Microsoft is keeping it simple with the new Windows 11Â upgrade. Instead of going for a big design overhaul, the focus has been on enriching the overall Windows experience and making the operating system more secure.Â Everything from the Widgets panel to the Passwordless login is in line with this philosophy. Hear from Michael MuchmoreOpens a new window , Lead Software Analyst, PCMag, who talks about the key productivity features of the new OS, while Brian JacksonOpens a new window , Research Director at Info-Tech Research Group, dwells on the security updates that will make Windows 11 less vulnerable to attacks.Â
Read the full transcript of the video here:
TOOLBOX: Hello and welcome to Toolbox. This is Jayant. Windows 11, the next version of Microsoft’s operating system, is set to release this fall. Microsoft has already released Windows 11 for Insiders for preview, and Windows 11 Insiders are right now feasting their eyes on a refreshed UI, a new look Microsoft Store, a new taskbar, redesigned settings, lock screen, and an update to the timeless File Explorer. But what exactly does Windows 11 bring to the table that should excite the IT Gen Pop? Is it just a facelift like some predict? Is it being rolled out to restore confidence and consumer interest in the Windows brand? Or is it someting truly revolutional.
To explain the productivity features in Windows 11, here’s Michael Muchmore, PC Magazine’s lead analyst for web and software applications.
Michael Muchmore, Lead Software Analyst, PCMag
In addition to a redesigned interface with centered small taskbar buttons and rounded corners on every window, Windows 11 adds a few new productivity options as well. The splashiest new tool is the widgets panel, which like Windows 10’s recent news and interests panel can show news, weather, stock quotes or sports scores. It will be able to include info from Microsoft apps and services as well as from third party apps.
As the name suggests, Windows has always been the best OS for window organization with snapping to the sides and corners and full screen options. Windows 11 adds new Snap layouts and Snap group tools that advance that further. Hover the cursor over the maximize button on any window and you get a choice of layouts. After you have an arrangement of app windows, you can hover over any of the apps’ taskbar entries to see what the layout is part of and create that layout group instantly.
File manager gets a redesign with a simpler toolbar at the top that’s easier on the eyes, but still offers all the functionality of the existing file manager. A new settings panel keeps the entire menu on the left as you move through the settings and old Control Panel style dialogues get a more modern design with rounded corners.
You will be able to run Android apps on Windows, though only through Amazon App Store or by sideloading with an APK. A Teams’ icon will be in the middle of the taskbar by default, but the service is also built into the OS as a way to connect with video calling or text messaging instantly. It’s not yet in the preview build but it will be a useful productivity tool for Teams’ users.
The major security improvements are the system’s requirement of TPM (Trusted Platform Module) and secure boot. The latter helps protect against ransomware by not allowing malware to run at boot time. Windows 11 also supports Microsoft Azure at-a-station for remote zero trust verification of code, passwordless deployment with Windows Hello for Business and secured core PCs comprise other new security pushes.
Those are just a few of the new features in Microsoft Windows 11. For full details, check out my preview and other extensive coverage on PCMag.com.
TOOLBOX: Now we know there isn’t any point in talking about information technology without touching upon information security. Modern threat actors have all the tools they need to bypass existing operating system firewalls and other protections. Will Windows 11 change things in the cybersecurity front? Let’s hear from Bryan Jackson, research director at InfoTech Research Group, on what Windows 11 brings to the table in terms of security.
Bryan Jackson, research director at InfoTech Research Group
Windows 11 is like an upgraded version of Windows 10, but it comes with a fresh new coat of paint. That said, there are some important security updates that come along with it, and perhaps some new wrinkles to be aware of.
We have new hardware security requirements with Windows 11. Some of these features were available in Windows 10 but now they are mandatory. First, we have the required Trusted Platform Module, or TPM 2.0, that ensures that your boot up process can’t be messed with. It also enables more robust encryption in the form of BitLocker. Users will need to log in to a Microsoft account with Windows 11. That account will be registered with the device’s TPM. Microsoft is doing this because it’s promising a password free login experience with Windows 11. Instead of a password you will be using your face or another biometric of your choice to log in using Windows Hello.
The bottom line here for IT departments is to make sure that your endpoint devices support an Intel eighth generation processor or another processor that’s on Microsoft’s approved list. Another requirement is the virtualization based security or VBS on the device motherboard. This allows Windows to run different applications in an isolated logical space to limit the harm of malware. Also you’ll need a 64-bit processor that supports virtualization.
Why is Microsoft doing all this? So that it can create a hardware root of trust that can prevent vulnerabilities, like the one that we just saw this week with PrintNightmare. Also, with that new capability to run Android apps in Windows 11 you know that some users are going to be wanting to sideload those APKs, and that could open up new threat factors as well.
One more thing to keep in mind, a new windows means that the old Windows, Windows 10, now has an end of life date attached to it. Microsoft is cutting off support in 2025, making it a security risk to run it beyond that without additional support.