Windows 11 is in beta now and due for a full release by the end of this year, according to Microsoft, but the company has so far been cagey about providing a specific release date.
However, there's good reason to believe it could be as soon as October, because Microsoft has specifically told its hardware partners (via its Windows 11 driver submission documentation) they can continue to ship systems with factory-installed drivers compatible with the latest version of Windows 10 until September 24th, 2021.
That seems like it's effectively a deadline for when OEMs need to start shipping systems with Windows 11 drivers pre-installed, and it suggests that Microsoft will fully release Windows 11 not long after — perhaps as early as the back half of October.
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Of course, Microsoft hasn't said anything publicly about an October release date for Windows 11, and given the ongoing chip shortage and global office exodus caused by the COVID-19 pandemic it's quite reasonable to expect delays on all sorts of products this year.
Still, as Windows Latest notes, this isn't the first piece of evidence we've seen that suggests Windows 11 will release in October. Back in July an October 2021 Windows 11 release date was possibly revealed early by Intel, as the company published driver documentation which included compatibility with "Microsoft Windows 11-64 - October 2021 Update (21H2)."
That line has since been removed from the Intel document (though you can still see the original version via the Wayback Machine), which only serves to heighten our suspicion that it refers to a version of Windows 11 which will be publicly available in October. That lines up with Microsoft's promise to have Windows 11 systems on store shelves in time for the holiday shopping season.
Plus, Microsoft itself appears to have tipped a Windows 11 October 20th release date by embedding the date 10/20 into many of its promotional Windows 11 screenshots, and Walmart briefly had a "free Upgrade to Windows October 2021 when available" promise on a few laptop listings in its online storefront. Of course, Microsoft has already said that upgrading from Windows 10 to 11 will be free in 2022.
It's important to note that while Microsoft has yet to confirm when Windows 11 will be fully released, it has cautioned that the rollout of Windows 11 won't happen overnight. Back in June the official Windows account on Twitter stated that "Windows 11 is due out later in 2021 and will be delivered over several months. The rollout of the upgrade to Windows 10 devices already in use today will begin in 2022 through the first half of that year."
The delayed rollout to extant Windows 10 systems may have something to do with Microsoft's stringent Windows 11 system requirements. Microsoft has stated that while it's working to expand Windows 11 eligibility to older systems during the beta testing period, as of now only 8th Gen and newer CPUs will be eligible for Windows 11.
That excludes most PCs built before 2016, partly because Windows 11 requires a Trusted Platform Module 2.0, or TPM, be embedded on all devices. What is a TPM, you ask? Effectively it's a hardware security chip that protects users from hackers and malware. Most newer laptops have a TPM module, and more recent CPUs use firmware TPM, but older PCs typically won't make the cut unless you're willing to install a TPM 2.0 module and the new motherboard you'll likely need to support it.
Even newer PCs sometimes have a built-in TPM 2.0 module that's disabled by default, and needs to be switched on manually. To find out if your system meets this requirement, check out our guide to how to see if your PC has a TPM chip for Windows.
If you want to check out the next generation of Windows before it's fully released to the public (in October or otherwise), you can! The Windows 11 beta is now available — here's how to download it and start poking around, though we recommend you back up your PC first using one of the best cloud backup services.
- More: The full list of Windows 11-ready laptops