Windows 11 marks a big departure from Windows 10 in terms of design, but the two operating systems are very similar under the hood. With the new OS now available on select devices — and rolling out at a quicker pace than Microsoft expected — comparing Windows 11 vs. Windows 10 has never been more important.
Windows 11 vs. Windows 10: Should you really upgrade?
Just like Windows 10 was a free upgrade to Windows 8.1 and Windows 7, Windows 11 is a free upgrade to Windows 10. You can download it and upgrade it in just a few simple steps. But there’s a catch.
That upgrade only applies as long as your PC fits with Microsoft’s minimum requirements — which has caused a fair share of controversy, especially in regard to the TPM 2.0 requirement which in itself can be quite confusing, especially if you plan on upgrading your current system. Also, the CPU limitation has caused many issues with the users on the internet.
There’s another path, though: The Installation Assistant allows you to install Windows 11 on a compatible PC the moment it releases. Although Microsoft isn’t recommending against this route, it’s possible that some hardware will cause issues, so you might run into a few bugs or Blue Screens of Death.
If you have a compatible device, you should upgrade to Windows 11 to give it a try. There’s a catch, though. After you upgrade, you’ll only have 10 days to revert back to Windows 10. It’s easy enough to learn how to downgrade from Windows 11 to Windows 10 — just make sure you’ve considered your decision before those 10 days are up, or else it’ll be a bigger hassle.
Microsoft is supporting Windows 10 through 2025, but you’ll need to do a clean install (erase all your data) after that 10-day downgrade window. If you’re the technical type, you also can try to dual boot both Windows 10 and Windows 11, t00 with little risk.
Other than that, there are some changes that you need to know about if you plan to upgrade. Windows 11 removes some features from Windows 10.
Windows 11 vs. Windows 10: Performance
According to Microsoft, Windows 11 does a lot of work in memory management to favor the app windows you have open and running in the foreground. This should ensure that they get more CPU power over other system resources. Microsoft actually tested this by showcasing how even under 90% CPU load, the Excel app in Windows 11 opens up with speed, despite the CPU being so busy. The company says the same also applies to the “shell” in Windows 11, which powers the Start Menu and other visual effects.
Other performance changes in Windows 11 touch on the way your PC resumes from sleep and handles standby time. Versus Windows 10, Microsoft mentioned that in Windows 11, your RAM can stay energized when the PC is in sleep mode, so it has power while everything else doesn’t. This will help your PC wake faster up to 25% faster from sleep.
In addition, since the Edge browser is the browser of choice in Windows 11, if you end up using it, you should see additional performance benefits over using the browser in Windows 10. Per Microsoft, with the sleeping tabs feature, you can save 32% for memory and 37% for CPU usage.
Windows 10 vs. Windows 11: Bugs
Windows 11 is Microsoft’s newest operating system, and Windows 10 has been around for five years. With that in mind, you can expect Windows 11 to have a lot of other bugs and issues that might impact the performance of your system.
Yes, Windows 10 isn’t a bug-free operating system either. It has had device-breaking issues in the past, but Windows 11 is seeing a fair share of problems right now that you might want to consider when upgrading.
You probably heard about it, but a since-fixed big bug that impacted Windows 11 involved AMD CPUs. This was a situation where AMD CPUs could drop or throttle performance by up to 15% in games. We talked more about the fix in a separate piece
Start Menu and Taskbar
If you’re looking at the differences between Windows 11 and Windows 10, the biggest ones are the Start Menu and the Taskbar. In Windows 11, Microsoft centers the Taskbar and the Start Menu on the screen. This makes it look a bit more like macOS and ChromeOS. However, you can still move it back to the left if you want.
Speaking of the Start Menu, in Windows 11, it is a bit more simplistic. You only see a static list of apps, followed by your most frequented documents on the bottom. You can expand out your apps, scroll through the list, and pin apps as you choose. That might sound familiar, but it is important to note that Windows 11 drops out support for Live Tiles. If you really want to see information in your Start Menu at a glance, then Windows 10 is best.
As for the Taskbar, note that there are some big changes in Windows 11 when compared to Windows 10. Microsoft has collapsed the search box into an icon, and also removed the Cortana functions in Windows 11. If you want Cortana, you’ll need to download the app. Search also moves to the center of the screen, with a floating design and tabbed layout similar to Windows 10.
Even Windows Timeline is gone. Windows 11 drops out that Windows 10 feature in favor of Microsoft Edge’s sync ability. The spot where Windows Timeline used to be is replaced by Virtual Desktops.
But if you want to pin your Taskbar to the right or the left of the screen, then we have bad news. You can no longer do that natively, as in Windows 11, the Taskbar only stays on the bottom. Paid third-party apps like Start11 can change it if you want, however.
A lot of these changes are just visual. Windows 11 and Windows 10 share the same features, and it’s just the way that things look that is different.
For many, the difference between Windows 10 and Windows 11 comes down to compatibility. Windows 11 marks the first significant shake-up in supported CPUs since the release of Windows 8.1. If you want the latest OS, you’ll need an Intel Core 8th-gen processor or newer, or an AMD Ryzen 2000 processor or newer.
That cuts out a lot of PCs from being officially supported. 8th-gen Intel processors arrived in late 2017, and Ryzen 2000 chips didn’t arrive until 2018. In short, if your computer is more than four years old, there’s a good chance that it’s not supported by Windows 11. That might be the deciding factor between it and Windows 10.
Other system requirements include TPM 2.0 — which is available on the vast majority of recent PCs — as well as UEFI Secure Boot. If you have a supported processor, you shouldn’t need to worry about these two other requirements. Microsoft has required these features from its manufacturing partners for years.
There is a way to install Windows 11 on unsupported hardware, but we wouldn’t recommend it. Although Microsoft hasn’t confirmed it, the company has heavily implied that unsupported users won’t receive critical security updates. If you still want to install, you can do so using the Media Creation Tool, which bypasses hardware checks.