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Windows 11: Possibly the Coolest, Work-in-Progress, Windows Release

Microsoft today 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 New Look
Windows 11 has a new look.

Windows 11: Availability and hardware requirement

Panos Panay, Microsoft’s Chief Product Officer, ended the streaming event — during which he was totally “pumped” — with “Go out today and get your Windows 11-ready PC!

But no, you can’t get Windows 11 (the official version, that is) yet. But 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, Microsft provides this Health Check that can be downloaded here.)

Windows 11Windows 10
Processor2 or more cores 64-bit 1GHz
System on a Chip (SoC)
1 gigahertz (GHz)
System on a Chip (SoC)
System Memory4 GB RAM1 GB for 32-bit
2 GB for 64-bit
Storage64 GB 16 GB for 32-bit
20 GB for 64-bit
System firmwareUEFI
Secure Boot capable
UEFI, BIOS
Trusted Platform Module
(TPM)
2.0Not required
Graphics cardDirectX 12 compatible graphics
WDDM 2.x
DirectX 9
WDDM 1.0
Display / Resolution
720p (HD) display > 9” (diagonally)
8 bits per color channel
800 x 600
Internet connectionRequired for the setup processRecommended
Windows 11’s minimum hardware requirement, compared to that of Windows 11

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 questionable 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 any computer that runs 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.

Before Image After Image
Generally, TPM 2.0 is part of Intel PTT (Platform Trust Technology) or AMD AGESA firmware in many computers. They can be enabled within the BIOS in both cases. The setting tends to be disabled by default.

The first is to enter your computer’s firmware setup page, called basic input, output system (BIOS). Here’s how:

  1. As soon as you turn the computer on, keep tapping on its BIOS key. For most computers, this key the F2 or Del key. You can find out which via its manual.
  2. 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.
  3. Save the BIOS changes and restart the computer.

The second way is within Windows via the Device Manager tool. Here’s how:

  1. Call up the Menu X by using the Windows + X combo, or right-click on the Start button.
  2. Click or tap on Device Manager on the list.
  3. On the Device Manager window, expand the Security devices item.
TPM 2 0 Hardware Availability
You can quickly find out if your computer currently supports TPM 2.0 via the Device Manager tool.

You’ll see TPM 2.0 there. 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. 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.

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.

Windows 11 PC Health Check App Not Approved
The PC Health Check App is not happy with this computer, but I could run Windows 11 on it anyway.

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.

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The list includes 3D Viewer, OneNote for Windows 10, Paint 3D, and Skype. For the most part, this is great news.

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.

Windows 11 installation
Upgrading to Windows 11 is the same as to a new build of Windows 10.

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 activation
You can activate Windows 11 via upgrading from a Windows 10 copy or using its key.

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.

Widows 11s All New Interface
Windows 11’s new user interface. Note the default center alignment of the Taskbar.

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.

Despite the new design, most customization options and tricks you can do with Windows 10‘s Start Menu and Taskbar apply to this new Windows version.

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.

Windows 11 Snap Feature
Windows 11’s new snap-it-to-whatever feature can come in handy when you need to organize multiple open windows quickly.

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 Widgets

Windows 11 comes with Windows Widgets, a new feature that allows quick access to news, weather, and different content types.

Windows 11 File Manager and Widgets
Windows 11’s Widgets and File Manager.

Out of the bat, this feature, accessible from a button on the Taskbar, seems underwhelming for now.

It does require the user to log in with a Microsoft account to work but does not have an option to remain on the screen when you open another window.

I can almost bet that this feature will change over time. Otherwise, it’s more of an annoying gimmick than a feature.

Windows 11: Slightly better performance, still no 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.

But most of them, we’ll have to wait for the final version to be out to see.

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.

Windows 11 Search Interface
Windows 11’s search function remains part of the Start Menu.

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.

This means you’ll still need this special driver to use the 6GHz band, which worked with this version in my trial. Soon enough, though, my take is Microsoft will release a working 6GHz driver for Windows 11.

But even before then, Windows 11 has enough to offer a better user experience. Truth be told, after some 10 days of trying it out, I didn’t want to go back to Windows 10.

Update: If you want to try out Windows 11 starting June 28, you can get it via the free Windows Insider Program. Existing members will automatically get Windows 11 builds instead of Windows 10.

Windows 11 Windows Insider Program
You can try Windows 11 now via the free Windows Insider Program.

The takeaway

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.

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5 thoughts on “Windows 11: Possibly the Coolest, Work-in-Progress, Windows Release”

  1. Amazing the amount of useless features that software makers add to their products… And the worst part is how people suck up to those features.
    To me the whole point is to have an efficient system that allows me to do the work as fast as I can. For that you just have to configure your PC as simple as xp was. Everything else is a waste of your time, and a bunch of useless steps to achieve the same results.

    Reply
  2. Hi Dong,
    I saw a re-post (elsewhere) from BleepingComputer that indicated Win11 Home upgrade required a Microsoft Account for product activation. Does that sound like the router management phone apps that you’ve “discouraged”? On the face of it, that seems like you’d have to pay extra (Pro upgrade) to hang on to some privacy. My only Win10 box isn’t Win11eligible any way, so maybe I can defer that pain until Win 10 support expires or the hardware just gives up. Just curious, would you “recommend” a Microsoft account? Would you see it differently than the router OEM’s management apps?

    Reply
    • I don’t recommend a Microsoft account, M. But it’s not that bad and offer some benefit, including ransomware protection to an extent. However, I’ve always used the PRO version of Windows. The Home one doesn’t have any tools for my needs. Windows 11 is not really final yet. There might be changes from now until it’s officially out. A lot of things you read about it now can be contents created to meet the attention. I think there must be a way to use the Home version without an MS account, the way it is now with Windows 10.

      Reply

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