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Windows 11 finally dropped, but not everyone will have the upgrade yet. Here's why

The new operating system will be a phased rollout. We'll explain what that means and what your options are.

Windows 11 update on a laptop

The Windows 11 operating system was released Oct. 5. 

Sarah Tew/CNET

Windows 11 started its wide rollout on Oct. 5 -- the first major upgrade in six years. Windows 11 is available as a free download for existing Windows 10 users, but it's not yet available for every compatible Windows device. And every major new feature promised isn't available right now. (Microsoft announced this in an August blog post). 

We've already tested and published a full review of Windows 11 (it's familiar but fresh, with a Mac-like design). You can expect a few new multitasking features, and the Start menu is in a new place. However, it will not include one of the most anticipated updates: support for Android mobile apps in its new app store. Microsoft also didn't offer a date for when Android apps would be available either, other than saying that it would roll out in a "preview" test "over the coming months," according to the post.

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There's a lot to look forward to. But even if your device isn't a part of today's rollout, you can still check to see if you meet the compatibility requirements. Heads up, (you'll need to be running Windows 10 first to do so -- here's how to download Windows 10 for free if you haven't yet). And just because you have a compatible Windows device doesn't mean you'll be able to run Windows 11 starting today. 

Microsoft said the launch will be "phased and measured," with new eligible devices getting the upgrade first and the rest getting offered the free upgrade sometime between October and mid-2022, depending on your hardware, age of device and other factors. You'll get a notification from Windows Update letting you know when Windows 11 is available to you, or you can check manually (here's more on how to download Windows 11 before your system asks you to). 

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While you wait for Microsoft's new operating system to arrive, you can check to see if your computer will be able to automatically update to Windows 11 (you'll need to be running Windows 10 first to do so -- here's how to download Windows 10 for free if you haven't yet). But even if it isn't deemed compatible, there will be a way to manually download a version that is not supported by Microsoft. And here's how to set the default search engine, if you'd rather not use Bing.

You also don't have to upgrade to Windows 11 right away if you don't want to -- Microsoft will still support Windows 10 through October 2025. 

For more, check out the every big difference between Windows 10 and Windows 11 and what you'll need to do before you upgrade to Windows 11