The Microsoft Windows 11 release date to the public was October 5, 2021. This latest version is known as “21H2”, but there have been several minor updates to Microsoft’s latest operating system, with significant updates planned for the future.
If you are looking to update your current operating system, the latest version of Windows 11 is for you.
Understand Windows 11 version numbers
Microsoft releases two types of updates:
- Feature updates are the major annual releases where Windows gets significant new features and additions.
- Quality updates are incremental updates that contain bug fixes and security updates.
Updates marked as “cumulative” include all previous updates. So you don’t have to install all the previous ones first.
The major feature version numbers consist of two parts, the first part represents the year of release, and the second part describes whether the release occurred in the first or second half of that year. For example, version 20H2 would have been released in the second half of 2020.
Quality updates are marked with the full year and month. So Quality Update 2022-01 would have been released in January 2022. Multiple quality updates can occur in the same month. Each update has a unique Knowledgebase (KB) number. For example, Windows 11 version 2022-01 is known as KB5010690.
The built-in antivirus package, Microsoft Defender, receives separate updates called Security Intelligence updates. Likewise, the Microsoft Edge web browser and Microsoft Office have their own separate update paths.
The latest version of Windows is Windows 11, version 21H2
At the time of writing, the latest current version of Windows 11 is 21H2. The latest cumulative quality update is 2022-05 KB 5013943.
A new user interface (UI)
Windows 11 has a completely redesigned user interface. This new version of the Windows interface reimagines the Start Menu setup found in previous versions of Windows such as Windows 7 and 10. The “Metro” tile system that was seen in Windows 8 and 8.1 is completely gone, even the remnants that were present in Windows 10. The taskbar is now centered in a way reminiscent of Apple macOS and iOS for iPad. However, it can be left-aligned if desired. The search bar is now also at the top of the menu.
Microsoft’s voice assistant Cortana is notably absent from Windows 11 as the company shuts down its Siri competitor. While Siri has proven popular on iPhone and iPad, Windows users haven’t been quite as excited about the voice assistant’s functionality.
The new Action Center brings together notifications and controls for Wi-Fi, Bluetooth, and other common functions. Microsoft is also slowly ditching the Control Panel in favor of the more streamlined Settings app.
The Windows subsystem for Android
Windows 11 offers the ability to install and run Android apps from the Amazon Store in Windows without the need for a smartphone. Technically, this is not yet a working feature in the public release of Windows 11, but it is accessible as a beta feature. We’ve tested this early implementation, and while it’s more or less working, it’s still unpolished.
The Windows subsystem for Linux
As with the Android solution above, this feature allows you to run Linux software on Windows 11. Unlike the Android feature, this is already part of the main release; You must enable and install this component under Windows Features.
New Windows system security standards
Windows 11 emits a lot of legacy code that could cause security vulnerabilities. Additionally, running Windows 11 requires a higher level of hardware security. Specifically, a TPM (Trusted Platform Module) is required or you cannot install it.
This TPM requirement breaks compatibility with older CPUs and can only be installed on an Intel 8th Gen AMD CPU or Ryzen 3000 series.
Improved game performance and Xbox integration
Microsoft has fully integrated the Xbox app and Xbox Game Pass service into Windows 11. In addition, Windows 11 promises the best support for video games. It is the best Windows OS for running 12th Gen Intel CPUs and offers the best support for technologies like GPU-based memory acceleration.
Windows 11 is available in different editions
Windows 11 comes in several editions:
- Per education.
- Pro for workstations.
- Mixed Reality.
- Windows servers
For most Windows users, only the Home and Pro versions are of interest. It is important to understand that you can only upgrade or upgrade your version of Windows to another version of the same edition. For example, Windows 10 Enterprise users can only upgrade to Windows 11 Enterprise. To change your Windows edition, you must purchase a Windows license for that edition.
Understand release channels
When we refer to the latest version of Windows 11, we are specifically referring to the “channel” of the major release. This is the update channel that receives updates that have been thoroughly tested and approved for every Windows user.
The Windows Insider Channel provides all users with access to future versions of Windows and the features that will come with those versions. Insiders can provide insight and feedback on these new features and help Microsoft perfect them before release. We do not recommend using the Insider channel on your main, mission-critical computer as there is always a possibility of instability and data loss.
The Dev (developer) channel offers Windows 11 updates without being tied to future Windows updates. This channel is intended for highly technical users involved in Windows software development.
Once you switch to one of these channels, you’re no longer on the same track as the main Windows build, and so the version numbers discussed here don’t apply.
How to check what version of Windows you have
Checking your Windows version is easy. Just select them Start button > Settings app > system > Around.
Then check under Windows Specifications next to “Version”. In the example here you can see that it is version 21H2. Many users and publications expected the first major update to Windows 11 in the first half of 2022, but at the time of writing, version 22H1 is nowhere to be seen. Instead, the next expected release is codenamed 22H2 sunny valley.
How to update to the latest version of Windows
Whether you’re using Windows 10 or are already a Windows 11 user, all you have to do to initiate an update is head on Start menu button > Settings app > windows update.
You’ll either see pending updates or that you’re up to date. Choose whether to install updates immediately or check for updates manually by selecting Check for updates. Windows does the rest.
If you are a Windows 10 user who wants to update to Windows 11 and you don’t see the update, go to the Windows 11 download page and choose the best installation method. We recommend trying the Windows 11 installation wizard first, but if you want to upgrade another computer you can use the Media Creation Tool or burn a downloaded ISO file to a disc. If you have a Windows 10 license key, you can use it to activate Windows 11.
Where can you buy Windows 11?
As mentioned above, as a Windows 10 user, you can get a free upgrade to Windows 11 as long as your computer meets the minimum requirements. However, if, for example, you assembled a computer from components and you need a Windows 11 license for this, you will have to pay for a license.
You can buy Windows 11 directly from the Microsoft Store, where you get a digital entitlement linked to your Microsoft account. You can also buy Windows 11 from third parties, either as a physical copy that includes hard drives or a pre-installed flash drive, or just as a license key. In the previous section, anyone can download and install Windows 11 without a key. Later you can activate your copy by linking your Microsoft account or entering the purchased key.
It’s possible to get heavily discounted keys from third-party vendors who resell volume license keys, but be aware that doing so can be risky and potentially against license terms.
Should you get the latest version of Windows?
At the time of writing, Microsoft has announced that it considers Windows 11 ready for general use almost a year after its release. That means anyone waiting for stability good enough for business or mission-critical computing can now consider an upgrade.
However, apart from security and stability updates, it’s generally not a good idea to update to a newer version of Windows once the update is available. It is better to wait until any new bugs or issues are discovered and fixed by early adopters before endangering your computer.