Here’s what you should know about how Windows is changing.
Those 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, then click Check for Updates.
Lots of small tweaks and modifications, many of which you’d have to be a real power user to notice. But some of the changes Microsoft made here are a little easier to spot — and perhaps more impressive — than others. Here are some you’ll want to keep your eyes open for:
- Systemwide Live Caption. Video, podcast, live radio stream – Windows 11 will try to transcribe it for you on-screen if you want to listen to it. Features like this—which can be extremely helpful for those with hearing impairments and leaving subtitles on all the time—are more common on smartphones than computers, but thankfully that’s starting to change. (A similar feature will come in Apple’s macOS Ventura software update in October.)
- Customizable Start Menu. Right now, Windows 11’s Start menu shows you a mix of files and software you think you should be viewing, as well as apps you may have “pinned” for quick access. But in this update, you’ll be able to tell Windows what you want to see more of.
- Voice control for your PC. The feature isn’t technically out yet—Microsoft refers to it as “Preview”—but Voice Access was created to help people control their computers with spoken words, not keystrokes. or mouse click.
- New touch gestures. If your computer has a touch screen and/or turns into a tablet, these new gestures — like swiping up to open the Start menu — can help you speed up Windows a bit.
- Built-in camera effects. Not all PCs will support it, but some of you will be able to use the new “Studio” effects to customize your look on video calls and streams without relying on tools built into third-party apps. (For example, think about blurring your background, or tweaking your video to make it look like you’re making eye contact.)
Accessing all the new features of Windows 11 is not as easy as others.
Some, like the Smart App Control feature, which uses AI to determine whether an app you just installed is legitimate or malware, requiring you to perform a clean install instead of updating your PC as usual. is required. That means wiping out your PC’s storage and installing Windows 11 from scratch — or buying a new computer with updated software already installed.
In the meantime, if you install the update too early, you won’t find some of the other features Microsoft discussed weaving into Windows 11. Additions like a new Photos app and tabs to Windows File Explorer — which should jump to individual folders on your PC pretty quickly — won’t actually be available to use until sometime in October.
How can I get an update?
If you’re already using the most up-to-date version of Windows 11, you should be able to get the update pretty quickly—just check the Windows Update section in your computer’s Settings app. And if the update notification doesn’t appear for a while, don’t worry; Microsoft says its “measured and phased rollout” process can take a while, and sometimes boils down to when the company believes your computer is “ready.”
But what if your computer is still running Windows 10?
First of all, there’s no shame in that – mine is too. And if your PC is compatible with this new software, there’s a good chance the Windows Update section of your Settings app will let you know.
But here’s the hard truth: Not every PC running Windows 10 can upgrade to Windows 11. (For many people, myself included, this is due to more stringent hardware security requirements.) And seeing as how Microsoft likes to name-check new PCs. When the model announces a major update like this, it’s pretty clear they want you to shell out for a new computer.
If this is something you were thinking of doing anyway, definitely go for it. But if your current PC still does everything you need, don’t feel pressured to buy new hardware just to use the new software. Microsoft has 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 become available next month.)