Windows 11 gets its first big update. This is what’s inside.

They say you can’t teach an old dog new tricks. Fortunately, the same cannot be said for your computer.

After launching Windows 11 last fall, Microsoft is improving it with the first of the many regular “feature updates” that the operating system will get over its lifetime.

The update is designed to make our computers “easier and safer to use,” said Panos Panay, Microsoft’s chief product officer for Windows and Hardware, and that the new software began rolling out to users in more than 190 countries on Tuesday. But what actually awaits you on the other side of this update? And what happens if your computer is not compatible with it?

Here’s what you should know about how to change Windows.

People who are already using Windows 11 on their PC can install this new update for free. Some people who are still using Windows 10 on their PC may be able to upgrade to this updated version of Windows for free as well. To check, open the Settings app on your PC, click Windows Update, and then click Check for updates.

Lots of tweaks and small tweaks, you must be a real power user to notice. But some of the changes Microsoft made here are a little easier – and perhaps more impactful – than others. Here are a few things you might want to keep your eyes peeled for:

  • Live captions at the system level. Videos, podcasts, live radio broadcasts – If you want to hear them, Windows 11 will try to transcribe them on the screen for you. Features like this – which can be hugely useful for the hard of hearing and people who leave subtitles all the time – are more popular on smartphones than on computers, but fortunately that’s starting to change. (A similar feature will arrive in the Apple macOS Ventura software update in October.)
  • Customizable start menu. Right now, the Start menu in Windows 11 shows you a mix of files and programs you think you should see, as well as apps that might be “pinned” there for quick access. But in this update, you’ll be able to tell Windows what you’d like to see more of.
  • Voice control for your computer. This feature isn’t technically out yet — Microsoft refers to it as “Preview” — but Voice Access was created to help people control their computers using spoken words, not keystrokes or mouse clicks.
  • New touch gestures. If your computer has a touch screen and/or switches to a tablet, these new gestures — like swipe up to open the Start menu — might help you get around Windows a little faster.
  • Built-in camera effects. Not all computers will support this, but some will be able to use the new “studio” effects to customize your look on video calls and broadcasts without having to rely on tools built into third-party apps. (Think of blurring the background, for example, or modifying your video to make it look like you’re making eye contact.)

It’s not as easy to access all the new Windows 11 features as the others.

Some, like the Smart App Control feature that uses AI to determine if an app you just installed is legitimate or malicious software, require you to perform a clean install instead of updating your PC the way you’ve always done. This means having to erase your computer’s storage and install Windows 11 from scratch — or buying a new computer with the updated software already installed.

Meanwhile, you won’t find some of the other features Microsoft discussed how to integrate into Windows 11 if you install the update too soon. Extensions like the new Photos app and tabs in Windows’ File Explorer — which should make jumping over different folders on your PC much faster — won’t be available for use until sometime in October.

How can I get the update?

If you’re already using the latest version of Windows 11, you should be able to get the update pretty quickly — just check the Windows Update section of your PC’s Settings app. And don’t worry if the update notification doesn’t appear for a while; Microsoft says the “phased and measured” process can take some time, and sometimes boils down to when the company thinks your PC is “ready.”

But what if your computer is still running Windows 10?

First, there’s nothing wrong with that – me too. And if your computer is compatible with this new software, there’s a good chance it will let you know in the Windows Update section of the Settings app.

Windows 11 is now available, but not everyone will be able to upgrade easily

But here’s the hard truth: Not every Windows 10 PC can upgrade to Windows 11. (For many people, myself included, this is due to stricter hardware security requirements.) And based on how Microsoft likes to check the names of devices The new computer. When they announce big updates like these, it’s pretty obvious that they want you to buy a brand new PC.

If this is something you were thinking of doing anyway, check it out. But if your current computer still does everything you need to, don’t feel pressured to buy new hardware just to use a new program. Microsoft said it will continue to support Windows 10 until October 2025, and that includes regular updates with new features — not just security patches. (In fact, the Windows 10 equivalent of this update will be available next month.)

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