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?

Aside from crossing your fingers, your best bet is to pre-download your installation media onto a USB drive in order to install Windows 11. If you think your computer is going to be slow, and particularly if you’re concerned about your internet speed, avoid installation methods that rely on the cloud – like certain pathways for a factory reset. By clearing unwanted programmes or bloatware, too, you can ensure your hard drive has as much free space as possible so it can run better.

There’s no silver bullet to guaranteeing a faster installation, but users can certainly boost their chances by ensuring their storage is optimised and their internet connections are as fast and stable as possible for the download portion.

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.