Microsoft became the victim of severe backlash after it initially announced the system requirements for Windows 11. The minimum set of hardware compatible with Microsoft’s upcoming OS was astronomically high compared to the same for its contemporary, Windows 10. Immediately afterwards, Microsoft released a statement saying it will revaluate its decision and update the system requirements accordingly.
Days later, another update followed where Microsoft re-iterated the purpose and logical behind its ask for such an impractical barrier to entry. According to the Silicon Valley giant, the increased security merits were the primary reason for requiring the TPM 2.0 module and UEFI Secure Boot. As for the processor requirements i.e., AMD Zen+ and above, and Intel 8th Gen and above, Microsoft cited reliability and compatibility with modern apps and programs as the reasoning behind their decision. Microsoft also stated that it will test AMD Zen 1 processors along with Intel 7th Gen to see if they can get the next-gen Windows upgrade as well.
The problem with this fence around Windows 11, apart from being just absurd, is that Microsoft is playing a two-faced game. On one hand, its “feature-specific” requirements state that a dual-core processor running at 1Ghz or above is enough for Windows 11. But, simultaneously, everything AMD and Intel have released before 2017 has somehow been denied entry even though most of those processors well exceed Microsoft’s own minimum requirements.
Even if Microsoft was sticking to these sky-high requirements, it was not coming to them. That’s why people were confused on top of being pressed. But, we finally have the answer to why Microsoft wasn’t as explicit with this situation as it should’ve been. Today, Microsoft released yet another update on the developing situation and has somewhat retracted back from its austere stance.
The Current Situation
Now, don’t get too excited just yet. The company is hell bent on making sure “old” processors don’t get a chance to upgrade to Windows 11, but only via Windows Update. Last week, the first official ISO for Windows 11 was released and it could be installed on devices that didn’t meet Windows 11’s requirements. This is where today’s statement comes in.
Microsoft told The Verge that it would not block users from installing Windows 11 through ISO files. The feature specific system requirements would still remain in place but the CPU requirements will be ignored. This means you can technically install Windows 11 on even incompatible systems that have Intel 7th Gen or below, or AMD Zen processors, granted that your system still has a TPM module and SecureBoot.
Microsoft explained that the CPU blockade only comes into play when upgrading via Windows Update. This also implies that after you’ve installed Windows 11 via an ISO file on an incompatible system, you may have trouble receiving and installing updates. The company will not promise any support for issues stemming from this and will not be liable to look after these incompatible installs.
Your PC is exactly 69.420% too old to work with Windows 11
To further fortify their stance, Microsoft brought our some analytics. Apparently, devices that do not meet the minimum system requirements including the processor prerequisites ended up having 52% more kernel mode crashes, aka BSODs, compared to the 0.2% rate of crashes on officially supported systems. Similarly, applications hang 17% more on unsupported hardware and first-party applications see 43% more crashes.
So, while Microsoft won’t come barging in your house forcing you to throw away your dusty, old, slow, and obsolete i7-9700K system, they will make sure you feel really bad for not doing that yourself. Furthermore, the company further clarified that the reason they are offering this loophole to get Windows 11 on unsupported hardware is so that businesses and organizations can assess the OS themselves and decide whether the upgrade is necessary or not.
As you can probably tell, this circumvention, while putting the choice in the user’s hands, is designed to force a hardware upgrade or just make you stick to Windows 10 for the time being. This is similar to how Apple creates the illusion of choice by giving customers the option to go with the competition. While, Apple ties all the best functionality related to that product category into their own ecosystem, forcing you to just give in and buy another Apple product. A prime example being Tile vs. AirTag.
New Supported CPUs
All that being said, Microsoft did add three additions to the list of supported CPUs. Those being Intel Core X-series and Xeon W-series, and a wild card—Intel Core i7 7820HQ. That i7 chip is found inside Microsoft’s own Surface Studio 2 among other devices but only the Surface Studio is supported here. Why? Well, the Surface Studio is the only laptop that ships with DCH (Declarative, Componentized, Hardware Support Apps). Microsoft has been vying for DCH drivers since Windows 10’s release and DCH drivers are genuinely safer, more reliable, and easier to update so this decision is somewhat understandable.
However, after further testing, Microsoft deemed Zen 1 and other Intel 7th Gen or below processors unfit for the next version of Windows. So, even though 7th Gen X-series and Xeon CPUs are compatible, mainstream Core processors are not. The newly-supported Intel processors will be added to the updated PC Health Check app in the coming weeks.
The new, updated PC Health Check app
In addition to hammering in the requirements once again, Microsoft has released an updated PC Health Check app. The app was taken down after it was criticized for being a glorified “yes or no” machine. All it would do is tell you if your system is compatible with Windows 11 or not. There was no information on why the system wasn’t supported or what was the root of the issue. Well, Microsoft took in all that feedback and is re-releasing the app, this time in an actually useful state.
As you can see in the screenshot above, the app now lets you know whether your PC is supported on a hardware level or not. Before, in PCs that had TPM but it was disabled in the BIOS, the app would just give a prompt saying your computer does not support TPM. Now, it cross-references your hardware with the software and gives proper information on the compatibility of your system. There are also links directly embedded into the app that take you to the appropriate webpages to learn more.
Microsoft Is Sticking To Its Guns
Lastly, in the blog post Microsoft described their stance on this strict basis once again in detail. Microsoft wants to work towards better, more enhanced security with TPM modules that enable virtualization-based security (VBS). This way, Microsoft can create a more protected OS for the user, and also compete with Apple’s privacy chops. DCH drivers are also seen as the future standard by Microsoft hence the push to regularize it.
All in all, Microsoft’s reasoning makes sense for the most part. It’s just that Windows has never been known to be this fortified safe haven for users that’s guarded from malicious attacks – that’s just MacOS. At least, the option to install Windows 11 via ISOs does soften the blow and somewhat mitigates the insane system requirements. But, if Microsoft wants to really make Windows 11 a mainstay then they have to realize that the majority does not even know what an ISO file is and they’ll rather stick with Windows 10 than bother learning about it.