Russ Harvey Consulting - Computer and Internet Services

Windows 11

Requirements | Pricing | Features | Upgrading | Updates

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.

Information about Windows 11 is relatively new and can change rapidly. All block quotes are from Microsoft unless otherwise indicated.

Windows 11 Announced

Microsoft announced on June 24th that Windows 11 would be released later in the year.

Windows 11 will be a free upgrade from Windows 10.

However, it sounds like the initial launch date will be for preloaded systems and not necessarily for users who have Windows 10 to get an upgrade. A Twitter post from the official Windows account said that users wouldn't get free upgrades until 2022. — Tom's Hardware

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Stronger Requirements

Windows 11 system requirements are more demanding than Windows 10.

While the upgrade is free, there are some significant hardware requirements which PCs more than four years old may be unable to meet. The actual CPU generation and presence of TPM 2.0 are more important than manufacturing date when determining upgradability.

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

More than anything, this will force people to upgrade and to provide built-in encryption that has been denied to Windows 10 Home users. However, it is not going to be a panacea.

Trusted Platform Module

The biggest obstacle for most people with be the presence of a Trusted Platform Module (TPM 2.0) plus a UEFI secure boot environment.

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

Intel CSME

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

Intel CSME is an embedded subsystem and a PCIe (Peripheral Component Interconnect Express) device that is designed to act as the security and manageability controller in the PCH (Platform Controller Hub). Intel CSME aims to implement a computing environment isolated from the main, CPU-executing, host software (SW) like BIOS (Basic Input Output System), OS (Operating System) and applications.

 

Intel CSME is present on most Intel platforms, including client consumer and commercial systems, workstations, servers, and IoT (Internet of Things) products. — Intel CSME White Paper

The Intel CSME White Paper (PDF) contains details on CSME and how to implement TPM in that environment.

TPM Not Perfect

Microsoft is addressing the threat of firmware attacks, ransomware and other malware in Windows 11 with the new security requirements as well as moving away from legacy hardware unable to meet the stricter minimums.

While TPM is not perfect, it does add a layer of protection.

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

TPM Requirements May Be Hard to Meet

TPM 2.0 may be the hardest requirement to meet, especially on older systems that may be running TPM 1.2 or no TPM. TPM 1.2 may be upgraded via a firmware update.

It sounds like if 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

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

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

 

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

While third-party TPMs are available, they can be tricky to install. Availability and pricing changed as soon as the Windows 11 TPM 2.0 requirement was announced.

Check TPM Status

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

Minimum 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

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.

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 without explaining why even though they appear to meet the minimum listed in the specs.

Notice these processor's “generation” 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
[W]e are confident that devices running on Intel 8th generation processors and AMD Zen 2 as well as Qualcomm 7 and 8 Series will meet our principles around security and reliability and minimum system requirements for Windows 11. — Microsoft Insider Blog

Microsoft has two listings of supported processors:

These lists are bound to be updated over time to include additional processors.

Support for older processors will depend upon the experience of Windows Insider beta testing as well as Microsoft's ability to support that hardware into the future.

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

Windows 11 “Supported Lifetime”

Windows 11 is to be released at the end of 2021 and is subject to the requirements of the Lifecycle FAQ - Windows (see the section specific to Windows 11).

This is currently defined as 24 months of support for each of the annual updates for Home and Pro versions.

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

However, your Windows 11 license is subject to the “supported lifetime of the device”. Microsoft could change the requirements at any time or remove support for specific hardware like it already has for Windows 10.

Less Legacy Hardware Support

Microsoft appears to be using the move to Windows 11 to abandon much of the legacy hardware currently supported by Windows 10.

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

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Pricing

Windows 11 is a free upgrade from Windows 10 (if your computer meets the system requirements). Upgrades from older Windows versions will not be supported.

Windows 11 retail licenses haven't been announced. Instead, Microsoft is encouraging you to purchase a new PC with Windows 11 pre-installed (coming towards the end of 2021, probably in October).

It looks like the free upgrades for current Windows 10 users won't appear until some time in 2022.

Looking to Buy a New Computer?

If you're purchasing a new Windows 10 computer before Windows 11 is launched, be sure that it is capable of upgrading to Windows 11 or you risk your new computer lasting for only four years.

Even some very expensive high-end Windows 10 computers currently for sale appear incapable of upgrading to Windows 11.

Both Intel 7th Gen Core and AMD Ryzen 1000 series came out as recently as 2017 and are still actively made and sold. For example, Microsoft's own Surface Studio 2 has a 7th Gen Core chip inside and sells for more than $3,000. — Tom's Hardware

I would look for a written guarantee of upgradability to Windows 11 from the vendor or wait for computers already running Microsoft-certified Windows 11 to be released this fall.

However, given that Microsoft can't make up its mind, I doubt you'll get that guarantee.

You also might think that if you went to Microsoft.com and paid nearly $5000 for a top-of-the-line Surface PC today, you'd be assured of being able to upgrade to Windows 11 in a few months, when it's ready for general release.

 

Think again. Microsoft can't quite get its upgrade story straight. And the clash between the company's engineering decisions and its marketing plan is about to cause screams of outrage from customers who will discover that their new or nearly new hardware just isn't good enough, in Microsoft's eyes. — ZDNet

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Windows 11 Features

Windows 11 comes with new and improved features and a redesigned user interface.

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.

Redesigned for Productivity, Creativity and Ease

Sharp edges are gone, replaced with rounded corners (much like those on the Mac). The modified Start Menu has moved to the middle with the Start Button location on the left of the group of pinned apps.

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.

Windows 11 Start Menu
The open Start menu.

Snap Improved

Snap — the ability to quickly compare content in multiple windows — is greatly improved in Windows 11. Multiple desktops, introduced in Windows 10, continue to offer additional options.

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.

Widgets

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

The News & Interests function that was added to Windows 10 in 2021 has a similar function, but Windows 11 will integrate it with the operating system.

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.

Connecting With Others

The COVID-19 pandemic changed much in the way we connected to family and friends. Zoom went from an unknown product to a “must have” service.

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

Windows 11 allows you to connect with others right from the desktop. Whether it is with Microsoft Teams, call or chat, it is free no matter what device they are on.

Gaming

Windows 11 will be an excellent platform for gaming.

If you're a gamer, Windows 11 is made for you. Gaming has always been fundamental to what Windows is all about. Today, hundreds of millions of people around the world game on Windows and find joy and connection with loved ones and friends through play. Windows 11 unlocks the full potential of your system's hardware, putting some of the latest gaming technology to work for you.

Security

Windows 11 has taken advantage of recent security 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.

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Should You Upgrade?

It depends.

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

However, Windows 11 will be faster on recent hardware and has improved security. The new features are attractive, especially for gamers.

Windows 10 computers can also be secured by enabling secure boot and the TPM if the hardware is present.

Microsoft Wants You to Purchase 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 For More Demanding Users

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.

Linux may offer a better solution on your current hardware once Windows 10 support expires in 2025.

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.

The option for a local account appears to be gone (at least for Windows 10 Home). You need to log into your Microsoft Account to install Windows 11. You may be able to run a local account once setup is complete, but that isn't yet clear.

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

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

Microsoft is not alone.

Google's ChromeOS is even more 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. Perhaps Apple's stand on privacy and its “walled garden” app store makes it more palatable.

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.

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

Is Your PC Ready?

Many PCs that are less than four years old will 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 (if available*).
  • Early versions got details wrong without explaining why your computer doesn't meet specific requirements.

*The PCHealthCheck app has been removed from the site more than once.

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. I do have secure boot enabled.

 

Windows Updates

Microsoft has announced that Windows 11 updates will be annual.

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

You can expect to continue to see frequent security updates (probably on the second Tuesday of the month).

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Preparing for Disaster

This section is based upon Windows 10 capabilities and is subject to change.

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 may be the best solution for most people.

Develop a Recovery Plan

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

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.

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 cannot boot.

Failure to Boot

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.

Critical Points of Failure

Windows Updates and the move to a new operating system are a critical point where failures can occur.

Backup your system prior to installing updates or upgrading.

Create a Recovery Drive

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

Windows 11 Not Currently Listed

Whether a Windows 10 recovery drive will work after an attempt to upgrade to Windows 11 is unknown, but provides at least one point of potential recovery.

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

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russharvey.bc.ca/resources/windows11.html
Updated: July 30, 2021