Windows 11: what’s new and how to know if you can get it
'It's the beginning of a new generation', declared Satya Nadella, Microsoft CEO, at the Windows 11 unveiling event. And from the looks of it, it might as well be true.
Microsoft has finally announced Windows 11, six years after Windows 10 was launched back in 2015. It's a major overhaul from the existing Windows systems with a completely fresh new look and a bunch of attractive new features. Microsoft has put in the effort to make the new OS simple, intuitive and productive. And it is set to come as a free upgrade to the current users of Windows 10! However, not all devices will be compatible with Windows 11 as it has to meet certain hardware and software specifications. The minimum system requirements for Windows 11 as listed by Microsoft are:
Processor: 1 gigahertz (GHz) or faster with 2 or more cores on a compatible 64-bit processor or System on a Chip (SoC)
RAM: 4 GB
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: 9-inch or larger display with HD (720P) resolution or more
Internet connection and Microsoft accounts: Internet connection to download and set up the device. A Microsoft account is required for some features
If you're unsure of your PC's detailed configuration, you can download and install the PC Health Check app from Microsoft to determine whether your device will be compatible with Windows 11. Once you've installed and run the program, you'll need to click the blue 'Check Now' button on the Windows 11 banner. If your system is compatible, a pop-up will read 'This PC will run Windows 11'.
For many users, the initial health check might show that the device won't support Windows 11 because the TPM has not been enabled yet. Once it's enabled from the BIOS setting, the health check should show the system to be compatible. If not, you'll have to make the necessary upgrades before you can run the new OS on your computer.
Windows 11 comes packed with a plethora of new features, both productively useful and flashy. Let's take a look at some of the most anticipated and exciting bits.
User Interface: Aesthetically, Windows 11 is bound to make a huge leap from its predecessor. The new UI is shiny, round-edged, glassy, simple, decluttered and futuristic. The Start menu appears at the middle of the screen by default as opposed to its usual bottom left position. The taskbar is also centre oriented. The live tiles are finally gone, replaced by colourful, simplistic icons.
According to Microsoft, the Start menu uses the cloud to remember what you were working on and offers suggestions to get right back to it. The System Tray is also improved with Quick Action and Notifications now split into two. Overall, the interface should turn out to be pleasant, modern and user-friendly.
Snap Layout: Microsoft has been pioneers in facilitating multitasking. They continue the trend by offering Snap layouts. By hovering on the Maximize icon, users will be able to pick from different snap layouts. This will effectively divide the screen up to run multiple windows simultaneously. If your workflow is interrupted by, say, an emergency phone call, you'll be able to summon your snapped layout just by clicking an icon at the taskbar.
If you work with external monitors, Windows will remember the layout you were working with when you undock your PC. Upon connecting it back to the monitor, it will bring up the layout which should save a large amount of time and organizing.
Microsoft Teams: Microsoft is making an effort to establish Teams as the primary messaging and calling app for its users. Teams will come integrated with the new OS and will appear at the taskbar. You can use this app to connect to anyone using Teams, whether on Windows or on Android/iOS. This effectively spells out the end for Skype which Microsoft owns. It will be interesting to see how Teams will sit in with already massively popular apps such as Zoom, Google Meet and Messenger.
Gaming: Windows 11 puts great emphasis on attracting gaming consumers. It will come with Auto HDR built-in, which will result in vibrant lighting and colour for games. This feature is sure to make a considerable difference to the gaming experience, as evidenced at the unveiling by demonstrating the difference of Skyrim running with and without the Auto HDR.
The new OS will bring DirectStorage- a feature that will load your game directly into your GPU's memory, without making excessive use of CPU resources. As a result, games will load much faster and efficiently. Windows 11 will also come with Xbox Game Pass and Xbox Cloud Gaming built-in so members will have instant access to hundreds of titles.
Microsoft Store and Android Apps: Arguably, the most exciting new feature of Windows 11 will be its new and improved Microsoft Store. It will allow users access to all kinds of Windows apps and, finally, android apps too! Microsoft is making this possible by teaming up with Amazon and using Intel Bridge Technology. As the Amazon app store will be built into the Microsoft store, any android app available on the Amazon store will also run on Windows 11.
However, users will have to download the Amazon store as a stand-alone app the first time and will require both a Microsoft and Amazon account. This seems like a small tradeoff for access to the most useful and popular apps around the world.
According to Microsoft, the new OS will start rolling out this holiday season. So we can hope to see the upgrading process from Windows 10 to Windows 11 start around November this year. If you register to the Windows Insider Program, you might be eligible to test the system starting as early as next week. From Windows XP, new OS updates from Microsoft have been alternatively hit and miss. This time, however, Microsoft seems determined to break the cycle as Windows 11 is shaping up to be a step in the right direction.