Recently, Microsoft made two major Windows announcements. On June 24th, the company announced Windows 11, and earlier this month, we heard about Windows 365. Windows 10 was supposed to be the last version of Windows, and all of a sudden, we’re getting two new ones? Not exactly. In this guide, we’ll walk you through the differences between Windows 11 and Windows 365.
Put simply, Windows 11 is a product for everyone — as long as your PC is compatible. It’ll be rolled out as an update when it’s available and anyone who wants it can get it. Windows 365 is a subscription service meant for businesses. It’s not exactly an operating system like Windows 11 is.
What is Windows 11?
Let’s start with the simpler one — Windows 11. Microsoft announced this at an online event on June 24th, and it’s the successor to Windows 10. It’s a brand-new operating system, and it comes with a lot of changes, a lot of them visual. For example, there’s a brand-new Start menu that no longer uses Live Tiles. Plus, that Start menu is now in the center of the screen by default (though you can move it back to the left corner). There are rounded corners for basically every app, the File Explorer has a revamped UI, and much more.
Windows 11 also adds new features, like the new Widgets panel, which gives you quick glanceable information for things like weather, your calendar events, and so on. There will also be support for running Android apps on Windows 11, and a new Chat feature that integrates Microsoft Teams right into Windows.
We already have a roundup of what you can expect in Windows 11, and everything you can try right now if you’re a Windows Insider. You may also want to check out our update tracker to catch up on new additions as they come.
Windows 11 also comes with new system requirements, which have been pretty controversial. You need a fairly recent CPU to be officially supported, and that CPU has to be based on the x64 architecture since there’s no 32-bit version of Windows 11. What’s more, you’ll need at least 4GB of RAM and 64GB of storage to install Windows 11.
But that’s where the key differences between Windows 11 and Windows 365 show up. Windows 11 is something you install on your PC, so you need to meet certain requirements to run it. After all, it’s an operating system. So how is Windows 365 different?
What is Windows 365?
Unlike Windows 11, Windows 365 is a subscription service, not a product in the traditional sense. It’s not something you install and run on your PC. Instead, Windows 365 is a service that allows you to create and run PCs remotely. It’s something of a hybrid between a virtual machine and Microsoft Remote Desktop; Microsoft calls it a Cloud PC.
Essentially, with Windows 365, you can create a Windows PC on Microsoft’s servers and then connect to it from wherever you want. However, that PC is still your PC. You can install your apps on it and run them as usual. The thing is, you can access those apps from anywhere, and you don’t need a powerful PC to do it. In theory, you can access Windows 365 on your phone and do all the PC things you need to do.
Imagine a Remote Desktop connection, except you don’t need to have a desktop to connect to. You just log into Windows 365 on any device, and you choose the PC you want to connect to. It’s always available and all your apps and files are always there. You can access all of it from anywhere without having to set up a Remote Desktop connection or anything.
At the same time, it’s a virtual machine, but it’s not using all those system resources on your PC. You don’t have to worry about how much RAM or storage to allocate to it because it’s not running on your device.
Windows 365 allows you to create Cloud PCs that run either Windows 10 or Windows 11 once it’s available, so it’s not tied to Windows 11 specifically. Being that it’s a service, you pay a monthly fee based on the hardware configuration you want your PC to have. For example, we know that a PC with two CPUs, 4GB of RAM, and 128GB of storage is going to cost $31 per user per month. You need to keep paying to maintain access to it, it’s not just something you install and keep forever.
Which should I choose?
Choosing between Windows 11 and Windows 365 is entirely based on your needs, and for most people, Microsoft makes that decision for you. Windows 365 is a service for businesses, not general consumers. The person going into the store to buy a PC is just going to get Windows 11, and that’s the end of it. You can’t just sign up for Windows 365 as an individual, either. There will be two tiers of Windows 365 – Business and Enterprise – meant for companies of different sizes, but none for personal use.
For businesses, choosing between the two is dependent on how much you value mobility and hybrid work. The cost of Windows 365 over a two-year period is higher than a physical PC with comparable specs. If you’re buying a small number of PCs for users who come into the office every day, Windows 365 probably doesn’t make sense.
However, with Windows 365, you can access that PC at any time from any device. As a manager, you don’t need to send devices to people working remotely because they can just access their PC from whatever machine they have at hand.
Microsoft shared an example of the Government of Nunavut, a Canadian territory, which had to deploy 3,100 machines to workers using airplanes. With Windows 365, that could have been avoided because workers can access their PC from anywhere they are. That saves money in transportation and logistics, but it also saves time. Windows 365 PCs can be set up quickly and without waiting for hardware to be shipped.
When will they be available and how much do they cost?
As we’ve already explained, Windows 365 and Windows 11 are very different things, and they’ll be available at different times. Windows 365 is actually just around the corner — Microsoft says it will be available on August 2nd. Microsoft hasn’t shared full pricing details yet, but as we mentioned, a cloud PC with 4GB of RAM, 128GB of storage, and two CPUs will cost $31 per month per user. There’s a lower tier with just one CPU, 2GB of RAM, and 64GB of storage, but we don’t know how much that will cost yet.
That price only applies to Windows 365 Business, and we haven’t heard details on Windows 365 Enterprise yet. However, that should be even more expensive. One thing to note is it’s a flat rate, though. You pay based on the PC specs, but you get unlimited access to it, without bandwidth or time limits.
As for Windows 11, Microsoft says it will release the new OS this holiday season, and we’ve seen hints it might happen in October. We don’t have a specific date yet, though. Windows 11 will also be installed on most Windows PCs once it’s released, so the cost of the operating system will likely be included in the price of the laptop.
Windows 11 will be a free upgrade if you have a compatible PC for it and you’re running Windows 10. That doesn’t mean Windows 11 itself is free, though. You’ll still need to buy a license if you don’t have one. Microsoft hasn’t shared pricing yet, but it’s likely it will be in line with the prices for Windows 10. Windows 10 Home costs $139.99, and Windows 10 Pro costs $199.99, so it shouldn’t be far off from that.
So those are the differences between Windows 11 and Windows 365. They’re ultimately very different products, and Windows 365 is meant for a specific audience. For most users, you’ll only be seeing and using Windows 11. However, some businesses may find value in having constant access to a PC in the cloud. Which one you should choose is up to your specific needs.