How to install Windows 11 on your PC: All methods, explained

Windows 11 is officially here, and you can upgrade right away if you know where to look. It’s been six years since the last version of Windows was released, meaning this is no small update. If you want to take advantage of it, though, you need to know how to install Windows 11.

There are a few different methods. Windows 11 should arrive as a free update, so we recommend waiting for it to show up. If you don’t mind potentially dealing with a few annoyances, you can get started right now. There are a lot of other exciting new features to play with, after all.

How to install Windows 11

Step 1: Check for the update

Windows Update restarted required.

Microsoft is releasing Windows 11 in batches now, so the first thing you’ll want to do is check if the update is available. Go to Start > Settings > Update & Security > Windows Update and select Check for Updates. If your device is eligible for the free upgrade, you’ll see a banner above the update button that allows you to install Windows 11.

If you don’t see it, don’t worry. There are still other ways to upgrade now that the OS has officially released. Before moving on, make sure to download the PC Health Check app and confirm that your computer is compatible with Windows 11. You’ll need to have compatible hardware to install the update.

Step 2: Use Installation Assistant

Windows 11 installation assistant.

If you don’t have the Windows 11 update waiting for you, you can still upgrade. Microsoft has the Installation Assistant available on the Windows 11 download page. Download this app, and then run it to get started. It will run a hardware check to make sure your machine is compatible with Windows 11.

Otherwise, follow the prompts on-screen to upgrade to the latest version. Microsoft doesn’t recommend this upgrade path unless you’ve already received the upgrade in Windows Update or you’re instructed by support. You’ll have the option to upgrade without removing anything, upgrade while removing apps and Windows settings, or do a clean install.

Step 3: Use Media Creation Tool (not recommended)

Windows 10 media creation tool.
Mark Coppock/Digital Trends

If your PC doesn’t meet the minimum hardware requirements for Windows 11, you can still upgrade with the Media Creation Tool. Microsoft doesn’t recommend doing so, and the company has said it may withhold critical security updates if you install the OS on unsupported hardware. If you go this route, understand the risks involved.

Download the tool and create your installation media. You’ll need at least an 8GB USB drive that’s been formatted to create the installer. Select the drive when creating your installation media and wait for the download to finish.

After that, shut down your computer and insert the media USB drive. As you’re booting, spam the Delete key (not Backspace) to enter your motherboard’s BIOS. Every motherboard is different, but you want to modify the boot order so that the USB drive boots first. Your machine will boot directly to the USB drive, and after that, you can install Windows 11.

This route bypasses the CPU and TPM check for Windows 11. Keep in mind that you still need TPM 1.2 to install Windows 11 this way, while the official release calls for TPM 2.0. Once again, this route isn’t recommended by Microsoft, so proceed at your own risk.

How to install Windows 11 with the Windows Insider Program

Step 1: Register as a Windows Insider

The Windows Insider Program sign-up page.

Again, Windows 11 won’t be generally available until October 5. But if you really want the new OS before then, then you can sign up for the Windows Insider program to get it on your PC. If you’re new to flighting Insider Preview Builds, you’ll first need to register for the Windows Insider Program through your web browser.

All you need is a Microsoft or Azure account to get started, and you’re on your way to getting signed up. If you don’t already have one, you can create a Microsoft account for free using your existing email address.

Step 2: Check the Windows 11 hardware requirements

Devices running Windows 11.

Next, you’ll need to do a check if your PC can run Windows 11. If you’re unsure about whether it does or does not, Microsoft recommends checking the Windows 11 minimum hardware requirements page.

You’ll need a TPM (Trusted Platform Module) 2.0 chip: Intel 8th generation or AMD Ryzen 2000 or newer processor. This has led to some frustrations, with many people wondering why their powerful gaming PCs don’t meet the minimum requirements. If your PC doesn’t, you may have to consider upgrading your setup.

TPM 2.0 is already a requirement for prebuilt desktops and laptops, but many home-built custom PCs may not support it. We do know that TPM needs to run a version of at least 2.0, and its system firmware needs to be Secure Boot capable. This mandatory requirement for Windows 11 is for security reasons, according to Microsoft.

Other system requirements aren’t too demanding. Your PC needs to have a 1GHz or faster processor with two or more cores on a 64-bit processor. It has to host at least 4GB of RAM and 64GB of storage or more. The display is required to be at least 720 pixels and larger than 9 inches diagonally with at least 8 bits per color channel. The graphics card has to be compatible with DirectX12 with the latest WDDM 2.0 driver. These requirements aren’t much different from the ones for Windows 10.

Step 3: Opt your PC in to get Windows 11 builds

Opting a Windows 10 PC into the Windows Insider program.

Once you’re registered and checked to see that you can run Windows 11 (or if you are an existing Insider who’s already flighting Preview builds), you can install the new build by heading over to Settings > Update & Security > Windows Insider Program.

If it’s your first experience with the Windows Insider Program, you’ll notice that there are multiple channels: dev, beta, and release preview. Currently, Windows 11 is being tested in both the beta channel and the dev channel.

The beta channel is one of the most stable experiences to test Windows 11. If you opt to join this channel, you won’t experience as many bugs and issues. Keep in mind, though, that beta channel releases only happen every few weeks.

If you want the latest and greatest versions of Windows 11 from Microsoft, you’ll need to join the dev channel, which has weekly releases and all the new features. Eventually, Windows 11 features like Android apps in the Microsoft Store will hit the dev channel first.

Just remember that dev channel releases aren’t the most stable and come with a lot of bugs that might impact your PC’s performance and ability to run your favorite Windows apps.

How to clean install Windows 11 from scratch and installing in a VM

Windows 11 on a laptop.

If you’re hoping to clean install Windows 11, then we have some important words of advice for you. Microsoft recently released ISO files for Windows 11, but these files are for the beta version of the operating system. You’ll need to be a Windows Insider to get the ISO files and use them on a PC to create installation media.

To use the ISO files to clean install Windows 11, visit Microsoft’s Windows Insider website, and choose the appropriate ISO file. You can then follow our handy guide to create installation media, and boot your PC from a USB drive or CD with a copy of the new operating system. You’ll need a Windows 10 license to activate Windows 11 if you opt to use this ISO.

If you’re on Windows 10, you also can double-click the ISO file once it’s downloaded to open it up and launch an updater to easily move your existing machine to Windows 11.

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