Windows 11 is out now. Microsoft officially released its new operating system on 5 October, but warned that most people will be waiting a while for the free upgrade from Windows 10. Indeed, if you're running older hardware that's still supported, it could be mid-2022 before the update appears on your device.
However, there's no reason to wait that long. Windows 11 is now available to download as an ISO file direct from Microsoft, while a near-final version can also be installed via the Windows Insider Program. Both methods are completely free, and should take no more than a few minutes.
Before proceeding, it’s worth clarifying what we mean by ‘final version’. This is any version that has been released since 5 October, but Windows 11 will continue to get updates throughout its lifespan. That's usually ten years - Windows 10 was first released in 2015, but will continue getting updates until 2025.
However, this isn't the easiest way to upgrade to Windows 11. Microsoft is gradually rolling out the update to all compatible devices - this is expected to take several months, but the company has said it is now "advancing the pace of the rollout faster than we previously anticipated". It's worth checking in Settings if it's arrived on your device before following the steps in this article.
Check your laptop or PC is compatible
If you haven't checked already, the first step is to make sure your Windows 10 device will be compatible with Windows 11. Microsoft has updated the hardware requirements, meaning plenty of older hardware won't be officially supported.
The easiest way to find out is by downloading Microsoft's updated PC Health Check app - it's completely free, and only takes a minute or two to install. It's much more reliable than the first iteration, although you may need to manually enable TPM 2.0 or Secure Boot, both of which are required.
Learn more in our separate guide: Will my PC run Windows 11?
However, even on unsupported devices, a workaround means you can still get Windows 11.
Once that's taken care of, you can proceed with the installation.
How to get Windows 11 now: Download the ISO file
The easiest way to get Windows 11 right now is by downloading it from the Microsoft website. There are two options, both of which will keep all your files and settings intact.
We recommend most people choose the 'Windows 11 Installation Assistant', which will guide you through the process. However, the device you download it on must also have:
- A Windows 10 licence (if the OS was pre-installed when you bought the device, it will have one)
- Running version 2004 (May 2020 update) or later
- At least 9GB of free disk space
If it meets all these criteria, you can proceed with the installation:
- Under 'Windows 11 Installation Assistant', click 'Download Now'
- A small .exe file will be downloaded. Double-click it to open
- Click 'Yes' to confirm you allow changes to be made
- A pop-up window will appear, taking you through the step-by-step process.
If you're planning to install Windows 11 on multiple PCs, it's worth downloading the ISO file instead. It's a much larger file, but contains all the information necessary to install Windows 11.
Just make sure you have at least 8GB of space everywhere you transfer it, including a secure external storage device. Every PC you install it on must also meet Windows 11's hardware requirements, have a 64-bit CPU and matches your current language.
How to get Windows 11 now: Via the Insider Program
Until the above was released, the only way to install Windows 11 ahead of time was via the Insider Program. A near-final version is available in the Release Preview Channel.
For this method, you'll need to sign up to the Windows Insider Program if you haven’t already. Head over to the landing page on the Microsoft website and click ‘Register’, then follow the steps to connect your account.
Once those are taken care of, here’s what you need to do from a Windows 10 device:
- Head to Settings > Update & Security and choose ‘Windows Insider Program (or Programme)’ from the left pane
- Click ‘Get started’ and link the same account you used to register for the Insider Program
- Follow the steps on screen, making sure you choose the ‘Release Preview Channel'
- Agree to the terms and conditions, then reboot your device when prompted to apply the changes
- Once back up and running, head into Settings > Update & Security. Provided you’ve installed all previous updates, you should now see the option to get Windows 11
- Click ‘Download and install’ to begin the upgrade process. Your device will be out of action for a while, so make sure you time this carefully
If you’ve already installed an early build of Windows 11, you’ll just need to change which channel of the Insider Program you’re a member of:
- Open Settings > Windows Update
- Under ‘More options’, choose ‘Windows Insider Program (or Programme)’
- Click ‘Choose your Insider settings’ and select ‘Release Preview Channel’
- Head back to the main Windows Update page and click ‘Check for updates’
- This process can take a few minutes, but you should eventually see an update become available. If not, you’re already running the latest version
If you don’t want access to early builds in the future, just select ‘Stop getting preview builds’ from that same Windows Insider Program settings menu. Make sure you choose 'Unenroll this device when the next version of Windows releases', otherwise you'll have to clean install Windows 10 again.
Get a massively discounted Windows 10 Pro now and upgrade it to Windows 11 Pro for free
There's another option to get Windows 11 Pro at a big discount. Assuming your hardware is compatible, you can buy Windows 10 Pro at a discount now and upgrade to Windows 11 for free when it’s released on October 5th.
You can buy a version of Windows 10 Professional for $49.99 (or £59.99) in the PCWorld.com software store. That’s 75% off the retail price. And you’ll be able to upgrade to Windows 11 Pro for free – yes, the more powerful Pro version of Windows 11 and not Home.
it’s designed to be installed on a new or clean PC – upgrading from an older version of Windows is not supported.