Microsoft’s list of hardware requirements for the Windows 11 operating system is pretty predictable, though there is one oddity—all Windows 11 laptops and 2-in-1s must have a user-facing webcam. This requirement will not affect existing devices, though manufacturers will be forced to follow it starting in 2023.
Laptops have come with built-in webcams for well over a decade, and most customers would laugh at the idea of a laptop without a camera. Even if Microsoft didn’t enforce webcams, you’d be pressed to find a Windows 11 laptop without one.
But Microsoft’s goal is a bit complicated. In its hardware requirements document, the company also states that Windows 11 laptop webcams must have an HD resolution and support for auto-focus and auto-white balance. These requirements will greatly improve the user experience on budget machines, though they may increase manufacturing costs.
While we can’t read Microsoft’s mind, it seems that the company is forcing webcams in all Windows 11 laptops to ensure that budget manufacturers won’t skip the HD webcam as a cost-cutting measure. (That said, HD webcam modules aren’t exactly expensive, you can buy an individual unit for just over a dollar on sites like AliExpress.)
It’s also possible that Microsoft is working its way to requiring Windows Hello support in laptops, a feature that would improve the user experience and device security. But this is all just speculation, and Microsoft isn’t exactly known for committing to long-term plans.
Now, I can’t gloss over the privacy aspect of this requirement. Some people who cover their webcams with stickers would probably love to buy a laptop without a built-in camera. But if you traveled back in time to the Windows 10 launch, your webcam-less laptop options would be just about as slim as they are now. The only notable Windows 10 laptops still sold without a webcam come from ASUS, and such devices are intended for game streamers who rely on fancy studio cameras.
There are definitely situations where you want to keep your webcam covered—I would do so on any laptop provided by a school or employer, given the annual stories of creepy supervisors and teachers remotely accessing people’s machines. But even in these situations, you probably still want a webcam on your laptop for the occasional video call. Microsoft’s Windows 11 requirements ensure that, even on a budget machine, your webcam won’t look like crap.