Windows 11: News, Release Date, Specs, and Rumors

Everything you need to know about Microsoft's next operating system

Windows 11 is Microsoft's upcoming operating system. With Windows 10 set to be discontinued in 2025, it's clear that something needs to take its place. Coming later this year, Windows 11 will offer a new Start menu, add a widget taskbar, and change the overall user interface.

When Will Windows 11 Be Released?

Windows 11 was officially announced on June 24, 2021 with no specific date for the official release. A pre-release version is out now, the public beta is expected mid-summer 2021, and the full public release is expected in Fall 2021. Windows 11 is coming to old devices through an upgrade, and new devices that go on sale during the holidays.

Windows 10 has largely been considered the last major version of Windows, where it's treated more as a service that updates continually. But with Windows 10 officially losing support in 2025, Windows 11 will be available as an optional free upgrade.

This is what Microsoft has to say:

Windows 11 will be available on new PCs this holiday. Free upgrades to Windows 11 for eligible Windows 10 PCs will begin to roll out this holiday and will continue into 2022. Pre-release builds are available through the Windows Insider Program.

That confirms that new products will ship out with Windows 11 around the same time that current devices will have access to the upgrade. If your device isn't eligible for the upgrade, the quickest way to get Windows 11 is to buy a new device when they become available later this year.

Windows 11 Features

Windows 11 Start menu
Windows 11 Start menu (dev version).

Major OS updates bring big changes. This isn't to say Windows 10 hasn't seen improvements over the years, but a major update like Windows 11 wouldn't be considered major without some significant changes.

Beyond small adjustments rumored to be coming, like rounded corners, the ability to delete preinstalled apps, and new icons, are these bigger ideas:

  • Updated taskbar: It's clear from a leaked version of Windows 11, plus official screenshots from Microsoft, that Windows 11 is changing a lot when it comes to visuals, with the taskbar being the primary focus. This means big UI changes, which is clear in the screenshots below that show rounded corners, an updated Start menu, and buttons in the middle of the taskbar.
  • New Start menu: The Start menu is getting overhauled. The upper portion of this menu shows pinned apps with a link for easy access to all your installed apps. The lower part has recommended files, folders, and apps based on your usage habits. Sign out, lock, shutdown, and other related actions are accessible here as well.
  • Taskbar process isolation: This might not seem like a big change to some, but when Explorer.exe crashes or glitches, it takes the taskbar down with it. One rumor is that Windows 11 will separate the taskbar process from Explorer.exe to make the taskbar independent and still allow you to easily restart your PC from the Start menu even if Explorer crashes or malfunctions.
  • Battery stats: If you find it helpful to see battery usage statistics on your phone, you'll enjoy the same on your Windows 11 computer. From the looks of the rumors we've seen, you'll be able to trigger battery saver mode automatically when your battery drops below a threshold, and see usage stats from the last seven days and 24 hours.
  • Flexible Store app: There have been reports that rules will be relaxed to allow developers to submit any app to the Microsoft Store. This could include apps that connect to a third-party commerce platform and apps that update via their own CDN.
  • Android app support: Windows can already run Android apps through third-party Android emulation software, but now native support is arriving with Windows 11.

Beyond new features are several changes that will take place after upgrading to Windows 11. They're all listed on Microsoft's feature deprecations and removals page, but here are a few:

  • Cortana: Won't be pinned to the taskbar or included in the first boot experience.
  • Internet Explorer: The browser is disabled, with Edge taking its place.
  • S Mode: Only available for Windows 11 Home edition.
  • Tablet Mode: This mode is removed, and new functionality and capability is included for keyboard attach and detach postures.
  • Apps: These apps will remain during an upgrade to Windows 11, but won't be auto-installed during a clean install: 3D Viewer, OneNote, Paint 3D, Skype.

Below are some screenshots of the updated interface taken from a dev build of Windows 11 Pro. You can see that there's a completely new center-focused taskbar with a newly designed Start menu, widgets menu, updated File Explorer and Control Panel icons, Microsoft Store, search tool, Settings, and a refreshed setup procedure. Of course, this isn't an official release from Microsoft, so these changes might not make it to the final build.

Windows 11 widgets menu
Windows 11 widgets menu (dev version).
Windows 11 Start menu
Windows 11 Start menu (dev version).
Windows 11 File Explorer
Windows 11 File Explorer (dev version).
Windows 11 Control Panel
Windows 11 Control Panel (dev version).
Microsoft Store preview on Windows 11
Microsoft Store Preview.
Windows 11 Search
Windows 11 Search (dev version).
Windows 11 Settings
Windows 11 Settings (dev version).
Windows 11 Pro setup screen
Windows 11 Pro setup screen (dev version).

Windows 11 System Requirements

Microsoft has identified the following as the basic requirements for installing Windows 11.

Windows 11 Basic System Requirements
Processor: 1 GHz+; 2 or more cores; 64-bit processor or SoC
Storage: 64 GB or larger
System firmware: UEFI, Secure Boot capable
TPM: Trusted Platform Module version 2.0
Graphics card: DirectX 12 or later with WDDM 2.0 driver
Display: HD (720p) display greater than 9" diagonally, 8 bits per color channel

See Microsoft's feature-specific requirements for Windows 11 for even more necessities that your computer must have should you want specific features.

The Latest News About Windows 11

You can get more computer-related news from Lifewire; below are more rumors and stories about the next major version of Windows:

Was this page helpful?