We tested the leaked version of Windows 11 — This is what we found

A leaked developer version of Windows 11 was recently posted online and MyBroadband tracked it down and took it for a spin.

Our initial impressions were that Microsoft’s new version of Windows offers a cleaner, more simplified user experience without making too many major changes.

While finding the ISO image of the leaked Windows 11 build was easy, installing it was not as simple as we might have hoped.

As a precaution, to avoid potentially infecting one of our main machines with malware, we first tried to install the OS on two older backup laptops running Windows 10.

Neither of these supported Windows 11, however, as they did not have Trusted Platform Module 2.0.

We then decided that adding Windows 11 as a second OS in a dual-boot configuration on a newer laptop might be a good option, but this also failed as the installer could not use the partition we created.

Attempting to do the same via Boot Camp Manager on a MacBook Pro also failed, with the installer simply stating that the computer did not meet the minimum requirements for Windows 11.

We resorted to a virtualisation configuration.

This option worked quite well, although we could not evaluate performance fairly due to the computer’s resources effectively being split between its host OS and the virtualised instance of Windows 11.

We contacted Microsoft to confirm whether this leaked version was genuine.

The company was only able to state that it was looking forward to sharing more on 24 June, where it will provide clarity on what can be expected from the next generation of Windows.

If the final version of Windows 11 (or whatever its official name will be) matches or is similar to the build we had on hand, then Windows users can be cautiously optimistic.

For fans of Windows 10 as it is, the changes are small and unlikely to cause an uproar.

Based on this first unofficial look, the refreshed OS manages to keep the attractive elements of Windows, while cutting down on the clutter, to offer an experience that will be both familiar to seasoned Windows users and welcoming to newcomers.

Here is a summary of the changes in design and features we encountered:

  • New startup logo and sound
  • New notification sounds
  • Start Menu and app shortcuts are now centred on the taskbar by default, but this can be changed back to left-aligned
  • New icons for Start Menu, Task View, Settings, File Explorer, and others
  • Simplified Start Menu with grid layout
  • No Live Tiles by default, though these can be added again via the registry
  • Rounded corners on context menus and certain app windows
  • New colourful icons for Documents, Downloads, Music, Pictures, and Videos folders
  • Bigger default spacing between listed items in File Explorer
  • New pop-up menu to snap windows to different parts of the screen when hovering over their maximise/restore button
  • Windows Terminal can be accessed in a context menu by right-clicking on the desktop
  • No changes to Windows Store yet
  • Control Panel is still available for changing settings

Installation

The installation process was nearly identical to Windows 10.

First, we were presented with language, time, and currency format options, as well as a keyboard or input method selection.

Given that this was a fresh install, we were provided with a list of Windows 11 versions to choose from, including various Home, Pro, and Education editions.

We opted for the standard Pro version and in the next window hit “Install Now”.

After accepting the Microsoft Software Licence terms, we chose our partition for the installation and ran through the familiar five-step process of Copying Windows Files, Getting Files Ready for Installation, Installing Features, Installing Updates, and Finishing Up.

This took only about 10 minutes to complete, after which the system automatically restarted.

Below are images of the steps we followed during the Windows 11 installation.

Windows 11 Setup — language and input selection
Windows 11 Setup — version selection
Windows 11 Setup — licence terms
Windows 11 Setup — installing the operating system
Windows 11 Setup — automatic restart timer

Startup and Out-of-box Experience

After the restart, a new startup screen with a plain flat light-blue square window logo greeted us, along with a new startup sound.

After a few minutes of loading, the Out-of-box Experience (OOBE) was started, which is simply the basic setup and configuration of your own settings,

While its contents were primarily the same as that of Windows 10, a nifty new light blue design with colourful pictures for each section made the overall experience more pleasant.

We were asked to select our region, state whether the OS would be used for personal or work purposes, sign in or create a user profile, select a password, and adjust permissions with regards to location and other privacy details.

Once this was completed, the OS started “getting things ready” for us, a process that took longer than the installation itself. For reference, see the multiple phrases at the bottom of this picture thread urging us to be patient.

Windows 11 loading screen
Windows 11 OOBE — Region selection
Windows 11 OOBE — Keyboard layout and input method
Windows 11 OOBE — Checking for updates
Windows 11 OOBE — Personal or work use
Windows 11 OOBE — Add Microsoft Account
Windows 11 OOBE — Microsoft Account sign-in options (Offline account)
Windows 11 OOBE — Confirm “limited experience” for offline account
Windows 11 OOBE — Set username
Windows 11 OOBE — set password
Windows 11 OOBE — Set privacy settings
Windows 11 OOBE — Getting things ready
Windows 11 OOBE — Getting some more things ready
Windows 11 OOBE — Getting even more things ready
Windows 11 OOBE — Still getting some things ready
Windows 11 OOBE — We told you this took long

Start Menu and File Explorer

The most obvious change once the desktop was loaded up was the appearance of the taskbar, with the Start Menu and a number of important apps being moved to the centre.

Those who aren’t happy with the MacOS-like shift can move the icons back to the left side in the Settings app.

Alongside Start, users will find shortcuts for Search, Task View, Widgets, File Explorer, Edge, and the Microsoft Store by default. Once again, these can be customised as desired under Settings.

Clicking on the Start Menu icon now lets it “fly” out of the taskbar as a completely separate element. The Start Menu now features rounded corners instead of the sharp edges used in Windows 10.

The list of apps and Live Tiles on Windows 10 has been replaced by a simple grid of pinned apps accompanied by small icons.

By default, these included Microsoft Edge, Mail, Calendar, and Microsoft Store.

Icons for  Netflix, Spotify, and Twitter appeared after using the system for a while. Clicking on these icons caused the apps to install.

The new Search app lets you more easily refine what you are looking for with filters such as: All, Apps, Documents, and the Web.

Windows File Explorer is another area that has seen some significant updates.

Default folders such as Documents, Downloads, Music, Pictures, and Videos now have colourful icons, which can also be seen in the Quick Access tab on the left of the window.

Hovering over the “maximise/restore” button to the left of “close” now also pops up a menu with various options for snapping the window into different parts of the screen.

Widgets are only accessible when signing into a Microsoft account.

The images below show the new UI for the desktop, various apps, and new features, both in light and dark modes.


Light Mode

Centred Start Menu in light mode.
Start Menu moved back to the left.
Search app in light mode.
Task View in light mode.
This PC under File Explorer in light mode.
Notifications in light mode.
New window snapping tool in light mode.
About page confirming Windows 11 is running on the system.

Dark Mode

Dark mode desktop
Start Menu in Dark Mode. Windows automatically pinned popular apps after a while of using the OS. Apps still had to be installed, however.
Search app in Dark Mode.
File Explorer in Dark Mode.
Notifications in Dark Mode.
Windows Store in Dark Mode

Now read: What you should know about Windows 10’s retirement date

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We tested the leaked version of Windows 11 — This is what we found