Windows 11 is here and ready for you. Last August, Microsoft estimated that "all eligible devices [will] be offered the free upgrade to Windows 11 by mid-2022." Microsoft beat that timeframe with the general deployment of Windows 11 on May 17.
In January, Microsoft announced that users are upgrading to Windows 11 at twice the rate they did for Windows 10. The company's new operating system has been rolling out to eligible devices ever since Microsoft launched it last October. Everyone using Windows 10 can now upgrade for free -- if they have a compatible computer.
Read on to find out how the Windows 11 Installation Assistant is your shortcut to Windows 11.
The upgrade process will feel similar to a normal Windows 10 update, as long as your device is compatible and meets the minimum requirements. (And even if it doesn't, Microsoft will offer a workaround, but in that case your Windows 11 installation won't be supported by the company.)
Read more: Windows 11 Review: Familiar but Fresh
You still have the option to manually download Windows 11 and check out its new features, such as widgets, snap layouts, virtual desktops and the new Microsoft Store. We'll tell you how below. Before your download, here's everything you need to know about Microsoft's new software.
If you haven't updated to Windows 10 yet, don't worry -- there's a trick for downloading Windows 10 free that still works. That trick will be the same one you use if you want to manually upgrade an older machine to Windows 11, though Microsoft doesn't encourage doing this as it may not be eligible for the same updates.
Read more: Everything We Know About Android Apps Coming to Windows 11
How to download Windows 11
Users can download Windows 11 the same way you'd get any new version of Windows. Just go to Settings > Update & Security > Windows Update and click Check for Updates. You'll see Feature update to Windows 11. Click Download and install.
You can also use the Windows 11 Installation Assistant. You have to download the assistant and click Run to make sure your hardware is compatible. Then Accept and Install to agree to the licensing terms and begin the installation. When the program is finished installing, you'll be prompted to restart your computer. Your PC might restart several times during the process of finishing the installation, so don't be alarmed. Just keep your PC on until everything's done.
You have other options too, but be warned that these are more complicated. If you're certain you want to proceed, you can create Windows 11 installation media or an ISO file. Microsoft's download Windows 11 page has those steps in greater detail.
Again, note that Windows 11 might not be available for your device because of hardware requirements.
What's in Windows 11
Windows 11 features a streamlined new design, with pastel colors, rounded corners, a new startup sound and overall a more Mac-like look. The Windows Start menu has moved from the bottom left of the screen to the middle, with app icons arranged in the center next to it. You'll find lots of new desktop tools, like widgets that can give you at-a-glance information, and easier virtual desktop creation. And Android apps will be integrated into Windows and installable from the Microsoft Store -- though that feature won't be available right away. (Check out all of the best Windows 11 features and how to use them.)
The update marks the first major change to Microsoft's operating system since Windows 10 launched in 2015. Rumors about a major Windows redesign have been circulating for the past year. At the Microsoft Build developers conference on May 25 last year, CEO Satya Nadella said Microsoft was planning "one of the most significant updates of Windows of the past decade," confirming that a major change was on the horizon for the 1.3 billion users of the OS in 2021. And in mid-June, Microsoft quietly announced that it would end support for Windows 10 in 2025 as leaked images of Windows 11 spread.
For more, check out everything we wanted to see in Windows 11 but didn't, and all of the big differences between Windows 10 and Windows 11.