Windows 11 was announced on June 24th 2021 as the next major release of the Microsoft desktop operating system. Formerly code named 'Sun Valley', Windows 11 introduces a refreshed user experience that focuses on modernizing many parts of the user interface while making Windows easier and faster to use. A major emphasis in this release hybrid work. In 2020 the world was devastated by the pandemic, forcing many of us to transition to a work from home style. Windows 11 adapts to this new lifestyle. There are numerous productivity improvements too, which makes it easier to manage floating windows on screen, notifications, and access your recent files on cloud services such as OneDrive. A new Microsoft Store app provides better selection to a wide variety of desktop and progressive web apps, giving users peace of mind when installing and managing updates.
What is Windows 11?
Windows 11 is the name for Microsoft's next generation client operating system for desktops, laptops, Tablets and 2 in 1 devices. Windows 11 was formerly code-named 'Sun Valley'.
Wait a minute, but I thought Windows 10 was the last version of Windows?
Technically, Windows 10 was described as the last major revision of Windows and this could be left to interpretation. Even though Windows 10 was described as a 'Perfect 10', a lot has changed since 2015 when I first wrote that explanation. The leadership and engineering behind Windows has evolved, but so has the market. During the pandemic, a lot of businesses and end users working from home needed the power of a Windows computer to multi-task, collaborate, communicate and manage a workflow that reminded many of the importance of the popular desktop operating system for business, education and leisure.
With these understanding and 'learnings' as Microsoft would describe from its effort to build next generation devices such as the Surface Neo and earlier Windows 10X effort; the company thought it was best to step back and apply that philosophy to a more traditional desktop environment. As Microsoft describes it, the impetus to build a next generation of Windows was to make the PC feel familiar, where you can crate, learn, play and most importantly, connect in all new ways. As you probably know, over the past 18 months, many of us have depended on a Windows PC to do many of these things.
What was Windows 10 X?
Windows 10 X was a development project that aimed to develop a subset of the Windows 10 operating system for a new class of devices primarily dual screen and mobile. Windows 10 X project was expected to be delivered on Microsoft first party devices such as the now discontinued Surface Neo. Since Windows 10 X was discontinued, a lot of the innovations developed in that technology were brought to the main Windows client operating system. Users will notice familiar elements from Windows 10 X such as the Taskbar and Start menu.
When will Windows 11 officially become available?
Windows 11 will be available preloaded on new PCs starting October 5th 2021 while some existing compatible Windows 10 systems will be eligible to upgrade to Windows 10 during fall.
When will Microsoft release a preview of Windows 11?
Microsoft has released the first preview version of Windows 11 through the Windows Insider Channel on June 28th 2021.
What is the build number of the public release of Windows 11?
The official build number for the public preview of Windows 11 is 10.0.22000.168
Could you give me run down of some of the new features in Windows 11?
- New Start menu with quicker access to apps and files.
- New Themes
- New Microsoft Store experience to make it easier for developers to distribute applications and users to acquire, download and management them.
- New Settings app
- The ability to run Android apps
- Built in Microsoft Teams support for out of the box video conferencing and chat
- Improved performance for running XBOX and PC games
- New Windows Widgets app for quickly accessing your news, weather and sports scores.
- Improved snap assist tool for window management
- Improved multi-monitor support - Windows 11 will remember your apps and settings when you connect an external display.
- Improved Windows Clipboard
- Improved Windows Inking Panel
- 40 percent performance improvement to Windows Update
Is the current preview version of Windows 11 recommended for everyday use?
No. Windows 11 Insider Preview is an early sample of the operating system. Enthusiast interested in trying out Windows 11 Preview should do so on a spare computer, partition or virtual machine. If you are interested in testing on your only computer on a separate partition, make sure you backup before doing so.
How can I try out Windows 11 Preview?
Enthusiasts and early adopters interested in trying out the Windows 11 Preview can start by joining the Windows Insider Preview Program. This will let you enroll your current installation of Windows 10 using your Microsoft Account. You will then be able to download test versions of Windows 11 from Windows Update.
Are there any steps how to install the Windows 11 Insider Preview?
How can I determine if my existing computer or device is compatible with Windows 10?
Microsoft is providing a compatibility checker you can use to determine if your computer is compatible or not:
My computer is not compatible, it says my processor does not have a TPM 2.0, what does that mean?
The Trusted Platform Module is a chip that's either built into the motherboard or computers central processing unit (brains of the computer). It provides tamper proof capabilities to protect against malware, ransomware and other types of security threats against your systems firmware. Modern devices that support Secure Boot is another example of how TPM is used to protect Windows. Also, built in security utility such as BitLocker Drive Encryption also utilizes TPM. Not all computers support TPM 2.0, so if you are getting an error from Windows 11 installation telling you the computer is not compatible; then you will likely either need to upgrade the motherboard; purchase a compatible system preinstalled with Windows 11; or continue using Windows 10, which will get updates until October 14th 2025.
If your system is not compatible with Windows 11, you might be able to still be able to install the upgrade, but this might require performing clean install using Media Creation Tool or ISO file. This also means Windows 11 will not receive security updates.
What if I don't like Windows 11 and want to go back?
This is why it is important to backup your installation before upgrading or performing a clean install. Windows 11 also includes Rollback for a short time, so you can use this to go back to your previous version of Windows. Creating a system image in advance is highly recommended though.
What happens to Windows 10 now that there is a Windows 11? Is Windows 10 gonna stop working?
Windows 10 versions will continue to be supported for the time being and there will be another revision of Windows 10 later this year known as version 21H2. Versions still supported by Microsoft will continue to receive security updates.
Am I required to upgrade from Windows 10 to Windows 11?
No, just like earlier releases, if it continues to meet your needs and works well with your mission critical software and hardware, keep using it.
Does Windows 11 require a Touch Screen?
No. Windows 11 continues to work with a mouse and keyboard. If you have a standard LCD or CRT monitor, it works with that too.
Is the Start Screen still available in Windows 11?
No, the Start screen is no longer available, but some elements of it still exist throughout the system, such as the the new Windows Widgets which you can activate from the Taskbar.
Are Live Tiles still in Windows 11?
The Start menu eschews Live tiles in favor of traditional launch icons. Some elements of Live Tiles can be found in the Widgets app.
Have the touch features such as Tablet Mode been removed from Windows 11?
Tablet Mode no longer exists as a specific 'mode'. Instead, Tablet functionality has evolved throughout the user interface. Windows 11 out of the box, features larger touch targets such as the improved Taskbar. File Explorer for instance displays more padding between files and folders in list view. Also, you can still hide the Taskbar in Desktop Mode.
Are there a list of features that have been removed in Windows 11?
Will I need to be connected to the Internet in order to use Windows 11?
Windows 11 does not require an active internet connection, but many of its features and functionality will need access to the Internet to fully work. For instance, to use the new Windows Widgets, you need to be connected to the Internet to get the latest weather, news reports, sports scores and stock updates. Also, to keep Windows current and secure with updates, an active Internet connection is needed.
Do I need to have a Microsoft Account to use Windows 11?
Yes and No. The Home edition of Windows 11 will require a Microsoft Account to complete Windows setup. Users will be able to create an offline account after setup is complete. In Pro and higher editions the option is available to setup with an offline account, although users are encouraged throughout setup to sign in with a Microsoft Account to gain access to all the benefits of Windows 11, such as Find my Device, linking your Digital License, storing and syncing files to OneDrive.
Will Windows 11 be available in multiple editions like before?
Yes, Windows 11 will be available in the same editions (or stock keeping units) like Windows 10.
Does Windows 11 still use product activation?
Product activation first introduced with Windows XP 20 years ago is still required to unlock the full functionality of Windows 11. My installation which was a clean install over a Windows 10 Home install, activated using a Digital License linked to my Microsoft Account.
I have multiple computers, do I have to download Windows 11 on each computer?
Users will have multiple methods for upgrading existing systems to Windows 11 online or offline. The easiest way for most customers running an existing version of Windows 10 is to upgrade using Windows Update or from the Microsoft Store. If you have multiple computers, but limited bandwidth you can use the Media Creation Tool to create bootable media and upgrade individual computers offline. The Windows 11 Upgrade Tool can also be used to quickly upgrade systems to Windows 11.
My computer is running a much earlier version of Windows, can I upgrade to Windows 11?
For much earlier versions of Windows you will need to perform a clean install. It is likely recommended that you first try it out on a separate partition to see if the installation works with your hardware, applications and existing peripherals first; since a Windows 7 PC can easily be 10 years old or more.
Can I still get Windows 11 for free if I am running Windows 8.1 or Windows 7?
Officially no, but there are work arounds for devices running an activated Windows 8.1 or Windows 7 that might be eligible to still get Windows 10 for free, which can then be upgraded to Windows 11 for free this fall.
Can I use a Windows 10 product key to activate Windows 11?
Yes, users can activate Windows 11 using a Windows 10 product key. If your system already has an assigned digital license for Windows 10, it should automatically activate.
What are the system requirements for Windows 11?
1 gigahertz (GHz) or faster with 2 or more cores on a compatible 64-bit processor or System on a Chip (SoC)
4 gigabyte (GB)
64 GB or larger storage device
Note: See below under “More information on storage space to keep Windows 11 up-to-date” for more details.
UEFI, Secure Boot capable
Trusted Platform Module (TPM) version 2.0
Compatible with DirectX 12 or later with WDDM 2.0 driver
High definition (720p) display that is greater than 9” diagonally, 8 bits per color channel
Windows 11 Home edition requires internet connectivity and a Microsoft account to complete device setup on first use.
Will there be a 32 bit version of Windows 11?
At this time, Windows 11 is available for compatible 64 bit systems.
What has changed in the Microsoft Store?
The Microsoft Store now supports a broader range of applications and commerce experiences. Users will be able acquire traditional desktop apps like Adobe Creative Suite or Disney+ in addition progressive web apps. The biggest changes are the opportunities for software vendors to bring their own stores into the Microsoft Store. The end results for users will be provided a guaranteed secure and trusted experience when managing and updating apps.
Will my existing applications remain compatible with Windows 11?
This is yet to be determined. As with every version of Windows before, there will certainly be compatibility issues. It is encouraged you contact your independent software vendor to find out about support. Many developers have moved mostly to a subscription model with perpetual releases once every few years. Windows 11 depending on the changes introduced might require new revisions of software that was acquired as a one time purchase.
I still need to use Internet Explorer 11 for work, is it still available in Windows 11?
Internet Explorer 11 has been removed from Windows 11 and is now available as a specific mode in the modern Microsoft Edge web browser. You can enable this by clicking the More menu (...) > Settings > Default browser > ensure the following is toggled on 'Allow sites to be reloaded in Internet Explorer mode'. Keep in mind, if you are using this with an LOB app, your System Administrator might enable such functionality as part of the organization policies.
But I need the actual Internet Explorer 11 app, not a mode because of some other dependencies, is there a solution for this?
Not at this time, if you need to use Internet Explorer 11 specifically, please remain on the latest version of Windows 10, which includes the web browser. Or consider setting up a virtual machine with with a supported version of Windows 10 and use Internet Explorer from there.
Speaking of apps, are there any changes to the in box apps like Mail, Calendar, Photos etc?
There will be updates to many of the inbox apps such as Microsoft Paint and WordPad. Apps such as Mail and Calendar, Photos will also receive updates to align with the Windows 11 user experience.
Android apps are now able to run on Windows 11, will I need specialized hardware?
Microsoft collaborated with Intel on a new bridge technology that compiles Android apps to run on Windows 11 through the Microsoft Store.
Will I need an Intel processor run these Android apps on Windows 11?
No, Android apps will run on compatible Intel, AMD and ARM based system.
What about existing peripherals such as printers, scanners or other devices I typically connect to my Windows device?
The same rules also apply. It is encouraged you find out from your independent hardware vendor about support for Windows 11. Although the driver model should not change significantly to warrant replacing or getting new drivers. So far the preview of Windows 11 appears to work just fine with my existing devices. With the significantly different landscape in 2021, the esoteric collection of hardware that users once accumulated are pretty much a thing of the past. If you depend on legacy hardware, it is probably recommended you keep running Windows 10 or an earlier version of Windows if you are dependent on the hardware or consider it mission critical for your business.
Will my Antivirus be compatible with Windows 11?
As with every new versions of Windows, it is likely not. Users who prefer using a third party security utility should consider contacting their vendor to find out about support for an existing version or prepare to upgrade to a Windows 11 supported version. Windows 11 users might also want to consider switching to the already built in Windows Defender. Windows Defender includes Antivirus, Firewall, Network Security and Ransomware protection.
What has changed in Windows 11 setup?
Windows 11 setup currently is similar to Windows 10 and earlier releases. The most significant changes users will first see is during the Out of Box Experience.
What has changed in the Out of Box Experience?
The Windows 11 Out of Box Experience (OOBE) features a visual overhaul that features a lighter and cleaner design. Much of the functionality is similar to a Windows 10 setup. There are some special effects that appear while Windows 11 saves your preferences which then transitions to the desktop.
What is the desktop experience like in Windows 11?
Windows 11 has a familiar desktop experience, but users will immediately notice changes to the Taskbar. The Start button and your shortcuts are now centered by default, but this can be easily changed to the older style left alignment in Settings. Open programs feature a tiny indicator with a subtle highlight for the active window. Shortcuts, the Start button and Search feature subtle animations when clicked. Application and File Explorer window also feature new animations that are flashier and more indicative of their actions.
The Start menu features a dramatic overhaul. Users who have seen previews of the Windows 10 X start menu, will notice a similar appearance; when activated, the menu will float above the Taskbar. The new Start menu returns to a more traditional app layout featuring frequently used and recently launched apps. Users will also see a return of the Recent menu where you can open your recently accessed files and even apps.
Learn more: Basics: Using Start and Taskbar in Windows
How customizable is the new Taskbar and Start menu?
There is some degree of customization available, some of it limited at this time. You can move your pinned shortcuts around on the Taskbar and Start menu and you can also uninstall or pin them. If you need access to your full library of applications, you can click the All apps menu at the top right of the Start menu. Right now, you cannot resize the Taskbar to be smaller, but this is expected to change in the later builds.
According to the Windows 11 system requirements, users will not be able to move the Taskbar to different sides of the screen.
Are there any changes to File Explorer?
File Explorer features a clean, compact design. The Scenic Ribbon first introduced in Windows 8 has been replaced with a streamlined toolbar that displays the most important commands for managing your Files. Visual enhancements such as rounded window corners, less padding and vibrant shell icons for your user folders such as Documents, Pictures, Music and downloads. One notable change users will find is the new snap gesture which makes it easier to manage your open Windows. Based on Aero Snap first introduced in Windows 7, users can now hover the Restore button on a window, which will activate a preview of the snap options you can utilize to organize your open windows. For users with large displays, this will be perfect for quickly moving windows into different quadrants and better maximize your screen real estate.
I just installed Windows 11 and I noticed some context menu options are no longer available. How can access some these missing features?
Yes, if you right click on an empty spot on the Taskbar, you will notice the only option is to access Taskbar settings. If you are looking for the Power menu first introduced in Windows 8, you can right click the Start button directly to access some of these common settings. The familiar context menu options such as Adjusting date/time, cascading windows, Windows Ink Work space or Task View button are unavailable. Some functions such as the Ink Workspace button, Search, Task View, Keyboard button can be enabled and disabled from within the Taskbar settings.
How extensive is the visual refresh in Windows 11?
There has been open discussion about Windows 11 focusing on removing a lot of legacy UI elements in the operating system, whether that is Windows 95 style icons, classic dialogs, Control Panel, menus and buttons. The early preview shows there has been some concerted effort in this area, but a lot of what we sometimes encounter as legacy UI is deeply embedded in the system. While my explanation is opinionated its my belief we will never fully get rid of some these elements of the Windows user interface. Some understanding of if it ain't broke don't fix it applies here too. Having a modernized looking Microsoft Management Console won't do very much for its functionality. Sure, areas of MMC could be visually improved for better ease of use such as Disk Management and Partitioning. But that tends to be a matter of personal taste.
What is the kernel version of Windows 11?
The NT kernel reports version 10.0 at the time of this writing. Just like earlier versions, the kernel version can some times be incremented by one decimal partly for the sake of compatibility. Examples include Windows 2000 (5.0), Windows XP (5.1), Windows Vista (6.0), Windows 7 (6.1). While many would consider each being significant under the hood with major visual overhauls.
I am finding many of the changes either too dramatic or inconvenient, is there any way I can turn these off?
At this time, much of the changes are still evolving. Some functionality such as the Classic Start menu can be restored by visiting the Registry and making changes there. In the latest build, this has since been disabled.
Does Windows 11 include Microsoft Office?
No, Microsoft Office and Office applications such as Word, Excel, PowerPoint, Outlook must be purchased separately. Users can use the Microsoft Edge web browser to sign into OneDrive then access free online versions of Word, Excel, Outlook, PowerPoint and OneNote. Microsoft Office Team is releasing a revamped user experience to align with Windows 11. Users will be able to access this through the Office Insider channel.
Microsoft has launched an updated revision of Office 365 in beta that aligns with the Windows 11 user experience. Users can learn more about how to enable that in the following article:
How will Microsoft handle feature updates for Windows 11?
Going forward, there will only be one feature update per year. That means, spring and fall updates provided under Windows 10 will be no more. Instead, users will get 24 months of security updates for Pro and Home editions, while Enterprise and Education editions will get 36 months of updates.
Where can I learn more about Windows 11?
I will continue to update this FAQ with relevant information about Windows 11.
If you have questions about Windows 11 that aren't covered by this article or other threads at this site, please use the Ask a question option at the top of every page to start your own thread about it.
Because the article is attracting increasingly inappropriate and unhelpful comments, it has now been locked.
* Moved from Windows 10