System Requirements for Windows 11

Not even a week after the Windows 11 announcement and Microsoft has backtracked and ‘clarified’ the system requirements for Windows 11. It didn’t help that Redmond released a compatibility checker tool, which it withdrew just days after its release.

Windows 11 requires at a minimum:

  • 4GB of system memory (RAM)
  • 64GB of available storage
  • An officially approved processor (CPU), given on published lists for AMD, Intel, and Qualcomm.
  • A graphics processor that is compatible with DirectX 12 and Windows Display Driver Model (WDDM) 2.0 or greater
  • A display at least 9 inches (measured diagonally) and capable of displaying 720p resolution (1920×1280)

Not only have we moved up from the Windows 10 minimum requirements for RAM and storage, but the CPU list includes key features in the name of security: Trusted Platform Module (TPM) support. The TPM supplies a unique code called a cryptographic key which is checked at boot time to make sure no one has tried to mess with the encrypted hard drive of the machine. Whether you’ve encrypted it or not.

Finding out whether your device has TPM isn’t simple. If your device meets the hardware requirements and is less than five years old, it probably has a TPM, either as a dedicated chip on the motherboard or in firmware.

You can also check by going to Settings, Update & Security, Windows Security, where a “Device security” module lists the security processor.

32-bit CPUs aren’t supported, nor are single-core CPUs, but that shouldn’t be an issue by now; if you have a netbook or original Pentium/Celeron machine, it’s time to change.

For more recent buys, however, this is problematic as the CPU list and TPM requirement rules out upgrades for a vast swathe of devices. Bought a Microsoft Surface laptop in the summer of 2018? No Windows 11 for you. The approved CPU list is actually very restrictive. Intel eighth generation and newer are supported, and AMD Zen 2 APUs are supported. You might have a PC that’s less than three years old and it’s not eligible for Windows 11.

Try the Surface Studio 2 which is available right now: the CPU is a seventh generation Intel, and can cost a whopping $4,800 in the Microsoft Store for the top spec. No Windows 11 for that either.-moving market

There’s a massive user base that may want Windows 11, but can’t have it on current devices. Microsoft may be a private company that can release whatever it likes in a fast changing tech sector, but customer ire is a very real and painful encumbrance.

Direct from the source, the Microsoft Insider blog states:

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 we all want better security, particularly in light of some of the serious cyber attacks seen across corporates and SME’s in the last two months.

The cynics among us might say MS just wants to perpetuate new PC sales for itself and partners, as all those machines bring in revenue from Windows’ OEM licenses. The industry got used to a relentless upgrade cycle every three years, but things are a little different now. What’s the incentive to keep upgrading when almost anything can run Office-365, Skye and Zoom over the web? Post-Pandemic, who has the money to replace devices that are less than three years old and perfectly functional. Or, in my case, six years old and perfectly functional?

Bizarrely we’re back to the Windows XP conundrum. With Windows 10, Microsoft wanted to migrate everyone to a single version of Windows and threw out free upgrades on an unprecedented scale. It didn’t entirely work, just like the Windows 7 grand migration didn’t wipe out Windows XP. Th Windows 7/8/8.1 fiasco set the system requirements quit low for Windows 10 in order to get users away from those.

We now have a scenario where MS wants to phase out Windows 10 after taking six years to get it on 1.3 billion devices. It could take another six years to replace all those Windows 10 machines and you can bet the hold-outs won’t want to. The good news is Windows 10 is supported until October 14th, 2025. The bad news is Windows 10 is supported until October 14th, 2025. Customers won’t be left behind, but Microsoft also can’t pull the plug on Windows 10 without facing an outcry and possible Anti-Trust papers. Not to mention Enterprise clients paying additional support fees to keep it. Migrating everything from earlier versions to Windows 7 was far from simple. The migration from 7 to 10 is ongoing.

Some might look at the feature list for Windows 11 with some scorn, it’s hardly a revolution. And the Mac-like UI changes won’t thrill some, either. Here’s the current unknown quantity: how many users will rush to upgrade anyway? It’s not like iOS or Chrome-OS have anything revolutionary to offer either. The upgrade race was lost long ago when the world went mobile and into the Cloud. AJS

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