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Windows 11 is a major release of the Windows NT operating system developed by Microsoft. Announced on June 24, 2021, with an expected release in late 2021, Windows 11 is the successor to Windows 10, released in 2015. Windows 11 will be available as a free upgrade to compatible Windows 10 devices through Windows Update.
At the 2015 Ignite conference, Microsoft employee Jerry Nixon stated that Windows 10 would be the "last version of Windows", a statement that Microsoft confirmed was "reflective" of its view. The operating system was considered to be a service, with new builds and updates to be released over time. However, speculation of a new version or a redesign of Windows arose in January 2021, after a job listing referring to a "sweeping visual rejuvenation of Windows" was posted by Microsoft. A visual refresh for Windows, developed under the codename "Sun Valley", was reportedly set to modernize the system's user interface.
The Windows 11 name was accidentally released in an official Microsoft support document in June 2021. Leaked images of a purported beta build of Windows 11's desktop surfaced online later on June 15, 2021, which were followed by a leak of the aforementioned build on the same day. The screenshots and leaked build show an interface resembling that of the canceled Windows 10X, alongside a redesigned out-of-box experience (OOBE) and Windows 11 branding.
At the Microsoft Build 2021 developer conference, CEO and chairman Satya Nadella teased about the existence of the next generation of Windows during his keynote speech. According to Nadella, he had been self-hosting it for several months. He also teased that an official announcement would come very soon. Just a week after Nadella's keynote, Microsoft started sending invitations for a dedicated Windows media event at 11 am ET on June 24, 2021. Microsoft also posted an 11-minute video of Windows start-up sounds to YouTube on June 10, with many people speculating both the Microsoft event and the duration of the Windows start-up sound video to be a reference to the name of the operating system as Windows 11.
On June 24, 2021, Windows 11 was officially announced at a virtual event hosted by Chief Product Officer Panos Panay. According to Nadella, Windows 11 is "a reimagining of the operating system". Further details for developers such as updates to the Microsoft Store, the new Windows App SDK (codenamed "Project Reunion"), new Fluent Design guidelines, and more were discussed during another developer-focused event on the same day.
At the June 24 media event, Microsoft also announced that Windows 11 would be released in "Holiday 2021", with an exact date not given. Its release will be accompanied by a free upgrade for compatible Windows 10 devices.
Windows 11, the first major Windows release since 2015, builds upon its predecessor by revamping the user interface to follow Microsoft's new Fluent Design guidelines. The redesign, which focuses on ease of use and flexibility, comes alongside new productivity and social features and updates to security and accessibility, addressing some of the deficiencies of Windows 10.
The Microsoft Store, which serves as a unified storefront for apps and other content, is also redesigned in Windows 11. Microsoft now allows developers to distribute Win32, Progressive web applications, and other packaging technologies in the Microsoft Store, alongside the standard Universal Windows Platform apps. Windows 11 will also allow users to install and run Android apps onto their device. These apps can be obtained from within the Microsoft Store via the Amazon Appstore. This feature will require a Microsoft account, an Amazon account, and a one-time install for Windows Amazon Appstore client. Users can also install Android apps through any source.
The collaboration platform Microsoft Teams is integrated into the Windows 11 user interface, and is accessible via the taskbar. Skype will no longer be bundled with the OS by default.
Microsoft promoted performance improvements such as smaller update sizes, faster web browsing in "any browser", faster wake time from sleep mode, and faster Windows Hello authentication.
The updated Xbox app is bundled with Windows 11. The Auto HDR and DirectStorage technologies introduced by the Xbox Series X and Series S will be integrated into Windows 11; the latter requires a graphics card supporting DirectX 12 Ultimate, and an NVMe solid-state drive of at least 1 terabyte in size.
A redesigned interface is present throughout the operating system; translucency, shadows, a new color palette, and rounded geometry are prevalent throughout the UI. Taskbar buttons are center-aligned by default, and the new "Widgets" button displays a panel with widgets along with a news feed powered by Microsoft News (expanding upon the "news and interests" panel introduced in later builds of Windows 10). The taskbar is permanently stuck at the bottom edge of the screen and cannot be moved to the top, left, or right edges of the screen in Windows 11 (although the centered icons could be moved to the left).
The Start menu has been significantly redesigned, replacing the "live tiles" used by Windows 8.x and 10 with a grid of "pinned" applications, and a list of recent applications and documents.
Task View, a feature introduced in Windows 10, features a refreshed design, and supports giving separate wallpapers to each virtual desktop. The window snapping functionality has been enhanced with two additional features; "snap layouts" allows the user to select a pre-determined layout they want to use for tiling multiple windows onto a display. The tiled arrangement of windows can be minimized and restored from the taskbar as a "snap group".
Windows 11 features a new font, Segoe UI Variable. The font is designed to scale better with monitors with a higher amount of dots per inch. which the old Segoe UI did not account for. Other changes to the system include new system icons, animations, sounds, and widgets. Much of the interface and start menu take heavy inspiration from the now-canceled Windows 10X. A new design for the File Explorer and Windows Settings apps were also previewed.
As part of the minimum system requirements, Windows 11 only runs on devices with a Trusted Platform Module 2.0 security coprocessor. According to Microsoft, the TPM 2.0 coprocessor is a "critical building block" for protection against firmware and hardware attacks. In addition, Microsoft now requires devices with Windows 11 to include virtualization-based security (VBS), hypervisor-protected code integrity (HVCI), and Secure Boot built-in and enabled by default. The operating system also features hardware-enforced stack protection for supported Intel and AMD processors for protection against zero-day exploits.
Like its predecessor, Windows 11 also supports multi-factor authentication and biometric authentication through Windows Hello.
Hardware Requirements for Windows 11 Component Minimum
- Processor : A compatible 64-bit processor (x86-64 or ARM64) with at least 1 GHz clock rate and at least 2 cores
- Memory (RAM) : At least 4 GB
- Storage Space : At least 64 GB
- System Firmware : UEFI
- Security :
- Secure Boot, enabled by default
- Trusted Platform Module (TPM) version 2.0
- Graphics Card : Compatible with DirectX 12 or later with WDDM 2.0 driver
- Display : High definition (720p) display that is greater than 9” diagonally, 8 bits per color channel
- Internet Connection and Microsoft Accounts : Internet connection and Microsoft account required to complete first-time setup on Windows 11 Home.
- Camera : Front camera required for laptops beginning 2023
- 5G Support : 5G capable modem
- Auto HDR : HDR capable monitor
- Biometric authentication and Windows Hello : Illuminated infrared camera or fingerprint reader
- BitLocker to Go : USB flash drive (available in Windows 11 Pro and higher editions)
- Hyper-V : Second Level Address Translation (SLAT)
- DirectStorage : NVMe Solid-state drive with at least 1 terabyte of storage and a DirectX 12 Ultimate graphics card with Shader Model 6.0
- DirectX 12 Ultimate : Available with supported games and graphics cards
- Spatial Sound : Supporting hardware and software
- Two-Factor Authentication : Use of PIN, biometric authentication, or a phone with Wi-Fi or Bluetooth capabilities
- Speech Recognition : Microphone
- Wi-Fi 6E support : New WLAN IHV hardware and driver, Wi-Fi 6E capable AP/router
- Windows Projection : Wi-Fi adapter that supports Wi-Fi Direct, WDDM 2.0
The basic system requirements of Windows 11 are similar to Windows 10. However, Windows 11 only supports 64-bit systems such as those using an x86-64 or ARM64 processor; support for IA-32 processors has been removed. The minimum RAM and storage requirements were also increased; Windows 11 now requires at least 4 GB of RAM and 64 GB of storage. S mode is only supported for the Home edition of Windows 11. As of June 2021, only Intel Core 8th generation (Coffee Lake, Whiskey Lake) and later, AMD Zen+ (except Ryzen 1st Gen "AF" revision) and later, and Qualcomm Snapdragon 850 and later processors are officially supported.
Legacy BIOS is no longer supported; a UEFI system with Secure Boot and a TPM 2.0 security coprocessor is now required. The TPM requirement in particular has led to confusion as many motherboards do not have TPM support, require a compatible TPM module to be physically installed onto the motherboard, or have a built-in TPM on the CPU firmware or hardware level that is disabled by default which requires changing settings in the computer's UEFI to enable. Original equipment manufacturers can still ship computers without the TPM 2.0 coprocessor upon Microsoft's approval. Windows 11 can be installed on legacy BIOS or without Secure Boot or TPM 2.0 by editing the installation media.