Everything you need to know about upgrading to Windows 11 from Windows 10, installing a fresh copy of Windows 11, or even downgrading from Windows 11.
The much-awaited Windows 11 has finally arrived and it bringing a revised User Interface, Android app support, multitasking features, and much more. Starting October 5, Microsoft has begun gradually rolling out Windows 11 free upgrades to eligible Windows 10 PCs. However, the free update is not available to all existing PCs just yet. Microsoft has announced that by the end of the first half of 2022, the free Windows 11 upgrade will be available to all eligible devices.
It is also announced that the free update will be available for anyone with Windows 7 and above as long as their PC meets Windows 11’s minimum hardware requirements. If you have an eligible device running Windows 10, you can easily upgrade to Windows 11 through Windows Update settings.
However, if the Windows 11 upgrade option is not available to you in Windows Update and your PC is supported, you can get Windows 11 immediately using Windows Installation Assistant, installation media, or disk image (ISO). In this guide, we will see several different methods to upgrade your Windows device to Windows 11.
Check Windows 11 Minimum System Requirements
Before you try to upgrade your device to Windows 11, first, you need to know if your computer meets Windows 11 minimum system requirements. Windows 11 requires the following system requirements to upgrade:
|Processor||A 64-bit processor or System on a Chip with 1 GHz or faster speed and 2 or more cores. Also, the CPU must be at least an 8th-generation Intel Core processor or AMD Ryzen 2nd-generation processor and above.|
|Storage (Harddisk space)||64 GB or more available disk space|
|Memory (RAM)||4GB or more|
|System firmware (BIOS)||UEFI, Secure Boot capable|
|Trusted Platform Module (TPM)|
TPM Version 2.0
|Graphics Card (Video card)||DirectX 12 or later compatible graphics with WDDM 2.0 driver|
|Display||High-definition display (720p, 1366×768) that is greater than 9” diagonally, 8 bits per color channel|
|Internet connection and Microsoft account||If you are upgrading to Windows 11 Home edition, an internet connection, and a Microsoft account will be required to complete the device setup on first use.|
Besides that, Internet connectivity is also required for all Windows 11 editions to download and install updates, drivers, and features.
Prepare Your PC for the Windows 11 Upgrade
If you buy a new device now, Windows 11 will probably come preinstalled with it. However, if you have a computer running Windows 10, there are a few things you need to do before upgrading to Windows 11 PC. Here’s how you prepare your device for Windows 11 upgrade.
Check for Compatibility
Just because you’re running Windows 10, it doesn’t mean you will be able to upgrade any device to Windows 11. It’s because Windows 11 has stricter and higher hardware requirements than any other previous versions. So. before you can get a free upgrade, you should first, make sure your PC meets the system requirements for Windows 11 using Microsoft’s PC Health Check tool.
To check if your device can run Windows 11, first, download and install Microsoft’s official PC Health Check app. To do that, open the PC Health Check app download page and click the ‘Download PC Health Check App’ link under the Check for compatibility section.
Once the app is downloaded, locate and double-click the ‘WindowsPCHealthCheckSetup.msi’ file to install it.
After the PC Health Check app is installed, launch the app and click the ‘Check now’ button.
If your device is compatible, a message will tell you that your PC meets Windows 11 requirements as shown below. To see a detailed report, click ‘See all results’.
In case, if your PC doesn’t meet the hardware requirements, you will see something like this.
Backup Your Files Before Upgrade of Windows 11
If you are upgrading to Windows 11, you need to backup all of your important documents, apps, and data. You can also create a recovery image, which can be used to restore your previous version of Windows 11 is not working for you. Here’s how you backup your PC in Windows 10.
It is recommended to backup your files on an external drive like a USB stick or a portable hard drive. However, you can also store your backup on any internal drive other than your Windows drive. If you wish to store your backup on an external drive, first, connect your external drive to the computer.
Next, click the ‘Start’ menu and select ‘Settings’ from the menu to open the Settings app.
In the Settings, click the ‘Update & Security’.
Then, select ‘Backup’ from the left pane to see the backup options. To backup, your files to the OneDrive cloud account, click the ‘Back up files’ option under Back up files to the OneDrive section.
By default files in your Desktop, Documents, and Photos will be backed up to your OneDrive account. In the Microsoft OneDrive window, select the folders you want to sync with OneDrive, then click the ‘Start backup’ button to save the files to OneDrive.
If you want to back up your files to another drive or an external drive, click the ‘Add a drive’ button under Back up using File History.
In the pop-up window that appears parallel to the Backup options, choose a drive.
Once you select the drive, the ‘Automatic back up my files’ toggle will appear. By default, the automatic backup is enabled for Windows library folders such as Desktop, Documents, Music, Pictures, and more.
To change backup settings or back up your files immediately, click the ‘More options’ link.
In the Backup options page, you will find options to change how often the backup should run, how long you want to keep the backed up files, what folders to backup, and more. Since we are upgrading to Windows 11, you don’t need to bother with automatic backup options. So, manage what folders you want to back up and click the ‘Back up now’ button at the top to back up your files right away.
Under the Back up these folders section, you will see the list of folders that will be backed up when the backup runs. To add a folder to the list of folders you want to backup, click the ‘Add a folder’ button. To remove a folder from the list, select the folder and click ‘Remove’.
To exclude specific folders from backups, click the ‘Add a folder’ button to add them under Exclude these folders section. If you want to create a system recovery image, click the ‘See advanced settings’ under Related settings.
This will open the ‘File History’ control panel. Here, click the ‘System Image Backup’ option from the bottom-left corner.
To create a recovery image, click the ‘Create a system image’ on the left of the Backup and Restore control panel.
In the Create a system image wizard, choose where do you want to save the backup (system image). You can save the backup on a hard disk, DVDs, or a network location.
To change the drive to save the backup, select a drive from the ‘On a hard disk’ drop-down and click ‘Next’.
In the next step, you can choose which drives you want to include in the backup along with the ‘EFI System Partition’ and ‘C:’ drive and click ‘Next’.
In the final step, click the ‘Start backup’ button to begin the backup process.
Once the backup image is created, you can restore your computer if the Windows 11 stopped working or if you don’t like it.
Enable TPM, Secure Boot, and Other Required features
Windows 11 requires two security features – a Trusted Platform Module (TPM) 2.0 and Secure Boot to run. Even if your PC has TPM and secure boot, it is not always enabled by default. In such cases, you might need to enable the Trusted Platform Module (TPM) and Secure Boot on the UEFI firmware to meet the minimum system requirements. However, in most modern computers, both features are enabled by default.
If you are still using legacy BIOS, you need to switch to Unified Extensible Firmware Interface (UEFI) boot option to run Windows 11. Another important requirement to install Window 11 is that the main drive needs to be in GUID Partition Table (GPT) partition. So, if your drive still using Master Boot Record (MBR) partition, you need to convert it to a GPT partition.
To check if your system uses GPT partition, search for ‘Disk Manager’ or ‘Create and format hard disk partitions’ in the Start menu and click the result to open the built-in Disk Management tool.
Now, right-click on the main disk where Windows is installed and select ‘Properties’.
In the Properties window, switch to the ‘Volumes’ tab and check if you have ‘GUID Partition Table (GPT)’ next to Partition style. Then, it also means you’re on UEFI.
If you see ‘Master Boot Record (MBR)’ next to ‘Partition style’, you are still using legacy BIOS and you need to convert your MBR partition to GPT and BIOS to UEFI.
To check if your PC has TPM, press Windows+R to open the Run dialog window. Then, type tpm.msc into it and click ‘OK’ or hit Enter to launch the TPM management tool.
This will open the Trusted Platform Module (TPM) utility. Here, you can see if TPM is installed on your computer as well as TPM information. If you see the “The TPM is ready for use” message under the Status section, TPM is installed on your computer (as shown below). Also, you can check out your TPM version under ‘TPM Manufacturer Information’.
If the TPM is not available or enabled on your PC, you would see a “Compatible TPM cannot be found” message.
You can enable TPM and Secure boot via BIOS/UEFI settings. To enter the BIOS/UEFI settings press ‘DEL‘ or ‘F2‘ (or the key specific to your computer) during the startup of your system.
In the UEFI settings, go to ‘Advanced Settings’ or ‘Advanced Mode’ and select the ‘Security’ section. Then, enable both ‘Trusted Platform Module (TPM)’ or ‘Secure Boot’ features (if applicable).
Check Windows 10 Current Activation
You should check if your Windows 10 computer is correctly activated with a valid digital license or product key. If your device is running Windows 7, 8, 8.1, or 10 activated with a proper digital license or product key, you should be able to upgrade and activate Windows 11 for free. Also, if you are installing Windows 11 on a device that never had Windows before, you will need a valid license of Windows 7, 8, 8.1, 10, or a newly purchased product key.
If you don’t have a proper product key, you can purchase one from the Microsoft Store, Amazon, or another retailer.
To check if your Windows 10 is activated, open Settings and select ‘Update & Security’.
Next, click on the ‘Activation’ section on the left panel and confirm your Windows activation on the right panel.
If Windows is activated on your computer, you will see one of these three messages next to the ‘Activation’ under the Windows section:
- Windows is activated – The Windows installation has been activated by the product key. If this is the case, you may have to enter this product during Windows 11 installation.
- Windows is activated with a digital license – Windows is activated with a digital license, but it isn’t linked to your Microsoft account. If this is the case, you don’t have to enter a product key and activation will happen automatically during installation.
- Windows is activated with a digital license linked to your Microsoft account – Windows is activated with a digital license and it is linked to your Microsoft account. So, Windows 11 will activate automatically once you sign in to the Microsoft account that is linked to the digital license.
Upgrade to Windows 11 from Windows Update
Once your computer meets all the above-mentioned minimum requirements, you are ready to upgrade your PC to Windows 11. As we mentioned earlier, Microsoft is slowly rolling out Windows 11 updates to more and more compatible Windows 10 computers over time.
So the best and easiest way to upgrade to Windows 11 is to wait for Microsoft to push updates to your device automatically via the Windows Update. Specific timing for when it will be available to you can vary, so once the free Windows 11 upgrade is ready, you can download and install it from the Windows Update in the Settings app.
If you are running Windows 10 now, you can check to see if the Windows 11 upgrade is available to you in the Windows Update settings. here’s how you do this:
In Windows 10, click the ‘Start’ menu, and select ‘Settings’.
In the Settings app, click ‘Update & Security’.
After that, select ‘Windows Update’ on the left pane and click ‘Check for updates’ on the right.
If the Windows 11 upgrade is available, you’ll see an ‘Upgrade to Windows 11 is ready’ message and an option to download and install it as shown below. Click the ‘Download and install’ button to begin the process. It will take some time to download and install the update. Then, it will prompt your to restart your PC to complete the installation and configuration of Windows 11.
The benefit of using this method is that it allows you to keep your Windows 10 apps, and personal files intact while simply updating your system.
If you don’t see the free Windows 11 upgrade in the Windows Update, and your PC is supported, you can use one of the following methods to force the Windows 11 Upgrade right now.
Upgrade to Windows 11 using Installation Assistant
If you don’t want to wait until Microsoft pushes the Windows 11 update to you, then the fastest way to upgrade your Windows 10 PC to Windows 11 is through Microsoft’s Installation Assistant. This method can let you choose whether to keep to apps and personal files from Windows 10. Follow these steps to install Windows 11 using Installation Assistant.
First, make sure your PC meets the Windows 11 minimum requirements for Windows 11 using the PC Health Check app. Then, head over to the Download Windows 11 page and click the ‘Download now’ button under the Windows 11 Installation Assistant section.
Then, double-click on the downloaded ‘Window11InstallationAssistant.exe’ file to run it. Also, you will need to be logged in as an administrator to run this tool.
In the Windows 11 Installation Assistant wizard, click ‘Apply and Install’.
It will take several minutes to download (depending on your internet speed) Windows 11 and install it.
Once the process completes, you will be prompted to restart your computer. Restart your PC to finish the installation.
Upgrade to Windows 11 using an Installation Media (DVD or USB)
If you want to make a clean install of Windows 11 on your PC, you can use the media creation tool to make a bootable USB or DVD. You can download the Media creation tool from Microsoft’s Windows 11 download page. When you use this method to upgrade to Windows 11, you won’t be able to roll back to your previous Windows version. So, make sure to take a backup of important files before installation. Follow these steps to create a bootable medium (USB stick or DVD) :
Go to Microsoft’s official Windows 11 download page, scroll down to the ‘Creating installation media for Windows 11’ section, and click the ‘Download now’ button.
Then, locate the downloaded file and double-click on it to run the wizard. For this, you need a blank DVD or USB drive with at least 8 GB storage capacity.
On the Windows 11 Setup window, click ‘Accept’ to continue.
Next, choose the language and edition and click ‘Next’.
By default, English (United States) is selected as the Language of the OS and the options will be greyed out. So, if you want to change it, uncheck the box next to ‘Use the recommended options for this PC’ and choose the language from the drop-down. Then, click ‘Next’.
After that, choose the media you want to use to save the installation files and click ‘Next’.
Remember, your flash drive will be formatted during this process, so make sure to copy all the files from the drive before you begin.
If you choose ‘USB flash drive’, select the USB drive you want to use from the list of drives, and click ‘Next’.
It will take several minutes to finish downloading.
Once it’s done, you will have a USB installation media. Click ‘Finish’ to close the wizard.
If you choose ‘ISO file’, it will download the files as an ISO file which you can use to burn it to a DVD later.
This will take several minutes to complete the process. After the download is finished, the wizard will ask you to burn the ISO file onto a DVD. To do that, click the ‘Open DVD burner’ link or you can also wait to do this some other time.
Clean Installation of Windows 11 from USB Drive or DVD
If you created a bootable Windows 11 USB drive or an installation disk with the above instructions, you can perform a clean installation or reinstallation of Windows 11. Here’s how you do this:
First plugin or insert the bootable USB or DVD into the computer on which you want to install the Windows 11 and restart or turn on the PC.
At the point when your PC is starting up, press the key specific to your computer to access the boot menu. The keys to accessing the Boot menu can vary between manufacturers of the computer or motherboard – Esc, F2, F9, F10, or F12. You should press (or keep pressing) the boot menu key as soon as the display lights up. Also, in some computers, the Boot menu key will be specified on the computer’s startup screen.
This will open the boot drive selection screen. Now, use the arrow keys (Up and Down) to move the selection and select the bootable USB or DVD that you inserted, and then press ENTER.
On most modern PCs, you can also access the boot menu from the UEFI Firmware Settings. If you are still unable to access the boot menu through shortcut keys, there’s another way you can use to access it. Here’s what you do:
Log in to your Windows 10 PC and open Settings and then select ‘Update & Security’.
Then, select ‘Recovery’ on the left and click ‘Restart now’ under Advanced Startup.
Now, the computer will restart and boot into the Windows Recovery Environment. Here, click the ‘Use a device’ option.
Then, select the boot device (USB or DVD).
Once the installation media is selected, it will take a few minutes to get things ready, then you’ll see the Windows Setup screen as shown below. Here, you can select Windows language, time and currency format, and Keyboard or input method. Then, click ‘Next’.
On the next screen, click on the ‘Install now’ button.
If your PC doesn’t have a digital license or you never installed and activated Windows on this device before, you would see an Activate Windows screen. Here, you will need to enter a valid Windows product key and click ‘Next’. But you’re reinstalling Windows or you don’t have the product key at the time, you can skip this step, by clicking the ‘I don’t have a product key’ option to continue.
Next, choose the ‘Custom: Install Windows only (advanced)’ option to perform a clean installation of Windows 11.
On the next screen, select the partition (drive) where you want to install Windows and click ‘Next’. You can select the current installation drive (usually an unnamed partition) to replace the current OS or you can install Windows 11 on a different drive to have multiple OS on your computer.
You can format the partition before clicking the ‘Next’ by selecting the ‘Format’ option. Or you can wipe the entire partition by clicking the ‘Delete’ button. This will erase everything including the partition. Then, select the ‘Unallocated space’ and click ‘Next’ to create a new partition and install the OS in it.
If you try to install Windows on a partition that already has an operating system (current installation drive), you will see a notification informing you that the partition you selected contains files from the previous Windows installation, and these files and folders will be moved to a folder named ‘Windows.old’. Click on ‘OK’ to continue.
After completing the above steps, Windows 11 will begin the installation process and may restart a few times during the process. Once it’s done, you can configure Windows 11 to suit your needs.
Upgrade Windows 11 Directly from Installation Media Files on the USB drive or DVD
Another way to upgrade Windows 11 (not clean install) is to directly run setup from downloaded Installation Media files on the USB drive or DVD. This way you can keep the apps, files, and settings from the previous Windows version while only upgrading the operating system.
First, login into your Windows 10 PC and insert the Installation media you created (USB drive or DVD) into the computer. Then, open that bootable USB drive or DVD and double-click the ‘setup.exe’ file to run it.
If User Account Control prompts for confirmation, click ‘Yes’. In the first step of the Windows 11 setup, you can change how the setup downloads the updates, drives, and optional features, by clicking the ‘Change how setup downloads updates’ option. Or you can just keep the default settings and click ‘Next’ to continue.
Here, you can choose to download the updates now before the installation starts or download them later from the Windows Update settings after the installation is finished. Then, click ‘Next’.
Next, click ‘Accept’ on the license terms and conditions page to continue.
If you chose to download updates now, it will take a few minutes to download all necessary updates specific to your computer. But for this step, your device needs to be connected to the internet.
In the Ready to install screen, click the ‘Change what to keep’ link.
Here, you can choose what to keep from Windows 10 based on your requirement. You can choose ‘Keep personal files and apps’, ‘Keep personal files only’, or ‘Nothing (Clean Install)’ and click ‘Next’.
Back in the Ready to install screen, click ‘Install’ to begin the installation process
It will take several minutes for the installation to complete during which your PC will restart several times.
Upgrade to Windows 11 using Disk Image (ISO)
You can also download the ‘Windows 11 Disk Image (ISO)’ file and use that file to burn a bootable DVD or create a bootable USB using third-party software (like Rufus).
To download an ISO file, choose the OS version from the drop-down under the Download a Windows 11 Disk Image (ISO) section on the same Windows 11 download page and click ‘Download’.
Then, choose the language and click ‘Confirm’.
Then, click the ’64-bit download’ button to download the iso file.
Then, choose a location, change the file name if you want, and click ‘Save’ to save the ISO file. This ISO download contains multi-editions of Windows 11 (including Windows 11 Home, Pro, Enterprise, etc).
How to Create a Bootable Windows 11 USB Drive using Third-party Software
Once you have Windows 11 disk image (ISO), you can create a bootable USB flash drive or DVD any time you want to install Windows. There are several free tools available for creating a bootable USB drive and one of the best tools for this is ‘Rufus’.
First, connect a flash drive that has 8GB or more disk space. Then, visit the Rufus website to download the Rufus tool and then launch it.
In the Rufus tool, click on the ‘Device’ drop-down menu and select the USB drive you want to use.
Next, make sure that the ‘Disk or ISO image’ option is selected from ‘Boot selection’. Then, click on ‘SELECT’ to browse and pick the downloaded ISO image.
In the Open window, find the ISO file in the File Explorer, select it and click ‘Open’.
After that, leave the rest of the options as default and click the ‘Start’ button at the bottom.
Then, you’ll see a warning that all data on the selected USB device will be wiped. Click ‘OK’ to continue.
It will take several minutes to complete the process. Once it’s done you will see the ‘READY’ bar below the Status as green. The bootable USB drive is ready to install. Now, plug the flash drive into the computer you want to install Windows 11 on and follow the same instructions we showed above to install Windows 11 from a USB drive.
Upgrade to Windows 11 on an Unsupported PC (without TPM 2.0)
Microsoft 11 has strict hardware requirements to run Windows 11. And if your PC doesn’t meet the minimum requirements, the PC Health Check tool or Installation Assistant will let you know that your PC is unsupported and tell you why. If you have an unsupported PC, you won’t be able to upgrade or install Windows 11. The common issue for this is that most of the older computer lacks TPM (Trusted Program Module) 2.0 or it has an older CPU.
However, Microsoft allows you to upgrade or install Windows 11 if your PC has an older CPU or at least TPM 1.2 instead of TPM 2.0 using a registry hack. But, if your PC is too old or doesn’t have a TPM at all, then this method won’t help you.
Bypassing the hardware requirements and upgrading an unsupported system is kind of risky because the PC may experience bugs and it won’t get proper security updates. That being said, if you still want to install Windows 11, then follow these steps:
First, open up the Run command box by pressing the Windows+R. Then, type in regedit and press Enter to open the Registry Editor.
Then, navigate to the following location in the left pane (copy and paste the following address into the address bar in the Registry Editor window and press Enter).
Next, right-click in the right pane, and select ‘New’ > ‘DWORD (32-bit) Value’.
Then, rename the DWORD to
After that double-click, the ‘AllowUpgradesWithUnsupportedTPMOrCPU’ DWORD and set its value to 1, and then click ‘OK’.
If your PC has less RAM or lacks the Secure Boot feature to run Windows 11, you can use these registry hacks and see if it works:
First, navigate to Computer\HKEY_LOCAL_MACHINE\SYSTEM\Setup. Next, right-click the Setup key (folder) on the left navigation panel and select ‘New’ > ‘Key’.
Then, name the newly created key (folder) as
LabConfig and press Enter.
Now, create two DWORD registries in the LabConfig folder –
BypassRAMCheck (for lower RAM) and
BypassSecureBootCheck (for no Secure Boot).
Then, set the ‘Value data’ to 1 for both DWORDs.
Now, you have two registry files to bypass RAM and Secure Boot check.
For the changes to take effect, you need to reboot your system. After that, you can try downloading and running the Windows 11 Installation Assistant tool from Microsoft’s Windows 11 download page to upgrade your PC to Windows 11. Although, you’ll just have to accept a warning first before continuing with the installation.
Go Back to the Previous Version of Windows (Downgrade)
If you don’t like Windows 11 or if it is not working properly on your computer, you can easily roll back to your previous Windows installation. You can use the Go back feature to downgrade your PC to the previous Windows version that you used before upgrading to Windows 11. However, this option is available for only 10 days after installing Windows 10. And it will only work if you upgraded to Windows 11 normally (not a clean install). Let us see how to revert the Windows 11 upgrade.
Open the Windows 11 Settings app and go to the ‘System’ tab. Then, scroll down on the right pane and select ‘Recovery’.
On the Recovery page, click the ‘Go back’ under Recovery options.
Then, select one of the reasons why are you downgrading and click ‘Next’.
On the next screen, you can choose whether you want to check for updates or not.
After that read the notes on the next page and click ‘Next’.
The next screen will inform you that you need your old Windows password to sign in to the previous Windows. Click ‘Next’ to continue.
At the last screen, click the ‘Go back to Windows (10 or 8.1 or 7)’ to return your computer to the previous Windows operating system.
Downgrade to Windows 10 using Installation Media (Clean Install)
If you are past 10 days after installing Windows 11 or if you made a clean installation of Windows 11, the only way you can downgrade to Windows 10 or another version is through a clean install. Here’s how you do this:
First, head over to Windows 10 download page and click the ‘Download tool now’ button to download the Windows 10 installation media.
Next, plug in the USB flash drive you want to use to burn the OS and run the tool. Then, accept the license terms.
On the next page, choose ‘Create installation media for another PC’, and click ‘Next’.
To continue with the default language, architecture, and edition settings, click the ‘Next’. Or, if you wish to change them, uncheck the ‘Use the recommended options for this PC’ box and choose from the available options. Then, click ‘Next’.
Next, choose which media you wish to use to create the installation media and click ‘Next’. Here, we’re selecting the ‘USB flash drive’.
Then, select the USB drive you want to use as the installation media and click next to continue.
The tool will download the Windows 10 OS and flash it to the USB drive which you can use to perform a clean installation of Windows 10 as we did above for Windows 11.