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Windows 11 vs. Windows 10: What is New in Microsoft’s Latest Operating System
In case you missed it, Microsoft released a new Windows version back in October — Windows 11 — and there are lots of upgrades and changes you should be aware of.
The official Windows 11 release date was Oct. 5, and the company announced a phased rollout that will go to Windows 10 PCs through the middle of 2022, which is an aggressive timeline.
The Microsoft Windows 11 update includes:
- Refreshed icons
- New colors
- Major changes to the Start menu and taskbar
- A rework of the Settings
- A new Widgets pane with news, weather, and your calendar
- Auto HDR and DirectStorage to improve game performance
- A better way to put windows into position
- Default security features
- More opportunities for third-party developers to develop apps
Let’s dive into Windows 11 in more detail.
Windows 11 is the newest Microsoft operating platform and the successor to Windows 10 download. It is built on the same core architecture as Windows 10, so most of the updates you will encounter in Windows 11 are related to improved user experiences and added security features.
Windows 11 positives:
- Clean, attractive new look
- Improved tools for managing your screen
- Simpler and more intuitive menus
- Cortana is no longer included by default
Windows 11 drawbacks:
- Demanding system requirements
- Debatable how much value the widgets add
- Some support and other features are missing
- Integration with Teams is not helpful unless you use Teams
Windows 11 was released publicly on Oct. 5, 2021; it went out to members of the Windows Insider Program a few weeks earlier.
Are you wondering how to update to Windows 11? Microsoft plans to offer Windows 11 as an update to PCs that run Windows 10 based on an estimation of how well those devices will adapt to the upgrade. If you want to manually download Windows 11 now instead of waiting for an automatic update, Microsoft has made it relatively easy, with three options to choose from:
- Run the Windows 11 Installation Assistant, which is a Windows 11 update checker utility program that will download the necessary files and install upgrades to your computer; you can find the Windows 11 Installation Assistant at microsoft.com
- Create Windows 10 installation media on a USB flash drive, then install it
- Download a WIndows 11 disk image in ISO format
Depending on how new your computer is, you might already have received a notification that you can upgrade to Windows 11. You can see if your computer qualified for this by going to Settings and clicking on the Windows Update tab — that tab is probably on the left side.
As Microsoft will follow a staggered deployment for Windows 11, it could be months or even a half-year before your upgrade begins. If you are eager to try out the new features right away you can conduct a manual Windows 11 download right now.
First of all, you will want to make sure that your PC has the system requirements needed to download Windows 11. Microsoft’s PC Health App is a download that can assess your hardware and give you a clear yes/no answer.
Once you are ready, here is the easiest way to download Windows 11:
- Head to Microsoft.com and find the Windows 11 Installation Assistant
- Read the “Before you begin” section; it provides details on what your computer will need
- Click the “Download now” button
- Once the download is complete, open the .exe file and click “yes” when asked if you want to let the application make changes to your computer
- Read the agreement, and choose “Decline” or “Accept and Install”
- If you choose “Accept,” the Installation Assistant will automatically download, verify, and install the program
How Long Does Windows 11 Take to Install?
The entire process should take about 30 minutes. When it is ready, you will be prompted to restart your computer. When it turns on again, Windows 11 will be automatically configured and you are ready to start enjoying your new operating system.
While the Microsoft PC Health App will give you a thumbs up or thumbs down on if your machine can handle Windows 11, here are the system requirements spelled out:
- Processor: 1GHz or faster, with two or more cores on a compatible 64-bit processor or system on a chip (SoC)
- RAM: At least 4GB
- Storage: At least 64GB of available storage
- Security: TPM version 2.0, UEFI firmware, Secure Boot capable
- Graphics card: Compatible with DirectX 12 or later, with a WDDM 2.0 driver
- Display: High definition (720p) display, 9 inches or bigger monitor, with 8-bits per color channel
Windows 11 also requires a hardware security component called a Trusted Platform Module (TPM) as well as UEFI firmware and Secure Boot. Almost all PCs built after 2015 include TPM 2.0 support, although it may not be enabled. To see, open your firmware settings.
It should also go without saying that your computer will need to be hooked up to the internet to download Windows 11. You will also want an internet connection to keep your Windows 11 current with all security updates, which are currently scheduled to be rolled out once a year.
The Windows 11 interface has noticeable tweaks to the user experience, including new icons, more vibrant colors, and rounded corners for a fresh, more modern look. ThereWindows is also a new system font that is easier to read.
What’s New on the Start Screen: As mentioned, the taskbar contains a new button, which opens a Widgets pane on the left side of the screen. This gives you quick access to your wifi settings, airplane mode, battery saver, accessibility, sound, screen brightness, and more. You got all of these tools before, of course, but they were harder to find — now, getting to these tools is almost as easy on your PC as it is on your Android phone.
The Start button is still on the left of the taskbar, but the taskbar itself is centered at the bottom edge of the display. (If you can’t deal with this, there is a setting option that lets you move everything back to the left.)
Clicking Start opens a new pane that displays program icons, a search bar, and shortcuts to recent documents. You can also pin programs and folders here, then drag them into the preferred order.
What’s New for File Explorer: File Explorer gets a similar refresh, with a simplified ribbon and shortcut menus, though the familiar three-pane look remains the same.
What’s New for Windows Arrangements: Users now get more choices for arranging windows. You get the same familiar snap shortcuts, but also additional options for arranging windows in additional ways.
What to Know About the Teams Integration
Teams, the virtual meeting and communications tool, is now built into Windows, which is handy if you use Teams or plan to start using it. If you don’t use Teams, you can simply ignore this feature, or even remove the icon from the taskbar and uninstall the feature.
If you are an existing Windows 10 user with an appropriately licensed version of the program, you get the upgrade to Windows 11 for free.
Most apps and hardware that work with Windows 10 should also work just the same on Windows 11. The operating system is similar enough that the differences should not pose a problem for most apps. However, if you do discover a compatibility issue after making the upgrade to Windows 11, there is a 10-day period where you can roll the upgrade back to the previous installation of Windows 10. But the option disappears after 10 days, so make sure to run everything quickly after making the switch to Windows 11 to make sure it all works.
Windows 11 offers some great updates to Windows 10 with enhanced usability. However, if Windows 11 is not your thing, you can safely ignore many of the changes or change them back to the way you like them, including moving the Start button. Will Windows 11 make a meaningful difference to your user experience? Download it now to see.