need to be connected to the internet and have a Microsoft account for the initial setup. This means the first time you boot your PC up after the upgrade, make sure it’s connected to the internet and sign into your Microsoft account to finalize setting up your Windows 11 PC experience. You won’t need an active internet connection for future use, unless you want to use apps or tools that require the internet to function.
Where will Windows 11 be available?
Windows 11 should be available anywhere that Windows 10 is currently available. Regardless of region, if you’re already running a PC where Windows 10 is installed, then it should have an upgrade to Windows 11 at some point. Keep in mind that Windows 11 is only supposed to start being rolled out to users this holiday. Roll outs will continue into 2022. So some users may not get to upgrade until next year.
Microsoft doesn’t really give a clear explanation of how this will all work. So some regions may get the upgrade later than others.
There will be a single annual major update
Microsoft is cutting down the amount of major updates it pushes out to users each year. Starting with Windows 11, there will now be a single annual major update that rolls out. As opposed to two like Microsoft is currently pushing.
This should help the company maintain a more stable release each year for users. At least that’s likely what Microsoft is hoping. And it should work, as the development team should have more time to focus on the one major update.
Is there a Windows 11 Insider program?
As mentioned above, you can try Windows 11 out for yourself by downloading the Insider Preview build. Though again, it isn’t recommended unless you have a secondary Windows 10 PC to install it on. As you shouldn’t be installing it on your main PC just in case there are issues that impact your usage.
So in short, yes. There is an Insider Program for Windows 11 and you can participate in it if you like. You will need to register to become a Windows Insider, which is the only way to currently test Windows 11.