Microsoft has announced plans to soon release Windows 11. It turns out Windows 10 wasn’t the last version of Windows after all, but that’s okay, because Windows 11 will be free for all Windows 10 users, and includes a whole bunch of new features and improvements over the current version of Windows. This is everything you need to know.
Windows 11 release date
Microsoft says that it expects to begin shipping new Windows 11 PCs Windows 11 will also begin rolling out as a free upgrade for Windows 10 users around the same time, though not everyone will be offered the update straight away. The upgrade to Windows 11 will also be optional, meaning Windows 10 users can remain on Windows 10 until support is dropped in 2025.
Windows 11 system requirements
Windows 11 features a set of new system requirements that Microsoft has set to ensure all Windows 11 PCs are performing optimally in both security and stability departments.
The minimum system requirements are as follows:
- Processor: 1 gigahertz (GHz) or faster with 2 or more cores on a compatible 64-bit processor or System on a Chip (SoC)
- RAM: 4 gigabytes (GB)
- 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 and Microsoft accounts: Windows 11 Home edition requires internet connectivity and a Microsoft account to complete device setup on first use. Switching a device out of Windows 11 Home in S mode also requires internet connectivity. Learn more about S mode here.
For all Windows 11 editions, internet access is required to perform updates and to download and take advantage of some features. A Microsoft account is required for some features.
At first glance, the CPU requirements don’t seem too crazy. The only difference between the Windows 11 and Windows 10 requirements are 32-bit CPUs aren’t supported, nor are single-core CPUs.
Then Microsoft published a list of supported CPUs. As it turns out, this list is a lot more extreme. According to the list, Intel 8th-gen and newer are supported, and AMD Zen 2 APUs are supported. As mentioned above, you can have a PC that’s less than three years old and it’s not eligible for Windows 11.
Why Microsoft changed system requirements in Windows 11
I think that we can all agree this is not a subtle change. When the company first introduced its next-gen OS, it didn’t mention anything about this. All of the new requirements were discovered in the documentation. It was addressed four days later in a blog post. Here is Microsoft’s exact wording for why things have changed:
- Security. 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. To meet the principle, all Windows 11 supported CPUs have an embedded TPM, support secure boot, and support VBS and specific VBS capabilities.
- Reliability. Devices upgraded to Windows 11 will be in a supported and reliable state. By choosing CPUs that have adopted the new Windows Driver model and are supported by our OEM and silicon partners who are achieving a 99.8% crash-free experience.
- Compatibility. Windows 11 is designed to be compatible with the apps you use. It has the fundamentals of >1GHz, 2-core processors, 4GB memory, and 64GB of storage, aligning with our minimum system requirements for Office and Microsoft Teams.
Obviously, Microsoft could have offered some features only to newer PCs, but there’s another key reason that didn’t get mentioned. Microsoft wants you to buy a new computer.
The first major change in Windows system requirements in decades
Let’s not try to discount this; the shift in minimum requirements with Windows 11 is a big one, and probably among the biggest in the history of Windows. However, it’s important to note that Windows requirements haven’t changed in a meaningful way in a very long time.
Windows 10 launched six years ago on July 29, 2015. There have been some minor changes to requirements since, especially for new PCs. Indeed, a year later, Microsoft started mandating TPM 2.0. A bit later than that, it mandated 64-bit CPUs. The one thing that changed for everyone was the minimum storage was increased from 16GB on 32-bit PCs and 20GB on 64-bit PCs to 32GB for everyone.
The Windows 11 system requirements could change
When Microsoft took to explaining why the system requirements for Windows 11 are what they are, it also said they could change. The blog post was clear that Intel 6th-gen and older processors, and AMD pre-Zen processors, aren’t going to be supported. However, Intel 7th-gen and AMD Zen 1 is still a possibility. Also, it certainly seems like there are workarounds for the TPM requirement.
I have no doubt they will change. Microsoft does stuff like this all the time. It announces a product with some really cool new features that have strange requirements, there’s a huge backlash, and it backtracks. Take a look back at the original Xbox One launch when the console was originally going to require an internet connection, or when Microsoft wanted to raise the price on Xbox Live Gold.
Conclusion: Windows 11 system requirements aren’t the end of the world
This all boils down to two main options — you can buy a new PC that works with Windows 11, or you can continue to use Windows 10 for another four years. Microsoft isn’t leaving you behind, and nothing about this is unprecedented.
I understand the counterpoints. The biggest one is that this creates e-waste, a very legitimate issue. But you really need to understand something. Companies like Acer, Apple, ASUS, Dell, HP, Lenovo, LG, Microsoft, Motorola, OnePlus, Razer, Samsung, and other hardware makers all have something in common — they want you to buy new devices, e-waste be damned. It’s their business. Blaming Microsoft for wanting to sell more Windows PCs is like blaming a zebra for having stripes.
I know no one likes to buy PCs. That’s why until the pandemic started, the PC market was declining. We upgrade our phones regularly, but when it comes time to get a new laptop, it’s easy to stall as long as the thing you have worked. But that’s really just the way it is. Microsoft is still offering a solid 7-10 years out of even the newest devices that aren’t supported by the Windows 11 system requirements. You’ve got plenty of time to upgrade.