Here’s what you should know about how Windows changes.
People who already use Windows 11 on their computers can install this new update for free. Some people still using Windows 10 on their computers may also be able to upgrade to this updated version of Windows for free. To check this, open the Settings application on your PC, click Windows Update, and then click Check for Updates.
Lots of small tweaks and modifications, many of which you’d have to be a really advanced user to notice. But some of the changes Microsoft has made are slightly easier to notice – and possibly more significant – than others. Here are a few you might want to keep your eyes peeled for:
- System-wide live captions. Movies, podcasts, live radio – if you want to hear it, Windows 11 will try to rewrite it for you on the screen. Features like this – which can be tremendously helpful for people who are hard of hearing and people who leave captions all the time – are more common on smartphones than on computers, but thankfully this is starting to change. (A similar feature will arrive in Apple’s macOS Ventura software update in October.)
- Configurable Start menu. Right now, Windows 11’s Start menu shows a mix of files and software you think you should see, as well as apps you may have “pinned” there for quick access. But in this update, you’ll be able to tell Windows you want to see more.
- Voice control on the computer. This feature isn’t technically complete yet – Microsoft calls it “preview” – but Voice Access was built to help people control their computers with spoken words, not keystrokes or mouse clicks.
- New touch gestures. If your PC has a touchscreen and / or transforms into a tablet, these new gestures – such as swiping up to open the Start menu – can help you navigate Windows faster.
- Built-in camera effects. Not all computers will support this, but some of you will be able to use the new “studio” effects to customize your appearance in video calls and streaming without having to rely on tools built into third-party apps. (Think, for example, of blurring the background or curling a video to make it look like you’re making eye contact.)
Not all of the new features in Windows 11 are as easily accessible as others.
Some, such as the Smart App Control feature which uses artificial intelligence to determine whether an app you just installed is legitimate or malicious, requires you to perform a clean install rather than updating your computer the way you’ve always done it. This means either wiping your computer’s memory and installing Windows 11 from scratch – or purchasing a new computer with updated software already installed.
In the meantime, you won’t find the other features Microsoft has covered in Windows 11 if you install the update too early. Add-ons like the new Photos and Tabs app in Windows File Explorer, which should make jumping around different folders on your computer much faster, won’t be available for use in October.
How can I get the update?
If you’re already using the latest version of Windows 11, updating should be fairly quick – just check the Windows Update section in the Settings app on your PC. And don’t worry if the update notification doesn’t pop up for a while; Microsoft says the “measured and rolled off” process can take a while, and sometimes comes down to when the company believes the computer is “ready”.
But what if your PC is still running Windows 10?
First, there’s no shame in it – mine is too. And if your PC is compatible with this new software, there’s a good chance the Windows Update section of the Settings app will let you know.
Windows 11 is now available, but not everyone will have an easy time updating
But here’s the hard truth: Not every Windows 10 PC can be upgraded to Windows 11. (For many people, including me, this is due to more stringent hardware security requirements). Judging from how Microsoft likes to check the names of new computer models, when it announces major updates like these, it’s pretty clear that they’d like you to cash out a brand new computer.
If you’ve thought about doing it anyway, do it. But if your current computer is still doing everything you need to do, don’t feel the pressure of buying new hardware just to use the new software. Microsoft has announced it will continue to support Windows 10 until October 2025, which includes regular updates with new features – not just security patches. (In fact, the Windows 10 equivalent of this update will be available next month.)