Tech Tips: What consumers need to know about Windows 11

Microsoft has released the latest version of its flagship Windows software. Let’s talk about what you can expect from Windows 11 and what you’ll need to know before considering an upgrade.

Windows 11 offers significant changes to the look and feel of the desktop. The taskbar now is centered across the bottom of the screen, and the icons and windows have been redesigned. The Start menu also has been altered, eliminating the “Live Tiles” look of Windows 10. Under the hood, there’s new integration with Microsoft Teams, as well as improvements to graphics, sound and security.

But it’s the new Windows 11 hardware requirements that will affect users the most. Previous versions of Windows run with relative ease on older computers, but that’s not the case with Windows 11. Because of the changes needed to improve security and system efficiency, Windows 11 requires the PC to have a relatively recent processor. That limits Windows 11 to PCs manufactured within the past few years.

Windows 11 also requires that the PC’s hardware support Secure Boot and TPM 2.0. Secure Boot is what it sounds like: additional protection against malicious code that works when you start up your computer. Secure Boot helps prevent malware from sneaking onto your system. It’s a valuable tool but one that’s only available on current PCs.

A trusted platform module is a bit more complicated. A TPM is a small chip on your computer’s motherboard. It integrates with your computer to provide encryption and authentication. TPMs have been around for a while, but Windows 11 requires TPM version 2.0, which older computers don’t have.

All of this tech talk boils down to the fact that a lot of consumers are going to have to buy new computers to upgrade to Windows 11. You can find out the specific system requirements on Microsoft’s site. You also can use Microsoft’s PC Health Check app to find out if your computer can run Windows 11.

There’s one more detail about running Windows 11 on older PCs that consumers should know. Microsoft has made the controversial decision to allow PCs to install Windows 11 even if they have older, unsupported processors. The catch is that Microsoft says those older computers may not be able to download security updates via Windows Update.

This has IT security experts concerned. Continual software updates are key to minimizing malware, computer viruses and other internet threats. It’s possible this decision may put unknowing consumers at risk. There’s also some question about how this might play out in a real-world situation, since it’s such a departure from previous support models.

With these changes to the system requirements for Windows 11, it’s safe to say that consumers will need to replace their PCs sooner rather than later. Fortunately, if you’re running Windows 10, you should be good as long as Microsoft continues to provide updates and support.

However, if you’re still using previous versions of Windows, it’s time to consider a new computer. You’re better off with a fully supported PC that offers the latest security features.

• Triona Guidry is a freelance writer and consumer technology specialist offering tech support and advice for home computer users. For free weekly tips and news by email, subscribe to her Simple Tech Tips blog at www.lightningtechsupport.com/subscribe.