The hardware requirements for Windows 11 are surprisingly high especially the increased security requirements. Some brand-new computers, even Microsoft’s own high-priced Surface computers bought today might not be compatible with Windows 11.
See all the Office-Watch.com coverage of Windows 11
Unlike previous major Windows releases, you can’t assume that a recently bought computer will be compatible with the new Windows.
As usual, Microsoft minimum requirements for Windows are grossly UNDERstated. Here’s their official line on hardware for Windows 11
Windows 11 might run on such a computer but it would be very slow and frustrating.
If that’s not enough, Windows minimum system requirements are for Windows only. If you have the quaint habit of using other software (like Microsoft Office) that adds to the system requirements.
Our suggested minimum for Windows 11
Combining Windows 11 with Microsoft Office, our suggested minimum, practical requirements are:
Processor: 1.7 gigahertz or faster, 64-bit processor with 2 cores or more. Intel or ARM.
Memory: 8GB minimum, preferably 12GB. If using virtual machines (Hyper/V, VmWare) then 16GB minimum.
Hard Drive: 128GB if you must, 256GB is our practical lower limit. A lot more if you keep photos and videos. Solid State Drive (SSD) at least for the boot (C:) drive.
System firmware: UEFI secure boot
TPM: v2.0 or later
Graphics: DirectX 12 compatible/WDDM 2.x if NOT gaming. Gamers will want a much better graphics card.
Display: Over 9” with at least 1280 x 720 (720p HD) resolution.
Network: either Wifi or Ethernet
Internet connection: at least for setup and updates.
Microsoft has some other requirements for new computers:
Bluetooth – 4.0 (preferably 4.1) is required on all Win11 devices except Desktop PC’s. Better to get Bluetooth 5.x if possible, especially for portable devices.
Touchpad – if a Touchpad is installed it must be a ‘Precision Touchpad’.
Video output – a video socket (HDMI, Display Port, DVI, HD-15) which includes multi-use sockets like USB Type-C or Thunderbolt. There’s an exclusion for ‘All-in-One’ devices.
Some good news for virtual machine users. Windows 11 will run in virtual machines (like Hyper/V and VMware) but does NOT apply a hardware check on those virtualized instances. It’s up to the user to ensure the VM settings (especially CPU and memory) are enough to run Win11 well.
ARM chip support
One bit of good news is ARM chip support for Windows 11. That means Windows 11 can run on more portable devices using less battery power.
Office compatibility should be OK but with the usual cautions for early adopters, check out How will Microsoft Office work on ARM devices?
What CPU’s are supported?
An Intel 8th Generation CPU or later seems to be required. That’s a remarkably high bar that many new computers can’t reach. Even some expensive Microsoft Surface devices aren’t compatible with Windows 11.
This Microsoft page shows the supported CPU’s for Windows 7 and later. For Windows 11 there are lists for the supported, those lists have been changed since the original publication:
That requirement is controversial in nerd-land. Microsoft has backed off a little, now saying that ‘some’ 7th Generation and Zen 1 CPU may be supported. Microsoft has updated that list of supported CPUs. 6th generation chips and earlier have no chance.
The main sticking point for compatibility seems to be the TPM chip installed on a computer. It’s another high bar for Win11 compatibility.
Trusted Platform Module (TPM) is a special chip which adds secure cryptographic and security features. It’s important for a fully secure Bitlocker.
For Windows 11, version 2.0 TPM is required. That might be a problem for many computers which only have TPM v1.2.
Check your TPM version by pressing Start then typing tpm.msc . That starts the TPM management console. Look for the ‘Specification Version’.
Some computers might have TPM 2.0 but default to an earlier version. Check the computer firmware settings or manual to see what’s available.
Secure Boot UEFI
The old way computers started is horribly insecure, leaving opportunities for hackers to get into a computer.
UEFI is a newer way for a computer to start up. It has many advantages like support for larger boot drives. Microsoft is mostly focused on the greater safety in Secure Boot UEFI which makes it a lot harder to hack into the firmware of a computer.
None of this is new technology, Secure Boot UEFI was added in Windows 8. Most new computers should use UEFI, if not Secure UEFI already (most users would not even realise). What’s new in Windows 11 is that Secure Boot is compulsory.
Neither TPM or Secure UEFI requirements are a surprise to computer makers. For the last few years Microsoft has made it clear to hardware makers that more secure computers will be necessary for Windows with TPM and UEFI moving from ‘preferred’ to ‘required’.
If buying a new computer, make sure it has UEFI Secure Boot and TPM v2.
Windows 11 compatibility tester
Microsoft thoughtfully created a Windows 11 compatibility tester so people could check if their computers will run Windows 11. Sadly, it seems all Microsoft did was think about it. The tool as available on Win11 announcement day was awful and almost useless.
Called the PC Health Check app the original tool would only show a Yes/No answer. If ‘No’ there was no explanation of the reasons! That’s assuming the app worked at all.
Microsoft seemed surprised that people actually used the app! Seemingly there was little or no testing done before public release. They rushed out an updated app to provide some additional info. At time of writing, Microsoft has (sort of) admitted the Win11 compatibility test app wasn’t up to scratch. The actual weasel wording is “we missed an opportunity to provide clarity and accuracy through the PC Health Check app” – which should win the company some award for corporate obfuscation and truly world-class responsibility ducking that’s fooling no-one.
They’ve stopped offering PC Health Check until they’ve fixed and improved the tool. The Windows 11 compatibility tool will be available here, once Microsoft is (finally) ready. A preview version of the compatibility tool is available here.
The improved tool not only confirms compatibility (or not) but explains each of the checks – memory. TPM, Secure Boot etc.
Another Windows 11 hardware check
Until Microsoft sorts themselves out, a better Windows 11 compatibility tester is Win11SysCheck on Github. It’s not flashy but shows each test and a result. Note: download Win11Syscheck.exe, Microsoft’s SmartScreen will probably try to block running the program. Click ‘More info’ then Run Anyway.
See all the Office-Watch.com coverage of Windows 11