Windows 11 is here, and Microsoft has been bullish in the promotion of its upcoming desktop OS. A lot of its key features have been well-publicised, from an all-new design language to revamped Start menu and stock apps. There’s also a new taskbar, direct Microsoft Teams integration and native support for Android apps.
However, these are common knowledge for most people with a keen interest in Windows 11. It’s only by diving a little deeper into the beta (available to everyone via the Windows Insider Program) that we find some of the more subtle changes. With that in mind, here are seven key changes in Windows 11 that you might have missed
Changes to File Explorer menus
The redesigned File Explorer is one of Windows 11’s most high-profile changes. Key updates include new folder icons and a streamlined UI. However, this includes a brand-new navigation system at the top of the window.
Gone are the classic File, Home, Share and View tabs, with key commands such as New Folder, Cut, Copy and Paste in their place. Some buttons also change depending on what you have selected – a .png file offers the option to set it as the desktop background or rotate it, for example.
However, this new streamlined design doesn’t mean all the previous settings have been removed. Instead, they’re located within three drop-down menus. One provides the option to sort and group, another for how the files/folders are displayed and a third for many of the settings we’d previously find within the File menu.
How long will updates take?
If you often put off updating your PC, you’re not alone. One of the main reasons for this is uncertainty over how long they’ll take. Having your device out of action for 2 minutes will probably be fine; 2 hours less so.
Microsoft is helping to solve this problem in Windows 11 with estimated update times. Within the Windows Update section of Settings and power menu will now display how long any pending updates are expected to take.
The Settings menu has had plenty of attention in Windows 11, but there’s one change you might not have noticed. Microsoft will now recommend settings to you, if it thinks something is worth your attention.
For example, in the Power & battery settings, the screenshot below mentions that the device is set to never sleep and the screen to never turn off. This could deplete your battery life more quickly, so there’s the option to quickly make a change.
Microsoft has made plenty of tweaks to the Windows 11 Settings menu. One of the most interesting new features is the option to control how much installed apps run in the background. This only works for some pre-installed apps, but offers a choice between always, power optimised (the recommended option) and never.
Within Advanced network settings, you’ll find another new option. You can now quickly enable or disable individual Wi-Fi or Ethernet adapter at the click of a button. The down arrow also provides an overview of each adapter’s current status.
However, one of the lesser-known updates is that it’s now taken on options that were previously available elsewhere. One such example is the classic ‘Volume mixer’ window – it’s now available under System > Sound. One new setting added in Windows 11 is the option to control sound on an app-by-app basis.
Three audio output options that were previously exclusive to the Control Panel – Format, Volume and Enhance Audio – are all now located within the Settings menu. There’s also a new, streamlined set of options for the speakers and microphone.
Streamlined backup options
Within the new Settings menu, you’ll also find a redesigned backup page. It’s promoting the option Microsoft wants you to use – via its OneDrive cloud storage service.
If you’re looking to back up your files to an external storage device or perform a full backup, you’ll have to look elsewhere. These are now found via System > Storage > Advanced storage settings > Back-up options. For an easier alternative, they can still be found within the legacy Control Panel too.
One of Windows 11’s visual changes that you might not have noticed is the slightly taller taskbar. It’s around six pixels taller than the Windows 10 version, presumably for easier use as a touchscreen or with a stylus.
However, you are stuck with this vertical arrangement – Windows 11 doesn’t let you change the taskbar position. There’s also no longer an option for app labels within the taskbar.
Get the old context menu back
Windows 11 has a new context menu, which appears when you right-click an item anywhere throughout the user interface. It features the new font and rounded corners we’ve come to associate with the new OS, but there is a quick way to access the Windows 10 version.
At the bottom of the menu, just click the ‘Show more options’ button. If you prefer, it’s also available using the Shift + F10 keyboard shortcut.