The reveal of Windows 11 may not have been the surprise Microsoft hoped for with most casual gamers, but that doesn’t mean the new OS won’t have any tricks up its sleeve. The new version of Windows, due out later this year, will include some key features that PC gamers have been waiting for a long time, namely AutoHDR and DirectStorage, among others.
Windows 11 Gaming Features
At its OS reveal event, Microsoft brought on Sarah Bond (Corporate Vice President, Xbox) to talk about the new features coming to Windows 11 for gaming, some of which are going to be crucial for PCMR enthusiasts looking to compete with the new-gen consoles.
First introduced on the Xbox Series consoles, AutoHDR is a technology used to convert SDR (Standard dynamic range) images into HDR, without any input from game developers at all. The entire process is handled by Xbox’s team, similar to how it handles FPS Boost. HDR on Windows has been in a sorry state for a long time, and with AutoHDR coming to Windows 11, hopefully the experience outside of playing games will also be improved. While Microsoft didn’t reveal how the feature can be accessed, if Xbox Series X/S consoles are anything to go by, then the feature will be available from within the Xbox App’s settings. You’ll need to plug in an HDR capable display in order to access this feature.
Xbox Game Pass Integrated with Xbox App with Xbox Cloud Gaming
Speaking of the Xbox app, it’s also going to become more seamless for all things gaming on Windows. Up till now, the ‘Xbox’ gaming experience on Windows has been quite messy, with two different apps for accessing the Xbox dashboard and Xbox Game Pass. With the new update, Xbox Game Pass will be directly integrated into the Xbox App, and it’ll also come with cloud gaming built in. Of course, cloud gaming is already available for Xbox Game Pass Ultimate subscribers, although the list of supported countries does not include India at the time of writing.
From the little we saw of it during the event, the app looks visually identical to the current Xbox Game Pass app, which isn’t a bad thing. Of course, we’ll need better file management support and more universal extensions for accessing game folders would be a welcome change. The company has also confirmed that all of your previous gaming accessories will still work on Windows 11 as you might expect them to.
DirectStorage Coming Exclusively to Windows 11
Arguably the best addition to Windows 11 for gaming, DirectStorage is a new API that will make loading times even shorter on SSDs, potentially matching those on the new consoles. Traditionally, game data from the storage is passed on to the graphics unit (GPU) through the CPU, which slows things down. With DirectStorage, the GPU can access the data from storage much faster, meaning less time wasted by the CPU, and shorter loading times when optimized for. This is one of the reasons why moving games from HDD to SSDs today on PCs don’t see the same benefit as we see on the PS5 or Xbox Series X/S. A simple way to visualise this can be seen in Microsoft’s own explanation at a developer event.
Of course, there is a small caveat to all this – DirectStorage only works with NVMe M.2 SSDs. Why NVMe? Microsoft explains that it’s because of the drive interface’s specific capabilities, possibly due to the direct interaction with the motherboard. Just don’t expect a “Quick Resume” like feature on Windows any time soon.
A Better Microsoft Store, and Android App Support
One of the weakest links in the Windows 10 experience is the Microsoft store, and the company knows this. That’s why a refined store experience is coming to Windows 11 when it launches later this year. Not only will the store look and feel better with support for more universal app extensions, it will also let you install native Android apps on your PC. It just won’t be as simple as doing it on your phone with Google Play.
Microsoft is partnering with the Amazon app store to deliver native apps on PC. This means that along side your Microsoft account, you’ll also need an Amazon account for purchasing android apps.
For power users who might be worried about side loading apps, fret not, as that might still be possible according to at least one employee. We’ll just have to wait and see how that turns out.
Windows 11 System Requirements – Can You Run It?
The minimum system requirements to install and run Windows 11 is fairly simple. You’ll the following or better hardware for the new operating system:
- CPU: Minimum 1 GHz or faster, with 2 or more cores on a X64-based CPU.
- RAM: 4 GB
- Storage: 64 GB or larger storage device
- Graphics card: DirectX 12 compatible graphics / WDDM 2.x
- Display: 720p or above
- An internet connection will be required for first-time setup on Windows 11 Home
- TPM: Trusted Platform Module (TPM) version 2.0
Now for the most part, pretty much any computer from the last 4-5 years running Windows 10 can run Windows 11. You can check if your PC supports it by downloading and using the PC Health Checker App. However, it wouldn’t be a Windows upgrade without a few hiccups now would it?
Windows 11 TPM Issue Explained
All of the new features and redesigned experience looks great, except for one fatal flaw that the company has failed to communicate. Due to the nature of its system requirements, you might not be able to avail the free upgrade offer unless you go into your PC’s BIOS and turn on a specific feature. Until then, using the PC health checker app will only show that your PC isn’t eligible for the upgrade.
First, a refresher on TPM and what the issue is.
A TPM, or a Trusted platform module is a unique chip found inside, or sometimes outside the CPU on the motherboard that handles encryption and security features. It’s used in many programs when using a PC, like sending encrypted emails or even unlocking supported PCs. A new version, TPM 2.0, has been in production for the last few years, which is a requirement for installing Windows 11. TPM can be available in both software and hardware form, and if you’ve built a PC in the last 4 years, chances are you already have TPM 2.0 compatibility. The problem is, it may just not be enabled in the BIOS, which you’ll need to manually change if the PC health app shows that your PC can’t be upgraded to Windows 11. You can find a list of supported CPUs on Microsoft’s website to check if your processor passes the test.
How to Enable TPM 2.0 For Free Windows 11 Upgrade
Thankfully, enabling TPM 2.0 is easy enough if you’re comfortable with playing around in your BIOS’ settings. Simply turn on your PC and boot into the BIOS, and in the advanced settings, you’ll find a feature called “PTT” for Intel CPUs or “PSP fTPM” on AMD CPUs. Simply turn that on, save and boot into Windows to use the app for checking if your PC now supports Windows 11.
For what its worth, Microsoft has updated the app to show more details about why your PC does not meet the minimum requirements, if that is the case. For most others, simply turning on TPM in the BIOS on a PC that was built/bought in the last 4 years will be enough.
Windows 11 will be released as a free upgrade for Windows 10 owners with rollout beginning by the end of 2021, and will be available at retail for stand-alone purchase starting early 2022.