Russ Harvey Consulting - Computer and Internet Services

Windows 11

Features | Downloads | Requirements | Upgrading
Windows Updates | Recovery

Windows 11 preview.
Windows 11 has all the power and security of Windows 10 with a redesigned and refreshed look. It also comes with new tools, sounds, and apps. Every detail has been considered. All of it comes together to bring you a refreshing experience on your PC. — Microsoft

Released on October 4, 2021 Windows 11 support is available for 24 months after each annual feature update on consumer devices.

About Windows 11

There is a significant amount of information about Windows 11 available from Microsoft as well as in the media.

Microsoft's Information

Microsoft Windows 11 resources include these basic pages:

Media Information

The media has been prolific in its reporting on Windows 11.

Not everything is positive.

If you aren't a fan of the News & Interests feature added in Windows 10, you may be less enamored with some of the other changes in Windows 11.

Windows 11 Reviews

Most reviews suggest waiting until at least after the first feature update, probably in mid-2022.

Windows 11 looks nice, but that's not enough reason to upgrade on day one, either. After more than a week using Windows 11 day-to-day, I wouldn't recommend anyone install it today.

 

Almost none of Windows 11's promised big features are actually included right now, and no matter how promising a new version of Windows is, some launch day issues are inevitable. — PCGamer

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Windows 11 Features

Certain features require additional hardware.

Windows 11 provides a calm and creative space where you can pursue your passions through a fresh experience. From a rejuvenated Start menu to new ways to connect to your favorite people, news, games, and content — Windows 11 is the place to think, express, and create in a natural way. — Microsoft

Start Button in the Middle

The most obvious change is the modified Start Button which has moved to the middle as well as the way the opened Start Menu is laid out.

Windows 11 Start Menu
The open Start menu.

We put Start at the center and made it easier to quickly find what you need. Start utilizes the power of the cloud and Microsoft 365 to show you your recent files no matter what platform or device you were viewing them on earlier, even if it was on an Android or iOS device.
— Microsoft

These changes make sense in the mobile market. Not so much for traditional desktop users.

Microsoft has decided to abandon much of its own years of interface design knowledge in favor of chasing a new competitor. Chrome OS only has under 3% of desktop OS market share with Windows over 75%, according to StatCounter — PCMag
The centering makes sense in some cases. Specifically, for convertible or detachable laptops with a tablet mode, where it simply feels normal. But otherwise, the taskbar is a large downgrade.
Tom's Hardware

The move to enhance touch devices echoes the experience at the launch of Vista — too busy trying for “innovation” to listen to what the public wants.

Snap Improved

Snap is the one area that I think has improved over Windows 10.

New in Windows 11, we're introducing Snap Layouts, Snap Groups and Desktops to provide an even more powerful way to multitask and stay on top of what you need to get done.

 

You can also create separate Desktops for each part of your life and customize them to your liking — imagine having a Desktop for work, gaming or school. — Microsoft

Snap allows you to quickly compare content in multiple windows and is greatly improved in Windows 11. Multiple desktops, introduced in Windows 10, now offer additional options including remembering custom layouts for each desktop.

Widgets

Microsoft restored widgets, something that was downplayed after Vista. These appear to be much more functional and based upon our mobile experience.

Windows 11 brings you closer to the news and information you care about faster with Widgets — a new personalized feed powered by AI and best-in-class browser performance from Microsoft Edge.

 

When you open your personalized feed it slides across your screen like a sheet of glass so it doesn't disrupt what you're doing. — Microsoft

The News & Interests function added to Windows 10 in 2021 is integrated with the Windows 11 operating system.

Stop Widgets from Starting with Windows

Click on Start ⇒ Settings ⇒ Personalization ⇒ Taskbar; then uncheck Widgets (and any other taskbar features you don't want).

Connecting With Others

Connecting with others has emerged as a priority from the pandemic.

The past 18 months brought an incredible shift in how we used our PCs; we went from fitting the PC into our lives to trying to fit our whole lives into the PC. Our devices weren't just where we went for meetings, classes and to get things done, but where we came to play games with friends, binge watch our favorite shows and, perhaps most meaningfully, connect with one another. — Microsoft

Microsoft Teams Embedded

Windows 11 has embedded Microsoft Teams call and chat into the desktop. It is free no matter what device you're using.

Gaming

Windows 11 aims to become an excellent platform for gaming.

If you're a gamer, Windows 11 is made for you.

 

Windows 11 unlocks the full potential of your system's hardware, putting some of the latest gaming technology to work for you.
— Microsoft

Stop Xbox from Starting with Windows

For non-gamers, the continued integration of Xbox will be annoying.

Microsoft launches a screen at launch asking you to sign up for Game Pass using the Xbox app (which launches automatically with Windows).

To stop this, right-click the Xbox app icon in the taskbar then select Settings from the context menu. Under the General tab, uncheck the “automatically launch app at startup” box. Check other settings while you're there.

Security

Windows 11 takes advantage of recent security improvements in both hardware and software.

Windows 11 is also secure by design, with new built-in security technologies that will add protection from the chip to the cloud, while enabling productivity and new experiences. Windows 11 provides a Zero Trust-ready operating system to protect data and access across devices. — Microsoft

What About Privacy?

Microsoft took a while to explain how they were handling privacy in Windows 10, and it seems that this is not their first priority with Windows 11 either.

In our heavily connected, heavily surveilled world, anxiety about government and big tech overreach is at a fever pitch. And Microsoft has increasingly fallen on the wrong side of this argument.

 

Microsoft has already been criticized extensively for the amount of data Windows 10 feeds back to the company, and it looks as though Windows 11 will continue the trend. — Windows Central

Check Privacy Settings

While your privacy settings should be imported from Windows 10, you should verify the privacy settings.

Microsoft Edge Forced

Updates after launch now force users to use Microsoft Edge for many tasks that you could use any browser for at launch and in Windows 10 including separating the

Microsoft uses microsoft-edge:// links instead of https:// for specific features in Windows, like links to online news, weather, or Start Menu search results. — PCMag
These aren't the actions of an attentive company that cares about its product anymore. Microsoft isn't a good steward of the Windows operating system. They're prioritizing ads, bundleware, and service subscriptions over their users' productivity. — Daniel Aleksandersen

Microsoft Account Required

A Microsoft account is required to install Windows 11 (at least for Windows 11 Home). You need to log into your Microsoft Account before you are able to install Windows 11.

You can install and run Windows 11 from a a local account once setup is complete.

While it may be convenient to have your Edge bookmarks, photos, documents and other personal data synced between devices, there is a privacy cost.

Even though I created a local account on my Windows 10 installations, I've noticed that Microsoft is tracking much more on my Windows 10 computer since I installed Microsoft 365.

Microsoft Not Alone

Google's ChromeOS is tied to your Google account — most of the processing is done in the cloud on Google's remote servers. Google is not known for privacy.

Apple requires users to log into their Apple account to install and update their macOS and iOS systems.

Neither Apple or Google charge for their operating systems or upgrades.

What Hasn't Changed?

Windows 11 may have changed how it looks and improved some functions, but the transition from old-school Control Panel and many archaic menus are still in process.

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Windows 11 Downloads

Ready to install Windows 11? Be sure that your computer will support it and prepare for recovery in case something goes wrong.

There are three options below for installing or creating Windows 11 media:

  1. Windows 11 Installation Assistant
  2. Create Windows 11 Installation Media
  3. Download Windows 11 Disk Image (ISO)

All three options are included on Microsoft's Windows 11 download page. I strongly recommend reading the warnings and recommendations for each (the “before you begin” section) before choosing.

Windows 11 Installation Assistant

This is Microsoft's recommended option for upgrading your Windows 10 computer to Windows 11.

The installation assistant only works on 64-bit Intel hardware (it doesn't work on ARM-based PCs) for the computer you download it to.

Create Windows 11 Installation Media

This option allows you to perform a reinstall or a clean install of Windows 11 on a new or used PC.

Download Windows 11 Disk Image (ISO)

This option is for users that want to create a bootable installation media (USB flash drive, DVD) or create a virtual machine (.ISO file) to install Windows 11. Your product key will unlock the correct edition.

Installation on Unqualified Hardware

Be sure that your hardware meets the system requirements before using any of these options including the necessary drivers are available on the manufacturer's website.

WARNING: Installing Windows 11 media on a PC that does not meet the Windows 11 minimum system requirements is not recommended and may result in compatibility issues. If you proceed with installing Windows 11 on a PC that does not meet the requirements, that PC will no longer be supported and won't be entitled to receive updates. Damages to the PC due to lack of compatibility aren't covered under the manufacturer warranty. — Microsoft

Problems Installing from Windows 10 Home Upgraded to Pro

If you upgraded a Windows 10 Home machine to Pro, there can be problems.

The upgrade may not recognize the Pro status of your system during install (or perhaps after). That includes the requirement to be connected to your Windows Account before you can install Windows 11.

Even after upgrading to Pro, PCs that start with Windows Home can retain several critical Home limitations that royally foul up future from-scratch reinstalls and upgrades. — Fred Langa

Because most consumer computers are preinstalled with the Home edition, you will probably have to special order a Windows 11 Pro computer to avoid these issues.

Those that purchased a Windows 10 Home computer then upgraded to Pro are probably better staying with Windows 10 Pro, at least for now.

More Options

The following resources discuss how to download and install Windows 11:

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System Requirements

Since launching Windows 10 six years ago, a lot of hardware innovation has happened in the PC space. For Windows to move forward and take better advantage of the latest innovations, we need to update the baseline system requirements for modern PCs.
— Microsoft Blog

Minimum Requirements Demanding

Windows 11 minimum system requirements are virtually the same as they were for Windows 10 except for these significant requirements:

  1. at least an 8th gen processor; and
  2. a TPM security chip which must be Secure Boot capable.

PCs more than a couple of years old may be unable to upgrade.

It may be possible to enable Secure Boot and the TPM if the necessary hardware is present or Installable. You usually need to access your boot environment to enable these features, possibly requiring an update to the firmware.

To be clear, Windows 11 runs well on older hardware. It is not like older Intel 6th Gen processors cannot handle the OS — far from it. This discussion is all about security. — Windows Central

You may need to change the way your hard drive is formatted as well as ensuring that your computer is running Secure Boot on the UEFI boot environment.

Minimum System Requirements

The minimum system requirements have changed since the initial announcement:

  • Processor: 1 gigahertz (GHz) or faster with 2 or more cores on a compatible 64-bit processor or System on a Chip (SoC)
  • Memory: 4 GB RAM
  • Storage: 64 GB or larger storage device*
  • System firmware: UEFI, Secure Boot capable
  • TPM: Trusted Platform Module (TPM) version 2.0
  • Graphics card: Compatible with DirectX 12 or later with WDDM 2.0 driver
  • Display: High definition (720p) display that is greater than 9" diagonally, 8 bits per color channel
  • Internet connection: Windows 11 Home edition requires internet connectivity and a Microsoft account to complete device setup on first use. A Microsoft account is required for some features.

*Plus storage to keep Windows 11 up to date.

Microsoft lists additional requirements for updates, as well as requirements to turn on specific features within the OS.

More than anything, this will provide for upgraded built-in encryption denied to Windows 10 Home users.

Windows 11 raises the bar for security by requiring hardware that can enable protections like Windows Hello, Device Encryption, virtualization-based security (VBS), hypervisor-protected code integrity (HVCI) and Secure Boot. The combination of these features has been shown to reduce malware by 60% on tested devices.
— Microsoft
By requiring Secure Boot and a TPM 2.0 chip, Windows 11 totally neutralizes a whole class of malware attacks, attacks that gain total control over the computer by subverting the Windows boot process or getting into the system before bootup. — PCMag

However, it is not going to be a panacea.

While it improves the security of a device, some attacks and malware still work fine on TPM protected systems. — Forbes

One example is a zero-day elevation of privilege vulnerability in Microsoft Windows Installer where even a fully-patched Windows 11 machine is vulnerable.

Very Recent CPU Needed

Although not clearly indicated by the specs, the processor must be very recent.

Systems with older generation processors may fail Microsoft's Windows 11 compatibility test even though they appear to meet the minimum listed in the specs.

Notice these processor's “generation” (Gen) in the official assessments:

Windows 11 will only officially support 8th Gen and newer Intel Core processors, alongside Apollo Lake and newer Pentium and Celeron processors. — The Verge

Microsoft has two listings of supported processors:

Windows 11 is intended to work better on newer hardware, but not at the cost of retaining legacy support.

Trusted Platform Module

The biggest obstacle for most people with be the presence of a Trusted Platform Module (TPM 2.0) running in a UEFI Secure Boot environment.

What is TPM?

The Trusted Platform Modules (TPM) is a chip that is either integrated into your PC's motherboard or added separately into the CPU. Its purpose is to protect encryption keys, user credentials, and other sensitive data behind a hardware barrier so that malware and attackers can't access or tamper with that data. — The Verge

A Practical Guide to TPM 2.0 on Your PC (PDF) by Will Arthur and David Challener is a technical read, but provides insight into what TPM 2.0 does and how it works.

You may need to activate the TPM in your computer, something that may stump many consumers.

TPM Requirements May Be Hard to Meet

TPM 2.0 may be the hardest requirement to meet.

While many modern laptops have a TPM 2.0 chip, desktop motherboards do not. — Notebookcheck

While third-party TPMs are available, they can be tricky to install.

Checking the TPM Status

To check if your PC has TPM and if it is active, enter TPM into Windows 10 search box then click on Security Processor from within the search results. If present, ensure that it is TPM 2.0.

Enabling TPM

Your TPM may be turned off. This requires messing with the computer's BIOS to enable it, something many home users are uncomfortable with.

You may need to enable TPM 2.0 on your computer before you're able to upgrade to Windows 11.

Our PC was only Windows 11-eligible after we went into our PC's BIOS settings, and activated the TPM firmware—a process that may be too technical for the average consumer. — PCMag

Intel CSME

Intel supports TPM within their Converged Security and Management Engine (CSME).

If your machine does not have a dedicated TPM chip, your CPU may have an equivalent built in. Specifically, Intel integrates Platform Trust Technology (Intel PTT) in its modern processors, while AMD uses something called PSP fTPM. — Notebookcheck

Firmware Updates

[I]f you have a TPM 1.2 chip, this can likely be upgraded to TPM 2.0 by way of a firmware update from the computer vendor at no cost.
Forbes

Bypassing TPM 2.0 Requirements

There is information on how to bypass the TMP 2.0 requirement. Be aware that this may risk your Windows 11 losing support at any time and may damage hardware that isn't up to the task.

[I]f your computer has TPM 1.2 (which is incredibly old) and at least a 1GHz processor, you can still get Windows 11; it is just “not advised.”
Windows Central

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Upgrading to Windows 11

You can get Windows 11 either by purchasing a new computer or as a free upgrade from Windows 10, provided your device meets some significant system requirements.

Windows 10 Home users (but not Pro) will also be required to log onto your Microsoft account when installing Windows 11 (you can create a local account following installation).

Upgrading via Windows Update

While you can download the installation media, the safest way to upgrade is when Windows Update tells you that your Windows 10 computer can be safely upgraded to Windows 11.

Not Everyone Can Upgrade

Windows 11 minimum system requirements are virtually the same as they were for Windows 10 except for these three demanding requirements: a very modern 8th generation processor combined with a TPM 2.0 security chip that is Secure Boot capable.

Windows 10 computers purchased more than two years ago will not upgradable.

Is Your Device Ready?

If your hardware meets the system requirements and Microsoft feels your hardware can be safely upgraded, then you may see a notice like the following in Windows Update:

Notice that a Windows 11 upgrade is available through Windows Update.

If an upgrade to Windows 11 is NOT supported by your hardware, then you may see a notice like this:

Notice that a Windows 11 upgrade is not currently supported.

Once you move to Windows 11 you only have 10 days to return to Windows 10. If, for any reason, your Windows 11 becomes unsupported you're stuck buying a new computer.

Before proceeding, consider what can go wrong and prepare your computer for recovery.

Running Microsoft's PC Health Check app can verify eligibility.

Supported Lifetime of the Device

The Modern Lifestyle Policy requires that you continually maintain Windows 11 feature updates and meet other criteria to retain support.

New versions of Windows 11 will be released once per year. Customers should always install the latest version before the current version reaches end of servicing to remain supported by Microsoft.
Microsoft

This is currently defined as 24 months of support for each of the annual updates for Home and Pro versions (36 months for enterprise and education versions).

Specific hardware no longer supported by the manufacturer may also mark the end of support for Windows 11 by Microsoft.

Should You Upgrade?

It depends.

Only you can determine if and when upgrading to Windows 11 is right for you.

Windows 11 is based upon Windows 10, but Microsoft has made some major changes to many basic functions that will take time to get used to. Not all the promised features launched with Windows 11.

Some changes are sure to frustrate users, and in terms of new features, there isn't much hiding behind this new coat of paint. — Laptop Mag

Hardware Influences Options

Your decision to upgrade, purchase a new Windows 11 system, or move to an alternative is greatly influenced by your current hardware.

Because Windows 11 is, at its heart, a feature upgrade to Windows 10, most devices and apps that are compatible with Windows 10 should work after the upgrade. But "most" is not "all," and you'll be unable to get any work done while you're undoing the upgrade and restoring your system to its previous operating system. — ZDNet

The more recent your computer, the more likely you are to have a decent Windows 11 experience.

Some new features are attractive, especially for gamers and those that like to customize their experience. While a new computer may run slightly faster with Windows 11, some older computers are reported to be running slower than they did with Windows 10 (as much as 40% slower when emulating TPM tasks).

You'll have 10 days to revert back to Windows 10 if you change your mind. After that, you'll be locked into Windows 11.

Most reviews are recommending that you wait, at least until after the first feature update provides the missing pieces.

If you're happy on Windows 10, Windows 11 doesn't feel like a must-have upgrade right now, especially if you're a desktop power user.
Tom's Hardware
[T]he first major feature upgrade to Windows 11 will arrive in October 2022. That update will be the equivalent of what old-timers knew as Service Pack 1. If you wait till a few months after that release, you'll have an excellent chance of avoiding all the issues that early adopters experience. — ZDNet

Microsoft Recommends a New Computer

Microsoft is looking for users to purchase a new computer rather than upgrading from Windows 10. Not only will that ensure a smoother transition but will also avoid unseen bugs on untested hardware.

Windows 11 may be faster on recent hardware that offers improved security mostly because those new security measures require more processing power than older hardware is capable of providing while emulating the TPM 2.0 security.

Continuing with Windows 10

If your current Windows 10 computer is providing everything you need but is incapable of upgrading to Windows 11, consider remaining where you are. Some of the new features can be added to Windows 10 and you will continue to get updates for a few more years.

For those with minimal requirements (surfing the Web, email, smaller documents, etc.) the upgrade path may be less attractive — especially if you need to purchase a new computer to run Windows 11.

Windows 10 will continue to be supported until October 14, 2025.

Staying with Windows 10 makes sense for the time being unless you're willing to spend time learning your way around Windows 11. You'll remain more productive and you can always upgrade later if your computer supports it.

At the very least you can delay purchasing a new computer while supply issues are keeping prices higher than normal.

Alternatives to Windows

If your computer cannot run Windows 10 or if you lose support, you will need to seek out an alternative solution.

If your computer won't support Windows 11, Linux can be installed on your current hardware once Windows 10 support expires in 2025.

Is Your PC Ready?

Many PCs that are less than four years old may eventually be able to upgrade to Windows 11.

To check if your current Windows 10 PC is eligible for the free upgrade to Windows 11, download Microsoft's PC Health Check app.

  • It will download automatically.
  • Early versions got details wrong without explaining why your computer doesn't meet specific requirements.
  • The most recent version provides more information.

WhyNotWin11 is More Precise

There is also app available on GitHub which more provides details on why your PC cannot upgrade to Windows 11. The results for my desktop computer:

The WhyNotWin11 results screen.

My Intel Core i5 6400 @ 2.70GHz CPU is probably capable of running Windows 11, but is not on Microsoft's processor list and doesn't meet the 8th generation rating. There is a space for a TPM on my 2015 ASUS motherboard but no chip is present. I may be able to add one in the future if availability improves, but it is likely that I'm stuck on Windows 10. Secure boot is already enabled.

 

Windows Updates

Windows 11 “feature updates” will be annual.

The 24-month support window for home computers (36 months for enterprise and education) means fewer disruptions than Windows 10's former semi-annual update cycle.

Expect frequent security updates, at least once per month and as often as three times.

Feature Updates

Windows 11 will continue to be updated, including annual feature updates.

The next feature update is expected in fall 2022.

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Windows 11 Recovery

Preparing for Disaster

There are bound to be some issues with any new version of Windows (or major update) no matter how carefully it was tested.

Upgrading from Windows 10 to Windows 11 will be no exception.

Microsoft's recommendation to purchase a pre-loaded Windows 11 computer ensures the best experience, but supply-chain issues are making computers more expensive.

Develop a Recovery Plan

You should always be prepared for a failure. Disasters are unpredictable by their very nature.

Have a plan for how to recover if something goes wrong with Windows.

Upgrading? A Two-step Recovery Plan

If you decide to upgrade your Windows 10 computer to Windows 11, develop a recovery plan before something happens.

Following the upgrade, ensure that you can then recover from Windows 11.

Write it Down

Write down your plan then print it out.

You won't have access to any electronic documents on your computer if it fails to boot.

Recovering from Boot Failure

Your recovery plan should include knowing how to boot your computer into Recovery Mode as well as having the necessary recovery tools available.

Maintain a Current Backup

You should regularly backup your files using a system that ensures that critical files are always recoverable.

I recommend creating a separate backup of all your files, including the AppData folders where many programs including browser and email programs keep their data. If your backups fail, then you'll at least have copies of your data.

Critical Points of Failure

Windows updates and the move to a new operating system are both critical points where failures can occur.

Backup your system prior to installing updates or upgrading.

Create a Recovery Drive

A recovery drive can speed up recovery times if Windows fails to boot.

Recreate it After Significant Changes

You will need to recreate your recovery drive after each significant change to your system. Keep it current.

Recovery Mode

If Windows 11 won't load, you'll need to be able to get into recovery mode.

Windows 10 saw the removal of the F8 recovery options as a universal default.

Learn how your computer loads the recovery console before disaster happens then write it down.

Turn On System Restore Now

You can probably use System Restore to recover from a bad upgrade to Windows 11.

You'll have to turn on System Restore and create a restore point before upgrading to Windows 11.

Resetting Windows 11

Resetting Windows 11 allows you to clear up problems with Windows or prepare it for a new owner by resetting it to factory settings.

The menus are much like those in Windows 10, but you should take care in your selection to be sure that you understand the consequences.

Open Settings ⇒ System ⇒ Recovery then choose Reset this PC.

You're given the option to either keep your files (if you plan to continue using the PC) or remove everything (if you want to pass the PC on to someone else — a clean install).

Next, your options are either a cloud download or a local reinstall. Choose the cloud install if system files are corrupted on your PC.

You can also choose to clean the drive which will help make it harder for someone to recover the files. This can take hours to perform, so choose this option only if you're selling or passing on the computer.

At the end of this process, you will need to perform the initial setup for Windows (country, keyboard layout, etc.).

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Related Resources

Related resources on this site:

or check the resources index.

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Updated: January 20, 2022