However, this hasn’t stopped many people speculating about a potential Windows 11. These amounted to nothing more than concept videos until recently, when Microsoft began teasing ‘the next generation of Windows’.
This felt more significant than a feature update, even before Microsoft announced a Windows-themed event for 24 June. Now, after an early build of it leaked online, Windows 11 is almost certain to be the main topic on the agenda. Here’s everything you need to know.
When will Windows 11 be announced?
Microsoft's recently announced a virtual event for 24 June, subtitled ‘Join us to see what’s next for Windows’. It will begin at 11am ET/4pm BST/5pm CET, with presentations from both Microsoft CEO Satya Nadella and Chief Product Officer Panos Panay.
Initially, many people thought this would just be for Windows 10’s 21H2 update, codenamed ‘Sun Valley’. However, it looks like those changes will form the backbone of Windows 11, instead.
An early build of Windows 11 leaked online on 15 June, making the official announcement of the new version on 24 June a near-certainty.
However, you might be waiting a few months for the OS to officially roll out to users.
The Windows Insider Program opens the possibility of earlier access, although these are typically early builds and so usually have more bugs. Most people shouldn't install them on their main PC.
How much will Windows 11 cost?
We’ve grown accustomed to free feature updates since Windows 10 launched, but it might be a different story for Windows 11. As it’ll be a whole new version of the operating system, expect to pay a fee to get it on your existing device. For context, here’s how much it currently costs to upgrade to Windows 10:
- Windows 10 Home - £119.99/US$139
- Windows 10 Pro - £219.99/US$199.99
- Windows 10 Pro for Workstations – £339/US$309
Of course, that won’t be your only way to start using Windows 11. Shortly after it launches, expect plenty of new laptops and PCs to be running the operating system out of the box, negating the need or a separate purchase.
Read more in our separate article on how much Windows 11 might cost.
Will Windows 11 be available on the same devices as Windows 10?
When Windows 11 launches, it will likely have a similar range of compatible devices to Windows 10. However, Microsoft may use this opportunity to drop support for older hardware – we're talking devices that already struggle to run the latest version of Windows 10.
With dual-screen devices likely to increase in popularity over the next few years, it’s likely Microsoft will also focus on optimising Windows 11 for these new form factors.
What new features will Windows 11 have?
Microsoft's Sun Valley project for Windows was first revealed in late 2020, but until recently many of the new features were expected to arrive in Windows 10's 21H2 update.
However, following the announcement of the 24 June Windows event, rumours suggested this will take the form of a brand new version of Windows - Windows 11. After an early build of the OS was leaked online, it's almost certain that Sun Valley will turn out to be Windows.
Here's what else the leak revealed about the new operating system. Much of this information is based on sister site PCWorld's hands-on experience.
The main thing you'll notice is a significant visual overhaul. Windows 10 has maintained a similar look and feel throughout its lifespan, but that's about to change with Windows 11.
A new taskbar moves icons to the centre, although this can easily be reverted to a more traditional layout. It's where you'll find a brand new Start Menu, sporting a very similar design to the recently-cancelled Windows 10X.
It features a grid of customisable 'Pinned' icons, with separate 'All apps' section for everything else you have installed. The 'Recommended' heading below displays recently used files, apps and folders - enabling quick, easy access.
Some of the stock Windows 11 apps have also had a subtle redesign, such as File Explorer. A recent tweet shows what you can expect.
Multitasking looks set to be much more fluid, thanks to new Snap Assist functionality. Hovering over the maximise button allows you to choose the arrangement of apps on the screen, as you can see below.
Widgets haven't been a major feature of recent versions of Windows, but that looks set to change. Only Microsoft's News and Interests widgets are displayed in the early build, but it'll likely be opened up to third parties in the future.
This early build also revealed Windows 11's brand new startup sound. Check out the five-second clip below:
If you're interested, ADeltaX has also screenshotted every step of the Windows 11 setup process, so you know exactly what to expect. The first tweet in the thread is below:
Windows 11 Setup pic.twitter.com/uNZnVoarF5— ADeltaX (@ADeltaXForce) June 15, 2021
For a visual look at the leaked build, our sister site PCWorld's Mark Hachman has been testing it out:
However, it didn't show everything. Many stock apps weren't available, while it retained the same Action Center as current versions of Windows 10. A redesign of the latter is expected, featuring separate sections for notifications, quick settings and music.
Windows 11 may also be in for more new system sounds, judging by a recent video. The official Windows YouTube channel uploaded a compilation video of previous startup sounds, at 4000% reduced speed:
The rationale behind the video is explained in its description - the sounds supposedly have a meditative effect, allowing you to tame your excitement for the 24 June event. The video is now unlisted on YouTube, but conveniently lasts exactly 11 minutes.
Another indicator that Windows 11 is on the way comes from Microsoft's Lifecycle page for Windows 10. It says that the operating system will no longer be supported after 14 October 2025, describing it as a 'Retirement Date'.
However, it's not clear how long this information has been there - most people aren't regularly monitoring the page. Microsoft also usually ends support for each version of Windows after around a decade, so this shouldn't come as a huge surprise.
If you needed any more evidence, an official Microsoft support document confirms the existence of Windows 11. A Github listing discovered by Windows Latest sees the operating system explicitly mentioned.
As alluded to above, Microsoft’s approach to future versions of Windows will also likely be inspired by Windows 10X, despite the spin-off operating system being cancelled before it launched. Windows 10X was intended to be a web-first, stripped-back version of Windows, offering a simpler alternative to the regular version of Windows.
Previous Sun Valley features
Here are the features previously rumoured for Sun Valley. It's highly likely there will be some overlap.
Sun Valley is expected to revamp the Windows user experience, making it more in keeping with Microsoft’s ‘Fluent UI’ design language. This means more floating windows and rounded corners, with many Windows stock apps being redesigned.
These are expected to include the likes of File Explorer, Settings and Alarms & Clock. File and Copy dialog boxes are also likely to be updated.
Elsewhere, Sun Valley will have a brand-new Action Center, splitting Quick Settings, Notifications and a music controller into separate sections. Its design is expected to be inspired by Windows 10X, making it easy to navigate using touchpad, mouse, pen or finger.
Talking of touch input, Microsoft is also expected to update the on-screen keyboard. This will allow you to customise the colour, size and transparency of each key and its border. The separate tablet mode will also now support gestures.
Various new multitasking features have also been mooted. These include separate virtual desktops for each display you’re using, alongside the ability to remember which apps are connected using Snap Assist when connecting/disconnecting a monitor.
There will also be the option to reduce clutter, with Microsoft allowing you to delete many system apps which aren’t necessary for the day-to-day running of the device. It’s not clear exactly which these will be, though.
Managing external cameras looks set to get easier, while dedicated battery usage graphs will make it easier to extend battery.
The rumoured Sun Valley features are far more significant than anything we’ve seen on Windows 10 in recent years, but they don’t quite justify the ‘next generation of Windows’ description. Should Microsoft bring another major version of Windows to market (be it Windows 11 or something else), expect plenty more changes we haven’t heard about yet.