Verify Windows 11 system compatibility
Microsoft has been more stringent on the system requirements for Windows 11, so if you want to upgrade from Windows 10 to Windows 11, you’ll first need to verify that your PC is compatible. The new system requirements can be a little confusing, so it will take a little bit of research on your part to find out whether or not your system meets Windows 11 standards. For example, suppose your PC meets every requirement (TPM, Secure Boot, etc.) but uses a first-generation AMD Ryzen or a seventh-generation Intel processor. In that case, it won’t be compatible with Windows 11.
Windows 11 minimum system requirements
Your Windows computer must meet the minimum requirements to install Windows 11. Unlike Windows 10 and below, Windows 11 is much more specific in its requirements. If any of these aren’t met, you won’t be able to upgrade to Windows 11. The type of processor you have is also important, so you’ll want to double-check beforehand!
- 1GHz (gigahertz) processor with two or more cores on a compatible processor or system on a chip (SoC)
- 4GB of RAM
- 64GB+ of hard drive space for installation. Microsoft recommends more space for future updates and to enable specific features
- UEFI, Secure Boot compatible
- TPM version 2.0
- 720p display with a monitor larger than 9 inches
- An internet connection is necessary, as you must create a Microsoft account to complete the OS setup on your PC
Prepare your PC
IMPORTANT: If you’re unsure of how to navigate your BIOS, please refer to your motherboard’s user manual or get in touch with your motherboard manufacturer’s support team for assistance. Incorrectly adjusting the settings can lead to system instability.
After you’ve verified that your system is fully compatible, you’ll need to prep your PC so you can install Windows 11. This means formatting your boot drive, updating drivers, and going into your BIOS to update some settings.
Format boot drive as GPT
Your boot drive (typically the C:/ drive) must have less than three partitions to format as GPT, as it creates a partition explicitly dedicated to Windows 11. Most modern hard drives are already formatted as GPT, but double-check by following the steps below.
- Click the Windows icon, type “Disk”, then click Create and format hard disk partitions.
- Right-click the drive that Windows is installed on (boot drive), which is typically labeled Disk 0.
- Click Properties, then click Volumes. If the Partition style says GUID Partition Table (GPT), then you don’t need to partition anything.
- If you don’t see the Volume tab, go to Device Manager, locate and right-click the hard drive Windows is installed on (in the disk drives dropdown). Next, select Properties, click Volumes, then click Populate.
How to format boot drive as GPT
HOW MANY PARTITIONS CAN I HAVE? You can normally create up to four partitions on a disk which is formatted as MBR. However, if you need to convert to GPT, you can only have up to three as one new partition is created during the conversion process dedicated to a new EFI system partition. Check out Microsoft’s detailed guide for more information on the MBR2GPT process.
If your hard drive is still MBR, then you’ll need to format the boot drive as GPT. Running the mbr2gpt commands will convert your boot drive without data loss, which is very handy. The process of running these commands is simple, so follow these steps to convert the hard drive. Also, be sure to watch Microsoft’s in-depth tutorial video below for more detail. Please note that the Creator’s Update must be installed first.
- Click the Windows icon, type cmd, then click Run as Administrator.
- Type mbr2gpt /validate. This will show you whether or not you can convert your disk.
- If you can’t convert, double-check Disk Management to see how many partitions your boot drive currently has.
- Type mbr2gpt /convert to begin the conversion process.
- Once complete, exit out of the command prompt.
- Reboot your computer to enter your BIOS.
- Navigate to your Boot options and choose UEFI.
- Save the changes and exit the BIOS.
Turn on TPM, enable UEFI, and enable Secure Boot
CONVERT THE PARTITION FIRST! Before you can enable UEFI or Secure Boot, you must convert one of your OS hard drive’s partitions to GPT as outlined in the steps above. If the partition isn’t converted, you won’t be able to enable UEFI or Secure Boot.
The three settings you need to update are TPM, UEFI, and Secure Boot. All of these are essential for you to run Windows 11; if there’s just one that’s disabled, you won’t be able to run the new Windows operating system. You can enable all of these within the BIOS. Since each BIOS differs slightly, you’ll need to consult your motherboard’s manual for instructions on enabling each setting.
Turn on TPM
If there’s one Windows 11 hardware requirement that many PC users aren’t familiar with, it’s TPM. TPM is short for Trusted Platform Module. Think of it as the iLok system. It’s an added layer of protection so that potential malware cannot access any credentials, encryption keys, and other very sensitive user data stored in your system.
There are two types of TPMs available: a physical module installed directly on the motherboard or one that’s built into the processor’s firmware. Depending on your motherboard, you may not need a module, as it may have a firmware version that you can enable in your BIOS. For Intel systems, you will enable PTT. For AMD systems, it’s called fTPM. To determine whether your PC is TPM capable, click the Windows icon, then type “tpm.msc”
Convert to UEFI
UEFI (Unified Extensible Firmware Interface) is similar to the BIOS, except it’s not as limited. For example, BIOS can only boot from hard drives that are 2TB or less, whereas UEFI can boot from hard drives up to nine zettabytes (that’s nine billion terabytes!). It also allows your computer to boot faster, and you can use a keyboard and mouse to navigate. But most importantly, it offers a security feature called Secure Boot.
Enable Secure Boot
Secure Boot is essentially a security gate. It checks to see if firmware and software have valid and secured digital signatures. If they do, they’re allowed to load. If the credentials or signatures are invalid or not secured, however, they’ll be rejected.
Update system drivers
Once you have everything enabled and partitioned, the next thing you’ll want to do is update all of your system drivers as well as your BIOS. While we haven’t run into any issues, it’s always good practice to regularly check to see if driver updates are needed or not. You can easily update your system drivers by going to the manufacturer’s website and finding the latest one available.
Updating the BIOS, on the other hand, is critical in upgrading to Windows 11. Oftentimes we don’t think about updating it since it’s “out of sight and out of mind.” However, these BIOS updates can have an impact on the update process. Sometimes a new feature may be added where you can enable fTPM, or maybe a bug was fixed that caused a specific operation to be blocked.
Just like enabling options and the verbiage used, the BIOS update process differs from PC to PC. Some PCs require you to update it via a thumb drive, while others have dedicated update software that will automatically do it for you. Please take care in updating your BIOS, and follow the update instructions to the letter, as a corrupt installation can result in a device that is permanently unusable.
Back up Windows 10
After you’ve prepared your PC for installation, you’ll want to back up Windows 10. While there isn’t a hard-and-fast rule, it’s highly recommended to have an external hard drive with at least 500GB worth of space or have a cloud-based solution available. Each has its pros and cons, so consider that when backing up your files. While backing up your data is good practice in general, this is especially important when installing a large update/new OS if something goes wrong during the installation process.
TIP: Download the latest driver installers for devices like your graphics card, audio interface, and network adapter (e.g., router). Also, create a list of all the software and applications currently installed. To make things easier, download and install Belarc Advisor, which will scan your hard drive and create a detailed list of drivers and software installed.
- Click the Windows icon, type then click “Settings”.
- Choose Update & Security.
- Select Backup, click Add a drive +, then choose the storage device where you will be backing up your files.
If, by any chance, you can’t find a specific folder or file that you backed up, you can get it back via the Control Panel.
- Click the Windows icon, then type “restore files”.
- Select Restore your files with File History.
- Locate the file or folder in question, select it, and click Restore to save it to its original location.
- You can restore it to a different location, like your external hard drive, by right-clicking Restore, selecting Restore to, and choosing the new location.
If you’re already using Windows 10, the great thing is that Windows 11 will be installed just like any other update. To do so, all you need to do is click the Windows icon on the taskbar, type and then click “Settings”. After that, select Update & Security and click Check for Updates. From there, it’s just a matter of downloading and installing it just like you would any other Windows 10 update. Be sure not to turn off your computer at any point during the process, as this can result in a corrupt installation.
Use the Windows Media Creation Tool
Another way you can install Windows 11 is by using the Windows media creation tool. This method is often used when you need to perform a clean install or if you need to roll back to an earlier build.
- Go to the Microsoft website and download the Windows 11 installation media tool.
- Navigate to your Downloads folder, then locate and double-click the .iso file. Once the .iso is mounted, double-click setup.exe to begin the installation process.
- Once you see the “What do you want to do?” window, choose Upgrade my PC, and then click Next.
- Follow the on-screen prompts, then, once the “Change what you want to keep” window appears, select Keep personal files and apps, Keep personal files only, or Nothing.
- Once you’re ready, select Install. The process will take a little while and your PC will restart a few times.
- Do NOT turn off your PC at any time during the installation process.