The First Meaningful Update for Windows 11 is Coming. See What’s Inside Elsewhere Here

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Though some will come first, your PC might soon learn new skills.

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An old dog can’t learn new tricks, so the saying goes. Fortunately, this is not true of your computer. Microsoft is polishing Windows 11 after releasing it last fall. This is the first of many ongoing “feature updates” the operating system will receive.

The update was made to make our PCs “easier and safer to use,” according to Panos Panay, chief product officer of Windows and Devices at Microsoft. Users in more than 190 countries have started receiving the new software as of Tuesday. On the other hand, what awaits you after that update? What happens if it isn’t compatible with your computer?

Here’s what you should know about how Windows is changing.

What is the price?

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Users of Windows 11 on PCs can download and install this new update for nothing. Some PC users still running Windows 10 may be able to upgrade for free to this more recent version of Windows. Open the Settings app on your computer, select Windows Update, and then select Check for Updates to verify.

What has been updated?

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It would take a skilled user to pick up on all the minor adjustments and changes. However, some of the modifications made by Microsoft in this area are a little more obvious than others, and some may even be more significant. You might want to keep an eye out for some of these:

System-wide live captions. Windows 11 will attempt to transcribe anything you’re supposed to hear on-screen, including videos, podcasts, and live radio streams. Features like these are more prevalent on smartphones than computers, which is hopefully beginning to change. These features can be extremely helpful to the hard of hearing and people who always leave subtitles on. (Apple’s macOS Ventura software update will include a similar feature.)

Start menu customization. The Start menu in Windows 11 currently displays a mixture of files and programs that it believes you should see and any apps you may have “pinned” there for quick access. However, you’ll be able to tell Windows which you want to see more of in this update.

Computer voice control. Voice Access, a feature that Microsoft refers to as a “preview,” was created to enable users to interact with computers through spoken commands rather than keystrokes or mouse clicks.

They updated touch gestures. These new gestures, such as swiping up to open the Start menu, may make it easier for you to navigate Windows if your computer has a touch screen and can turn into a tablet.

Integrated camera effects. Some of you can use new “studio” effects to customize your appearance on video calls and streams without relying on the tools included in third-party apps, though not all PCs will support this. (For example, consider blurring your background or adjusting your video to make it appear like you are making eye contact.)

Why is there a catch?

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Some of Windows 11’s new features are more difficult to use than others.

Some require you to perform a clean install rather than updating your PC the way you always have, such as the Smart App Control feature, which uses AI to determine whether an app you just installed is safe or malicious. That requires you to either buy a new computer with the updated software pre-installed or completely wipe the storage on your PC and reinstall Windows 11.

If you apply the update too soon, you won’t see other features that Microsoft has discussed incorporating into Windows 11. It won’t be available until some time in October. Still, there will be updates like a new Photos app and tabs in Windows File Explorer that should make switching between folders on your PC much faster.

How can I get the update?

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Let’s say you’re already running Windows 11 in its most recent iteration. If so, check the Windows Update section of the Settings app on your computer to see how quickly you can get the update. And don’t worry if the update notice doesn’t appear right away; according to Microsoft, the “measured and phased rollout” process can take some time and occasionally depends on when the company decides your computer is “ready.”

But what if Windows 10 is still installed on your computer?

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First off, I want to say that I’m not ashamed of that because I am. Additionally, there’s a good chance the Windows Update section of your Settings app will inform you if your PC can run this new software.

However, the truth is that not all Windows 10 computers can be upgraded to Windows 11. (Many people, including myself, attribute it to tighter hardware security requirements.) And Microsoft would want you to spend money on a brand-new computer based on how frequently it mentions new PC models when announcing significant updates like these.

Go for it if that’s what you were planning to do anyway. However, if your current PC still meets all of your needs, don’t feel compelled to upgrade to use newer software. Microsoft has stated that it will continue supporting Windows 10 through October 2025, providing security patches and regular updates with new features. (This update’s Windows 10 equivalent will be available next month.)

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