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.