is the latest incarnation of Microsoft's popular computer operating system. Its release in 2021 signalled the company’s move to phase out Windows 10, with its support expected to end around 2025.
To support this transition, Microsoft is currently offering all Windows 10 users the option to upgrade to Windows 11 for free. In this article, we'll explore how to upgrade to Windows 11.
The main reason comes down to support. Microsoft has now firmly focused its efforts on supporting and refining Windows 11. So this version will receive preferential treatment when it comes to the timely resolution of issues, availability of security updates, and integrating new features.
The other changes include:
- User interface: Microsoft has improved the organisation and display of open applications and widgets. They have also added snap layout and group display management when docking and undocking portable devices. The intent is to make information display easier to manage across all devices that Windows supports, from desktop computers to smartphones.
- Gaming: Windows 11 also brings improved gaming support and features from Xbox to provide a common approach across all devices. In addition, improvements have been made to the graphics to meet the challenging needs of games software.
- Android support: Windows 11 also offers better Android app support on the Windows operating system.
- Virtual desktops: Windows 11 improves support for creating multiple virtual desktops with individual display customisation for each instance for more advanced users.
- Microsoft Teams: Windows 11 has improved the integration of Teams video chat into the operating system to make use of this productivity tool with computing devices more seamless.
You can find out more on Microsoft's webpage here
Can You Upgrade?
Windows 10 users can easily upgrade as long as they have a compatible computer
. To make this check simple, Microsoft has a PC Health Check
app that automatically runs the tests to see if your computer can support Windows 11.
Simply download the program from Microsoft’s website and run the application.
If everything is OK, you'll get a message telling you that your computer is compatible and the chance to view detailed results of the check.
Suppose your computer isn't compatible. Well, it's not the end of the world. You can carry on running Windows 10 with full support for a few more years, which should take you until the point when your computer will probably be due for replacement with a newer, faster model. Even if you decide to hang on to your computer beyond the end-of-life date for Windows 10, there will always be other options to keep your computer running securely.
In summary, the minimum computer specification includes:
- One gigahertz (GHz) or faster processor with two or more cores on a compatible 64-bit processor or System on a Chip (SoC)
- Four gigabytes (GB) of RAM
- 64 GB or larger storage device
- Unified Extensible Firmware Interface (UEFI) system firmware that is Secure Boot capable
- Trusted Platform Module (TPM) version 2.0
- Graphics card compatible with DirectX 12 or later with Windows Display Driver Model (WDDM) 2.0 driver
- High-definition display (720p) that is greater than nine inches diagonally, eight bits per colour channel
- Internet connectivity and a Microsoft account
How to Upgrade to Windows 11
If your computer is running Windows 10 and supports Windows 11, the upgrade process is straightforward. So follow these steps to find out how to get Windows 11 using Microsoft's free Windows 10 upgrade.
First, go to the Windows Updates function and check that the Windows 11 update is available. If it is, then you're good to start the process. Microsoft is phasing the upgrade rollout to manage the loading on the download servers, so if it's not available now, it should be coming to you soon.
Second, make a backup of all your important files and applications in case there are any problems during the upgrade.
- Backups should include all documents, photographs, videos, and anything else of value that cannot be easily resourced or recreated.
- Typically, you'll find these files under the "This PC" area of Windows Explorer.
- However, do take the time to search if the computer has stored essential files in other places.
- Finally, back up all the files and applications to an external storage device, ideally one separate from the computer you will be upgrading. This can be a removable USB drive, a DVD, or a storage area in the cloud.
- Don't forget to check that the backup files are accessible and open correctly. You don't want to find out the files don't open when it's too late to redo the backup.
Next, in Windows Updates, select the option to download Windows 11 and install the update. Then, simply follow the on-screen instructions and choose the settings you want when prompted.
That's it; it's as easy as that. The time needed to upgrade will mainly depend on how long it takes to download the software update. Of course, the more bandwidth your internet connection, the quicker it will be.
Other Ways to Install Windows 11
If you would like a clean install of Windows 11 onto your computer instead of upgrading your Windows 10 operating system, the upgrade tool offers this option.
- Simply choose to create a Windows 11 installation media and use this to create a bootable USB drive or DVD.
- You can then use this media to reformat your Windows 10 computer and install the clean version of Windows 11.
- This action will delete all saved files and installed applications, so ensure that you can reinstall and recover everything you need before going down this route.
Suppose your Windows 10 computer doesn't have internet connectivity. In that case, it's still possible to upgrade by choosing to download Windows 11 software and create a disk image copy of Windows 11 on a different computer. This option will create an ISO standard format file that you can copy onto a suitable removable storage media and load onto the target computer.
You will need to know the Windows 10 product key to perform this process, as the upgrade option will only work for Windows 10 installations with a valid digital license.
Tips, Tricks and Troubleshooting
Some security software products may interfere with the upgrade download and installation process. While disabling your anti-malware software during the process is a standard recommendation, you should only do this as a last resort and for as short a period as possible to minimise the risk of a hacker discovering the weakness and launching an attack when your defences are down.
Running the Windows 11 upgrade process requires at least 64GB of free storage. If you encounter any problems during the upgrade download that require you to repeat any steps, you may find that you run out of sufficient disk space. Before starting the download, check how much free space is available and perform a disk clean up if necessary.
After a successful upgrade to Windows 11, it's also worth running a disk clean up to remove temporary files created by the upgrade process.
You may find that the Windows 11 compatibility tool reports that your computer isn't compatible when you believe it is due to the computer's BIOS disabling the Trusted Platform Module (TPM). While all modern processors have an integral TPM, older personal computers do not always enable this device. Running the windows command "tpm.msc" will open the TMP management window to confirm if the TPM is active and is the correct version.
Known Windows 11 Problems
As with all Windows products, problems exist that affect the software. Once the installation of Windows 11 is complete, check for Windows updates to see if there are any software updates available to fix known issues. Only once the Windows 11 installation is entirely up to date is it ready for use for your day to day computing.
On installation, the widget board can appear to be empty. You can fix this known problem by signing out of the widget board and signing back in. This refresh of user credentials is ordinarily sufficient to populate the widget board fully.
There are reports that the closing down of some applications, such as Windows Explorer, does not release the RAM that the applications had been using, leaving less RAM available for other processes and slowing the computer down. You can remedy this issue by restarting the computer or using the Task Manager to spot any rogue processes consuming resources and carefully shutting them down.
There are instances where gaming computers using AMD processors are seeing significantly poorer than expected performances. There are several probable causes, with more details and solutions available from the AMD website here
Windows 11 is the next step in the Windows evolution rather than a radical reinvention. It offers improvements to useability whilst allowing Windows 10 users to easily transition to the new version using a simple upgrade process. The vast majority of upgrades have been trouble-free, but plenty of support is available for those who experience technical difficulties.
We recommend taking the plunge to upgrade to Windows 11 from Windows 10 to get the best out of your computer. As long as your computer supports the new version, the process is fast and free.
About the Author: Stephen Mash is a contributing writer for HP Tech Takes. Stephen is a UK-based freelance technology writer with a background in cybersecurity and risk management.