Windows 11 is finally here, with Microsoft releasing the latest version of its flagship operating system on 5 October 2021.
The software introduces a number of new features including a redesigned Start menu, Microsoft Teams integration, the choice between Windows 11 Home vs Pro, and improved virtual desktop support. However, it was not made available to install for every customer right away, with Microsoft instead favouring to roll out its new operating system in stages between October 2021 and mid-2022.
Those users included in the latest wave of free upgrades will be notified through the update alerts that appear in the taskbar notification area.
However, if you're yet to be included, and can't wait to turn your Windows 10 laptop or desktop PC into a Windows 11 one, you can opt in to Microsoft's Insider Programme, which is free to join. This will provide you with access to the beta release of Windows 11, which may have a couple of the latest features missing but is otherwise a functional operating system.
Regardless of how you receive the new OS, it's important to check that you have the right hardware to run it in the first place.
Windows 11 hardware requirements
To upgrade to Windows 11, you'll first have to check that your current laptop or PC meets Windows 11's minimum requirements. This can be done by downloading and running the PC Health Check app or by going to Settings/Windows Updates.
The minimum requirements state that you should be using a machine with a 1GHz dual-core processor at least, and this needs to be 64-bit. This shouldn't come as a surprise, as support for 32-bit processors was phased out during the Windows 10 days.
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However, what caught the attention of most onlookers during it's initial announcement was the inclusion of a Trusted Platform Module (TPM) version 2 in the minimum requirements. This is a dedicated microcontroller that sits on a motherboard, and is designed to create and house hardware-based cryptographic keys. Essentially, it's seen as important for maintaining the security of Windows 11, and the TPM is directly managed by the operating system. It is also accessed by Microsoft hardware, such as the Pluton security processor.
Users will also need a graphics card that's compatible with DirectX 12 or later, a WDDM 2.0 driver, and a high definition display that is greater than 9in diagonally and has 8 bits per colour channel. Finally, you'll need Microsoft account and an internet connection to set up Windows 11 Home.
Microsoft doesn't recommend installing Windows 11 on devices that don't meet the system requirements, but you'll still be able to do so. However, it's worth noting that you might not get Windows 11 updates on PCs with unsupported processors. Microsoft has also said it will start watermarking the desktops of machines that don't meet the minimum requirements for Windows 11 or are running unsupported hardware.
How to upgrade to Windows 11
If Windows 11 is available to you, it will be found in Settings. Go to 'Update and Security', then navigate to 'Windows Update'.
If your machine is eligible, it will be in 'Future updates to Windows 11' where you'll be able to click and download the update for free. From here, simply follow the on-screen prompts to get started with Windows 11.
It may be that you have access to the download, but Windows is telling you that the TPM module is not activated. This means the motherboard your machine is using either does not contain a TPM module, in which case you won't be able to install Windows 11, or it just needs to be switched on. To check this, you will need to restart your system and access the BIOS. From there you should be able to find the Trusted Platform Module option under the BIOS security settings, although it may be that it's called something else by the motherboard manufacturer – so it's worth checking the vendor's site.
If the Windows 11 update isn't popping up in your update window, this means you will either have to wait or sign up to the Insider Programme. You can do this via the Microsoft website or through the 'Updates and Security' settings menu in Windows 10. However, this isn't the most straightforward process, so it might be worth waiting until the Windows 11 update becomes available for your machine.
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Bobby Hellard is ITPro's Reviews Editor and has worked on CloudPro and ChannelPro since 2018. In his time at ITPro, Bobby has covered stories for all the major technology companies, such as Apple, Microsoft, Amazon and Facebook, and regularly attends industry-leading events such as AWS Re:Invent and Google Cloud Next.
Bobby mainly covers hardware reviews, but you will also recognise him as the face of many of our video reviews of laptops and smartphones.