A bunch of Windows 11 information dropped this afternoon, providing more detail and clarity about the various requirements for Microsoft’s newest operating system along with ways to get around them.
First, Microsoft announced that the promised PC Health Check app update is now available to Windows Insiders for testing ahead of a wider rollout in the “coming weeks.” As a fresher, the Health Check app was released as a way for users to see if their Windows 10 PC would be eligible to upgrade to Windows 11.
However, the PC Health Check app had a few issues, most glaringly a total lack of clarity or explanation about why a computer may not be eligible for Windows 11. That lack of information, combined with people running it and learning their PC wouldn’t support Windows 11, helped fuel what I call the ‘TPM Panic.’ Microsoft’s TPM requirement was, for a time, the only visible explanation for why perfectly good PCs wouldn’t get Windows 11, and as a result saw TPM prices spike as people tried to buy them for their machines. Not to mention there was a ton of confusion about the whole thing.
Anyway, the new PC Health Check app should remedy that by providing users with reasons why their PC doesn’t meet the Windows 11 criteria.
Microsoft clarifies the reasoning behind the Windows 11 system requirements
Further, Microsoft published a blog post with a bunch of information about the Windows 11 requirements and the thought process behind them. Ars Technica has an excellent breakdown of the terms and what it all means. The short version is that Microsoft has two main concerns with Windows 11: stability and security. The device requirements are designed to help ensure both of those.
For stability, the requirements should help ensure that devices upgrading to Windows 11 support the newer ‘DCH‘ driver type, since it significantly reduces crashes on Windows 11. According to Microsoft, PCs in the Windows 11 Insider program that didn’t meet the minimum spec saw 52 percent more kernel mode crashes.
As for the security aspect, it mostly seems to be about support for ‘mode-based execution control,’ or MBEC. According to Ars, MBEC is a sort of hardware acceleration for something called ‘Hypervisor-protected code integrity’ (HVCI), which is part of a larger virtualization-based security (VBS) system. While computers without MBEC can utilize HVCI, devices that do so on Windows 10 see performance reductions of up to 40 percent.
However, Microsoft notes in the blog post that it isn’t requiring VBS for Windows 11, but it does want the minimum system requirements for Windows 11 to ensure any PC running it can utilize those security features. And, it plans to enable VBS and HVCI on “most new PCs over this next year.”
Of course, that still leaves several questions about the minimum requirements for Windows 11, which leaves out several processors that do support HVCI. Hopefully, those questions get answered in the future.
Users can manually install Windows 11 on PCs that don’t meet the requirements
Finally, if after all that information, your PC is still stuck off the list of officially supported hardware, there may still be a path to Windows 11. Microsoft confirmed that people who chose to upgrade their PCs manually using ISO media or the Media Creation Tool will not be blocked if their PC doesn’t meet the requirements.
In other words, if your PC isn’t on the official Windows 11 list, you can unofficially upgrade it to Windows 11 yourself. Naturally, Microsoft recommends against this, but it won’t stop you. And if your PC falls into the (arguably too large) group of hardware that should run Windows 11 fine but isn’t officially supported, the unofficial upgrade may work for you. However, mileage may vary.
All this is generally good news. More clarity about the system requirements of Windows 11, combined with an incoming update to the Health Check app, should go a long way to helping people understand why their PC may not support Windows 11. Still, the whole Windows 11 update saga has so far been needlessly complex. We haven’t even gotten to the actual update yet — I imagine that will be messy. Hopefully, Microsoft can set things right before Windows 11 drops later this year.