Windows 11 is here. The latest version of Microsoft's operating system has been in general release since October 5th and, like its predecessor, is available as a free upgrade to users currently on Windows 10.
For many businesses, however, moving to a new operating system (OS) can be a complex process. As well as the time needed to roll out an upgrade across potentially thousands of endpoints, there will always be the question of how quickly users will embrace any changes. What's more, there may be other reasons to postpone a rollout, such as incompatible hardware or worries over bugs that have yet to be ironed out.
Sooner or later though, upgrading is likely to become a necessity. For Windows 10 users, there's still plenty of time to take the slow path - with support set to continue until 2025. However, if you're still one of the many businesses on Windows 8, 7 or even XP, which is still in use in some firms despite being 20 years old, now may be the perfect time to get up-to-date.
So if you're on an older system, or decide your employees would benefit from the latest features and functionality, what should you know about what's new and different in the latest version of the software?
1. Higher hardware requirements
The first thing to check if you're considering Windows 11 is whether your hardware is up to scratch. For some firms that are still running older machines, this may be an especially pressing question, as Windows 11's requirements are notably higher than previous versions of the OS.
For example, you'll need a 64-bit processor and at least 4GB of RAM in order to run Windows 11, as well as 64GB of storage space. While this should be a given for most modern machines, many firms still maintain legacy hardware that could struggle to meet these demands.
Indeed, one study by Lansweeper estimated more than half of enterprise devices (55%) don't have CPUs that meet these minimum standards. This could therefore mean expensive capital expenditure on new desktops and laptops in order to ensure every user can adopt Windows 11.
Another key concern for many businesses is the requirement for machines to have a Trusted Platform Module 2.0 (TPM) as part of Microsoft's efforts to boost security. Lansweeper estimated nearly one in five business laptops lack this hardware.
2. A stronger security setup
Microsoft has pledged to make Windows 11 the most secure OS ever, but this comes with a few issues that may cause difficulties for some firms. For example, related to the hardware requirements above, the need for PCs to have a TPM could cause many firms headaches.
This is a chip connected to the processor that’s designed to store biometric user info and other unique identification data on the device, offering greater hardware-based cybersecurity solutions such as passwordless authentication.
Even if your machines have this chip, you might not be aware of it, or not know how to activate it. Therefore, you may need to enable it either in Windows or the PC's BIOS before upgrading. The same applies to Secure Boot technology, which is another security requirement brought in by Windows 11.
If you aren't sure if your devices have these essential security tools, you can find out by using Microsoft's PC Health Check application, which will tell you what requirements may be missing. There are several third-party tools that can also do the same thing.
3. Focusing on productivity
Once you get up and running, you'll notice that Microsoft has made improving productivity and hybrid working a key focus within Windows 11. However, you may only be able to make full use of this if you're already using Microsoft software throughout your business as the firm aims to increase synergy across its product offerings.
Deeper integration with services such as Teams means users can launch into these tools directly from the taskbar, for example, while new Snap Layouts and Snap Groups features aim to make it easier to use Windows across multiple monitors and transfer from one screen to another.
4. Changes and removal of features
Naturally, Windows 11 comes with a range of new features intended to make life easier for users, such as the aforementioned productivity tools. But it will also see the end of other features that some businesses may have used in the past.
For example, in terms of software, the aging Internet Explorer (IE) has finally been fully replaced with the more modern Microsoft Edge browser - though enterprise users that may still need access to legacy IE-only services can still use the IE Mode within Edge to do this.
Elsewhere, the Cortana voice assistant is no longer available by default, though again, it's still available in the options for those who've become familiar with it.
What's more, Windows 10's lightweight S Mode has gone from the professional edition of Windows 11. This option focused on performance and security by offering more restricted functionality, such as only allowing users to install Windows Store apps and removing many admin tools, and may mean organizations with tough usage policies need to find other solutions.
5. A simplified update schedule
Users may also need to be aware of changes Microsoft is making to the way it delivers updates for Windows 11. While it will still receive regular security patches, the twice-a-year upgrade for features and functionality will be replaced with a single annual rollout, which should allow the company more time to polish updates and ensure they're ready.
General manager for Microsoft 365 Wangui McKelvey explained in a blog post this is in response to feedback from many users indicating that an annual timeline fits better with their business, while a simplified servicing plan should make this easier to deploy. She added that it will use a 24-month lifecycle of support for Home or Pro editions, and 36 months of support for Enterprise and Education editions.