Windows 11 is Microsoft’s latest vision for the operating system that powers millions of devices. At its core, it shares a lot of the same DNA as Windows 10, but a new visual design, combined with some great new features, makes Windows 11 a compelling upgrade. Here’s what you need to know.
What is the Windows 11 Release Date?
Although no official date has been set for the public release, Microsoft has announced that Windows 11 will be available as an upgrade for Windows 10 devices and on new PCs in time for the 2021 holiday period. Traditionally, this means some time in the last three months of the year.
However, if you are part of the free Windows Insider Program, you can get access to a beta version of Windows 11 from June 28, 2021. The beta version may still have some teething problems, but if you have a spare computer, it’s a great way to test out the new operating system before everyone else gets their hands on it.
Is Windows 11 Free?
Microsoft has said that Windows 11 will be a free upgrade for computers that are currently running Windows 10. This is great news for consumers, although enterprise customers may find that some editions do require paid licenses. It will be available through Windows Update, so long as your computer meets the system requirements for installing Windows 11.
Will My Computer Run Windows 11?
The system requirements for Windows 11 are similar to those of Windows 10, but there are some differences, particularly in regards to RAM. However, most computers from the last 5 years or so will likely meet the minimum requirements. They include:
- CPU: 1Ghz or faster with two or more cores
- RAM: At least 4GB
- Storage: At least 64GB
- Graphics: DirectX 12
If you want an easy way to check if your computer will run Windows 11, simply download the free PC Health Check app from Microsoft. It will run a diagnostic scan on your current computer and tell you if it has sufficient resources to run Windows 11.
A Quick Look at Windows 11
New Features in Windows 11
A new version of Windows wouldn’t be complete without a raft of new features. Here are some of my favorites:
1. Redesigned Start Menu
The start menu in Windows 11 has been completely rethought. Microsoft has moved it out of the bottom left-hand corner and instead place it right at the center of your screen. It is now, literally, front and center every time you start up your computer. The start menu itself has seen a much-needed redesign and now includes recent documents so you can quickly pick up on what you were last working on. Everything else, (files, websites, apps, and more), is accessible via the search bar.
2. Snap Layouts and Snap Groups
Window management also gets an update in Windows 11. There are now six different window configurations you can choose from when you want to snap one window next to another. You can save multiple versions of these configurations with Snap Groups and multiple desktops so that you can easily jump from one workflow to another.
If you like to work with an external monitor, you will be pleased to know that when you disconnect and reconnect your computer from the monitor, everything will be exactly the way you left it because Windows 11 is intelligent enough to remember what your screen preferences are when connected to a monitor as opposed to those times when you need to be mobile.
3. Widgets and a New Visual Design
The Live Tiles from Windows 10 have been replaced with a transparent widget panel that slides out from the left-hand side of the screen. The widgets are dynamic and interactive so it should be exciting to see what developers create for this new feature in Windows 11.
The widget panel is part of a larger visual refresh that includes rounded corners, new icons, and transparent menu bars that reflect the color of your desktop wallpaper. It has more than a hint of Windows Vista in the design language with glass and transparency an integral part of this new vision.
4. Download Android Apps on Windows 11
Perhaps the biggest surprise feature of Windows 11 is the ability to install Android apps. Microsoft has partnered with Amazon to bring the Amazon App Store to Windows. This means you will be able to run some of your favorite Android apps alongside traditional Windows apps.
5. Microsoft Teams Integration
The popularity of Microsoft Teams during the COVID-19 pandemic has led Microsoft to make Teams an integral part of Windows 11. It’s now baked into the operating system to make it easier to chat and hold video calls with others. Teams used to be an enterprise communication tool, but it’s now open to everyone and Microsoft is hoping you take advantage of that in the latest version of Windows.
6. Windows 11 for Gaming
Gamers can also look forward to a great experience in Windows 11. You can expect faster load times and more detail. The new Auto HDR feature will intelligently add HDR functionality to standard definition games to make them look richer and more engaging than ever before. Windows 11 will continue to support Microsoft’s Game Pass subscription for those that like to take advantage of that growing library of games.
A New Dawn for Windows?
In a world where most people live their life online in a web browser, the actual operating system is less relevant than ever. This is exactly the challenge that Microsoft has when it releases new a new version of Windows. Can they make it compelling enough that people will choose a Windows PC over a Mac or a Chromebook? Only time will tell, but with Windows 11, Microsoft is taking some important steps towards making that happen. They are building the foundations of a new, modern operating system that can be reliable for years to come.