How long does it take to upgrade to Windows 11?

Two laptops with Windows 10 displayed on one and Windows 11 on the other
(Image credit: Getty Images)

Microsoft’s flagship Windows 11 operating system is one that can re-invigorate machines both old and new, so long as your PC meets the minimum hardware requirements.

Many Windows 10 users have been increasingly flocking to Windows 11 in search of a performance boost, as well as a host of other exciting features available in the upgraded OS. The installation process might not be as straightforward as it could be for all users, though, and the installation time could vary greatly depending on several key factors.

The installation process could be as quick as up to 20mins, but some users may experience bottlenecks that drag out the typically short process into a saga that lasts hours. If the installation process takes any longer than a few hours, there might be something specific that’s gone wrong or certain aspects of your machine that are causing issues.

How do I install Windows 11?

The most common way to upgrade to Windows 11 is through the Windows Update channel, which Microsoft recommends above all others. You can, however, also install Windows 11 using self-created installation media, akin to the disk-based installations of old, or install a Windows 11 image to your disk using a third-party tool, and finally through the Windows Installation Assistant. Lastly, if you’re resetting your computer to factory settings, that can also mean installing Windows 11, regardless of whether you keep your data or not.

The results for how long the Windows 11 installation process can take are varied, across the breadth of installation methods available. In some cases, it takes less than an hour, while there are rare reports of users experiencing multi-hour installation times. How long the installation process takes, however, is tied directly to your system’s hardware and the speed of your internet connection.

Why is my Windows 11 installation taking so long?

For starters, unless you are just performing an initial Windows 11 set-up, or you’ve already downloaded a version of Windows 11 installation media before beginning this process, installing Windows 11 is likely to need a stable internet connection. If you’re in an office with speedy ethernet connections, that shouldn’t be a problem. Remote workers, however, particularly those living in rural areas or with previous experience with network difficulties, might have to wait a much longer time for that approximately 5GB ISO file to download. 

Storage might be the next bottleneck. Machines with hard disk drive (HDD) storage units, sometimes insultingly referred to as spinning rust, will take much longer to upgrade from Windows 10 than a modern PC running with a solid state drive (SSD). Even machines fitted with NVMe drives are more likely to experience a faster installation than HDD-fitted PCs.

Can I make Windows 11 install faster?

There are a few things you can do to speed up the process, but your mileage may vary. This mostly involves preparing your system ahead of the installation to ensure things go as smoothly as possible.

The best thing you can do is pre-download your Windows 11 installation to a USB drive. This will remove the network component from your installation entirely, which will be useful if you're worried about download speeds or if your connection is patchy.

You could also look at removing bloatware and similar programs that may be filling your hard drive, as it will be beneficial having as much free space as possible.

Unfortunately, there is no guaranteed way to speed up a Windows 11 installation, but these steps should give you the best chance of keeping things stable.

John Loeppky is a British-Canadian disabled freelance writer based in Regina, Saskatchewan. His work has appeared for the CBC, FiveThirtyEight, Defector, and a multitude of others. John most often writes about disability, sport, media, technology, and art. His goal in life is to have an entertaining obituary to read.