Windows 11 vs. Windows 10

Windows 11 is hitting general availability on October 5, and with that date approaching, you might be wondering how it compares to Windows 10.

Visually, the two are quite different, but there are also other under-the-hood changes that set the next generation of Windows apart from the current generation. You probably have questions about whether you should upgrade, and we have you covered with this look at all the differences between the two.

Should you upgrade to Windows 11?

Android apps on Windows 11.

Just like Windows 10 was a free upgrade to Windows 8.1 and Windows 7, Windows 11 will be a free upgrade to Windows 10. But there’s a catch. That upgrade only applies as long as your PC fits with Microsoft’s minimum requirements — which is already causing a fair share of controversy, especially in regard to the TPM 2.0 requirement.

Even if your PC can run Windows 11, you might be wondering if you should upgrade. Before getting into the differences between Windows 10 and Windows 11, we have some words of advice about possible upgrade paths.

Right now, Windows 11 is still in the beta phase. You’ll only be able to get it via the Windows Insider program ahead of October 5 general availability. If your PC is compatible, you’ll be testing Windows 11 with lots of bugs and other issues. We advise you to wait until October before you update to Windows 11 just to be safe.

Microsoft says it will roll out Windows 11 in a more finished form with general availability on October 5 for new PCs and for other PCs by mid-2022. That’s when Windows 11 will be most stable and you can install it safely on your PC. Even then, we still think it’s best to wait it out a bit. Microsoft will obviously advise long-term switching to Windows 11, as it will be the latest version of Windows, but you can still stay on Windows 10 if you want.

Windows 10 will continue to be supported through 2025, and Microsoft mentioned it is “still the right choice” if you can’t run Windows 10.  It is not really important to update to Windows 11 right away unless you really want to try out the new features we’re about to discuss.

Start Menu and Taskbar

Windows 11 Start Menu.

If you’re looking at the differences between Windows 11 and Windows 10, the biggest ones will be the Start Menu and the Taskbar. In Windows 11, Microsoft centers the Taskbar and the Start Menu on the screen. This makes it look a bit more like MacOS and ChromeOS. However, you can still move it back to the left if you want.

Speaking of the Start Menu, in Windows 11, it is a bit more simplistic. You’ll only see a static list of apps, followed by your most frequented documents on the bottom. You can expand out your apps, scroll through the list, and pin apps as you choose. That might sound familiar, but it is important to note that Windows 11 drops out support for Live Tiles. If you really want to see information in your Start Menu at a glance, then Windows 10 is best.

As for the Taskbar, note that there are some big changes in Windows 11 when compared to Windows 10. Microsoft has collapsed the search box into an icon, and also removed the Cortana functions in Windows 11. If you want Cortana, you’ll need to download the app. Search also moves to the center of the screen, with a floating design and tabbed layout similar to Windows 10.

Even Windows Timeline is gone. Windows 11 drops out that Windows 10 feature in favor of Microsoft Edge’s sync ability. The spot where Windows Timeline used to be is replaced by Virtual Desktops.

But if you want to pin your Taskbar to the right or the left of the screen, then we have bad news. You’ll no longer be able to do that, as in Windows 11 the Taskbar will only stay on the bottom. Apps will not be able to customize the taskbar, either.

A lot of these changes are just visual. Windows 11 and Windows 10 share the same features, and it’s just the way that things look that is different.

Multitasking and external monitor support

Windows 11 Multitasking.

You might have seen Microsoft’s multitasking demo in Windows 11, and wondered if it’ll be ported over to Windows 10. As far as we know, this is a Windows 11-exclusive feature, and you won’t be seeing it in Windows 10.

In Windows 11, you can increase your multitasking and system performance with Snap Layouts that group your windows and save them to the taskbar. Hover over the maximize button and you can tile windows in various sizes. Windows 10 won’t have this. It keeps the traditional “Snap” feature, where you’ll need to manually tile your windows with a keyboard combination or by hovering to a certain side of the screen.

Then there’s a note about external monitors. Windows 11 remembers how you had your windows on your external monitor and will save them in that state when you disconnect from a monitor and then plug it back in. This is one of the most annoying problems with Windows 10 that Windows 11 finally addresses.

Tablet mode

Devices running Windows 11.

Windows 10 has a traditional tablet mode that makes your PC go to a full-screen Start Menu experience. In Windows 11, this is removed.

Instead, Windows 11 behaves more like an iPad, where when you switch your device to a tablet, things become easier to touch. You’ll even see an effect under your window when you touch it with your finger. Microsoft also added gestures for opening and closing windows, switching between desktops, and new options in the Windows Ink Workspace. All of these aren’t in Windows 10’s tablet mode, which largely was hard to understand for many.

The Microsoft Store

Android apps on Windows 11.

The app store in Windows 11 and Windows 10 will be pretty similar, but with a key difference. Windows 11’s app store will bring support for Android apps via the Amazon Appstore, though not in the initial version that’s coming on October 5. You won’t get that in Windows 10 because Windows 11 depends on the new Windows Subsystem for Android.

The newly redesigned Microsoft Store in Windows 11, which makes it easier to find apps and movies, will also eventually make it to Windows 10. Microsoft confirmed this in a developer session following the June 24 Windows 11 event. You just won’t get Android apps in Windows 10. The store will still allow you to download all Windows apps across both operating systems. That includes Win32 apps, UWP apps, and Progressive Web Apps.

Other differences and removed features

Windows 11 logo.

We’ve spent a lot of time highlighting the big differences between Windows 10 and Windows 11, but there are still some changes that you need to know about if you plan to upgrade. That’s because Windows 11 removes some features from Windows 10.

You’ll no longer be able to sync your desktop wallpaper, Internet Explorer and the Math Input panel will be removed, and a few apps will also be removed. Those apps removed on the upgrade will be 3D viewer, OneNote for Windows 10, Paint 3D, and Skype. You can still find those in the store, though. Microsoft has a full list if you’re concerned.

If you’re a gamer, then do note that Windows 11 has some exclusive features catered to you. Auto HDR will make your games look more vibrant, and Direct Storage will ensure that games load faster from your graphics card.

Support and update cycle

A woman in front a Windows 11 PC.

It was confirmed that Windows 11 will get once-a-year updates. That’s just like MacOS. Windows 10, meanwhile, remains somewhat of a mystery. Microsoft is committed to supporting Windows 10 through 2025.

We’re uncertain if it will still get twice-a-year featured updates, but if you really want the latest and greatest version of Windows, then Windows 11 is where you want to be. You might also want to update to Windows 11 if you want the most secure version of Windows. Microsoft has talked a lot about how Windows 11 is secure due to TPM 2.0 requirements, as well as Secure Boot.

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