Everything You Need to Know About Microsoft’s Next OS
The next generation of Windows is coming. After leaks and rumors, Microsoft finally announced Windows 11 at a dedicated event in June, following a full leak of a developer build. The new operating system boasts a number of design changes, things like support for Android apps, and more.
Currently, the operating system is only available as part of a Preview, which is targeted at developers. You can download the Windows 11 Preview by signing up to Microsoft’s Windows Insider program, but generally, most should just wait for the consumer release.
Of course, you might be curious as to when you can get your hands on Windows 11 for yourself. Or, exactly what’s new in the operating system. Here’s everything you need to know about Microsoft’s next operating system.
The best new features in Windows 11
Windows 11 offers a ton of great new features that could completely change your Windows experience. Here are some of our favorite features on offer.
Before you dive into any technical features, you’re likely to notice visual changes to the operating system. Perhaps the most immediately obvious is the fact that the Start Menu and Task Bar are now in the middle of the display — meaning that they’ll be easier to access, particularly on ultrawide displays. If you don’t like the change, you can move the Star Menu and Task Bar back to the left of display.
The change brings Windows a little more in line with macOS and ChromeOS.
There are other visual changes to the operating system too. For example, Microsoft is making translucent windows fashionable again, and it’s rounding window corners.
Android app support
Apple allowed iOS apps to work on macOS, and now Microsoft is making a similar change — by bringing Android apps to Windows 11. But the way Microsoft is doing this is a little strange — it has partnered with Amazon to bring the Amazon Appstore inside the newly revamped Microsoft Store. In other words, you’ll be limited in the Android apps that you can actually install on your computer. Thankfully, Windows 11 does allow sideloading Android apps.
The Microsoft Store
Speaking of apps, the way you can get Windows apps is changing too — with the new Microsoft Store. The Microsoft Store offers an all-new design, plus it will allow all developers to upload win32 versions of their apps. Developers will also have the option to choose their own payment system — so they won’t be locked into Microsoft’s, from which Microsoft naturally takes a cut.
Widgets kind of failed on Windows Vista, but Microsoft thinks it has cracked the code — and is reintroducing them in Windows 11. The operating system offers a new widget panel with options for a to-do life, weather, calendar, and others. It’s pretty similar to how widgets work on macOS.
Windows has always made organizing app windows pretty easy, but Windows 11 will make it even easier. In Windows 11, you’ll be able to snap windows in all kinds of arrangements, and even create your own custom arrangements. You’ll do this by hovering over the Maximize button.
Larger touch targets
Apple refuses to support touch on macOS, but Microsoft is adopting touch with open arms. Windows 11 will offer larger touch targets that make it easier to resize windows. And, there’s a smaller keyboard built specifically for touch that can sit in the corner of your screen. We’ll have to wait and see if this change truly makes Windows 11 a touch-friendly operating system.
The PC has always been a dominant gaming platform, and Microsoft is using its experience with Xbox to make PC gaming even better. The company is bringing the DirectStorage API to the PC, allowing your computer to load game data right into your GPU’s memory. Another new feature is Auto HDR, which allows games created with DirectX 11 or later to automatically upgrade using SDR to a much more vibrant HDR standard. Games that do this probably won’t quite looks as spectacular as those built with HDR in mind, but it will certainly make for a more vibrant experience.
Last but not least, the Xbox app will come pre-installed in Windows 11. This will allow you to access your Xbox library on your PC, and play games with your Game Pass subscription.
Should I install Windows 11?
As mentioned, Windows 11 isn’t yet ready for a consumer release. Instead, it’s currently going through a beta, called Windows 11 Preview. Anyone that’s part of the Windows Insider program, with a compatible PC, can download the software — however not anyone should. You should only install a Preview on your computer if you’re tech-savvy, and preferably a developer. That’s because a beta build could cause your computer to act in unexpected ways — and it could even render your PC useless.
Once the operating system releases to the public, it’s well worth installing, as long as you have a compatible computer.
Which computers support Windows 11?
There’s no official list of computers that support Windows 11 — given the fact that there are tons of PC models that support it, and you may have built your own PC. But there are ways to check if your PC is compatible. Microsoft has provided a free PC Health Check app that can check if your computer is compatible with Windows 11. To download it, head to Microsoft’s Windows 11 page. Once it’s installed, hit the “Check Now” button to see if your computer can run Windows 11.
For reference, the minimum requirements for the update can be found below.
- Processor: 1 gigahertz (GHz) or faster with 2 or more cores on a compatible 64-bit processor or System on a Chip (SoC).
- Memory: 4 GB RAM.
- Storage: 64 GB or larger storage device.
- System firmware: UEFI, Secure Boot capable.
- TPM: Trusted Platform Module (TPM) version 2.0.
- Graphics card: DirectX 12 compatible graphics/WDDM 2.x.
- Display: Greater than 9 inches with HD Resolution (720p).
- Internet connection: Microsoft account and internet connectivity required for setup of Windows 11 Home.
When will Windows 11 be released?
The Windows 11 Preview is now available to developers, meaning that we’re well and truly moving towards a consumer release. Officially, all we know is that the update will be released later this year — but Microsoft promotional material notes that the new operating system may be released in October. According to a report from The Verge, during the Windows 11 release event, a Microsoft Teams message read “excited to turn it up to 11…can’t wait for October!” Not only that but many of Microsoft’s press images for the operating system show the date October 20.
We’ll have to wait and see if October 20 ends up being the official Windows 11 release date.
How to install Windows 11
As mentioned, the update is currently only available in beta form, meaning that installing it isn’t as easy as just checking for an update. To install the Windows 11 Preview, follow the instructions below.
- Register as a Windows Insider if you haven’t already. You can do so here.
- Check that your computer is compatible with Windows 11. Remember that you will need a TPM (Trusted Platform Module) 2.0 chip — so simply owning a powerful PC isn’t necessarily enough. To check, download the PC Health Check app.
- Install the Windows Insider Program by heading to Settings > Update & Security > Windows Insider Program. You’ll need to choose a channel if this is your first time — and to try Windows 11, you’ll need to choose the “Dev Channel” option. When the Beta Channel offers Windows 11, it will be more stable.
- That’s it! Your computer will download and install Windows 11.