Windows 11 is (almost) here. At least, we finally know the official details around the upcoming OS. And if you haven’t been paying close attention, there’s a lot to know. We pulled together everything we know about Windows 11 so far, from multi-monitor support to Android App support.
And we should specify that this list will likely get updated for multiple reasons. Microsoft has rapidly been releasing more info since the initial Windows 11 event, and in some cases, changing course. But from the get-go, there’s plenty to like about Windows 11. And some things that aren’t as great. Only time will tell if Windows 11 breaks the cycle of “good OS, bad OS” that we’ve seen from Windows XP through Windows 10.
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Take a look at Windows 11, and you’ll see one of the most obvious changes front and (literally) center. Microsoft moved the taskbar to the middle and added fun new animations as apps open and close. In addition, the taskbar expands for touch mode and features all icons. As Microsoft’s Panos Panay put it, “We put Start at the center—it puts you at the center.” At least that is, until you decide to move it back to the left. But that would just be the icons themselves; in Windows 11, you can’t put the taskbar on the left side of your display.
Leaving the Taskbar, the next big change is the Start Menu. Gone are the Live Tiles of Windows 8 and 10, and no one will cry about that. But now, instead of a quick list of apps, you’ll get an “a.i. generated list” of recent apps and files. You can click through to get to the full program menu, of course. Finally, Microsoft spent a lot of time showing off a new glassy look for Windows 11, along with rounded corners, better themes, and more. That includes moving the News and Weather widget out to a half screen widget separated from the taskbar.
But one of the more important updates might be focused on multi-monitor support. Now Windows 11 will remember where you had your apps when you disconnect and reconnect an external monitor. That solves a frustrating problem for laptop users and hybrid workers everywhere.
Speaking of window arrangement, Windows 11 also introduces new snap groups that make it easier to arrange all your apps. Think of it like Fancy Zones in the PowerToys program, only a lot easier to use (and a little less powerful).
In a big surprise, Microsoft announced that Windows 11 will install and run Android apps. So you’ll be able to browse the overhauled Microsoft Store, find Android apps, and hit install. But don’t get your hopes up too high. We’re not talking Google Play apps—no, these come from the Amazon App store. Which, to be honest, severely limits the quantity (and likely quality) of the apps on hand. Still, the Amazon Appstore will exist inside the Microsoft store, and you’ll be able to browse and install apps.
But one Microsoft engineer suggested Windows 11 can sideload Android apps, though how that works is a mystery. Windows 11 Android App support is made possible through Intel Bridge technology. If you’re worried that means it only works on PCs with Intel processors, don’t be. Microsoft says Android apps will work on Intel, AMD, and ARM processors.
Windows 11 completely overhauls the Microsoft Store, and hopefully, that means it won’t be so littered with garbage apps. To help with that, the Microsoft Store will open up to more types of apps than Windows 10 allowed. No longer are you limited to UWPs (Universal Windows Apps); now developers can load Win32 desktop apps.
To help encourage that, developers can bypass Microsoft’s revenue system and include their own payment options. When developers do that, Microsoft won’t take a cut of the sales inside apps. With one exception—games. Games still have to use Microsoft’s revenue system. But wait, it gets more complicated.
You see, Microsoft says it would welcome Steam and Epic to the Microsoft Store. Of course, those are game stores themselves. Don’t be too confused, though. It’s a lot like the Android situation. If Steam or Epic choose to integrate (a big if), you’ll be able to browse Steam and Epic games inside the Microsoft Store. When you install, it’ll launch the Steam or Epic store to finish out the process.
When I started this article, I thought I knew exactly what to tell you about the hardware requirements. Now I don’t, because Microsoft can’t make up its mind. At first, things were pretty clear. Microsoft said you’d need a 1 gigahertz (GHz) or faster with 2 or more cores 64-bit processor, 4 GBs of RAM, and 64 GBs of storage. Additionally, Microsoft clarified Windows 11 would only work on 64-bit processors.
But then it got more complicated. We learned not every processor that meets the above specs will actually work with Windows 11. From the list of compatible processors, we can gather it needs to be an 8th generation era Intel processor (or equivalent AMD) or above.
Additionally, Windows 11 will require laptops have webcams starting in 2023. It’s unclear why, but it seems likely that the drive is to push manufacturers to use higher-quality webcams. But some gaming laptops are out of luck, as they occasionally skip webcams entirely under the assumption that streamers would prefer dedicated cameras.
And then there’s the TPM chip situation. In some places, Microsoft said you’ll need a device with a TPM 2.0 chip, which calls for a relatively new computer. In others, it had mentioned a “soft” requirement for TPM 2.0 and a “hard requirement” for TPM 1.2, which covers most computers in the past five years. That turn of events led to scalpers trying to make a buck on TPM chips.
But now Microsoft removed that verbiage, and it’s not clear what the case is anymore. It looks like the new hard floor is TPM 2.0, but Microsoft isn’t communicating well. In any case, Secure Boot is a requirement. To make matters worse, at first, if Microsoft’s compatibility tool determined your PC isn’t compatible with Windows 11, it didn’t tell you why. Now a new update provides clearer guidance.
But it’s all still very confusing. So, for now, the best thing you can do is try the PC Health Check tool, then walk through our guide for potential solutions if it says no. But if your processor isn’t on Microsoft’s list, then the only fix is a new processor or PC.
So you might be wondering, when will you get to try Windows 11? Well, Microsoft says the first Windows 11 PCs will arrive in retail later this year. That doesn’t really tell us when Windows 11 will release for upgrading existing PCs, however.
But we do know that Windows 11 Insider Builds are coming soon. Very soon. According to the Windows Insider Twitter account, we could see the first build as soon as “next week.” It sent that tweet out on June 24th, so by the time you read this, that could be “this week.”
But if you’re wondering how much Windows 11 will cost, we don’t know. Microsoft’s closest answer states that PCs come in all different cost factors, which isn’t helpful. We have a guess, though. It will probably cost the same as Windows 10 because you can upgrade from Windows 10 to Windows 11 for free. That cost might matter to you, though. Microsoft requires Windows 11 Home users to connect to the Internet and sign in with a Microsoft Account during setup. If you want to skip that and use a local account, you’ll have to fork over the cost for Windows 11 Pro.
Of course, everything and anything in this list can change. And when it does, we’ll let you know.