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All you need to know about Windows 11

Windows 11 is finally, definitely official after being announced at Microsoft’s big event on June 24.

Microsoft CEO Satya Nadella made sure to tell everyone at the event that this was the first version of a new era for Windows.

A very early build of Windows 11 had leaked before the event, showcasing a refreshed look and a new name, we finally got to see the new user interface and new features officially. Now though, the test build has been released to Insiders, ready to give the company feedback.

While Microsoft had in the past said that Windows 10 was going to be the only version of its operating system for years to come, it’s now been around for six years, and this new update brings significant features to help justify the jump to a new number.

Since the announcement, there has been confusion as to the requirements of what Windows 11 needs for your PC, mainly due to a mix of a TPM hardware component and a tool, but it looks as though there won’t be a need to worry if your PC meets its requirements.

With a refreshed look, widgets, a new focus on gaming, and more, there’s plenty in Windows 11 that makes it a substantial update over Windows 10.

Read on to find out everything we’ve found, and the release date for Windows 11.

Cut to the chase

  • What is it? Windows 11 is the successor to Windows 10
  • When is it out? Likely late October
  • How much does it cost? Free

Windows 11 release date

Microsoft says Windows 11 will be out “this holiday season” – so likely sometime between late November and Christmas.

There is also 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.

However, another tool has been released which gives you much clearer detail for how eligible for PC is.

It looks as though Microsoft is hinting at a release for Windows 11 in October. Countless screenshots have the date of October 20, alongside messages that state how many are looking forward to “turning it up to 11 in October!”

Windows 11 hint of October release

(Image credit: TechRadar)

How to download Windows 11

Now that Microsoft has released the test build, named 22000.51 for Windows Insiders on the developer or beta channel, we have a handy guide in how to download it.

Before you do though, 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.

Windows 11 WhyNotWin11 app

(Image credit: Future)

Minimum Specifications

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.

For now, Microsoft has published the requirements for the update, but they are subject to change as we near release and the company takes 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 color 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 on or upgrading your PC or tablet.

So far Microsoft has released the hardware requirements for Windows 11, but there’s confusion over TPM (Trusted Platform Module) and whether the company is pushing hard over the minimum threshold for which devices are eligible to be updated to the new version.

While we’ve got a handy explainer for you that goes into TPM, hardware vendors can still offer new machines with Windows 11 that won’t need this requirement, albeit with good reason to.

Windows 11

(Image credit: Microsoft)

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.

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.

Windows 11

(Image credit: Microsoft)

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 ad Win32 apps are now all in the Microsoft Store, ready to go. 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 Amazon App Store, so you can download TikTok and more, ready to use on your PC or tablet.

The new store opens up possibilities for other applications to arrive in Windows 11, even Apple’s iMessage, which could follow iTunes and Safari.

Windows 11

(Image credit: Microsoft)

A new look for 11

One of the biggest changes users will notice is that the Start menu has been moved to the center of the screen – and it’s now “cloud-powered”, so it dynamically changes depending on the time of day, and the content you’re working with.

Light Mode and Dark Mode are official, with rounded corners and a unified design across the operating system, with colorful wallpapers to choose from as well.

There are also some windows that look Aero-Esque from Windows Vista, showing you bite-sized information.

Windows 11

(Image credit: Microsoft)

Windows Widgets are back in Windows 11, accessible via the dock, 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. On the touchscreen, you can slide from the left on the desktop to have widgets appear.

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.

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