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Windows 11: What to know about the beta download, new features, device compatibility, price and more

Windows 11 is coming soon. These are all of the new features and other details about Microsoft's big update you need to know.

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Windows 11 brings a new look and new features to Microsoft's operating system.

Microsoft

Windows 11 is on its way. Microsoft unveiled "the next generation of Windows" at its virtual event in June, and with it, some big changes to the long-standing operating system, including its first name change in six years. The announcement follows Microsoft's roll out the latest version of Windows 10, the Windows 10 May 2021 update (also known as version 21H1). 

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Windows 11 includes a slew of new features, like the ability to download and run Android apps on your Windows PC and updates to Microsoft Teams, the Start menu and the overall look of the software, which is more clean and Mac-like in design. (Here are all of our favorite new Windows 11 features and how to use them.) 

Here's every detail we know so far about Windows 11, including price, compatibility, release date, how to download the beta, new features and more.

7 new features included in Windows 11

Here are a few of the standout new features in Windows 11:

  • A new, more Mac-like interface. Windows 11 features a clean design with rounded corners, pastel shades and a centered Start menu and Taskbar. 
  • Integrated Android apps. Android apps will be coming to Windows 11 and installable from within the new Microsoft Store via the Amazon Appstore. (There were a couple of ways to access Android apps on Windows 10, including if you had a Samsung Galaxy phone, but this will make it native.) 
  • Widgets. While they've been around for a while (remember desktop gadgets on Windows Vista?), including in a recent Windows 10 update, you can now access widgets directly from the Taskbar and personalize them to see whatever you'd like. 
  • Microsoft Teams integration. Teams is getting a face-lift and will be integrated directly into the Windows 11 Taskbar, making it easier to access (and a bit more like Apple's FaceTime). You'll be able to access Teams from Windows, Mac, Android or iOS. 
  • Xbox tech for better gaming. Windows 11 will get certain features found in Xbox consoles, like Auto HDR and DirectStorage, to improve gaming on your Windows PC. 
  • Better virtual desktop support. Windows 11 will let you set up virtual desktops in a way that's more similar to MacOS, toggling between multiple desktops for personal, work, school or gaming use. 
  • Easier transition from monitor to laptop, and better multitasking. The new OS includes features called Snap Groups and Snap Layouts -- collections of the apps you're using at once that sit in the Taskbar, and can come up or be minimized at the same time for easier task switching. They also let you plug and unplug from a monitor more easily without losing where your open windows are located. 

Images of Windows 11 were leaked about a week before the event, so we had an idea of some features ahead of time. 

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Microsoft Teams will get integrated directly into the Windows 11 Taskbar, which is now centered in the display. 

Microsoft

When you'll be able to get Windows 11

Windows 11 is now available as an Insider Preview build download for those in the Windows Insider Program, and will be available as a public beta in July (here's how to download the Windows 11 beta). It will begin rolling out to all compatible PCs and new PCs around the 2021 holiday season, according to Microsoft, and will continue rolling out into 2022. However, several hints suggest that Windows 11 could arrive as early as October

How to know if your computer will be compatible with Windows 11

To see if your current Windows 10 PC is eligible for the free upgrade to Windows 11, go to Microsoft's website for a list of requirements. 

Originally, Microsoft was directing people to download the PC Health Check app to check if their machines were compatible. However, many users reported that it did not give adequate amounts of detail as to why a device was not compatible. On June 28, a Microsoft blog post said the company was "temporarily removing the app" to address this issue, and that the tool would return before the fall Windows 11 release. (When it does return, we have step-by-step instructions for how to use the PC Health Check app, and what information it will give you. In the meanwhile, here's how to check some hardware compatibility with Windows 11 without that tool.) 

if you buy a new PC between now and the general release, that computer will also be eligible for the free upgrade.

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New PCs will be eligible for an upgrade to Windows 11.

Sarah Tew/CNET

How to download Windows 11 once it's available

Once Windows 11 becomes generally available, you'll download it the same way you would any new version of Windows. Most users will go to Settings > Update & Security > Windows Update and click Check for Updates. If available, you'll see Feature update to Windows 11. Click Download and install. (Here's more information on how to download Windows 11. If you haven't yet upgraded to Windows 10, you may still be able to download Windows 10 free, too -- here's how.) 

Will it be free to download Windows 11?

If you're already a Windows 10 user, Windows 11 will appear as a free upgrade for your machine

For more, check out every feature we wanted in Windows 11 but didn't get, everything to know about the most recent Windows 10 May 2021 update, the best Windows 10 hidden features we've found and six simple security changes all Windows 10 users need to make.

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