Windows 11 was unveiled at Microsoft’s Big Event on June 24, with many features justifying the jump in numbering from 10 to 11. The new upgrade can also be tried out ready to download and use on machines that meet the minimum requirements. There is also a huge redesign of the Microsoft Store, allowing Android apps from the Amazon App Store to be used, so you can download any apps you want.
Since the Insider build was released, there’s been many more updates for the dev channel, where it brings back the search bar to the start menu, more refinements to the new design across the menus, alongside better multi-monitor support for the taskbar, alongside many fixes.
So, while we wait for its October release, here’s everything we know about Windows 11 so far.
Cut to the chase
- What is it? Windows 11 is the successor to Windows 10
- When is it out? October 5
- How much does it cost? Free
Windows 11 release date
Microsoft confirmed that Windows 11 is launching on October 5 as a free upgrade, with eligible devices being notified from them on. There will be also a PC Health Check tool will be updated closer to the launch of Windows 11, so you can see whether your own device is eligible to upgrade.
When will be release date though?
— Jure ZAJC (@JureZAJC1) June 24, 2021
There is going to be a yearly update of the new operating system, similar to Apple’s efforts with macOS. While Microsoft released a tool that allowed you to see if your desktop PC or laptop will be able to run Windows 11, it was confirmed to be buggy, giving erroneous results for machines that would have no problem in running the update.
How to download Windows 11
Microsoft has updated the Insider build named 22000.132 on the developer channel. The build is now widely available on the beta channel, showcasing more refinements across the board, including the Microsoft Store. The best point of call would be to make sure that your PC is enrolled for Microsoft’s Insider Program first, as long as it meets the requirements. In the meantime, vendors such as Lenovo have released some guidance to other users who have machines running Windows 7 and above, that it may be a free upgrade, but with a caveat.
There’s been a lot of discussion as to which devices are eligible for Windows 11. Regardless of the TPM requirement, others are simply wondering if they need to look to upgrade their PC or laptop soon. Microsoft has published the requirements for the update, but they are subject to change as we near release and the company take feedback on board.
- Processor: 1 gigahertz (GHz) or faster with at least two cores on a compatible 64-bit processor or SoC
- RAM: 4GB
- Storage: 64GB
- System Firmware: UEFI, Secure Boot capable
- TPM: Trusted Platform Module 2.0
- Graphics Card: DirectX 12 or later with WDDM 2.0 driver
- Display: 720p, 8-bit per colour channel, at least 9-inch diagonal
- Internet Connection and Microsoft Account: Windows 11 Home requires an active internet connection and a Microsoft Account to complete the initial, first-use setup of the operating system, or when switching a device out of Windows 11 Home in S-mode.
How much is Windows 11?
Windows 11 will be a free update for existing Windows users – you’ll need to be online to download, install and activate Home versions, and you’ll need to have a Microsoft account when installing it.
So far Microsoft has released the hardware requirements for Windows 11, but there’s confusion over TPM and whether the company are pushing hard over the minimum threshold for which devices are eligible to be updated to the new version. Windows 11 features.
There are improvements across the board in Windows 11, with Microsoft promising that updates will be 40% smaller, and touting Windows 11 as “the most secure release yet”. The taskbar is optimized for touch as well as mouse peripherals and is now renamed the dock.
New multitasking features are also on offer thanks to a feature called Snap Layouts, which enables you to arrange multiple windows across the screen, not just side by side, but in columns, sections and more. There’s now a much-improved health check app found in Settings, where Windows 11 will recommend you to turn down the brightness, for example, change the power saving mode of the battery and much more.
Another feature is Snap Groups, where you can go back to previously snapped windows from the dock, so for example you can go to your email app, Edge browser windows or anything else without having to snap them back to the previous view again. There’s also improved multi-monitor support, so when you reconnect an external monitor, Windows 11 remembers the previous positions of the windows that were on that monitor.
There’s even an estimated installation time for Windows Update, so you can see whether you need to hold off from updating your PC until later in the day.
Teams are also integrated into the dock, so you can easily join in with meetings and family calls. This looks like the first inkling of Skype disappearing from Windows, especially with the Skype sounds being heard in the demo when a call was incoming.
The Microsoft Store is finally seeing a redesign, with better-curated content, and better options for managing your purchased shows, such as mirroring them to your television. Apps such as Disney+, Adobe Creative Cloud, Pinterest and more are already in this redesigned store for Windows 11, ready to go. WPA, EWP and Win32 apps are now all in the Microsoft Store as well. If a developer has a commerce engine, they can keep 100% of the revenue brought from the Microsoft Store.
Android apps are also ready for Windows 11, discoverable from the Microsoft Store, via the Amazon App Store. We suspect that the reason why Amazon is allowing their version of the store instead of Google may be to do with the. APK filename being replaced from August.
A new look for 11
Fluent Design is the new name for the look of Windows 11. Across the board, everything looks more modern and fresh, with rounded windows and apps such as Snipping Tool seeing huge improvements in years.
One of the biggest changes users will notice is that the Start menu has been moved to the centre of the screen, so it dynamically changes depending on the time of day, and the content you’re working with. If you’re using the Insider Build, there are already ways of customizing the taskbar and the start menu, including moving the icons back to the left. Light Mode and Dark Mode are here too, with a unified design across the operating system.
Windows Widgets are back in Windows 11 with Microsoft touting AI-powered dynamic features that enable widgets, as with the Start menu, to change depending on the apps you’re using and the time of day. There are plenty to choose from, such as the weather, Bing maps, news, and more. These will be available for third parties as well, so you may see as many widgets available to pick as there are on Apple’s iOS and iPadOS operating systems.
Gaming on Windows 11
Gaming will be a much bigger focus in Windows 11, with the sluggish and frustrating-to-use Windows 10 Xbox app replaced by a new Game Pass app that enables you to buy, manage and remove games, making it easier for you to access and download games, from Doom Eternal to Halo Infinite.
HDR will also be supported on compatible machines, offering improved lighting and contrast for gaming and viewing media. Direct Storage is also here, with the main game assets able to be downloaded and installed, enabling you to play your games even faster than before.
Tablet mode has been one of Windows’ weaker points ever since Windows 8, and the new tablet features that Microsoft showed off for Windows 11 could be key to the operating system’s fortunes, especially with future Surface products in the pipeline from Microsoft – to have a new, numbered operating system for its upcoming tablets could be a big selling point for new users.
At the event, Microsoft touted bigger touch targets and easier ways to move windows around, and better rotate optimizations, for example in how windows are rearranged, so you don’t lose track of the applications you were using. Gestures used with the trackpad of the Surface models are also coming to the touchscreen, bringing in some familiarity here. Haptics is also coming to Windows 11 when you use a stylus for better feedback when drawing or sketching.
The touch keyboard has also been redesigned, with a smaller keyboard just for your thumb, and emojis ready to be used. Microsoft says dictation will also be improved, alongside voice commands, with ‘delete that’ options and more.