Windows 11 has brought a new lick of paint to Microsoft’s OS. There’s a brand new look for the desktop, a major UI redesign, and big changes to the core Microsoft OS apps and services that we’ve come to rely upon in PC gaming. Most importantly of all, though, Microsoft says Windows 11 was built for gamers.
And all of that was meant to arrive on October 5, 2021. Except, frustratingly, many of the promised features and refurbished apps aren’t included in the launch day build. The new Windows Store is present and correct, though we’re still waiting for Android apps to make their anticipated appearance, and AutoHDR is there, but no DirectStorage and the prettified Paint is notably absent, too.
Prior to the official announcement, however, it wasn’t clear what the future of the Windows OS would be. The general expectation was that the changes to the Windows UI, codenamed Sun Valley, would simply roll at as yet another Windows 10 update. And in many respects, that’s what Windows 11 is, another update to Windows 10, albeit one that Microsoft’s marketing department can get behind.
What is the Windows 11 release date? Windows 11 was made available for new machines starting October 5, 2021, and the Windows 11 ISO download went live at the same time, so anyone can either update their existing machine without waiting for a prompt or do a fresh install themselves. Updates to existing Windows 10 users should start to roll out from now, and Microsoft hopes to have offered Windows 11 to every compatible machine by mid-2022.
We could also see a chunky update for Windows 10 drop around the same time as well, although Microsoft will probably focus on its new OS for the main part. Windows 10 will still be getting updates until 2025, so there’s plenty of life in the old dog yet.
This release date for Windows 11 is mostly for new machines, with the update for existing Windows 10 users following after. So don’t be surprised if you still haven’t been offered the switch, it’s probably a good thing because this should mean any bugs and problems will be (mostly) sorted by the time you can upgrade.
If you can upgrade, that is, all assuming you have a TPM 2.0 compatible machine.
If you’re eager to see what all the fuss is about, then you could install the Windows 11 ISO right now. That said, we wouldn’t recommend installing it on your main machine, as it’s still early in the release schedule and there’s a good chance it won’t work flawlessly.
The new Windows UI The most obvious changes to Windows 11 are on the user interface (UI) front. Microsoft has always had a tendency to mess with its UI, and for Windows 11, it hasn’t held back. There’s a new look for existing windows, and it’s revisited its frosted-glass effect for some overlapping panels. The start button has moved, widgets are making a comeback, and
The general ethos is a move to a softer, more-rounded theme. Windows no longer have the right-angle corners we’ve become accustomed to but are rounded instead. It’s a subtle change, but it’s it does have a different feel—at least it does when the windows are not full screen.
The other major change is the shifting of the taskbar to the middle of the screen, as opposed to being squeezed into the bottom left-hand corner. Worry not though, you can move it back to how it works in Windows 10 with the flick of a switch on the Taskbar Settings screen.
How you arrange your windows on the screen has also enjoyed a long-overdue shot in the arm. Hovering your mouse over the maximize icon results in a drop-down palette that lets you select how you want the various windows to be arranged. You have some control over such things in Windows 10, but with easy support for windows taking up a third of the screen, or quarters, this can make for a much neater layout. This is particularly useful if you’re rocking a large 4K screen and you want to view several apps at the same time.
One aesthetic change that is rumoured to be coming to Windows 11 is an end to the Blue Screen of Death, or BSOD if you prefer. Don’t worry though, that BSOD acronym will still be preserved (in English at least), as it’s changing to the Black Screen of Death—which sounds far more metal.
What are the system requirements for Windows 11? The core system requirements for Windows 11 aren’t too different from what Windows 10 asks for, at least as far as the processor, RAM, and graphics card are concerned. There is currently the inclusion of a Trusted Platform Module 2.0 though, that could scupper some upgrade plans.
The full specifications are:
Processor: 1 GHz or faster with 2 or more cores on a compatible 64-bit processor or System on a Chip (SoC) Memory: 4 GB RAM Storage: 64 GB or larger storage device System firmware: UEFI, Secure Boot capable TPM: Trusted Platform Module (TPM) version 2.0 Graphics card: DirectX 12 compatible graphics / WDDM 2.x Display: >9-inch with HD Resolution (720p) Internet connection: Microsoft account and internet connectivity required for setup for Windows 11 Home
You’ll notice from those requirements that Windows 11 is not limited to x86 CPUs, and we’ve already seen the Insider Preview installed on some interesting hardware. The not-so-humble-anymore Raspberry Pi 4.0 can run Windows 11, which isn’t bad for a system that can be had for as little as $55. There are reports emerging of powerful smartphones also managing the feat.
The issue for some, however, lies in what constitutes a ‘compatible’ CPU to Microsoft. To pass this test, you’ll need a relatively modern CPU, but that’s not always enough. AMD Zen and older CPUs from the red team don’t make the cut, neither do most Intel 7th Gen chips.
How much does Windows 11 cost? Microsoft has announced that the new Windows 11 OS release will be available as a free update to licensed Windows 10 users. People buying PCs today will therefore be eligible for a free upgrade now that Windows 11 has launched.