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Check out our hands-on video with Windows 11 build 21996

Windows 11 Leak
Windows 11 Leak (Image credit: Windows Central)

What you need to know

  • A build of Windows 11 recently leaked online.
  • Windows 11 includes a new Start menu, widgets, taskbar, and more.
  • Our senior editor Zac Bowden goes hands-on with Windows 11 in a new video.

Windows 11 leaked online earlier today, and our senior editor Zac Bowden has already run it through its paces. As this is a leaked build, it doesn't reflect exactly how Windows 11 will look when it's finished, but it gives us a first glimpse of the new operating system. Bowden runs through Windows 11 in his hands-on video.

Compared to Windows 10, Windows 11 has a new Start menu, taskbar, and several other features. While the UI isn't final, the leaked build shows a large overhaul of animations, layouts, and features for Windows.

Below are a few of the changes found in the new operating system, but it's worth watching Bowden's entire video to see Windows 11 in action:

  • Snapping has been overhauled. The animations for snapping are new, as is the UI for deciding which windows snap to different parts of your screen.
  • Windows 11 brings widgets as well. The widgets appear to be similar to the News and interests widget that's currently available in Windows 10.
  • There are dark and light modes for Windows 11, much like people should be familiar with from Windows 10.
  • Many of the sounds in Windows 11 have been ported from Windows 10X.
  • Touch has been improved, including swipe gestures and improved hitboxes for touch targets.
  • Windows 11 doesn't appear to have a dedicated tablet mode.

What do you think of Windows 11? Make sure to check out all of our Windows 11 coverage to stay up to date with everything about Microsoft's next operating system. Microsoft will also hold an event on June 24 to show off Windows 11.

Sean Endicott
News Writer and apps editor

Sean Endicott brings nearly a decade of experience covering Microsoft and Windows news to Windows Central. He joined our team in 2017 as an app reviewer and now heads up our day-to-day news coverage. If you have a news tip or an app to review, hit him up at sean.endicott@futurenet.com (opens in new tab).

23 Comments
  • Will they finally give us quality microphone management, including a central "mute microphone" and mic volume that can be in the taskbar, not just an indicator when an app claims to be using it?
  • OK, I agree with you, but this is a pretty obscure point. I have several hundred dollars in sound equipment hooked up to my PC (just yesterday received a new ZEDi-8 USB Mixer), and mic management is indeed a weak point, but I'm sure those of us who care about this are way below 1% of total Windows users, probably below 0.1%. My main request on this theme would be to provide an OS-level control for the mic that apps can't override without being given permission (e.g., MS Teams changes the gain on the mic w/o my permission and there's nothing I can do about it via the stock OS and Windows components, so I've installed a virtual mic driver just to fake out Teams).
  • Hope there is a way to get the old Start menu back, with live tiles. The new one is god awful. IMO
  • Indeed! This is just appalling and makes no sense.
  • Yep the start menu looks terrible, a real 2 steps backwards
  • I have no problem with the LOOK of the new Start Menu. It's clean and elegant and the addition of a Timeline-like feature on the Start menu is a great step forward in terms of putting it where it should be. But I do agree that the functional loss of Live Tiles is a blow (I love them). Hopefully, we'll gain something similar with the new Widgets feature. Separating this from Live Tiles on the Start menu may make sense: many apps have no use for a Live Tile, like Word, Excel, Photoshop, Terminal, or File Explorer. Those that do deserve a more visible location than the Start Menu. MAYBE Widgets will provide that function for those apps that benefit from it and in a more visible location than the Start Menu. If so, this could be a solid win. Lot's of ways to miss this, of course, but I'll be optimistic until I know otherwise.
  • Yes, I currently can see all my pinned items on one screen with Live Tiles as well. Windows 11 looks like it would make me do even more work to find what I want. It is more like Windows 3.11 designed in 2021.
  • No full screen tiles? I'm not updating.
  • The animations and touch improvements are great. But if they don't open the widgets screen to customization and development (like the MS launcher on Android) it will be a major feature loss.
  • Is there any reason to think they won't? Why call it "Widgets" if it's not generic and accessible to developers? If it's locked to MS, I would expect it would be called the News feed or something like that. "Widget" implies to me that it can do all manner of things limited only be the imagination of developers.
  • Honestly it doesn't look bad at all. My biggest gripe (so far) is that the icons on the taskbar look a bit odd, I prefer the minimal wireframe ones right now. A bit sad to see tiles go (not even so much the live tile but the flexibility of the grid), but that was a long time coming and expected. Also, I'm afraid Windows Widgets will turn out a waste if a) you can't even disable news and b) developers won't be able to add their own widgets with time.
  • I like the new icons, but am exactly with you on your other points. I like that I currently (on Win 10) have my most used apps with larger icons and the obscure ones with the small ones, but I know very few other people who customize their Start Menu. I have sat with family members, interviewed them about the apps they use, set up their Start menus to reflect their preferences, and they still don't even use the tiles -- they seem to need search or the alphabetic list to find anything. The arranged tiles are just too confusing for them, even when they're organized the way they wanted them. I assume developers will be able to provide Widgets. If so, they might take the place of Live Tiles in terms of benefits to us as users. At least, I hope they do.
  • The "widget" is just the place where MS is going to serve us ads.
  • Hopefully, this is open to developers to add and effectively takes the place of Live Tiles for apps that benefit from some sort of live updating feed. The included News and Weather are 2 popular examples (and hopefully will support competing News apps for those who don't share MS' west coast politics), but not the only ones. Windows Central's app shows updates. I have a NASA Live Tile that shows me the latest space and science news. A photo viewer like the current Photos Live Tile and the old Windows 7 Gadget would be nice to see a random photo from your list (which currently updates automatically as you take pictures if your phone syncs images to OneDrive -- very nice, surely they'll preserve that somehow). Obviously execution is everything here, but I'm optimistic the Widget section will be a positive feature.
  • Lol, task view is NOT new at all. For several virtual desktops, that has been in 10 for a while and iirc it originally was pinned as a taskbar icon on its own, now hidden unless you enable it. Best way to access it is Windows + Tab similar to Alt + Tab feature
  • Zac showed how it changed and no longer includes Timeline.
  • So is this an actual new version of Windows code like previous new versions were or is this just a reskin of Windows 10?
  • I love it. It's clean and beautiful. That said, I will HUGELY miss Live Tiles, which I use constantly to see weather, news (including Windows Central updates in the Windows Central app), my To Do list, etc. but maybe Widgets will take the place. After all, why call them "Widgets" if it's just MS News and Weather? And let us put them on our Desktop! In my case, I have 3 monitors, the largest a 40" 4k screen -- I always have part of my Desktop visible, so I would love to have "Widgets" like the old "Windows 7 Gadgets" that can show me information all the time without having to do anything. I do hope they phase out the Windows XP, 7, 8, and 10 pieces by the time it goes live and make it utterly trivial for apps to use the new design motif (and have dialog boxes used by legacy apps including file save boxes all automatically reflect the new design): consistency is by far the most important feature in good design and in the current leak, it still has several legacy inconsistencies.
  • If Widgets are better live tiles that we can pin on the desktop so I don't have to open them all the time that would be great. The Start Menu is god awful, I don't want to scroll through pages of icons to the program I want to use.
  • @Bill Marinelli At present it seems you can't pin the Widgets to the desktop like Gadgets. Also you can use jump lists (click on a letter or the hash symbol) and search to find the program you need. I tend to use Winkey+S and first few letters for the program I want.
  • The look is not bad however now that we are starting to see 16:10 screens on laptops Microsoft is moving to a gigantic taskbar (on height) and losing the advantage of 16:10 vs 16:9 unless you hide the thing. Also, on the video when the taskbar setting screen is open it seems the option to use "smaller buttons" (meaning a reduced height on the taskbar) has gone...
  • Offline account during set up: click Sign-in options, pick Offline next, click limited experience next and done!
  • This looks like the 1 layer deep skin redo so far. The sound menu he shows is the same not-touch-friendly windows 95 design that still exists throughout Windows.
    Those "widgets" aren't widgets. They are just news service windows. You can't adjust the layout in any meaningful way or do any real customization.
    Pretty sure I'll just move the items back to the left for my desktop, but I'll give the center a go to see if it is more useful, might like them as I have a 32:9 monitor so the left side is a ways over.