Windows 11 will roll out this fall, likely first for customers who buy new computers with the operating system pre-installed, and eventually to folks who want to upgrade their eligible Windows 10 PCs.

But if you want to give the new operating system a try a little early, you can sign up for the Windows Insider Preview program to help beta test the software and provide feedback to Microsoft. The company released the first Windows 11 preview build to Insiders today.

Keep in mind that this is a pre-release preview. It’s likely to have some bugs. It definitely doesn’t include all of the features that will be available later this year (Android app support isn’t there yet, for example). And it’s probably not a great idea to install the preview on your primary computer unless you’re running it in a virtual machine, as there’s a chance it could have stability or usability issues.

That said, it does give you a chance to try out some of the new features in Windows 11 including the revamped user interface including:

  • A new Start menu that pops up in the middle of the screen, allows you to pin frequently used apps, and offers “cloud powered” recommendations for recently opened files from your PC, Phone, or OneDrive
  • New Taskbar with new animations and centered icons (although you can move them to the left)
  • Updated Notification Center & Quick Settings
  • Modern File Explorer app with a new command bar, cleaner interface, and updated right-click context menus
  • Support for Themes beyond the basic light and dark modes
  • The Touch keyboard can also be themed
  • New Sounds for startup, notifications, and more
  • Support for Widgets that appear when you click the icon in the taskbar, starting with widgets for calendar, weather, traffic, to do lists, photos, sports, and stocks
  • New Multitasking features including Snap layoutsSnap groups, and virtual Desktops that allow you to quickly organize your apps and groups of apps on the screen

  • Updated Docking behavior that minimizes apps on an external monitor to a Snap group when you disconnect the display and re-opens them automatically when you reconnect
  • New Microsoft Store preview
  • Touchscreen gestures are now largely the same as touchpad gestures, with support for three-finger and four-finger swipe actions to switch apps, go back to the desktop, open task view, and more

Microsoft has also updated the Windows out of the box experience with a new, simpler walkthrough for setting up a new Windows 11 installation.

You can find more details about the first Windows 11 preview release at the Windows Insiders blog.

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  1. When all new computers start shipping with Windows 11, I wonder, will people be able to activate Windows 10 using Windows 11 product keys? Will they even be able to download it (outside of archive.org)?