In June, Microsoft finally unveiled the much-anticipated Windows 11 update. It comes with an updated UI, and performance and productivity improvements. Microsoft also released the minimum system requirements for Windows 11 which includes Secure Boot and TPM 2.0 among other things. Following the announcement, Microsoft confirmed that it will start rolling out Windows 11 to existing Windows users from October 5.
With Windows 11 around the corner, we will take a look at the new features, changes, as well as when can you get the new update. However, before that, we need to go through the system requirements as that caused quite a confusion when Microsoft introduced Windows 11 to the public.
Windows 11 System Requirements
Microsoft has always maintained a list of requirements to install Windows. Usually these are set in a way so almost every computer can run Windows without any major issues. However, that is changing with the introduction of Windows 11.
Windows 11’s system requirements are complicated and will exclude a lot of old systems as Microsoft will not officially allow users to install and run Windows 11 on those systems. Of course, the company has left a loophole for tech enthusiasts to install Windows 11 on unsupported systems but that comes with a huge asterisk.
Talking about the requirements, users will need the following hardware to qualify for Windows 11:
- 1Ghz 64-bit dual-core processor
- 4GB RAM
- 64GB storage
- 9-inch display (1366x768 resolution)
- UEFI, Secure Boot & TPM 2.0
- DirectX 12 compatible graphics / WDDM 2.x
Microsoft has increased the storage requirement for Windows 11 to 64GB and the screen-size to 9-inches. However, the biggest change is the addition of Secure Boot and TPM 2.0. While most new systems ship with Secure Boot and TPM, there are still millions of computers that lack both the features. Not only that, but Microsoft has also released a list of CPUs that are required if you want to run Windows 11 on your system. So, in essence, even if you have Secure Boot and you buy a TPM module, if your processor is old and is not on Microsoft’s list, you are out of luck.
Apart from these, Microsoft also has a couple of additional requirements for laptops. The company notes that laptops need to come with a webcam, Bluetooth and Precision Touchpad in order to qualify for Windows 11. Furthermore, the Redmond giant also wants external PCIe capable ports (like Thunderbolt) to support Memory Access Protection or Kernel DMA Protection (kDMA) and have it enabled/opted-in by default. Thankfully, these apply to new laptops, so you don’t need to throw away your old laptop if it is missing any of the aforementioned features.
If you are concerned about the system requirements, then you can get Microsoft’s PC Health Check app that will let you know if meet the system requirements or not. In case your system does not meet the requirements, the tool will let you know which component is not compatible, giving you an easy option to upgrade and install Windows 11 at a later date.
New Features and Changes
Now that we have gone through the system requirements, let’s talk about the new features and changes that are coming with the Windows 11 update.
New User Interface
One of the major changes with the Windows 11 update is the new UI. Microsoft has completely revamped the interface and it looks more modern. With Windows 11, Microsoft is also embracing the rounded corners which is a treat for the eyes. Furthermore, the company has redesigned the context menus across the operating system. The new menus look refined and go well with overall Windows 11 visual design. You can take a deep dive into context menus with our closer look article on the topic.
Taskbar and Start Menu
The biggest change one will notice when they log in for the first time is the taskbar. Microsoft has improved the taskbar design which looks much more in line with the overall UI. Furthermore, Microsoft has moved the taskbar icons to the middle, which is one of the many design choices that were picked from the now-defunct Windows 10X. While Microsoft will allow users to move the taskbar icons to the left, the company has axed some of the taskbar features including the ability to move the taskbar to the left, right or the top of your screen, as well as the ability to adjust the taskbar height. Microsoft has also killed the taskbar context menu. You can read more about the Windows 11 taskbar in our dedicated article on the topic.
Speaking of things that are killed off, Live Tiles are now gone. Microsoft has overhauled the Start Menu on Windows 11 and unfortunately, the Redmond giant’s plans for the future does not include Live Tiles. For better or worse, the start menu now consists of pinned apps as well as a recommendation section that suggests to you documents, and files based on your usage history. Microsoft has also added a search bar on the top of the Start Menu. Unfortunately, the search bar is still unreliable and shows search results from Bing sometimes. Lastly, Microsoft has also moved the all apps section to the top right of the Start Menu so you will no longer get the app list when you open the Start Menu. You can check out more about the Start Menu in our Closer Look section.
Multitasking features and improvements
At the Windows 11 launch, Microsoft made a huge deal about the multitasking features and improvements. The company highlighted several productivity features that will enhance the experience. One of the biggest multitasking improvements is the new snap layouts. You might be familiar with these if you have used Microsoft’s PowerToys in the past. Essentially, with Windows 11, Microsoft will give users pre-made layouts for when you want to snap two or more windows on the screen. Microsoft will also group snapped apps on the taskbar, so you don’t have to manually minimize and maximize each app. Instead, you can just click on the group to minimize or maximize the whole group. Unfortunately, Microsoft currently offers just a handful of options, so it is not a perfect replacement for PowerToys users. You can control/disable snap assist by navigating to Settings > System > Multitasking.
Furthermore, Microsoft is also making improvements to the way Windows manages multi-monitor setups. With Windows 11, Microsoft will remember the layout on your external monitor and will arrange the windows when you plug your second monitor back. You can navigate to Settings > System > Display and check “Remember window locations based on monitor connection” and “Minimize windows when a monitor is disconnected” under the ‘Scale & layout’ to enable the feature. You can take a deep dive into multitasking features with our Closer Look article.
Microsoft Store and Android Apps
Windows 11 is also bringing a revamped Microsoft Store that takes UI inspiration from the rest of the operating system. The new Store app also comes with UI changes for better user experience. For instance, search now sits at the top-middle of the app while Microsoft has moved categories to the left side of the app.
The individual app pages have received an overhaul as well. The new pages accommodate more information about the app on a single screen, reducing the need for scrolling down. The company has also moved the ratings, category, and screenshots to the top, so they are visible as soon as the page is loaded.
Apart from the aesthetics, the new Store app also brings new features as well. Microsoft will now allow developers to host all kinds of apps on the Store. This means users can now download PWAs, Win32, Electron, etc. apps directly from the Microsoft Store.
Saving best of the last, Windows 11 will also feature Android apps, courtesy of the Amazon app store. At the Windows 11 launch, Microsoft announced that it will be partnering with Amazon to bring Android apps to Windows 11. While, Microsoft has noted that Android apps will not be available at Windows 11 launch, the company says it is working on bringing support in the near future.
File Explorer is also getting some of that Windows 11 goodness as the Redmond giant brings it in line with the new visual update. The new design ditches the top ribbon in favour of quick action buttons. This is another attempt from Microsoft to help those on touch-based devices as it is easy to interact with big buttons, compared to small items the company had before on the top ribbon. The company, however, has added a new drop-down option at the top to accommodate all the ribbon options.
File Explorer has also received a new right-click context menu which again matches the overall Windows 11 design. Here too, Microsoft has added quick action buttons to the top that give users easy access to cut, copy, and paste options. We have a dedicated article covering the finer details about the File Manager on Windows 11.
Windows 11 will see a return of the widgets, albeit different from the ones we were used to seeing in Windows 7. Microsoft has added a new Widgets button on the taskbar which opens a pop-up window to the side giving users easy access to weather, traffic, stock market updates, sports, news headlines and more. Microsoft will be collating data based on user preferences and it will be pulled from MSN. The feature is an extension to the News and Interest option that Microsoft added to Windows 10 earlier this year. We have covered Windows 11 Widgets extensively before and you can check out our article on the topic for more information on Widgets and how they will work.
Revamped Native apps
Microsoft is also upgrading the native apps experience with Windows 11. The company has released updates for several native apps like the snipping tool, calculator, photos app and more. All the updates bring these apps in line with the Windows 11 with Microsoft’s design language, rounded corners, and support for dark mode. Microsoft is expected to upgrade all the remaining native apps in the future, providing a unified and clean experience to end users.
Windows Settings and Personalization
With Windows 11, settings and personalization is getting a massive bump. Microsoft has redesigned the settings app that now features headings on the left corner with sub-headings in the middle that expand to show the various settings and options. The new app also includes breadcrumbs so you can quickly jump between pages.
The new UI includes updated options for different features and settings. Microsoft has also included a new battery page that gives more information and can be useful for laptop users. You can read more about power options and battery settings on Windows 11 in our Closer Look article. The company has also improved the way it shows related settings and has moved them at the bottom to accommodate more information. Windows 11 will also bring the following new shortcuts:
- Windows + A- Open quick settings
- Windows + N- Open notifications
- Windows + Z- Open snap layouts
- Windows + H- Open voice typing
- Shift + F10- Open the old right-click menu
Moving on to personalization, Microsoft has added a couple of new personalization options to Windows 11. These include improved dark mode, new system themes, themes for on-screen touch keyboard and more.
One of the major improvements is made to the new on-screen touch keyboard which now features a variety of themes, keyboard size and more. You can navigate to Settings > Personalization > Touch Keyboard to access the customization options.
Microsoft Teams 2.0
Microsoft is trying to take on both FaceTime and Zoom with Microsoft Teams as the company has added a Teams button on the taskbar. Microsoft says it wants people to use Microsoft Teams to communicate with both their colleagues and their families.
While, the new Teams app is in early stages, it offers a variety of features such as inviting people to the chat, audio and video calls, groups and much more. Microsoft is expected to continue updating Teams long after Windows 11 has been released to the public so we may see new features and changes in the future. For now, you can check out our dedicated article covering Microsoft Teams in depth.
General changes and improvements
Apart from improvements to the specific features, Microsoft has also introduced general system-wide improvements to enhance the user experience. Rounded corners is one way Microsoft has improved the Windows 11 look and feel. The company has also introduced new animations that make the system feel snappier and gives a smooth experience to the user.
Microsoft has made changes to the Action center which is now split into two parts - Quick settings and notification area. The notification area will show the latest notifications along with calendar while Quick settings will give users easy access to setting such as WiFi, Bluetooth, Brightness and more. You can check out our dedicated article for a deeper insight into the topic.
The Windows Startup sound is also making a comeback on Windows 11. The startup sound is something that many veteran Windows users can relate to, and Microsoft has finally decided to include a brand new sound that is softer and has a new soothing melody.
Lastly, Microsoft has also completely overhauled the setup UI. While the Windows installation UI remains the same as it has been since Windows 7, the company has completely changed the setup UI. The Windows 11 setup includes the same steps as Windows 10, but with nice round corners on an off-white background that will look familiar to anyone who has used macOS.
Furthermore, Microsoft has improved the lock screen that looks a lot better with the new font and slight UI improvements. The most noticeable improvement here is the center alignment of the date and time.
Features getting axed on Windows 11
Unfortunately, Windows 11 is also taking away some of the features that are currently available in Windows 10. Below is the list of features that Microsoft is killing with the Windows 11 launch:
- Cortana will no longer be included in the first boot experience or pinned to the Taskbar.
- Desktop wallpaper cannot be roamed to or from device when signed in with a Microsoft account.
- Internet Explorer is disabled. Microsoft Edge browser is the recommended replacement and includes IE Mode, which may be useful in certain scenarios.
- Maths Input Panel is removed. Math Recognizer will install on demand and includes the maths input control and recogniser. Maths inking in apps like OneNote are not impacted by this change.
- News & Interests has evolved. New functionality has been added which can be found by clicking the Widgets icon on the Taskbar.
- Quick Status from the Lockscreen and associated settings are removed.
- S Mode is only available now for Windows 11 Home edition.
- Snipping Tool continues to be available but the old design and functionality in the Windows 10 version has been replaced with those of the app previously known as Snip & Sketch.
- Start is significantly changed in Windows 11 including the following key deprecations and removals:
- Named groups and folders of apps are no longer supported and the layout is not currently resizeable.
- Pinned apps and sites will not migrate when upgrading from Windows 10.
- Live Tiles are no longer available. For at-a-glance, dynamic content, see the new Widgets feature.
- Tablet Mode is removed, and new functionality and capability is included for keyboard attach and detach postures.
- Taskbar is changed including:
- People is no longer present on the Taskbar.
- Some icons may no longer appear in the System Tray for upgraded devices including previous customisations.
- Alignment to the bottom of the screen is the only location allowed.
- Apps can no longer customise areas of the Taskbar.
- Timeline is removed. Some similar functionality is available in Microsoft Edge.
- Touch Keyboard will no longer dock and undock keyboard layouts on screen sizes 18 inches and larger.
- Wallet is removed.
Who can upgrade to Windows 11?
While Microsoft has made Windows available to almost everyone who owns a PC, this time the company is narrowing the path so a lot of users will miss out on the update, at least via the "supported" upgrade path. For starters, Windows 11 will be a 64-bit only operating system so if your hardware does not support 64-bit operating system then you are out of luck.
Secondly, the company has provided a comprehensive list of hardware requirements that one needs to meet in order to qualify for a Windows 11 update.
Will Windows 11 be a free upgrade?
Now on to the biggest question, will Windows 11 be available for free. In short, the update will be free for the existing Windows users. So, Windows 10 users who meet the minimum system requirements can upgrade to Windows 11 for free once the update is available. You can refer to the system requirements section in the beginning of the article to ensure your system meets the minimum requirements to upgrade to Windows 11.
Those who are using old versions of Windows but meet the minimum requirements can upgrade to Windows 11 but may have to do a clean install as there no direct upgrade path available.
How to upgrade to Windows 11?
Microsoft will be releasing Windows 11 on October 5, post which Windows 10 users will start seeing the update. As with all updates, Microsoft will be seeding the update to a small subset of users before the broader public roll out.
Microsoft has already seeded the RTM build to Windows Insiders in the Release Preview channel. So, if you are eager to upgrade to Windows 11, you can head to Settings > Update and Security > Windows Insider Program and enroll in the Release Preview Ring.
For the rest, Windows 11 will start seeding on October 5. You can head to Settings > Update and Security > Windows Update and click on Check for Updates to download and install the Windows 11 update.
Microsoft’s Windows 11 operating system is more than just a minor update as it introduces a brand-new modern UI that looks and feels much better when compared to Windows 10. Microsoft has taken a new route with Windows 11, giving users a fresh UI for both the operating system and the native Windows apps. Apart from the new UI, improvements made to Windows 11 will ensure that users get the best performance and experience.
With Windows 11 coming soon, do you plan to upgrade your system to the latest offering from Microsoft? Let us know your thoughts by voting in the poll below and sounding off in the comments section.