Microsoft recently announced its next generation of the Windows operating system, Windows 11. If you’re thinking that seems odd given it did announce some years back that Windows 10 would be the “final” version of Windows, you’re not alone.
For many years now, Microsoft’s simply provided Windows 10 updates rather than “new” versions of Windows, as it did previously with the likes of Windows 8, 7, Vista, XP and all the way back to the original version 1 of Windows, which was a very different product to the modern operating system the majority of computer users run today.
Windows 11 will be different again, with a significantly decluttered look and a by-default centred start button menu, rather than the left hand side as many would be used to. Based on an early leak of Windows 11 code, you may be able to shift it back to the left-hand side as an option.
Microsoft won’t release Windows 11 until later in the year, and it’s most likely that the first systems to officially see it will be new laptops and desktop computers, rather than existing systems. If you’re currently running Windows 10, it will be a free upgrade, as Windows 10 was from earlier Windows versions. It’s not clear if Microsoft will be quite so pushy about upgrading as it was with Windows 10, but it’s not putting a time limit on when you would need to upgrade by. Officially speaking, Windows 10 as an upgrade was only good for a year after its release, although in reality Microsoft seems to have turned a very wide blind eye to upgraders over the years.
The other reason that there’s no timeframe is because Microsoft isn’t just going to throw Windows 11 code out there for folks to download. Instead, you’ll be advised via a pop-up when your PC is ready to install it, with the rollout of the free upgrade not expected until early 2022.
If you don’t want to install Windows 11 – and general good advice for new operating systems is to wait a while to allow early bugs to be ironed out – you won’t have to, although Microsoft has announced an end of support date for Windows 10.
That will hit in late 2025, so there’s plenty of time to prepare before it’s a no-longer supported operating system. That end of life for support doesn’t mean Windows 10 will fail on that mark, but it does mean that vital security updates will stop being released. Essentially speaking, it’s the point where it’s smartest to jump on board the Windows 11 train.
In terms of what you’ll need in computing power, Microsoft’s only really slightly tweaked the requirements for upgrading. The big change is a requirement for a 64-bit processor. If your PC and its CPU are 5 or fewer years old, you’re probably 100% fine there. Microsoft is also requiring some onboard security hardware, specifically a trusted platform module (TPM). Again, if you’ve got a PC purchased in the last half-decade or so, the odds are pretty good that you’re TPM-ready even if you don’t know it for sure.
While it won’t release the consumer-facing version of Windows 11 for some months, Microsoft already has details online for the minimum requirements, which you can check here.
If you’re not 100% sure what the specifications of your computer are, Microsoft also offers a tool which scans your computer and checks it against that eligibility list to see if it qualifies; you can install that tool from here.
If you get the approval of that app you’ll be good to go when Windows 11 is offered to you. If it fails, check why it fails; some details like the CPU or minimum memory could conceivably be switched up on desktops, but not all laptops, and for the TPM requirement it may be as simple as enabling that hardware so that Windows 11 will be able to see it.
by Alex Kidman