Microsoft is sticking to its guns with Windows 11’s minimum requirements, with Microsoft Program Manager Aria Carley saying in a recent AMA webcast that your PC won’t even allow itself to download the upgrade if it doesn’t meet Microsoft’s standards.
Windows 11’s minimum requirements have caused a bit of an uproar ever since they were first announced alongside the OS earlier this June. Key points of concern were the need for TPM 2.0, an up-to-now obscure security feature that’s so niche that most standalone motherboards automatically disable it in their BIOS, as well as a strict CPU compatibility list.
While Microsoft has since said that it’s testing Intel 7th gen CPUs with Windows 11, the first Windows 11 system requirements list said that you’d need to have at least an 8th gen Intel CPU or 2nd gen Ryzen CPU to upgrade to the new OS. For some context, Intel’s 8th generation launched as recently as 2017.
This left a lot of users, like myself, in the dark. My main home desktop uses an Intel 6th gen Core i7 CPU and a GTX 1080, which while a little out of date, is fine for me given that I don’t really care about ray tracing. I’ve thought about upgrading, but the best CPUs and best GPUs are so expensive right now that I’d rather hold off.
But if I want to upgrade to Windows 11, Microsoft’s going to force my hand. “Group policy will not enable you to get around the hardware enforcement for Windows 11,” Carley said in her recent webcast. “We’re still going to block you from upgrading your device to an unsupported state since we really want to make sure that your devices stay supported and secure.”
Carley did qualify that she knows “it sucks” if your recent, capable build can’t upgrade, but said that Microsoft’s rationale is to “keep devices more productive, have a better experience, and better security than ever before so they can stay protected.” I’m pretty happy with the experience on my desktop, so I can only assume the real impetus behind this decision is that added security. TPM 2.0 is the big new requirement there, and to be fair, it does give your PC a hardware-based way for your computer to store encryption keys, certificates and other sensitive data.
And to be fair to Microsoft, TPM 2.0 also isn’t exactly new. The company began requiring it on OEM laptops and desktops starting in 2016. It makes sense, then, that the big M would want to start utilizing the fruits of that decision. But given that many current standalone motherboards and chips don’t include it, requiring it is a move that favors pre-builts and risks leaving PC builders in the dust.
At the very least, if you’re stuck on Windows 10, you won’t have to waste a download on the Windows 11 upgrade only to find out your system isn’t compatible with it. Carley said that a device connected to Windows Update “will actually be able to determine [compatibility] by itself before ever being offered [Windows 11] and wasting that download.” I’m breathing a sigh of relief for my data right now, although that does make trying to force my system to run the OS without the minimum specs even harder.
For instance, while my 6th gen Intel chip doesn’t have TPM built-in, there’s nothing stopping me from trying to install a standalone TPM module on my PC to run Windows 11. This is a fact scalpers know well, and the prices for TPM modules have recently skyrocketed accordingly. Still, it’s cheaper than a whole new build. I won’t know for sure whether installing a standalone module would let me run the OS despite meeting the minimum requirements until it launches, but it’s unlikely that a few discouraging words from Microsoft are going to stop builders from trying everything they can to upgrade.
For now, though, if you download the Windows 11 ISO and do a clean install of the preview build, you may be able to test the new operating system on a computer that doesn't meet the standards. We were able to install it in a VM with just 2GB of RAM and no secure boot or TPM.
Regardless, it’s clear what the official word is. Microsoft’s going to do everything it can to force you to hit the Windows 11 minimum requirements to upgrade your PC, even if its performance is otherwise strong. Any money you spend trying to get around that is at your own peril.