- Beautiful, more consistent new design
- Great window layout options
- New video game options
- Better multi-monitor functionality
- New performance-improving features
- Planned support for Android apps
- Requires a recent CPU
- Some interface changes may take getting used to
- Some useful tools going away, like Timeline and certain tablet gestures
Many never thought there would be a Windows 11, after Microsoft announced in 2015 that Windows 10 would be the operating system's last version number. New competition from Chrome OS likely made the case for a more significant interface update, and Windows 11 borrows heavily from Google's lightweight desktop design. Despite its drastically new look, Windows 11 remains nearly functionally identical to Windows 10, with some new features and conveniences added in. After six years of ho-hum upgrades, a major overhaul to the world’s most popular desktop operating system is welcome news: Windows fans finally have something to get excited about.
Despite the OS's new look, we are nevertheless surprised that using it it doesn't feel that different from Windows 10. Much of what's new amounts to reupholstering and rearranging the furniture. Sure, Windows 11 looks nicer with rounded corners for all windows, the Taskbar icons in the middle, simpler icons, and more elegant Settings dialogs, but it doesn't feel totally alien or require a whole new process the way Windows 8 did. The new interface is attractive, but if you prefer the more familiar Windows 10-style look, you might just want to stick with Windows 10.
What Are the Requirements and How Do You Get Windows 11?
Windows 11 launched on Oct. 5, 2021, as previously announced on the Windows Experience Blog. At first, the upgrade is coming to recent and new PCs, and then it will be offered free to Windows 10 systems on a rolling basis, based on validated hardware configurations. The rollout will be complete by mid-2022. Pricing hasn't been announced for non-upgrades—that is, DIY PC builds, virtual machine installations, or non-Windows 10 computers. I expect pricing for standalone licenses to remain as they were for Windows 10—$139.99 for Home and $199.99 for Pro editions—but there's still no info from Microsoft on such an option, even after the Windows 11 launch.
Much has been made over the system requirements for Windows 11, but they’re very low—1GHz CPU, 4GB RAM, and 64GB storage. A 64-bit processor will be required; there's no longer a 32-bit version of the OS. You’ll also need a computer with a TPM security chip and Secure Boot capability. Those are less of a problem than the internet is making them out to be, as they’ve been standard on most PCs for the last six or so years. The real limiter is the CPU model, which needs to be from about the last four years. Microsoft recently rereleased the tool that assesses your PC's ability to run Windows 11, the PC Health Check app.
Anyone with one of the newer chips should have no trouble installing Windows 11 via Windows Update. Microsoft made a downloadable ISO disk image file for the beta Insider version available for installing Windows 11, allowing in-place upgrades or clean installations on a PC or in a virtual machine. A similar installation option is now available for the release version of Windows 11 via the Microsoft's Download Windows 11 page. Some sources have reported that installing the OS with the ISO installer bypasses the system's hardware requirements, but that's not advisable as you may not get future OS updates if you install it on unsupported hardware.
As with Windows 10, there’s a Home and a Pro version of Windows 11. You need to sign in to an online Microsoft account to upgrade to Windows 11 Home, a fact that’s raised the ire of some commenters, though I really don’t think it’s an issue worth getting worked up about. Those who are gung-ho about not setting up the OS are likely to be running the Pro edition, anyway. If don't want to pay for that and you object to signing in with an online account for your operating system, may I suggest Ubuntu?
A final note about installation is that you'll be able to roll back to Windows 10 for 10 days after upgrading if you prefer the older OS version. Microsoft has announced support for Windows 10 through 2025.