Windows 11 was officially announced back in June, but it's now finally available to download. There are already a handful of new devices with the OS pre-installed, with plenty more on the way soon.
That's also where you'll find the official ISO file. It's the easiest way to transfer it to a USB stick or other flash drive and install on as many eligible devices as you like.
Despite it being officially supported by Microsoft, the process is still quite complicated. Here’s what you need to know.
Check you have enough space
Before proceeding, it’s worth making sure you won’t run out of space at any stage. The Windows 11 ISO file is 5.1GB in size, so you’ll need that spare capacity on the device where it’s being downloaded, any flash drives you’re using and the target devices.
If this is proving tricky, the tips in our guide to freeing up space in Windows 10 could be useful. If there are files you don’t need immediately, it’s worth backing them up and then performing a factory reset. You can then choose what you want back on your PC at a later date.
Download the ISO file
Previously, the download process involved signing into a Microsoft account and registering for the Windows Insider Program. It's much simpler now:
- Head to the official Windows 11 download page
- Under 'Create Windows 11 installation media', click 'Download Now'
- The Media Creation Tool will now download. Once finished, double-click to run it
- Follow the step-by-step guide to download the ISO file
If you need to keep any of your existing files and data, make sure you select this option. Once installed, this will run Windows 11 as if you’ve just got the device out of the box.
However, the process of installing it from a USB is a bit more complicated.
Transfer it to a USB
The first stage is easy. The ISO file will appear in File Explorer (or Finder, if you’re using a Mac), just like any other download. Just plug in your USB stick or other flash drive and transfer it as you normally would – it's a big file, so this may take a minute or two.
Once it’s on the USB, make sure you eject it before unplugging.
Run Windows 11 from the USB
This is where things get tricky. That USB stick you’ve just used needs to be made bootable for it to run Windows 11 once it’s plugged in. Microsoft recommends using Rufus for this:
- Download and run the latest version of Rufus (3.15 at the time of writing) to the device where Windows 11 has also been downloaded
- Insert the USB which the ISO file will be mounted on. Make sure it has at least 8GB free and all other files have been removed
- From the main Rufus window, choose the relevant USB under ‘Device’
- Select ‘NTFS’ under ‘File system’ and ‘MBR’ under ‘Partition scheme’
- To the right of ‘Boot selection’, click ‘SELECT’ and choose the ISO file
- Click ‘Start’ to begin the process – how long this takes depends on the speed of your USB stick
Once complete, you now have a USB stick that can be used for a clean installation of Windows 11 on any compatible device.
- Plug the USB stick into the target device
- Restart the device
- Before the Windows logo appears, hold the F8 key to enter Safe Mode
- From here, choose ‘Use a device’ and select the USB stick
Your PC should now boot running the Windows 11 ISO file you downloaded. If not, you may need to turn off Secure Boot in the BIOS settings.