Windows 11 is here: Key points to know as Microsoft rolls out its new operating system
Microsoft is beginning the global rollout of Windows 11 this afternoon, starting in New Zealand and Australia, where it’s already Oct. 5, the official launch day.
Windows 11 is a free upgrade for computers and tablets running Windows 10, the operating system that Microsoft first released more than six years ago.
At one point, Microsoft signaled that Windows 10 would be last full version of the operating system, but the company rethought things after the pandemic put the PC back in the center of many people’s lives. Windows 11 is also a way for the company to boost the PC industry and bring additional attention to its own Surface devices.
Windows 11 brings a refreshed user interface, better performance and security, and a variety of new features. Based on my initial experience using a review version of Windows 11 for the past two days, it’s a solid upgrade with some nice benefits, but not a drop-everything-and-get-this update for Windows 10 users.
- Windows 11 requires some minor adjustments, such as correcting the muscle memory that automatically sends the mouse to the lower left of the screen for the Start button in Windows 10, which is centered in the Windows 11 taskbar.
- Windows 11 offers a clean and modern user experience, with some thoughtful touches. I’m already finding it easier to navigate to commonly used settings, for example, thanks to a redesigned settings app.
- In the realm of aesthetics, the new desktop backgrounds are some of the most striking the company has released, and they look great on multiple monitors.
- It’s also much easier to set up and switch among multiple desktops in Windows 11, creating a virtual barrier between work and home at a moment when many of us could use that type of separation.
We did a deeper dive on Windows 11 features in this recent GeekWire Podcast with Kevin Stratvert, a former Microsoft program manager turned YouTube creator.
Phased rollout: Microsoft is expected to start with new devices eligible for the Windows 11 upgrade. After that, Windows 10 computers that meet the Windows 11 minimum system requirements will be offered the update via Windows Update. However, Microsoft says the overall automatic rollout will be phased over weeks and likely months. The company will be watching closely for issues, and adjusting the speed of the rollout as necessary.
Checking for minimum system requirements: The company is offering a PC Health Check app to determine if yout computer meets the minimum system requirements.
Jumping the line: Those who meet the Windows 11 system requirements will be able to manually update using an Installation Assistant tool that Microsoft is expected to release this week.
What about PCs that don’t meet the minimum requirements? It will be possible to install Windows 11 on systems that don’t meet the minimum requirements, but Microsoft says those who do assume the risk of compatibility problems and bugs.
You can keep using Windows 10. For those who choose not to update Windows 11, there’s plenty of life left in your existing setup. Windows 10 will continue to be supported by Microsoft through October 2025.