Windows 11 is far from perfect, but thanks to a steady stream of new features and functions, it offers a number of worthwhile improvements over Windows 10. Furthermore, while retail versions of Windows 11. Home/Pro is very expensive ($110/$150), there are still many (legitimate) ways to install Microsoft’s latest operating system for free.
Windows 11 Upgrade – Good News
You are entitled to a free copy of Windows 11 if you:
- Possess a legal copy of Windows 10 Home or Windows 10 Pro (updated to version 2004 or later)
- Buy a new PC
Unlike Windows 10, Microsoft doesn’t have a cut-off date for free upgrades from Windows 10, and I believe they won’t introduce an upgrade because the company is desperate for users to migrate.
Windows 11 Upgrade – Bad News
Double bad news:
- Windows 7 and Windows 8 owners can’t get a free upgrade to Windows 11
- Windows 11 system requirements are controversially high
System Requirements Windows 11
For most users, the biggest potential obstacle will be security requirements. They even exclude some newer machines, regardless of their performance level. Despite the criticism, Microsoft has remained steadfast in its position that TPM 2.0 and Secure Boot make a significant difference in PC protection and will not change.
- CPU: 1 GHz or faster with two or more cores
- RAM 4 GB.
- Warehouse: 64 GB of available storage.
- Guard: Enable TPM 2.0, UEFI firmware and Capable Secure Boot on your PC.
- Graphics card: DirectX 12 is compatible with the WDDM 2.0 driver.
If you run Windows 7/8 it is highly unlikely that your computer meets all of these requirements. But if you have a modern PC and choose to run an older operating system, you can get a free Windows 10 upgrade first and use it to later switch to Windows 11.
Windows 11 can be tricked into running on older PCs, but that seems like a pointless endeavor as Microsoft refuses to guarantee access to security and feature updates. With that said, if your PC qualifies, here’s how you can download Windows 11 for free.
Tip: always back up your PC before upgrading to a new operating system, or at least make sure your important files and documents are saved elsewhere, such as a cloud service like Google Drive or Dropbox .
Install Windows 11 Through Windows 10 Setup
This is the simplest option. Just navigate to: Start > Settings > Update & Security > Windows Update > Check for updates and Windows 11 will show if your PC is compatible. Then follow the on-screen prompts.
Install Windows 11 manually (via Assistant)
- Click the Windows 11 download page link here
- For most users I recommend ‘Installation Assistant’ but there is also an option to create a bootable drive for a clean install
- Once downloaded, follow the installation instructions prompt
- Remember to select the option to Keep personal files and apps
Installation takes some time, includes multiple reboots, and you’ll need a Microsoft account. There are hacks around it but for most users I don’t see this as a big deal.
One last tip: the Windows 11 license is tied to your hardware. So, if you need to format your computer for any reason, Windows 11 will automatically reactivate. If you upgrade many components in your PC over time, Windows 11 may think you bought a new PC and refuse to apply for a license. The good news is that Microsoft has a simple training process you can follow if that happens.
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