Windows 11 is a mess. What should be an otherwise excellent follow-up to Windows 10 has been marred by Microsoft’s terrible communication about whether you can even upgrade your PC. Now we have some good news. Your old PC can probably upgrade after all. The bad news? You’ll have to use a workaround.
Update, 8/31/21: After this article went out, Microsoft released more information about the “loophole” and it’s not good. While PCs that aren’t eligible for Windows 11 can use the workaround to upgrade to the latest OS, the company says it may not release any security updates for those devices. That would put you in a worse situation.
In case you missed the confusion, it’s been really unclear which Windows PCs can upgrade to Windows 11. Microsoft introduced new requirements unique to the OS, including a need for TPM 2.0. That left plenty of relatively modern processors (anything 7th Gen or order) out of the upgrade path, including Microsoft’s own Surface Studio 2. Not a great look for a multi-thousand dollar computer released just three years ago.
Microsoft has been testing expanding the list of processors that can update to Windows 11, and there’s good news and bad news in that area. In a blog post today, Microsoft says the first generation of AMD Zen processors won’t make the cut after all. But Intel’s Core X-series and Xeon W-series will, along with Intel’s Core 7820HQ chip, which means the Surface Studio is now eligible to upgrade to Windows 11. Small victories.
Initially, Microsoft released a PC Check Health app to determine if your PC can upgrade to Windows 11, but it didn’t provide clear information. Either your PC passed, or it didn’t, and the app didn’t give you good details on why. The PC had the right processor in many cases, but a BIOS setting prevented it from showing as eligible. Easy to fix, but only know to do it.
Microsoft pulled the app with promises to deliver a better version, and that’s out today. Now, if you need to change a setting in your BIOS, it will tell you. And if you truly aren’t eligible to upgrade, it’ll give you more information on why—but your processor is probably the culprit.
But even if you aren’t eligible, there’s some good news. Microsoft opened up a “loophole” for anyone running older PCs. If you don’t show as eligible because of a missing TPM 2.0 module, you can’t use the standard upgrade process. But, Microsoft plans to provide Windows 11 iso files, and it won’t prevent you from upgrading. You’ll get warnings, but nothing that stops you.
Going through the iso process to upgrade to Windows 11 isn’t as convenient, but it isn’t challenging either. That means many non-tech savvy people will stay on Windows 10, which Microsoft promised to support through October 14, 2025. But for everyone that wants to make the jump, it’s possible. And the hoops aren’t that difficult to hop through.