Windows 11 is on the way and will be available as a free upgrade during the holiday season later this year. Better gaming performance, support for Android apps, and a visual overhaul are just a few of the changes Microsoft announced for the latest iteration of its operating system.
But if you don’t want to wait for the official rollout, you can get a taste of the Windows Insider program, designed for first-time users who want to try out software updates ahead of time in exchange for a few bugs.
While the majority of testers reported that the OS preview edition is mostly stable, using any beta software comes with its own risks. Testing a program before its official launch makes your computer more likely to crash, and your favorite app won’t fully work is always a possibility, so make sure you understand the risks before you decide to try Windows 11.
Don’t worry, if this happens you can always go back to Windows 10, but you might lose data and programs along the way. To avoid any mishaps, make sure all your files are backed up and secured elsewhere before trying Windows 11.
New features in Windows 11
If you’ve avoided the Windows 11 hype so far and aren’t sure what the upgrade will do for you, there’s a lot to look forward to. For starters, this new version has given Windows visuals a complete overhaul that looks a lot more like a mobile operating system – there are more rounded corners, streamlined icons, and new color schemes.
Windows 11 also lets you run Android apps on your computer just like you would on your phone, although those apps should be installed from the smaller Amazon Appstore rather than the main Google Play store you may be familiar with.
For gamers, the integration with the Xbox platform is much tighter: Xbox Game Pass will be integrated and you will be able to stream games from Microsoft game consoles on the same network. Two technologies built into the Xbox Series X and Xbox Series S are also coming to Windows 11: AutoHDR, for more balanced graphics, and DirectStorage, for faster access to game resources stored on disc.
[Related: The graphics settings that actually matter for video games (and what they do)]
As you may have guessed, Microsoft Teams is integrated with the new operating system, which also offers more options for the layout of open windows, improvements to virtual desktops and widgets that appear in the bar. stain. That’s not all, as Microsoft could unveil more new features before the full launch of Windows 11.
At the same time, some features of Windows 10 are being removed, including the timeline feature that syncs app activity on PCs and some customization options for the Start menu and taskbar. Other features, such as Cortana and Skype, will be less prevalent, and Internet Explorer will finally be phased out and replaced by Microsoft Edge, which will have a legacy mode for really old sites that you may still need to access.
Test the beta version of Windows 11
Microsoft has released the minimum system requirements for Windows 11 (which includes a 1 GHz processor and 4 GB of RAM), but for now it is waiving some of them. In other words, you can try out the new operating system even if your PC does not meet these requirements. But if you do, you do so at your own risk, as you might see more bugs and issues than you normally would with a beta test.
You can join the Windows Insider program by going to this page in a web browser and signing in with your Microsoft account. You can also go to Windows settings on your PC and choose Update and security, then Windows Insider Program, and finally To start. The wizard will alert you if your computer does not meet the minimum system requirements for Windows 11, but you can still continue.
Follow the onscreen instructions to download Windows 11 beta and set it up on your PC. Once downloaded and installed, only the operating system will have changed, which means all of your files, folders, and apps will remain in place. As a Windows Insider, you’ll continue to get preview versions of Windows 11 even after it’s officially launched, which means you’ll be able to test any updates released by the company ahead of time.
[Related: How to back up and protect all your precious data]
If you only want to test Windows 11, you can exit the Windows Insider program at any time, either through this page on the web or by going to Update and security in the Settings pane of your PC and choosing Windows Insider Program. When you leave, you’ll keep the beta of the operating system you downloaded, but you won’t get any more updates until Windows 11 officially launches.
If you’d rather go back to Windows 10, this is easily done for the first 10 days after upgrading, even if you’ve already exited the Windows Insider program. On the Windows 11 Settings screen, choose System, Recovery, and To return to. After those 10 days have passed, you will need to perform a clean reinstallation of Windows 10, which will erase your files, folders, and programs. So I hope you remembered to run this backup. Open Windows 11 Settings, then choose Windows Update, Windows Insider Program, and Deregister this device immediately.