Earlier this year, Microsoft announced the new flagship update to its operating system: Windows 11. It's been available as a public beta for a while now, but as of October 5th, it is beginning an official, tiered rollout to eligible computers. Here's everything you need to know.
Is Windows 11 free?
Yes. Windows 11 will be provided as a free update to all eligible devices that are currently running Windows 10. Eligibility for automatic upgrade is based on certain minimum hardware requirements.
How do I upgrade to Windows 11?
Windows 11 is getting a tiered rollout, starting with newer devices. All eligible devices should be prompted to upgrade sometime between today and mid-2022, according to Microsoft's estimates. The easiest way to upgrade is to simply wait for your prompt.
How do I upgrade to Windows 11 right now?
You can manually check if the update has rolled out to your PC by going to Settings > Windows Update and choosing Check for updates.
If it's not, you can manually install Windows 11 instead.
How do I manually install Windows 11?
You can find the manual installation instructions for Windows 11 at Microsoft's official Windows 11 download center.
The simplest way is to download the Windows 11 Installation Assistant, then run the installer as an administrator on the Windows 10 PC you want to upgrade to Windows 11.
Users with more technical know-how who want to create a bootable USB drive or DVD can download the Windows 11 Installation Media Tool to create a bootable device, or download the .ISO directly and create it themselves.
Why upgrade to Windows 11?
As with all new operating systems, there are a few shiny reasons to upgrade. One of the most notable changes with Windows 11 is how it looks. The Start menu is no longer in the bottom-left corner of your screen, but it the center. The Taskbar is now centered at the bottom of the screen, making it look similar to the Dock on a Mac, and it has a cleaner look (no more Live Tiles). You'll be able to access your personalized Widgets directly from the Taskbar, too.
As far as features, you'll be able to install and run Android apps natively on Windows 11. The gaming experience will be all-around better thanks to a new Xbox app support for features for on Xbox consoles, such as Auto HDR and DirectStorage, which should make games look better and load faster. And Microsoft Teams is going to be more easily accessible (directly from the Taskbar) and integrated into more apps.
Perhaps the best reason to upgrade, however, is to be on track for further feature and security updates.
How long will Microsoft continue to support Windows 10?
If you don't want to upgrade to Windows 11, you don't have to. Yet. Microsoft will continue to support Windows 10 with security updates for four years. Windows 10 is slated to continue receiving support until October 14th, 2025.
You'll be able to continue using Windows 10 even after that point, but it's not advisable. Once an operating system has reached its end of life, it becomes a security hazard in various ways. Bad enough is that some security vulnerabilities not patched (though Microsoft has a history of showing up to patch really bad ones even after support ends). Worse is that this lack of patching makes devices running unsupported software a juicer target for ne'er-do-wells.
It's almost always best to suck it up and upgrade.
Can my computer run Windows 11?
If your PC is already running Windows 10, there's a pretty good chance that it will be compatible with Windows 11. But to be sure, you can download the PC Health Check app right now and it will be able to tell you if your specific machine will be compatible.
The full list of minimum requirements needed for a device to suport Windows 11 are on Microsoft's website, but here's the gist:
- a 1 GHz, 2-core, 64-bit Windows-compatible processor
- 4 GB of RAM
- 64 GB of storage
- an internet connection for initial setup and updates
Additional requirements are necessary for specific features such as:
- a microphone for Cortana support
- an infrared-capable webcam or fingerprint reader for biometric Windows Hello features
What if my computer doesn't meet the minimum requirements for Windows 11?
Windows 11 has higher technical requirements than Windows 10, is possible to install Windows 11 on devices that don't meet the minimum requirements. Upgrading unsupported hardware to Windows 11 will require you to install the update manually using an ISO. There is a different set of minimum minimum requirements your PC will have to meet including 4GB of RAM, 64GB of storage space, and two-core 64-bit 1 GHz processor.
The downside is that a PC updated this way may not be eligible for all future Windows 11 updates, which could pose a security risk.