Windows 11 is out now. Microsoft revealed its next desktop operating system at a virtual launch event on 24 June, although we had to wait until 5 October for it to become available.
The new OS represents the biggest change we've seen to Windows for many years, even if there aren't many differences under the surface. The Start Menu and taskbar have been redesigned, the gaming experience upgraded and the ability to run Android apps natively supported - even if the latter isn't available on release day.
Free upgrades for Windows 10 devices will be delivered between now and mid-2022 - how soon you get it depends on the age of your device. However, there's an easy way to download Windows 11 right now, provided your computer meets the updated hardware requirements.
Does that include your Windows 10 PC or laptop? Here’s everything you need to know.
What are the Windows 11 hardware requirements?
Microsoft has updated the minimum system requirements for Windows 11. All current and future PCs will need the following in order to be compatible:
- A processor of 1Ghz or faster with at least 2 cores on compatible 64-bit processor or system on a chip (SoC)
- At least 4GB of RAM
- At least 64GB of on-device storage – more may be required for subsequent updates
- Graphics card that’s compatible with DirectX 12 or later and has WDDM 2.0 driver
- UEFI firmware
- Secure Boot support
- TPM (Trusted Platform Module) version 2.0
- Display at least 9in at 720p resolution and with 8 bits per colour channel
- Internet connectivity – required on Windows 11 Home, necessary for many features on Pro and Enterprise versions
As our sister site PC-Welt reports, laptops must also have an HD (720p or above) built-in webcam to continue getting updates after 1 January 2023.
That's a lot of technical detail, and might leave you none the wiser when figuring out if your PC will be able to download Windows 11.
Microsoft released a free 'PC Health Check' app just after Windows 11 was announced, but it was soon removed following user criticism. An updated version can now be downloaded from the bottom of the main Windows 11 page, and appears to be much more reliable.
That includes TPM 2.0 not being enabled, although this can be quickly rectified within the BIOS settings. On most devices, this is as simple as hitting Esc, Del or a function key (often F2) while your PC is turning on. It’s typically referred to as ‘PTT’ on Intel CPUs, while it can be known as ‘PSP fTPM’ on AMD-powered devices.
Enabling Secure Boot is also necessary to run Windows 11, and can also be accessed via the BIOS (or UEFI) settings. However, it's worth checking whether it's already turned on first. Just search for and open the System Information window, then check the 'Secure Boot State' under 'System Summary'.
Will my laptop run Windows 11?
Those processor requirements means only recent CPUs are supported, although Microsoft has recently expanded the list. It's currently as follows:
- Intel 8th Gen (Coffee Lake)
- Intel 9th Gen (Coffee Lake Refresh)
- Intel 10th Gen (Comet Lake)
- Intel 10th Gen (Ice Lake)
- Intel 11th Gen (Rocket Lake)
- Intel 11th Gen (Tiger Lake)
- Intel Xeon Skylake-SP
- Intel Xeon Cascade Lake-SP
- Intel Xeon Cooper Lake-SP
- Intel Xeon Ice Lake-SP
- Intel Core X-series
- Intel Xeon® W-series
- Intel Core 7820HQ
- AMD Ryzen 2000
- AMD Ryzen 3000
- AMD Ryzen 4000
- AMD Ryzen 5000
- AMD Ryzen Threadripper 2000
- AMD Ryzen Threadripper 3000
- AMD Ryzen Threadripper Pro 3000
- AMD EPYC 2nd Gen
- AMD EPYC 3rd Gen
However, judging by a recent video, it looks like Intel's legacy Pentium 4 processor can still work with Windows 11 - these chips were discontinued back in 2008. The YouTube channel Carlos S. M. Computers has posted what claims to be the final Windows 11 build running on one of these old CPUs. It even shows Microsoft's PC Health Check app suggesting it's compatible.
The poor performance here makes it unusable for most people on a regular basis, but it raises the prospect of running the OS on other devices that aren't officially eligible. Read more on this in our tutorial: How to download Windows 11 on an unsupported PC
All this means means the vast majority of Windows 10 laptops will be compatible with Windows 11. If a device you like is only available running Windows 10 out of the box, Microsoft now provides the option to go straight to the new version when setting it up. It's not necessary to wait until the device you like has a Windows 11 refresh. More detail can be found in our separate guide: Should I still buy a Windows 10 laptop or PC?
In terms of new hardware, several companies have already announced Windows 11 devices. Microsoft's new Surface Pro 8, Go 3, Laptop Studio and Pro X (2021) will all run the new OS out of the box. They're joined by Acer's new Vero, Nitro 5 and Swift 5, as well as Huawei's MateBook V 14.
Look out for plenty more Windows 11 laptops over the coming weeks and months.
The expected release of Windows 11 is fast approaching, but many of the leading Windows OEMs (original equipment manufacturers) are yet to confirm which of their existing hardware will be eligible for the upgrade.
That doesn't mean you need to limit yourself to these companies, though. The vast majority of current Windows 10 laptops will be compatible, provided they meet the requirements listed above.
Will my desktop PC run Windows 11?
Almost all the same laptop hardware requirements also apply to desktop PCs. You'll still need a recent Intel, AMD or ARM-based processor, alongside at least 4GB of RAM and 64GB of storage.
However, you'll also need a compatible motherboard. Some of the leading motherboard manufacturers have confirmed which existing models will be compatible with Windows 11. Here's the full list so far:
- Asus (Intel): C261 Series, C422 Series, X299 Series, Z590 Series, Q570 Series, H570 Series, B560 Series, H510 Series, Z490 Series, Q470 Series, H470 Series, B460 Series, H410 Series, W480 Series, Z390 Series, Z370 Series, H370 Series, B365 Series, B360 Series, H310 Series, Q370 Series, C246 Series
- Asus (AMD): WRX80 Series, TRX40 Series, X570 Series, B550 Series, A520 Series, X470 Series, B450 Series, X370 Series, B350 Series, A320 Series
- Biostar (Intel): Z590 Series, B560 Series, B460 Series, H510 Series, B250 Series
- Biostar (AMD): X570 Series, B550 Series, A520 Series, B450 Series, X470 Series, X370 Series, B350 Series, A320 Series
- Gigabyte (Intel): X299 Series, C621 Series, C232 Series, C236 Series, C246 Series, C200 Series, C300 Series, C400 Series, C500 Series
- Gigabyte (AMD): TRX40 Series, 300 Series, 400 Series, 500 Series
Once Windows 11 is available, upgrading will be completely free.
What to do if my PC won’t be supported
If your PC isn’t eligible for Windows 11, it’s probably because you’re using older or less powerful hardware. Some people will be able to upgrade their desktop PCs to meet the new requirements, but most other people will need to buy a new device.
However, there is a way to get around three of Windows 10's most disruptive hardware requirements. If your PC doesn't support TPM 2.0 and Secure Boot, or have 4GB+ of RAM, these can be manually ignored by making changes to the registry. Learn more in our dedicated guide - How to download Windows 11 on an unsupported PC.
Nonetheless, if you still want to buy a new device, there'll be plenty of new devices to choose from. Acer, Asus, Dell, HP, Lenovo, Samsung and Microsoft’s own Surface range were all featured in the official Windows 11 trailer, and lots more are expected. We'd be surprised if any OEMs currently making Windows 10 PCs didn't transition to Windows 11 over the next few months.
We don’t know exactly how long it will last, but expect Microsoft to continue offering a free upgrade to Windows 11 for a few months. That means any of the Windows 10 devices in our best laptop chart and plenty more besides will still be supported by the new OS.