Windows 11

Windows 11
Version of Microsoft Windows
Windows 11 logo and wordmark.svg
Windows11-10.0.22000.132-Desktop.png
OS familyWindows 11 (NT 10.0)
Version21H2
CodenameSun Valley[1]
Preliminary name
SemesterCobalt
ArchitectureAMD64, ARM64
Latest build10.0.22000.194
Release date2021-10-05
Support end
Replaces
Windows 10 (May 2021 Update)

Windows 11 is an upcoming major version of Microsoft Windows that was announced on 24 June 2021, and will succeed the Windows 10 family of operating systems.[2] Its initial Cobalt-based release will be generally available beginning 5 October 2021 as a free upgrade over Windows Update.[3] It includes a refreshed user interface, as well as other minor improvements over the Windows 10 May 2021 Update.[1]

The new version drops support for 32-bit x86 systems, leaving only the AMD64/x64 and ARM64 target platforms, although 32-bit user applications are still supported via WoW64. The operating system now also requires a system with UEFI firmware that supports the Secure Boot specification and includes a Trusted Platform Module, which has been subject to controversy as it leaves many older systems that fully support Windows 10 ineligible for the free upgrade.[4]

History

Rumors of a new major version of Windows were initially sparked by comments made by Panos Panay,[5] Microsoft's chief product officer, and Satya Nadella,[6] chairman of Microsoft, both talking about a next generation of Windows.

And soon, we will share one of the most significant updates to Windows of the past decade to unlock greater economic opportunity for developers and creators. I’ve been self-hosting it over the past several months, and I'm incredibly excited about the next generation of Windows. Our promise to you is this: we will create more opportunity for every Windows developer today and welcome every creator who is looking for the most innovative, new, open platform to build and distribute and monetize applications. We look forward to sharing more very soon.

— Satya Nadella at Microsoft Build 2021[7]

References to a potential new version were unintentionally disclosed in Microsoft documentation weeks before the official announcement, including a mention of "Windows Sun Valley" in a description alongside Windows 10,[8] telemetry documentation showing two separate updates both bearing the 21H2 version number,[9][10] or a Windows 11 reference in accidentally published internal Azure taxonomy documentation.[11] The aka.ms/windows11 redirect has also been found to exist in late May 2021, similarly to redirects for other major Windows releases.[12]

A special event was held on 24 June 2021 where Microsoft officially announced Windows 11.[13][14] Despite the company's great efforts to prevent any leaks prior to the event, build 21996 was leaked online on 15 June, nine days before the keynote. The build includes Windows 11 branding, as well as a new Start menu and taskbar reminiscent of Windows 10X together with redesigned user interface widgets. Panos Panay later acknowledged the leak in an interview with The Verge, saying that it "was some early weird build".[15]

The first Insider Preview build, 22000.51, was publicly released on 28 June to the Dev Channel and introduced several redesigned apps, as well as a refreshed login screen and further updates to the taskbar. The following preview builds are released on a weekly basis in the form of cumulative updates for build 22000. Windows 11 was introduced to the Beta Channel on 29 July with the re-release of build 22000.100, after which both channels now receive the same builds at the same time. However, most new features initially roll out only to users in the Dev Channel and aren't enabled for remaining users until a later build.

On 31 August, Microsoft announced that the first release of Windows 11 would ship on 5 October. Three days later, on 2 September, the new version was released to the Release Preview Channel for commercial PCs, while the Dev Channel was moved to the active development branch with the new Nickel builds. Prior to that, ineligible systems that were previously allowed to trial Windows 11 builds were kicked from the Insider Preview program, although they will still receive new builds in the lead up to general availability. In the middle of September, marketing material has leaked that referred to the initial release of the new version as "Windows OCT21".[16]

Criticism

Following the announcement of Windows 11, the new version has been criticized for its large increase in minimum system requirements. According to Microsoft, the new operating system requires a 64-bit system with UEFI firmware that supports Secure Boot and includes a TPM 2.0 module. Additionally, the company has released a list of compatible processors, which notably only includes Intel's Coffee Lake family CPUs and newer, as well as AMD's Zen 2 processors (including select Zen+ models) and newer. The new requirements have been called out as artificial as they exclude many older computers from the Windows 11 upgrade on the premise of being old, even though they would likely be able to run Windows 11 with little to no performance issues.

Microsoft explained the new requirements as being guided by security, reliability and compatibility principles, although the company also promised to re-evaluate the list of eligible systems before release.[17] The Intel Kaby Lake and AMD Zen 1 architectures were at one point considered for upgrade eligibility, however, Microsoft eventually opted to only support select Kaby Lake systems in the final release.[18] The TPM 2.0 and CPU requirements were also temporarily unenforced for users enrolled in the Dev Channel as a limited exception in order to collect more data regarding the system requirements.[4] The exception was discontinued on 31 August when all ineligible systems were dropped from the Insider program.

The raised requirements will only apply to upgrades via Windows Update. Installing Windows 11 manually by downloading the install media will be possible on unsupported systems using a workaround intended to allow businesses to evaluate the new version,[19] although the company also stated that such systems will not be able to receive any updates, including security patches and drivers.[20]

Development

The development process of Windows 11 is considerably different from previous releases. Microsoft has been working on Cobalt since October 2020, with preview builds being released to the Dev Channel with a weekly cadence for the most part. The channel has been switched to the release branch (co_release) in April 2021 with build 21354. Around this time, the company also began work on the Windows 11 user experience in a separate co_refresh branch, which was bumped to the 216xx build range, whereas the public co_release branch was in the 213xx build range.

After the release of build 21390 in May 2021, the release branch was bumped to the 219xx build range and the main user interface work from the co_refresh was merged to it. The Cobalt core is complete as of build 22000.1, although work on the user experience further continues in the refresh branch, now bumped to the 221xx range. This work is being continuously merged to the co_release branch and released in the form of cumulative updates for build 22000 to the Dev Channel, starting with build 22000.51.

List of known builds

This list only includes builds of the original Windows 11 release in October 2021. For builds released from the active development branch that has been released to the Dev Channel since September 2021, see Nickel.

Pre-Dev Channel

Dev Channel

Beta

Release Preview

References

  1. 1.0 1.1 Warren, Tom. Windows 11’s default wallpapers are Microsoft’s best yet, The Verge. 16 June 2021.
  2. Panay, Panos. Introducing Windows 11, Windows Experience Blog. 24 June 2021.
  3. Woodman, Aaron. Windows 11 available on October 5, Windows Experience Blog. 31 August 2021.
  4. 4.0 4.1 Claburn, Thomas. Microsoft releases Windows 11 Insider Preview, attempts to defend labyrinth of hardware requirements, The Register. 28 June 2021.
  5. Bowden, Zac. Panos Panay teases 'next generation of Windows' is coming in fireside chat at Ignite 2021, Windows Central. 2 March 2021.
  6. Bowden, Zac. Satya Nadella teases major updates coming soon to Windows during Build 2021 keynote, Windows Central. 25 May 2021.
  7. Nadella, Satya. Build Opening, Microsoft. 25 May 2021.
  8. GitHub commit to Windows IT Pro documentation, 1 May 2021.
  9. Microsoft. Windows 10, version 21H1, Windows 10, version 20H2 and Windows 10, version 2004 required Windows diagnostic events and fields. Archived from the original on May 24 2021.
  10. GitHub commit to Windows IT Pro documentation. 2 June 2021.
  11. GitHub commit to internal Azure taxonomy documentation. 4 June 2021. Archived from the original on 18 June 2021.
  12. Win1Leaks. Post on Microsoft redirects pertaining to Windows 11 (in Russian), 20 May 2021.
  13. Microsoft. Windows 11 live stream event page. 24 June 2021.
  14. Bowden, Zac. Microsoft will unveil 'the next generation of Windows' on June 24, Windows Central. 2 June 2021.
  15. Warren, Tom. Microsoft’s Panos Panay on building Windows 11 during a pandemic, Android, and the leak, The Verge. 25 June 2021.
  16. Aggiornamenti Lumia. What a curious name via Twitter, 16 September 2021.
  17. The Windows Team. Update on Windows 11 minimum system requirements, Windows Insider Blog. 28 June 2021.
  18. The Windows Team. Update on Windows 11 minimum system requirements and the PC Health Check app, Windows Insider Blog. 27 August 2021.
  19. Warren, Tom. Microsoft won’t stop you installing Windows 11 on older PCs, The Verge. 27 August 2021.
  20. Hollister, Sean. Microsoft is threatening to withhold Windows 11 updates if your CPU is old, The Verge. 28 August 2021.