Windows 11 has all the power and security of Windows 10 with a redesigned and refreshed look. It also comes with new tools, sounds, and apps. Every detail has been considered. All of it comes together to bring you a refreshing experience on your PC.
Released on October 4, 2021 Windows 11 support is available for 24 months after each annual feature update on consumer devices.
About Windows 11
There is a significant amount of information about Windows 11 available from Microsoft as well as in the media.
Microsoft Windows 11 resources include these basic pages:
- Introducing Windows 11.
- Windows 11: A new era for the PC begins today.
- Compare Windows (Pro vs. Home; 10 vs. 11).
- How to get Windows 11.
The media has been prolific in its reporting on Windows 11.
- Microsoft decides Windows 11 is ready for everyone to use.
- 9 Major reasons to upgrade to Windows 11 now.
- The best Windows 11 tips and tricks.
- Windows 11: Everything you need to know from Tech Advisor.
- Windows 11: Release date, requirements, all we know.
- Windows 11 cheat sheet: Everything you need to know.
Not everything is positive.
If you aren't a fan of the News & Interests feature added in Windows 10, you may be less enamored with some of the other changes in Windows 11.
- 10 Big reasons not to upgrade to Windows 11.
- How to downgrade from Windows 11 to Windows 10.
- Windows 11: Do these 11 things immediately.
- The 10 worst things about Windows 11.
- I can't believe Windows 11 still hasn't gotten rid of these old-ass menus.
Windows 11 Reviews
Most reviews suggest waiting until at least after the first feature update, probably in mid-2022.
Windows 11 looks nice, but that's not enough reason to upgrade on day one, either. After more than a week using Windows 11 day-to-day, I wouldn't recommend anyone install it today.
Almost none of Windows 11's promised big features are actually included right now, and no matter how promising a new version of Windows is, some launch day issues are inevitable.
- Microsoft Windows 11 Preview from PCMag.
- Windows 11 review: Is it better than Windows 10? from Laptop Mag.
- Windows 11 vs. Windows 10, tested: Will the OS upgrade speed up your current PC?
- Windows 11 review from PCGamer.
- Windows 11 is much more than a new theme slapped onto Windows 10.
Working with Windows 11
These are some of the helpful hints and documentation that will get you started.
- How to search for apps, files and other items in Windows 11.
- How to remove annoying ads from Windows 11.
Windows 11 Features
Certain features require additional hardware.
Windows 11 provides a calm and creative space where you can pursue your passions through a fresh experience. From a rejuvenated Start menu to new ways to connect to your favorite people, news, games, and content — Windows 11 is the place to think, express, and create in a natural way.
Windows 11 has been accused of mimicking the Mac and Chromebook interface, with good reason.
Start Button in the Middle
The most obvious change is the modified Start Button which has moved to the middle as well as the way the opened Start Menu is laid out.
The open Start menu.
We put Start at the center and made it easier to quickly find what you need. Start utilizes the power of the cloud and Microsoft 365 to show you your recent files no matter what platform or device you were viewing them on earlier, even if it was on an Android or iOS device.
- Start11 can replace the default Windows 10 Start menu (US$5.99).
These changes may make sense in the mobile market. Not so much for traditional desktop users.
Microsoft has decided to abandon much of its own years of interface design knowledge in favor of chasing a new competitor. Chrome OS only has under 3% of desktop OS market share with Windows over 75%, according to StatCounter — PCMag
The centering makes sense in some cases. Specifically, for convertible or detachable laptops with a tablet mode, where it simply feels normal. But otherwise, the taskbar is a large downgrade.
— Tom's Hardware
The move to enhance touch devices echoes the experience at the launch of Vista — too busy trying for “innovation” to listen to what the public wants.
Snap is the one area that I think has improved over Windows 10.
New in Windows 11, we're introducing Snap Layouts, Snap Groups and Desktops to provide an even more powerful way to multitask and stay on top of what you need to get done.
You can also create separate Desktops for each part of your life and customize them to your liking — imagine having a Desktop for work, gaming or school.
Snap allows you to quickly compare content in multiple windows and is greatly improved in Windows 11. Multiple desktops, introduced in Windows 10, now offer additional options including remembering custom layouts for each desktop.
This is the one usable improvement in Windows 11.
Microsoft restored widgets, something that was downplayed after Vista. These appear to be much more functional and based upon our mobile experience.
Windows 11 brings you closer to the news and information you care about faster with Widgets — a new personalized feed powered by AI and best-in-class browser performance from Microsoft Edge.
When you open your personalized feed it slides across your screen like a sheet of glass so it doesn't disrupt what you're doing.
The News & Interests function added to Windows 10 in 2021 is integrated with the Windows 11 operating system.
Stop Widgets from Starting with Windows
Click on Start ⇒ Settings ⇒ Personalization ⇒ Taskbar; then uncheck Widgets (and any other taskbar features you don't want).
Connecting With Others
Connecting with others has emerged as a priority from the pandemic.
The past 18 months brought an incredible shift in how we used our PCs; we went from fitting the PC into our lives to trying to fit our whole lives into the PC. Our devices weren't just where we went for meetings, classes and to get things done, but where we came to play games with friends, binge watch our favorite shows and, perhaps most meaningfully, connect with one another.
Microsoft Teams Embedded
Windows 11 has embedded Microsoft Teams call and chat into the desktop. It is free no matter what device you're using.
Windows 11 aims to become an excellent platform for gaming.
If you're a gamer, Windows 11 is made for you.
Windows 11 unlocks the full potential of your system's hardware, putting some of the latest gaming technology to work for you.
Stop Xbox from Starting with Windows
For non-gamers, the continued integration of Xbox will be annoying.
Microsoft launches a screen at launch asking you to sign up for Game Pass using the Xbox app (which launches automatically with Windows).
To stop this, right-click the Xbox app icon in the taskbar then select Settings from the context menu. Under the General tab, uncheck the “automatically launch app at startup” box. Check other settings while you're there.
Windows 11 takes advantage of recent security improvements in both hardware and software.
Windows 11 is also secure by design, with new built-in security technologies that will add protection from the chip to the cloud, while enabling productivity and new experiences. Windows 11 provides a Zero Trust-ready operating system to protect data and access across devices.
That doesn't mean that you don't need a good security suite. While there are varied reviews of Microsoft's built-in security software, it doesn't provide adequate protection.
Not only is Microsoft Windows Defender Security Center baked into the operating system, it automatically takes over protection when it detects no other antivirus, and just as automatically steps aside when you install third-party protection.
The thing is, this built-in antivirus just doesn't compare with the best third-party solutions. Even the best free ones are way better than Windows Defender. Don't rely on it; you can do better.
I recommend moving to ZoneAlarm Extreme NextGen because ZoneAlarm Extreme is unsupported on Windows 11 and has been declared legacy.
Switching to NextGen version 3.3.423 or later may require contacting ZoneAlarm support if your registration key fails to work (it requires the six-digit mobile key, not the much longer ZoneAlarm Extreme key).
A new version of ZoneAlarm Free Antivirus + Firewall will run on Windows 11 (but not versions released prior to March 28, 2022).
- ZoneAlarm should be uninstalled prior to your upgrade to Windows 11 then compatible products reinstalled.
- If you're using another product, you'll need to ensure that it supports Windows 11 and determine if it can be safely upgraded in place.
What About Privacy?
Microsoft took a while to explain how they were handling privacy in Windows 10, and it seems that this is not their first priority with Windows 11 either.
In our heavily connected, heavily surveilled world, anxiety about government and big tech overreach is at a fever pitch. And Microsoft has increasingly fallen on the wrong side of this argument.
Microsoft has already been criticized extensively for the amount of data Windows 10 feeds back to the company, and it looks as though Windows 11 will continue the trend.
— Windows Central
Check Privacy Settings
While your privacy settings should be imported from Windows 10, verify Windows 11's privacy settings.
Microsoft Edge Forced
Updates after launch now force users to use Microsoft Edge for many tasks that you could use any browser for at launch and in Windows 10 including separating the
Microsoft uses microsoft-edge:// links instead of https:// for specific features in Windows, like links to online news, weather, or Start Menu search results.
These aren't the actions of an attentive company that cares about its product anymore. Microsoft isn't a good steward of the Windows operating system. They're prioritizing ads, bundleware, and service subscriptions over their users' productivity.
— Daniel Aleksandersen
Microsoft Account Required
Windows 11 won't install until you log into your Microsoft Account.
At release this affected only Windows 11 Home, but it appears that Microsoft will require this for Windows 11 Pro as well.
You can install and run Windows 11 from a a local account once setup is complete.
While it may be convenient to have your Edge bookmarks, photos, documents and other personal data synced between devices, there is a privacy cost.
Even though I created a local account on my Windows 10 installations, I've noticed that Microsoft is tracking much more on my Windows 10 computer since I installed Microsoft 365.
Microsoft Not Alone
Apple requires users to log into their Apple account to install and update their macOS and iOS systems.
Neither Apple or Google charge for their operating systems or upgrades.
What Hasn't Changed?
Windows 11 may have changed how it looks and improved some functions, but the transition from old-school Control Panel and many archaic menus are still in process.
Windows 11 Downloads
There are three options below for installing or creating Windows 11 media:
- Windows 11 Installation Assistant
- Create Windows 11 Installation Media
- Download Windows 11 Disk Image (ISO)
All three options are included on Microsoft's Windows 11 download page. I strongly recommend reading the warnings and recommendations for each (the “before you begin” section) before choosing.
Windows 11 Installation Assistant
This is Microsoft's recommended option for upgrading your Windows 10 computer to Windows 11.
The installation assistant only works on 64-bit Intel hardware (it doesn't work on ARM-based PCs) for the computer you download it to.
Create Windows 11 Installation Media
This option allows you to perform a reinstall or a clean install of Windows 11 on a new or used PC.
Download Windows 11 Disk Image (ISO)
This option is for users that want to create a bootable installation media (USB flash drive, DVD) or create a virtual machine (.ISO file) to install Windows 11. Your product key will unlock the correct edition.
Installation on Unqualified Hardware
Be sure that your hardware meets the system requirements before using any of these options including the necessary drivers are available on the manufacturer's website.
WARNING: Installing Windows 11 media on a PC that does not meet the Windows 11 minimum system requirements is not recommended and may result in compatibility issues. If you proceed with installing Windows 11 on a PC that does not meet the requirements, that PC will no longer be supported and won't be entitled to receive updates. Damages to the PC due to lack of compatibility aren't covered under the manufacturer warranty.
- Download Windows 11.
- How to install Windows 11 on older, unsupported PCs.
- Windows 11 won't offer Windows Update on unsupported devices.
Problems Installing from Windows 10 Home Upgraded to Pro
Most consumer computers are preinstalled with Windows Home edition.
If you upgraded a Windows 10 Home machine to Pro, the upgrade may not recognize the Pro status of your new Windows 11 system during the upgrade (or perhaps after) including the requirement to be connected to your Windows Account before you can install Windows 11.
Even after upgrading to Pro, PCs that start with Windows Home can retain several critical Home limitations that royally foul up future from-scratch reinstalls and upgrades.
— Fred Langa
The following resources discuss how to download and install Windows 11:
- How to download a Windows 11 ISO file and do a clean install.
- Download Windows 11: 3 options for installing or creating Windows 11 media.
- Download Windows 11 from PCGuide.
Since launching Windows 10 six years ago, a lot of hardware innovation has happened in the PC space. For Windows to move forward and take better advantage of the latest innovations, we need to update the baseline system requirements for modern PCs.
— Microsoft Blog
Minimum Requirements Demanding
Windows 11 minimum system requirements are virtually the same as they were for Windows 10 except for these significant requirements:
PCs more than a couple of years old may be unable to upgrade.
It may be possible to enable Secure Boot and the TPM if the necessary hardware is present or Installable. You usually need to access your boot environment to enable these features, possibly requiring an update to the firmware.
To be clear, Windows 11 runs well on older hardware. It is not like older Intel 6th Gen processors cannot handle the OS — far from it. This discussion is all about security.
— Windows Central
You may need to change the way your hard drive is formatted as well as ensuring that your computer is running Secure Boot on the UEFI boot environment.
Minimum System Requirements
The minimum system requirements have changed since the initial announcement:
- Processor: 1 gigahertz (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: Compatible with DirectX 12 or later with WDDM 2.0 driver
- Display: High definition (720p) display that is greater than 9" diagonally, 8 bits per color channel
- Internet connection: Windows 11 Home edition requires internet connectivity and a Microsoft account to complete device setup on first use. A Microsoft account is required for some features.
*Plus storage to keep Windows 11 up to date.
Microsoft lists additional requirements for updates, as well as requirements to turn on specific features within the OS.
- Microsoft's Windows 11 minimum requirments (June 2021) (PDF–518 KB).
More than anything, this will provide for upgraded built-in encryption denied to Windows 10 Home users.
Windows 11 raises the bar for security by requiring hardware that can enable protections like Windows Hello, Device Encryption, virtualization-based security (VBS), hypervisor-protected code integrity (HVCI) and Secure Boot. The combination of these features has been shown to reduce malware by 60% on tested devices.
By requiring Secure Boot and a TPM 2.0 chip, Windows 11 totally neutralizes a whole class of malware attacks, attacks that gain total control over the computer by subverting the Windows boot process or getting into the system before bootup.
However, it is not going to be a panacea.
While it improves the security of a device, some attacks and malware still work fine on TPM protected systems.
One example is a zero-day elevation of privilege vulnerability in Microsoft Windows Installer where even a fully-patched Windows 11 machine is vulnerable.
- How to tell if your PC can run Windows 11 - Tech Republic.
Very Recent CPU Needed
Although not clearly indicated by the specs, the processor must be very recent.
Systems with older generation processors may fail Microsoft's Windows 11 compatibility test even though they appear to meet the minimum listed in the specs.
Notice these processor's “generation” (Gen) in the official assessments:
Windows 11 will only officially support 8th Gen and newer Intel Core processors, alongside Apollo Lake and newer Pentium and Celeron processors.
— The Verge
Microsoft has two listings of supported processors:
Windows 11 is intended to work better on newer hardware, but not at the cost of retaining legacy support.
Trusted Platform Module
What is TPM?
The Trusted Platform Modules (TPM) is a chip that is either integrated into your PC's motherboard or added separately into the CPU. Its purpose is to protect encryption keys, user credentials, and other sensitive data behind a hardware barrier so that malware and attackers can't access or tamper with that data.
— The Verge
A Practical Guide to TPM 2.0 on Your PC (PDF) by Will Arthur and David Challener is a technical read, but provides insight into what TPM 2.0 does and how it works.
You may need to activate the TPM in your computer, something that may stump many consumers.
TPM Requirements May Be Hard to Meet
TPM 2.0 may be the hardest requirement to meet.
While many modern laptops have a TPM 2.0 chip, desktop motherboards do not.
— Notebook check
While third-party TPMs are available, they can be tricky to install.
Checking the TPM Status
To check if your PC has TPM and if it is active, enter TPM into Windows 10 search box then click on Security Processor from within the search results. If present, ensure that it is TPM 2.0.
- How to check if your PC has a trusted platform module (TPM).
- What Is a TPM, and why do I need one for Windows 11?
- Why Windows 11 is forcing everyone to use TPM chips.
Your TPM may be turned off. This requires messing with the computer's BIOS to enable it, something many home users are uncomfortable with.
You may need to enable TPM 2.0 on your computer before you're able to upgrade to Windows 11.
Our PC was only Windows 11-eligible after we went into our PC's BIOS settings, and activated the TPM firmware—a process that may be too technical for the average consumer.
Intel supports TPM within their Converged Security and Management Engine (CSME).
If your machine does not have a dedicated TPM chip, your CPU may have an equivalent built in. Specifically, Intel integrates Platform Trust Technology (Intel PTT) in its modern processors, while AMD uses something called PSP fTPM.
— Notebook check
- No Trusted Platform Module? Many AMD and Intel processors can run Microsoft's new OS without a dedicated TPM 2.0 chip.
- Intel CSME White Paper (PDF) contains details on CSME and how to implement TPM in that environment.
[I]f you have a TPM 1.2 chip, this can likely be upgraded to TPM 2.0 by way of a firmware update from the computer vendor at no cost.
Bypassing TPM 2.0 Requirements
There is information on how to bypass the TMP 2.0 requirement. Be aware that this may risk your Windows 11 losing support at any time and may damage hardware that isn't up to the task.
[I]f your computer has TPM 1.2 (which is incredibly old) and at least a 1GHz processor, you can still get Windows 11; it is just “not advised.”
— Windows Central
- Installing Windows 11 on devices that don't meet system requirements.
- A single Registry line enables Windows 11 without TPM 2.0.
- Install Windows 11 on PC not meeting requirements (PDF).
Upgrading to Windows 11
Windows 10 Home users (but not Pro) will also be required to log onto your Microsoft account when installing Windows 11 (you can create a local account following installation).
Upgrading via Windows Update
The safest way to upgrade is to wait until Windows Update tells you that your Windows 10 computer can be safely upgraded to Windows 11.
Not Everyone Can Upgrade
Windows 11 minimum system requirements are virtually the same as they were for Windows 10 except for these three demanding requirements: a very modern 8th generation processor combined with a TPM 2.0 security chip that is Secure Boot capable.
Windows 10 computers purchased more than two years ago will not upgradable.
Is Your Device Ready?
If your hardware meets the system requirements and Microsoft feels your hardware can be safely upgraded, then you may see a notice like the following in Windows Update:
If an upgrade to Windows 11 is NOT supported by your hardware, then you may see a notice like this:
Once you move to Windows 11 you only have 10 days to return to Windows 10. If, for any reason, your Windows 11 becomes unsupported you're stuck buying a new computer.
Before proceeding, consider what can go wrong and prepare your computer for recovery.
Running Microsoft's PC Health Check app can verify eligibility.
Supported Lifetime of the Device
The Modern Lifestyle Policy requires that you continually maintain Windows 11 feature updates and meet other criteria to retain support.
New versions of Windows 11 will be released once per year. Customers should always install the latest version before the current version reaches end of servicing to remain supported by Microsoft.
This is currently defined as 24 months of support for each of the annual updates for Home and Pro versions (36 months for enterprise and education versions).
Specific hardware no longer supported by the manufacturer may also mark the end of support for Windows 11 by Microsoft.
Should You Upgrade?
It depends. Only you can determine if and when upgrading to Windows 11 is right for you.
Windows 11 is based upon Windows 10, but Microsoft has made some major changes to many basic functions that will take time to get used to. Not all the promised features launched with Windows 11.
Some changes are sure to frustrate users, and in terms of new features, there isn't much hiding behind this new coat of paint.
— Laptop Mag
Hardware Influences Options
Your decision to upgrade, purchase a new Windows 11 system, or move to an alternative is greatly influenced by your current hardware.
Because Windows 11 is, at its heart, a feature upgrade to Windows 10, most devices and apps that are compatible with Windows 10 should work after the upgrade. But "most" is not "all," and you'll be unable to get any work done while you're undoing the upgrade and restoring your system to its previous operating system.
Is Your Software Supported?
Not all software will upgrade to Windows 11 and Microsoft may remove some products in the process. Be sure to have backups and the license keys just in case.
Recent Hardware Ensures Decent Experience
The more recent your computer, the more likely you are to have a decent Windows 11 experience.
Some new features are attractive, especially for gamers and those that like to customize their experience. While a new computer may run slightly faster with Windows 11, some older computers are reported to be running slower than they did with Windows 10 (as much as 40% slower when emulating TPM tasks).
You'll have 10 days to revert back to Windows 10 if you change your mind. After that, you'll be locked into Windows 11.
Most reviews are recommending that you wait, at least until after the first feature update provides the missing pieces.
If you're happy on Windows 10, Windows 11 doesn't feel like a must-have upgrade right now, especially if you're a desktop power user.
— Tom's Hardware
[T]he first major feature upgrade to Windows 11 will arrive in October 2022. That update will be the equivalent of what old-timers knew as Service Pack 1. If you wait till a few months after that release, you'll have an excellent chance of avoiding all the issues that early adopters experience.
- Your Windows 11 upgrade is ready. Should you do it?
- Windows 11 upgrade: Five questions to ask first.
- Why you should skip Windows 11 (for now) (video).
Microsoft Recommends a New Computer
Microsoft is looking for users to purchase a new computer rather than upgrading from Windows 10. Not only will that ensure a smoother transition but will also avoid unseen bugs on untested hardware.
The only reason for Windows 11 appears to be to promote hardware sales. There is little that is innovative and much that is annoying.
Windows 11 may be faster on recent hardware that offers improved security mostly because those new security measures require more processing power than older hardware is capable of providing while emulating the TPM 2.0 security.
Continuing with Windows 10
If your current Windows 10 computer is providing everything you need but is incapable of upgrading to Windows 11, consider remaining where you are. Some of the new features can be added to Windows 10 and you will continue to get updates for a few more years.
For those with minimal requirements (surfing the Web, email, smaller documents, etc.) the upgrade path may be less attractive — especially if you need to purchase a new computer to run Windows 11.
Windows 10 will continue to be supported until October 14, 2025.
Staying with Windows 10 makes sense for the time being unless you're willing to spend time learning your way around Windows 11. You'll remain more productive and you can always upgrade later if your computer supports it.
At the very least you can delay purchasing a new computer while supply issues are keeping prices higher than normal.
Don't Want to Upgrade to Windows 11?
Windows 11 prompts (or an unrequested update to Windows 11) can be stopped using Steve Gibson's InControl.
There is also an option to add (and later remove) Registry keys that will block updating to Windows 11.
In either case you need to be careful that you don't avoid necessary update or lose your Windows 10 license because you failed to update.
- Windows 11 review: We like it but you shouldn't be upgrading today.
- Why I hate Windows 11 — here's what Microsoft needs to fix.
- Windows 11 at launch: You don't need to upgrade yet.
- Windows 11 upgrade: Five questions to ask first.
- Windows 11 vs. Windows 10: All the big differences.
Alternatives to Windows
If your computer cannot run Windows 10 or if you lose support, you will need to seek out an alternative solution.
If your computer won't support Windows 11, Linux can be installed on your current hardware once Windows 10 support expires in 2025.
Is Your PC Ready?
Many PCs that are less than four years old may eventually be able to upgrade to Windows 11.
To check if your current Windows 10 PC is eligible for the free upgrade to Windows 11, download Microsoft's PC Health Check app.
- It will download automatically.
- Early versions got details wrong without explaining why your computer doesn't meet specific requirements.
- The most recent version provides more information.
WhyNotWin11 is More Precise
There is also app available on GitHub which more provides details on why your PC cannot upgrade to Windows 11. The results for my desktop computer:
My Intel Core i5 6400 @ 2.70GHz CPU is probably capable of running Windows 11, but is not on Microsoft's processor list and doesn't meet the 8th generation rating. There is a space for a TPM on my 2015 ASUS motherboard but no chip is present. I may be able to add one in the future if availability improves, but it is likely that I'm stuck on Windows 10. Secure boot is already enabled.
- GitHub app details precisely why your PC cannot upgrade to Windows 11.
- WhyNotWin11 is a free app at GitHub (recommended for advanced users).