Microsoft Windows 11 laptop on red background 2x1
Windows 11 features new apps, new tools, and a new look.
Microsoft; Rachel Mendelson/Insider

Table of Contents: Masthead Sticky

  • Windows 11 is the newest version of the Windows operating system, and it's likely launching in October.
  • Most users will be able to upgrade to Windows 11 for free, but it won't work on all computers.
  • From a new Start menu to enhanced graphics, here's everything you need to know before Windows 11 drops.
  • Visit Insider's Tech Reference library for more stories.

In June 2021, Microsoft officially announced the upcoming release of Windows 11, the latest major edition of their Windows operating system.

New editions of Windows are a big event. It's been six years since the release of Windows 10, and the computer world has changed a lot since then.

But what will Windows 11 mean for you? What's the difference between it and the operating system you've got now? And is your computer ready for the update?

Let's take a deep dive into Windows 11.

Windows 11: What to expect

As a successor to Windows 10, Windows 11 marks the first major update to the Windows platform since 2015.

Each version of Windows comes with its own changes and new features. That said, the majority of Windows 11's new features are aesthetic. Windows 11 looks more different than any Windows version before it, which might frustrate some longtime users.

Here are five big features coming to Windows 11:

  • New Start menu and taskbar design: The Start menu is moving to the bottom-center of the screen instead of the bottom-left corner. You also can't move the taskbar to the sides or top of the screen anymore.
The Windows 11 Start menu.
Your taskbar icons are huddled in the center of the screen now.
  • Improved virtual desktop support: Virtual desktops let you have more than one desktop on the same screen. Windows 11 will let you rename these desktops, give them custom backgrounds, and switch between them more quickly.
  • Revamped Microsoft Store with Android support: has been completely redesigned, and now includes Android apps. This means that if you have a favorite app on your Android phone - TikTok, for example - you'll be able to load it on your PC.
The Windows 11 app store, advertising Android apps.
A variety of Android apps are ready to be downloaded and open in Windows 11.
  • "Snap Layout" multitasking tools: A new menu lets you quickly and more freely arrange all your apps on the screen at once. You can let each app take a quarter of the screen, let one app take half, and more.
A Windows 11 menu with a pop-up that lets you arrange it in different places on the screen.
You'll have a few different options for how to arrange most apps.
Microsoft; skitching by William Antonelli/Insider
  • Better visuals: Under the hood, automatic HDR tech gives games and apps more vibrant graphics, and DirectStorage shortens load times.

Windows 11 release date

There's no official release date for Windows 11. But all signs are pointing to October 2021.

This October, retailers will start selling computers with Windows 11 installed. Current Windows 10 users will be able to upgrade for free in early 2022.

At some point after that, Microsoft will start selling Windows 11 by itself, likely for about $100 to $200. But Microsoft hasn't given any information about that yet.

If you're impatient, you can download the "Insider" build of Windows 11 right now. This is a beta version that doesn't have all the features you'll see in the final version. For more information on how to get this, check out our section below.

Windows 11 system requirements

If you've bought or built your computer in the last five years, there's a good chance that you'll be able to update to Windows 11.

Here are the exact specs you'll need:

Computer Component What you need for Windows 11
Processor (CPU) A compatible 64-bit processor with two or more cores, and a speed of at least 1Ghz; or a System on a Chip (SoC)
Memory (RAM) At least 4GB
Storage space At least 64GB - more will be needed for future updates
Graphics Compatible with DirectX 12 or later, with a WDDM 2.0 driver
Motherboard UEFI, Secure Boot compatible
Other requirements TPM 2.0 module, HD monitor larger than 9'' diagonally

You can find your computer's individual stats in a few different ways. If you bought a prebuilt PC, check out the manual or contact the manufacturer. If you built your PC or don't know which model you bought, you'll need to go through the Device Manager and look up your computer's components.

The TPM 2.0 module will be a sticking point for some users. The Trusted Platform Module is a device that's meant to keep your data secure and make sure your version of Windows is "authentic." Microsoft is including it to crack down on users running pirated versions of Windows, and encourage them to use more official Microsoft apps.

To check if you have a TPM 2.0, log into an Administrator account, press the Windows key + R, and search for tpm.msc. In the window that appears, if you see The TPM is ready for use, you've got a TPM module. If it also says Specification Version: 2.0, you've got a working TPM 2.0 module.

A computer menu explaining what type of TPM this computer has. The phrases "The TPM is ready for use" and "Specification Version: 2.0" are highlighted.
Check these two sections to see if your computer has a TPM.20 module.
William Antonelli/Insider

If it tells you that you don't have a TPM module installed, also be sure to check your computer's BIOS. Your TPM might just be disabled.

Alternatively, you can use an app that will scan your PC and tell you if it can upgrade. Microsoft had released their own tool for this, but after users reported inaccurate results, they took it down. In the meantime, check out the open-source "WhyNotWin11" app - just scroll down to Download and click Download latest stable release.

What if my computer can't run Windows 11?

If you don't have the right setup for Windows 11, don't panic. Windows 10 is still a good operating system - there's a reason it's been the industry standard for six years.

Microsoft has promised to keep supporting Windows 10 users with updates and tech support until at least October 14, 2025. So don't feel pressured to buy a new rig just for Windows 11.

How to install the Windows 11 beta

In the lead up to Windows 11's public release, Microsoft is letting users download the Windows 11 Insider Build. This is a work-in-progress version of the OS that includes most of the final version's main features.

The Windows 11 beta is being distributed through the Windows Insider Program. To sign up, head to this page and click the Register option. You'll need to log in with your existing Microsoft account.

Once you've signed up, head to this page and click Flight now. Follow the instructions you're given, and you'll be running Windows 11 in no time.

A page inviting Windows users to "flight" their computer, installing beta software.
"Flighting" is the term Microsoft uses to describe installing beta versions of their software.
Microsoft; skitching by William Antonelli/Insider

As you use the Windows 11 beta, you might be asked to share feedback with Microsoft. There's no requirement to do this, but it's a great place to suggest new features.

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