Microsoft doesn't want to say it publicly but it will not stop you manually installing Windows 11 on older or otherwise incompatible PCs.
To be officially supported by Windows 11, machines will need TPM 2.0 support; an eighth-generation or newer Intel Core processor, a Zen 2 or newer AMD processor, or a suitable Qualcomm system-on-chip; UEFI Secure Boot; at least 4GB of RAM; and a minimum of 64GB of storage. That means you need a fairly recent computer.
In an announcement on Friday, Microsoft slightly expanded that processor compatibility list to include Intel's Core X series and Xeon W series, and for some specific devices, Intel's Core i7 7820HQ, which is found in Microsoft's Surface Studio 2. In other words, no, Redmond essentially isn't easing up on the installation restrictions.
But what it doesn't want to say out loud is that these hardware requirements will only be enforced if you upgrade from Windows 10 to Windows 11 through Windows Update. If you, for example, install the OS manually from an official ISO file, or use Microsoft's Media Creation Tool, the hardware checks will not be performed, and your older PC will not be blocked from running the operating system.
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This ability to sidestep the Windows 11 requirements is not in today's announcement, though journalists were privately told of the loophole.
If you run Windows 11 on non-supported hardware, you're on your own without any support, any guarantee of security patches and software updates, nor any sympathy from Redmond: Microsoft claims "devices that do meet the minimum system requirements had a 99.8% crash free experience," and those that did not "had 52% more kernel mode crashes."
To us, it appears Microsoft does want some people to know that they can try to use Windows 11 on their PCs, regardless of the hardware requirements, and at the same time, it does not want to openly condone the use of its OS on unsupported machines. Similarly, you can use the ISO install route to put and activate Windows 10 on your PC for free using a Windows 7 or newer product key, another little detail Microsoft doesn't promote.
Redmond also said it's polished up its PC Health Check app, used to determine whether or not your system meets Windows 11's demands, so that it doesn't suck quite as much. The software, which confused people with its warnings, was pulled, and will be re-released to the public in the next few weeks. Windows Insiders can already fetch and install it.
"We missed an opportunity to provide clarity and accuracy through the PC Health Check app," the Windows team said today. "This updated version expands the eligibility check functionality with more complete and improved messaging on eligibility and links to relevant support articles that include potential remediation steps."
The IT giant claimed it set the requirements of Windows 11 to improve driver reliability; improve security by, among other things, encouraging password-less authentication and using virtualization to protect the kernel, access credentials, and suchlike; and improve stability by narrowing the range of supported equipment.
No one at Microsoft was willing to comment further on the record. ®