Windows 11 is nearly here. Microsoft has formally announced Windows 11, and we’ve already seen it as a leaked build. Microsoft has even announced a Windows 11 release date.
Every new operating system brings many questions. We’re starting here with the answers we know, and we’ll update this list of frequently asked questions (FAQ) as we learn more.
What is Windows 11?
Windows 11 is the name of the next major revision to Windows 10, different enough that it justified a new brand name and not just another feature update. Microsoft launched Windows 11 on June 24.
When will I be able to get Windows 11?
Windows 11 was made available to Windows Insiders sometime on the week of June 28, and will be made available to the public at large this fall. Officially, Microsoft will release Windows 11 on October 5, when the final build will be pushed to PCs. However, Windows 10-to-Windows 11 upgrades will have to wait until 2022, according to Microsoft.
If you’re wondering whether you’ll be able to opt out of Windows 11—the answer is, surprisingly, yes. Microsoft appears to be placing some fairly substantial hardware requirements on Windows 11, and if your PC doesn’t meet them, you won’t be allowed to upgrade, either. (Don’t worry, you can stay on Windows 10 until Microsoft retires it in 2025.)
How do I get Windows 11?
Windows 11 is being released as a beta, part of the Windows Insider program. You’ll need to be part of the Windows Insider program (here’s how to become a Windows Insider), then use Windows Update to download the beta from the Dev Channel. Confused? Here’s how to get Windows 11, which now includes standalone ISO files, too.
We’ve already seen early Windows 11 preview builds add search to the Start menu and add back the performance booster. Microsoft is also adding animated emoji to Windows 11, too.
Will Windows 11 be free?
Some of you may be wondering what Windows 11 will cost. We’d expect the price for a standalone version of the operating system to be around the current price of Windows 10: $110 for Windows 11 Home, and $150 for Windows 11 Pro. (Here’s how to get Windows 10 for even cheaper.) But Microsoft says that Windows 11 will be a free upgrade to Windows 10. Remember, Microsoft likes to hook people by lowering the price of the operating system, and then trying to sell them on services, like Microsoft 365 or the Xbox Game Pass.
Will there be different versions of Windows 11?
Microsoft refers to Windows 10 Home and Windows 10 Pro as different editions of Windows 10, and it’s likely that we’ll see a Windows 11 Home and Windows 11 Pro, too. (Here are five reasons to get Windows 10 Pro.) At one time, we thought Microsoft might tap the powers of virtualization to make Windows 10 Pro a true enthusiast operating system. So far, it hasn’t happened.
Microsoft will also release a Windows 11 version of Windows 10 S, called Windows 11 Home in S Mode.
How big is Windows 11?
Windows 11’s “size” will vary, depending upon what you already have on your PC. That means that you may receive incremental parts of Windows 11 over time, especially if you’re part of the Windows Insider program. The short answer, though, is about 5.4GB — that was the total size of the Windows 11 Insider ISO file we downloaded, and we’d expect the final version to be in that neighborhood.
Some of the apps within Windows (Sticky Notes, for example) will only be downloaded as “stubs”: shortcuts, if you will, to the full app. The first time you launch Sticky Notes on Windows 11, the app will quickly download and install.
Monthly patch updates will be smaller, too: about 40 percent or so, according to Microsoft.
When will Windows 11 get updated?
Windows 11 will receive patches and regular feature updates periodically, probably not much different than today. But Microsoft plans to reduce the major feature update cadence down to one per year, rather than two. Microsoft will update Windows 11 Home and Pro annually, in the fall.
How long will Windows 11 be supported?
Microsoft has said that each current feature update will be supported for two years. Updating your PC to the latest version of Windows 11 will simply reset that support clock, of course. Essentially, if you continually update your PC, your PC will continue to be supported.
What’s new for Windows 11?
Thanks to our time trying a leaked version of Windows 11 (and later, hands-on with the official Windows 11 build) we’ve already seen some major changes to Windows 11 from Windows 10. It starts with a new user interface applied over the top of what still looks a lot like Windows 10. There’s a more compact, centered Taskbar and Start Menu. We also noticed updated icon designs and other visual tweaks, like the Widgets bar. Microsoft has also integrated Teams Chat into the Windows 11 taskbar—and here’s how to use it. One feature that won’t be available at launch, however, is Windows 11’s promised Android app support.
Microsoft also revealed some major new changes for Windows 11 that we haven’t seen before. (A minor one surfaced recently: Windows 11 Dark Mode has its own sounds.) If you prefer video, we have a visual tour of Windows 11 in our hands-on with the official build of Windows 11, too.
What does Windows 11 mean for Windows 10?
Microsoft has always said that it plans to end support for Windows 10 in 2025, and that’s still the case. As a free replacement for Windows 10, your PC will upgrade to Windows 11 automatically. If it doesn’t meet the hardware requirements, your PC will remain on Windows 10 until hardware support expires. At that point, you should really upgrade both your PC’s hardware as well as the operating system.
What about that Microsoft pledge that Windows 10 would be the “last Windows?” As it turns out, that wasn’t exactly the case. We still believe, however, that Microsoft will keep updating and patching Windows, whatever it’s called. Windows is just Windows.
Can I roll back from Windows 11 to Windows 10?
Yes, you can, and you’ll have ten days to do so—plus a little more.
What are Windows’s 11 system requirements?
Microsoft periodically updates the minimum hardware requirements for its operating system. (Here are the system requirements for Windows 10, which include a 1GHz CPU or better, 2GB of RAM, and so on.)
Windows 11’s hardware requirements are the new operating system’s most dramatic change. You’ll need at least an 8th-gen Intel Core CPU or Ryzen 2000, and older processors are out of luck. Windows 11 also requires a Trusted Platform Module (TPM), specifically a TPM 2.0 module that’s typically integrated into the CPU. Here’s why Windows 11 requires a TPM, according to Microsoft.
Can PCs that don’t meet the hardware requirements run Windows 11?
Unsupported PCs will be able to use Windows 11, unofficially, by downloading a Windows 11 ISO file. We explain what we know of running Windows 11 on supported PCs, here. But there’s a catch: Microsoft won’t provide updates to unsupported Windows 11 PCs, and the company has booted them out of the Windows Insider program for Windows 11, too. So yes, you’ll be able to run Windows 11 on unsupported hardware, but on a very temporary basis.
How fast is Windows 11?
If you’re wondering whether Windows 11 will slow down your PC, well—it does, slightly. But a recent build also allows you to tweak the performance and make Windows 11 faster.
Are there any new apps for Windows 11?
Microsoft hasn’t announced any new apps for Windows 11, but these core Windows 10 apps will be updated for Windows 11.
Widgets are essentially Windows 11’s answer to Live Tiles. And no, you can’t remove Widgets. But you can turn off the Taskbar shortcut to Widgets, which is almost the same thing. Microsoft’s Widgets are now being powered by Start, Microsoft’s new brand for its news feed.
Can I run Windows 11 on a Mac?
A bold choice, but yes. Version 17.0 of Parallels Desktop allows you to run Windows 11 on a Mac via virtualization. Macworld UK has more.
Will there be a Windows 11 Mobile?
Sadly, almost certainly not.
Updated at 3:30 PM on September 8 with additional details, new questions, and new answers.
As PCWorld's senior editor, Mark focuses on Microsoft news and chip technology, among other beats. He has formerly written for PCMag, BYTE, Slashdot, eWEEK, and ReadWrite.