On June 24, 2021, Microsoft announced its latest Windows 11 via a special streaming event that contained no surprises. That's because the new operating system had been leaked days in advance, enabling folks, including your truly, to install and experience it first hand.
At a glance, Windows 11 is basically Windows 10 with some noticeable visual changes in the user interface. In the thick of it, though, there's more to this new OS than meets the eye. And we still don't know what the new OS entails until it's finally released later this year.
So, this post is a brief overview of what you can expect from the latest upcoming Windows.
Dong's note: I first published this post on June 18, 2021, as a hands-on impression and updated it on June 24 to add additional and official information.
Windows 11: Availability and hardware requirement
So it's safe to say new PCs — from known manufacturers, like Dell, HP, Lenovo, and so on — will soon come with this OS pre-installed, the way they are with Windows 10 right now.
If you wonder your current Windows 10 machine can run Windows 11, the answer is it likely can, but Panay seemed to suggest you should get a new computer anyway. And that brings us to the biggest twist of the new OS.
Windows 11 vs. Windows 10: Minimum system requirements
The new OS has double the requirement in storage space and four times that of system memory (RAM), but overall, it can run on relatively low-end hardware.
(To help users figure out if a Windows 10 computer can run Windows 11 offically, Microsft provides this Health Check that can be downloaded here.)
|2 or more cores 64-bit 1GHz
System on a Chip (SoC)
|1 gigahertz (GHz)
System on a Chip (SoC)
|4 GB RAM
|1 GB for 32-bit
2 GB for 64-bit
|16 GB for 32-bit
20 GB for 64-bit
Secure Boot capable
|Trusted Platform Module
|DirectX 12 compatible graphics
|Display / Resolution
720p (HD) display > 9” (diagonally)
8 bits per color channel
|800 x 600
|Required for the setup process
One thing to note is Windows 11 is no longer available as a pure 32-bit platform. You only get Windows 11 64-bit which is capable of running 32-bit applications.
So, Windows 11 doesn't require expensive, super high-end hardware. However, you'll note a sticking point, which is the requirement for Trusted Platform Module (TPM) 2.0.
The controversial Trusted Platform Module (TPM) 2.0 requirement
This built-in security module is available in most (business) motherboard releases in the past five or so years. TPM 2.0 is part of Intel Platform Trust Technology (PTT) for machines that use Intel CPU. Those that run AMD CPUs have a similar feature.
(On some desktop computers that don't have TPM 2.0, you can upgrade to one via an add-on chip.)
Most home computers don't need TPM, and many motherboards have this feature disabled by default. That's because it's not essential to a machine's performance and can add a few seconds to the boot process.
So, making TPM 2.0, a requirement is probably a cheap way Microsoft forces folks into upgrading their hardware before moving to Windows 11. Without this, virtually all computers that run Windows 10 (or Windows 7) can be upgraded to Windows 11.
Extra: How to find out if a computer support TPM 2.0
There are two ways to find out if your computer is TPM 2.0-ready.
The first is to enter your computer's firmware setup page, called basic input, output system (BIOS). Here's how:
- As soon as you turn the computer on, keep tapping on its BIOS key. For most computers, this key is the F2 or Del key. You can find out which via its manual.
- Once you're in the computer's BIOS, go to the Advanced or Security section. If the machine supports TPM 2.0, you'll be able to enable it there. Note that in many computers, this setting is disabled by default.
- Save the BIOS changes and restart the computer.
The second way is within Windows via the Device Manager tool — this only applies to the case TPM has been enabled in the BIOS mentioned above. Here's how:
- Call up the Menu X by using the Windows + X combo, or right-click on the Start button.
- Click or tap on Device Manager on the list.
- On the Device Manager window, expand the Security devices item.
You'll see TPM 2.0 there. Again, if you don't see it in the Security devices or this item itself, the machine doesn't have TPM 2.0 or has this feature disabled in the BIOS as mentioned above.
Extra: Can I run Windows 11 on a machine that doesn’t have TPM 2.0?
The answer is yes. You can run Windows 11 without TPM 2.0 just fine. While the upgrade process will tell you that you can't, there's a way around this.
The easiest is to install the OS on a computer with TPM 2.0 and then move the drive (or clone it) to the one that's without. I've tried this on multiple non-TPM computers successfully.
My take is someone will figure out how to bypass the TPM 2.0 checking for the fresh installation and upgrade. You can expect such tools or methods relatively soon.
One thing is for sure: Microsoft will not go as far as rendering a Windows 11 computer non-bootable when there's no TPM 2.0. That'd be similar to locking somebody out of their home just because the AC is out.
TPM 2.0 is a hardware part that can break just like any part. In fact, I tried turning this feature off in one of my computers' BIOS, and Windows 11 still worked normally.
On the brighter note, the TPM 2.0 requirement can also be understood as s part of Microsoft's effort to make the new OS "the most secure Windows yet," per Panay.
Windows 11: Languages supported
Like Windows 10, Windows 11 support the use of any language (some required extra keyboard apps), but per Microsoft, the following are supported natively:
Arabic (Saudi Arabia), Bulgarian (Bulgaria), Chinese (PRC), Chinese (Taiwan), Croatian (Croatia), Czech (Czech Republic), Danish (Denmark), Dutch (Netherlands), English (United Kingdom), English (United States), Estonian (Estonia), Finnish (Finland), French (France), French (Canada), German (Germany), Greek (Greece), Hebrew (Israel), Hungarian (Hungary), Italian (Italy), Japanese (Japan), Korean (Korea), Latvian (Latvia), Lithuanian (Lithuania), Norwegian, Bokmål (Norway), Polish (Poland), Portuguese (Brazil), Portuguese (Portugal), Romanian (Romania), Russian (Russia), Serbian (Latin, Serbia), Slovak (Slovakia), Slovenian (Slovenia), Spanish (Spain), Spanish (Mexico), Swedish (Sweden), Thai (Thailand), Turkish (Turkey), Ukrainian (Ukraine).
Windows 11 vs. Windows 10: Feature deprecations and removals
Microsoft advises users that with the new OS, some features may be deprecated or removed. Below is the full list.
- Cortana will no longer be included in the first boot experience or pinned to the Taskbar.
- Desktop wallpaper cannot be roamed to or from the device when signed in with a Microsoft account.
- Internet Explorer is disabled. Microsoft Edge is the recommended replacement and includes IE Mode which may be useful in certain scenarios.
- Math Input Panel is removed. Math Recognizer will install on demand and includes the math input control and recognizer. Math inking in apps, like OneNote, are not impacted by this change.
- News & Interests has evolved. New functionality has been added which can be found by clicking the Widgets icon on the Taskbar.
- Quick Status from the Lockscreen and associated settings are removed.
- S Mode is only available now for Windows 11 Home edition.
- Snipping Tool continues to be available but the old design and functionality in the Windows 10 version have been replaced with those of the app previously known as Snip & Sketch.
- Start is significantly changed in Windows 11 including the following key deprecations and removals:
- Named groups and folders of apps are no longer supported and the layout is not currently resizable.
- Pinned apps and sites will not migrate when upgrading from Windows 10.
- Live Tiles are no longer available. For glanceable, dynamic content, see the new Widgets feature.
- Tablet Mode is removed, and new functionality and capability are included for keyboard attach and detach postures.
- Taskbar functionality is changed, including:
- People is no longer present on the Taskbar.
- Some icons may no longer appear in the System Tray (systray) for upgraded devices, including previous customizations.
- Alignment to the bottom of the screen is the only location allowed.
- Apps can no longer customize areas of the Taskbar.
- Timeline is removed. Some similar functionality is available in Microsoft Edge.
- Touch Keyboard will no longer dock and undock keyboard layouts on screen sizes 18 inches and larger.
- Wallet is removed.
On top of that, some apps are no longer part of the initial installation, though they won't be removed in an upgrade and are available from the Microsoft Store.
Windows 11: Similar installation/upgrade process
According to the Health Check app, most of my computers were not qualified to run Windows 11 due to TPM 2.0. Yet, I could use it on them with no issues after getting the new OS loaded via a few tricks.
But on a TPM 2.0-ready computer, you can expect the upgrade to is the same as when you upgrade from one Windows 10 build to another — something that's been taking place every six months or so in the past few years.
Specifically, I upgraded from Windows 10 (21H1) to Windows 11, and the process, which resembled that of Windows 10, took just about 20 minutes. Afterward, all installed software remained, and the new Windows was also activated.
This activation part is significant. It's the clearest indication that Windows 11 is a free upgrade.
What's more, you'll get the same Windows flavor of the 10 version. So if you're running Windows 10 Pro, you'll get Windows 11 Pro, and Windows 10 Home users will get Windows 11 home, and so on.
The same thing will happen if you install the new Windows fresh — of which the process is the same as Windows 10, by the way — on a computer that has run Windows 10 before.
However, if you install it on brand-new hardware, activation will be required. And guess what, I could do that with a Windows 10 key. Again, Windows 11 is going to be a free upgrade.
Obviously, all this can still change in the future, though unlikely. But so far, from software installation's point of view, you can think of Windows 11 as another semi-yearly Windows 10 upgrade.
Windows 11: A new coat of user interface
The first time booting up into the new Windows, you'll note that the completely new look. The first thing you'd notice is its Taskbar that runs at the bottom of the screen.
More organized Start Menu with center alignment
By default, the bar is aligned center, meaning all items are placed in the middle of the bar, including the Start button and, therefore, the Start Menu.
This gives the new Windows a symmetrical look that somewhat resembles that of macOS, where the Taskbar takes the place of the Dock.
Right-click on the Taskbar will give you access to its customizations, of which most are inherited from Windows 10.
In addition, there's now the option to align the bar to the left to give the interface the traditional Windows look, which has largely remained since Windows 95.
Rounded corner, new window Snap organization feature
Another noticeable feature of Windows 11 is the rounded corners. Virtually all windows and highlighted items now no longer have the sharp rectangle or square shape. Instead, their corners are rounded, giving them a friendlier look.
Sure, you'll see 90-degree corners here and there, but for the most part, rounded ones are what you will notice.
Each window now also includes a new snap-it-to-something feature. Rest the mouse or your finger (touch-screen only) on the maximize button of a window, and you'll see the available drop-down options to move it to a different part of the screen based on a set of pre-assigned patterns via a click (or a tap).
Depending on how many windows are currently open, these patterns change based on the applications — modern apps have more options, and legacy ones might have none. But this sure is a cool way to quickly take control of the crazy amount of simultaneously open windows we often have.
Windows 11 comes with Windows Widgets, a new feature that allows quick access to news, weather, and different content types.
This feature, accessible from a button on the Taskbar, requires an account with Microsoft work and is intended to evolve over time.
Windows 11: Slightly better performance, now built-in Wi-Fi 6E support
According to Microsoft, the changes in the interface aside, Windows 11 has a lot of improvement under the hood in a different area, including gaming with the support for Auto HDR and the ability to run Android apps.
For now, Windows 11 seemed more responsive than Windows 10 in my trial. I didn't do any official testing, but apps appeared to launch faster, and there were no excessive animations or transitioning effects that slow things down.
By the way, the version I used had no built-in 6GHz driver for the Intel AX210 Wi-Fi 6E chip — the chip will work but still as a dual-band.
Update: With version 2000.252 or later, Windows 11 has native support for the 6GHz frequency band of Wi-Fi 6E. That means if you use the Intel AX210 chip, you will no longer need this special driver to use the 6GHz band.
That said, so far, Windows 11 has enough to offer a better user experience. Truth be told, after some extended time with it, I didn't want to go back to Windows 10 anymore.
Windows 11 sure is exciting news. It seems to be a more streamlined, faster, and more secure operating system, among other things.
For the most part, though, this new OS appears to be the Windows 10X Microsoft canceled in May 2021. Or maybe, Microsoft decided to change the name of the same OS approach.
And that'd make sense. In some ways, Windows 11 is like the software giant's answer to Apple's macOS Big Sur, which is also version 11 of the popular non-Windows operating system.
Unlike Big Sur, though, Windows 11 likely will not render your old computer obsolete — even with the pseudo requirement for TPM 2.0 — nor will it make you buy new versions of your existing functioningng software. And that's a great thing.
Still, this latest OS is not as radical an upgrade as "turning it up to 11". So far, it proved to be another major, albeit incremental, Windows (10) release. But that can be a good thing.