It’s official: Windows 11 will be released on October 5.
“On this day, the free upgrade to Windows 11 will begin rolling out to eligible Windows 10 PCs and PCs that come pre-loaded with Windows 11 will start to become available for purchase,” Microsoft said in a blog post on 31 August.
That’s an interesting twist, as Microsoft previously said that Windows 11 upgrades for Windows 10 PCs won’t happen until 2022. Will those eligible PCs start seeing the Windows 11 upgrade prompt immediately, or will most people need to wait until later for the offer? We’ll have to see—and that’s not even getting into the Windows 11 hardware compatibility fiasco for desktop users, which started off confusing and just keeps getting more confusing.
Don’t let those technical details take your eyes off the prize though. Whenever (if?) you wind up eligible for it, Windows 11 brings a lot of fresh features to the table. You’ll notice the differences immediately upon booting up: Microsoft overhauled the look and feel of the operating system, with a new center-aligned taskbar and a simplified Start menu with no Live Tiles. It’s a big change. And most of the core Windows apps you use every day are getting fresh paint and fresh functionality, too.
The changes aren’t just skin-deep though. You’ll be able to run Android apps in Windows 11 courtesy of Amazon’s app store, widgets are coming back, and exciting game-boosting technologies like Microsoft DirectStorage and AutoHDR will be baked into the operating system, as our guide to 7 new Windows 11 features we didn’t expect details. The Microsoft Store is receiving a sorely needed overhaul, too.
As a nerd, I’m excited about how Windows 11’s Snap feature will include expanded functionality from Microsoft’s wonderful Fancy Zones PowerToy app, and the smarter way the operating system will handle windows on displays that shut down—they won’t just all cram into your main monitor anymore, and will instead smartly minimize and reopen if you turn your second monitor back on. Finally. That overly streamlined File Explorer implementation looks kinda sus, though.
Our hands-on preview of Windows 11 can walk you through our thoughts around the most significant changes, while our Windows 11 FAQ answers all the questions you might be asking. If you want a higher-level overview of what’s coming, be sure to check out our guide to 7 big changes in Windows 11.
And take note, hardware enthusiasts: Windows 11 includes the Thread Director software necessary to coax full performance out of Intel’s upcoming “Alder Lake” desktop chips, a radical redesign of the chip architecture designed to strike back at AMD’s Ryzen resurgence.
Windows 11’s October 5 release is teeing up an exciting fall for the PC. We don’t have long to wait.