Windows 11 has landed, and with it comes some big differences to the Windows experience. Whether it’s brand new capabilities or old functions with a new look, Windows 11 looks to have existent new for like historic everyone while still delivering the core functionality that has made Windows a chief of the computing world for another than three decades. You can read our Windows 11 review to see our imprints of the update.
Windows 10 vs Windows 11: A complete redesign
Starting off with the Start Menu, Microsoft did a complete redesign. Pinned apps moved from the right side to the top half and live tiles are now gone and are replaced with static icons in a grid. The search bar is now located in the start menu rather than being part of the taskbar. And those little side panel shortcuts that were on the left side are now at the bottom.
And here’s something not present in the Windows 10 start menu at all, the new recommended section that shows recently used programs and files, which by the way are also synced with OneDrive. Think of this as a much more simplified version of the Timeline feature found in Windows 10’s Task Viewer.
The all apps list, which was on the left side of the start menu in Windows 10, is now its own menu in Windows 11, using a button. And within the all apps list, some older programs like Windows Explorer and Notepad are now part of the list rather than being part of the Windows System or Windows Accessories folder within the list. In fact, those folders are now removed and replaced with a shortcut to Control Panel called Windows Tools, which lists many legacy built-in Windows programs that were previously in those folders.
Windows 10 vs Windows 11: Taskbar changes
Moving on to changes in the taskbar, we see a lot of differences. The icons went from being left aligned to centered, although there is a setting to revert this, and if you look closely the taskbar is also slightly taller in Windows 11, hard to notice but it is there.
The UI for active and idle programs has been changed, it’s now indicated by the color and length of a little line in the taskbar icon with a transparent rounded square around a program when active. The animation in the taskbar for apps that are doing certain actions has been redesigned, for example, here are both animations for downloading or installing something, and here are both animations for apps that need your attention, like the User Account Control prompt. There are now bouncy icon animations when you open or close programs. Badges on apps have gotten a little redesign.
If you hover over the Search or Task View icon, you’ll get little quick actions you can do without needing to click the icon. The Start Button no longer changes color based on your accent color, as you can see. And now here are some features that got removed from the taskbar in Windows 11, firstly, you can only dock the taskbar to the bottom now, no more top left, or right docked taskbars.
Sizing options like small taskbar buttons are now gone, as well as the “never combine” setting that allows you to see text previews of the programs from the taskbar. You also can’t drag and drop files in the taskbar anymore for some reason which is pretty bizarre and right-clicking on the taskbar doesn’t give all those little settings and shortcuts, just a shortcut to taskbar settings.
Windows 10 vs Windows 11: General UI
Now here are just general UI changes, so starting off, say goodbye to the sharp corners in Windows 10 and say hello to the rounded corners in Windows 11 and this is no understatement, every single element in Windows 11 is now round, even the very very old stuff.
There are now new animations for opening, minimizing, and maximizing a window. Windows 10 went for more of a fade approach while in Windows 11, the animation has a lot more resizing and fluidity action going on. Almost every single icon in Windows 11 has been redesigned to stay consistent with its modern design language. Some elements of this were present in Windows 10, however, now it is everywhere, even in legacy areas like the control panel.
As with every modern version of Windows, there’s a new wallpaper. Previously there was the old Hero wallpaper, which was light shining out of a Windows logo, and now the background is much like a blue bloom if that makes any sense. Microsoft also introduced new themes. Previously in Windows 10, there were 4 themes to choose from by default, now there are six. Light mode is also now the new default theme for Windows 11, rather than the hybrid of a dark taskbar and light apps in Windows 10. The Windows logo has gone through a redesign, it now resembles the Microsoft logo a lot more.
The Lock screen has gone through some changes, but it’s pretty underwhelming. To sum it up, elements of the Lock screen have now been centered and the quick status is now removed, you can only show one app that shows detailed status. Windows 11 Now introduces a new blur effect called mica and acrylic. The blur will always show your desktop wallpaper even if the window is on top of a window with a different color, look at how the calculator’s blur shows the desktop wallpaper as opposed to the white blur in the calculator in Windows 10 despite both being in front of Notepad.
Windows 11 now has a new font called, and I’m definitely going to mispronounce this, Segoe UI Variable, which is Microsoft’s modified version of the previous Segoe UI font found in Windows 10. To paraphrase, Microsoft basically says that this is a more pleasing and easier font to read. The screen with the spinning logo when signing in or out, doing updates, restarting, and stuff like that now only shows a black background, unlike Windows 10 where it takes your accent color and sets that as the color of the background.
Similarly, depending on whether you’re using the dark or light mode, opening apps with splash screens will only show a black or white background in Windows 11, rather than conforming the color of the background with the accent color in Windows 10. Context menus throughout Windows 11 have now been updated to Look more modern, however, there is still an option
within the context menu called “Show more options” that allows you to see the old one that is seen in Windows 10 if you need it for some reason.
Alert boxes for things like changing display settings and low battery alerts now have a complete redesign in Windows 11. Unlike Windows 10, Windows 11 now has a colored line at the bottom of some text boxes. Finally, in Windows 11’s Sign-in screen, the text box is now dark instead of white in Windows 10, and the enter arrow looks like it’s part of the text box rather than being on its own in Windows 10.
Windows 10 vs Windows 11: System Sounds
In terms of System sounds, Windows 11 actually has different sounds between its dark mode and light mode. In dark mode, the sounds are a lot more echoed and muted whereas, in light mode, they are clearer and less echoed. It’s actually, very interesting. Here’s a direct comparison of the sounds in Windows 10, Windows 11, and Windows 11’s dark mode.
Windows 10 vs Windows 11: Action Center
Next let’s talk about the Action Center overhaul in Windows 11, which actually isn’t even called Action Center anymore, it’s separated into two menus called Quick Settings and Notifications.
Quick Settings is not only an area that shows the toggles found at the bottom of the Action Center in Windows 10, but it now also shows the new place for your volume, brightness, and even your Wi-Fi controls. In Windows 10, all three of those were in separate menus. Now if you click let’s say the network icon in the system tray, it won’t take you to a separate network flyout, it’ll now take you to the entire quick settings menu instead.
This menu can also be accessed using the Windows + A shortcut on your keyboard, which is the same shortcut that opens the Action Center in Windows 10. The other menu is the notifications menu, which is now part of the calendar. Now, the notifications are found above the calendar instead of within Action Center, and not only are the notifications round, but they’re also no longer inside a bar like it was in Windows 10. You also have a shortcut to Focus assist settings in the settings apps.
This menu can also be accessed using the Windows + N shortcut on your keyboard. And if you’re curious about what’s changed about the calendar, you’ll be pretty disappointed. It has absolutely no integration with anything and the detailed clock that showed seconds is also gone. All it shows is the date, and that’s about it.
Windows 10 vs Windows 11: Widgets Panel
Luckily, you can minimize the calendar within the notification menu if you don’t want to see it. And here’s a little comparison of the news feed in Windows 10 and the widgets panel in Windows 11. Now, don’t be fooled, these are pretty much almost the exact same thing, they just look different and are found in different areas of Windows.
The news feed is found near the system tray and the widgets panel is accessed via a taskbar icon or by using the Windows + W shortcut on your keyboard. The last thing to note is that the news feed is customized using Microsoft Edge while the widgets panel is partially customized within the panel, partially through Microsoft Edge as well.
Windows 10 vs Windows 11: Snap Layouts and multitasking
Microsoft has also made a number of changes to Snap assist and multitasking features. Starting off, the task viewer has now been simplified in Windows 11 and the Timeline feature that is found in Windows 10 has now been removed. You can now choose a different wallpaper for each virtual desktop in Windows 11 rather than only one for every single one in Windows 10. The Snap assist preview now has a frosted glass look rather than the transparent glass in Windows 10.
The animation when you actually preview and snap a window has also been changed. Funnily enough, Windows 10 doesn’t even have animation when you snap the window. And generally speaking, Snap assist is just much smarter now and is able to do more than it used to in Windows 10, so for example, when snapping a window in a quadrant, Windows 11 will assist you in finding other windows while in Windows 10, snapping to a quadrant does nothing. When using snap assist to snap different windows on different parts of the screen, Windows will now automatically sort those windows into a group, and those groups can now be previewed and opened in the taskbar.
Windows 10 doesn’t have this feature, so groups don’t show up when hovering on a taskbar icon. The line seen when resizing apps side-by-side now has a new look. When you’re actually using it, it disappears in Windows 11 while still being present in Windows 10.
Windows 10 vs Windows 11: Android apps
And here’s a look at differences in built-in programs and apps. Now, many of the applications in Windows 11 have been updated and more updates are to come even after its release.
However, because there are just so many to cover in one article, here are just the biggest highlights. Starting with File Explorer, there have been some various UI changes. There’s now a replacement to the Ribbon UI found at the top of File Explorer which tries to simplify and get rid of all the clutter that was the old Ribbon UI. It’ll also have less spaced-out icons by default, which can be reverted if you don’t like that, and 3D Objects is no longer its own dedicated folder.
The Settings App has gotten a complete overhaul, it’s now supposed to be easier to navigate, more organized, and overall just look better. You’ll see more enlarged icons and pictures that make the UI easier to use, and even some new animations. And just like the Settings App, the Microsoft store is also getting a huge revamp with a new UI and various improvements.
However, one of the best parts is that the store is now open to accepting more app types such as PWA which are web apps, Win32 which are like the .exe installers, even android apps, though support for that will be delayed. This app is also coming to Windows 10, Which is a huge bonus. Skype, which was preloaded in Windows 10, has been removed in favor of the Microsoft Teams integration system built into Windows 11. However, you can still install Skype again if you really need it.
Internet Explorer is finally disabled from Windows 11. You can try, it is nowhere to be found, so your only option is Microsoft Edge. It’s still there in Windows 10, but not on Windows 11. Microsoft has also done a lot to make sure Windows 11 is consistent and removing duplicate Windows accessories that were present in Windows 10. So, what they’re basically doing is they’re updating a legacy Windows accessory and removing the duplicate version.
For example, Snip & Sketch has been removed and a newly updated Snipping tool is nowhere with a more modern UI and various features from Snip & Sketch. This is also going to be done with paint in the future, where Paint3D is removed by default and the old MS paint is going to be updated not only with a new look but with new features as well.
Windows Terminal is now a preloaded application in Windows 11 and aims to unify Command Prompt, PowerShell, and other Command lines into just one app. Alarms and Clock are now just called Clock and have a new feature called Focus sessions aimed to help people pace themselves to reach their goals. And aside from other little updates to apps, pretty much all the built-in Windows applications have been and will be updated with Windows 11’s new design language, including rounded corners and new blur effects.
Here’s a quick rundown of preloaded apps on one OS that does not thereby default on the other, and these are apps that I haven’t mentioned yet. 3D Viewer, Math Input Panel, Mixed Reality Portal, OneNote for Windows 10, and the People App are all the preloaded exclusives on Windows 10 while Get Started, Microsoft News, and Microsoft To-Do are the preloaded exclusives in Windows 11. All of these can still be installed through the Microsoft Store on both OSes except for the Math Input Panel, The People App, and Get Started.
Windows 10 vs Windows 11: Tablet UI
Now let’s change perspective and move on to some tablet features. When you turn a device into a tablet in Windows 11, icons in the taskbar will just be spaced out. However, Windows 10 has two options. You can either space out the icons just like in Windows 11, or you can have it enable tablet mode which is a completely different mode that is not available in Windows 11. Touch-enabled controls are now easier to use in Windows 11 because touch elements are stickier.
For example, look at how my finger can resize notepad in Windows 11 easier than I am able to in Windows 10. This is because the resizing targets are now easier to touch and feel stickier. Now here’s a rundown of the new and modified gestures between both OSes. Swiping from left to right from the edge in Windows 11 shows the widgets panel while in Windows 10, it shows task viewer. Swiping from right to left from the edge starts the Action Center in Windows 10 and Notifications & Calendar in Windows 11.
Swiping from the top does nothing, but if you’re on tablet mode in Windows 10, you can close apps if you swipe from top to bottom. In Windows 11, If you touch the screen with four fingers and move them horizontally, you can now switch between virtual desktops, and if you do the same thing with three, you’ll switch between different windows. If you swipe up with three or four fingers, you’ll activate task viewer.
All these three and four-fingered gestures just talked about are just not a thing in Windows 10. The animation for rotating your screen has been changed between both versions. Windows 10 zooms out and orientates while Windows 11 flips everything as it does in iOS. And adding on to rotating the screen, both versions of Windows behave differently when scaling windows while rotating the screen, look what’s happening. In Windows 10, the scale of the window to whatever orientation you switch to while in Windows 11, the windows stay in the same position the entire time despite rotating the screen.
The touch keyboard in Windows 11 has had a complete overhaul. The keyboard looks nicer and keys are now rounded compared to the square ones in Windows 10, there are now more keys, navigating to certain settings is supposed to be easier, and now you can change the theme of your keyboard and not be stuck with just white or black.
Windows 10 vs Windows 11: Windows Setup
Now let’s talk about the different experiences you’ll get setting up both versions of Windows. The setup screen on Windows 11 has been completely redone. In Windows 10, the setup screen was dark blue and black with fade animations when navigating throughout the setup. In Windows 11, there are now more vibrant colors and blurs, new animations, new icons, new loading screens, and other various improvements.
Cortana used to be a big part of the Windows 10 setup experience, however, say goodbye to her because she is no longer part of the setup experience in Windows 11. The steps you go through to set up Windows haven’t changed much between both versions. The only new step added in Windows 11 is the ability to name the computer, which was actually not a thing in Windows 10.
After finishing setup, you’ll be greeted with some text and animation on both OSes while Windows is getting your desktop ready. Not only is the text different during this process, but the background has also had a visual overhaul. In Windows 10, the background was constantly changing between different colors while in Windows 11, a blurry, blueish-purple, round light constantly moves around the background.
And an interesting little find, when the entire setup process is complete and you get to your desktop, the start menu will now automatically pop up, which is just not what happens in Windows 10. If you know Windows history, you’ll know that this is exactly what happens after you’re done setting up Windows XP as well.
The final important thing to note is that you’ll no longer be able to install Windows as a 32-bit option in Windows 11. If you need a 32-bit version of Windows, the final version to support that will now be Windows 10.
Windows 10 vs Windows 11: Windows Update
And here’s just a few things to note about Windows Update.
- Firstly, the text that is shown when updating the operating system during a restart has been changed. Windows 10 basically tells you exactly what is going on while Windows 11 just uses more natural language.
- Secondly, Windows Update will now show the estimated amount of time needed to complete updates.
- And finally, let’s talk about feature updates. In Windows 10, Microsoft was committed to releasing a feature update twice a year. That is now changing because, in Windows 11, you’ll only get one feature update a year instead of two. So hopefully you can now decide whether to upgrade to Windows 11.