A free update for Windows 10 users -- and likely preinstalled on new PCs you buy going forward – Microsoft’s new Windows 11 operating system isn’t a radical shift from what you’re used to (don’t worry), but offers several design and functionality improvements.
So long as your existing laptop or desktop can handle it, you’ll no doubt like the added features. Be sure to run the quick PC Health Check app at Microsoft.com.
According to reporting by USA TODAY's Brett Molina and Mike Snider, Microsoft says all eligible devices will have access to the free Windows 11 upgrade by mid-2022.
Get the most out of the upgrade with the following suggestions and how to enable them.
Microsoft Teams is integrated into Windows 11, so you can instantly connect with others through text, chat, voice, or video chatting – regardless of the platform or device they’re on. Teams is ideal for colleagues to collaborate on a project, of course, but also for family to remain connected and for friends to virtually hang out.
As such, there are two versions of Teams built into Windows 11: one for personal use and one for business.
For casual chats, a little purple and white icon called “Chat” is on the Windows taskbar at the bottom of your screen. The first time you launch it the app will ask what Microsoft account you want to use with it (even older Hotmail addresses work).
Going forward, you can click or tap the icon or use the shortcut (Windows key + C) and when the app opens, you’ll see your most recent individual and group messages.
For a deeper Teams experience for work, click the Microsoft Teams icon (with the “T” in the middle) on the bottom right of your PC, near your clock (you may need to click the little arrow to expand the icons).
On a related note, do you use your PC for work and play? Or maybe you share the computer with others? Windows 11 allows you to create (and customize) separate desktops. To get going, tap or click the taskbar icon that looks like two overlapping squares.
Snap it up
While some of this functionality was available in Windows 10, the new operating system makes is simpler to multitask, by “snapping” various windows into place on your screen, so you can see (and do) more in less time.
For example, you can segregate a 27-inch monitor into quadrants: one for your email, another with a web browser, a third with the Notepad app and a fourth perhaps streaming video.
Previously, you would hold down the Windows key and press one of the four arrows in a given direction. While that still works, now just hover your mouse over the “Maximize” icon at the top-right of any window and select how to arrange open apps. You’ll see a few options.
Easy peasy – and a good use of your space.
Speaking of personalization, Windows 11 now includes Widgets that glide in from the left of the screen and can display customized (and AI-powered) weather, traffic, news, photos, sports scores, stock quotes and more.
Even more so than previous versions, Windows 11 comes with features designed with accessibility and inclusion – to ensure no one is left behind.
Go to Settings > Accessibility (formally Ease of Access Settings) to adjust the features that best work for your needs.
Those with low vision can scale text larger and change cursor color for greater visibility. People with light sensitivity and/or eye fatigue issues can use customizable Contrast themes to adapt their screen colors.
On a related note, the improved Narrator is a screen-reading app that describes what’s on your screen – and it’s already built into Windows 11. There are a few new features added compared to Windows 10.
For people who are deaf or hard of hearing, language learners, or when in noisy (or in quiet environments) can enjoy redesigned Closed Caption themes that are easier to read and customize.
I also like the new Dictate button on many Windows apps, such as Outlook and Word, represented by a microphone icon. Click this when typing an email or in a word processor and begin speaking. Your computer’s internal or external microphone will capture your words and type them out in real time (remember to say punctuation, too, like “comma,” question mark,” and “exclamation point”).
Depending on whom you ask, speaking is 3 to 4 times faster (and often more accurate) than typing.
With a fresh operating system comes a fresh reminder about the importance of regular back-ups – before it’s too late.
Without being too preachy, any number of things could happen to your PC, so you can’t afford not to create back-ups of your important files. Risks range from nasty malware (malicious software) and ransomware to a power surge or fire/flood, to your laptop being stolen, lost, or dropped. You get the idea.
This can be handled automatically, thanks to the many free scheduled backup programs available today to back-up to the cloud or an external drive, or manually, where it’s up to you to select which files to backup (say, in Windows Explorer) and then copy them to a connected drive, such as an inexpensive solid state drive, like the 1-terabyte WD Easystore USB 3.0 SSD, for $109 (which is faster, smaller, quieter and more rugged than a hard drive).
Don’t forget, Microsoft 365 subscribers (from $69/year) – a suite that includes Outlook, Word, PowerPoint, Excel, OneNote and other apps – also get 1 terabyte of OneDrive cloud storage for free and you’ll find a OneDrive folder in Windows Explorer to drag and drop files onto.
Follow Marc on Twitter for his “Tech Tip of the Day” posts: @marc_saltzman. Email him or subscribe to his Tech It Out podcast at https://marcsaltzman.com/podcasts. The views and opinions expressed in this column are the author’s and do not necessarily reflect those of USA TODAY.
This article originally appeared on USA TODAY: Windows 11: How to get the most out of your refreshed PC