Microsoft Keeps Windows 11 Hardware Requirements, But Will Placate Enthusiasts

Posted on August 27, 2021 by Paul Thurrott in Windows 11 with 62 Comments

Microsoft said that it will not step back from its stringent Windows 11 hardware requirements, but it will make concessions to enthusiasts.

“In June, we heard your questions about how we set the Windows 11 minimum system requirements and shared more information on the established principles that guided us in setting them,” the Windows team writes in the announcement post, alluding to its terrible communications on this issue at the time of the Windows 11 reveal. “And as a team, [we] committed to exploring through Windows Insider testing and with [PC makers] whether there were devices running on Intel 7th-generation [Intel] and AMD Zen 1 processors that met our principles.”

Microsoft is making two sets of concessions. First, and publicly, Microsoft admits that it will allow a tiny subset of older Intel-based PCs—those with Intel Core X-series chipsets, Xeon W-series chipsets, and some with select Intel Core 7820HQ chipsets, like Surface Studio 2—to upgrade to Windows 11. No older AMD-based PCs will be allowed to upgrade.

This means that the previously-announced Windows 11 hardware requirements—8th-generation Intel Core or newer chipsets, 2nd-generation AMD Zen 2 or newer chipsets, TPM 2.0, UEFI Secure Boot, 4 GB of RAM or more, and 64 GB of storage or more—will stand for about 99 percent of the userbase. Microsoft is not backing away from that cliff.

However, it is quietly making a second concession you won’t find in its post about this topic: Behind the scenes, Microsoft will allow enthusiasts who wish to upgrade non-compliant older PCs to Windows 11 to do so. These upgrades will not be officially supported, but those who wish to manually upgrade a PC to Windows 11, either by keeping it in the Windows Insider Program or by manually creating Windows 11 install media with the Media Creation Tool, will be allowed to do so. (This might be seen as similar to the quiet but ongoing ability to use a Windows 7 or newer product key to clean install and activate Windows 10.)

And this time, the software giant is also providing some data to support its requirements. Given how poorly the requirements were communicated back in June, this data is appreciated.

For example, PCs that meet the Windows 11 hardware requirements had a “99.8 percent crash-free experience” during Insider testing, while those that did not experienced 52 percent more kernel crashes, 17 percent more app hangs, and 43 percent more crashes for Microsoft’s bundled apps than did compliant PCs.

And TPM 2.0, Microsoft says, enables Windows 11 to be a truly passwordless operating system, a long-time goal for the company. The firm says that organizations that disable legacy authentication experience 67 percent fewer compromises. “Windows 11 requires TPM 2.0 vs [TPM] 1.2 because of the security advantages it provides, particularly support for newer and stronger cryptographic algorithms,” the Windows team claims.

Finally, Microsoft is also issuing an update to the embarrassingly bad PC Health app that it released on the day of the Windows 11 reveal but had to quickly remove because of problems. And it even “acknowledges that [it] missed an opportunity to provide clarity and accuracy” with the initial versions of the app. The newly released version is available to Insiders now and expands the eligibility check functionality with more complete and improved messaging. It will be made available to the public again in the coming weeks, Microsoft says, and it will support 64-bit Windows, 32-bit Windows (which cannot upgrade to Windows 11), Windows on Arm, and Windows 10 in S mode.

So this is all very interesting.

I was almost positive that Microsoft would allow PCs with 7th-generation Intel Core processors, and their AMD equivalents, to upgrade to Windows 11, and I even thought that TPM 1.2 was in play. But it appears, instead, that Microsoft found a way to make (almost) everyone happy. It will publicly keep digging in and take a stand for security, inarguably a good thing, broadly speaking. But it will also allow enthusiasts who are technical enough and understand the risks to upgrade older hardware to Windows 11 too, though those PCs will not be officially supported.

This is clearly the right decision. And it’s something I wish I could say of Microsoft more often. Well done.

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Comments (62)

62 responses to “Microsoft Keeps Windows 11 Hardware Requirements, But Will Placate Enthusiasts”

  1. ernie

    . . . looks as if I may become a KDE-Neon GNU/Linux user then. I just checked, if I want an AMD CPU that will perform as well an what I am using now, in order to qualify to upgrade to Windows 11, I will have to spend a bit over $300.00. I just spent nearly a grand building this 'new' system and I won't be able to afford to spend that much more on it now that I already have a CPU. Too bad I started getting the components (including the CPU) before MSFT announced their requirements. Had I known, I could have obtained one that would work . . .

    • qaelith2112

      Or you could just keep using Windows 10. I can't figure why people are seeing the choice as only "Windows 11 or Linux" when Windows 10 will still be fully supported for several more years.

      • digiguy

        because some people want to keep their hardware past 2025, not necessarily upgrading now

      • ezzy

        Because "I'm switching to Linux" has been the battle cry for 2 decades. Technically, the entire world had moved to Linux on their desktops by 2008. The rest of us are living in the Linux subsystem for Windows. We just don't know it.

    • aionon

      I'm wondering how you spent that much just recently, and ended up with an incompatible system. Where'd you buy from, CompUSA? As others have said, you can also just stay on Windows 10, or, ignore their warnings, and upgrade anyway. Have you actually ever had to call Microsoft for help that you'd worry if you PC was "supported"?

      • ernie

        After doing some more research (I actually went to the Windows 11 Compatibility webpage) I find that my new CPU is on the supported AMD CPUs list after all. I originally did a search for ZEN 2 CPUs on the Internet, and my CPU is not listed as a ZEN 2 CPU. It is a ZEN + CPU. I saw a Microsoft Insiders post on twitter, so I followed the link to the Insiders blog page. There I was able to navigate to the list of Windows 11 compatible AMD CPUs. I found my CPU on that list, so I suppose I'll see what happens.


        In the end, if I find that I cannot upgrade to Windows 11 on any of my PCs (this desktop I built and 2 laptops, one of which I know will not be compatible - it has an AMD A4 CPU - too old), I will switch that machine to Neon gnu/Linux when Windows 10 reaches end of life in 2025.


        I have been using Neon for a few months and I like it. It provides the latest stable KDE packages and is built on top of Ubuntu LTS so it is a rock solid OS. The real reason I stick with Windows is that it's familiar. I have been using one version or another of Windows since Windows 3.1 so by now, it just feels like home.


        Ernie


  2. youwerewarned

    Secure boot CHECK...TPM 2.0 CHECK...16GB/512GB CHECK...


    i7-7500U not so check, but a ray of sunshine nonetheless.


    And I'll bet all my Invoke credits the i7-3770K 32GB box will be fine too.


  3. waethorn

    Why is it that when companies extoll the virtue of energy efficiency and carbon offsets to fix "climate change", they still keep making disposable products by way of requiring hardware upgrades? Why has nobody made the argument about Microsoft creating a whole big mess of non-disposable e-waste from decisions like the Windows 11 system requirements? It's not like China is going to take your e-waste anymore.

    • huddie

      I agree. Although I haven't read their announcements straight from the horse's mouth (I've got better things to do than decode some Microsoft marketing person's babble), I've got doubts about the veracity of these stability stat percentages they're giving. Something seems off about them and most of the widespread exploits I see aren't mitigated by TPM. I might be wrong, but these are just my current thinking. Thankfully most 'normals' (to quote Mary-Jo Foley) don't care about upgrading and, to be honest, although I too am testing Win11, I don't think it offers any really big compelling features, just a large number of small changes.

      I do share the view you're implying, though, that Microsoft are really doing this under pressure from hardware partners to drive sales. Just not sure it's going to work.

  4. digiguy

    what is not clear is if a clean install will be necessary, my guess is yes, which will discourage some people and will push others to create a dual boot if they don't want to mess with all they have already installed and configured

    • Maverick010

      Microsoft is allowing creating the installation media, and that allows clean or in place upgrades. I will recommend doing a clean install on unsupported hardware, as I did an in place upgrade over Windows 10 on an HP Envy X360 with a Ryzen 2500U (Zen 1/+) and it had more issues. Did a clean install and it so far has been rock solid.

  5. thechise

    I know there are cases but I would consider myself and enthusiast and I don't think I've ever requested support from Microsoft or a PC maker. Ergo my i5-7260 on my NUC has been running Win11 without a hitch. I'm sure they probably wanted more people to have problems so they scoured that data looking for any crash they could find even if the user didn't notice

  6. Fredboulanger

    Not the right thread most probably.... Where is Android support at, and is it going to make it before the release?

  7. yourcomputerguy

    I upgraded many 6th gen business computers to Windows 11 after updating their TPM from 1.2 to 2.0. Both HP and Dell have a utility to do so.

  8. truerock2

    I built my PC in early 2012 with an Intel "Ivy Bridge" DZ77GA-70K CPU on an Intel "Panther Point" Z77 system board. I'm running Windows 10.


    I plan to build a new PC around an Intel "Raptor Lake" CPU in 2022. It will run Windows 11.

  9. Daishi

    I look at the second half of that announcement and what I get it “we’ve looked at at the workarounds people are already using to install the preview and we can’t figure out a way stopping them, except for completely rebuilding the installer. Since we don’t have time for that before the release date we’re just going to say that we’re allowing it.”

  10. skinnyjm

    So will the "enthusiast" clean install from ISO activate using the Windows 10 digital license (stored in the cloud) for a machine? or will some sort of, seemingly impossible due to the hardware requirements, in place upgrade be required first?

  11. cnc123

    For example, PCs that meet the Windows 11 hardware requirements had a “99.8 percent crash-free experience” during Insider testing, while those that did not experienced 52 percent more kernel crashes


    So PCs that did not meet the requirements had a 99.7% crash free experience. I'll take my chances.

  12. blue77star

    Is it me or I just don't care about Windows 11, not finding it appealing or anything must have. I am sure I will upgrade to it but probably not in 2-3 years. I am really interested in stable Windows 10 with security only updates.

  13. ontariopundit

    Enthusiast? Reading this article I come to the conclusion that an enthusiast is a euphemism for cheapskate, someone unable to afford "newer" hardware or someone who doesn't earn their living with their computer.


    BTW Paul Thurrott should start working for Microsoft. It's impressive how he spun this communications debacle in a positive light.


    Ultimately, I do think Microsoft should have stuck to its guns and closed off the loophole that allowed old computers to limp along with Windows 11. Windows 10 runs (poorly) on 13 year old hardware with enough RAM. It also runs poorly on computers that are six years old but have too little RAM. Keeping such old systems going with a "modern" OS with "modern" requirements really didn't do anyone any favors.


    PS Yes, there is something to be said for keeping a computer going for that extra few months given how incredibly inefficient we are at recycling old computers.

  14. robincapper

    I think this is wise. End of support for Win 10 in 2025 would otherwise consign lots of perfectly good hardware to the tip. I think the real issue is PCs reached 'good enough' for most maybe a decade ago and technologies for remote working, or cloud compute, are extending that further.

    We are currently in lockdown again, I have been doing 3D CAD design on an i5 PC (running Windows 10) 8GB ram, 2 x 24 monitors which was purchased in 2009! It does have a more modern graphics card and SSD upgrade but is perfectly adequate as it was remoting to a full blown CAD workstation. I cant see why it wouldn't be fine for another decade...

    • ram42

      Similarly, my main PC desktop at home is a Sandy Bridge (2nd gen) i7 machine I assembled in 2011. I upgraded to 16GB of RAM at some point, as well as SSDs and a better GPU, and it runs Windows 10 great. I worked remote for most of the last year and a half, zero issues, snappy performance all day. I game some, and while it likely wouldn’t handle the latest AAA title at max graphics today, it can still push pretty heavy duty titles from a couple years ago and look good while playing smooth. I would be quite surprised if it won’t handle Windows 11 competently. Hopefully MS persists with this new policy. I won’t dump a perfectly good machine just to get a minor interface update with Windows 11. I can live with dual booting Linux for day-to-day and 10 for gaming until it finally dies and I have to build a new one.

  15. wbtmid

    Runs fine on my first gen Ryzen too. I scanned the Microsoft Insider post. They have provided a lot of BS, including a list of government agencies, security statements, and so on. Provided some statistics the also appear to be bogus to support their original hardware requirements. In regard to AMD Ryzen it stated: "After carefully analyzing the first generation of AMD Zen processors in partnership with AMD, together we concluded that there are no additions to the supported CPU list. " Yeah right! I am sure the idea of selling more processors had no influence on the "technical" evaluation. Why is NOBODY explaining exactly why Gen 1 should be excluded? Is it the architecture, chipset, speed of the chip that is the problem or is it something else?

    I still call BS on all of this. The obvious conclusion is that Microsoft, AMD, Intel, and computer makers are artificially juicing the computer market. This doesn't exactly smell or feel right! Perhaps, Microsoft wants to join the other big tech companies getting antitrust and anticompetitive scrutiny from the government?

  16. stevelom

    And now they are saying if you do this you will not get any windows updates.

  17. angusmatheson

    passwordless is a lie. And in my experience it is a trap. My son uses a pin on his computer, so when he does need his password - he can never remember it. I fail to believe there is a system even with TMP 2.0 chips you will never need your Microsoft password. And needing it rarely means when you do need it you cannot remember the damn thing.

  18. justme

    I suppose my question would be: why does the second consession need to be quiet? Why doesnt Microsoft talk more openly about it, apart from not wanting to advertise it? Why not say, yeah, you can do it, it just wont be supported?

    • innitrichie

      Because they don't want to be seen to publicly endorsing the use Windows 11 on unsupported hardware, when they have no intention of providing fixes when anything breaks.


      When you install Windows 11 on a PC that doesn't meet Microsoft's toughened minimum requirements, you're on your own when a Windows update breaks your system - or starts triggering the dreaded BSOD. You'll have to hope the enthusiast community will find a way to come to your rescue.


      If they start detailing, explaining and helping people to install Windows 11 on older hardware, they'll come under more pressure to support that hardware when it goes wrong.


      So the official line is, your PC is not compatible with Windows 11. And, you should continue using Windows 10 on that machine until you're ready to buy a new PC.

  19. dexman335

    Does a list exist that reveals which Surface devices will be able to officially upgrade to W11? ?

    I donated a few of my older Surface units to my church and want to figure out which (if any) will be able to go forward.


    Surface 3

    Surface Pro 3

    Surface Go 1

    • c.hucklebridge

      I don't think those models (Surface 3, Pro 3, Go) will be able to officially upgrade to Windows 11. They have 4th Gen Intel CPUs. You may be able to do a clean install from media created through the media creation tool, but that's about it.

  20. divodd

    So if an enthusiast uses an ISO to upgrade a not officially supported system, will that system be able to receive updates to Windows 11 through Windows update in the future, or will every subsequent major release for those PCs have to be sideloaded?

    • Aaron44126

      Microsoft isn't even officially acknowledging this "workaround" so we probably won't know the answer to this until the first Windows 11 major upgrade is released in late 2022. They've put checks in place for Windows 10 PCs to prevent major upgrades from rolling out to unsupported systems, so I'd <i>guess</i> that unsupported Windows 11 PCs won't get the yearly feature upgrades automatically, because they won't meet the hardware support baseline for the new versions of Windows 11 just like they won't meet the support baseline for the initial release.


      But at least they're only going to be releasing these once per year instead of twice per year...

    • Paul Thurrott

      That is a good question. My guess is that all future updates will be installable normally, but that they will simply continue to be unsupported.

      • rewind

        I wouldn't mind doing a clean install each year for a new Windows 11 version. But what about security updates in-between those versions? Will those be available for "unsupported" machines? Clarification would be greatly appreciated. Thanks!

      • Greg Green

        I ran Win 8 on an unsupported system for a while and all that happened was a notice at boot up that bits of hardware were unsupported. Everything else, including updates, worked.

  21. waethorn

    Are they changing the VM requirements at all? Parallels is saying that Microsoft specifically told them that a TPM would not be required for a VM, otherwise everyone would have to upgrade to Parallels Desktop Pro over the Standard version, incurring an additional cost.

    • Aaron44126

      TPM is not required for VM installs.

      • crp0908

        Is TPM not required for Hyper-V VMs as well? When Windows 11 was first announced, I tried to set up a gen 1 Hyper-V VM. The Windows 11 installation told me that my hardware wasn't compatible. I haven't tried setting up a gen 2 VM yet.

        • waethorn

          Gen 2 VM's use UEFI booting from a GPT disk format, and Secure Boot as an option. I could be wrong about this, but AFAIK UEFI is a hard baked-in requirement and BIOS booting isn't supported. Gen 1 VM's only emulate a legacy BIOS.


          The PC Health Check app didn't differentiate between a physical and virtual PC though, so it would still tell you if it didn't detect a TPM/vTPM. I believe vTPM in Hyper-V is only supported on Gen 2 VM's also.


  22. navarac

    I'm not surprised Microsoft found a way to allow Surface Studio 2 to upgrade. A bit embarrassing otherwise. I've ensured my PC has TPM 2.0 turned off so I do not get this hobbled system.


    For the benefit of Ivthunder - that's IS positive for me. :-)

  23. navarac

    Good article, Paul. A pity MSFT could not spell it out succinctly in the first place, though.

  24. lvthunder

    I wonder why machines that don't meet those requirements crash more? I wonder if it's age-related? I also wonder if Windows 10 is the same way?


    But I am glad I'll be able to upgrade my Surface Studio 2.

    • Aaron44126

      They are basically claiming that the DCH drivers in use on newer systems are inherently more reliable than the legacy drivers on older systems.

    • IanYates82

      More is relative here.


      The 50% was chosen as a big number. If I have two kids, and then have one more, I've grown my child count by 50%...


      With supported PCs having a 99.8% error-free rate, that implies 0.2% have errors. So for older PCs that's now 0.3% having errors, or a 99.7% error-free rate.


      I feel the 50% was out out there because most people will assume it means 50% of older PCs have issues, which is not at all what is actually meant. Microsoft is usually pretty poor with its messaging but this one feels a little more deliberately chosen. That's fine, I just wish it was called out better in this case so Microsoft could clarify, and perhaps indicate the types of errors too.

  25. dallasnorth40

    Great news! My old Surface Pro 5 will survive to compute another day.

  26. sherlockholmes

    Oh boy. Please make up your mind, Microsoft.

  27. polloloco51

    I have to say, I installed Windows 11 on a ThinkPad T470 with an i5-7300U this morning. It works perfectly fine, albeit with some small bugs here and there. Games even work well too!


    I really do hope, Microsoft allows 7th Gen Intel processors to run Windows 11 at launch. Hopefully, the ISO enthusiast workaround will allow this!


    It would be a shame, to have a ThinkPad T470 go EOL in only 8 years!

  28. ebraiter

    Unsure what they did in Windows 11 that would cause hangs and other issues with non-compliant systems but was fine in Win 10.

    My top of the line 4th gen Core i7 works perfectly. Why should I spend a couple of grand on a new system when this works well?

    I'll take my chances. Even though i have until October 2025.

    • digiguy

      I also have a 4th gen i7 with 32GB RAM, I'll leave it on 10 until 2025 then will upgrade to 11 to get security patches

      • Birraque

        My Lenovo Yoga 2 Pro (20266) with 4th Gen Intel Core i7 4500U; Intel HD Graphics 4400: 8GB RAM; Intel 7260 AC; Samsung 1TB SDD is running smoothly after a Windows 11 Enterprise Clean Install... ZERO ERRORS!!!

  29. crp0908

    Both corporate and consumer users like to hold onto devices longer than the industry would like. The stringent hardware requirements will just encourage more users to continue running Windows 10 unsupported past its eol date in 2025. The announced conciliation isn't that exciting to me. Would like to see more mainstream processors (such as Intel Core desktop, U, and Y processors) be supported as well.

    • Maverick010

      Actually more businesses than ever were upgrading hardware during the pandemic. Part of that upgrade included moving from desktops to mobile hardware and from those upgrades, most are on 8th Gen or newer hardware. Some consumers were also in the market or purchased new hardware to perform their jobs in a WFH environment. I think Microsoft partially included those telemetry data into this equation.

  30. jlariviere

    The more I hear about Windows 11, the more I think I'll stay on 10 or switch to Linux as my primary OS.

  31. mattbg

    OK with me. The only thing I wanted was to be able to use Windows 11 on my 7th gen CPU until my next upgrade, which will happen as soon as Intel has a couple of releases of their desktop Intel 7 process/platform under their belt and have worked out the kinks.


    I actually much prefer this approach than having them try to support old technology that they don't want to support just because of political pressure, when they had already decided to cut loose the old stuff and move forward with a new baseline.


    The "unsupported" approach presumably means that that it's perfectly feasible that some future Windows Update will crash your PC or significantly affect your performance if you're running on a pre-8th Gen system. Again, OK with me, because I've been told what the risks are.


    • stvbnsn

      I think the risks are overblown, Kaby Lake spanned 7th and 8th generation with only “optimization” being the difference. Coffee Lake the next optimization did almost nothing but bump cores. It’s an artificial distinction made for reasons we can guess and assume but it’s not a risk mitigation strategy at least not one that doesn’t involve pumping PC manufacturers revenues.

      • vladimir

        I agree with you. I would just like to add that Microsoft is not only pumping revenues of pc manufacturers. It’s pumping its own as well because each new computer comes with a new windows license

  32. barry505

    I upgraded to Windows 11 via the Insider Program on an old i5-2500K computer. Runs fine.

    • aionon

      Runs fine on my i74790 too. Had an issue to begin with with repair loops at first, but that had nothing to do with my cpu (turned out it didn't like formatting of one of my hard drives, fixed simply be reformatting).

  33. epguy40

    hi Mr. Thurrott


    Microsoft did provide a response (on Aug. 28) to this ZDNet article with regards to installing & running Win11 on unsupported hardware:

    www.zdnet.com/article/microsoft-leaves-a-loophole-for-those-wanting-to-run-windows-11-on-unsupported-hardware/

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