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Windows 11 vs. Windows 10: What are the differences?

While Windows 10 users won't need to upgrade right away, Windows 11 does have some new features worth considering.

Windows 11, the newest version of Microsoft's desktop OS, will be released on Oct. 5.  

The upgrade is free for Windows 10 PCs that are compatible with Windows 11. Microsoft will release an updated version of its PC Health Check app before the launch so users can see if their PC meets the system requirements to run Windows 11.

Read more information here about Windows 11 system requirements.

Most Windows 10 third-party applications should work with Windows 11. Windows 10 apps work without any apparent issues on Windows 11 beta and developer builds. They should behave the same way in the public release of the new OS.

Microsoft will continue to support Windows 10 through Oct. 14, 2025. However, it is unclear how many Windows 10 updates Microsoft will roll out during that time.

Since support for Windows 10 won't end anytime soon, it's not urgent for users to upgrade to Windows 11 as soon as it's generally available -- unless they want to take advantage of some of its new features.

To help you decide if upgrading is right for you, here are some of the differences between Windows 11 and Windows 10.

Design

A major difference between Windows 11 and Windows 10 is in its design. Windows 11 offers an interface that's more like a Mac, with pastel colors, rounded corners for all windows and a cleaner interface than its predecessor. Microsoft simplified the user interface as much as possible to create a clean space for work and play.

Start menu/taskbar

Microsoft has moved the Start menu along with the taskbar to the center of the screen; however, users can move them back to the left as they are in Windows 10 if they choose.

Windows 11 also doesn't support live tiles. Live tiles display useful bits of information that users can view without opening the corresponding apps. For example, the weather live tile shows the forecast. Windows 10 is best for users who want to see information in their Start menus at a glance.

Snap Layouts

Another new feature in Windows 11 is Snap Layouts. This lets users organize their apps and windows more efficiently by grouping them together -- similar to how users can group apps on Android and iOS. Snap Layouts provide different layout options to organize different windows on the screen. Snap is a productivity feature that enables users to logically arrange apps and other windows on screen.

The Snap feature in Windows 10 requires users to arrange their windows manually by hovering to the left or right of the screen or by using keyboard combinations. However, Snap Layouts let users automatically arrange their open windows they way they want. For example, users can arrange their open windows as squares. Snap Layout options vary depending on the size of a user's screen. Snap Groups lets users quickly go back to their Snap Layouts when they hover on the taskbar.

Microsoft Store

Microsoft has redesigned the Microsoft Store in Windows 11, making it easier for users to find apps and movies, for example. The Microsoft Store will allow users to download all the Windows apps in Windows 11 and Windows 10.

Since the Microsoft Store is a Universal Windows Platform app, it will be updated independent of Windows 11 itself. The new Microsoft Store app will be available to all Windows 10 and 11 users this fall.

Android apps

The Microsoft Store will also include Android apps hosted on the Amazon App Store. Customers can use Android apps on Windows 10 with the Your Phone app that Microsoft rolled out last year. By bringing Android apps to Windows 11, Microsoft is meeting user demand to run smartphone apps on their desktops. However, this feature will be delayed until sometime in 2022.

Teams (moving from Skype)

Microsoft has replaced the Windows 10 Meet Now feature powered by Skype with the integration of Teams into the Windows 11 taskbar. This will make it easier for users to access the communication platform.

Microsoft is replacing Skype with the Teams chat capability. This is an effort to encourage more Teams users to use the app's consumer features and eventually use Teams outside work. Microsoft retired Skype for Business Online on July 31.

Users can still download Skype for Windows and Skype for Mobile from the Microsoft Store for free.

Touch/tablet mode

Microsoft is removing the tablet mode included in Windows 10 from Windows 11. The tablet mode in Windows 10 makes users' PCs more touch-friendly when they use their devices as tablets. However, Windows 11 acts more like an iPad. That means when users switch their PCs to tablets, they will receive an experience that's optimized for touch.

Windows 11 will also have larger touch targets and visual cues so users can easily resize and move windows.

Virtual desktops

Although Windows 10 included the Task View feature and allowed users to create multiple virtual desktops, the options were limited. Windows 11 users will be able to set up virtual desktops much like they do with Macs. Users can toggle between multiple desktops simultaneously for work, school, gaming and personal use.

Gaming upgrades

PC gaming should also improve with Windows 11. However, Microsoft has said that DirectStorage, one of the new PC gaming features, will also be supported in Windows 10. DirectStorage takes advantage of the modern storage hardware in gaming PCs to streamline how game data is processed. Auto HDR (high dynamics range) will also be baked into Windows 11, which should enhance the colors in many games.

When a user plays on an HDR monitor, Auto HDR enhances the color range in many DirectX 11 and newer games -- even games where HDR settings weren't implemented. Xbox Game Pass will also be included in Windows 11.

Performance improvements

Microsoft has said the new OS will include performance improvements, including faster logins with Windows Hello, faster web browsing and faster wake from sleep mode. Windows Hello is a biometrics-based technology that lets Windows 10 users authenticate secure access to their devices, apps and networks with iris scans, facial recognition or fingerprints.

Microsoft has also said that Windows updates -- which will run in the background -- will be 40% smaller, so they'll take less time to download and install. The new operating system will help users extend battery life on their laptops.

Learn more about Windows 10 vs. Windows 11 system requirements here.

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