Windows 11: How To Get Microsoft’s Free Operating System Update
Windows 11 is the latest free operating system from Microsoft. They officially launched it earlier this month. As with many major technical changes, the rollout will be phased and gradual. Microsoft has suggested that the new system will be offered to the majority of Windows 10 users by the summer of 2022.
We’ll take a closer look at Windows 11 and try to break through all the technical jargon to give some clear explanations of the product. We’ll also discuss whether it’s really worth rushing to upgrade your devices with Windows 11, and how to install the new operating system.
Not everybody is a fan of Microsoft, or of their products. The company has a reputation for monopolistic practices and an uncompromising attitude towards its (largely) captive market. Windows 10 has been in use for the last six years. Even if we don’t particularly like it - or don’t care about it one way or the other - we’re at least used to it.
The good news is that Microsoft will continue to support Windows 10 until 2025 or even slightly longer. That’s beyond the realistic life expectancy of most laptops and PCs that currently have Windows 10 installed. If you don’t want the hassle of upgrading to Windows 11 and installing it on your computer, you have nothing to worry about. When you eventually replace your existing device, the new one will come with Windows 11 preinstalled.
What are the New Features of Windows 11?
There’s a lot of hype about the new Windows 11 (at least from Microsoft) but it’s harder to highlight new features that will make a major difference to the average computer user. There is however a new Start Menu, some new desktop tools, and a plan to integrate Android apps into Windows.
Android Apps in Windows 11
The excellent news for Android Apps users is that they will be built into Windows 11 via the new Microsoft Store. The bad news is that support for Android Apps won’t be available straight away. There’s no firm date, but it will likely be in the first half of 2022.
Once the new system is up and running, it will connect users to the Amazon App Store via the Windows Start bar. If you download the Amazon Store or create an account, you’ll have full access to over 500,000 Apps. However, you still won’t be able to access every App that’s on offer in the Google Playstore. You may need to use both services.
Not everybody will be happy to see a close partnership between two tech giants that already partially dominate the marketplace. But there is no doubt that the ability to click and install apps straight to Windows will be a game-changer for a lot of users.
Widgets in Windows 11
People seldom have mixed feelings about on-screen widgets. They either love them or hate them. Windows 11 uses its own AI to power a customizable feed with a variety of widgets.
These include the usual news, weather updates, calendars, photos, etc. There’s nothing new or particularly interesting in terms of the media and tools on offer. Tech fans may find the design of the widget feed noteworthy. The main questions for most users will probably be “How do I get it off my screen and how do I keep it off my screen?”.
If Microsoft were really smart, they'd offer users a minimalist version of Windows that didn’t include Widgets and Xbox and Microsoft Edge…
Snap Layouts, Snap Groups and Desktops
Snap Layouts and Snap Groups are more Windows 11 features where the tech jury is still out. If you’re working with several open windows, Snap will allow you to arrange them in different layouts on your screen. You’ll then be able to save these arrangements. This could turn out to be a useful tool for busy people who might have previously needed to jump between tabs and windows. You can arrange Snap Layouts in a couple of seconds, just by hovering your mouse over a button.
Snap Groups allows you to manage your Snap Layouts as a group and minimize or recall them collectively. This actually seems like a fairly basic function that’s been hyped up as a separate feature. It’s also unclear whether you’ll need to be in Microsoft Edge to operate it.
Multitasking seems to be a major theme with Windows 11. In addition to the Snap features, the system offers virtual desktops. These seem to be a copy of the macOS virtual desktop feature. The goal is to allow users to create a virtual desktop for each aspect of their life or work activities. These are fully customizable and are designed to make life easier. How relevant this kind of multi-tasking tool is to the average computer owner remains to be seen.
Windows 11 also pushes the Microsoft Teams tool quite aggressively. It is fully integrated into the operating system and connects Teams users across Windows, Android, Mac, or iOS.
Given the popularity of Zoom, Microsoft may face an uphill struggle to convince most Windows 11 users to actually rely on Teams for routine online meetings and conferences.
They’re clearly hoping that Teams will replace Whatsapp, Skype, and other tools as an all-in-one, on-screen communications system.
Are Windows 11 Upgrades Free?
Yes - at least for the time being.
Microsoft has been rolling out new versions of Windows for years and has its upgrade strategies finely tuned. The upgrade is currently free for anybody with Windows 10, but Microsoft is already hinting that this is for a limited time period only. Their goal is to ‘encourage’ users to quickly upgrade. The strategy was successful in persuading Windows 7 users to convert to Windows 10. Our advice is don’t be bullied or pressured into upgrading, if you want Windows 11, go for it. Otherwise, just wait. It will come to you in due course when you buy a new device.
Can I Upgrade to Windows 11?
If you’re already an existing Windows 10 user you can probably upgrade fairly easily. The first thing you need to do is check your device specifications and see if your computer can cope with Windows 11.
Windows 11 System Requirements
You can quickly check whether your computer is Windows 11 compatible:
- Click the button on your keyboard.
- Type system information into the search bar. It's in the bottom-left corner of the screen.
- Click Enter.
- The System Information App contains all the relevant info.
One of the initial complaints about Windows 11 is that many existing devices (including some recent ones) simply won’t be compatible with the new operating system - or will require a workaround. Windows 10 was exceptionally light on system requirements compared to its replacement. There’s no need to get into complex technical explanations, but many good-quality computers do not have the TPM 2.0 or the CPU requirements for the system. It’s possible that your existing system won’t be supported.
If this is the case, don’t panic. You’ll be able to continue quite happily with Windows 10 - and might be well advised to do so. It will possibly take Microsoft at least a year to iron out the inevitable glitches and user issues that can occur with an ambitious new version of Windows. Computer manufacturers will also have to adapt. It’s unlikely that we’ll see many new devices before 2023 that are purpose-designed for Windows 11.
How do I Upgrade to Windows 11?
There are 4 main ways to upgrade to Windows 11.
- Use Windows Updates on your device
- Use the Windows Installation Assistant
- Create an ISO file or an Installation Media
- Go to your local computer store or technician
Upgrade with Windows Updates
The simplest and most convenient method is to check if Windows 11 is already available as a free upgrade for your device.
It’s easy to try. Simply use the search bar or Windows button to go to:
Settings > Update & Security > Windows Update.
Click: Check for Updates.
If Windows 11 is available for your device, you'll see:
Feature update to Windows 11.
Click: Download and install.
Upgrade with Windows Installation Assistant
The Windows Installation Assistant sounds interesting - like a virtual computer technician. In fact, it's a simple download that installs Windows 11 on your computer.
- Check you have a licensed version of Windows 10 installed on your computer
- Check that your current operating system meets the basic requirements for an upgrade. If necessary, you can visit your manufacturer’s website and download updated drivers etc.
- Check that you have 9GB of spare disk space before you begin.
The Windows Installation Assistant works like any other program. Download it, click Run, accept the license terms, and then follow the instructions to restart your computer.
Upgrade with installation Media
The Windows Installation media is another download that allows you to perform a reinstall or clean installation of Windows 11 on your computer. The Installation Media is designed to make a bootable USB or DVD. This is a process that requires above-average computer skills and some patience. If you’re interested, these are the starting points:
- A license to install Windows 11 or a qualifying Windows 10 device
- A reliable broadband internet connection
- Enough disk space (computer, USB, or external drive) to download the .iso file
- A blank 8GB + DVD disc and DVD burner to create a bootable disc.
If you don’t have a DVD burner, Windows Installation Media is not an option for you. We wouldn’t recommend buying any DVD equipment simply to get the update!
Upgrade with Windows 11 Disk Image (ISO)
The Windows 11 Disk Image (ISO) is another download option for installing the new operating system. As with Installation Media, it’s a moderately complex process that requires some technical skills and time. Frankly, we don’t recommend it. If you do want to proceed, you need the same basic starting points as for the Installation Media.
Go to your local computer store or technician
Most Israeli neighborhoods have a local independent computer store that does repairs and sells all kinds of hardware and second-hand computers. You can easily find them on social media, via word of mouth, or just keep your eyes open when you’re out and about. They are usually good guys to know and can often provide fast fixes if you have any computer problem.
If you really want Windows 11 and can’t upgrade via Windows Updates (and you’re not adept enough to play around with DVDs and ISO files) these guys may be able to help. If you have a laptop, it’s easy to call in and ask about Windows 11. They will be able to tell you in about one minute if your device will take Windows 11. If it can, they will probably be able to install it on the spot. If you can’t get a free upgrade, they’ll advise you what to do next.
Is Windows 11 Worth Installing?
Unless you want to buy a Mac, you’re going to find yourself using Windows 11 at some point before 2026. There’s nothing in the new operating system to justify the average person rushing to install Windows 11. Certainly, it has some potentially good features like the integration of Android Apps. Even these won’t be fully supported until next year.
Unless you have specific work requirements - or you just love new tech - there’s really no need to worry about the upgrade for the time being. Let’s face it, there are still people out there who’d rather stick with Windows 7!
The chances are that you’ll either be offered a free upgrade via Windows Updates in the next 12 months, or you’ll buy a new device at some point in the next few years. Your choice of Windows won’t have any significant effect on your computer or internet experience in the meantime.