Windows 11: Here’s how to get a free operating system update from Microsoft

What is Windows 11?

Windows 11 is the latest version of Microsoft’s flagship operating system and a successor to Windows 10.

Windows 11 brings major changes to the Start menu and taskbar, a comprehensive rework of the Settings app, and a widgets pane designed to deliver news and reminders.

be seen: Windows 11 FAQ: Our Upgrade Guide and Everything Else You Need to Know

Windows 11 is a major feature update that includes a Sun Valley update to the Windows user interface and a revamp of core Windows apps that fall into the Windows Inbox category, such as a new media player that supports video, as well as a calculator, clipping tool, mail, and calendar. There are a lot of changes under the hood, including the reintroduction of the iconic blue screen of death error warning (for a while Microsoft was playing with making it black, for some reason).

Microsoft released Windows 11 to the general public in October, and now the company is rolling it out to more PCs if it meets Microsoft’s minimum hardware requirements for Windows 11.

What are the hardware requirements for Windows 11?

The most confusing shift is Microsoft’s controversial minimum hardware requirements for Windows 11. So, while Windows 11 is a free upgrade for Windows 10 users, it won’t necessarily be available to all Windows 10 users.

To upgrade, your device must be running Windows 10, version 2004 or later.

Requirements include a 1 GHz or faster processor with two or more cores on a 64-bit compatible processor or system on a chip (SoC). You will need 4 GB of RAM and 64 GB of storage or more. Your computer must be UEFI-capable, secure boot capable, support Trusted Platform Module version 2.0, have a DirectX 12-compatible graphics card or later with WDDM 2.0 driver, and a high-resolution display greater than 9 inches diagonally, 8 bits each color channel.

There are also other systems requirements for many of the new features: for example, three-column Snap layouts require a screen that is 1,920 pixels wide or larger while Windows Hello requires a camera configured for near-infrared (IR) imaging or a fingerprint reader for biometric authentication.

Ed Bott of ZDNet has a rough estimate of the number of 1.3 billion Windows PCs in the world that will not be eligible for the Windows 11 upgrade. Spoiler alert: more than half of them will not.

This means that it will likely be a slow upgrade path for most Windows 10 users in the world, lest they be willing to compromise their warranty.

Microsoft will continue to support Windows 10 with security patches until October 2025 and assumes it can sweep a sweep of devices across the enterprise during that time. Lansweeper, an enterprise IT asset management company, has estimated that about 55% of computers in an enterprise do not meet the requirements for Microsoft Windows 11.

be seen: Windows 11 upgrade: Five questions to ask first

Microsoft hasn’t given a specific deadline for the free upgrade offer, but its new hardware requirements cover Intel and Arm processors, and require at least 4GB of memory, 64GB of storage, as well as a TPM 2.0 release.

Microsoft’s minimum hardware requirements also apply to virtual machine platforms such as Microsoft HyperV, VMware, and Oracle VM Virtual Box. TPM 2.0 can be challenging in the enterprise since less than 1% of virtual machines enable it.

Microsoft advises consumers to look for brands on PCs that indicate they are eligible for the free Windows 11 upgrade.

“We’re also working with our retail partners to make sure the Windows 10 PCs you buy today are ready to upgrade to Windows 11,” the company said.

How do I get Windows 11?

Microsoft hasn’t been entirely clear about when Windows 11 will actually arrive on all eligible Windows 10 PCs. However, it has released the PC Health Check app to help users self-assess whether their devices are achieving the score.

PC Health Check will let you know if your current PC meets the requirements to run Windows 11: If so, you can get a free upgrade at some point after it rolls out.

You can also go to Check for Windows Updates on a Windows PC or select the Start button and then go to Settings > Updates and Security > Windows Updates

All we know is that Microsoft is thrilled to release it so far — at least for Windows 10 users on devices that meet its minimum requirements.

“In our early stages of Windows 11 rollout, we’re consistently seeing a high rate of positive update experiences and user feedback for eligible devices, identified using our latest generation machine learning model,” Microsoft said this month.

be seen: Microsoft’s Windows 11: How to get it now (or later)

Historically, Windows versions were released gradually. For Windows 11, this could take several months: Microsoft said this process will likely “run into 2022” and generally newer PCs get the upgrade first. When it reaches your computer will depend on a number of factors.

The company plans to use “intelligence models that take into account hardware eligibility, reliability, metrics, device age, and other factors” to roll out to additional computers in the market. It will use Windows Update to notify Windows 10 users when their devices are eligible to move to Windows 11.

Microsoft continues to test new features and improvements after the release of Windows 11. Only tests the latest version of Windows with members who participate in the Windows Insider Program in the Dev, Beta, and Release Preview channels. The Beta and Release Preview channels give administrators and users a sneak peek at the non-security updates that will arrive on Patch Tuesday, which falls on the second Tuesday of every month.

Their Dev Channel preview releases are not tied to a specific version of Windows 11. They are there for testing but they don’t come with any commitment from Microsoft as to when features will be released.

How can I preview Windows 11?

Assuming you still want to test the latest Windows 11 preview features on a test device, you can join the Windows Insider Program, which Microsoft describes as a “community of millions of Windows’ biggest fans who will be the first to see what’s next.”

Testers can provide feedback on builds that goes directly to the Microsoft engineers working on the project. To install Windows Insider Preview builds, you must be running a licensed version of Windows on your device.

You can then join the Windows Insider Program or sign in to your Windows Insider account. To register, you must sign in with your Microsoft account or work account in Azure Active Directory. Then you can “Go Fly” – Microsoft’s term for running Windows Insider Preview Builds on the device.

People who want to try the latest Microsoft experiences can head over to the Dev channel, but this channel includes cutting edge updates. Other options include the beta channel. If you want something “extremely stable”, you can try the latest version of Windows, but with constant advanced quality updates and key features in the Release Preview Channel.

Microsoft notes that if you’ve installed the Insider Preview build in one channel, and you want to switch to a different channel, you may need to do a clean install of Windows and reset Windows Insider settings on that machine — one indication that running previews is only for test machines and the tech-minded.

Is it okay to install Windows 11 yet?

Every major OS update comes with some vulnerabilities. Apple often encounters problems with iOS and macOS updates. As more users adopt the latest version, companies have a chance to fix bugs that users discover.

Windows 11 is no different. While Microsoft believes the update is working fine for most users with eligible devices, it has turned off compatibility when Windows 11 was released for devices with certain versions of device drivers for Intel Smart Sound Technology (Intel SST), causing a blue screen of Death error (BSOD).

What will happen to Windows 10?

The company released Windows 10 21H2 in mid-November 2021 — and it finally came clean about its plans for future Windows 10 feature updates.

On November 16, Microsoft began rolling out Windows 10 21H2, also known as the Windows 10 November 2021 Update. In short, Windows 10 feature updates will come once a year, not twice a year as of 21H2.

The next Windows 10 feature update after 21H2 will arrive in the second half of 2022. Home and Pro editions of the 21H2 update will get 18 months of support, while Enterprise and Education editions will get 30 months.

Why are taskbar tools such a big problem?

Some of the big new features in Windows 11 include Mac-inspired consumer features, as well as taskbar widgets, easier switching of the virtual desktop, stylus touches for drawing, and swipe gestures.

Enhanced widgets are a star player now that Microsoft has decided to cut out the Windows 8-era Live Tiles that were its answer to Apple’s iPad design. Also in the trash is the Windows 10 Timeline feature. And the desktop wallpaper has also gone across devices.

Applications that will not come preinstalled include Windows 3D Viewer, OneNote for Windows 10, Paint 3D, and Skype. However, Windows 11 gains a Microsoft Teams chat button that replaces the Skype button.

What are Windows 11 Snap Layouts and Snap Collections?

As ZDNet’s sister site CNET highlights, Snap Layouts should help with multitasking by organizing apps and windows for easy access. People can group apps and websites, then open the group from the taskbar, instead of minimizing and maximizing windows. This is a trend seen in browsers like Google Chrome with grouped tabs.

Snap groups are for those who connect a PC to a monitor and have app layout issues after disconnecting: it avoids the need to rearrange open apps after undock.

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