When did Windows 11 come out? What’s Windows 11 like? Windows 11 is the latest major release of Microsoft’s Windows NT operating system, released on October 5, 2021. It succeeded Windows 10 (2015) and is available for free for any Windows 10 devices that meet the new Windows 11 system requirements.
Windows 11 features major changes to the Windows shell influenced by the canceled Windows 10X, including a redesigned Start menu, the replacement of its “live tiles” with a separate “Widgets” panel on the taskbar, the ability to create tiled sets of windows that can be minimized and restored from the taskbar as a group, and new gaming technologies inherited from Xbox Series X and Series S such as Auto HDR and DirectStorage on compatible hardware.
Internet Explorer (IE) has been replaced by the Chromium-based Microsoft Edge as the default web browser, like its predecessor, Windows 10, and Microsoft Teams is integrated into the Windows shell. Microsoft also announced plans to allow more flexibility in software that can be distributed via the Microsoft Store and to support Android apps on Windows 11 (including a partnership with Amazon to make its app store available for the function).
When did Windows 11 come out?
Windows 11 started its wide rollout on Oct. 5 — the first major upgrade in six years. Windows 11 is available as a free download for existing Windows 10 users, but it’s not yet available for every compatible Windows device. And every major new feature promised isn’t available right now. (Microsoft announced this in an August blog post).
We’ve already tested and published a full review of Windows 11 (it’s familiar but fresh, with a Mac-like design). You can expect a few new multitasking features, and the Start menu is in a new place. However, it will not include one of the most anticipated updates: support for Android mobile apps in its new app store. Microsoft also didn’t offer a date for when Android apps would be available either, other than saying that it would roll out in a “preview” test “over the coming months,” according to the post
There’s a lot to look forward to. But even if your device hasn’t been prompted to update, you can still check to see if you meet the compatibility requirements. Heads up, (you’ll need to be running Windows 10 first to do so — here’s how to download Windows 10 for free if you haven’t yet). And just because you have a compatible Windows device doesn’t mean you’ll be able to run Windows 11 starting today.
Microsoft said the launch will be “phased and measured,” with new eligible devices getting the upgrade first and the rest getting offered the free upgrade sometime between October and mid-2022, depending on your hardware, age of device and other factors. You’ll get a notification from Windows Update letting you know when Windows 11 is available to you, or you can check manually (here’s more on how to download Windows 11 before your system asks you to).
While you wait for Microsoft’s new operating system to arrive, you can check to see if your computer will be able to automatically update to Windows 11 (you’ll need to be running Windows 10 first to do so — here’s how to download Windows 10 for free if you haven’t yet). But even if it isn’t deemed compatible, there will be a way to manually download a version that is not supported by Microsoft. And here’s how to set the default search engine, if you’d rather not use Bing.
What’s Windows 11 like?
Clearly wanting to avoid upsetting millions by making radical changes (as it ultimately did with Windows 8), Microsoft has kept the same basic layout, albeit with a significant redesign. You’ll find rounded corners everywhere you look and a new centrally positioned Start Menu, although you can return the latter to the side if you’d prefer.
There’s a new widgets panel which can show the weather, stocks, news and more, replacing the old Start Menu’s Live Tiles. You also get improved grouping and snapping of open windows, allowing you to multitask more effectively.
Windows 11 on tablets is much improved thanks to the introduction of gestures and a new on-screen keyboard that much more similar to the one on your phone. You can even install and use Android apps via the Amazon Appstore, although a workaround that lets you use the Google Play Store instead is no longer functional.
However, while there are lots of visual changes, Windows 11 should be an easy transition from Windows 10 for most people.
Wasn’t Windows 10 the last ever version of Windows?
That’s what Microsoft said when it announced Windows 10, yes. But apparently it changed its mind about that. The company could have rolled out these changes in a Windows 10 update, but it chose not to refer back to this statement during the launch event.
Interestingly, Microsoft did eventually reference this at its April 2022 hybrid work event. However, the company described the pandemic as the key driver of this change in strategy, adding that “how, when and where we work fundamentally changed overnight”.
The version at launch hadn’t changed much compared to Windows 10, but there have been lots of updates since. It also looks like Windows 12 might be arriving in 2024.
Will my Windows 10 PC or laptop run Windows 11?
The minimum hardware requirements for Windows 11 are as follows:
- 1GHz dual-core processor
- 4GB RAM
- 64GB of storage (HDD or SSD)
- UEFI, Secure Boot capable
- Trusted Platform Module (TPM) 2.0
- Graphics card compatible with DirectX 12
- Display larger than 9in with 720p or higher resolution
- Microsoft account + internet connection
Not sure if your device is compatible? Microsoft has a free ‘PC Health Check’ app, designed to help you find out. It’s available to download via the relevant support page.
For more information, check out our separate guide: Will my PC run Windows 11?
Microsoft doesn’t encourage it, but there is still a way to install Windows 11 on unsupported PCs. Indeed, you’ll probably see messages within Settings and on the desktop warning you that your device isn’t compatible. It doesn’t seem to affect performance and app compatibility, though.
For any subsequent Windows 11 updates, no changes to device compatibility are expected.
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