Photo Credit: Microsoft
Windows 11 is set to reach general availability stage sometime later this year. But ahead of that, Microsoft has released the first Windows 11 Insider Preview build for developers to test the new experience. The Windows 11 preview includes features such as the centrally-placed Start menu and taskbar as well as new themes and sounds — almost all that was showcased at the virtual Windows event last week. In addition to the debut of Windows 11 preview build, Microsoft seems to be hinting at an October release date for Windows 11. The launch could happen precisely on October 20.
The first Windows 11 Insider Preview (build 22000.51) carries most of the features that Microsoft showcased at the Windows event last week. These include all-new Start menu and taskbar that now sit in the centre of the display and come with new animation effects, enhanced Notification Centre and Quick Settings, and new themes. The Windows 11 preview also includes the new sounds including the new startup sound that will refresh your experience. Further, there is an updated File Explorer that will show context menus when right-clicking on the screen.
Microsoft has also provided widgets that you can look at by clicking on the dedicated Widgets icon in the taskbar. You can also swipe from the left using the touch bar/ display or hitting Win + W on the keyboard to access the widgets. There are, by default, widgets for calendar, weather, local traffic, Microsoft To Do lists, OneDrive photos, sports and esports, stock watchlist, and tips. The widgets section also includes a news feed section to show personalised news content.
The first Windows 11 preview brings the new multitasking features introduced by Microsoft at the launch event, including Snap layouts and Snap Groups. There is also access to multiple virtual desktops. You'll additionally be able to look at the new Microsoft Store that has an updated interface and a dedicated Entertainment tab.
In terms of specific hardware-focussed changes, the first Windows 11 Insider Preview build brings a new docking experience for users working on multiple monitors. There are also features including dynamic refresh rate and display improvements such as Auto HDR support. For machines that have an accelerometer, the Windows 11 lock screen also has a parallax motion effect.
The Windows 11 preview has gets touch keyboard personalisations, voice typing launcher, improved gesture controls, pen menu for stylus inputs, and an updated input switcher.
Microsoft has also provided Wi-Fi 6E support for the machines that have the compatible hardware and driver in place. Furthermore, Microsoft Office has received a new preview build to align with the Windows 11 beta.
Having said that, the first Windows 11 preview does exclude some of the features that Microsoft showcased last week — one of them is Microsoft Teams integration and the other is support for Android apps on Windows. Both are currently under testing and are likely to be provided in a later preview build.
It is advised to download the first Windows 11 preview only on secondary devices as it includes some known issues. These include limited taskbar that will not be shown across multiple monitors, unavailability of the ‘Power mode' setting on the Power & battery page, and misaligned widgets on external monitors. There are also many bugs that could impact your day-to-day experience.
To download the first Windows 11 Insider Preview build on your Windows 10 PC, you will need to enrol in the Windows Insiders programme and then visit Settings > Update & Security > Windows Insider Program. Microsoft is providing the testing build specifically on compatible machines, though it has brought some changes in the minimum hardware requirement for testing Windows 11 on a diverse range of systems. The changes include support for Intel 7th generation and AMD Zen 1. However, the fundamental minimum requirements remain the same — greater than 1GHz and dual-core processors, 4GB RAM, and 64GB of onboard storage.
Microsoft has also temporarily removed its PC Health Check app that was meant to allow Windows 10 users to see whether their PCs are compatible with Windows 11. The app will, however, be back around the time of Windows 11's general availability.
Alongside the release of the first Windows 11 preview, Microsoft is supposedly hinting at an October release date for Windows 11. As The Verge reports, the release date was suggested multiple times during the Windows event last week. Those hints include a Microsoft Teams message from Surface engineer Stevie Bathiche that appeared on a Windows 11 screen showcased during the virtual event. The message addressed to Microsoft Chief Product Officer Panos Panay reads, “Excited to turn it up to 11… can't wait for October!”
In other instances, Microsoft even suggested October 20 as the release date for Windows 11. It could also be the time when the Redmond, Washington-based company would unveil its new Surface devices based on the new Windows operating system.
Microsoft hasn't officially confirmed when exactly it is planning to release Windows 11. The company has only said “this holiday” and “this fall” for the availability of the new Windows version.