What’s New with Windows – August 2021 Edition

Microsoft announces Windows 11 release date, tweaks the Windows 11 minimum hardware requirements (but not much), and Windows 365 goes live but free trials are on hold due to demand.

Windows 11 release date

Top of the list this month is that Microsoft announced Windows 11 will start rolling out to eligible Windows 10 PCs October 5th. But without one of Windows 11’s most touted new features, Android app support. Microsoft says it needs more time to work with Intel and Amazon before it starts testing the feature in the coming months. Microsoft says that new PCs preinstalled with Windows 11 will also be available to buy starting October 5th. Microsoft expects Windows 11 should be offered to all eligible Windows 10 devices by the middle of 2022.

Microsoft tweaks Windows 11 hardware requirements

In more Windows 11 news, Microsoft finalized the hardware requirements for its new OS. As you probably know, when Windows 11 was first announced, Microsoft said it would require an 8th-generation Intel or AMD Zen 2 CPU or newer, with 4GB RAM, 64GB of storage, Secure Boot, and TPM 2.0.

After an initial outcry at the need for an 8th-generation Intel chipset or newer, Microsoft said it might review the hardware requirements. And it has done just that. But don’t expect much in the way of concessions. August 27th, Microsoft announced that Windows 11 will now support:

  • Intel® Core™ X-series, Xeon® W-series
  • Intel® Core™ 7820HQ (only select devices that shipped with modern drivers based on Declarative, Componentized, Hardware Support Apps (DCH) design principles, including Surface Studio 2)

Microsoft isn’t adding any additional AMD Zen processors to the list of supported CPUs. The decision to tweak the Windows 11 hardware requirements was driven by several core principles: reliability, security, and compatibility.

But on a separate note, Microsoft also said recently that it would allow users to install Windows 11 on PCs that don’t meet the minimum hardware specs but that it will not support those installations. And that ‘may or may not’ preclude Windows 11 on unsupported hardware from receiving regular security updates.

Microsoft reissues PC Health Check app to Insiders

The PC Health Check app, which was supposed to help users identify if their systems could run Windows 11, was pulled shortly after it was released back in June. Microsoft is now testing an updated version of the app with users on the Insider program. Microsoft says:

This updated version expands the eligibility check functionality with more complete and improved messaging on eligibility and links to relevant support articles that include potential remediation steps – the screenshot below illustrates this. After a feedback period with Windows Insiders and with the additional updates for the newly added processors, we plan to re-release the PC Health Check app for general availability in the coming weeks. Today, we are also simultaneously releasing versions that support 64-bit Windows, 32-bit Windows, Windows on Arm and Windows 10 in S mode PCs to Windows Insiders.

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Everything You Need to Know About Windows – August 2021 (Image Credit: Microsoft)

Windows 365 goes live but free trials on ‘pause’ due to high demand

As I reported last month, Windows 365 went live August 2nd. Windows 365 is the long awaited ‘hybrid Windows for a hybrid world’ cloud experience. It lets users stream a Windows 10, and a Windows 11 in the future, desktop for a fixed monthly fee.

Unlike Azure Virtual Desktop, previously Windows Virtual Desktop, where you pay for what you use and there’s some behind the scenes setup, Windows 365 aims to simplify the experience for users, IT admins, and from a licensing perspective. For a full list of the plans and pricing, check out Microsoft website here.

A few days after launch, Microsoft pulled the free trial because of high demand. So, if you got to test Windows 365, you were lucky. At the moment, there’s no word when or if a free trial will be made available again.

Windows 10 21H2 will let you know if your device is eligible to upgrade to Windows 11

For Windows 10 users in the Release Preview Channel, there’s already a notification in Windows Update that tells you whether your PC can run Windows 11.

Windows Insider Preview updates

Microsoft released Chat from Microsoft Teams in Windows 11 Insider Preview Build 22000.132 for users on the Beta Channel. It includes one-to-one and group audio and video calling. There’s also a new Snipping Tool, and updated Calculator, Mail, and Calendar apps for users in the Dev Channel.

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Everything You Need to Know About Windows – August 2021 (Image Credit: Microsoft)

Windows 10 also got some love with preview build 19044.1200 for the forthcoming 21H2 release. Highlights in this release include:

  • Adding WPA3 H2E standards support for enhanced Wi-Fi security.
  • Windows Hello for Business introduces a new deployment method called cloud trust to support simplified passwordless deployments and achieve a deploy-to-run state within a few minutes.
  • GPU compute support in the Windows Subsystem for Linux (WSL) and Azure IoT Edge for Linux on Windows (EFLOW) deployments for machine learning and other compute intensive workflows.

This month, Microsoft also updated the Clock app in Windows 11 to support Focus Sessions in build 22000.160. And there is now Spotify integration to help you concentrate with your favorite heavy metal music in the background.

August 12th, Microsoft released the first officially available ISO files for Windows 11. The files let you install Windows 11 from scratch in a virtual machine (VM), or you can create a bootable USB drive to upgrade or install Windows 11 on a physical device.

To get your hands on the new Windows 11 ISO, head over to the Windows Insider Preview Downloads page and sign in with a Microsoft Account that’s enrolled in the Insider program. When you get to the downloads page, go to software downloads for the Windows 10 Insider Preview. Confusing, I know. But you will get the option to select an edition of Windows 11 nevertheless, on either the Dev or Beta Channel.

Everything You Need to Know About Windows – August 2021 (Image Credit: Microsoft)

And finally, Windows 11 Insider Preview Build 22000.168 got support for multiple languages in Chat for Microsoft Teams and a new Microsoft 365 Widget that displays relevant documents, news, and meeting recordings for enterprise users. And Microsoft is promising to add more features to the widget in the future.

Windows (Panos Panay) gets its seat back on the Senior Leadship Team

Panos Panay, who is Chief Product Officer for Windows, has been given a seat in the Microsoft Senior Leadership Team, helping to put Windows back at the forefront of Microsoft’s ambitions. Not since the days of Terry Myerson, who was responsible for the success of Windows 7, has a CPO for Windows been on the leadership team.

Microsoft Edge to get ‘Super Duper Secure Mode’ (SDSM)

Microsoft is looking to provide its Edge browser with a new mode called ‘Super Duper Secure Mode’. Researchers have found that removing just-in-time (JIT) compilation from the V8 JavaScript engine can significantly reduce the attack surface. SDSM also enables other security mitigations to help make Edge more secure. Microsoft says on JIT performance:

We see that most tests see no changes with JIT disabled. There are a few improvements and regressions, but most tests remain unchanged. Anecdotally, we find that users with JIT disabled rarely notice a difference in their daily browsing.

Everything You Need to Know About Windows – August 2021 (Image Credit: Microsoft)

SDSM is a work in progress, but if you are on the Canary, Dev, or Beta Channel, you can enable SDSM under edge://flags.

And that is it for another month!